Bionic prosthetics, artificial intelligence to help diagnose disease and 3D printed body parts were all leaps forward in health technology seen during 2017.
While many of the developments remain at the research stage, others are filtering through to public use, especially in the medical world.
We take a look at what may happen next year.
3D bionic arms on the NHS
Bristol-based company Open Bionics, who make 3D printed devices for amputees, is into its second stage of a trial with NHS England, according to a company blog post.
Following a six-month trial of the bionic hands, the new trial will involve 15 children and young people from around the UK. The company produces bionic arms that are based on popular Disney characters, and the covers are removable so one day the wearer could be an Avenger and the next, Queen Elsa.
By 3D-printing hands it reduces the price dramatically of how much the devices cost, and mean they can be reprinted quickly as a child grows.
Pippa Hough, senior content developer at the Science Museum, believes 2018 will be a huge year for gene editing – the process of making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism.
“Gene editing has been making headlines as an exciting advance in medicine. Scientists can how edit DNA much faster and more accurately. These tools could transform the treatment of people with genetic disorders and cancer.
“So far, it’s mostly been used on people as a last resort. Baby Laila Richards had her leukaemia treated with gene-edited immune cells at Great Ormond Street Hospital, only when all other options were exhausted. A small-scale trial is currently being conducted on more children.
“2018 could well be the year where large-scale trials mean that this revolutionary approach is made accessible to many more people.”
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial intelligence and machine learning have huge potential in healthcare. The technology could help medical staff diagnose diseases more quickly.
Gareth Baxendale, head of technology at the National Institute for Health Research, Clinical Research Network agrees.
“In terms of 2018 we will certainly see rapid progress in AI and in particular Machine Learning that makes use of new and existing health data sets.
“The ability to support intelligent, data-driven, decision making based on new knowledge and understanding to predict outcomes and diagnosis is happening in almost all clinical fields, especially in the field of imaging and diagnostics.
“The key question of 2018 will be around whether such outcomes could ever be trusted without human review.”
It may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but the 3D printing of body organs is a reality and looks set to get even bigger in 2018.
Ariel Kramer, chief communications officer at Cellink, said that “3D bioprinting is set to revolutionise the future of healthcare”.
“Through 3D bioprinting, we are expecting to see a noticeable shift in the organ transplant sector, tissue engineering and drug testing," she predicts.
“Imagine taking cells from a cancer tumour and 3D bioprinting a replica of a tumour to test various treatments before using them on a patient. This is exactly the kind of magic 3D bioprinting may be capable of sooner than later.”
In mental health treatments there has been advances using virtual reality as cognitive behavioural therapy to deliberately expose patients to anxious situations, within the safety of a virtual environment.
It’s likely that in 2018, such advances as made by the Center of Mental Health at Würzburg University Hospital to those suffering with anxiety will be expanded for more patients.