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Starfleet TRICORDER? November 1, 2007

Posted by tomography in Cancer, CT, development, Future, Tomography, What tomorrow brings?.

Two recent scientific discoveries mark the latest steps toward the ultimate medical-diagnosis technology: the tricorder. Bones McCoy made Star Trek‘s portable black box famous by using it to diagnose ailments without ever touching a patient. Now, studies show that the tricorder is closer to becoming reality. Scientists have been trying to construct a tricorder-like device for years, but no one has managed to pack all the functions of a true tricorder — point, pull a trigger and diagnose — into one hand held unit.


Well, it’s not just science fiction any more — we could see such a contraption, thanks to the USA army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This high priority program is to save lives(mainly military yet) of blood loss through the development of a portable system that will automatically locate and noninvasively treat bleeding vessels in arms and legs. The envisioned system uses advanced diagnostic ultrasound techniques with automated control to locate the bleeding and to direct the delivery of High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) energy to the target site to stop the bleed.

Combining the technologies into one compact box may take decades. But the two latest discoveries offer incremental advances in diagnostic medicine — pointing toward more portable and less invasive medical technologies.

labonchipSeveral lab-on chip technologies have brought diagnosis to hand helds, but they still require a tissue sample. Chang and his co-authors have linked visible patterns in CT scans of liver-cancer patients with cancer-gene activity. – Like if imaging the human genome in their tumor. – For example, the scientists could determine whether the gene that spurs the growth of blood vessels (VEGF-vascular endothelial growth factor), was turned on or off, by statistically analyzing a CT image. Experimental treatments such as vaccines and gene therapies attack tumors by shutting down this gene’s ability to feed cancer tumors with new blood vessels. Instead of taking an invasive biopsy that could put sick patients at risk, a noninvasive CT scan could determine the activity of VEGF and many other genes.

In the other research, scientists have developed a compact, precision-magnetic microscope based on a new state of matter. The technology, the researchers said, is as effective as current imaging devices such as MEGs (magnetoencephalography) for the brain and MCGs (magnetocardiography) for the heart, which require a hospital visit because the devices are large and expensive. It’s made possible by a state of matter called the Bose-Einstein condensate (or if you have some more time, here I liked this one). becPhysicists at UC Berkeley have developed the device by harnessing a special property of Bose-Einstein condensates: Because they are cooled close to absolute zero, they are as free of vibrations and thermal noise as a quantum system can be, and are thus like a quiet, acoustically pristine concert hall. Tiny magnetic fields that might be unobservable in other systems are easily picked up.

“As with all new technologies, unexpected vistas might open.” – Dmitry Budker

Likely to hear some news in the near future! 🙂

sources – wired.com, smarteconomy, BEC homepage



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