Cool devices and diagnostics: Advances in the field


The writers of the original Star Trek television show imagined a medical device that generates a diagnosis just by waving it over a patient. Eyeglasses that help a blind person see, and tiny robots that can deliver drugs or perform a medical procedure are also among the many concepts once limited to the realm of science fiction.

But academic researchers and industry alike are pushing the boundaries of what a medical device or tool can accomplish, and making once unworkable ideas into tangible and marketable items. Those special glasses mentioned above, for example, are on the verge of FDA approval. Researchers made major strides in recent months toward the development of a futuristic diagnostic tool. Scientists reported a breakthrough not that long ago in the development of tiny robots that could someday carry drugs to their targets, or serve as a treatment themselves.

Medical device researchers and companies are advancing what was once science fiction in the device and medical equipment realm ever closer to market reality. Even major companies such as Abbott ($ABT) and Boston Scientific ($BSX) are becoming futuristic. Both this year have achieved major milestones with medical devices as ubiquitous as stents and ICDs, updating both products with innovative, life-saving twists.

All of these achievements will change the face of healthcare, and they're also incredibly cool to contemplate. Co-editor Damian Garde and I recently did just that, and compiled a roundup of some of the more innovative device and diagnostic advances we've seen so far in 2012. Industry generated some of the advances and others are purely academic breakthroughs at this point. A few are poised to hit the commercial market, now bringing what was once in the realm of science fiction to patients. Enjoy. -- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter)