Five amazing health innovations that could change your life

From electronic wound dressings to a finger-prick blood test to detect heart attacks, the health industry is booming with trailblazing advances.

Without a doubt, life was very different before the development of modern medicine.

Try and imagine a world for example, without x-rays, antibiotics, vaccines or insulin.

In 2023, new technologies and techniques are being developed at an unprecedented rate.

Here are five that have the potential to change your life.

1. Electronic bandages to speed up healing

Throughout history people have used many unusual things to bandage wounds, including spiderwebs and seaweed.

But this year an international team of researchers has developed a first-of-its-kind small, flexible and stretchable bandage that can monitor wounds, release drugs as needed and accelerate healing by delivering electrotherapy directly to the wound site.

While the wound-monitoring smart patch has so far only been tested on animals, it’s hoped it will one day be a powerful tool for patients with diabetes, whose ulcers can lead to serious complications, including amputated limbs and even death.

2. A blood test to detect heart attacks

In Australia more than 50,000 people suffer a heart attack or stroke each year, the No.1 killer worldwide.

University of Sydney associate professor Lining (Arnold) Ju says many are caused by blood clots blocking blood flow, often with little to no warning signs.

Inspired by his own father’s heart attack, Dr Ju and his team are working on a revolutionary biomedical micro-device that aims to detect early warning signs in blood platelets, allowing at-risk individuals to take preventive measures before a heart attack or stroke happens.

“Drawing inspiration from rapid antigen tests and blood glucose finger-prick monitoring, we envision a portable, easy-to-use device that can provide quick results, allowing users to monitor their blood regularly and seek medical help if concerning changes are detected,” Dr Ju says.

With the support of an $8 million fellowship from the Snow Medical Research Foundation, they aim to have a benchtop prototype ready within three years.

3. Smart watches to detect epileptic seizures

From monitoring vital signs such as heart rate and sleep patterns to detecting when someone falls, smartwatches are helping transform healthcare.

And Queensland researchers are now investigating whether they could help people living with epilepsy better predict seizures.

The University of Queensland and Mater Research study looks at how the brain and body react to stress in epilepsy, because chronic stress is known to increase seizure frequency in some people.

Lead researcher Professor Aileen McGonigal of the Mater Research and Queensland Brain Institute, says it is hoped the wearable technology will ultimately give people with epilepsy more control over their health, especially the one third of people with the condition who still have seizures despite medication.

4. 3D organ printing

Bioengineers at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the UWA College of Engineering have developed a breakthrough 3D technique for bioprinting tissues.

The innovation allows scientists to create complex vascular networks that mimic the body’s natural passageways for air, blood and other vital fluids.

This development and 3D techniques created by the University of California Berkeley, among others, are the first steps in what scientists hope may one day mean the production of on-demand living body tissue, blood vessels, bones and organs.

5. An ultrasound in your pocket

While medical imaging has revolutionised healthcare by allowing doctors to see inside us without the need for invasive procedures, there are many millions of people globally who don’t have access to this kind of technology.

Queue Butterfly iQ, a handheld ultrasound device that uses a silicon chip to produce high-quality images, connects to an iPhone app, and can be used to diagnose a wide range of medical conditions.

Small, portable and affordable, the innovative gadget easily fits into a pocket or bag, making it ideal for use in remote areas.

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Written by Liz McGrath.