3 tech breakthroughs that will change medicine

purple brain illustration on black background
Brain implants could soon restore freedom of movement for spinal cord patients.

From brain implants to a map of human cells, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is out with its annual list of 10 breakthrough technologies. And although it’s peppered with cool stuff like face-detecting tech that can authorize payments and 360-degree selfies, three healthcare breakthroughs made this year’s list.

Brain implants

Scientists are making remarkable progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away, according to the report.

“In recent years, lab animals and a few people have controlled computer cursors or robotic arms with their thoughts, thanks to a brain implant wired to machines,” the authors write. “Now researchers are taking a significant next step toward reversing paralysis once and for all. They are wirelessly connecting the brain-reading technology directly to electrical stimulators on the body … so that people’s thoughts can again move their limbs.”

Gene therapy 2.0

Researchers have been chasing the dream of gene therapy for decades. Until recently it had produced more disappointments than successes. But now, crucial puzzles have been solved and gene therapies are on the verge of curing devastating genetic disorders.

“Fixing rare diseases, impressive in its own right, could be just the start,” according to the article.

RELATED: Hype surrounds precision medicine, but significant challenges remain

The Cell Atlas

The first comprehensive map of human cells should reveal, for the first time, what human bodies are made of, providing scientists with “a sophisticated new model of biology that could speed the search for drugs,” according to the article.

“We will see some things that we expect, things we know to exist, but I’m sure there will be completely novel things,” Mike Stubbington, head of the cell atlas team at the Sanger Institute in the U.K., tells the publication. “I think there will be surprises.”

RELATED: C-suiters: Keep an eye on these technologies in 2017

And more …

Practical quantum computers, reinforcement learning and the “botnet of things” also made this year’s list. Connected devices in the home, an item of interest to healthcare organizations, are particularly vulnerable to hackers, the article notes. “And that makes it easier than ever to build huge botnets that take down much more than one site at a time.”