Medicine in the 22nd century

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Medicine in the 22nd century

Post by NoXion » Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:25 pm

Artificial immune systems

In certain medical cases, patients need to be prescribed immunosuppressive drugs in order to prevent their immune system from presenting a potentially fatal reaction to a medical condition. This usually entailed a lifetime of complicated drug regimens and careful living to ensure against infection. Then in the 2020s came the development of bio-nanotechnological "smart drugs", designed to be more discriminating in their immunosuppressant effects as well as incorporating slow-release mechanisms, greatly reducing the frequency of dosages and removing the need for additional drugs to compensate for side-effects. When basic medical nanobots became available in the 2030s, treatments could be tailored to each individual patient as well as being administered even less often, requiring nothing more than an injection of fresh nanobots on an annual basis. From the 2050s onwards top-up injections became unnecessary as techniques for making bionanotechnology self-sustaining within an organism were developed. By the 2080s it was already possible to develop a bio-nano based replacements for immunological systems that could outperform natural immune systems, being able to neutralise new infections with far fewer symptoms. In 2092 augmentation specialists began offering artificial nano-immune systems as an elective procedure for healthy persons, designed to work alongside and enhance the performance of natural immune systems.


Artificial wombs

As genetic and developmental science marched on during the 21st century, the limitations of traditional in vitro and surrogacy techniques came to the fore. Even if it was possible as a matter of ethics and practicality to find an adequate supply of suitable surrogates, the development of techniques enabling same-sex couples to have children together, as well as the falling cost of fertility treatments, meant that researchers were in dire need of an artificial means of sustaining a foetus. The first all-in-one artificial wombs were developed in the 2050s, building on and combining a number of advancements that enabled researchers to bring to term foetuses requiring conditions too precise or extreme to risk using natural human surrogates. They were soon found serving other purposes, commonly being brought along by intrepid colonists wanting booming populations, or enabling small utopian male-only/female-only colonies to reproduce.


Bacteriophage medicine

The latter 20th century saw the increasing resistance of infectious bacteria to antibiotics, with some particularly virulent strains such as MRSA gaining resistance to multiple drugs. Although they had been used in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union for some decades before, it was not until the 2020s that bacteriophage medicine saw widespread use elsewhere. Phages are essentially viruses which infect bacterial rather than eukaryotic (animal) cells, thus in the process of propagating themselves they eliminate harmful bacteria. The first phage medicines were targeted at specific strains of bacteria, such as the aforementioned MRSA, previously an increasing problem for hospitals which had seen the effectiveness of their antibiotics dissipate. The 2030s saw the development of multi-target phage medicines, designed to eliminate more than one strain at once.


Bio-printed organs & tissues

In the 2040s, the first techniques for producing artificial organic tissues were developed. Initially this was limited to tissues like skin, which is easily produced in sheets which can then be surgically cut and shaped for the patient. Bones and simpler organs like tracheae followed soon after, being built up using an organic scaffolding which provides the necessary framework for the development of important connectors like nerves and blood vessels as well as the overall shape and form of the body part. More complex replacements for organs like hearts, kidneys and lungs are made using a combination of the scaffolding method with the integration of printed bio-circuitry designed to interface with the hosts nervous, endocrine, etc systems.


Bushbot surgeons

A bushbot is a robotic chassis with multiple arms that split off and branch into smaller and smaller sub-arms, all the way down to nano-scale manipulators capable of performing extremely delicate cytosurgery on a patient's cells. The first bushbots to be deployed for medical purposes in the 2070s were controlled by expert systems in concert with their incorporated tree-structured distributed computers, but by the time the 22nd century rolled around it had become a common chassis of choice for those free Mechanoids who entered the field of medicine. Bushbot surgeons carry out operations of awe-inspiring delicacy and mind-boggling complexity, making them the first choice for many when it comes to operations on highly fragile organs and tissues.


Cryonics & Cryokits

Since at least the middle of the 20th century, there has been interest in the cryonic preservation of a body upon the declaration of death, in the hope that future medicine will be able to revive the deceased. Early methods of cryonic preservation suffer from primitive methods that make future revival difficult, if not dubious. Degradation of cerebral tissues among the earlier "cryonauts" can be so advanced that partial or near-total personality reconstruction needs to be performed in order to ensure a successful revival. Cryonicists working in the 22nd century often have to resort to using historical material as well as the personal records of patients from the 20th century, in order to fill in the large gaps left by unrecoverable brain tissue. As cryonic preservation techniques improved, it became increasingly obvious that the quickening pace of medical advancements meant that including cryonics on a life insurance policy was beginning to look more and more sensible as the 21st century wore on. This proliferation of interest in cryonics provoked a response from less well-off quarters - some dismayed that resources were being used to support those who were effectively dead, while yet others demanded that the chance to live again was something that belonged to everybody, not just the relative few who could afford it on their insurance. The deal was sealed in 2081 with the successful revival of Daniel McQuarren, a small business owner declared dead by the US authorities in 2017 and subsequently put into cryonic preservation. Although Mr McQuarren required a new body freshly cloned from his genetic material in a forced-growth tube, his cerebral tissue was intact enough for at least 80% or more of his personality and memories to be recovered, with other mental functioning well in line with a healthy adult. From then on cryopreservation became a standard medical practice and research in the field boomed, culminating in the release of the first cryokits in 2092. These silvery bodybag-like devices, now carried as part of the standard gear of emergency medical responders, are designed to put a patient into the initial stages of cryopreservation, stabilising their condition until they can either receive more comprehensive treatment, or be placed into long-term storage for future medical science to deal with.


Custom/enhanced organs & tissues

With the advent of stem cell-grown transplants, bio-printing, forced-growth tubes as well as leaps and bounds in the fields of genetic engineering, it became possible to acquire organ replacements that were better than the original. In the 2070s people could elect to implant completely new, purposefully designed organs performing bodily functions additional to those granted by evolution and development. Popular custom organs include the Suarez scrubber, a small organ typically placed in the thorax, which is designed to neutralise poisons the mammalian liver is poorly suited to deal with.


Cybernetic implants

Implants designed to restore some measure of lost function have been around for at least two centuries, but it took the electronics and software revolutions as well as the refinement of brain-machine interfaces for those suffering from locked-in syndrome or paralysis in order for such implants to even begin providing the same level of functioning provided by natural organs and tissues, let alone exceed such baselines. This meant that from the 2030s onwards cybernetic implantation in otherwise healthy and full-functioning individuals was limited to various subcultures and special interest groups. This niche interest kept the practice alive until the development in the 2060s of injectable micro-implants, tiny devices a few millimetres in length, coated in biocompatible materials formulated to stimulate new nerve growth to provide the required machine-organic interface. Easily and safely placed and removed, these rice grain-sized sub-dermal implants provide all the functionality of a handheld mobile device and then some, proving extremely popular especially among the younger generations.


Forced-growth tubes

Whereas an artificial womb is geared towards developing a foetus to term, often according to precise conditions, the forced-growth tank represents a different approach to artificially developing and growing organisms. Initially developed in the 2030s as an alternative to rearing food animals for slaughter, the forced-growth tube is designed to rapidly bring to being an anencephalic (brainless) but otherwise fully-developed organism, which is then detached from the device and prepared in the normal manner. In the 2050s the first people known to deploy this array of technologies for the purposes of reproduction was the New Russia colony in Earth orbit, using forced-growth tube technology combined with a direct neural interface capable of providing the growing person with a convincing virtual simulacrum of the real world, enabling the rapid growth of fully-developed adults.


HIV vaccine

HIV and the AIDS that can follow was a scourge of the latter 20th century, becoming more of a chronic health issue in the early part of the 21st century which saw the wider spread of anti-retroviral drugs. In the 2030s multi-spectrum anti-viral medicines were developed which could eliminate all presence of the virus in about 60% of those patients given a short but intensive course of treatment. The actual HIV vaccine was developed in 2043 by a global team of immunologists as part of the NeoSocialist rise to global prominence.


Isotopic sweeps

In the 2040s, a range of treatments generally called "isotopic sweeps" were developed. This involves an atomic-resolution MRI scanner and a silicate-based nanosystem working in concert to identify within a body those atoms of unstable isotopes and to replace them with their stable counterparts. When done over the course of a patient's life as part of routine medical examinations, isotopic sweeping can strongly reduce the risks of certain cancers, especially if the patient is at an increased risk due to environmental and lifestyle factors. Isotopic sweeps are also performed on those about to undergo long-term preservation, in order to limit the damage wrought by isotopes decaying in a body unable to repair itself.


Medical nanorobots

Basic medical nanorobots in the 2030s enabled doctors and surgeons to develop a one-time treatment tailor-made to exacting requirements to fit a particular patient. This treatment could be simply injected into a major blood vessel of the patient, and chemical signallers built into them ensured that they only became active in the right part of the body. At first such treatments were limited to addressing mainly biochemical problems within the patient, since bionanotechnological components were capable of being broken down by the body following treatment and were more easily configured to prevent systemic and immune reactions from the patient, as opposed to purely carbon-based nanotechnology. Silicate-based nanotechnology developed in the 2040s offered a potential avenue for the provision of non-invasive surgery, but difficulties in removing the nanobots once the surgery was complete (since they could not be broken down by the body) caused them to eclipsed by the development in the early 2050s of nanobots built out of ferro-titanium composites that are easily flushed out of the body once the nanobots become inactive. Since then a wide variety of treatments, such as nerve regrowth and kidney stone disintegration, can now be delivered with a needle-free injection into the nearest available blood vessel.


Nanostasis

This is an organic preservation technology developed in response to the limitations of cryopreservation. Even in the 22nd century entering into cryonic preservation is no trivial matter - cooling of the body has to take time to ensure the prevention of ice crystals, which burst and damage cells, and once preserved the patient requires stable conditions in order for long term storage and revival to be as successful as possible. Maintaining cryonic temperatures represents a significant energy expenditure, which is fine on a planetary body but impractical for spacecraft. Nanostasis, developed as an alternative for those spacecraft crews heading on long voyages to the outer reaches of the Solar system, involves saturating the body of the subject with a specialised nanotechnological system that begins slowing down all bodily functions at and below the cellular level. The subject is slowed to such a degree that body temperature drops and they slow to a standstill. During the process of nanostasis, the subject experiences the outside world rapidly speeding up from their perspective, before "slowing down" once again to normal as the period of stasis comes to an end.


Printed drugs & medications

In the 2030s, the world was introduced to "cartridge-free" printers, which make their inks out of atmospheric carbon, requiring only paper. With the development in the 2050s of sophisticated chemistry using complex carbon chains capable of mimicking the chemical properties of molecules containing non-carbon elements, it was not long before some inventive medical student hacked a cartridge-free printer to manufacture and inject carbon-based drugs and medicine into the paper. Depending on the potency of the chemical and/or the individual dosages required, a single sheet of A4 (roughly American legal size) paper can be made to contain anywhere between a hundred to a thousand doses. Such modified printers rapidly became an essential part of any hospital, pharmacy, and doctor's surgery and the 2060s saw the development of specialised printers able to print sheets incorporating a carbon analogue of almost any chemical.

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Re: Medicine in the 22nd century

Post by Siege » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:30 pm

Does this mean that in the grim distance of the far future there's cocaine dispensing home printers? :D
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Re: Medicine in the 22nd century

Post by Red Commissar » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:30 pm

I like these concepts. In particular I do like how you worked in the HIV vaccine with the NeoSocialists, considering the hardest hit regions (currently) is where your South African Accord would be here. What about the delivery methods for these systems? Do they differ between nations in your world, or has every nation (with the exception of capital restorationists, for obvious reasons...) mostly gotten into public provision of these things?

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Re: Medicine in the 22nd century

Post by NoXion » Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:45 am

Siege wrote:Does this mean that in the grim distance of the far future there's cocaine dispensing home printers? :D
Considering that it ain't too hard to get a hold of a measure of Peru or Colombia's finest offerings in most parts of the world of 2100, printing out a cocaine analogue seems a bit redundant. But yeah, prohibition is most certainly out the question now.
Red Commissar wrote:I like these concepts. In particular I do like how you worked in the HIV vaccine with the NeoSocialists, considering the hardest hit regions (currently) is where your South African Accord would be here. What about the delivery methods for these systems? Do they differ between nations in your world, or has every nation (with the exception of capital restorationists, for obvious reasons...) mostly gotten into public provision of these things?
The NeoSocialists and Extropians love public projects and provision. It helps that private involvement in services everyone uses (such as utilities, public health, and so on) has an extremely soiled reputation in many parts of the world. For example, many older British people of working class background have sore memories of the NHS being broken up and sold off bit by bit by the old British ruling classes before the revolution swept them away.

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Re: Medicine in the 22nd century

Post by Siege » Wed Jul 04, 2012 8:18 pm

That's some social commentary right there :).
"Nick Fury. Old-school cold warrior. The original black ops hardcase. Long before I stepped off a C-130 at Da Nang, Fury and his team had set fire to half of Asia." - Frank Castle

I breakfast upon Armadas such as thine!

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