Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
Huge resources are poured each year into studying diseases and finding new treatments. Some of the main focuses of research today are new drugs (including drugs to treat cancer and heart disease), improved artificial parts, the production of new vaccines, and the role of genes in disease. Another growing area is stem cell research. Stem cells are body cells from which all other types of cells form. Potentially, they could be laboratory-grown into a variety of human tissues, for use in body repair.
One day, it may be possible to introduce tiny robots, called nanorobots, into the body to carry out treatment missions. Medical treatments are just one possible application of the futuristic area of research known as nanotechnology.
An artificial hand works by means of sensors that can detect signals in the wearer’s forearm muscles. A built-in microprocessor analyses the signals and orders the mechanical parts of the hand to open or close. A challenge in producing devices such as theseF is to get living tissue and nonliving material to work together. One focus is to find better ways of passing signals between human nerves and electronic devices.
Modern researchers often use computers to help design new medicines. For example, a scientist can use a computer model of a drug molecule and study how it interacts with a model of a target site in the body. The researcher can then make improvements to the molecule, allowing a virtual drug to be developed on computer before it is made and tested for real.