Medical tech is developing quickly in 2022. Changing research priorities and advanced technology, like artificial intelligence, are playing a significant role in this sector. They are helping researchers pioneer new therapies, medical devices, drugs and tests.
In the very near future, we’re likely to see significant advancements in mRNA technology, cancer research, medical smart devices and more.
These are five of the most important advancements that will help reshape biotech and medicine in 2022.
1. New mRNA Vaccines
The past few years have drawn significant attention to mRNA technology and vaccines. It’s best known for enabling the development of COVID-19 vaccines, and researchers are already at work applying mRNA to other diseases.
The National Institutes of Health has already launched three different trials for mRNA HIV vaccines. Experts predict that influenza and potentially cancer inoculations are also probably on the way.
Now that investment in the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines has unlocked the technology’s potential, researchers may have a clear path toward developing various mRNA vaccines for diseases that are currently difficult to prevent. (Read also: How AI and Bots Could Improve Vaccine Delivery.)
2. Telemedicine and Smart Medical Devices
Telemedicine and telehealth have become high-demand medical services over the past few years. The right technology enables doctors to provide clinical and nonclinical services over the internet.
Telemedicine and telehealth offer patients significant benefits — primarily improved comfort, greater convenience and better accessibility for people who may otherwise struggle to see a provider in person. However, doctors may not be able to collect all the information they need from a patient over the web.
Smart medical devices and wearables can help change this. Medical device manufacturers are creating a new generation of smart medical technology that will allow providers to remotely capture important health information, making telemedicine even more effective.
In the near future, wearables that capture information like heart rate or blood oxygen levels will help doctors track patient health, even when an in-person visit isn’t practical.
3. Better Cancer Tests and New “Basic Research” Investment
Cancer experts and organizations like the American Association for Cancer Research say researchers will spend 2022 focusing more on basic science or “fundamental research about the way cells and molecules function and interact.” The “basic” in basic science doesn’t mean simple — instead, it implies it will help lay the foundation for more advanced therapies and specific treatments.
A better understanding of how cells shift between different states could help researchers better understand how cellular control mechanisms that typically prevent cancer may fail. This could enable scientists to return cells to normal function to slow or stop the development of cancer.
Basic science may also help make cancer testing much more effective. Available gold-standard tests involve radiographers interpreting mammograms or CT scans of a patient’s lungs to diagnose breast and lung cancer.
Despite being some of the best available options, these tests are somewhat prone to false positives and negatives. Additional strategies would offer providers more options and give patients more accurate diagnoses faster.
For example, several companies plan to develop new tests for formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumor tissue samples. Existing versions use color-coded probes and unique reagents to identify “genomic aberrations” in tissue samples. Researchers and doctors can use these tests to detect genetic abnormalities associated with cancer more effectively.
These more sophisticated tests can help doctors identify cancer faster and more accurately. A swifter diagnosis is associated with better treatment outcomes, so these tests can significantly impact a physician’s ability to provide care.
4. Advances in Precision Medicine
Doctors can use precision medicine to tailor a patient’s treatment based on their unique genetics, lifestyle and environment. Information from sources like a patient’s genome allows them to select therapies or drugs that are likely to work more effectively. As a result, people can receive better, more timely care for some of the hardest-to-treat conditions, like autoimmune disorders and cancer. (Read also: IoT and Drug Adherence: Different Approaches to Connected Solutions.)
Some of the recent biggest successes in precision medicine have been in classifying diseases. A better understanding of the molecular pathology of different cancer types provides researchers and doctors with information they can use in drug development or treating patients.
Customized medical practices may become much more common shortly, with doctors considering a patient’s unique biology and genetics when planning treatment options.
Additionally, the use of digital twins and "virtual patients" are helping to streamline the testing process of new medicines and medical innovations. As Forbes reports, using models and virtual organs or systems in the human body decreases risk of harm due to experimenting on humans, as well as decreases the need to rely on human or animal trials.
5. 3D Printing Medical Devices
3D printing makes it possible and economical to print medical devices on-demand. Manufacturers can also quickly design unique machines that are tailor-fit to a patient’s unique physiology.
For example, 3D print prosthetics can offer a perfect fit for patients. These devices and components can be created on-demand, which can help doctors get these devices to patients as quickly as possible. 3D printing also allows the swift manufacture of parts and ensures the timely repair of broken prosthetics.
3D printing may soon be used for even more medical devices — including braces, stethoscopes and even bioprinted skin grafts. (Read also: 3D Printing History, Overview and Future Perspectives.)
How Medical Technology Will Advance This Year
Major advances in biotech and medical technology will help enable new devices, therapies and drugs in 2022. Developments like mRNA vaccines, smart health wearables, new cancer research and precision medicine may soon transform medicine.