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Modern Medicine: Where Health Technology Stands in 2015

Health technology seems to be simultaneously pushing into the future while being stuck in the past.

by Adrianne Jeffries
Jun 25 2015, 5:51pm

Image: The Matrix

"The Living, Breathing 'Human on a Chip' Is Coming." Now there's a headline. That story is about how researchers are reconstructing cross-sections of human organs, using real cells and artificial blood all hooked up to a system of tubes pumping air and liquids through a rubbery plastic chip. It's for drug testing: Instead of trying new medications out on rats or mice, which have limited similarities to humans, we can try them out on this modular cyborg. It blew my brain open.

As it turns out, this is (partly) old news. Biologists constructed a lung on a chip in, like, 2010, I was quickly informed. But this time around, the lung was being connected to a cross-section of skin, which was being connected to a cross-section of a kidney, which would be connected to the rest of the ersatz human body's organs, recreated on chips, all hooked up to the same fake blood valve. Human on a chip.

It's all happening so fast.

Much of modern medicine, from Advil to seek-and-destroy nanorobots made of DNA, is indistinguishable from magic. And yet, at the same time, electronic health records are a mess. The best communication system for doctors is still the pager. Meanwhile, technologies are clashing as we discover that internet- and Bluetooth-enabled medical devices are ultra convenient, but can also be hacked.

For Motherboard's July theme, we're looking for stories about modern medicine. What's amazing? What's amazingly stuck in the past? What did we learn from the Ebola outbreak? What is the modern attitude toward medicine? Is it a bad idea to buy life-saving medication off the dark web if you can't afford it otherwise?

We're looking for pitches on these questions and more. Send your thoughts to editor@motherboard.tv or reach out to your favorite Motherboarder. Modern Medicine will run July 13 through 17.