Medical advances thanks to technology

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The search for cures for diseases to live longer and better is probably as old as the human race. This search throughout history has involved a mixture of religion, magic, and other arts. However, science has gradually gained momentum in recent centuries. At least in the more developed world, we rely on medical science to achieve a prolonged life and better quality of life.

Medicine is the science of prevention, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of diseases or, in general, problems related to the health of human beings.

As early as prehistoric times, a range of skills and knowledge were already implemented, often connected with the religious and philosophical beliefs of the local culture. The first form of medical science dates back to the 5th century B.C. and is linked to the figure of Hippocrates, the Greek physician who gave his name to the oath pronounced today by future physicians.

In recent centuries, medicine has become a rigorously scientific discipline. Scientific knowledge is methodologically obtained through observation and experimentation within specific fields of study. This knowledge is then organized and classified according to its basis. Based on logical reasoning and objective data analysis, hypotheses are formulated, principles are deduced, laws are enunciated, and models, theories, and systems are constructed thanks to the scientific method.

The advances and progress of other disciplines, such as physiology, biology, and chemistry, have also contributed to transforming medicine into a modern and evidence-based science, helping, together with improvements in the population’s nutrition and hygiene, to reduce the mortality rate and increase life expectancy.

Thanks to science, we have undoubtedly learned how the body and mind work (at least a large part of it) and what occurs if one is injured or sick. We have learned and continue to learn from technological advances. These advances have allowed us to analyze and quantify molecules and to see “inside” the body with ever greater precision.

Applied technology in medicine

Technology helps us to find solutions when some device fails to perform its function (for example, with increasingly better prostheses) or when our heart beats at the wrong time (pacemakers).

Technology helps us understand how our nervous system, the most intimate part of humanity, works. These advances make it possible to comprehend how physical and chemical changes in very small structures (receptors) produce electrical currents (action potentials) that travel through the body and inform the brain of everything or how nerve cells control our movements and regulate our body temperature. However, without this knowledge, we would not have been able to plan our response to injury and disease.

Thanks to technology, we have been able to stimulate nerve structures to restore lost function. The future holds the possibility of replacing diseased tissue with healthy tissue. Implants or prostheses will allow us to walk if we can’t or see if we are blind. Not right now, but what about in the future?

Understanding how we function at the cellular and molecular level is helping us to create increasingly selective drugs, like valves designed to fit into a single lock that opens or closes a cell or a circuit to block a disease or a symptom that forces us to endure a bad life. However, these advances have not succeeded in curing all diseases and eliminating the suffering they entail.

Chronic neuropathic pain

We are still suffering, for example, from chronic pain. We understand a great deal about pain, its receptors, nerve pathways, and its utility as a sensory function to alert us when something is dangerous to our tissues, such as getting too close to a source of intense heat. However, when this sensory function becomes a disease per se and pain only reminds us that it is there without any utility, we recognize our helplessness.

Science offers no solution to all patients with chronic pain, such as that caused by a nervous system injury (neuropathic pain). This disease may sound like a disorder that only a few unfortunate people get. However, eight out of a hundred people will suffer from neuropathic pain once in their lifetime, and a portion of these people will have chronic pain of this type.

We are still looking for more clues that fit into the right locks to improve the quality of life for pain patients. Science is the only way to help us find the solution. We work for patients who wake up in pain every morning and can’t reduce this symptom with current medical tools. We want a world without chronic pain – maybe not right now, but we want it in the future… Near future.

At Fellow Funders, we launched our second round with Neurofix, a Spanish biotech developing drugs, and therapies to treat pathologies that affect the nervous system. Its drug NFX88, aimed at alleviating neuropathic pain from spinal cord injuries or diseases, is in the last phase before approval and commercialization.

Dr. Antonio Oliveiro

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