Star Trek & Real Modern Medical Technology
Some films and TV shows have a big impact on our daily lives... And sometimes, we don't even realize it.
A typical example is when you watch a show or movie and fall in love with it. The stories, characters, scenes and even the technology seen in it. Maybe in that same film or show you're able to learn a hack or two that you'd want to implement in real life.
Now, the Star Trek franchise which is quite popular and vast has had a great influence in our lives especially in the medical field. There are even real life medical instruments that were named after devices used in the Star Trek universe.
An instance of this is the Corona Virus Vaccination....
In 2020, the United States took on the challenge of formulating and mass producing a vaccine to serve as protection against the COVID-19 virus. The process was named Operation Warp Speed, which was adapted by a huge Star Trek fan, Dr. Peter Marks.
The name was inspired by terminology for faster-than-light travel which was used in the Star Trek universe, thus evoking a sense of rapid progress.
There are many other instances where the Star Trek franchise has had an impact in real life medicine.
Let's look at a few of them....
The hypospray was a needle-free device that could subcutaneously inject drugs via forced air. It was first seen in Star Trek: The Original Series.
In real life, the fictional hypospray is compared to the jet injector, but they are not widely used yet and did have some contamination risks.
There are much-better, more modern versions of the hypospray either just coming on the market or in development. Among them is the Sumavel DosePro from San Diego-based Zogenix.
The DosePro is about the size of a fat marker and delivers the migraine drug sumatriptan subcutaneously and without needles. The force of a small amount of compressed nitrogen pushes the liquid sumatriptan through skin in less than one-tenth of a second, according to the company.
In the Star Trek universe, the hypospray was developed by the mid-22nd century, as it is featured in Star Trek: Enterprise.
Many physicians, such as Dr. Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, have made use of it.
The real-life jet injector is usually applied at the top of the arm, but the fictional hypospray is sometimes applied on the neck. Presumably when used in the neck it delivers the medication intravenously or intra-arterially and when used on the arm it delivers intramuscularly. The hypospray can also be applied through clothing.
The hypospray is exceptionally and extremely versatile as the medicine vials can be quickly swapped out from the bottom of the hypospray. As the hypospray is bloodless, it is not contaminated or infected after its usage.
For this reason, it can be used on many people until the supply of medicine runs out.
THE VENUS DRUG
The illegal Venus Drug makes plain-looking women beautiful.
In real life, The "cosmeceutical" industry (a term not recognized by the FDA) is seeing huge growth. Cosmeceuticals are cosmetics that also claim health benefits. Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal and Procter & Gamble are just three of the largest companies in the space. Antioxidants, enzymes, proteins, botanicals, lip care, tooth whiteners, nanoscale ingredients that penetrate to deeper and deeper layers of the skin--they all represent huge growth opportunities for these companies. At times, the claims and the ingredients come dangerously close to pharmaceuticals and the FDA keeps an eye on it all.
In the Star Trek universe, The illegal Venus Drug is peddled by the galactic con man known as Harcourt Fenton Mudd.
The drug took three plain-looking women and made them quite fascinating and beautiful to sight, much to the delight of three miners on Rigel XII.
However, in the end a placebo worked just as effectively in bringing out the women's inner beauty.
The ending of the episode aside, today's aging Baby Boomers might look back with fondness at episodes like this, where beauty and youth can come from pharmaceuticals. Star Trek appeared on the scene during a time when the culture was youth-obsessed. "Mudd's Women," along with "Miri" and "Space Seed" showed how a striving for everlasting youth, beauty and perfection always has a downside.
THE SCANADU SCOUT
This was inspired by Mr. Spock's tricorder in the Star Trek universe
In real life, the Scanadu Scout is a small round device that is able to read five vital signs, your heart rate, temperature, oximetry (blood oxygen level), respiratory rate, blood pressure, stress and electrocardiography (ECG).
Its inventors insisted that the device is ninety nine percent accurate in less than 10 seconds. And most importantly, it is designed in such a way that doctors aren't its primary users.
In the Star Trek Universe, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy used the medical tricorder to scan patients and instantly diagnose their ailments.
In real life, the underlying mechanics of the VISOR which is the transmission of images directly into the brain to overcome blindness has been developed in the real world, albeit not as precisely as seen in Star Trek. In 2005, a team of medical researchers at Stanford University used a combination of microchip implants behind mice retinas and goggles equipped with LED readouts and a small camera to partially restore sight enough so that the mice could distinguish sets of black and white patterns.
In the Star Trek Universe, it was first shown in Star Trek: The Next Generation where the character Geordi La Forge, who was played by LeVar Burton, wears a piece of technology called a VISOR that allows him to be able to see, despite being blind from birth, by directly sending visual information into his brain. The device also gave him the ability to see in the electromagnetic and infrared spectrums.
This is quite similar to the jet injector or the hypospray.
The Biojector 2000 which has been on the market since the year 1993 delivers intramuscular and subcutaneous injections by forcing liquid medication through a tiny orifice that is held against the skin. A very fine, high-pressure stream of medication penetrates the skin, depositing medication in the tissue beneath.
The company that makes it bills the Biojector as ideal in high-risk situations, like delivering medication to a patient with HIV or hepatitis.
THE SICKBAY VITAL SIGNS MONITOR
In real life, the Hoana Medical, based in Honolulu, markets a bed coverlet hooked up to a wall monitor.
It measures heartbeat, respiration and other vital signs, and notifies hospital nursing staff if something goes wrong. A chief nurse said that the bed is not just about the technology, but about keeping the nurses informed.
In the Star Trek universe, There is a screen hanging above each bed in sickbay displaying various vital signs. So, if you've just hit your head on a console after the ship was rocked by a photon torpedo, rest assured that Dr. McCoy won't let you leave sickbay until those needles on the vital signs monitor fall within acceptable parameters.