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Dis Mon. 1999 Nov;45(11):449-95.

New technologies in medicine: biotechnology and nanotechnology.

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Center for Advanced Technology and International Health, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


In February 1997, researchers created Dolly, a lamb cloned from the DNA of an adult sheep. This was supposed to be impossible (or at least generations away), but suddenly it was here--a clone of a higher mammal. Whatever Dolly's ultimate significance, she conclusively demonstrated the growing power of biotechnology. Many have come to the conclusion that advances in biotechnology will fundamentally transform medicine during the coming decade. Society is in the midst of a technical revolution that will have the same relevance as the development of the printing press, the internal combustion engine, and the microprocessor. Computers have become the key tools in the accelerating progress that is occurring in the field of biotechnology. At the same time, genetic, evolutionary, and other biologic processes are providing new models for the development of computer hardware and software. Today represents the early stages of what has been called the "bionic convergence": the convergence of the biologic revolution with the information revolution, the joining of biology with electronics. Virtually everything that is important to health care practitioners and patients--diagnostic techniques, means of understanding disease causes, methods of treatment, approaches to prevention, health care facility design, medical education, and legal and ethical issues--will be changed by the revolutions currently underway in the fields of biotechnology and genetic medicine. The following monograph includes several forecasts about a range of possible opportunities that may have enormous effects on health care during the next century. These forecasts address the potential impacts of biotechnology on disease detection and diagnosis, treatment, prevention, nanotechnology, and other areas of medical significance. Every area of beneficiary care will be affected as the changes implied by these forecasts begin to develop. Beneficiary care will continue to see the emergence of a "forecast, prevent, and manage" paradigm. The emphasis will be on disease prevention, health promotion, and the creation of healthy communities. New diagnostic and treatment opportunities will be available as a consequence of breakthroughs in genetic medicine. The health care system will view health as a whole, as a person's overall sense of well-being--an entity that encompasses much more than the absence of symptoms.

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