Knowledge of human diseases and physiology depends on making progress in fundamental research. However, new technological approaches can contribute significantly to medical breakthroughs: you only have to think of the importance of the microscope in the 18th and 19th centuries, or x-rays in the 20th.
Such progress usually results today from a close working partnership between researchers and engineers with technological skills (often completely unrelated to the medical field), biologists and physicians.
Health technologies therefore make a decisive contribution to research and clinical practice. They also concern every stage of patient assistance, from computerized follow-up of medical records right through to administration of the most appropriate, innovative treatments for personal profiles.
This covers all anatomical and functional, cellular and molecular imaging technologies both in vitro and in vivo. Familiar techniques to patients, such as ultrasounds, endoscopies or MRI scans are of course all types of imaging, but upstream, imaging can also be used to study the normal and pathological behavior of a living organism at its smallest scale: that of genes, proteins or cells.
New drugs emerge only after a long and expensive process, beginning with the screening of thousands of candidate molecules on targets defined by fundamental research and ending with the possible success of clinical trials and subsequent marketing. Health technologies seek in this context to optimize these stages so as to speed up the availability of drugs for each disease.
This field encompasses all in vitro analytical and diagnostic technologies, their implantation in the living organism and biomaterials linked to regenerative medicine and bio-production. Our 21st century is thus opening up fascinating prospects of regenerating tissue that has been damaged or lost its ability to function with aging.
Surgical technologies include teleoperation, image-guided surgery, the materials and devices associated, functional compensation implantable devices and prostheses. Radiotherapy also falls into this abundant field. The challenge regarding patients is to minimize their risks of complication and reduce intervention and hospitalization time. There is already a very wide range of applications, whether they make a tumor fluorescent, produce a detailed map of the brain to help the surgeon’s techniques, develop computer-guided surgical intervention mechanical arms or create technical devices for treating diseases and supporting patients (insulin pumps, pacemakers, sensory prosthetic implants, intelligent environments at home and so on.).