In recent years, physical therapy has evolved to take advantage of advances in the robotics industry. Medical researchers have teamed up with bio-medical engineers and robotics experts to take huge leaps in physical therapy programs for fine motor skills, speech, prosthetics, and major movement. How did some of these advances come about, and what kinds of directions might the robotics industry take in the near future?
Nanotechnology is an incredibly promising field that incorporates many scientific disciplines (chemistry, physics, biology, mechanical engineering, robotics, etc.), all of which, in the context of nanotechnology, are concerned with manipulating and changing the properties of matter at an extremely small scale. Such research has far-reaching implications in a number of fields, including drug delivery. Medical researchers are creating new “smart” cancer treatment drugs that utilize nanotechnology to distinguish between cancerous tumors and normal healthy tissue. If they reach their full potential, these treatments could revolutionize the way cancer is treated and would nullify conventional cancer treatment’s harmful side effects. Presently, chemotherapy and radiation therapy both produce nausea, muscle weakness, and an increased risk for secondary infections.
Within the context of the robotics industry, researchers are using nanotechnology to augment motor skill therapy for patients who have experienced nerve or brain injuries. In extreme cases, such as spinal cord injuries, nanotechnology may soon be used to boost human regenerative capacity by restoring nerve connectivity. Stem cell researchers have also expressed interest in nanotechnology to stimulate parts of the human body (spinal nerves, parts of the central nervous system, etc.) that lack native regenerative capacity or have had their regenerative capacities compromised through injury or illness. Medical researchers are working on ways to “program” nanomachines to simulate different functions of human tissues, such as fine motor skill control.
Nanotechnology in the robotics industry may also be used to vastly reduce the length of post-operative care for a wide variety of procedures. Physical therapy programs for people for people re-learning how to speak and walk may change dramatically in their implementation, given that nanomachines will provide doctors with much more reliable (and up-to-date) information about the patient’s progress. Doctors will be able to adjust a patient’s course of treatment much more quickly and effectively to minimize both recovery time and the chances of prolonging the process through re-injury. If such programs are given funding heading into the future, we will almost certainly see major decreases in debilitating injuries and illnesses.