Star Trek has once again shown the way when it comes to inspiring the latest real-life technology. In addition to influencing the invention of tablet computers and many other modern devices, as previously covered by Mental Floss, a key device in television’s most celebrated science fiction saga may soon become a reality with a new line of non-invasive medical biotechnology from NASA.
According to the entry on the official Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha, the dermal regenerator is “a common, easily operable medical tool” used to treat “minor skin wounds, such as cuts and burns” without scarring. The regenerator “could also be used to revert surgically modified skin to its normal state.”
When Commander Riker and various other crew members of the starship Enterprise would receive cuts and wounds from missions, they would often be seen in Sick Bay afterwards getting the damaged tissue repaired almost instantly with the use of a dermal regenerator.
Healing wounds instantly with a small, hand-held device sounds too good to be true, but it could soon become a reality both in space and on Earth.
In a recent press release, NASA announced that it has signed two patent license agreements with the Texas-based company GRoK Technologies LLC for a new line of machines able to speed up the healing process using laser light. GRoK’s BioReplicates device will create 3D human tissue models for drug and cosmetic testing for safety, efficacy and toxicity, while its Scionic device will be used to treat musculoskeletal pain and inflammation externally, without the use of drugs. The Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA) already uses a similar device called a Scenar.
The resulting combined process would be similar to dermal regenerators from Star Trek. It is hoped that future models will help rebuild cells in the body and could one day heal wounds instantly.
NASA hopes that the BioReplicates device could help reduce industry reliance on animal testing for medicines and consumer products. NASA states it is interested in the potential of these devices to regenerate bone and muscle tissue, since astronauts who are in space for long periods of time are prone to developing ostopenia, a condition that causes the loss of muscle and bone density. The two devices may soon come into use on the International Space Station.
NASA states in the release that it hopes the new tech will lead to the “development of medical devices designed to target musculoskeletal pain and inflammation in humans and animals noninvasively and without the use of pharmaceuticals.”
GRoK’s founder and CEO Moshe Kushman was quoted as saying that such advances in non-invasive biotechnology are not merely the stuff of authors’ imaginations and shows like Star Trek anymore.
“The GRoK team is delighted we are now a NASA licensee with the opportunity to bring forward into the commercial sector technologies that have the capacity to improve the lives of people everywhere,” explained Kushman in the NASA press release. “It’s not just science fiction anymore. All indications are that 21st century life sciences will change dramatically during the next several decades, and GRoK is working to define the forefront of a new scientific wave.”
— Stefan Suurmeijer (@SMSuurmeijer) February 10, 2014
Though it will be a while before the public sees this technology widely available, this proves that machines with the ability to create 3D human cells and treat pain externally have been invented and are possible to produce. The new, patented technologies are the results of NASA’s Technology Transfer Program. But will this miraculous technology be made publicly available? Never fear, NASA says.
“NASA’s Technology Transfer Program ensures that technologies developed for missions in exploration and discovery are broadly available to the public,” the release stated.
[Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images]