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Editor's Note

Medicine’s future inspired by science fiction

By
10:00am, October 22, 2013

We don’t yet have a Star Trek tricorder or an Iron Man suit. But considering the stories in this issue and other recent news, that’s not for a lack of trying.

As contributing correspondent Laura Beil reports on Page 18, scientists are making progress in mimicking the abilities of Dr. McCoy’s handy medical sensor-computer by analyzing exhalations for signs of disease. A diagnostic Breathalyzer could give doctors a quick, noninvasive way to screen patients. The FDA has already approved breath tests for asthma and H. pylori infection, among others. And while measuring and cataloging the minute chemical changes that go along with different diseases poses a difficult challenge, scientists are now testing methods to identify people with heart failure, liver failure, tuberculosis and certain cancers. We may never get something quite as versatile as the medical tricorder (although there is now a $10 million tricorder XPRIZE competition

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