Contemporary medicine has considerably benefited from the significant scientific discoveries that were made in the twentieth century. Physicians focused on the main breakthroughs related to physics because they cast a new light on various natural phenomena. Modern healthcare professionals have more resources for diagnosing various illnesses. Moreover, they have acquired sophisticated tools that are required for performing different types of surgery.
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Apart from that, physical principles are useful for modifying some biological processes that lead to various illnesses. Finally, this knowledge is necessary for the creation of medical devices that can help patients rehabilitate, or at least adjust to the effects of a disease. In turn, it is necessary to describe these applications in greater detail. This discussion can highlight the connections between different scientific fields that are required for the promotion of people’s health.
The examples of applications
At first, one should consider the work of Wilhelm Rontgen who discovered that electrons can emit electromagnetic radiation that is now called X-rays. They can pass through various opaque objects. Moreover, the passage of these rays can be recorded with the help of photographic films. Furthermore, it is vital to remember that atoms differ in terms of their ability to absorb this radiation (Novelline and Squire 6).
For instance, it is possible to consider calcium that is critical for the proper development of bones. X-rays cannot pass through this element, and they will not reach a photographic film (Novelline and Squire 6). Therefore, one can see the internal structure of opaque objects. Overall, the discovery of this radiation has given rise to medical imaging. Currently, the use of X-rays is necessary for examining bone structures and identifying possible fractures (Novelline and Squire 6).
Additionally, some tissues also can absorb these rays. Therefore, this diagnostic technique can help medical workers determine if a patient has lung tumors or kidney stones. Moreover, if a contrast agent such as barium is applied, healthcare professionals can examine the gastrointestinal tract of a person and find possible defects (Novelline and Squire 6). Admittedly, some risks should not be overlooked. In particular, X-rays can disrupt the bonds of molecules. Therefore, they can considerably reduce the number of blood cells, and this process can increase the risk of leukemia. Nevertheless, these dangers can be minimized by monitoring the dosage of radiation to which a patient can be exposed.
Furthermore, much attention should be paid to the discovery of anti-matter. In particular, physicists found out that two particles can have the same mass. However, they can differ in terms of their charge, baryon number as well as spin (Serway and Vuille 990). They are called antiparticles. This discovery resulted in the development of practical applications. For instance, one should consider the positron emission tomography (PET).
It is based on the detection of gamma rays emitted by radionuclide. This diagnostic technique is widely used in oncology. This diagnostic tool helps identify brain tumors and possible metastases. Additionally, PET is useful for diagnosing lymphomas (Serway and Vuille 990).
Furthermore, PET enables medical workers and neuroscientists to discover possible abnormalities in the functioning of the brain. For instance, this method can be useful for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages (Serway and Vuille 990). In this way, physicians can gain a better idea about the functions performed by different parts of the brain. Again, medical workers should remember about the effects of ionizing radiation that can damage organic tissues. So, a medical worker must not exceed the maximum limit of the radiation dosage to shield a patient from possible risks.
Other physical principles also contributed to the development of medicine. For instance, it is possible to mention the properties of nuclei and electrons that can emit electromagnetic radiation (Slichter 294). They act in this way when magnetic fields are applied (Slichter 294). This phenomenon was critical for developing such a technique as magnetic resonance imaging or MRI. This tool is particularly beneficial for locating brain tumors.
Furthermore, this method is useful for finding the defects of the cardiovascular system. The critical advantage of this approach is that a patient is not exposed to ionizing radiation. One can say that knowledge of physics has been instrumental in developing many diagnostic techniques. For instance, it is possible to mention diffuse optical imaging, ultrasound imaging, endoscopy, angiography, and so forth (Slichter 20).
Medical workers should understand various physical laws to understand the strengths and weaknesses of these methods. They should anticipate their impacts on different biological processes within the body. Much attention should be paid to the formation of blood cells.
The primary benefit of these technologies is that these tools enable medical workers to identify possible abnormalities at the early stages. In the past, physicals could start the treatment only at the point when the symptoms of disease began to manifest themselves. At that point, this illness could already become terminal.
Apart from that, they did not know what medications had to be used because they could not pinpoint the underlying origins of the symptoms displayed by a person. In many cases, they could harm a patient by damaging the organs that were not affected by a disease. So, the treatment only increased the suffering of an individual. In contrast, physical knowledge helped them avoid these pitfalls. Modern physicians can either cure a disease or at least block its development. It is one of the reasons why mortality rates were considerably reduced during the twentieth century.
At the same time, knowledge of physical principles is essential for improving or even creating different forms of treatment. For instance, it is possible to mention those treatments that destroy malignant cells. In particular, one should consider radiotherapy. This technique is premised on the properties of ionizing radiation that can disrupt molecular bonds (Starkschall and Siochi 75). In turn, cancerous cells cannot sustain the exposure to this radiation.
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For instance, this form of treatment can useful for assisting patients with lymphomas. However, one should keep in mind that radiotherapy can give rise to many dangerous aftereffects. For example, medical workers should remember about such risks as fibrosis and cardiovascular diseases. Apart from that, this therapy can give rise to new malignant tumors. Thus, medical workers should carefully measure the dosage of radiation. It is one of the precautions that should be taken.
Moreover, healthcare professionals have benefited from the development of particle physics. Medical workers can now help many patients by using proton therapy (Starkschall and Siochi 75). They rely on the properties of accelerated particles that can destroy the molecular structure of cancerous cells. This technique is beneficial because a physician can target only a small part of the patient’s body. Moreover, medical workers often rely on tomotherapy (Starkschall and Siochi 75).
This approach implies that different areas of the tumor should be sequentially exposed to radiation (Berlien 428). Each of these methods has certain advantages and disadvantages. A physician should first determine if the use of this technique is considered to be the gold standard or the most optimal form of treatment. Admittedly, these methods may not quickly improve the state of a person. Sometimes, they can even undermine the immune system. Nevertheless, in most cases, they can significantly prolong the life of this individual for years or even decades.
Apart from that, it is important to mention the discovery of stimulated emission. This process is based on the ability of photons to interact with atomic electrons that are excited (Berlien 428). These interactions lead to the release of energy and the creation of new photons that move in the same direction (Berlien 428). This mechanism is essential for the development of such technologies as lasers. In turn, lasers have considerably improved various types of surgery.
It should be mentioned that they can cut various soft tissues. They have been widely applied to eye surgery. Additionally, this method has often been used for treating various cardiovascular diseases such as atheromas (Berlien 667). Apart from that, lasers can start the chemical processes that result in the necrosis of tumors (Berlien 667). It is possible to say that the use of lasers has dramatically increased the precision of surgical operations. Additionally, they significantly reduce the risks of medical errors that could be made in the past.
Technologies that help people return to normal life
There is another area illustrating the value of physics for medicine. Researchers have been able to develop various devices that help a person even in those cases when a disease cannot be completely cured. To some degree, they are based on the interdisciplinary studies that are aimed at examining various biological processes with the help of physics and other sciences. For instance, one can mention artificial pacemakers that make heart muscle contract (Potter and Rose 269).
This technology is premised on the research of biophysicists who found out that the organs of the human body have the electrical conduction system. In this case, the sinus node generates electrical impulses that are indispensable for the start of the heartbeat (Potter and Rose 269).
In turn, medical workers, physicists, and engineers supposed that an artificial pacemaker could renew the functioning of this electrical conduction system. Overall, this technology has saved the lives of many people. One can also consider the role of brain implants that stimulate certain parts of the brain. Overall, these medical products are based on the study of electricity in the human body. This research began in the eighteenth century, and it eventually brought significant improvements in the lives of many people.
Furthermore, one should remember that the selection of implants reflects the findings of scientists who examine the properties of various materials. For instance, they determine how metals can act if they are exposed to various organic and inorganic substances. This question is vital to the creation of implants that should be inserted in the human body. For example, material scientists explore the properties of polymers such as silicones. These materials are necessary for the creation of eye implants (Potter and Rose 269).
So, in this case, one should recognize the cooperation of professionals who represent different disciplines. The combination of their skills can result in the development of advanced technologies that can be used in many areas, including medicine.
One should not suppose that modern medicine relies only on the discoveries that were made in the twentieth century. It is not permissible to discuss only the role of nuclear or quantum physics. Healthcare professionals also use the principles of dynamics and kinematics that were formulated by Isaac Newton and other scientists who laid the foundations of classical mechanics. For example, one can mention such a field as orthopedics. Physicians require this knowledge to help patients who sustained severe injuries. For instance, they need it to design prosthetic limbs. These examples indicate that medicine is an interdisciplinary science, and this property is critical for the promotion of patients’ welfare.
It should be mentioned that medical workers pay close attention to the work of physicists and engineers. In some cases, these researchers can even receive significant awards in medicine, even though they did not even major in this discipline. For example, one can refer to Alan McCormack, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine because his research contributed to the development of computed tomography (Marcu and Bezak 156). However, in this beginning, this physicist was mostly interested in the structure of crystals. The same argument can be applied to Maurice Wilkins, who studied optical microscopy and isotope separation. However, he is renowned for the study of DNA structure. His work had profound implications for medical researchers who took a close interest in gene therapy. So, healthcare professionals have appreciated the value of physics. One should remember that sometimes the work of physicists cannot be directly related to medicine. For example, it is possible to discuss the work of theoretical physicists. Nevertheless, their research is necessary for anticipating various effects or phenomena. Additionally, their findings can eventually lead to the creation of new technologies that can improve the welfare of many people who require the assistance of medical workers.
The laws discovered and formulated by physicists are used for the creation of many tools that can assist medical workers. First, physicians can identify possible diseases at the early stages of their development, and this opportunity is important for reducing the impacts of these disorders. Moreover, they can make surgery less invasive. In other words, they can avoid harming the organs that are not affected by a disease. Admittedly, certain risks must not be overlooked.
This argument is particularly relevant to various forms of radiation therapy. Finally, it is possible to argue that physics will play an instrumental role in improving the technologies that patients should use regularly. It is possible to say that medicine relies on different branches of physics that are not closely related to one another. Furthermore, in the beginning, many researchers do not expect that their studies can have significant implications for medicine. Overall, one can argue that this cooperation will continue to play an important in the future.
Berlien, Hans-Peter. Applied Laser Medicine, New York: Springer Science & Business Media, 2010. Print.
Marcu, Moderna, and Eva Bezak. Biomedical Physics in Radiotherapy for Cancer, New York: Csiro Publishing, 2012. Print.
Novelline, Robert, and Lucy Squire. Squire’s Fundamentals of Radiology, New York: La Editorial, 2004. Print.
Potter, Michael, and Noel Rose. Immunology of Silicones, New York: Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. Print.
Serway, Raymond, and Chris Vuille. College Physics, Boston: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.
Slichter, Charles. Principles of Magnetic Resonance, New York: Springer Science & Business Media, 2013. Print.
Starkschall, George, and Alfredo Siochi. Informatics in Radiation Oncology, New York, NY: CRC Press, 2013. Print.