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Gene-based vaccines had never been approved for humans before the coronavirus pandemic. Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

3 medical innovations fueled by COVID-19 that will outlast the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has driven a lot of scientific progress in the past year. But just as some of the social changes are likely here to stay, so are some medical innovations.
In the not-too-distant future, tattoos could become medical diagnostic devices as well as body art. LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images

Dynamic tattoos promise to warn wearers of health threats

Researchers are developing tattoo inks that do more than make pretty colors. Some can sense chemicals, temperature and UV radiation, setting the stage for tattoos that diagnose health problems.
Fitness information from wearable devices can reveal when the body is fighting an infection. Nico De Pasquale Photography/Stone via Getty Images

Wearable fitness devices deliver early warning of possible COVID-19 infection

Fitness information like resting heart rate collected by wearable devices can’t diagnose diseases, but it can signal when something is wrong. That can be enough to prompt a COVID-19 test.
Tiny fuel cells convert sweat to electricity that can power sensors in electronic skin. Yu et al., Sci. Robot. 5, eaaz7946 (2020)

A smart second skin gets all the power it needs from sweat

Lightweight, flexible materials can be used to make health-monitoring wearable devices, but powering the devices is a challenge. Using fuel cells instead of batteries could make the difference.
Currently only half of people with depression access potentially adequate treatment, according to one research study. Digital devices could help. (Unsplash/boudewijn huysmans)

The future of psychiatry promises to be digital — from apps that track your mood to smartphone therapy

Using smartphones and wearable devices to identify mental health symptoms and deliver psychotherapy will allow more people to access quality care, according to one psychiatrist.

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