I am a bit of a film fanatic and can't help drawing parallels with this months issue to the classic film “Fantastic Voyage” directed by Richard Fleischer; in which a group of scientists are miniturized and injected in to the body of a leading scientist where they then have just one hour to remove a blood clot on his brain and then get out, however complications set in as soon as they enter the scientists bloodstream….

Screened in 1966 it was billed as the most amazing science fiction ever conceived, “A fantastic and spectacular voyage through the human body and into the brain”.

Back in 1966 it would probably have been inconceivable that within the space of just 50 years surgeons would regularly be conducting complex minimally invasive surgical techniques using tethered tools, and still further, exploring the real opportunities of creating totally tetherless tools small enough to pass through most major parts of the body such as the gastrointestinal tract, the reproductive or circulatory system.

Rohan Fernandes and David Gracias at Johns Hopkins University in the paper entitled; Toward a miniaturized mechanical surgeon, review the challenges and ask, how can engineers construct these small tetherless, surgical devices, and how would these devices be inserted, retrieved and controlled?

The ethical and moral debate of this science; that one day we might be controlled by gigantic machines and computers, as envisioned by Charlie Chaplin and Karl Marx and the effect this may have on society is left to the medical doctors and surgical practitioners amongst us.

In our second review article; Revolutionizing biodegradable metals, Mark Shultz and co-workers at the University of Cincinnati comment on the monitoring and control of biodegradable metallic implants.

A tremendous amount of interest focuses around the potential of biodegradable implants over the more conventional implants Lee Majors may have been familiar with. In this work Shultz reviews the advancement of biodegradable metal implants such as magnesium and iron which can adapt to the human body in which they are implanted and then in time simply dissolve away once the body has regenerated itself. This may result in a vast improvement in the patients quality of life post trauma.

In our final related paper this month, Cassandra Fraser and Guoqing Zhang from the University of Virginia look at the essential ingredient of life; oxygen, and given its importance in determining prognosis, treatment and response to therapy review how we can measure accurately and reproducibly partial pressures or oxygen and image hypoxia.

I am left thinking just how close many of the visionaries from the silver screen predicted what is actually now coming to fruition in biomedical research and the paradigm changing effect it will have on the medical industry. The next time I watch one of the classics I'll be paying extra attention to the techniques and applications of what they thought at the time only to be fiction.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(09)70258-5