19 Mind-Blowing Medical Advances in the Past 8 Years – Part 1
Driverless cars, artificial intelligence, smart watches – the future is truly upon us. With science and technology developing so quickly, medical breakthroughs continue to be made every day around the world. But what are some of the most profound advancements in recent years and how can they change the way we treat medical conditions? Here are 19 of the most most-blowing medical discoveries of the past eight years.
1. 3D printed body parts
3D printing is widely regarded as being industry-changing technology when it comes to consumer goods and manufacturing. But what’s not widely known is that scientists have successfully created human body parts using 3D printers.
In 2013, researchers from Cornell University managed to print an outer ear that works like and resembles the real thing. Researches from the University of Pennsylvania and MIT have reproduced blood vessels using similar processes.
Researchers from Wake Forest University in North Carolina were able to print skin cells onto wounds for rapid healing. A San Diego company called Organovo has committed itself to printing human livers, and a 3D printer partial liver transplant is expected by 2020.
2. Gene therapy
The use of gene therapy technology to treat blood cancers such as leukemia is one of the most exciting medical developments in recent history. Recent experiments have revealed the potential for gene therapy to be used in reversing other types of cancers, such as breast cancer. There’s some promise that gene therapy could one day be used to eliminate the need for traditional treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. In March this year, gene therapy was used to cure a teenage boy with sickle cell disease, showing the potential for this therapy to be used to combat common genetic diseases as well.
In the past year, developments have occurred in relation to the use of gene therapy to treat symptoms of aging. If muscle mass and stem cell depletion can be effectively treated with gene therapy, this technology has the potential to significantly slow the human aging process.
3. Gut bacteria treatments
As our understanding of gut bacteria and how it impacts the rest of the body develops, scientific breakthroughs in relation to gut flora continue to shape how we treat illness. Amazingly, scientists have discovered that the mix of bacteria or microbes in our digestive system could affect how our brain functions and the way we think. There is also research demonstrating a potential link between obesity and the mix of gut bacteria in our bodies.
The medical field is only just beginning to understand the degree to which gut bacteria affects human health. Gut bacteria may one day be used as part of possible treatments for diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease as well as common allergies and cancers.
4. Cancer therapies
The field of cancer therapies has also seen some breakthroughs, with a better understanding of cancer fingerprinting. Cancer fingerprinting is a new approach to analyzing how specific cases of cancer react to different treatments. Every incidence of cancer has a unique fingerprint or identity code and cancer fingerprinting allows medical staff to analyze the mutated genes of tumors and understand how sensitive particular cancers will be to different types of chemotherapy.
Additionally, there have been advances in cancer immunotherapy, which treats cancer by boosting the body’s immune system rather than removing or targeting the tumor cells through surgery or chemotherapy.
5. The bionic eye
In 2013, Second Sight, a California-based company, received approval from the US government to start marketing a bionic eye. The artificial eye uses a camera set into the user’s glasses. The camera transmits electrical messages wirelessly, into the user’s retinal implant. While the bionic eye doesn’t fully restore normal vision, it does enable certain patients to attain a level of vision and some patients have even been able to see color.
In 2016 in Australia, Bionic Vision Technologies was given $23.5 million in capital to develop their bionic eye. They are using the funds to begin surgical trials in Melbourne.
6. Hormones for heart treatment
There’s positive news for patients at risk of heart failure. While around a quarter of patients who are hospitalized for serious heart conditions do not live beyond a year after their hospitalization, a new drug may potentially improve this outlook dramatically.
Serelaxin, a synthetic version of the hormone relaxin, has been shown to boost survival rates in these patients by 37 per cent. The drug opens up the blood vessels and has an anti-inflammatory impact on the system.
7. Fecal transplants
Fecal transplants have been used to successfully treat people infected with C. difficile, which is a type of infectious diarrhea responsible for around 15,000 deaths each year. Fecal transplants involve the removing good bacteria from a healthy person’s fecal matter and transplanting it to the patient’s colon. While the idea of taking someone else’s fecal matter into your own body may seem off-putting, the process has the potential to save thousands of lives.
8. Cure for Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a potentially fatal disease that causes 12,000 deaths every year. Around 30 per cent of people cannot be cured, and those who are cured undergo a heavy anti-viral-drug treatment program that lasts for nearly a year and is associated with major side effects.
A new drug, Sofosbuvir, could help patients avoid the extended treatment period and improve the rate of people cured from Hepatitis C. The drug has a 95 per cent cure rate and a treatment program lasting only 12 weeks.
9. Seizure stoppers
Around 50 million people around the world suffer from epilepsy. The disease causes sudden seizures and can have a debilitating effect on a sufferer’s lifestyle. A new invention, the NeuroPace, could make life easier for epileptics. Sensors implanted into the brain automatically send electrical pulses that counter the onset of seizures, so seizures are stopped in their tracks before they even begin.
10. Synthetic cells
In 2010, the first completely new synthetic cells were created by Dr. J Craig Venter, who is known for being one of the first to sequence the human genome. The cells were created by stitching together chemicals to synthesize the full genome of a bacterium. This could open the way to new treatments in synthetic biology that could have applications in a range of industries, from biofuels to healthcare.