19 Mind-Blowing Medical Advances in the Past 8 Years – Part 2
11. Treatment for cluster headaches
Cluster headaches – commonly known as “suicide headaches” – are chronically painful headaches
which can last up to several weeks. Fortunately, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic may be close to
an effective, practicable treatment for the condition.
The research involved successfully implanting a small device behind a patient’s upper jaw. The
device works by sending electrical pulses into the patient’s head and can be operated via remote
control. The electrical-pulse stimulation was shown to reduce the impact of headaches.
12. New class of antibiotics
The emergence of superbugs makes discovering new antibiotics more critical than ever. The
discovery of the first new class of antibiotics in 30 years was therefore welcomed news in the
medical field. This new type of antibiotics, known as teixobactin, can kill serious infections such as
tuberculosis and septicaemia without encountering resistance. It could eventually be used to treat
drug resistant infections caused by the superbug known as MRSA.
Currently, MRSA is treatable only with a combination of drugs. Without new classes of antibiotics
being discovered, basic operations can carry a high risk of untreatable infection. Human testing of
teixobactin began in 2017.
13. Cheap, high quality graphene
Graphene is a transparent, single-layer lattice of carbon atoms. Valued for its super strength and
ability to conduct heat and electricity, graphene can potentially be used in anything from medical
treatments to solar cells. While graphene has excellent potential for a variety of applications, a major
factor preventing its wide distribution is its high cost of production. Until now.
Scientists have recently found a way to produce high-quality graphene at a fraction of the cost of
previous manufacturing methods. This new technique involves applying graphene on copper foils.
Other researchers have found new ways to eliminate the need for highly controlled production
environments by growing graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor. This not only speeds
up the production process but makes it much more cost effective.
14. Melt-away cataract treatment
Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness around the world. Current treatment options are limited to
painful operations to replace the clouded lens with an artificial one. Fortunately, researchers
have discovered a non-surgical treatment that uses eye drops. These eye drops contain compounds
that dissolve the cataracts, eliminating the need for surgery.
The researchers who discovered the compounds reviewed almost 2,500 different chemicals to
identify two sterols known as lanosterol and compound 29 that could be used to melt away the
amyloids that lead to cataracts. People in the developing world, where access to surgery for cataracts
is limited, will stand to benefit greatly from this new medical discovery.
15. Reprogrammed T-cells to treatment leukemia
Programming T-cells to fight a particular type of leukemia has resulted in an extraordinary success
rate in experimental trials. Of the patients suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia who received
the trial treatment, 94% experienced an elimination of symptoms. More than half of the patients had
a complete remission of their cancer.
This new immunotherapy treatment involves taking immune cells from patients and reprogramming
them with receptor molecules to target specific types of cancer. The cells are then infused back into
the body. What’s more, the technique holds promising potential to treat other types of cancer and
16. The world’s first artificial pancreas
Medtronic’s MiniMed 670G measures your blood glucose every five minutes using a sensor with a
protruding needle. Known as an artificial pancreas, the device also delivers insulin through a pump
worn on your abdomen, adjusting the dosage according to your readings.
The MiniMed was approved by the American FDA in 2016. It’s expected to significantly reduce the
risk of hypoglycemia and make life easier for those with type 1 diabetes by saving them from having
to check their blood sugar levels throughout the day.
17. Effective Psoriasis medication
An effective psoriasis drug might be on the horizon for those that suffer from this chronic skin
condition. Johnson & Johnson’s drug Guselkumab has achieved the highest ever response rates in
psoriasis patients, in a phase three study. Administered via injection, Guselkumab had 85.1% of
patients achieving clearance or minimization of their symptoms within 16 weeks, while only 6.9% of
placebo patients achieved this.
At the 16 week stage of trial, 73.3% of patients had 90% skin clearance. By the 24-week stage,
80.2% of patients had 90% skin clearance compared to only 53% of patients who were given
Humira, the current top-selling psoriasis drug.
18. Opioid dependence treatment
Probuphine, an implant to treat opioid (pain-killer) dependence, has been approved by the American
FDA. Probuphine is used to automatically administer low doses of buprenorphine to opioid
dependent patients to support their recovery process. While buprenorphine tablets are already widely
available, an implant is considered a ‘breakthrough’ development because it eliminates the need to
take multiple pills throughout the day.
19. Mitochondrial replacement therapy
The world’s first baby born with a new three parent technique has avoided the risk of developing the
fatal Leigh syndrome thanks to mitochondrial replacement therapy. The child’s mother is a carrier of
the syndrome, and before the delivery of their health baby boy, the couple’s attempts to start a family
had ended in tragedy. They endured four miscarriages before having a daughter who died at six and
another child who lived for only eight months.
A team of doctors created an embryo by using the nucleus from the mother’s egg and inserting it into
a donor egg that had the nucleus removed. The egg was then fertilized with the father’s sperm. In
doing so, the doctors successfully created an embryo able to develop into a healthy baby boy.
The future of medical breakthroughs
These 19 developments only scratch the surface of the incredible medical breakthroughs that have
occurred in the last eight years. Though there are plenty of technological advancements to be
concerned about – weapons, surveillance and an increasingly virtual world, to name a few – these
advances in medicine show the potential for humans to work together to engineer a brighter, healthier
future for all.