Though this year was complicated in so many ways, several medical breakthroughs took place which give hope to the millions of people who suffer from deadly diseases and debilitating conditions.
2016 may not be remembered favorably by some, but it certainly was a great year for major advances in medicine and wellness. Numerous breakthroughs promise to eradicate some diseases entirely as well as make expensive and invasive procedures a thing of the past. Other advances offer the possibility to detect deadly diseases decades before they show symptoms. Though the next few years may be rocky for more than a few reasons, at least those suffering from a debilitating condition or serious illness have more hope for a cure or affordable treatment than in years prior.
1. Experimental Stem Cell Treatment Reverses Advanced Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
British scientists were able to reverse the effects of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 20 different patients using a medical treatment normally intended for those who are battling cancer. Patients were subjechematopoieticpoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), a treatment where patients are given bone marrow transplants using their own stem cells. MS is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the linings of nerve cells. This procedure essentially allows the immune system to ?reboot.? The trial showed remarkable results, with many previously-paralyzed patients regaining the ability to walk and move again.
2. Google Cardboard Used to Save Baby?s Life
Doctors at Nicklaus Children?s Hospital in Miami, Florida were able to use a $20 cardboard accessory from Google to save the life of a newborn baby. Teegan Lexcen was born with one lung and only half a heart, causing doctors to initially tell the family that Teegan would not live long and that surgery was impossible. However, a group of doctors resourcefully decided to load images from MRI scans into an iPhone app called Sketchfab which, combined with Google Cardboard, allows images to be seen in 3D from all angles. This virtual reality accessory allowed doctors to devise a strategy to successfully operate on Teegan and, ultimately, save her life.
3. New Test Identifies Likelihood of Cardiac Arrest Months in Advanced
A group of scientists in Portland, Oregon have identified early warning symptoms for those likely to experience sudden cardiac arrest, a severe type of heart attack. Chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, heart palpitations, flu-like symptoms, and nausea were all found in the cases of 1,100 cases included in the study. The study?s findings could save thousands of lives as those who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest have a 6% survival rate if they never sought help for any symptoms developed prior to the condition?s onset.
4. Researchers Develop Eye Drop that Cures Cataracts Without Surgery
Researchers at Louisiana State University have created eye drops made of nano-particles that are able to restore vision to cataract patients. The nano-particles are able to deliver lutein, a substance plentiful in young eyes but largely absent in old age, into the eye lens of patients. The eye drops could both prevent and treat cataracts, essentially eliminating the need for invasive eye surgery to correct the condition. This breakthrough could also help treat cataract sufferers in developing nations where the cost of surgery is often prohibitive.
5. Pinprick Blood Test Can Detect Cancer Ten Years Before Symptoms Appear
Scientists at Swansea University in Wales have discovered that a mutation in blood cells can predict if a patient will develop to cancer. The detection of the mutation, which appears up to 10 years before a patient shows any cancer symptoms, now means that cancer screenings can be performed via a simple, pinprick blood test. Professor Gareth Jenkins, the study?s lead researcher, said: ?The test can be likened to a cancer smoke detector because a smoke detector does not detect the presence of fire in our homes but it?s by-product ? smoke. This test detects cancer by detecting the ?smoke?, the mutated blood cells. The old adage of no smoke without fire also applies to ?no cancer without mutation? as mutation is the driving force for cancer development.?
6. FDA Bans Triclosan and 18 Other Chemicals From Antibacterial Soaps
In September, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially banned antibacterial soaps from containing 19 different active ingredients. The banned substances were chosen on the basis that manufacturers had not demonstrated the safety of their long-term daily use while also failing to prove that the presence of such chemicals was more effective than soap and water in the prevention of illness or incidence of infection. One of the most commonly used chemicals on the list, triclosan, is a known endocrine disruptor and poses health risks such as bacterial resistance and hormonal effects.
7. Innovative New Wheelchair Promises New Freedom for Paraplegics
A New Zealand-based company, Ogo Technology, has a created what they say is the smallest, lightest, and fastest motorized wheelchair. Inspired by a friend who became paralyzed after a skiing accident, engineer Kevin Halsall worked for four years transforming a Segway into a wheelchair. Instead of using a joystick to direct the chair?s movements, users can simply lean in a particular direction to change their path. Though it?s not on the market quite yet, the group plans to begin taking pre-orders for their first product line in early 2017.
8. World?s First Artificial Pancreas Approved by the FDA
In September, the FDA approved the world?s first artificial pancreas for type-1 diabetes patients. The pancreas, developed by Medtronic, has been approved for patient as safe for ages 14 and up and measures a patient?s glucose level every 5 minutes. It then coordinates with a pump worn on the abdomen to deliver insulin as needed via a sub-dermal needle. The device is set to drastically reduce instances of hypoglycemia among those with type 1 diabetes while also improving their quality of life.
9. Bold Experiment Targeting Brain Cancer Fast-Tracked by FDA Due to Its Efficacy
A bold and experimental therapy pioneered by researchers at Duke University could be the answer for many patients suffering from a rare form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. Glioblastoma is usually fatal just months after diagnosis. However, researchers have developed a treatment by combining the DNA of the polio virus with that of the common cold virus. The new virus, known as PVS-RIPO, can only grow by feeding on the abnormalities of cancerous cells, meaning that it destroys diseased cells but ignores healthy cells. One patient with glioblastoma saw her tumor shrink continuously for 21 months until it disappeared entirely. The findings have been so remarkable that the FDA has granted it ?breakthrough status? and has fast-tracked it for early approval.
10. 21 Year Old Becomes First Quadriplegic to Regain Upper Body Motor Control Via Stem Cell Therapy
On March 6th of this year, Kris Boesen suffered a traumatic injury to his cervical spine. Doctors told Boesen and his parents that he would likely be permanently paralyzed from the neck down, though a clinical study could help. Boesen was then enrolled in a study conducted by the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California where he received experimental injections made from stem cells into the damaged portion of his spine. Shocking both doctors and the Boesens alike, Kris was able to regain control of his upper body only two months after treatment began. This breakthrough could fundamentally change the fate of the millions of people suffering from full or partial paralysis around the world.
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