1300 764 482

19 Mind-Blowing Medical Advances in the Past 8 Years

11 Mind-Blowing Medical Advances in the Past 5 Years (2)

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 analysing 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 analyse the mutated genes of tumours 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 tumour 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 colour.

In 2016 in Australia, Bionic Vision Technologies was given $23.5 million in capital to develop their bionic eye. They intend to use the funds to begin surgical trials in Melbourne in the coming months.

6. Hormones for heart treatment

There’s positive news for patients at risk of heart failure. While around a quarter of patients who are hospitalised for serious heart conditions do not live beyond a year after their hospitalisation, 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 faecal 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 synthesise 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.

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 will begin in 2017.

11 Mind-Blowing Medical Advances in the Past 5 Years

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 leukaemia

Programming T-cells to fight a particular type of leukaemia has resulted in an extraordinary success rate in experimental trials. Of the patients suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia 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 diseases.

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 hypoglycaemia 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 minimisation 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 fertilised 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.