Microorganisms like disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and viruses have been constantly at war with mankind, and it has necessitated constant medical advancements. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’ and quite a few new inventions in the medical field have brought new hopes. There are deadly diseases like HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and an array of cancers and a multitude of food-borne or water-borne diseases. Wars and famine have created the need for new and urgent developments to cope with the urgencies caused by these phenomena. Scientific advancements have impacted the lifestyle changing it to a more sedentary mode for most workers, ultimately causing diseases in the working class not known to occur before the advent of these rapid electronic developments. Obesity, optical diseases, and gastrointestinal diseases, cardiac diseases, and many other diseases have something to do with the current lifestyle. The good news is that medical advancements are being made at a faster rate consequently eliminating many diseases while reducing or minimizing the prevalence of many others. Advancements have been made not only in medicine but also in medical equipment and techniques. Big pharmaceutical companies sponsor medical research, and very often they have succeeded in developing amazing medicines or miraculous solutions to fight diseases.
1. Activation of Innate Immunity
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2011 has gone to Bruce A. Butler, Jules A. Hoffman and Ralph M. Steinman for their discoveries concerning immunity. AIDS is perhaps the most dreaded but also the most cared for disease of our time. It is concerned with the malfunction of the immune system, and these Nobel Laureates have made it known clearly how the defense system works. The importance of these discoveries may not be realized by most of the people, but the professionals are very hopeful and consider it one of the most important if not the most famous medical breakthroughs of 2011. Scientists had been trying for a long time to find the exact mechanism of how the immune response is activated and regulated in animals and human beings. Ralph Steinman discovered the dendritic cells and their unique capability to activate the immune system and regulate the adaptive immunity or clearance of pathogens from the human body.
2. AV-45 PET for Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s disease was named after the German Psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer who discovered plaques and tangles in the post-mortem brain tissue of a 51-year-old patient. The disease causes dementia, and in the U.S. alone, its healthcare costs are over $172 billion. It is an incurable disease, and the worst of it was that the only way to detect it was after death. AV-45 is a new brain imaging compound used in PET or Positron Emission Tomography. It is a nuclear medicine imaging and has made it possible to detect the disease precisely in patients even before the appearance of its symptoms. Early detection of the disease will enable its prevention at the earliest and most manageable stage.
3. Preventive JUPITER
LDL; Low-density lipoprotein, better known as bad cholesterol, is considered the causative substance for heart attacks. A research study known as JUPITER (Justification for the Use of Statins in Primary Prevention: An Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin), in 2011 proved that persons having normal levels of LDL are also prone to heart attack if they have excessive C-reactive proteins which are indicators of inflammation. About 400,000 Americans had their first heart attack when their LDL was normal. The research concluded that the cholesterol lowering drugs known as Statins drastically reduce the risk of heart attack and death in persons with normal cholesterol levels but have increased inflammation.
4. Malarial Vaccine RTS,S
According to the WHO, in the year 2010 about 655,000 deaths were caused by malaria, and most of the victims were African children. Every minute one child dies of malaria in Africa. There had been extensive malaria eradication programs, and DDT was sprayed even upon the mountains to control the disease in the past. Mosquito nets for prevention are still in use in many parts of the world. In the year 2011, a medical breakthrough has been made by developing and testing a Malarial Vaccine. The test vaccine known as RTS,S has effectively protected 56 percent of children ages 5 to 17 months in Africa.
5. Artificial Stem Cells
Cloning refers to the production of similar individuals as it occurs naturally in living beings comprised of one, cell-like bacteria. It was done by breaking a strand of DNA, combining the desired pieces, inserting the pieces so formed into cells, and selecting the successfully developed cells from them. This process was used for the development the famous cloned sheep Dolly which required the use of embryonic cells. The process has been criticized from religious and ethical points of view. In 2011, a new process has been developed. The process known as SCNT, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, aims at developing embryos enabling scientists to use these embryos for the purpose of cloning. The process shall potentially help fight diseases.
6. IBS Smart Pill
‘IBS’ stands for ‘Irritable Bowl Syndrome’ which is a medical condition relating to the gastrointestinal tract. Endoscopy was previously the only diagnostic method which is quite a painful technique. Princess Grace Hospital in London was the first to use a new technique involving the swallowing of a small capsule which, during the course of its travel in the gastrointestinal tract, transmits the information about the rate of food movement in the gut, degree of acidity, temperature, and pressure. The process is painless and easy to conduct.
7. The Food Plate
The Food Pyramid has been a nutritional guide since long ago, but the WHO developed a new guideline in this respect and has changed the icon to ‘My Plate.’ The plate is considered to be a standard, nine-inch plate divided into four quadrants. It urges that for healthy eating, half of the plate should be comprised of only fruits and vegetables while the remaining half should be comprised of one quadrant for grains and the other for proteins. The grains quadrant is larger than the proteins as is the vegetables quadrant in the other half. Dairy is shown as a separate and smaller plate alongside the larger plate in the new icon called ‘My Plate.’ The use of fat has not been mentioned to discourage it.
8. Exhaled Nitric Oxide Analyzer
Some cell types produce a gaseous molecule of nitric oxide in response to the inflammatory condition in asthma. It is an important biomarker and an indication of an asthma attack. The nitric oxide analyzer can detect the presence of such molecules at an early stage enabling its prevention or proactive treatment. It is considered an important medical breakthrough.
9. Transoral Gastroplasty (TOGA)
Obesity is a challenging health problem in the modern age. Not only is it a problem for adults, but it also worries parents when it occurs in children. In addition to some hereditary factors, the modern lifestyle and excessive dependence on electronic devices is a contributing factor to some extent. The conventional methods like dieting and exercise are too strenuous for many of the concerned to be followed. A new endoscope weight loss method known as TOGA was developed in 2011. TOGA (Trans Oral Gastroplasty) is a non-surgical process and involves the insertion of two flexible endoscopes through the mouth into the stomach reducing its size notably without inflicting any pain.
10. Bio Printing
An amazing device developed in 2011 is the bio printer which is designed to spray skin cells right onto the burns to heal them. It is like grafting new cells but growing them directly onto the burns rather then growing them in a nutrient culture first and transferring them onto the burns later. It is just like dot matrix printing. The technique is still undergoing research and has a great potential.
Many diseases, like various cancers when diagnosed late, are difficult to treat, and the chances of recovery in such cases seem to be dim and directly proportional to the diagnostic stages. Medical breakthroughs in 2011 have enabled the medical professionals to diagnose probable occurrences of diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s disease well before entering into the advanced stages. This increases the chances of prevention, minimizing or at least reducing the pain inflicted and the misery caused by such diseases.
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