The end of the year 2019 is less than a month away, and it’s high time to sum up what the year has brought us other than environmental issues and scandals. Luckily, there are plenty of positive things we can and should focus on, and innovations in the field of medicine and health are definitely on the top of the list. All 10 of these medical breakthroughs, starting with a drug to restore bone density in osteoporosis to medication capable of reducing cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s promise to be life-changing for the prevention and treatment of a wide range of dangerous diseases.
1. New Osteoporosis Drug Promises to Restore Bone Density
Osteoporosis is a degenerative condition that makes bones weaker and more prone to fractures, and it is typically more common among older adults and especially postmenopausal women. This is because menopause brings about a decrease in estrogen production, with the latter playing a significant role in protecting bone health.
As a result, postmenopausal women are at a greater risk of fracture, and a recently approved drug called Evenity is the first of its kind that can help prevent fractures by promoting bone building. This means that millions of osteoporosis sufferers may soon be able to improve their bone health with the new medication.
2. Aging May Soon Become a Thing of the Past
Even the healthiest of humans are susceptible to one detrimental process - aging, as well as all those chronic conditions that go along with it, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and renal failure. The sad truth is that our cells are programmed by our genes to age, no matter how well we eat or how much we exercise and shield ourselves from the sun. Luckily, researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering may have cracked the code behind aging.
In this seminal research, the scientists showed how they are capable of slowing down the aging process and reversing all of the above-mentioned diseases in mice by injecting them with a serum that urged the production of certain proteins in the liver. Incredibly enough, the same treatment helped with all the issues, suggesting that chronic health issues may soon be a thing of the past.
3. The First 3D Printed Mini Heart Made of Human Tissue
In late April, scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel managed to create the first-ever human heart copy using a 3D printer and human cells. As of now, the researchers learned how to print only a mini version of the heart, but it does share many of the structural and functional elements of a real human heart. Hopefully, the team of scientists will soon learn how to print a transplantable version of the heart and the long lines for heart transplants will cease to exist.
4. Drug Makes Peanuts Safe for People Allergic to Them
Allergies are among the most dangerous health conditions, as there is no known cure for them and the only way people with extreme allergies can protect themselves is through complete avoidance of the allergen. This is especially difficult for people who are allergic to products so widespread that trace amounts of them are nearly ubiquitous, such as peanuts, one of the most widespread allergies there is.
However, this may soon change, at least in the case of peanut allergy patients, as a new pill called Palforzia has been submitted for FDA approval in September 2019. This treatment is an immunotherapeutic medication that contains measured out doses of peanut proteins that are gradually increasing, which can help patients build up an immunity to the allergen and can ultimately make peanuts safe for the patients who successfully complete the treatment.
5. A Novel Way to Diagnose Early Stage Liver Disease
Liver disease detection can be tricky, as the only current reliable method of doing so is through a biopsy, an invasive and painful process. A novel method developed at Georgia State University is the first noninvasive screening technique of liver fibrosis is by using the MRI imaging and a new safe and effective dye called ProCA32.collagen1, which will hopefully soon make liver disease screening a pain-free and more effective procedure. The authors suggest that their method will provide early detection of various liver conditions, such as chronic liver disease (CLD), cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
6. Simple Blood Test to Diagnose Breast Cancer 5 Years Before First Symptoms Appear
Breast cancer is the most widespread cancer in women, and the only way we can make sure it doesn't take any lives is through early detection and treatment. Mammograms are the most widespread screening technique used nowadays, and they are 87% accurate at detecting breast cancer, but these can be really uncomfortable and painful, so doctors have been trying to find a more convenient way of doing so for years.
One such method may be a blood test recently developed by British researchers, which, as the authors promise, is capable of preventing breast cancer up to 5 years before the first symptoms ever emerge. Apart from that, the blood test is much cheaper to produce, which means that it will be more widely available.
7. New Treatment of HIV
Autoimmune diseases like HIV are among the trickiest to treat, and unfortunately, we don't have a widely available cure for HIV. The good news is that a new effective treatment may be soon underway, as an American gene therapy company filed an FDA application to allow human trials for a therapeutic treatment that replaces immune cells affected by the disease with lab-made healthy ones.
These healthy immune cells, in turn, help the body fight against the disease and promise to improve the symptoms of the disease. The manufacturer suggests that the treatment may be available in 2020 if everything goes as planned.
8. 'Smart Inhalers' Save Asthma Patients' Lives
Inhalers are a necessity for certain patients suffering from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a matter of fact, they can be life-saving, given that you're using them correctly. To ensure patients' safety and optimize the experience of using an inhaler, Teva Pharmaceuticals developed a smart inhaler capable of measuring the user's respiratory flow and their use of the device. The inhaler connects to a smartphone app that shows the data from the inhaler on your phone. The device is available on the US market.
9. First Drug Capable of Reducing the Progression of Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's disease is one of the most debilitating and difficult conditions to deal with, with no current drugs being able to improve patients' memory loss and related symptoms. Fortunately, this soon may change, as the first-ever treatment of Alzheimer's clinically proven in trials to improve memory and increase patients' independence and functionality may soon get FDA approval.
In October of 2019, a drug called Aducanumab was admitted for approval. The way the treatment works is by helping to remove amyloid plaques that build up in the brain of Alzheimer's patients and are known to contribute to the adverse symptoms of the disease.
10. A Novel Way to Mend Genetic Abnormalities
Researchers have established long ago that many of the most dangerous diseases on the planet, such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis, just to name a few, all have a significant genetic component. Well, soon we might be able to cure or minimize the risks of developing genetically-inherited diseases by the use of a novel gene-editing tool called 'prime editing'.
This incredible technology is being developed by MIT researchers, and the authors suggest that their method is capable of searching for the abnormal part of the genome and replacing each such section with a 'healthy' version of the gene sequences with an 89% accuracy.