(ORDO NEWS) — Here is a selection of incredible breakthroughs in the field of medicine in recent years.
Modern medicine prolongs our lives and reduces suffering in every possible way. However, many of the effective treatments of modern times have been known to medicine for a very long time – for example, antibiotics, most painkillers and various forms of cancer screening.
But from time to time, scientists come up with new methods of treatment, which from the outside may seem like technologies that have descended from the pages of science fiction novels – we’ll talk about them.
1 – A robot surgeon that is not inferior to a person
Modern robots are still very far from the perfection and autonomy of those we see in science fiction, but now we can have a robot that can perform certain surgical procedures on its own.
Earlier this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins University published evidence that their Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) can perform a complex laparoscopic surgery on pigs that requires reconnecting the ends of the intestine. At some points, the robot surgeon did even better than his flesh-and-blood counterparts.
2 – Shock therapy without pain: an effective treatment for depression
The idea of using electricity to treat mental illness understandably drew some stigma, given the dark and sometimes offensive history of “shock therapy” in the early days of psychiatry.
But these days, various methods of brain stimulation have shown real promise in treating depression and other diseases that otherwise seemed incurable.
It is hypothesized that these therapies may, to some extent, reset or stabilize the erratic brain activity associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. And scientists seem to be better at fine-tuning this technology.
Last October, a research team published results showing that a personalized deep brain stimulation technique (which involves implanting a pacemaker-like device into the brain) successfully helped a woman treat decades of severe depression.
“When I first received stimulation, I experienced the most intense joyful sensation in many years, and my depression turned into an ephemeral nightmare for a moment,” the patient said at a press conference.
This technology is still very expensive, invasive and probably only suitable for people who have no other options. But over time, a critical mass of useful data could lead to new discoveries and understanding of how the brain works and how to help people with depression.
3 – Medicated contact lenses
Sometimes innovation comes not from developing new and better drugs, but from finding better ways to use them.
In March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first drug-coated contact lenses that release a payload of antihistamines for hours to prevent or reduce itchy eyes. Eventually, this technology could be used to treat other eye conditions such as glaucoma, infections and cataracts.
4 – The cure for genetic diseases: no, this is not a joke
For decades, scientists have pinned their hopes on the idea of editing our genes to treat severe or seemingly incurable diseases.
Now we are finally starting to see that these efforts are paying off. Since 2017, the FDA has approved at least two gene therapies designed to correct or replace deleterious mutations that directly cause disease.
A related area of research is CAR T cell therapy, which edits human T cells in the lab to better fight certain cancers; the cells are then infused back into the body.
In December, a small trial using gene therapy to repair deformed red blood cells in people with sickle cell anemia. Because of this pathology, red blood cells turn into a kind of crescents, losing the ability to capture and carry oxygen.
The test seems to have gone well . For three years after treatment, the cells of these volunteers still retained the correct shape, and, most importantly, the people no longer experienced episodes of severe pain and other symptoms that are characteristic of this disease.
The results of this and other studies look so impressive that they may indeed represent a reliable cure for a genetic disorder that affects hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
5 – Unlimited organs for transplantation
The long-awaited goal of medicine is a stable supply of organs to those who need them. Now that dream seems achievable. Last year, two different research teams successfully transplanted organs from genetically modified pigs into brain-dead people.
And in January, a Maryland team performed the world’s first transplant of a modified porcine heart into a terminally ill patient. These pigs were modified to be more compatible with human biology – for example, their muscles no longer produced sugars “foreign” to the human immune system.
Early experiments have shown that pig organs can survive the transplant process without being immediately rejected by our immune system.
But it will take clinical trials to prove that the technology can actually extend the lives of recipients, and it could be even longer before these organs become as effective as those donated by humans.
But given the ongoing organ shortage that kills thousands of patients every year, the successful implementation of this technology in the future will save many lives.
Contact us: [email protected]