Medical science had a banner year in 2013, including a development, according to Dr. Stephen Shrewsbury, that offers the first long-term proof that a much-discussed new medical technology can work, at least with one disease. Click the link to see the list.
The Long Term Success of a Gene Patch That Allows Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy To Remain Walking.
Gene patch technology, where drugs correct the ill effects of defective genes, had its first big breakthrough. Sarepta Therapeutics’ drug, eteplirsen, generated a missing protein in boys with DMD, which allowed the boys in this study to stabilize their walking for 96 weeks. Without this protein, their muscles would waste and they’d become unable to walk.
The Creation of Beating Human Heart Cells Grown in a Petri Dish! As first reported in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh used mature human cells from the skin—not embryonic stem cells. They changed those cells into embryonic human heart cells, which then successfully grew in a mouse’s heart stripped of its vital cells, turning it back into a functioning, beating organ.
A Step Towards a Drug That Can Fight Alzheimer’s. Researchers discovered a chemical to stop brain tissue from dying, a necessary precursor to a drug that can treat Alzheimer’s. “Though a drug is years away,” says Shrewsbury, “this lays the groundwork for eventual success.”
A High Blood Pressure Treatment that Zaps Kidneys. This treatment lowers blood pressure by disabling kidney nerves with radio waves, giving hope to blood pressure patients who don’t respond to drugs.
FDA Approval of an “Artificial Pancreas” for Diabetes Patients. Diabetes sufferers may soon be able to give up pin pricks and injections—with the “artificial pancreas” developed by Medtronics. The patient wears what looks like an iPod on their waistband. This device monitors blood glucose and then adjusts the amount of insulin delivered by a pump, like a healthy pancreas in a non-diabetic.
An Artificial Retina Restores Sight to Certain Blind People. Second Sight Medical Products has developed a system that makes it possible to see via electrical impulses—tiny cameras stimulate remaining healthy cells within the damaged retina to send visual messages to the brain.
Your Complete Medical History Became Something You Can Permanently Carry With You. MedicTag and other companies have successfully developed products that put your complete health record on a flash drive.
A Pacemaker that Zaps Migraines Away. Migraine Treatment Centers of America launched a procedure that implants a device in your head to stimulate the nerves involved with migraines. The electrical signal is sent via a remote control and stops or lessens migraine pain.
A Handheld Scanner for Melanoma Skin Cancer. Roughly one in eight skin cancer patients will die from the disease in 2013. When caught early, 99% of patients survive. If diagnosed late, only 15% survive. A new FDA-approved device uses missile-guidance technology to analyze moles. In a trial, it correctly identified 98 percent of melanomas.
A New, Faster Way to Identify Specific Bacteria via Mass Spectrometry. Correct identification of bacteria from culturing can take weeks. But clinical microbiology laboratories are now investigating a new mass spectrometry technology that provides rapid organism identification that is more accurate, more rapid (minutes) and less expensive than current methods. This will allow doctors to prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic sooner instead of broad-spectrum agents that drive antimicrobial resistance. That could improve “cure” rates and reduce antibiotic resistance, lowering healthcare costs.