Human beings are living longer than ever these days and as we age, we will inevitably encounter some health problems. The more efficient and sound our healthcare, the better we will be able to handle these problems. As healthcare evolves, scientists all over the world are working hard to make improvements in therapy, medication, surgical techniques, mental illness treatment and more.
In case you missed them, here are a few medical advancements and positive trials that science has recently announced.
HIV affects nearly 38 million people globally and research into creating a vaccine for the disease is ongoing. HIV is particularly hard to pin down because it constantly morphs into different strains to avoid the immune system; but now, science may have made a breakthrough. A phase 1 clinical trial testing a vaccine approach for HIV prevention has shown success in stimulating production of rare immune cells needed to jumpstart the process of generating antibodies against the disease. The labs IAVI and Scripps Research are moving forward in a partnership with Moderna to create an MRNA vaccine using the breakthrough approach.
2). Lyme Disease
Our warmer winters and hot summers are increasing the tick population and prevalence of Lyme Disease. Valneva and Pfizer recently initiated a phase 2 study of the efficacy of a Lyme Disease vaccine candidate. Approximately 476,000 Americans are treated for the disease each year and the number is expected to increase with the changing climate. This vaccine is the only Lyme Disease vaccine currently in development.
1). Cancer Immunotherapy
Using gene editing technology, scientists at the University of Minnesota have found a way to engineer a body’s T-Cells in such a way as to more easily fight and destroy cancerous cells. Tumors present a problem for regular T-Cells because their construction slows down, inhibits and stops them from consistently getting to cancerous cells. Scientists have engineered T-cells to better fit and overcome the barriers present in physical tumors. The ultimate goal is to slow down cancer cells and speed up the efficacy of the body’s own defense system. The next step is to continue to engineer and improve T-cells in the lab. Initial research has been focused on pancreatic cancer, but researchers believe that the techniques they are developing can be used to treat other cancer types.
2). New Device for Postpartum Hemorrhage
Postpartum Hemorrhage is a dangerous complication of childbirth characterized by excessive bleeding after delivery. Those suffering from the complication often require blood transfusions, risky medications and even emergency hysterectomy. The newly-developed vacuum-induced uterine tamponade uses negative pressure created inside the uterus to collapse the bleeding cavity causing closure of the bleeding vessels. This minimally-invasive device will, hopefully, replace the majority of the aforementioned risky treatments.
3). Pacemaker Mobile Apps
Used to prevent or correct abnormal heartbeats, pacemakers and defibrillators deliver electrical impulses to the heart to contract and pump blood to the body. Traditionally, remote monitoring of the devices takes place at the patient’s home through a bedside console that transmits data to the physician. Adherence to this type of monitoring has long been suboptimal and worrisome with most lacking the know-how to use the device properly. Now, blue-tooth enabled pacemakers can sync with mobile apps that are easier to use and for physicians to monitor.
4). Premature Babies & Lung Function
Babies born prematurely face a number of challenges at the very start of life, one of which is infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS).Traditional treatment involves a surfactant (a substance that reduces the surface tension of a liquid) during mechanical ventilation – a practice that can cause long-term lung injury and disease. Recently, B-CPAP, a non-invasive ventilation strategy, was developed as a safer alternative. B-CPAP provides continuous positive pressure to the airway to maintain lung volume, therefore minimizing physical trauma and stimulating the baby’s lung development.
5). Thalassemia/Sickle Cell Gene Therapy
Hemoglobinopathies are genetic disorders affecting the production of the hemoglobin molecule and the most common of these, affecting 330,000 children born worldwide, are thalassemia and sickle cell disease. The latest research involving gene therapy shows promise in giving those afflicted the ability to make their own functional hemoglobin molecules, therefore eliminating or reducing the number of needed blood transfusions.
1). Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have designed an experimental drug that reversed key symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice. The drug reinvigorates a “cellular cleaning” mechanism that gets rid of unwanted proteins in cells. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by an overbearing presence of abnormal bundles of tau proteins in neurons. A newly discovered process called chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) is believed to (typically) clean the cell of unwanted molecules and particles. It was then found that CMA activity is hindered in Alzheimer’s patients. By reinvigorating CMA, researchers were able to reverse symptoms of the disease. Research is ongoing.
2). Cystic Fibrosis
CF affects more than 30,000 people in the U.S. The lung disease is characterized by a sticky mucus that clogs airways and traps germs leading to infections and other complications. It is caused by a defective regulator protein and prior medications have only been effective for a small number of people. A new combination drug, approved by the FDA, provides relief for 90% of patients living with the disease.
3). Hepatitis C
Hep C is emerging as a new problem in the U.S. The virus has no vaccine and can cause liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Current medications are accompanied by dangerous side effects and only marginally effective. A new, approved medication has proved 90% effective for Hep C versions 1-6 providing relief for a wider scope of patients.
4). Migraine Prophylaxis
In the U.S. alone, migraine headaches affect more than 38 million people and prior treatments such as antidepressants, Botox injections and blood pressure medications have been minimally effective. Prescribed in 2020, a new and approved medication designed solely for the purpose of migraine relief has shown significant positive results and begins a new era of possibilities for migraine therapeutic relief.
5). Multiple Sclerosis
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that covers nerve fibers resulting in permanent damage to the body or deterioration and eventually, death. Approximately 15% of people with MS experience a subset of the disease known as primary-progressive. A recent, FDA-approved monoclonal antibody is the first and only MS drug treatment for the primary-progressive subset population.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine. (2021). Experimental drug shows potential against Alzheimer’s disease. Science Daily. Retrieved from sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210422150402.htm
Arthur, R. (2021). Valneva and Pfizer start new Phase 2 study for Lyme disease vaccine candidate. Biopharmareporter.com. Retrieved from biopharma-reporter.com/Article/2021/03/08/Valneva-and-Pfizer-start-new-Phase-2-study-for-Lyme-disease-vaccine-candidate
Reale-Cooney, A. (2020). Top medical innovations for 2021. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2020/10/06/cleveland-clinic-unveils-top-10-medical-innovations-for-2021/
Scripps Research. (2021). First-in-human clinical trial confirms novel HIV vaccine approach. Scripps Research. Retrieved from scripps.edu/news-and-events/press-room/2021/20210203-hiv-vaccine.html
University of Minnesota. (2021). New research optimizes body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Science Daily. Retrieved from sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210514134222.htm