Medical discoveries of 2016
The year 2016 has been an interesting and it a lot of ways unexpected one. It was designated as the International Year of Global Understanding by the International council for Science, the International Social Science Council and the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences. It was a year where the unexpected occurred in the form of a billionaire being elected president of the United States. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The world’s largest and deepest railway tunnel, The Gotthard Base Tunnel, was opened following decades of construction. It was a year of achievement in the successful hosting of the 2016 Summer Olympics by Rio De Jeneiro. There were also a significant number of high profile deaths such as David Bowie, Nancy Reagan, Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro to name a few.
Whatever your attention was drawn to in 2016, we can all agree it was a rollercoaster year and as we reflect on the year we take the opportunity to look back at the medical achievements over the past 12 months. Some projects that have been culminating over a number of years and other more instantaneous achievements that need to be acknowledged.
Virtual Reality (VR) technology has gone mainstream! The technology has finally grown enough to be affordable and available for the average consumer, VR technology is set to revolutionize the approach to medical training. The medical simulations available to students and doctors alike will allow a real time experience of everything from the simplest to the most difficult procedures. They have also used the same technology to assure patients of the procedures that will be undertaken.
Waiting 45 seconds longer to cut the umbilical cord. Dr. Arpitha Chiruvolu, alongside the team from the Dallas Based Baylor Research Institute, discovered that waiting 45 seconds before clamping the umbilical cord can significantly reduce bleeding in the brain in premature babies. The study showed a reduction in bleeding in the brain by almost 50% with no adverse side effects.
A new test for Deadly Fevers. A simple test kit, in the form of a set of color changing strips, has been developed by researchers at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working alongside the FDA. The strips work similarly to a pregnancy strip, allowing a rapid response to diagnose deadly viral infections such as yellow fever, dengue or Ebola. This first line of defense has specifically been designed to target rural areas that don’t have access to the more accurate testing methods.
Growing skin in a lab. Scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have successfully grown complex skin tissue, complete with hair follicles and sebaceous glands. They were then able to implant this three-dimensional tissue into living mice, and the tissues formed proper connections with other organ systems. The study published in Science Advances is a fascinating example of human achievement.
Artificial retinas are helping the blind to see. If you live within the Unites States you are considered legally blind when your central vision has degraded to 20/200, or if you see less than 20 degrees outside of your central vision. To combat this blindness, companies like Nano-Retina have designed a Nano Retina device to restore the site of people who have lost their vision due to retinal degenerative diseases. This smart implantable chip works alongside a set of eyeglasses worn by the patient restoring the function of the photoreceptor cells.
Lightbulbs that kill bacteria. A company called Indigo-Clean has developed a technology using visible light that continuously disinfects the environment and increases current infection prevention efforts. The 405nm reflects off walls and surfaces penetrating harmful microorganisms, causing a chemical reaction within their cells which is similar to that caused by bleach. The light in effect inactivates the bacteria, preventing it from re-populating the space.
What was the most memorable story you read over 2016? Or perhaps you were even exposed to one of the latest in medical innovations! The exciting thing to know is we will always be moving forward. Wishing you all the best for 2017.