10 major scientific and technological breakthroughs in medicine in 2015 that give people hope
2015 was a particularly productive year for medicine. Many exciting discoveries were made, bright breakthroughs were made in medical technologies, and new applications were found for a number of existing medicines. In our review of the ten most significant medical discoveries of the past year.
1. Opening taikomochi
In 2014, the world health organization warned that the world was entering a “post-antibiotic era”. The following year, scientists discovered a new antibiotic, which was named teixobactin. It is notable for being active against pathogenic bacteria that have developed resistance to existing antibiotics. Teixobactin kills microbes by blocking their ability to build cell walls, so microbes cannot develop resistance to the drug.
2. Doctors have grown vocal cords from scratch
One of the most exciting and futuristic areas of medicine is tissue regeneration. In 2015, the list of artificially created organs was expanded – doctors at the University of Wisconsin were able to grow human vocal cords from scratch. The original cells were taken from five people, after which the ligaments were grown in the laboratory for two weeks. Today, experiments are being conducted on mice to see if the body will reject artificial tissue.
3. Cancer drug may help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease
Tasigna (or nilotinib) is a drug that is regularly used to treat people with leukemia. However, new research conducted at Georgetown University medical center has shown that tasigna can help to stop the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The study lasted 6 months, and involved 12 patients who took increasing doses of nilotinib. All 11 subjects who completed the tests reported significant improvement.
4. The world’s first 3-D printed rib
In recent years, 3-D printing has started to appear in new industries, including medicine. In 2015, doctors at the University hospital of Salamanca in Spain performed the world’s first chest transplant operation using prosthetic ribs printed on a 3-D printer. The patient was suffering from chest wall sarcoma. In order to get to the tumor and prevent its spread, doctors had to remove part of the ribs. The operation to implant the implant inside the body was successful and the patient fully recovered.
5. Skin cells were turned into brain cells
Scientists at the Salk Institute in La JOLLA, California have been studying the human brain for years. They have developed a method for converting skin cells into brain cells and have already found several useful applications for this new technology. First, scientists studying Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases will find it easier to study brain tissue and the effects of aging on that tissue. Previously, animal brains have been studied, but there are limits to what you can learn about the disease by studying other species.
Second, after researchers developed a technique for artificially creating brain cells, they began exploring the possibility of producing neurons that produce serotonin. They are associated with diseases such as autism, schizophrenia and depression. The new technology should be a real find for researchers studying mental illness.
6. Birth control pills for men
In Japan, scientists at the research Institute of microbial diseases at Osaka University have published the results of a new study that may lead to the appearance of birth control pills for men in the near future. They worked with the drugs tacrolimus and cyclosporin A, which are usually administered to patients after organ transplants to suppress the immune system and reduce the chances of organ rejection. After the introduction of tacrolimus and cyclosporine to test mice, they became infertile for a week.
7. DNA Printing
Thanks to 3-D printing technology, another unique invention has become possible — the ability to print synthetic DNA. Scientists operate with nanoparticles of gold with a diameter of a millionth of a centimeter and create ordered structures from them. The idea is that DNA together with an additional substance can create a synthetic DNA strand. Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden went even further and created synthetic DNA by building molecules in the shape of a rabbit.
8. The nanobots
In early 2015, there was a real breakthrough in the field of robotics, when a team of researchers from the University of California at San Diego announced that the first successful tests were conducted, during which nanorobots were used to perform certain tasks inside a living being (experiments were conducted on laboratory mice). After implantation into the animals, the micromachines reached the stomachs of the mice, where they released their cargo – tiny flakes of gold.
At the end of the procedure, it turned out that the stomachs of the mice were not damaged, i.e. it is completely safe for the animals to swallow microscopic nanobots. This suggests that nanobots may become a more effective method of delivering drugs to patients in the future. Robot engines are made of zinc. When they come into contact with acids inside the body, a chemical reaction occurs that generates hydrogen bubbles that move the nanobots. After a while, the engines simply dissolve in stomach acid.
9. Brain nanoimplants
A team at Harvard has developed a brain implant that can treat a person for a variety of diseases, from neurodegenerative diseases to paralysis. The implant consists of an electronic device and special electrodes that can be connected to various machines after inserting the implant into the brain. This could be used to monitor neural activity, stimulate tissues, and promote neuron regeneration.
10. Cannabis from yeast
For years, marijuana has been used to treat symptoms caused by HIV or chemotherapy. In addition, there are pills that use a synthetic version of the main psychoactive substance of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Biochemists from the technical University in Dortmund (Germany) announced that they have bred a new strain of yeast capable of producing THC.
In addition, there is also unpublished data on the fact that scientists were able to deduce another strain of yeast that produces cannabidiol, another active compound of marijuana. Further research is needed as to when biochemists will be able to maximize THC production on an industrial scale.