Scientists have had an eventful and productive year for medicine. They have had exciting discoveries, breakthroughs in technology, and new applications for existing products. Here are 10 medical headlines from the last year that are sure to make a significant impact on the world in the years to come.
1. THC-Producing Yeast
For years, marihuana has been used to treat symptoms brought on by HIV or chemotherapy. Alternatively, there are pills that use the synthetic version of marihuana’s main psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC). Now biochemists at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany have announced that they engineered a new strain of yeast capable of producing THC.
2. Injectable Brain Nano Implant
A team at Harvard developed a brain implant that promises to treat a host of maladies ranging from neurodegenerative diseases to paralysis. The implant consists of an electronic device made of scaffolds which can be connected to various machines after being inserted into the brain. It could then be used to monitor neural activity, stimulate tissue, and promote neuron regeneration.
3. Nanobots Work In Living Creature
In early 2015, the field of robotics scored a big victory when a team of researchers from the University of California in San Diego announced they had conducted the first successful tests in which nanobots were used to perform a task inside a living creature. The creatures in question were lab mice. After being implanted inside the animals, the micromachines travelled to the stomachs of the mice without causing any damage to their stomach linings.
4. DNA Printing
The technology of 3-D printing has created a unique, new industry – one that prints and sells DNA. Although the term ‘printing’ is widely used because it has commercial appeal, it doesn’t accurately describe what is happening. As the CEO at Cambrian Genomics explains, the process is more akin to a high-tech version of ‘spell-checking’ than printing. Millions of pieces of DNA on tiny metal beads are scanned by a computer that selects the ones necessary to make the desired DNA sequence.
5. Male Birth Control Pill
In Japan, scientists at the Osaka University Research Institute for Microbial Diseases have released new research that might lead to a male birth control pill in the near future. They were working with drugs normally administered to organ transplant patients to suppress their immune systems and reduce the chances of their bodies rejecting new organs.
6. Skin Cells Turned Into Brain Cells
The scientists at Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, have had a busy year studying the human brain. They developed a method of turning skin cells into brain cells and have already found several useful applications for this new technique including turning skin samples into old brain cells for specialists to study.
7. World’s First 3-D-Printed Rib Cage
In 2015, doctors at the Salamanca University Hospital in Spain performed the world’s first rib cage transplant using a 3-D-printed chest prosthetic. The patient was suffering from chest wall sarcoma. To reach the tumours and prevent them from spreading, doctors had to remove sections of his rib cage. Doctors realised that a 3-D printer could be used to make a highly customised titanium structure that would better fit this particular patient.
8. Cancer Drug Might Help Parkinson’s Sufferers
Tasigna (aka nilotinib) is an FDA-approved drug that is regularly used to treat people with leukemia. However, a new trial conducted at the Georgetown University Medical Center suggests that Tasigna could be extremely potent in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by improving cognition, motor skills, and non-motor functions.
9. Doctors grow Vocal Cords from Scratch
One of the most exciting, futuristic fields of medicine is tissue regeneration. In 2015, doctors at the University of Wisconsin grew human vocal cords from scratch. The team bioengineered tissue that mimics the vocal cord mucosa, which represents the flaps that vibrate in the larynx to create human speech. The donated cells came from five patients and were grown in the lab for two weeks.
10. Discovery of Teixobactin antibiotics
After a gap of almost 30 years, scientists made a discovery in 2015 that has been described as a ‘game changer’: a new class of antibiotics with 25 new antimicrobials, including a potent one named teixobactin.