The regeneration centre would like to highlight the 8 most innovative medical advances in healthcare and regenerative medicine. Last year was filled with newer, smaller, faster methods of creating genetic tests, editing genetic code and even bloodless sensors for diabetics, children and the elderly. New breakthrough in drug manufacturing and delivery mechanisms were generally the fastest to market followed by enhancement. In no particular order, these are the Top Eight Medical Advances for this year.
#1 – Gene Editing / Manipulation Using CRISPR
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats or CRISPR allows us to alter human DNA (or any organisms) in an attempt to correct defective genetic coding. What seems like science fiction from space movies is now a reality. The inexpensive gene editing technique costs as little as 700 Thai Baht or $20 USD is quickly getting adopted in genome labs around the world. The CRISPR sequence is a naturally-occurring defense mechanism found in a wide range of bacterium.
CRISPR is part of bacterias’ immune system that stores a dangerous viral weapon that can recognize and defend the bacteria against enemy viruses the next time they try to attack. The other defense mechanism these bacteria possess is a set of enzymes known as CAS (CRISPR-associated proteins), CAS enzymes are what allow us to very accurately cut and replace sections of DNA or from invading viruses.
Although the practical appellations are still in their infancy, CRISPR will one day allow us to edit/repair genetic based diseases such as Inherited Ataxia, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Thalassemia, Sickle cell disease and Hemochromatosis to name a few.
#2 – Clinical Trials based on Race/Ethnicity Based Genetic Profiles
Some people particularly of Thai descent are genetically more susceptible to certain diseases such as Thalassemia while many of East Asian decent are prone to getting a skin disease known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome mainly due to genetics.
Current research models are decades behind modern needs with the epigenetic profiling of the participants being primarily of north american origin only. New genomic-based testing models being used in Asia are beginning to increase in numbers bringing much needed hope for those families suffering through the usually fatal diseases. Science and regenerative medicine is only now beginning to understand genetic strongholds for some diseases so we can find new ways to develop personalized therapies based on factors such as race and ethnic background.
#3 – Non-Invasive Fetal DNA Tests – NIPD & NIPT DNA Sampling
Current options for prenatal paternity tests such as CVS and amniocentesis were considered invasive and carried a small but significant chance of the mother suffering miscarriage. As a result, researchers have developed a new and non-invasive method for prenatal diagnosis using fetal cells found in maternal blood. The new NIPD and NIPT tests work by analyzing DNA profiles for specific cell markers to see is the childs’ DNA profile matches the mother and alleged fathers (NIPT) along with samples to see if the baby might be at risk of over 100 X-linked genetic disorders including down syndrome, beta-thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, fragile-X syndrome, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, myotonic dystrophy and hemophilia. The exact same tests can also be used to determine the babies sex and blood type.
Studies have proven that Cell-free Fetal DNA Testing and Non-Invasive paternal testing is much more accurate than standard blood tests and ultrasound scans. This testing is available in Bangkok Thailand and brings more certainty to expecting parents everywhere.
#4 – Neurovascular Stent Retrievers for Stroke Victims
Time can be a stroke patients best friend or worst enemy. Since time kills brain cells the immediate restoration of blood flow to the brain is critical. For optimal results, a blood clot in the brain must be removed 2-7 hours after the incident to prevent long term brain damage, disability or even death. Up until now, brain clot busting medications were not always effective leading to a new technology known as neurovascular stent retrievers. The new technology uses a micro-sized catheter that is Inserted through an incision in the patients leg then threaded through their blood stream. The microscopic devices are guided through he body until they reach the blood clot and quickly removes the blockage to restore normal blood flow.
Researchers found that victims of brain strokes whose blood clots were removed the same day via stent retriever have significantly faster recoveries and improve their chances of regaining a normal independent life. For patients who previously suffered through strokes the chances for recovery can be improved using neural stem cells for brain strokes. The new neurovascular stent retrievers were recently approved and should be available for global use at stroke units in the 3rd quarter of 2016.
#5 – Early Cancer Detection and Screening using Protein Biomarker Analysis
Starting in 2016, a new biomarker exam hits the market to offer high risk individuals and accurate screening for cancer with significantly higher chances of early detection. The new testing protocol is known as PLA or proximity ligation assays and it allows protein complexes to not only be measured but also visualized by the clinicians. The new biomarkers will help doctors detect, diagnose and treat patients using a special class of pharmaceuticals known as receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The early Protein biomarker analysis primarily focuses on any structural of specific proteins circulating in the blood circulatory system.
In contrast to previous exams that looked at genetic mutations after the fact, the new tests allow doctors early warnings using real-time information of any cancerous presence in the patients body. There are an estimated 2100 anticancer medications that are in development or approved, but only around 29 cancer biomarkers that have been approved for use in humans. Lung cancer biomarkers are especially helpful in identifying and validating diagnosis to allow for novel new approaches in understanding and fighting lung diseases such as COPD.
#6 – Neuro Sensor Feedback to Control Artificial Limbs
The ability to control prosthetic limbs using neural implants has been a reality for about 5 years now, but in 2016, researchers have found a new and significantly smoother method of controlling limbs for patients with spinal cord injuries and/or traumatic brain damage without the need of neurogenesis.
The new method uses neural cell signals that are associated with movement of limbs to be de-coded by a computer allowing them to control artificial limbs with a simple thought. Sensors implanted in the brains motor cortex or premotor cortex, can be ‘hacked’ to allow the patient total control over prosthetic arms/legs, wheelchairs movement or even full-body exoskeleton control. Researchers are now working on special brain-machine interface algorithms that are easier to control, safer and cheaper using low-cost robotic components. The combination of several techniques could make having bionic arms and legs a reality for millions of patients around the world.
#7 – First Treatment Options for Female Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder – HSDD
It is estimated that nearly 2 out of 10 women are affected by hypoactive sexual desire disorder and often goes undiagnosed by doctors who are not sure how to properly address the condition leading to under-diagnosed and under-treated condition.
While treatments for male sexual dysfunction have been around for decades, there were no treatments available for women with loss of sexual desire. Last year, the American Food and Drug Administration approved the first medication ever to treat female hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The medication called flibanserin addresses loss of sexual desire in premenopausal women and helps to restore sexual desire for women diagnosed with HSDD. Doctors do caution that the medication is intended to treat women with diagnosed conditions only and cannot be used as an aphrodisiac.
#8 – Non-Invasive Remote glucose Monitoring for Diabetics
The world health organization estimates that an estimated 9% of all adults in the world over 18 have diabetes. In 2013, as estimated 1.8 million deaths were directly attributed to Diabetes and it is estimated to become the 6th leading cause of death for humans in the next 15 years. Diabetics require constant and invasive blood samples to monitor their glucose levels. in 2016, tests requiring blood and skin penetration might finally be replaced with an non-invasive skin-top biosensor that will automatically measure insulin levels and report the results in real-time to both the patient and their respective doctors.
Needle-free glucose monitoring is one of many new remote health monitoring technologies that is considered “frictionless” and “painless” since it requires virtually no actions from the patient. Treatment for diabetes should be the primary goal for diabetics as uncontrolled glucose levels can cause significant health complications and even death. The new system of continuous glucose monitoring offers patients a unique proactive approach to controlling the condition from getting worse by making sure glucose levels stay close to the advised reference range that is found in people without diabetes.
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