Written by Gurleen Khaira
As 2019 comes to an end, it means it is time for us to reflect on what we have achieved this year. The medical industry has pushed major boundaries this year to improve and create new treatments and research. Here at MindMate, we sifted through many of this year’s discoveries to bring you the best medical breakthroughs of 2019.
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) has been a key breakthrough and point of discussion this year. It is a gene-editing mechanism which was adapted by studying bacteria to see how they fight off foreign bodies. CRISPR refers to the use of a specific enzyme to cut parts of a DNA sequence and force the repair of this cut with a new DNA sequence desired by the scientist. Basically, it means the researchers can change our genetic code. In terms of health, it means genetic defects have the potential to be overcome and the spread of disease can be prevented. With further research and development, it is said CRISPR has the potential to cure cancer and HIV.
However, CRISPR also presents many ethical considerations. Many say that CRISPR changes the way each individual is made, therefore meaning that people are trying to ‘play God’. Also, whilst this is a medical breakthrough, there is speculation that this development may be used for more cosmetic and intelligence uses like creating ‘designer babies’. Of course, this ultimately depends on personal opinion.
Breast Cancer Blood Test
The University of Nottingham has created a blood test that has the potential to detect breast cancer up to five years before any symptoms appear. With 1 in 8 women in the USA diagnosed with the disease over their lifespan, there is a clear need for such a test. The test looks for autoantibodies produced by the body in response to breast cancer and is currently undergoing trials. Though, if all goes to plan, it could be made available in five years time.
Regrowth technology refers to the use of stem cells to completely regrow muscle tissue and organs and to repair damaged cells. The technology offers potential treatment to a wide array of illnesses from repairing the heart muscle of a person who has been through a heart attack, to regrowing the tissue between our muscles that deteriorates with old age. There is even hope for complete organs to be grown in labs by using this technology!
Now everyone has heard of artificial intelligence (AI) in some context, however, it is most commonly used to describe the work of tech giants. The advantages of AI are also present in the medical industry. AI has been used for improved detection of melanoma skin cancer, which impacts 132,000 people each year globally. AI is able to analyze millions of data points from past pictures and diagnosis of the disease to offer a 95% detection rate. This is much higher than the 87% achieved by human doctors. Therefore, AI can be used to support doctors in diagnosing certain conditions.