The 21st century is still near its beginnings but that hasn’t stopped us from achieving some stunning medical research findings.These advances include everything from research that could one day lead to some very promising treatments in the future to discoveries that are already helping patients with any of a spectrum of ailments.
The following are some of the leading medical research findings that have already been discovered in the first decade and a half of this century.
1. IT for patients and doctors – This may not seem like the type of medical research findings we think about, but the use of information technology has opened up a tremendous amount of opportunity for both patients and doctors. As much as doctors have a great deal of knowledge, even they need to look things up every now and again. Having access to everything in one place instead of using the Index Medicus at the library or sift through journals to find the specific information they needed could require hours. Now that it is at a doctor’s fingertips at all times, it has sped up the process of obtaining necessary information by a tremendous amount.
Similarly, patients can further inform themselves about a diagnosis or recommendation from a doctor, allowing them to make more informed choice for their own health.
2. Practical uses for the human genome – once the human genome was mapped, it opened the door to understanding what the individual genes do. There is a great deal of opportunity surrounding the understanding of the human genome and making practical medical advancements in both prevention and treatments.
3. Smoking cessation – anti-smoking laws are becoming tighter around the world and public smoking is on its way down. Bans are in place in many states and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health declared in a report that “smoking bans work.”
4. Cardiology advances reduce heart disease deaths by 40 percent – Many conditions that were considered deadly not long ago now have treatments and therapies that can allow a patient to recover. This includes very serious conditions from heart attacks to strokes.
5. Stem cell research – pilot studies have been very promising in using this medical technique to help patients with very serious conditions. For instance, it has been used to prevent the progress of an otherwise fatal brain disease called adrenoleukodystrohpy (ALD). There are also a full range of uses in regenerative medicine that appear more than promising.
6. New drugs for cancer therapies – There have been several drugs that have been used to target specific cancers, such as the two massive discoveries of medications that can focus in on the HER-2 oncogene, a breast cancer gene. These include drugs – such as Herceptin – which work even when powerful chemotherapy medications have not. It can even convert the cancer into a chronic disease instead of a fatal one.
7. HIV combination “cocktail” drug therapies – the discover of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has meant that HIV is a serious disease which must be treated for the rest of the patient’s potentially very long life. The disease is no longer considered to be a death sentence. In 1996, a 20-year old diagnosed with AIDS in the United States had a life expectancy of three to five more years. Today, that individual will live to be an average of 69 years old.
8. Robotic surgery techniques – the use of robotic techniques has greatly reduced the invasiveness of many surgical procedures, making it possible for large surgeries to be conducted through a single incision.
9. Hormone replacement therapies to drop cancer and heart risks – middle aged women are seeing a reduction in their risk of heart disease and certain cancers through estrogen or estrogen and progestin hormone therapies. HRT can also ease the symptoms of menopause, including both physical and mental health symptoms.
10. Functional MRI (fMRI) helps doctors understand the mind – these scans can now help doctors to better understand the functions of a patient’s mind. It is now being used to gain insights into social interactions, cognition, decision-making and reward systems, as well as more specific illness such as brain cancer, memory disorders, depression, autism and others.