Of all the things that the past decade has brought, developments in the medical field arguably top the list. Whether it was preventative medicine such as a new vaccine or new kinds of treatment, for example, in the field of stem cell transplants, the last decade has seen dramatic changes in the medical field with the promise of even more developments to come.
Here, then, are six amazing medical advancements of the last ten years:
Robotic Surgery: Like an angel’s touch
Gone are the days of being left with a 10-inch scar after a kidney removal. Today, thanks to new developments in minimally invasive surgery, surgeons can remove a patient’s kidneys through a single incision in the patient’s navel. At the forefront of minimally invasive surgery is robotic surgery, where robotically controlled instruments makes tiny openings and not large incisions in the body, thus allowing for greater accuracy in procedures as well as shorter and less painful recovery time. With the robot revolution racing ahead, keep your eyes open for many developments in this field in the coming decade.
HIV Pill: A treatment for the world
With more than 30 million adults and 2.5 million children estimated to be living with HIV worldwide, scientists and researchers are continually researching ways to treat, cure, and prevent further infections of the debilitating and deadly disease. In 2010, researchers introduced a once-a-day HIV pill that contains three different antiretrovirals all in one, not only treating but also helping to prevent the infection. This was particularly important for people in developing nations who may not be able to adhere to a complex regimen of different medications.
HPV Vaccine: Protection against cancer
In 2006, Gardasil, the first vaccine targeted at the deadly Human Papilloma Virus was released to the public, becoming one of the biggest medical advances of the decade. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer, which affects some 1 in 147 women. The HPV vaccine is delivered in three injections over six months and specifically protects against strains of HPV that are linked to the development of cancer as well as against genital warts.
Human Genome Project: Mapping it all out
In 2003, researchers from the Human Genome Project released their completed version of the human genome map, a map displaying the sequence of 99% of the genes that make up our DNA. This map has helped researchers to better identify single genes that may cause diseases, which in turn helps in finding more efficient preventative and treatment options. With so many advances as a result of the project, for example, with doctors developing a genetic test for a gene associated with prostrate cancer, scientists are now working on a Human Microbiome Project, hoping for similar advances.
Stem Cell Research: Program and heal
Surely no topic of medical development has generated as much controversy or press coverage as that of stem cell research. In essence, stem cells can be programmed to become any type of cell in the body, meaning that they have enormous potential for things such as repairing damaged tissue and curing all kinds of diseases. Clinical studies have particularly produced tantalizing results, for example, halting the progress of a fatal brain disease in two 7-year-old boys.
Face Transplant: A new chance at life
The first partial face transport was done in 2005 in Amiens, France, with doctors using grafts from a brain-dead donor. In 2009, doctors in Spain went even further, transplanting not just a face but also new nose, lips, teeth, jaw, tongue, and cheekbones in a lengthy 24-hour operation. With such impressive breakthroughs witnessed in the last decade, no doubt there will be even more developments in the coming decade and beyond in this field!
Olivia Bryan is a university student and freelance writer who is interested in all things medical, whether it’s watching an episode of her favourite medical drama, reading up about recent medical discoveries, or chatting to friends of hers studying a Bachelor of Medical Science!