30 January 2020

Promising Developments In Medical Science

While the economic structure of the health care industry in the United States is profoundly broken, medical technology globally continues to show progress, potentially curing or greatly improving treatment for many serious health problems and our understanding of the human body. 

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Here are some recent ones culled from stories I've shared on Facebook since September 21, 2019 alone.

* A second person with HIV has been cured.

* Human trials for an HIV vaccine that could be on the market as soon as 2021 are underway. (They wouldn't be perfectly effective, but would reduce infection rates by 50%-60% in immunized individuals.)

* An immune system based treatment for cancer which has shown success in animal models may be effective against a wide variety of cancer types. A similar therapy cures lupus in mice.

* Progress has been made in treating pancreatic cancer.

* A new, less invasive and more effective breast cancer detection technology called thermography has been invented.

* We are starting to understand the biochemical causes of aging which when tinkered with can make nematodes like five times longer than they do.

* An artificial kidney has been invented.

* Average human body temperature in the United States has decreased by about 0.03 ÂșC per decade since the U.S. Civil War, probably due to changes in metabolism.

* A "universal" flu vaccine that is effective against many strains of the flu virus for long periods of time has been developed and proven effective in mouse models.

* Cancer mortality has been steadily declining as prevention measures and treatments have improved.

* Clean air regulations have saved lots and lots of lives.

* Anti-malaria drugs are getting better.

* We understand much better how a person's DNA can change during their life due to a bone marrow transplant.

* We've learned that wine drinking helps prevent cavities and sore throats.

* Alcohol, coffee and being overweight (within reason) may help you live longer.

* Many herbs and spices have anti-microbial properties.

* Progress has been made in regrowing tooth enamel.

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Meanwhile, to recap other developments from this blog:

* We are just a few years away from a safe and effective chlamydia vaccine

* It is possible to distinguish with brain scans between subtypes of clinical depression that are and are not responsive to SSRI anti-depressants. It is possible to distinguish with a simple eye dilation in response to words test which cases of depression will respond best to talk therapies.

* Herpes appears to be one of the significant causes of Alzheimer's disease (potentially 50% or more of the cases observed), and effect of herpes that may be possible to minimize with anti-viral drugs. Insulin related diseases like diabetes are an Alzheimer's disease risk factor. Another major risk factor for Alzheimer's appears to be copper exposure

* Two kinds of herpes viruses cause cancer. One in eight cases of cancer may have a viral cause (another estimate is one in six cases).

* A different study identified nematode biochemical tweaks that makes it possible to double their lifespans. Depression is a major cause of shortened life spans in nematodesNaked mole rats and Greenland sharks also provide insights into the biology of aging.

* Metformin, usually used to treat diabetes type II, can also be effective as a cancer drug. Aspirin can prevent skin cancer.

* More on HIV vaccines.

* Usually obesity is unhealthy and being thin is healthy, but there are individuals who are exceptions to the general rule. Obesity has a strong genetic componentCold virus exposure as a child may also be important. A powerful new diet drug is in human trials. More on obesity causation here.

* Lots of mental health and cognitive health conditions have well measured hereditary components, some of which are quite high. 

* Gene therapy can cure M.S. in mice. More M.S. drug pathways. More M.S. drugs.

* A single chemical that is pivotal in extending the time frame in which one can learn new languages easily in the way that a child does has been identified in mice.

* An inexpensive vitamin C based, IV treatment for sepsis has been discovered.

* A soft robot that wraps around a person's heart and helps it to keep beating has been developed.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) cases can be clustered into two types based upon the risk factor genes involved. This division coincides with a distinctions between severe symptoms and less severe symptoms. The two clusters appear to have distinct causes.

* The last time I did a post similar to this one (October 12, 2016), I noted progress on a universal flu vaccine, stillbirth prevention with flu vaccines for pregnant women (another virus also causes birth defects), one time vaccine-like drugs that can provide long term support to ending opioid and alcohol addictions (another treatment in mice toggles cocaine addictions on and off, also here), a drug to take upon receiving a traumatic brain injury that reduces the harm it causes, a new anti-migraine drug, a couple if alternatives to antibiotics for antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria infections, a link between toxoplasma gondii infections and aggression (also here) that may make treatment of the common and usually asymptomatic condition worth considering, a cancer drug that delays Alzheimer's onset, a drug that helps treat a kind of heart disease, a simply surgery that is effective against some kinds of high blood pressure, a potential new broad spectrum autoimmune disease treatment, two new M.S. treatments, and a much more effective form of radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

* ADHD meds make a big difference in health outcomes for children diagnosed with ADHD.

* More cancer death reduction. More progress in treating leukemia, and understanding of human aging.

* Parkinson's disease treatments that work in mice.

* Non-invasive Down's syndrome screening is effective and this causes 8% of congenital defects.

* HPV vaccination doesn't lead to promiscuity,  but does prevent cancer and genital warts (one of the few STIs that condoms are not effective at preventing). The vaccine can even help after infection

* A possible new class of painkiller has been identified.

* Our understanding of the biochemistry of allergies is improving. A two to three dose drug could cure dust mite allergies (from which I suffer).

* Gut bacteria transplants can treat obesity. Worm therapy for IBD.

* A possible prion disease drug has been identified.

* A type I diabetes treatment other than insulin works in mice. Another diabetes treatment that works well in mice.

* More malaria drugs. Also here.

* A drug to prevent harm associated with shock from trauma.

* A Hep E vaccine.

* Ketamine is a fast acting anti-depressant in the right doses.

* It may be possible to vaccinate against tooth decay.


The bottom line is that medical science is continuing to make significant progress in addressing and understanding some of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in our society.

We could make huge strides simply by having treatments proven effective in mice made to work in humans.

Progress for M.S., cancer, sepsis, the flu, and STDs, in particular all seem to be particularly great.

It isn't unrealistic to think that my grandchildren or great-grandchildren (if I am so lucky), will live in a world where many of the leading medical issues of my life will go the way of measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, TB, the black plague, and so on, relegated to the past and to communities of people that reject modern medicine. Even those that remain serious threats may become much more effectively treatable.

Similar past predictions here and here and here.


Morris said...

This is an extremely optimistic view. If we integrate the advances and apparent health gains do we see a net improvement in advanced societies? The bottom line if you like. To keep the accounting simple consider mortality and obesity (as a predictor) and say during the last 2 generations. Does it match? should it match?

andrew said...

Everybody dies of something. But, increasingly, medical science is capable of doing a lot that economics is getting in the way of.