UNTIL WE HAVE DRUGS FOR ALL KINDS OF CANCER or an effective way to stop aging – but this does not mean that they will never appear. We tell you what interesting, unexpected and unique happened in 2017 in medicine, and explain why it is important.
The invention of the male contraceptive gel
According to the results of the VTsIOM poll, the overwhelming majority of Russians (82% of respondents aged 18 to 60) believe that the responsibility in matters of protected sex lies with both partners. In this light, it seems especially interesting to work on the invention of a gel for male contraception – an improved version of a drug invented back in 2012. The authors of the experiment from the University of Washington say that trials of the drug will begin in 2018 and will last for four years.
The World Health Organization has already tried to offer something similar to men. She worked with the CONRAD Institute to test contraceptive injections that had to be given every two months. But despite its 96% efficacy, trials of the drug had to be discontinued. The reason is unwanted effects in the form of acne, mood swings, pain and even impotence (sounds familiar, doesn’t it). One of the study participants did not fully recover fertility even after several years. We hope that the new drug will be better tolerated.
Chimeric embryo of pig and human
Given the level of modern surgery, organ transplant itself is not that difficult – but other problems often arise with it. They are mainly related to the fact that patients have to wait too long for donor organs. At the beginning of the year, the world of science was shocked by the news: scientists from the Institute for Biological Research have created a chimeric embryo consisting of pig and human cells. Despite the ethical controversy (although the researchers claim to have received all the necessary permits), this is a breakthrough in the field of transplantation – every ten minutes a person appears in the world who needs an organ for a transplant.
At the moment, xenotransplantation also has serious prospects – the transplantation of organs not from humans, but from other species, that is, animals. Researchers from the United States and China believe that genome editing will make it possible , and British doctors are pinning their hopes on stem cell modification .
Two-arm transplant and artificial skin
A team of doctors from the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia performed the world’s first two-arm transplant for a child. Unlike head transplant, which is still only talked about , this operation has become a reality and, fortunately, was successful. Although the operation itself was not carried out this year, the results were reported in the summer – after a year and a half of observations. Despite the fact that not everything went smoothly (the boy’s body tried to reject new hands eight times), today ten-year-old Zion Harvey, the smallest patient who underwent such an operation, can eat, write and even play baseball on his own.
Another impressive story was the creation of artificial skin for a boy with epidermolysis bullosa (small patients with this disease are called “butterfly babies”). In 2015, he was admitted to the hospital with about 80% of his skin lesions, after which the doctors decided on an experiment to genetically modify cells in order to correct the mutation. No one could guarantee the result, since the artificial skin had previously been used only on small areas of the body, but after the first operation the patient’s condition improved. In November 2017, scientists said that the skin took root perfectly, and even new hair began to grow on its surface.
Genome editing in the patient’s body
Genetic experimentation is one of the most challenging, but also the most promising areas of modern medicine. This year, for example, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco tried to change genes directly in the human body, although before that experiments were always carried out by extracting cells, modifying them and injecting them back into the body.
The pioneering patient was Brian Meido, 44, with Hunter Syndrome , a form of mucopolysaccharidosis in which there is no enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates and metabolism is impaired. The accumulation of carbohydrates in this case threatens a whole range of problems, including hearing, vision, breathing and the health of internal organs and the brain. However, it will be possible to finally understand whether the operation was successful only a couple of months after the final tests. Interestingly, in the same year, Japanese researchers managed to capture the editing of the genome with the CRISPR / Cas9 system.
Scientists have spent over twenty years trying to understand the structure of the human immunodeficiency virus. Researchers from the University of Alabama managed to recreate the last segment of RNA, that is, to decipher HIV completely . They didn’t just “put the puzzle together,” they literally found the missing piece under the bed. The fact is that the missing segment plays a key role in the replication of the virus, that is, its multiplication and “capture” of healthy cells. So this discovery could make the fight against HIV much easier.
Around the same time , scientists from California presented their version of therapy : they focused not on destroying the virus, as is usually done, but on enhancing the action of proteins that can suppress its activity. Around the world, meanwhile, there is a slow but steady fight against the stigmatization of people living with HIV. The Canadians are the farthest in this regard, having opened June’s restaurant in Toronto, all of whose employees are HIV-positive.
In Russia, the patient acquired bionic vision
In June, a fifty-six-year-old patient from Chelyabinsk acquired bionic vision for the first time . During the operation, carried out by the Scientific and Clinical Center of Otorhinolaryngology of the FMBA of Russia, he was installed a special Argus II device, or, if simpler, a bionic eye. The device is a video camera, placed in glasses, which takes pictures in real time, processing visual signals. These signals are transmitted first to glasses, and then to sixty electrodes located on the damaged retina.
However, an artificial retina seems to the scientific community to be much more promising than bionic constructions. Scientists from the Italian Institute of Technology have long and fruitfully been working on a kind of ” retinal prosthesis “, which, if all goes well, will help restore sight to millions of people. But, of course, not a woman who pretended to be blind for twenty-eight years so as not to communicate with people – simply because her story, replicated on social networks, turned out to be fiction .