A Look Back at the Top Scientific Breakthroughs in Medicine This Year

The scientific community accomplished some extraordinary breakthroughs in 2014. From therapies that seem written out of sci-fi movies to leaps in our understanding of brain activity, let’s take a moment to celebrate some of the year’s most famous stories:

1. A Robotic Hand That You Can Use to Feel

Prosthetics have come a long way in the past few decades, improving the quality of life for those with missing limbs. Yet this year science took us leaps and bounds ahead, with a robotic hand that connects to the sensory nerves in our arms.

The implant, which was tested on a Danish man, gave him different gradations in pressure and sensation in three fingers. Due to the nature of the accident and the nerves that are left in good condition in the arm or leg, this might not work for everyone. But for those with a healthy nerve base in which to implant the sensors, it could be a remarkable step forward into regaining a sense of touch.

The Swiss Insititute, which managed the study, called him, “the first amputee in the world to feel — in real time — with a sensory-enhanced prosthetic.” Other trials are underway and scientists are hoping that within the following years, the implementation of direct nerve-to-brain transmission can be improved.

2. A Battery That Melts In Your Body

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created the world’s first fully biodegradable battery, which can melt inside patients after treatment has finished. It was a result of years of research, which combines biodegradable silicon chips with an appropriate power source.

Scientists created the new device out of a series of metals that are naturally absorbed by the human body. This means that temporary treatments including organ monitoring and administering medicine can be taken care of with minimal invasive treatments.

The scientists note that the biodegradable battery/chip combination has further applications beyond medical science, with possibilities of it being used to help clean up oil spills and monitor natural disasters, without further impacting the environment.

3. Nanoparticles As ‘Decoys’ Could Solve Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistant strains of major illnesses such as tuberculosis and staph infection have threatened our ability to fight disease. People who come down with these super infections have a much higher risk of mortality and permanent damage. Doctors warn that as people continue to abuse antibiotics, these antibiotic resistant infections will only get worse.

Enter an odd substance called ‘liposomes,’ nanoparticles that are made of lipids. They can take the shape of the infecting cells and invade, seizing them and neutralizing the bacterial toxins.

Eduard Babiychuck, the director of this study was quoted as saying, “We have made an irresistible bait for bacterial toxins. The toxins are fatally attracted to the liposomes, and once they are attached, they can be eliminated easily without danger for the host cells.”

In the study, mice were given septicemia, an often fatal bacterial infection. With a dose of liposomes, the mice survived and had no need for future antibiotic therapy.

4. Sight Restored to Blind With Gene Therapy

Six patients, who were all dealing with various forms of blindness, had their sight restored after this remarkable new gene therapy in Oxford. Surgeons discovered a way to replace a faulty gene, which was responsible for dead and dying cells in their eyes.

One of the patients, Wayne Thompson, gave an interview to BBC, telling them that when he was first diagnosed with the faulty gene, he was told he’d never see his children grow up. “I felt that I had come to the edge of an abyss…I looked down at total blackness. Professor MacLaren tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘come this way, it’s possible to see again…Now I hope I’ll see my grandchildren grow up.”

Although the therapy cannot improve all patients, those with macular degeneration and glaucoma can expect hopeful outcomes. The surgeons, who said they were delighted at the success of their trial, are looking to improve gene therapy further, so it can be used on various forms of genetic blindness.

5. Non Invasive Brain-to-Brain Communication

For years, scientists have been trying to figure out how to send messages telepathically. But researchers, in a project that spanned continents, have finally gotten a glimpse into how.

Four participants were recruited, and hooked up to EEG machines (those are the flat metal electrodes that go all over your scalp). Linked by a computer, on one side of the world the first subject would think a very simple word, such as hello. That word would be translated into binary code (which uses a series of 1s and 0s to create language) and in this case corresponded with flashes of light.

This code was mailed (basically from the mind of the first person) to another person thousands of miles away, whose brain was undergoing non-invasive stimulation. In multiple cases, the subject, without hearing or seeing the word, would correctly determine the binary flashes corresponding with a word that was simply ‘thought’ thousands of miles away.

Essentially, using the internet, these scientists created an instant messaging service using thoughts as a basis for communication.

 

39 comments

donnaa d.
donnaa D3 years ago

ty

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni4 years ago

Thanks

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Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.4 years ago

ty

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago

noted

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Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Keep making sure human technological advancement is beneficial to them and the environment

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thank you for telling me this.

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA S4 years ago

interesting article,thank you

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Ana MESNER
Ana MESNER4 years ago

Thank you for posting.

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Judith C.
Judith C4 years ago

Thank you

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Vivianne Mosca-Clark

I sure like the ideas for eyes. I'm not to sure about the human / machine combo.

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