The Power of Science: Medical Breakthroughs in 2012

When it comes to healthcare, the time is now. For decades we’ve watched limbs regenerate, people control mechanical limbs with their minds, and eternal life, all play out on the silver screen. Now is the time to reap the benefits of a first-class health system. Two of the biggest biggest medical breakthroughs in 2012 come from those most dedicated to progressing the human race. They have the intelligence and aptitude to dedicate their lives to a cause much larger than themselves. 2012 ushered in a new wave of unbelievable accomplishments:

Cell Rewind

This year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine went to a pair of researchers working to unlock the potential of our own mature cells. John Gurdon of Gurdon Institute at Cambridge, UK and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, Japan demonstrated the possibility of converting adult cells back into pluripotent stem-cells. Until now most scientists believed that cellular specialization was an irreversible process, that cell life proceeded in only one direction. Gurdon and his researchers proved that by removing the nucleus from a frog’s egg cell, and replacing it with the nucleus from a tadpole’s intestinal cell, the process was able to turn back the cellular clock of the substitute nucleus. Gurdon showed that mature cells could be reverted back to an embryonic state in which they could be programmed into any cell in the body. Can you imagine the possibility of using fat cells to regrow a limb?

Scientists are confident that cells created using these techniques will eventually be used in stem-cell research, allowing physicians to regenerate damaged cells and organs.

Blood Infusions

A team led by Dr. John Kheir, representing Children’s Hospital Boston, discovered something truly amazing. Kheir had been experiencing a large number of strokes in infants. Though only lasting a few minutes, strokes have a devastating impact on the recipient, often paralyzing them permanently or worse. Kheir knew that patients needed to get oxygen back into their systems so that doctors could go in and address the problems, but how do you get oxygen into the bloodstream without breathing?

Kheir and a team of cardiologists experimented with rabbits for many years, injecting them with gas-filled micro-particles directly into the blood stream, then asphyxiating them for up to 15 minutes. The particles are a mixture of fatty molecules surrounding tiny packets of oxygen gas, which go to work in seconds infusing the blood with rich oxygen. The rabbits experienced no adverse physical effects. Ideally this breakthrough will prevent millions of deaths from suffocation each year, and thwart heart attacks and brain damage caused by lack of oxygen to the bloodstream.

In 2012, science has defined a new age in medical technologies sure to usher us through the 21st century. But how we choose to use these technologies, and what eventually results from these uses, is up to the people. Let us choose wisely.

About the Guest Author

Glen Sabel studies and writes about medical research for various online publications. More of his findings can be found at Top 10 Best Online MBA in Healthcare Management Degree Programs.

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