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Health Breakthroughs

Health Breakthroughs

Health Breakthroughs

In this BBC Focus Special Edition find out how the new era of medicine will increase lifespans, revitalise healthcare and slash recovery times... IN THIS ISSUE… How to fight fat and be good to your gut The stem cell treatment to reverse ageing Psychedelic drugs to beat depression Personalised medicine tailored to your genes The chilling new surgery that saves lives Nanobots to kill cancer and repair our bodies

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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In this issue

1 min.
medical revolution

While each new iteration of a smartphone or the promise of a flying car are exciting prospects, the reality is that if we’re not healthy, no smart gadget or novelty vehicle really matters. Your health is the most important thing in your life. If you don’t feel fit and well, relationships, work, and just about everything becomes a huge challenge. Of course, technology and innovation have played a key role in medical breakthroughs over the years. In just a century, medicine has come along in leaps and bounds. We can now protect ourselves from serious diseases with vaccinations, peer into our bodies using X-rays and scans, fight infections with powerful antibiotics, and take painkillers to tackle everyday aches and pains. Yet even today, improvements in medical technology continue to astound us. In…

2 min.
the art of saving lives

GROW A BACKBONE This is the rear view of the ECCE2, a robot built at the Technical University of Munich. “As part of the Human Brain Project, they built this bot based on how the actual human neural and anatomical system works and moves,” says Riedler. The robot has bones, joints, muscles and tendons, allowing researchers to investigate the brain mechanisms responsible for our own movement. SHOW OF HANDS Say hello to these prosthetic hands, waving from a test station. Each one is opened and closed 1,000 times before being delivered for use. The prosthetics respond to the tiny electrical signals sent from the brain down the nerves of the patient’s arm when they think about moving their hand. “You should see it when they are all moving!” says Riedler. CHANGE OF HEART The S5…

9 min.
medicine gets personal

Modern medicine, for all its wonders, has a rather large blind spot. Although scientific breakthroughs and new miracle treatments are announced on a seemingly daily basis, doctors know that even the most effective drugs in their arsenal won’t work for large sections of the population. For example, the drugs commonly prescribed to treat disorders like depression, asthma and diabetes are ineffective for around 30-40 per cent of people they are prescribed to. With hard to treat diseases like arthritis, Alzheimer’s and cancer, the proportion of the population who see no benefit from a particular treatment rises to 50-75 per cent. The problem stems from how treatments are developed. Traditionally, a drug is approved for use if it works for a good number of people with similar symptoms in a drug trial –…

1 min.
genome sequencing

‘Whole genome sequencing’ involves reading the entire DNA sequence of a person or organism to produce a long string of the letters A, G, T and C – there are around 3.2 billion of these in the human genome. There are also vast sections of our genetic code which have no clear function, so sequencing is often used to reveal only the parts of the genome that contain genes (the ‘exome’), or just key sections of variation or interest. DNA must first be removed and purified from a sample of a person’s cells. Chemicals can be used to ‘amplify’ even tiny amounts of DNA to give scientists more to work with. To reveal the long sequence of chemical units that make up a person’s genome, the purified and amplified DNA is chopped…

4 min.
are we on the brink of curing cancer?

The problem with most cancer drugs is that they only work for so long. If the cancer isn’t caught early, the cells continue to mutate, becoming more diverse and trickier to target. Until recently, scientists believed that all cancers mutated in a linear fashion, with cells changing constantly while remaining genetically identical. But a ground-breaking study from 2012 that used DNA sequencing techniques to read the genetic mutations in a tumour busted the linear myth. Researchers led by Prof Charles Swanton demonstrated that cancers evolve according to Darwinian principles, forming branches off a main tree and giving rise to remarkable diversity within one tumour. Different samples taken from one patient’s kidney in the study revealed 118 different mutations. Yet a conventional biopsy might reveal just 25. Since many modern drugs only target one…

1 min.
new targeting approaches

NANOPARTICLES AND LASERS Danish researchers have developed a new treatment in which nanoparticles are injected into a tumour. Lasers are then used to heat the nanoparticles, burning the cancer cells from within. Unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, this treatment avoids damage to surrounding tissue. TROJAN-HORSE DRUG DELIVERY Another new targeting system uses engineered stem cells to carry chemotherapy drugs to cancer sites. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston say that these ‘Trojan horses’ can treat a cancer that’s spread, without poisoning the whole body with chemotherapy drugs. SALMONELLA HELPS OUT Researchers at Swansea University are using Salmonella bacteria to carry anti-cancer drugs to tumours. Salmonella bacteria naturally find their way to tumours, then invade and multiply. The researchers engineered the bacteria to be harmless to patients, so they can carry cancer-killing molecules to tumours.…