I know several people who suffer from diabetes. My uncle has had it for going on 40 years now. A lot has changed since he was first diagnosed. Back then, you had to pee on a piece of paper to see how much sugar was in your urine. The test wasn’t very accurate at all. That was the only way that you could see what the state of your blood sugar was without going to the doctor. Today, all you have to do is stick your finger and wait five seconds to know exactly what it is. You used to have to boil your syringes every time before use. Now they have reusable pens and insulin pumps that automatically give you your insulin. Diabetes was a major source of blindness. Now, many times eyesight can be saved with laser surgery. The latest insulin pump not only calculates and tells you how much insulin you need, but also automatically checks your blood sugar 24 hours a day. And hopefully, in the not too distant future, stem cell research will help cure it.
Even though we have a long way to go, medicine has come a long way in just a few years. According to Time Magazine, (www.time.com), here are a few of the more important and interesting developments in medicine during 2008:
Surgeons are increasingly using the “natural orifice” technique. Instead of cutting through skin and tissue to reach organs that are deep in the body, they are using techniques that use the natural openings in the body, such as the mouth, vagina, and colon. Surgeons say that the technique will reduce the number of incisions through the skin, which minimizes scarring and infections.
CPR, properly performed, can significantly reduce the chances of someone dying of a heart attack. But sometimes people have trouble with keeping the right rhythm when performing it. A recent study found that performing CPR to the beat of the Bee Gees’ disco song “Stayin’ Alive” helped students perform the compressions at the proper speed.
Did you know that half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels? Researchers have found that there is another factor at work that may be just as important as cholesterol: inflammation. And now they have developed a test for it. The test detects levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) that may be a marker for inflammation. Researchers say that the same drugs that lower cholesterol, statins, can also lower inflammation.
Scientists think that they may have found a lung cancer gene. This may explain why some people get lung cancer from smoking and others don’t. They found gene variants in 34% of the population that cause nicotine to bind to cells. Having all of these gene variants may increase your lung cancer chances by a whopping 81%.
The American Academy started suggesting that cholesterol tests begin for children as young as 2-years-old. The tests are especially recommended for children who have a family history of heart disease. This means that some youngster may have to take statins as early as kindergarten. Some doctors worry that giving statins to kids might make them skip the healthy lifestyle choices that are essential to good heart health.
And maybe the most important news of the year is that scientists at Harvard have found a way to generate stem cells without using human embryos. The scientists developed motor neurons by using skin cells from a patient with Lou Gehrig’s disease and also coaxed pancreatic cells to produce insulin without going through the process.