While a great story captured the health headlines of 2021 (hey, vaccines!), There were many other amazing innovations as well, making this a year like never before. We spoke with top doctors, disease experts, researchers and policy makers to determine the year’s most powerful medical and wellness breakthrough. These fascinating discoveries and advances mark turning points in medical research – and are already saving lives. It was a fantastic year for science and a hopeful year for our future.
In addition to the super-effective vaccines against COVID-19
Although the pandemic has been turning the world upside down for almost two years, it has led to some amazing medical advances: We now have home COVID tests that give results in 15 minutes so you can dry before visiting your elderly aunt or sends your child to school. New treatments prevent people already infected with COVID-19 from becoming dangerously ill. And of course, the biggest news of all is that millions of Americans have rolled up their sleeves for one of three safe, highly effective vaccines that the Yale School of Public Health estimates have already saved hundreds of thousands of American lives and saved more than a million people. out of the hospital. This work may resonate in the coming years: Researchers are testing whether the new mRNA technology in two of the vaccines could one day protect against infectious diseases such as rabies, Zika and HIV and cancers of the skin, breast, colon and more. It’s a shot worth shouting about.
Medical psychedelics come of age
More than 50 years after the recreational use of drugs such as acid and magic mushrooms was banned, drugs like these have been rocked to new heights in psychological research. In just over a year, major institutions, including New York University and the University of California, opened Berkeley dedicated centers, and more than 100 studies are currently examining LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin in fungi for their ability to help with headaches from anorexia to general well-being. Results this year have enhanced their therapeutic potential, with one study showing that MDMA successfully treats severe PTSD and another showing that psilocybin reduces symptoms of major depression as effectively as a daily antidepressant. “Just one or two doses of psychedelic drugs in a supported environment can provide rapid and profound improvements,” said Natalie Gukasyan, MD, medical director of the Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, who stressed that these results apply for psilocybin when used in a therapeutic setting. Not only are psychedelics illegal outside of a research environment almost everywhere, but a controlled setting with a trained professional can help mitigate the effects of a bad trip.
Stop surprise fees
Imagine being rushed to a hospital in your network, but later discovering that the ambulance that took you there, or a doctor taking care of you, is not taking your insurance. Millions of Americans do not have to imagine, as studies show that one in five hospital admissions coming from the emergency room results in these unexpected – and sometimes shockingly high – bills. It happens when doctors outside the network become involved in patient care. This is something almost 80% of Americans wanted the government to fix, and finally have it. Congress passed the No Surprises Act late last year, and it comes into force in January. The law prohibits providers from billing consumers for the amount not covered by their insurance, and gives providers the right to negotiate in both emergencies and non-emergencies (although land ambulances are excluded). The non-profit organization Families USA praises the legislation as a landmark step in the fight for the rights of health consumers.
An easy way to detect early cancer
We hear all the time that early detection is the key to surviving cancer, but there are only a few tests (including cell samples, mammography, lung screenings and colonoscopies) to catch cancer at the most curable stages. That’s why a new technology that screens a blood sample for DNA fragments from more than 50 types of cancer is creating great excitement. The gallery test alerts your doctor if you have a signal about the disease and indicates which organ it comes from. Preliminary results from a clinical trial involving 6,000 people over 50 showed that the test helped diagnose 29 who did not know they had cancer of, among other things, lung, ovary, rectum, neck, breast and pancreas – too many of these, are no other screening tests. This “liquid biopsy”, intended to supplement other available screening tools, is fast approaching FDA approval, but you can get it now for $ 949 with a doctor’s Rx under a regulation covering laboratory-developed tests.
Helps the climate and our health
The way we operate energy and transport not only affects the climate crisis, but also affects our well-being, and new programs hope to improve both. Burning coal and natural gas spews soot, which can cause lung cancer and stroke; the nitrogen dioxide from the exhaust pipes can trigger respiratory infections and asthma. An executive order signed earlier this year, along with proposed federal legislation, aims to clean up transportation and electricity generation – helping to save the planet and lives.
A new way to test fertility
When you are eager to get pregnant, every period can be heartbreaking. Home fertility tests to increase the odds have been around for a while, but most people scan urine for just one hormone. The new easy-to-use OOVA kit, supported by New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, measures two to better identify your “do it now” window. One, luteinizing hormone, rises before an egg is released; the other, progesterone, is released just after ovulation. Tracking them both improves accuracy so it approaches the reliability of blood tests, says Serena H. Chen, MD, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey and a medical consultant for the company. An app on your phone reads every day test strip and clearly reveals the best time for you to get busy making a baby.
Affordable hearing aids
When you can not understand what a client or your grandchild is saying over the phone, hearing aids can make all the difference, but right now they cost a lot of money. You should see a hearing care professional who adds his fee, which pushes the price of the units to thousands of dollars for a couple – often not covered by insurance. So the prospect of more affordable opportunities will be music to the ears of the estimated 38 million American adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. The White House has asked the Food and Drug Administration to write the necessary rules to allow hearing aids to be sold directly to consumers. It is important to expand the buying opportunities because our ears can help promote work success and a happy social life as well as keep us safe, says Barbara Kelley, CEO of the Hearing Loss Association of America. Some electronics companies have already entered the do-it-yourself audio amplification industry, with Bose releasing its $ 850 SoundControl knobs this year. More good news: Congress has proposed legislation that would allow Medicare to finally start paying for both hearing aids and glasses.
Movement on Alzheimer’s medicine – finally
This year, we hit a milestone for new drugs against Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia: Biogens Aduhelm became the first new drug to be approved by the FDA in nearly 20 years (though approval is still controversial). And doniemab from Eli Lilly was given breakthrough status after a study in the corn New England Journal of Medicine found that people with early Alzheimer’s scored better on certain cognitive function tests after a year and a half of monthly infusions than those given placebo. Although we are still far from a cure, “there has never been a more exciting time in research into Alzheimer’s therapy,” says Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, noting that the approval of the first drug in a new category historically strengthens the field and increases investment leading to more innovation.
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