During the last several years, dozens of patients have been infected by improperly sterilized endoscopes, known as duodenoscopes. The FDA has cited the manufacturers of these devices for violations ranging from not properly evaluating cleaning, sterilization and testing procedures to failure to report infections and other problems. Despite the fact that 13 patients have died from these infections, the agency has decided to leave the devices on the market because of their value in life-saving procedures.
Over the last couple of decades, biologists have honed their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA. Now, a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. The discovery of CRISPR promises to significantly accelerate genetic research, with long-term implications that are very promising, but also potentially risky.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. On major application of neuroplastic medicine is in stroke recovery. New developments in this field promise to provide much better outcomes for patients following a stroke.
Over the past several years, the market for wearable fitness devices has exploded. You may have heard of the Fitbit or the UP band: $50-ish to $100-ish wristbands that measure your steps throughout the day, like a high-tech pedometer, and display your progress as a graph on your smartphone. Though there are concerns about data accuracy and privacy, the devices are motivating people to take their fitness more seriously.
Researchers around the world are making groundbreaking progress in engineering replacement organs. Since the first successes with bio-engineered skin, which can be used for grafts to treat people with burns, tissue engineers have created lab-grown cartilage, bone and, most recently, whole organs such as bladders. The science of tissue engineering promises to revolutionize medicine as well as the way we think about our long term health and longevity.
Imagine a world where you could have the best doctors available 24 x 7 to answer your medical questions, evaluate your symptoms, and provide an accurate diagnosis for what ails you. They would have infinite patience and would make house calls. Science fiction? Maybe not. A few years ago, IBM researchers developed a technology, dubbed “Watson,” which holds the promise to do just that.