THE ROLE OF SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS IN MEDICINE IS DIFFICULT TO OVERVIEW: even one new drug can revolutionize and save millions of lives. Over the past hundred years, birth control pills have been created, scientists have deciphered the human genetic code, and doctors have learned to transplant organs and perform operations under a microscope. Summing up the results of the year, we understand what important happened in medical science and how it will affect our lives.
New antibiotics for the first time in thirty years
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a major medical problem, which requires drugs with new mechanisms of action. Last year, for the first time in thirty years, a new antibiotic, teixobactin , was discovered – extremely effective, in particular against tuberculosis. It inhibits the synthesis of substances that bacteria need to build their own cells. This year, Novobiotic received a grant to develop an oral version of it to begin clinical trials soon. At Rockefeller University in 2016, using genetic material, they created two more new antibiotics, humimycins A and B, with a similar principle of action. It is believed that they can make bacteria resistant to previous generations of antibiotics vulnerable again. However, so far their effectiveness has been demonstrated only in studies on mice.
New drug against radiation sickness
In 2011, twenty-five years after the Chernobyl disaster, the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant once again reminded the world of the dire consequences of radiation. High doses of ionizing radiation lead to the failure of almost all organs and rapid death. The only currently available treatment is a complex and expensive bone marrow transplant. The Israeli company Pluristem has created PLX-R18 from placenta cells , which, in animal tests, led to a complete cure from acute radiation sickness. The tool has not yet been tested on humans, and it is too early to talk about success, but it can become a real breakthrough. Perhaps now it will be enough to give the victim an intramuscular injection within a couple of days after exposure to radiation – and he will be safe.
Dressing for rapid control of bleeding
Over the past couple of years, Israeli doctors have been developing the “smart” WoundClot bandage, which allows you to quickly stop even heavy bleeding. On contact with blood, the molecules that are impregnated with the dressing form a dense, sticky gel. According to the manufacturers, the dressing allows you to control even arterial bleeding and its action is sufficient for the natural blood clotting processes to start. Due to its low cost (about $ 10), this tool can help save huge amounts of money on emergency surgeries. So far, the product has been provided for use only by medical personnel. Perhaps, a home version will soon appear and the next generation of children will apply not plantain leaves to their broken knees, but such gel dressings.
Immunotherapy of malignant tumors
The idea of getting the body’s natural defense systems to fight cancer has been in the air since the days of Hippocrates, but it was only in the 21st century that the development of immune drugs was taken seriously. In October 2016, an innovative drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) was registered in the United States for the treatment of an extremely dangerous disease – non-small cell lung cancer. The drug increases the chances of not developing the disease by 50% compared to chemotherapy. In other studies, pembrolizumab increased the survival rate of patients with melanoma by up to 40% , usually leading to 100% mortality. You need to understand that we are talking about agents that truly stimulate immune processes, in contrast to immunomodulators available without a prescription , which are devoid of any effectiveness. In addition to developing a whole army of immunotherapeutic drugs, scientists have gone further and have begun to genetically engineer immune cells to fight cancer.
Breakthroughs in the treatment of multiple sclerosis
In a large-scale study lasting thirteen years, in twenty-four patients with multiple sclerosis (the most common, recurrent form), it was possible not only to stop the development of the disease, but also to make many symptoms reversible. Among the patients there are those who started walking and even skiing again, returned to work and study, and started a family. Treatment involves removing and freezing immune cells, completely destroying the immune system with chemotherapy, and then rebuilding it from scratch with your own preserved cells. Unfortunately, this method carries serious risks: in the study, one patient died and several more had to provide emergency care due to liver failure. Its prospects are not yet clear. But for another form of multiple sclerosis (primary progressive) in February 2016, a drug with proven activity, ocrelizumab , was registered for the first time : it significantly reduces the number of relapses and the risk of disability
Controlling prostheses with the power of thought
The most important task of those involved in prosthetics is to help the patient to feel the prosthesis as naturally as possible and to manage it like a real part of the body. There is a technology by which information is sent from an implant implanted into the motor cortex of the brain, to a computer, and from there to a robotic prosthesis. But its difficulty lies in the fact that a person has to send information in fragments: for example, “reach out”, “unclench your fingers”, “squeeze your fingers around the cup” – and all this in order to take the cup from the table.
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology took a different path: they connected a robotic prosthetic arm of the patient with the section of the parietal cortex, which is responsible for the intention to do something, and not for the action itself. As a result, a person who has been paralyzed for more than ten years has become capable of a quick handshake and even the game of “rock, scissors, paper.” So far, the system has been tested with only one patient, and the creators hope that over time it will allow many disabled people to gain independence in such daily activities as brushing their teeth or drinking from a glass.
Metformin anti aging
Metformin has been used in patients with diabetes for over fifty years. It is a safe drug that significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications, the leading cause of death in people around the world. In the US, a study began , the authors of which believe that metformin can counteract various aging processes in the body. Among them are chronic low-intensity inflammation, cell breakdown, damage to DNA and protein structures, loss of stem cell function. This is not about extending life to a conditional one hundred and twenty years, but about improving its quality, directly related to health. The authors of the study themselves note that it is not worthwhile to engage in anti-aging medication until its effectiveness is proven, and they say that even the presence of such a medicine does not eliminate the need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Bioprinting of tissue of internal organs
The Organovo company, by printing on a three-dimensional bioprinter, managed to create a three-dimensional human liver tissue, which was even transplanted into animals as part of the experiment. Bioprinting can revolutionize the way new drugs are developed by speeding up the process of drug testing, because toxicity and efficacy need to be studied in living tissues. Perhaps this will reduce the volume of animal studies and obtain more accurate information about the effects of drugs in the early stages of development. In the future, 3D printing may even become a source of tissues and organs for transplantation. There is talk about the possibility of recreating destroyed tissue directly in an open wound and about the potential application of the method in cosmetology.
A filling that heals tooth decay
British (and what else) scientists have tested a new material for fillings. It is a bioactive composite that releases fluorine, calcium and phosphorus atoms. Such a filling contributes to the restoration of the surrounding hard tissues of the teeth (enamel and dentin), and also forms an alkaline environment, interfering with the vital activity of dangerous bacteria. It is not yet known how resistant this material will be and whether the fact that the filling will simply dissolve over time will not become the reverse side of bioactivity. Be that as it may, no method of treatment can compare in effectiveness with the prevention of tooth decay. In many countries in Africa and Asia, the prevalence of dental caries in adults is lower than in developed countries. Experts attribute this to a difference in dietary habits, namely sugar consumption.
A study was conducted in which twelve patients with moderate to severe hair loss caused by alopecia areata received the new drug ruxolitinib. It inhibits Janus kinase, an important enzyme that increases in activity during autoimmune processes, including alopecia areata. After three to six months of treatment, 75% of patients have restored up to 90% of their hair. Unfortunately, after discontinuation of the drug, the effect was reversible and hair loss resumed. A more significant drawback of ruxolitinib is the side effects: by weakening the immune system, it increases the susceptibility to infections and other diseases. In addition, it is important to understand that ruxolitinib will not be effective against age-related baldness not associated with autoimmune diseases.
How to gain weight without harm to health
In our society, there is a strong cult of a slender body : inadequacy is considered a problem and many people do not give up their attempts to lose weight. In particular, this applies to women, who are imposed by the media all year round the standards of the “beach body”. Difficulties with weight gain are less often understood and much less discussed in society. Often, being thin is considered a “gift of fate,” and complaints that a person cannot gain weight is perceived as flirtatiousness.
Firstly, a thin figure is not a reason for shaming, as well as full forms. Secondly, this is not always a conscious choice: in some people, weight deficiency may be associated with diseases, and someone simply wants to have a more prominent and strong body, but this does not succeed. We decided to understand the reasons for underweight and find out how to gain weight correctly without harm to health.
Understand the reasons
From the point of view of medicine, excessive thinness is a condition in which there is not enough weight for the normal functioning of the body. Body mass index (BMI) is widely used to measure healthy weight . To roughly understand what your BMI is, it is recommended to divide your weight by the square of your height in meters. It is believed that with excessive thinness, the BMI is less than 18.5. However, self-diagnosis using this scheme is very unreliable. In addition, it is important to remember that BMI itself is a very conditional indicator of health, which does not take into account constitutional features and the ratio of muscle and fat mass.
To measure the latter, ultrasound, a special caliper device, weighing under water and a number of other methods are used. It is generally accepted that for women, the norm for body fat is from 20% to 32%. Rates may vary based on age, activity level, and other factors. However, all of these estimates can indicate a potential problem. Weight deficiency is both a symptom and a cause of a number of serious illnesses.
We have already said that excessive thinness can be caused by metabolic disorders. In addition, weight deficiency is among the signs of cancer, type 1 diabetes and acute gluten intolerance. So, before changing your diet and habits, be sure to check with your doctor. Sometimes the cause of excessive thinness is eating disorders or an unbalanced diet. In such cases, the body receives an insufficient amount of nutrients, which increases the risk of developing osteoporosis and strongly affects the immune system. For women, extreme thinness is fraught with hormonal disruptions, menstrual irregularities and reproductive system problems. Doctors often prescribe weight gain to patients, and you should ask your doctor for detailed recommendations on how to gain weight correctly.
Think about a new diet
Weight gain is a set of adipose and muscle tissue. To gain more fat tissue, you need to create a calorie surplus, that is, consume more than you burn. It is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Eating everything is not an option. High-calorie foods like soda, junk food, and baked goods will not only add a couple of pounds, but possibly health problems. The high concentration of simple carbohydrates in these foods can lead to fatigue and lethargy, dental problems and even osteoporosis. The saturated fat found in fast food raises cholesterol levels and may increase your risk of heart disease.
To gain “healthy fat”, you need to eat wisely for a long time. A surplus of 300-500 kcal per day is enough. Organize yourself a regular meal: three main meals and a couple of snacks. Load up on fish, complex carbohydrates, starchy vegetables, and use olive and coconut oils when cooking. A good option is nuts and dried fruits: they are both high-calorie and rich in vitamins. When gaining muscle mass, pay attention to sports nutrition. The judicious use of protein shakes and gainers will help you add protein and carbohydrates without harm to your health.
Do some strength training
In order for the excess calories to turn not only into fat, but also into muscle mass, you will have to go in for sports. Cardio activities like running, bicycles and dancing should be avoided – they burn too many calories and do not help build muscle. For weight gain, strength loads are suitable – workouts based on resistance work. It is believed that the most effective work is to work at the limit of possibilities: when it seems to you that you can no longer take weight, but do two or three more repetitions. The fact is that muscle fibers are surrounded by connective tissue, in which microdamages occur during training. Its cells begin to actively build in order to “patch” the micro-gap, thereby building up muscles in volume.
Despite this generally accepted technique, we advise you to work with weights very carefully. You need to start work in the gym under the supervision of an experienced trainer who will monitor the exercise technique and the level of load. A professional will help you quickly achieve the desired result and avoid injury. In any case, you need to treat yourself with care, and the coach’s advice – critically. Before starting workouts, as well as in the event that controversial issues arise during exercise, it is better to consult a trusted doctor.
Healthy weight gain is a long process, and it is worth being patient here. To track your results, doctors recommend weighing yourself at about the same time every day. The main thing is to treat this ritual without fanaticism, because a certain weight is not a goal, but an intermediate result of working on your health. You can keep a food diary to determine the optimal diet. Online services like Healbe and Dacadoo and wearable gadgets are also suitable for this purpose . However, you can sometimes break a healthy diet: there is nothing wrong with an extra croissant or cheesecake – especially if you are trying to get better.
Remember that muscles grow during periods of rest , so proper rest is essential. Get enough sleep and avoid stress. If you want to not only gain weight, but also to maintain it, you will have to change your lifestyle. And if you can refuse the help of a trainer over time, and scrupulous calorie counting is not at all necessary, then a balanced diet and physical activity should stay with you for a long time.
Give yourself different incentives for each day. Write down your successes, share them with your friends – online or with live communication, buy a beautiful sports uniform – in general, do what pleases and motivates you personally. Thousands of people have already walked the path to a strong figure and well-being, so why not take advantage of their advice? Instagram has many profiles of Russian fitness bloggers, in which they talk in detail about proper nutrition, daily regimen and training.
Don’t be afraid to stop being skinny. Think of weight gain as more than just a medical indication. This is a great excuse to learn good habits and start leading a healthy lifestyle. In addition, a strong body and full forms are finally beginning to be perceived as a variant of the norm. Celebrities from Beyoncé to Kim Kardashian, plus-size models, body-positive dancers, yoga and fitness trainers – all of these successful women never tire of reminding them of how beneficial it is to spit on other people’s standards and define their personal goals. Follow their example: it is not easy, but it is very important to learn to respect your body and accept it at any stage of life.