research

When Will Science Fiction Become Science Fact?

What can we expect to see in the next few decades as medicine progresses? Have your favorite science fiction films and medical television shows predicted the future of medicine? You might think that science fiction and movies are just stories. Pie in the sky. But often, ideas for future procedures are dreamt up in the films we call entertainment. Science fiction has officially become science fact. They could be seen as predictions and demonstrations of how medicine and biotechnology might look in the future. Exploring is what humans do best and if these movies are anything to go by, we have some great inventions ahead of us, that aren’t as “pie in the sky” as you might think. In this infographic from GapMedics, we look at some of the movies that could shape medical technology and change the way we live and treat illnesses in the future. Make sure to also check out Yash Pandya’s series of “Movies that Illuminated The Medical Field!” Parts One, Two, and Three! Medicine has intrigued cinema for as far back as we can remember. From the gruesome depictions of surgical procedures to the long struggles against chronic ailments, the medical field is omnipresent in movies. Furthermore, given the current struggles in medicine, including antibiotic resistance and our inability to manage all diseases, a look back is well warranted to put things in perspective and...

Are Older Doctors Worse Than Younger Ones?

If you’re a patient, would you trust older doctors, or younger ones? Perhaps you’d pick an older one because you think they’re more seasoned and knowledgeable. Or, maybe you’d choose a younger one because you think they’re more up to date with modern treatments. Deciding between doctors can be tricky, but a recent BMJ study has elucidated a key difference in performance between younger and older doctors. The study—led by Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School—took a random sample of Medicare data for more than 700,000 hospital admissions from 2011 to 2014, and found that doctors age 50 and above have higher patient mortality rates than doctors under age 50. The results are summarized in the table below: Doctor age range Patient mortality rate 40 and under 10.8% 40-49 11.1% 50-59 11.3% 60 and above 12.1% The differences are small, but they’re meaningful. The study controlled for a number of factors, including the possibility that the sickest patients were assigned to older physicians on any given day. Jena suggests that older doctors have worse outcomes because they’re less up to date with the newest medical technologies. “There’s a fear that as doctors get further away from residency, they might be out of touch with new technologies and treatments,” Jena told STAT news. Studies support Jena’s claim—a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that over half of...

Don’t Get Sick: Four Pet Diseases To Watch For

With diligent care and cleaning of your pets, along with regular checkups at the vet’s office, it’s pretty unlikely that you would contract a disease from your pet. However, all animals are potential carriers of zoonotic diseases. Here are four pet diseases to watch for: Cats – Toxoplasmosis You could contract this parasite from your cat if you aren’t careful to wash your hands after cleaning out your kitty’s litterbox. Although an estimated 60 million people in the US carry the Toxoplasma parasite, most don’t show symptoms. However, in pregnant women and those with compromised immunity, Toxoplasma could cause serious health problems. Tips from the CDC to avoid bringing toxoplasmosis home include changing the litterbox daily, keeping your cat indoors and feeding cats canned or dried commercial food or well-cooked meats – not raw or undercooked food. Dogs – Bubonic Plague While you can’t get the plague directly from Fido, you could get it from one of his fleas, if that flea is carrying the bacterium Yersinia pestis. In humans, the Bubonic Plague can cause headache, chills, fever, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. Treat promptly with antibiotics, and make sure you keep your pets free of fleas. Cases of Bubonic Plague are very rare, with only about 7 reported cases per year in the US. Birds – Parrot Fever Parrot Fever, or Psittacosis, comes from infection from the bacteria...

The Cancer Moonshot and the Rise of Immunotherapy

The discovery of a cure for cancer has long been awaited. Although death rates dropped by 25 percent between 1991 and 2014, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease. In an effort to reach the goal faster, the Cancer Moonshot was created to develop new research, trials and eventual treatment methods. Designated by former President Barack Obama in 2016 and led by former Vice President Joe Biden, the initiative aims to complete 10 years of cancer research by 2020. High-level goals include the expansion of cancer prevention and detection strategies, minimizing treatment side effects, establishing a network to allow for direct patient involvement, increasing data sharing, and devoting research time and money to immunotherapy. Many doctors and researchers envision immunotherapy becoming the best treatment option we’ve seen in years. Still early in its development, this cancer treatment utilizes the body’s natural defense system to fight off cancer cells. These cells, normally hidden from the body’s immune system, are unveiled when one of three main types of cancer immunotherapy is involved: First used in 1981 to fight liver cancer, cancer vaccines are a form of immunotherapy. Therapeutic vaccines are injected once a person is already diagnosed with cancer as a form of treatment to stop growth or recurrence. (Although vaccines for cancer can also be preventative, like the HPV vaccine, that...

Why Immunotherapy Is The Future of Cancer Treatment

The immune system is a complex network that attacks foreign substances like germs and viruses. But cancer has historically been resistant to the body’s natural defenses, mainly because the body doesn’t see it as foreign. T-cells participating in the immune system’s response are unable to recognize the rogue cancer cells because they carry proteins called PD-L1 that act like masks allowing the cancer to blend in with other normal cells. Immunotherapy is a treatment that essentially simulates natural human antibodies to block the PD-L1 protein and expose the tumor for T-cells to attack. The Past The rise of immunotherapy has been experimental in nature. Beginning in the late 1800s, a New York surgeon named William Coley saw impressive responses from children with sarcoma that he treated with bacterial extracts. However, due to the success of antibiotics, immunotherapy research largely fell by the wayside. A few small breakthroughs during the 1900s, including the introduction of the first cancer prevention vaccine in 1981, eventually led to the continued growth we’re seeing today. The Present In the wake of multiple government-backed research initiatives, including the Human Genome Project of the 1990s and early 2000s and the Cancer Moonshot announced in 2016, immunotherapy has once again surged into the spotlight as an emerging cancer treatment. Growing antibiotic resistance, the negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and the overall low survival rates of...

Trump’s Education Budget Cuts Mental Health Money For Schools

President Trump’s new education budget proposes to dedicate no money—that’s right, zero—to fund mental health services and other student support services for public schools. Previously, the government provided schools with $1.65 billion in funding for various initiatives, including mental health services. But, in an attempt to reduce the federal government’s role in education, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have decided it’s best to cut all funding for these important student services. Lack of funding is a serious issue for a number of reasons. According to the NIH, just over 20 percent of children have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder either currently or at some point in their life. Nonetheless, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 21% of children with mental health issues actually receive services. There is a disparity between ill children and treatment received, and this gap may grow if funding for school-based mental health services is slashed. The disparity may become an even greater challenge for students who live in areas where community-based mental health services are scarce or too expensive—without school-based services, these children’s options are severely limited. The new education budget’s lack of concern for mental health services may harm children’s health in the long run. A child’s mental disorder may worsen and continue into adulthood if not treated early and appropriately. That’s why school services are vital and even preventive—they...

Stem Cells Can Now Regrow Teeth

Can stem cells really regrow teeth? It sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie. For most dental patients with missing teeth, there are only a few options: getting dental implants or false teeth. And for dental patients with cavities the remedy usually is a filling or cap. But, what if you could get new teeth – real teeth growing right in your mouth. David Mooney and his team of researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute are working on making this science fact and not fiction. What’s his idea? To use lasers with stem cells and regrow teeth. He and his research team have developed a technique using a low-power laser. The laser’s job is to get stem cells to reform dentin. This could have huge implications for cosmetic dentistry, for wound healing, and even for bone restoration. Arthur Glosman DDS, famous cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills specializing in dental implants, says: This could be the next big thing, even beyond teeth implants. Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine But, what are stem cells, anyway? Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that can differentiate into specialized cell types by using proteins called growth factors. Adult stem cells can divide, or self-renew on an indefinite basis. Adding different growth factors can force these cells to develop into a particular type of tissue. However, to accomplish this is not...