Back in October, Cleveland Clinic released their 10th annual list of the Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2016. The list included such marvels as faster vaccine creation methods, a process for rewriting genetic code and even a highly detailed, affordable system for bringing water purification to developing countries.
Now that it’s finally the New Year, we thought we would dig up the list and bring to you five of the top 10 and what you can expect to hear in health care news in 2016. Here are the five (in no particular order):
1.) Naturally Controlled Artificial Limbs
IMAGE: THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY
If you remember back to late 2014, a story broke of a double-amputee man operating two artificial robotic arms using his mind. Les Baugh (pictured right) was able to move, and feel, everyday objects using the robotic arms and fingertip sensors. The video went viral.
Since then, researchers have discovered that neural signals associated with limb movement can be de-coded by computers. In Sweden, scientists have also unveiled the first mind-controlled prosthetic arm directly connected to a man’s natural bone, nerves and muscles.
More recently, researchers have demonstrated that sensors implanted in the brain can control prosthetic arms, wheelchairs and even a full body exoskeleton. It’s only a matter of time until such prosthetics are produced on an affordable scale, potentially helping millions of amputees worldwide.
2.) Water Purification System and Developing Countries
According to the World Health Organization, over 700 million people worldwide are drinking unsafe water everyday due to large amounts of sewage pools in cities. That’s ridiculous, right? Well, a new sewage processor plant may offer the next affordable solution.
In Dakar, Senegal, health officials say they’re testing a new type of waste treatment plant that would essentially turn these seeping sewage pools into sources of clean drinking water. The processor, which will cost roughly $1.5 million, would be able to support the waste of nearly 100,000 people a day.
Researchers think more processor plants like the one in Dakar will begin showing up in 2016.
3.) Battling Epidemics with the Rapid Development of Vaccines
Researchers are developing effective vaccines faster than ever to prevent epidemics. It’s an effort given new urgency by the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Africa and of Meningococcal B outbreaks in America. According to Steven Gordon, MD, chair of the Department of Infectious Disease at Cleveland Clinic:
“The rapid scientific response to recent epidemics indicates that we’ve achieved a new level of sophistication in the area of vaccine development. It was a global effort involving thousands of people, aided by information technology and instant communication.”
The most promising Ebola vaccine emerged in only 12 months. While it has not yet been licensed for human use, Cleveland Clinic experts estimate a safe, effective Ebola vaccine will be available this year.
4.) CRISPR Offers a New Spin on Gene Editing
Altering the DNA of human embryos has long been associated with that of science fiction. Now, with a new, inexpensive technique, “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” or CRISPR (which sounds a lot cooler), gene editing is being adopted by labs everywhere.
CRISPR is boasting the ability to eliminate a whole range of genetic diseases. It can more quickly develop and test cures, identify and remove bad genes from a DNA strand, and can cost as little as $30.
Great, but how is it being tested?
CRISPR is now being used in animal testing models but could eventually be used for a wide range of human applications, from treating debilitating genetic diseases to increasing food crop yields. What’s clear is that CRISPR’s impact on the human population will be immeasurable.
CRISPR is now being used in animal testing models but could eventually be used for a wide range of human applications, from treating debilitating genetic diseases to increasing food crop yields.
5.) Protein Biomarker Analysis and Cancer Screening
A new biomarker platform hits the market this year and will offer more accurate cancer screenings and better chances for early detection. Protein biomarker analysis focuses on changes in the structure of certain proteins circulating in the blood, so that, as opposed to examining genetic mutations, which can indicate the risk of cancer, these new tests give real-time information on cancer’s presence.