9 Ongoing medical advancements

Helen Cowan

In medicine, it’s true that the more we know, the more we realise that we don’t know. Every discovery unearths another question, and those questions are keeping scientists very busy as we speak.

There are the big questions such as can we cure cancer? How can we slow down the ageing process? What can be done to fight the obesity epidemic? What causes Alzheimer’s? 

Just as every journey begins with a single step, however, so must every medical breakthrough begin with a focused research question that aims to find out a part of the whole.

“Test before you trust” reads one Russian proverb and here are some of the tests, or trials, being carried out in medicine at the moment.

 

1. Is the eye a window to your health after a stroke?

Exceptionally detailed eye cameras can look at the tiny blood vessels and nerves in the brain after a stroke. Can this help detect subtle changes in the brain after a stroke, and reveal whether treatments are working?

2. Do older, frailer patients benefit from surgery to restore the blood supply to the heart after a heart attack?

Is surgery or medication the best choice for these people? Which is safer? The SENIOR-RITA trial will test both in people aged 75 and over.

 

3. Can dogs predict seizures?

“Seizure-alert dogs” are said to recognise and warn of an impending or ongoing seizure. In one small study, dogs sometimes seemed to predict a seizure by licking, whimpering or standing next to the person. 

 

4. Why is exercise good for people with type 2 diabetes?

Exercise has been shown to improve blood sugar control, but how?

 

5. Can a battery-powered unit that sends electrical signals to the muscles and nerves controlling the bowel, help treat bowel incontinence?

When drugs, diet, bowel retraining and physiotherapy don’t work, does this?

 

6. Does mindfulness therapy increase resilience in teenagers?

Working in 84 schools across the UK, the MYRIAD project will compare existing teaching of emotional health and wellbeing to mindfulness training. Which type of teaching helps the pupils to “bounce back” better after a difficult situation?

 

7. How can people with insomnia be helped to sleep?

Can practice nurses help by guiding you through a tailored sleep schedule?
 

8. Does art therapy help reduce pain in breast cancer patients?

By moving your mental focus away from the pain, do you feel it less?

 

9. Can a tailor-made diet that works well with your gut microbiome help you to lose weight?

Our uniquely individual gut microbiomes determine how our bodies respond to the food we eat. Which foods are right for your microbiome? 

 

The future’s bright

Michael Faraday once said, “Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature, and in such things as these, experiment is the best test.” Tests and trials will continue to reveal truths in science. Watch this space.