FFE Magazine

Optimistic medical developments in 2013

by BBC News, bbc-news-logo

 

With a baby cured of HIV and breakthroughs in dementia, it’s been a year where two of the great scourges of our time have been put on the back foot.

 

Meanwhile a vision of the future of medicine has emerged, with scientists growing miniature organs -including brains – and performing the first steps of human cloning.

 

BBC health and science reporter James Gallagher reviews the year in medical science.

 

HIV baby cure

 

HIV virus

 

Her mother had an uncontrolled HIV infection and doctors suspected the baby would be infected too, so they decided to give antiretroviral drugs at birth.

 

Normally the drugs hold the virus in check, but the very early treatment seems to have prevented HIV taking hold.

 

The baby is now three, has been off drugs for more than a year and has no sign of infection.

 

However, as this analysis explains, a cure for HIV is still a distant prospect. Yet have there been other developments, two patients have been taken off their HIV drugs after bone-marrow transplants seemed to clear the virus.

 

HIV was once thought to be impossible to cure; now there is real optimism in the field.

 

line break

Post-menopausal pregnancy

 

Dr Kazuhiro Kawamura

 

Going through an early-menopause used to be seen as the end of a woman’s reproductive life.

 

But this year a baby was born after doctors, in the US and Japan, developed a technique to “reawaken” the ovaries of women who had a very early menopause.

 

They removed a woman’s ovaries, activated them in the laboratory and re-implanted fragments of ovarian tissue.

 

Any eggs produced were then taken and used during normal IVF.

 

Fertility experts described the findings as a “potential game-changer”.

 

However, things will not change for women going through the menopause at a normal age as poor egg quality will still be a major obstacle.

 

line break

Angelina and Andy

 

Angelina Jolie and Andrew Marr

The cult of celebrity catapulted two diseases into the public eye this year – breast cancer and stroke.

 

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy after her doctors said she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime.

 

She has a mutation in her DNA, called BRCA1, which greatly increases the odds of both breast and ovarian cancer.

 

In a newspaper article she said: “I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity…for any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options.”

 

BBC presenter Andrew Marr had a stroke after an intensive rowing machine session and a year of “heavily overworking”.

 

It put a spotlight on the standard of care for stroke patients and raised the question why do healthy people have strokes?

 

He says he’s “lucky to be alive” and is back presenting, although the stroke has affected “the whole left hand side of my body”.

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