6 Medical Discoveries Changing Our Perception of Health and Fitness

Posted July 18, 2023 by in Health + Fitness

Medical discoveries usually result in a breakthrough in healthcare procedures and approaches. When vaccines were developed and introduced to the public, people were immunized against previously deadly viruses from infancy. The discovery of DNA and its components lead to gene therapy. With every discovery came a ray of hope that a potentially deadly disease might be curable after all. 

Medical discoveries can profoundly change the way we perceive our health and well-being. For instance, epilepsy is no longer a supernatural phenomenon, influenza is no longer life-threatening, chicken pox and measles are no longer inevitable, and cancer during its preliminary stages is no longer fatal. Likewise, while we’re already aware of how exercise can boost mental well-being, new research proves it even slows down or prevents vision loss. 

Let’s review some medical discoveries that have revolutionized healthcare and our perception of health and fitness in the past decade. 

  1. Antibody Drug Discovery 

Antibodies are the body’s natural fighters against diseases. The active fighters are IgM antibodies, while IgG antibodies remain in the bloodstream to prevent further attacks. Scientists have recently harnessed this characteristic to synthesize genetically altered antibodies to fight terminal conditions like cancer and HIV. 

Diseases are spread in the form of pathogens or antigens. So, to fight these antigens, the body produces antibodies. IgM antibodies are produced immediately, binding antigens to themselves and destroying them. The unique structure of an IgM antibody allows it to bind and destroy multiple antigens at once. Scientists are now working with synthetic IgM antibodies that are modified to be better and more effective. Engineered IgM antibodies have better binding properties and greater therapeutic potential. 

  1. CRISPR 

CRISPR is a set of gene sequences found in bacteria. These clusters act as the natural immune system of single-celled organisms. In 2013, scientists tested this idea by artificially introducing CRISPR into the multi-cellular genome. It gave rise to a new era of genetic engineering. 

Single guide RNA (sgRNA) is artificially synthesized against a disease-causing DNA fragment, the target gene. This sgRNA then identifies the problematic gene and binds to it. This binding signals the Cas-9 protein, which works as a molecular scissor or cuts the problematic gene fragment from the genome, eliminating the disease’s root cause. 

CRISPR has not only been used in horticulture to produce genetically modified crops but also in gene therapy in humans. Gene therapy for terminal cancers and other chronic illnesses is still under trial and shows promising results. 

  1. mRNA Vaccines 

Vaccination has been an integral part of our healthcare system since the 1990s. They’re exceptionally effective against viral attacks. This process involves the introduction of dead or weakened viruses into the body so that our immune system produces specific antibodies and remembers the pathogen to prevent future attacks. 

In the 21st century, scientists started to utilize mRNA as a blueprint for antibody development instead of a dead or weakened virus. The first human clinical trial for the mRNA vaccine was in 2013 against rabies. This medical discovery had a breakthrough during the COVID-19 pandemic when the first SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine was developed and approved within record time. 

Cost-effective and time-saving, this medical innovation has the potential to revolutionize healthcare as we know it. mRNA vaccines can eliminate the threat of epidemics and pandemics by controlling the spread of viral infections quickly and efficiently. 

  1. Precision Medicine 

Precision medicine, often known as personalized medicine, is a concept of personalizing the healthcare of specific people based on their environment and genetic code. It works with the concept that different people may react differently to the same medicine based on their treatment history and genetic makeup. 

Precision medicine has started making waves in healthcare during the past decade, but the concept itself is not new. The basic idea is to alter the medicine and medical procedure effectively. For example, if a person is allergic to an ingredient in a medicine, they are prescribed a different medicine of the same formula but without that ingredient. 

Gene editing techniques like Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) provide tailor-made medicines for certain immunocompromised and allergic patients. The NGS method is utilized to determine the genome of the patients and identify any genetic variants that can cause diseases or interfere with the treatment. One of the latest applications of precision medicine is precision oncology. It specifically targets cancer cells on a genetic level, determines the weak link in the genome of cancer cells, and creates medicines to attack accordingly. 

  1. Regenerative Medicine 

The general idea of regenerative medicine is to promote natural cell growth in the body where tissue or an organ is already damaged. The concept of regenerative medicine is ancient, but the innovations in this process continue to date. Organ transplant was a branch of regenerative medicine. It evolved to stem cell transplant in the 21st century, where healthy stem cells are harvested, multiplied, and injected into the body to promote tissue growth in the damaged area. Regenerative medicine also reduces the risk of organ rejection as it focuses on the body’s natural cell growth instead of introducing foreign tissue inside the body. 

Now, regenerative medicine has evolved to 3D printed organs made from certain polymers for patients with life-threatening organ-failure conditions. Similarly, cellular therapies replace damaged cells with healthy cells using stem cell therapy. Many new regenerative medicine techniques, including organ generation from cells, are still being researched. If approved, such innovations can minimize risks like organ rejection and damage due to radiation therapy. 

  1. Brain Mapping 

Imaging technologies like MRI and CT scans have enabled us to view organs and organ systems, identifying abnormalities in preliminary stages. Society of Brain Mapping and Therapeutics defines brain mapping as the study of the brain’s functioning and anatomy using imaging immunohistochemistry, stem cell and cellular biology, neurophysiology, molecular and optogenetics, and nanotechnology. 

Neuroscientists have mapped our most complex organ within a decade by identifying the neural circuits responsible for various functions. Further development in this area can result in a better understanding of differences in the brain structure of patients who suffer from neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, Schizophrenia, epilepsy, etc. Comparative analysis of brain circuits of healthy and mentally ill people can result in a better understanding of the disorders and, as a result, the development of better therapeutic techniques. 

Medical discoveries and healthcare innovations are ongoing processes. Each discovery leads to further innovations in healthcare procedures, optimizing them to match the current trends in healthcare. Such discoveries enable us to make more informed decisions regarding our health and well-being. From impacting fitness, and dietary requirements, to disease management, such breakthroughs make us more aware.