Goodbye pills and needles
Diabetics could soon get their daily dose of insulin by rubbing a gel on their skin. In August 2007, Phosphagenics Ltd, an Australian biotech company, announced that a method they had developed of delivering insulin through the skin, in gel form, worked well in the phase 1 human clinical trials. Applied on the skin like a cream, the insulin penetrated into the bloodstream and worked effectively, with no adverse effects. If the phase 2 and phase 3 trials also work well, this could revolutionize the treatment of this disease. But even non-diabetics could benefit from this technology. In December 2007, the company announced that the same method of delivering a potent painkiller through the skin showed positive results in the first phase of human clinical trials.
Vacuum away acne
From pimply teenagers to glamorous actors, acne has been the bane of millions. Finally there seems to be a quick painless way to get rid of those spots, through a treatment that was once used for hair removal. The PPX Pore Cleansing Treatment involves gently vacuuming pores while shining a laser light. It is reported to work well in cases where other forms of medication or laser did not work. This treatment was approved by the USFDA for acne in 2006, but has really taken off in 2007.
Fish out those lethal lurking lipids
A seemingly perfectly healthy person with a ‘normal’ lipid profile has a heart attack out of the blue. This is not uncommon, especially among Indians. It could be due to a subfraction of lipids that often clog the arteries, but do not show up in regular lipid profiles. Now the technology to detect those hitherto hidden killers has been launched in India. It is recommended for those who have a family history of heart disease, even if the person appears perfectly healthy.
Sleep away the blues
Crazy mood swings and yo-yoing energy levels characterize manic depression, clinically known as ‘bipolar disorder’, a lifelong condition. Treatment, with various levels of success, used to be medication and psychotherapy and even electroconvulsive therapy (electric shocks) in extreme cases. In December 2007, a study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology has shown that regular routines and stable sleep patterns significantly improve the condition. A study of 175 patients with the disorder showed that those who participated in such ‘interpersonal and social rhythm’ therapy were far less likely to be manic or depressed for a longer time than those treated only clinically. It’s the first time that practical lifestyle changes have been shown to ease such life-altering symptoms.
Capturing the heart in a beat
Non-invasive and preventive, an ultra-fast method of detecting possible cardiovascular problems has become very popular in Indian hospitals. The 64-slice CT-scan can capture a beating heart in a second and provide, with appropriate software, a 3-D image of what is happening to the heart and arteries.
Jabs of life
To protect your child from pneumonia and bacterial meningitis, two Indian institutions, the Serum Institute of India Ltd and Bharat Biotech India Ltd, have developed low-cost versions of the HiB (Haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine.
Another five-in-one vaccine, which covers five common childhood diseases in a single shot, reducing the need for repeat painful injections for the child, has also been introduced in India for the first time by Sanofi Pasteur SA. It consists of five vaccines—tetanus, diphtheria, HiB, inactivated polio vaccine and acellular pertussis vaccine.
Skin, the source of new life
Stem cells have been seen as the future of medicine—as they have the potential to be used to develop ‘made to measure’ organs such as kidneys or livers or hearts to replace faltering ones. The problem was that the most versatile stem cells were the ones obtained from embryos, which leads to all kinds of ethical problems. Now scientists have found a way to reprogramme ordinary skin cells into stem cells which may be just as versatile as the embryonic ones. This means a plentiful source of stem cells that could hasten the medical revolution.
A little bit younger, a little bit fresher
So you want to look younger—enough so that people notice you look fresh, but can’t tell why. A new non-surgical facelift procedure called ‘Silhouette Thread Lift’ has just been introduced in India, and is reported to give ‘better lift’ than earlier procedures. As the name implies, it involves introducing a thread with cones, which literally pulls the skin up so lines and wrinkles disappear. It’s quick (only a day’s procedure), reliable and leaves no big scars. And the side effects and irritation are minimal.
Beat that allergy
Whether its peanuts or prawns or just your boss, millions of people go through life with without being able to do much about allergies except treat the symptoms. Now a new revolutionary drug called anti-IgE is available, to be taken as an injection twice a month. For the first time, it actually stops an allergic reaction before it begins.
Sex and the brain
Here’s something your mother most certainly didn’t tell you—sex apparently boosts brainpower. The claim is made in a book written in 2007 by a cognitive psychologist called Terry Horne and a biochemist, Simon Wooton. The book was based on leading scientific research from around the world. Sex, chocolate, fish and cold meats all help keep the brain active, according to the book. It is lifestyle choices, the authors argue, that create the chemical conditions that keep the brain agile.
A 2003 study published in the leading scientific journal Science said one of the hormones associated with sex did indeed help brain cells grow. So if you want to stay smart, you can now legitimately drop the sudoku for, more interesting activities.
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