As we begin 2020, we bring you news centered around medical breakthroughs. We look back on what has moved medical research forward during the past decade and key breakthroughs of the last 10 years that created the foundation for scientific exploration of disease for the next decade. These articles include new discoveries building upon those foundations and offering hope for life-saving and life-improving therapeutics in areas such as chronic pain, dementia, and depression, as well as new discoveries in gene editing and machine learning.
Gene Therapy Arrives
The idea for gene therapy—a type of DNA-based medicine that inserts a healthy gene into cells to replace a mutated, disease-causing variant—was first published in 1972. After decades of disputed results, treatment failures, and some deaths in experimental trials, the first gene therapy drug was approved in China in 2003 for a type of skin cancer.
These Biomedical Breakthroughs of the decade Saved Lives and Reduced Suffering
CNBC asked biotech experts to weigh in on the biggest breakthroughs of the past decade, key events included the first Ebola vaccine, and a curative treatment for Hepatitis C. Much of the work of the past decade is foundational and could be setting us up for many more advancements in the next ten years.
Will Prime Editors be the New CRISPR?
Researchers are already looking beyond Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) to the next new gene-editing technique—say hello to prime editing. “If CRISPR is like scissors … then you can think of prime editors like word processors,” said chemist David Liu in an October press briefing. He went on to explain that, while CRISPR cuts through DNA’s double helix to snip out genes, prime editing searches for and replaces targeted genes without such slicing and dicing, reducing the risk of unintended changes to the genetic code.
Groundbreaking Study Links Inflammation with Mental Sluggishness for the First Time
Scientists say there is a link between mental fatigue and physical inflammation. The correlation could explain why sufferers of chronic medical conditions often report severe mental “sluggishness,” alongside physical symptoms. A joint research project between the University of Alabama and the University of Birmingham investigated the links between inflammation—how the body responds to illness—and the mental "fog" described by those living with chronic pain.
Psilocybin Study Shows Positive Results in Healthy Volunteers
The largest controlled study of psilocybin to date has announced positive results in a Phase I trial by academic institute Kings College London. The results are clinically reassuring and support further development of psilocybin as a treatment for patients struggling with their mental health and haven’t improved with conventional therapy, such as treatment-resistant depression.
A New Deep Learning Approach to Predict Disease-Associated Mutations
Artificial intelligence (AI)—the capability of a machine to mimic human behavior—has become a key player in high-techs like drug development projects. AI tools help scientists uncover secrets behind big biological data using optimized computational algorithms.