The last 10 years have seen an onslaught of new medical discoveries and technologies, with many of them bordering on science fiction.
These discoveries have changed the way people live now and how they will live in the future.
Here are some of the biggest advances in medical science in the last decade — though this is by no means a complete list.
CRISPR gene editing
CRISPR is the name of a technique used to quickly and easily edit DNA — either snipping off genes entirely or replacing them with different ones.
The basic mechanism was discovered decades ago, but the technology has taken off in the last few years after it became more precise and easier to use. Right now, scientists are experimenting with editing the DNA of mosquitos to make them resistant to malaria or to make all offspring male, meaning they’re less likely to pass the disease on to humans.
Yes, we’re editing DNA now. Experts warn this won’t be without consequences. Studies have already shown that some CRISPR-edited cells get damaged and are missing a gene, leading to a potentially higher risk of cancer.
Then there are the ethical issues.
In 2018, a Chinese researcher claimed to have edited the genes of two unborn twin girls with the goal of immunizing them against HIV.
His experiments were not published in journals, nor were full results ever released, raising questions about the experiment. His claim was also roundly denounced by pretty much every medical body as well as the Chinese government.
But can we shut the door on human DNA editing? We’ll find out over the next decade.
Medications to treat HIV have been around for a while, and they’re very effective: drugs can actually reduce a person’s “viral load” — the amount of virus circulating in their blood — to undetectable levels. This means that it’s very unlikely, even impossible, for them to pass the virus on to others if the medication is used correctly. It’s also vastly extended the expected lifespan for someone following an HIV diagnosis.
In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of an HIV drug for prophylactic purposes — meaning people could use it to actually keep from catching HIV in the first place. The drug, Truvada, which was approved by Health Canada for HIV prevention in 2016, and subsequent generic versions are now being used by high-risk populations across Canada.
So far, prescriptions for PrEP have lagged behind public health officials’ hopes — which might be due to spotty drug coverage and the high cost of the medication — but it has made a difference. A recent study found that PrEP use was associated with a significant reduction in the number of new infections in an Australian state.
Ebola vaccines and treatments
While we’re talking about infectious diseases, it’s definitely worth noting another big one: Ebola.
Ebola outbreaks are ongoing in a few African countries, mostly the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. In 2014, a huge outbreak across West Africa killed more than 11,000 people.
It’s a nasty disease. It kills more than half of people who catch it, often through internal and external hemorrhagic bleeding.
However, over the last decade, we’ve seen clinical trials for various vaccines and even treatments for the disease, which are showing promising results. One vaccine, Ervebo, has even passed the clinical trial phase and was approved for use in November. It’s now being stockpiled for use in future outbreaks.
Although Ebola generally occurs far away from Canada, there is a Canadian connection: some vaccines and treatments were actually developed by researchers at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
The term “artificial pancreas” is a bit of a misnomer, according to Diabetes Canada, but it’s the popular term for a device approved in the U.S. in 2016 and in Canada in 2018 to help treat patients with Type 1 diabetes. It’s more formally called a “closed-loop” system.
People with Type 1 diabetes no longer produce insulin. They used to have to take injections of insulin throughout the day to regulate their blood sugar and cut their risk of developing longer-term health problems like nerve issues that can lead to amputation or retinal problems leading to blindness.
Many patients have since moved on to more modern insulin pumps and testing devices.
This device makes things even easier. It first reads a patient’s insulin level, then decides via algorithm how much insulin to give them, shooting “microdoses” of the drug into their bloodstream automatically. The patient still has to add extra insulin in a few other circumstances, such as before a meal, but studies report these systems often lead to better control of blood sugar levels.
Diabetes advocates are looking forward to the development of a fully automatic system or a true “artificial pancreas” that requires no intervention from the patient, and also for better insurance coverage of these advanced devices.
One of the coolest new technologies is 3D printing, in which an object is created bit by bit from a computer pattern. And it didn’t take long for medical researchers to see the potential.
Doctors have created a handful of 3D-printed organs and body parts, but over the last decade, 3D-printed prosthetics have really taken off.
Need a new hand? Just visit a website and you can download a blueprint for free, along with detailed instructions on how to size and build it. Seriously. There has been an open-source community for years, run largely by volunteers. The organization e-NABLE estimates that thousands of people around the world are now using these prosthetics.
They’re not perfect: the devices can break, and e-NABLE recommends that people work closely with a health-care provider as they use their new prosthetic. But they’re much cheaper than traditional models and can be made much faster, putting prosthetics in reach for more people around the world.
Experts imagine that the medical applications for 3D printing will continue to expand, with complex organs like a replacement heart possibly coming down the road.
– Global News
The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life
Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.
That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.
What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?
Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.
Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.
Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations
As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.
Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:
- Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
- Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
- Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.
Determining a Fair Payment Plan
Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.
Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.
Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers
When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:
- Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
- Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
- Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
- Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.
Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.
Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.
Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home
THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.
The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.
No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.
Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.
Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister
Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.
Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.
“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”
Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.
“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.
LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.
“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.
The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.
LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.
From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.
On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.
“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.
LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.
“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.
She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.
Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.
LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.
“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.
–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News
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