Overall, 2021 will be remembered as mostly a suckfest. It was the year that deprived Betty White of her 100th birthday, just a few days away. We lived in a terrible tug of war with personal freedoms. One day we’ve got them, one day we don’t, as we attempt to stay out of the coronavirus’s way. But some good things did happen last year.
Most of those positive developments had to do with science. Of course, plenty of action happened on the COVID-19 front. But while much of the attention is on the pandemic, fellow scientists continue to work on fixing other things that try to kill us.
How Alzheimer’s Begins
There was a huge breakthrough in pinpointing the origin of Alzheimer’s Disease. Australian researchers believe they’ve come up with the cause.
“This study shows that exaggerated abundance in blood of potentially toxic fat-protein complexes can damage microscopic brain blood vessels called capillaries and, thereafter, leak into the brain, causing inflammation and brain cell death.”Dr. John Mamo in Medical News Today
Researchers believe a change in diet and some readily-available medicines could break down these fat-protein complexes and stop or slow the progression of the disease.
More than 400,000 people died from malaria in 2019. Most of them were children in the world’s tropical regions. Work on a Malaria vaccine started in the 1960s and last year it finally became a reality. The vaccine stops the parasite, spread by mosquitos, from entering the host’s liver where it settles, replicates, and infiltrates the bloodstream. Medical experts believe this vaccine could end this preventable child killer within a generation.
Scientists have identified a molecule that could be a game-changer for treating certain types of prostate cancer. Right now, the drug that’s initially effective on prostate tumors only works for a year or two. Patients develop a resistance to it. The RNA molecule is believed to be the key to suppressing the tumor, but the tumor shuts it off. Scientists say that when they’ve reinstated the molecule in mice, it took on the tumor and defeated it. One in eight men will get prostate cancer. It’s the most common cancer in men so this is a major discovery.
Immunotherapy drugs have eradicated some head and neck cancer within weeks, a 2021 study shows. Immunotherapy is something I know a thing or two about. My Mother took it as a Hail Mary strategy against stage-four lung cancer. Unfortunately, because Mom also had lupus, her immune suppression drugs battled with the immunotherapy medication and it failed for her. But it’s proving hugely successful against these other cancers.
No More Pricks
The world’s first needle-free blood sugar tester was developed last year. This short video shows it in action.
The saliva test is also being considered to sense a host of other things.
Itchy and Scratchy
The uncomfortable and unsightly curse of eczema might be the result of a hormonal imbalance.
“We often think of eczema as a dry-skin condition and treat mild cases with moisturizers. (In this study) we’re showing that a gene that’s important for making hormones seems to play a role in the skin making its own moisturizers.”Tamia Harris-Tryon at UTSW
A gene that’s responsible for moisturizing the skin gets turned off by a specific hormonal issue. Scientists are working on turning that gene back on.
The first two patients have had their sight restored with the world’s first artificial cornea implants. Because the implants are synthetic, they don’t involve the same issues as a donor implant, such as rejection or a relatively short (10-year) lifespan. The company behind the corneas, Corneat Vision, is doing the procedure on 45 patients in its initial testing phase. So far, so very good.
These times are challenging our resolve to find the positives. But they’re out there. They’re just a little harder to find. I promise I’ll keep looking for them.