Top 3 Most Exciting Medical Advancements of the 21st Century
So far, the 21st century has brought a number of tragedies to the world, such as the devastating attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the economic crisis of 2008, but the past decade has not been entirely grim. In fact, the medical field has produced an astonishing number of advancements since 2000 that have already improved many lives. The following major medical breakthroughs show that working today in the healthcare industry has never been more exciting.
The Human Genome Project
Scientists involved with the Human Genome Project kicked off the new millennium by announcing the completion of an early map of human DNA. The U.S. government-funded project, which began in 1990, has revolutionized the field of genetic research by providing an indispensable gene database that scientists around the world can use for their own research.
Already, the project has led to a number of fruitful discoveries regarding the structure of human DNA and its origin. For example, geneticists can pinpoint the prehistoric origin of diseases by tracing the migration of minor gene variations between human populations. Not only does this enable people to learn more about their family susceptibility to certain diseases, but it will also allow drug manufacturers to design products tailor-made for an individual’s genetic makeup.
Stem Cell Research
The past decade has also brought many advances in stem cell research, especially when it comes to the method used to harvest them. Initially, viable stem cells could only be harvested from embryos that would be destroyed during the process. This has led to a great deal of ethical debate that has prompted governments to impose numerous restrictions that have slowed research progress.
Today, however, research organizations have discovered more ethically sound ways to harvest viable stem cells. One recent example involves scientists from the University of Central Florida, who have been able to transform umbilical cord stem cells into oligodendrocytes, the brain cells responsible for producing the insulating material needed for nerve cells to conduct electrical impulses. These findings represent a huge step in developing a cure for spinal cord injuries and debilitating nervous diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Nanotechnology is no longer the stuff of science fiction, as it is now being used by the medical field to create more sophisticated delivery systems for drugs, vaccines and other substances. Unlike more traditional delivery systems, these molecule-sized nanoparticles target specific cells, which enable them to provide an effective dose in much smaller quantities.
One of the most promising examples of nanotechnology, for instance, is currently under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using mice infected with malaria, scientists and engineers have designed a fatty molecule to provoke an immunological response similar to the harmless viruses used in traditional vaccines. Not only could these virus-free vaccines lead to safer immunizations, but they could also provide an answer to diseases (such as HIV) where the virus cannot be rendered harmless.
These examples are only a few of the many major inroads that the medical field has made over the past decade when it comes to treating diseases and other debilitating conditions. Every branch of the healthcare industry, from medical assistant training schools to research and development organizations, should expect to see significant changes resulting from these discoveries over the course of this century. By starting a career in healthcare today, you can be a part of this exciting future.
Brandi Tolleson is a prolific and dynamic freelance writer who covers topics from healthcare to entertainment.