Top scientific discoveries in the field of preventive healthcare in 2013

Year 2013 marked another significant page in the dynamic book of preventive healthcare, whose footprints shall vitalise the progress in times to come. Not all can be discussed as the subject stands wide; Xcode makesan attempt to touch upon some of the much awaited scientific discoveries of the year.

3D Mammography: Strengthening our stance in the fight against breast cancer


The researchers set out to see how breast screening using 3D mammography, also known as Digital Breast Tomosynthesis(DBT) performs incomparison with current screening practice of traditional digital mammography. 3D Mammographyor Digital Breast Tomosynthesis allows doctors to examine breast tissue one layer at a time. It generates a stack of 1 mm slice images (layers) of breast tissue. Instead of viewing the complexities of your breast tissue in one flat image, the radiologist can examine the tissue one layer at a time.These images can be viewed separately or put together as a 3D reconstruction of the breast tissue. Fine details are more clearly visible and are no longer hidden by overlapping tissues.

3D mammography in combination with traditional digital mammography detects up to 40% more invasive cancers and decreases false positive rates by 15%.

In Vitro Activation: Turning poor quality eggs into healthy ones in women


Poor quality eggs are one of the reasons because of which some women struggle to get pregnant. But researchers at Stanford University have developed a technique that helps women with ovarian insufficiency to produce healthy, mature eggs again. The process, called ‘in vitro activation’, involves removing an ovary or piece of ovarian tissue and treating it in a lab with proteins and other factors that help the immature follicles it contains to develop into eggs. The recharged tissue is then re-implanted near the fallopian tubes. So far 27 women have volunteered to test the technique out of which five produced viable eggs, one woman is pregnant and another gave birth to a healthy baby.

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Genetic test screens embryo without disturbing it: Reduced risks of genetic abnormalities


Couples at risk of having a child with genetic abnormalities can reduce this by undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and having their embryo genetically sequenced before it is implanted. This usually involves removing a cell from the dividing embryo.

SunneyXie from Harvard University and his colleagues have developed a way to sequence the maternally inherited genome of the embryo without taking a biopsy.The new approach doesn’t capture any genetic defects passed down by the father but it captures more than 70 per cent of the chromosome abnormalities. Team member Fuchou Tang of Peking University in Beijing say the method could improve the IVF success rate for live birth from around 30 to 60 per cent.

Genome editing: Opening avenues for better treatment


In January 2013, two research teams announced a fast and precise new method for editing snippets of the genetic codecalled CRISPR. This system takes advantage of a defense strategy used by bacteria. The bacteria use RNA to identify foreign DNA and enzymes to chop it up. The scientists repurposed this system so that the RNA seeks out a specific sequence of DNA — a disease-causing gene mutation.
This technique has enabled scientists to engineer parts of the human genome with extreme precision, a breakthrough which could mean new treatment possibilities for maladies such as cancer, HIV, and inherited genetic disorders. The strategy has already spawned startup companies and impressive venture capital investment.

Magnesium: The mineral that matters


A team of scientists from Italy’s University of Bologna have recently found that magnesium deficiency in our bodies can significantly change how proteins function in the body and whether or not health or disease is promoted. The human “magnesome,” as the researchers are calling it, is a set of proteins discovered within the complete makeup of human protein that function as binding sites for magnesium. The National Institutes of Health states, “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemicalreactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.”

With this discovery the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes is illuminated.”

[icon type=”icon-lamp”]“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”