The Miracle of ScienceMedical breakthroughs made decades ago may have led to technologies that seem commonplace today, and at the same time, brand new discoveries now offer the potential to develop even more life-saving technology in the future.
Here are some of those life-saving and money-saving developments, some of which we may already take for granted.
Photo Credit: jurvetson
X-raysImpact: Anyone who watches medical shows on TV knows X-rays aren’t just used to look at broken bones. Doctors examine the subtleties in X-rays to identify injured or diseased areas of the body. Before X-rays, finding out the source of a health problem was a much more invasive procedure.
When it was invented: In 1895, a German physicist named Wilhelm Roentgen created the X-ray machine while experimenting with electron beams in a gas discharge tube, according to HowStuffWorks.com.
MammogramImpact: Regular mammograms as X-ray screenings for breast cancer have become part of regular medical checkups for women over 40 or 50 and even some men. Detecting breast cancer early with a regular mammogram can not only be life saving, it could prevent you from racking up serious medical bills that come with the more aggressive treatment required for more advanced stages of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Since their widespread use in the 1980s, mammograms have decreased the incidence of deaths due to breast cancer significantly, with rates dipping 3.2% from 1990 to 2006 among women younger than 50, the ACS says.
When it was invented: Modern mammography came about in the late 1960s, according to ACS.
Photo Credit: NIH
Targeted Cancer DrugsImpact: Once targeted drugs were created, cancer patients undergoing nauseating and dangerous chemotherapy and radiation had a new treatment option that broke down tumors without harming normal, healthy cells. Targeted cancer drugs focus on characteristics particular to cancer cells, which removes the risk of harming other cells. They also could be more effective than chemotherapy and radiation, according to the National Cancer Institute.
When they were discovered: Targeted cancer drug Gleevec was developed in the 1990s and was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002, according to MIT. Currently, targeted cancer drugs are often the first line of defense against the spread of the disease.
Photo Credit: Prairiekittin
Flu VaccineImpact: About 63,000 deaths are attributed to the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in addition to saving lives, the influenza vaccine can also save companies money when the shot is administered to employees. Influenza is responsible for substantial indirect costs to business ($6.2 billion annually), mainly from lost productivity. Each year, among adults age 18 to 64 years, 17 million workdays are lost to influenza-related illness, according to the CDC.
When it was discovered: The influenza virus was discovered in the early 1930s, and scientists developed a working vaccine by the 1940s, when it was first used on soldiers during World War II, according to Time Magazine. The flu vaccine is still made using eggs, the same way it was decades ago, but a new strain of the flu virus is targeted every year.
Photo Credit: USACE Europe District
PenicillinImpact: At the height of its use, penicillin was a cure-all that prevented the growth of bacteria. And today, infectious bacterial diseases kill just one-twentieth as many people as in 1900, before antibiotics, according to Utah State University.
Antibiotics have also contributed to a reduced incidence of a mother’s death during childbirth, according to the United Nations. Currently, drugs related to penicillin are available in their cheaper generic form and are often the first antibiotics prescribed.
When it was discovered: In 1928, Alexander Fleming of St. Mary's Hospital in London came across penicillin by accident in the mold that formed on an old Petri dish, according to PBS.
Today there are at least 20 kinds of penicillin antibiotics, according to some reports.
Photo Credit: aeruginosa
AmniocentesisImpact: Parents-to-be who know of serious genetic disorders that run in their families are often concerned about having children that have to bear the same burden as other family members. The amniocentesis, a test that analyzes the amniotic fluid that supports a fetus, can identify many of these genetic abnormalities including spina bifida and cystic fibrosis.
When it was invented: Extracting amniotic fluid has been traced back to the late 1800s. Today, they’re generally conducted between 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy, but they’re rare compared to studies like the ultrasound because there is a small risk of miscarriage.
Photo Credit: tymcode
The Human GenomeImpact: The human genome includes tens of thousands of genes in human DNA that may be used to develop new treatments even for diseases once considered untreatable. Understanding the genetic makeup of human beings allows scientists to better analyze medical conditions and develop more targeted - even personalized - treatments for diseases.
When it was discovered: The complete human genome was identified in 2003. However, it can take 10 to 15 years for research today to result in a new drug, according to Genome.gov, as well as billions of dollars in funds for research and development.
Photo Credit: dullhunk
Non-Embryonic Stem CellsImpact: Patients with serious injuries or other conditions could benefit from adult-derived stem cells that work similarly to embryonic cells, which can turn into almost any type of cell in the body. For instance, bone marrow stem cells can become bone, marrow or blood. And beyond treating health problems, stem cells can even be used as part of a breast augmentation procedure.
When they were discovered: The regenerative capabilities of cells have been known since at least 1740, according to the University of Miami, and stem cells have been used to rebuild shattered bones and damaged organ tissue. However, the use of stem cells is still experimental.
Photo Credit: GE Healthcare
Face TransplantsImpact: Serious and traumatic facial injuries can disrupt everyday activities including eating and breathing and turn a patient into a recluse. But with continued development in facial reconstructive surgery, including complete face transplants, patients who haven’t seen the light of day in decades can finally be more comfortable showing their faces in public.
When they began: There have been a number of facial transplants conducted to date, with several that are claimed to be the first. The first one in the U.S. was done in December 2008, according to Discover Magazine.
Photo Credit: Julia Coutinho
Reviving the HeartImpact: Defibrillators used in hospitals as well as those implanted into the chest can help extend the lives of loved ones with heart problems. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC.
When they were invented: The defibrillator was invented by Dr. William Bennett Kouwenhoven and others in 1933 at Johns Hopkins University, according to the university.
The implanted defibrillator came about in the 1980s, according to the American Medical Association.
Photo Credit: Mykl Roventine
Read More: health