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WKYC: Cleveland Clinic unveils top ten medical innovations for 2016

Monica Robins 

Cleveland Clinic today unveiled its 10th annual listing of the 10 most powerful medical innovations of the coming year.

The announcement climaxed the 2015 Medical Innovation Summit, which drew more than 1,600 people to the Cleveland Convention Center.

Topping the list of the Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2016 are new, faster methods of creating vaccines, a process for rewriting genetic code, and a self sustaining water purification system for the developing world.

The breakthrough drug therapies, medical devices and public health initiatives were selected by a panel of 110 Cleveland Clinic physicians and scientists.

Here, in order of anticipated importance, are the Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2016:

1.Speedier Vaccines to Prevent Public Health Epidemics

Researchers are developing effective vaccines faster than ever to prevent epidemics. It’s an effort given new urgency by the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Africa and of bacterial meningococcal (Meningococcal B) outbreaks in the United States.

“The rapid scientific response to recent epidemics indicates that we’ve achieved a new level of sophistication in the area of vaccine development,” says Steven Gordon, MD, chair of the Department of Infectious Disease at Cleveland Clinic. “It was a global effort involving thousands of people, aided by information technology and instant communication.”

The most promising Ebola vaccine emerged in only 12 months. While it has not yet been licensed for use in humans, Cleveland Clinic experts estimate a safe, effective Ebola vaccine will be available in 2016.

2.Genomics-based Clinical Trials

Genetic profiling offers new hope to people suffering fatal diseases, like late-stage cancer. By upending a 50-year-old research model, genomic-based tests may increase the speed and flexibility of clinical trials and guide desperate patients to the most promising experimental treatments.

“Patients are waiting too long to enter clinical trials for drugs that may or may not be effective for their specific variation of cancer,” says Charis Eng, MD, PhD, chair of the Cleveland Clinic Genomic Institute. “End-stage cancer patients especially may not have that time.

3. Gene Editing using CRISPR

Once, altering the DNA of human embryos, or any organisms, was the stuff of science fiction. Thanks to a new, inexpensive technique called CRISPR, gene editing is being adopted in labs everywhere.

CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. It can identify and remove bad genes from a DNA strand for as little as $30.

The speed at which CRISPR is sweeping the world is causing excitement but also anxiety, due to the unknown impact of altered organisms on ecosystems and the ethics of altering human embryos. What’s clear is that CRISPR’s impact on the human population will be tremendous.

4. Water Purification System for the Developing World

In much of the world, it is not uncommon to see sewage pool in the streets with nowhere to go but into the local drinking water. An estimated 700 million people worldwide are drinking unsafe water daily, according to the World Health Organization.

A new kind of waste treatment plant may offer an affordable solution. It has shown promise converting human waste into clean drinking water while also generating electricity to run the machine. The sewage processor costs about $1.5 million and is able to handle the waste of about 100,000 people daily. It is now being tested in Dakar, Senegal.

5. Cell-free Fetal DNA Testing

The desire to deliver healthy babies has created a $2 billion pregnancy wellness market yet not calmed parent’s fears about genetic diseases, like Down ‘s syndrome. The standard blood and ultrasound tests often produce vague results that demand more invasive, often inconclusive testing.

Studies show that Cell-free Fetal DNA Testing more accurately predicts Down’s and Edwards’s syndromes. This testing will soon be widely available, bringing more certainty to parents all over the world.

6. Cancer Screening via Protein Biomarker Analysis

In 2016, a new biomarker platform is hitting the market that should offer more accurate cancer screenings and more chances of early detection. Protein biomarker analysis focuses on changes in the structure of certain proteins circulating in the body blood. In contrast to examining genetic mutations, which can indicate the risk of cancer, the new tests give real-time information on cancer’s presence.

7. Naturally Controlled Artificial Limbs

In recent years, researchers have discovered that neural signals associated with limb movement can be de-coded by computers. More recently, they have demonstrated that sensors implanted in the brain can control prosthetic arms, wheelchairs and even a full body exoskeleton. Now researchers are working on making “brain-machine interfaces,” BMIs, safer and cheaper with lower-cost robotic components.

The idea of brain-powered prosthetics has gone from “What if?” to “When?”

8. First Treatment for HSDD

Several medications address male sexual dysfunction, but what about a women’s loss of sexual desire? Here comes Cupid. In 2015, the FDA approved flibanserin, the first medication designed to treat female hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), or loss of sexual desire in premenopausal women.

“This innovative medication is well-studied and it does help restore sexual desire in women who have HSDD,” says Holly L. Thacker, MD, Professor and Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health.

“The medication is intended to restore a woman’s sexual desire to her personal baseline,” she cautions. “It is not an aphrodisiac.”

9. Frictionless Remote Monitoring

For people with diabetes, monitoring glucose levels requires periodic poking with needles. But what if the person could wear a skin-top biosensor that measures insulin and report the results to both patient and doctor? Needle-free glucose monitoring is only example of remote health monitoring that is frictionless, requiring almost no action from the patient.

Other frictionless remote monitoring devices in development include a bandage that reads sweat molecules to diagnose pregnancy, hypertension or hydration.

10. Neurovascular Stent Retrievers

With strokes, time kills. The blood clot must be removed within three to six hours to prevent long term disability, brain damage or death.

For years, the only FDA-approved treatment has been a clot-busting drug that is not always effective, which is why doctors are excited about neurovascular stent retrievers.

The tiny, wire-caged device enters the body through a catheter, seizes the blood clot and removes it. Studies found that stroke victims whose clots were removed via stent retriever had speedier recoveries and improved chances of regaining independence.

Look for the device to become a tool in every stroke unit by the end of 2016.

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