Stem Cells Offer Hope For Hearing Loss
Specialized ear cells that are crucial to hearing have been successfully grown from stem cells taken from lab mice. This could enable scientists to grow cell replacements for damaged hair cells in the inner ear that cause 60%-90% of hearing loss and contribute to a condition called tinnitus - a ringing in the ears.

Related Stories: Stem Cells-ALS | Stem Cells-MS | Stem Cells-Diabetes

 Multiple Sclerosis Breakthrough
Canadian scientists completely reverse Multiple Sclerosis in laboratory mice by  combining individual proteins that suppress the immune system and put the disease into complete remission.

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 Alzheimer's Disease Breakthrough
Cited as the biggest advance in 15 years, a team of scientists from Britain and France discover three genes that could help them develop a cure for the memory-robbing disease.

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Diabetic Retinopathy Reversed in Mice

Discovery opens path for drugs to treat, prevent devastating eye diseases

Two major eye diseases and leading causes of blindness—age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy—can be reversed or even prevented by drugs that activate a protein found in blood vessel cells, researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine and several other institutions have announced in a new study.

Damage from both diseases was prevented and even reversed when the protein, Robo4, was activated in mice models that simulate age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, according to Dean Y. Li, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study published March 16 in Nature Medicine online.


MS Drug Keeps People On The Move

Multiple sclerosis patient
People with multiple sclerosis can have difficulty walking

A drug which allows multiple sclerosis patients to walk more quickly has passed the next step in its testing

The MS Society in the UK said that Frampridine could have a real impact on the quality of life of some patients.

Drug company Acorda tested the drug on 240 patients, and found more than two-fifths of people showed improvement.

It plans to seek a US safety licence early in 2009.


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 Anti-HIV Drugs Reduce Some Vision Loss

 New Therapy for Uveitis Shows Promise

 'Lazy Eye" Treatment For Adults Encouraging

Researchers Close To Creating Bionic Eye

Scientists at the Boston Retinal Implant Project recently developed an implant that will help those with degenerative blindness see again.  The implant, while not a complete bionic eye, is said to be a huge step forward in that direction and works by transmitting light to the brain via a tiny nerve after implant at the back of the eye.


Son's Tooth Helps Blind Irishman Regain Vision

Two years after being blinded by a freak accident at a recycling business, 57 year old Bob McNichol can see again. After doctors in Ireland wrote him off, he learned about a "miracle operation" being performed by Dr. Christopher Liu at a hospital in Brighton, England. The operation used his 23 year old son's tooth to hold a lens. 


Top Medical Breakthroughs of 2007

From Prevention Magazine

10 remarkable innovations in detection and treatment that are making a stunning impact on women's health

Over the past 12 months, cutting-edge scientists have unveiled an astonishing array of drugs, devices, and treatments that foreshadow a fresh approach to preventing and conquering disease. With the help of our esteemed editorial advisors, we assembled a list of the most impressive among them, then asked ourselves which advances would most interest our readers and their families. From noninvasive alternatives to breast biopsies to new weapons against deadly infections, here are the most promising health advances of the last year.

Learn more about the science behind the breakthoughs, read about the big improvements on the horizon for four commonly-used medical tools, and see what in-the-works innovations our experts are raving about.

Breakthrough that could save millions of lives

If you're not revived within 5 minutes after cardiac arrest, you're as good as dead. But researchers now know that the window of time for survival could triple if the body is cooled by several degrees soon after the heart stops beating. In hospitals, doctors are using cooling blankets that circulate icy water to minimize brain damage and revive "temporarily dead" people who had no heartbeat for up to 15 minutes, according to Lance Becker, MD, director of the Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania. In a 2007 animal study, cooling boosted the rate of survival immediately after cardiac arrest from 10 to 60%, Becker says. Researchers are now trying to develop an injectable, icy slurry that lowers body temperature within seconds and that emergency workers could administer on the spot. (Doctors say putting ice or cold compresses on a heart attack victim at home is unlikely to help much: The brain and organs are too well insulated to be affected by simple aids.)

Find out more about emergency life extension.

Breakthrough that could warn of diabetes years before it develops

Tests for three proteins--all telltale signs of inflammation that are linked to insulin resistance--can predict whether women will develop diabetes years before standard screenings indicate a problem. In a 6-year study of more than 82,000 women ages 50 and older, researchers at UCLA found that the tests (already available but not widely used) accurately warned of diabetes even in people with normal blood sugar. Early alerts could enable those at high risk to make preemptive lifestyle changes and potentially help prevent the disease.

Breakthrough that could help stroke victims walk again

Stroke and other neurological impairments often cause "foot drop"--a gait condition in which patients can't step heel first, making it difficult to walk without stumbling. A new system called the NESS L300 uses a sensor in the shoe to tell a lightweight wireless device worn below the knee when the heel is on or off the ground. With this information, the device sends electrical pulses to the leg nerve that controls lifting the foot so that some patients can walk more naturally. "This is a huge improvement over wearing a brace," says Gad Alon, PhD, PT, an associate professor in the department of physical therapy and rehabilitation science at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Learn more about the NESS L300 system at

Breakthrough that restores neck movement after surgery

People with cervical degenerative disk disease who receive a new flexible artificial disk implant can bend their necks normally after surgery--a vast improvement over patients who undergo standard spinal fusion, a procedure in which a surgeon removes the diseased disk and locks adjoining vertebrae, limiting range of motion. In a 2-year, 541-patient clinical trial, patients who received the Prestige Cervical Disc System from Medtronic (approved by the FDA in July) had greater range of motion, felt less pain, and returned to work 16 days faster than patients who got the standard treatment. A 7-year follow-up study is under way to evaluate long-term safety and effectiveness.

Learn more about the Prestige Cervical Disc System, neck symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Breakthrough that could wipe out "superbugs"

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered a new weapon to fight the growing threat of drug-resistant bacteria--and it may already be in your medicine cabinet. Bisphosphonates--compounds in the bone-building drug Didronel--prevent superbugs from sharing their DNA, halting the spread of resistant strains. "Even more surprising, bisphosphonates kill cells that harbor resistant DNA, selectively eliminating the most dangerous germs," says Matt Redinbo, PhD, a professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics at UNC. Some doctors are already prescribing bisphosphonates off-label to fight infections, though the drugs can have side effects such as gastrointestinal irritation and bone damage in the jaw.

View an illustrated explanation of how bisphosphonates fight germs.

Breakthrough that speeds treatment of vaginal infections

Probiotics--friendly bacteria that thrive in the body--are known to prevent or even cure yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Now there's an OTC supplement containing the two Lactobacillus strains documented to promote vaginal health. The probiotic pill Fem-Dophilus has erased up to 90% of vaginal bacterial infections and significantly reduced yeast growth in trials by coating the lining of vaginal tissues and producing acids that keep pathogens from gaining a foothold. When women take antibiotics, Fem-Dophilus doubles the drugs' effectiveness by recolonizing the vagina with healthy flora.

Read details about Fem-Dophilus.

Breakthrough that takes the fear--and waiting--out of breast biopsies

A new ultrasound technique called elasticity imaging can determine with nearly 100% accuracy whether breast lesions are cancerous or harmless without a surgical sample. The FDA-approved system combines a manual exam with scanning to gauge how tissue inside the breast moves when pushed; malignant growths appear stiffer. Developers say elasticity imaging could reduce unnecessary breast procedures--80% of breast biopsies turn out to be benign, according to the ACS--and spare women days of anxiety waiting for biopsy results. "Decreasing invasiveness while increasing accuracy and convenience makes this a great technology," says Prevention advisor Pamela Peeke, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland.

Breakthrough that reduces menopause symptoms by half

A fast-drying, colorless gel absorbed by the skin, Elestrin treats moderate to severe hot flashes by delivering an effective low estrogen dose (0.0125 mg). That's important: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends using the lowest effective dose of estrogen for the shortest time because of possible cardiovascular and cancer risks. Four to 5 weeks into clinical trials, women using Elestrin had fewer and less severe hot flashes--usually reducing symptoms by half or more--followed by greater relief each week for most of the 12-week study.

Breakthrough that makes mammograms more accurate and comfortable

A low-radiation three-dimensional mammography CT developed at Duke University is twice as accurate and much less painful than scans that flatten the breast. Patients lie facedown on a bed with a cutout for the breast while the scanner circles it from below, eliminating distortion found in standard images of compressed breasts. However, developers say commercial use is still years away.

Learn more about the three-dimensional mammography CT.

Breakthrough that protects bones in one 15-minute dose

Half of people on oral bone-building drugs don't keep up with their meds (irritating side effects, such as stomach pain, are common). They take less than 80% of their prescribed pills each year. That's not an issue with Reclast, a new medication for treating postmenopausal osteoporosis that's given just once annually in a 15-minute infusion. Reclast improved bone density, reducing spine fractures by 70% and hip fractures by 41%, compared with a placebo, in a 3-year clinical trial of 7,765 women. Administering the infusion directly into the bloodstream eliminates digestive problems that are common with oral meds; Reclast side effects, such as fever and bone or muscle pain, usually disappear within 3 days.

Learn more about Reclast.