Monthly Archives: December 2016

Medical Breakthroughs of 2016

As we come to the end of 2016, I thought I would talk about a few of the medical advances we have seen over the last year, such as the new prostate cancer treatment, three-person babies, and a new way to approach neurosurgery.

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen the new prostate cancer treatment come into the news. It involves a drug that is made from bacteria that live on the sea floor, in complete darkness. These bacteria become toxic when exposed to light. As for the procedure, this drug is injected into the bloodstream of the cancer sufferer, and then fibre optic lasers are inserted through the perineum into the cancerous prostate. When the laser is switched on, it provides the light source this drug needs to kill the cancer cells, and then leaves behind a healthy prostate gland.

A trial was completed on 413 men with prostate cancer across 47 different hospitals. 49% of the men had no remaining signs of cancer. Usually 30% of men with prostate cancer need their prostate removed, whereas only 6% required it who undertook the new treatment.

The first three-person baby was born in Mexico and the process has just been approved in the UK, with the hope of the first baby being born at the end of 2017. The aim is to prevent children being born with genetically lethal diseases such as mitochondrial diseases meaning children have insufficient energy to keep their heart beating. There are two ways in which this can be done. The first is to fertilise two eggs-one from the mother and one from the donor-and remove the nucleus from the mother’s egg and it is inserted into the other egg in replace of the donor’s nucleus. This egg will have the healthy mitochondria and so the child will grow up without the inherited disease. The other method is to insert the mother’s nucleus into the donor egg before fertilising. Both methods will ensure the child has the majority of genetic material from the mother and father; a very small amount of mitochondrial DNA will have been passed down by the donor.

A new combination of drugs for cystic fibrosis has been tested this year. These drugs prevent really thick mucus being made and of the people that this drug was tested on, lung decline per year decreased from 2.3% to 1.3%. This is extremely promising in the development of treatment for cystic fibrosis.

A man who had tremors in his right hand underwent brain surgery but instead of using conventional surgery equipment, an MRI scanner and ultrasound waves were the chosen pieces of equipment. More than 1000 ultrasound beams are focussed onto specific points in the brain and they can generate enough heat to destroy the abnormal brain tissue. An MRI scanner is used to monitor the process and the patient remained awake throughout. The man experienced immediate recovery and clearly there were none of the risks associated with the usual way of performing neurosurgery. The man no longer had any tremors and many people think that this method could be used in the future to treat multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological diseases.

The final thing I am going to talk about is also a type of surgery. A man who had lost his central vision in his right eye had surgery. The surgeon completed the operation using a joystick that controlled a robot arm with a thin needle attached that can even filter out the surgeon’s tremors. With this joystick, the surgeon removed a membrane covering the centre of the retina that was only 1/100th of a millimetre thick. The hole left in the retina later closed up and his vision had fully recovered. The surgeon said that the ‘robot performed better than the human hand’. This method shall hopefully be used more often in the coming years.

2016 has seen some incredible medical advances and I’ve just picked out five of them. I hope those of you who have taken time to read all the way to the end (sorry for the length) have found something interesting in here. Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! ­čÖé

Work Experience in a GP surgery

Between the 12th and 16th December, I spent some time sitting alongside various medical professionals, all within a doctors’ surgery. The week gave me a chance to see what the work life is really like in a practice; I sat with a GP, Nurse Practitioner, and a Practice Nurse, all of which gave me different perspectives of healthcare.

Although my week was just a shadowing opportunity, rather than experiencing first-hand what the jobs are like, I found it extremely insightful and has helped me when considering the field of general practice. I sat with the medical professionals while they saw to patients; observations, diagnosis and  prescription. A good portion of my time was used for asking questions, to learn more about the roles I was observing. This experience as a whole helped me understand what the day-to-day life of GP, Nurse Practitioner, and practice nurses are like.

The one key thing I learnt from my time at the practice was the importance of listening to patients, showing empathy and being generally friendly to them as some patients can be very nervous or uncomfortable when seeking medical advice. It was apparent that some patients were in no need of any prescription, although it was still important that this was respected, as many people aren’t sure when they should come and see their doctors. Also in this scenario, patients require reassurance on their health when they are concerned about their symptoms, or in general when a patient may be suffering with ┬ámental illness. Another part of the job that is probably overlooked, is explaining to patients what they should do next, in terms of medication, dosage, lifestyle choices or booking further appointments. A patients life can be made a lot easier by explaining everything to them, rather than leaving them unsure about certain aspects of the upcoming weeks.

I would definitely say to people that are thinking about applying for medicine at university, that getting some work shadowing experience in a GP surgery is a great thing to do, as you will learn far more than you anticipate, and you will also get a good insight into the field of general practice; this will help you choose whether you think it is for you or not.

Welcome to my blog!

My name is Ollie and I have the intention of studying medicine at university in the near future. I am currently in year 12 at school studying biology, chemistry, physics and maths A-Levels. I will be using this blog to document my experiences in healthcare environments, taking time to reflect on these experiences as well as current issues or news stories relating to the medical world.

I’ve been interested in studying medicine for a few years now and really think that medicine would be the course that I would really enjoy studying. I feel that it is extremely well-suited to my nature as a ‘people person’ and having the ability to help people out and change lives on a day-to-day basis would be extremely rewarding. I hope that at least one person reading this blog can take something from it, especially if, like me, you’re pretty interested in medicine.

I have recently undertaken a two-day residential course at the University of Nottingham (Medlink) for year 12 students interested in pursuing a career in medicine. For anyone considering a career as a doctor, I would really recommend this course, as it was extremely useful, as it gave us different ways to boost our applications for medical school. It is also a chance for people who aren’t sure whether medicine is for them, to gain more of an insight into the admissions process and life of a medical professional.

I will aim to write a blog post about once a week, and I hope that many of you find this useful in the coming weeks and months, as I take my steps to hopefully being accepted into medical school. ­čÖé