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New Technology in the Medical Field

Photo taken under Creative Commons LLC.

Photo taken under Creative Commons LLC.

Erik Carter, Reporter

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At the brink of the 21st century, researchers created many advancements in the medical field with newfound technology. Thanks to the continuous growth in technology since then, researchers can now make the impossible a reality, starting with a potential cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s is the most notable of the many different branches of dementia, a general term for a decline in mental ability. Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by the buildup of amyloid plaques near neurons in the brain and causes symptoms that develop over a long period of time, such as memory loss, trouble thinking and behavior problems.

At the moment there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, and those who are diagnosed with the disease may live from four to 20 years after their diagnosis. However, a new treatment being used in lab mice shows hope in finding a cure for the disease.

As mice grow older, they sometimes develop an Alzheimer’s-like disease. Researchers have found that when mice are injected with a protein called IL-33, which is found abundantly in the central nervous system, the mice’s immune cells in their brain seem to jumpstart and go off to attack and absorb the mice’s very own amyloid plaques.

After a week of treatment with this protein, the mice’s symptoms seem to completely reverse, restoring the mice’s brains back to normal levels and preventing any more amyloid plaques from forming again. It is only a matter of time before human testing is hopefully done.

Dr. Clark Smith works at Arkansas Hospice located in central Arkansas, and he typically deals with patients with serious diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. When Dr. Smith was told about this type of possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and its chances for human success, he gave a positive response to it.

“Immunotherapy seems to be along the lines of what that study is,” Dr. Smith stated. “This is when the body uses certain proteins to target a specific part of the body. They [researchers] are starting to find a lot of treatments with immunotherapy in cancer and other diseases.”

Technology is now making it possible for researchers to work side by side with artificial intelligence (A.I.), such as IBM’s Watson. Watson is a question answering computer system being used to provide feedback and confirmation to doctors to help them make the best decision for a patient’s treatment. Dr. Smith believes using Watson to reinforce a medical decision is amazing. He also gave his opinion on what he believes to be great achievements that technology has accomplished so far.

“Being able to send your Fitbit logs and EKGs [electrocardiography] to your doctor so they can pick up on abnormalities and having medical charts electronically instead of in a room somewhere is very helpful,” Dr. Smith said.

Dr. Smith does believe there is a significant problem that should be worked on in the medical field, the transfer of medical data.

“If you look at a big city like New York with a hundred different software systems in the city, none of the systems know how to talk to each other,” Dr. Smith said. “If a doctor needs to see the results of a test from a hospital, they still need to use a fax machine, which is something that was used 30 to 40 years ago. Any other big industry in the United States, I guarantee, is not using fax machines. Healthcare is overall way behind with distributing data; I am hoping there is soon going to be a better way of doing it.”

Dr. Smith wants everyone to remember what he believes is the most important philosophy a doctor should follow.

“While all the technology is evolving, I think at the same time we have to continue to listen to our patients and have a strong relationship,” Dr. Smith expressed. “That is always going to be important. Knowing what is important to our patients is the biggest step.”

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New Technology in the Medical Field