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The 9 most important health discoveries of 2021

The 9 most important health discoveries of 2021

2021 was an important year for health. With the need to trust science to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the topic is becoming more and more common, and it is possible to see on a daily basis the effects of research to help the lives of the world’s population.

Vaccines are the clearest contribution: Formulas developed with the touch of a box have helped control Covid-19, lowering the number of deaths and hospitalizations and allowing the planet to return to a nearly normal routine (albeit with some limitations).

But after Covid-19, science has also advanced in other areas of health. Applications of the gene-editing technology that won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry are beginning to bear fruit in real life, new drugs for still-mysterious diseases have been approved and even a new possibility for pig-human transplants to help reduce the waiting list. Patients who required the procedure showed good results.

the capital Cities It listed the top nine health science discoveries of 2021. Check the list:

Covid-19 Vaccine

The fortifying agent, a dose of which has been applied today to 57.3% of the world’s population, according to Our World in Data, began distribution and marketing only in the first months of 2021. It is the creation of RNA formulas, which have been studied for years but never approved for any disease.

Vaccines against Covid-19 have helped the world reduce the number of deaths as a result of infection, and have proven effective even against variants of the coronavirus. Two doses of the immune agent averted complications in patients with micron-stressed, although protection is better with the booster.

Learn how Covid-19 vaccines work:

malaria vaccine

The World Health Organization, for the first time in history, has adopted a malaria vaccine for children. The announcement was made in October, and it sparked the interest of the scientific community – the formula will be important to controlling the disease.

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“I was looking forward to the day when we will have an effective vaccine against this ancient and horrific condition. Today is today, and it is a historic moment,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a note released when the organization published the statement.

It took more than 30 years to develop the immunizing agent Mosquirix, and is 56% effective against the most common strains of the parasite. Plasmodium falciparum In Africa, where the disease is most prevalent. In 2020 alone, 627,000 people died from the disease, 80% of whom were under 5 years old.

Transplanting a pig’s organ to someone

In October, doctors at New York University Langone Health were able, for the first time, to successfully transplant an organ from a pig into a human. The surgery placed a kidney created in a genetically modified animal into a brain-dead person, and after 54 hours, it was confirmed that it was working.

The pig has been genetically modified to not produce a protein associated with organ rejection in humans. The researchers predicted that it would be possible in the future to create organs in modified pigs to reduce the queue of people waiting for transplants.

Certified Alzheimer’s drug

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US equivalent of Anvisa, in June approved the first Alzheimer’s drug in 18 years. The pharmaceutical company Biogen has shown that the drug is able to dissolve protein plaques in the brains of patients – a buildup of the substance is cited as one of the reasons for the development of the condition.

The idea of ​​the drug is to slow the cognitive decline of patients early in the disease, and it is given intravenously once a month.

The approval was not without controversy: The panel that advises independently to the Food and Drug Administration disputed it, claiming that results of clinical studies were inconsistent and it would be important to wait longer before making a decision. The US agency has asked Biogen to provide a post-approval clinical trial to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks.

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Gene editing

In June, researchers at University College London (UCL) announced that they had corrected a genetic defect responsible for transthyretin amyloidosis, a rare liver disease, in six people. Genetic diseases are incurable because they are caused by errors in the patient’s DNA.

CRISPR, which scientists are using, performs a gene-editing process to erase parts of the DNA responsible for disease. The genetic engineers who developed this technique won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020, and this was the first evidence that editing is safe and effective in patients.

reverse genetic blindness

A survey conducted in the United States and published in September also showed good results with gene editing for rare diseases. Scientists were able to insert billions of viruses using CRISPR technology into the eyes of two patients with congenital Leber’s disease, which causes congenital or progressive blindness.

Seven Americans participated in the study. Having been unable to see for years, the two of them were able to see colors and silhouettes again, and were able to identify family members. The change is small, but sufficient to allow them to feed themselves and perform small tasks.

The results were enough to allow expansion of the study, which will test the technology in more patients to better understand the benefits of the technology.

covid-19 treatments

After all the controversy over which drugs would work against the coronavirus in 2020, the year 2021 came with scientifically proven discoveries. Several antiviral drugs with good effects against Covid-19 have been launched, preventing the infection from getting worse and forcing the patient to be hospitalized.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved two drugs, from Pfizer and MSD (Merck), that are in pill form and can be used at home, without the need for hospitalization like previous formulations. The goal is to prevent infected people who have a mild condition but are prone to serious cases, from getting worse.

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Anesthetic for post-traumatic stress

In May, a Phase 3 Phase 1 study reporting the use of psychedelic drugs (MDMA) in people with PTSD was published in the journal Nature Medicine. Researchers have shown very positive results, which enhances the drug’s safety and efficacy for controlled use.

The research involved 90 people with severe PTSD who had had the disease for more than 14 years. About 90% of the volunteers had already contemplated suicide, and many had a history of alcohol abuse to deal with the condition.

MDMA is not used alone in the experimental treatment of the disease – patients undergo weekly treatment sessions, some of which are done with the help of medication. The idea is to help the patient process painful memories for recovery. Research has opened doors and MDMA could be the first psychedelic drug approved in the United States to treat mental illness.

Corona virus in space

Last week, Brazilian scientists were able to send a sample of the spike protein of the Corona virus into space. The idea is to crystallize the material to develop drugs against the virus.

In a microgravity environment, the tests have better quality of experimental data, and there is less crystallization overlap, which improves the monitoring and study of proteins. The material should return to Earth within three months, and then it will be analyzed at Sirius, the CNPEM particle accelerator in São Paulo.

If this technique works, it could also be used to create drugs against diseases other than COVID-19.