Something new is always happening in the health field, and it can be tough to stay on top of all the latest developments. That’s why the team at Healthline has rounded up their picks for the most important medical news stories of 2013.
The Affordable Care Act Rolls Out
Healthcare reform, as well as its highly publicized rollout woes, took center stage all year—and it is likely to remain in the spotlight in 2014. The introduction of reform legislation was big news, no matter how controversial.
“It’s the most important change in U.S. healthcare policy in more than a generation,” said Charles Purdy, Healthline’s managing editor of products.
Researchers Discover Why We Sleep
A new study published in Science showed that the body's glymphatic system washes away harmful protein build-up in the brain while we snooze. Researchers found that brain cells shrink by up to 60 percent during sleep so there is more room for fluids to rinse out toxins.
David Heitz, a Healthline contributor, said that reporting on neurology stories like this one was valuable for him because of his father’s recent dementia diagnosis.
Scientists Cure a Viral Disease for the First Time
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed that two new drugs, sofosbuvir and simeprevir, receive full approval. Advanced clinical trials have shown promising results for the prescription drugs, which could cure the approximately 3.2 million Americans with hepatitis C.
“A true cure for a viral plague—this is a real triumph, not only for public health, but also for millions of people battling the disease,” Purdy said.
California Father Makes a Genetic Breakthrough
Hugh Rienhoff Jr., M.D., a biotech entrepreneur in California, took his daughter’s mysterious disorder into his own hands and found a genetic mutation that may be the cause of her inability to grow muscle mass. Her defective gene generates a non-functional protein that interrupts the production of a growth protein.
The breakthrough was “a huge step toward curing his frighteningly delicate daughter,” said Aaron Moncivaiz, a production editor at Healthline.
Vinegar Cancer Test Saves Lives in India
In the U.S., pap tests and HPV screenings help detect cervical cancer early, but those tests aren’t as readily available in India. Instead, scientists created a test using vinegar to detect the disease in the slums of India. It has reportedly cut cervical cancer death rates by one-third.
Pragnesh Hariawala, Healthline’s senior manager of medical informatics, nominated this story.
Stem Cell Conference Hosted by the Vatican
The second annual Adult Stem Cell Conference was held this year in Vatican City and spotlighted connections between faith and adult stem cell research.
“My dad went through a clinical trial for adult stem cells, and his doctor was invited to speak on his research and brought my dad to speak about his experience and success in the program. The conference was a big step for stem cell research, as it opened communication between medicine and religion,” said Maggie Danhakl, Healthline’s assistant marketing manager.
Batkid Saves San Francisco
When young leukemia patient Miles Scott had his wish granted by the Make-a-Wish Foundation, it captured the nation's attention. He turned San Francisco into Gotham City for one day, and his crime-fighting antics were adorable.
“I think it is significant that 13,000 volunteers and who knows how many spectators came to see this kid save the day. It restores, on some level, our faith in humanity,” said Lynn Lobo, a software engineer for Healthline.
Niemann-Pick Type C Takes Center Stage
This rare genetic disease, of which there are only about 500 cases in the world, affects a child’s mobility, speech, and ability to swallow—and it is often fatal. The story of Addi and Cassi brought this disease into the spotlight, and stressed the urgency of finding a cure. Hariawala also nominated this piece.
Obesity Is Classified as a Disease
Over the summer, the American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease, paving the way for more treatments and better health insurance coverage.
“It has been a wholesale epidemic that we can now get resources to hopefully stem,” said George Krucik, M.D., Healthline’s director of clinical content.
Statin Use Moves Beyond the Numbers
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines governing the ways doctors should prescribe statins, which are commonly used to lower cholesterol The guidelines move beyond the traditional goal of getting a patient's cholesterol level down to a certain numeric target. Krucik also nominated this story.
An HIV Vaccine Comes Closer to Fruition
This year, HIV research moved ahead by leaps and bounds. New vaccine compounds are in the works, including one made from a chemical found in tree bark.
“The threat of HIV/AIDS has profoundly affected the global population for the past 30 years. What a turnaround if we no longer have to live with the fear of infection,” said Debra Alban, a product manager at Healthline.
A New Model for Weight Loss Emerges
A new study shows that vegans and vegetarians can lose more weight than omnivores, pesco-vegetarians, and semi-vegetarians. The real news here is that eating from a certain food group—instead of simply counting calories—could be a viable model for weight loss in the future. This piece was nominated by Healthline contributor Kristen Fischer.