Every year there are major health advances in research and treatment, and 2023 was no different. Though healthcare has sometimes lagged behind other industries in adopting some technologies, it seemed to make up for lost time in relation to personalized medicine and care. Likewise, strides in anti-aging research and potential treatments for growing old were also among health innovations in 2023. Even new perspectives concerning how obesity is classified and managed emerged. The following offers an overview of the health discoveries that were most noteworthy.
Moving Toward a Personal Touch
Among the most impressive health innovation is 2023 are those related to personalized medicine. Personalized medicine refers to the ability to individualize care based on a specific need. In this regard, several health discoveries this year have helped advance this particular aspect of medicine. One of these areas involves the use of customized genetic drugs that have been used to treat rare inherited disorders. Using gene editing techniques like CRISPR and RLR, companies have started making anti-sense DNA drugs. These medications provide cellular messenger RNA the information needed to produce deficient proteins. Some genetic conditions lack key proteins needed for normal cellular function, and these medications improve this. While cost barriers, side effects, and industry collaboration pose significant barriers, research done this year advanced this field greatly.
Other health discoveries this year also helped move personalized medicine along the path. In the United Kingdom, several individuals have been treated with mitochondrial replacement treatment. There are some rare genetic disorders that originate from faulty mitochondrial DNA. This therapy replaces the faulty code with normal mitochondrial DNA code. Other key health innovations in 2023 related to personalized medicine involved cancer treatments. Genetically altered white blood cells are being used to attack multiple myeloma cancer cells. Remission rates with this have been 90% in recent trials. Previously, this common blood cancer had a poor prognosis. Other treatments are using immune antibodies to attack mutant proteins associated with glioma bran cancers. Based on an individual’s brain tumor protein profile, these targeted treatments significantly slow growth. These health discoveries this year are impressive, and they highlight things to come.
Living Longer and Healthier
Another area where significant health innovations in 2023 occurred involved anti-aging medicine. Several areas are being explored because they appear to show initial promise in animal studies. One of those areas involves regenerative factors that seem to help cells regain their capacity to repair themselves. Some research is exploring plasma exchange as a potential treatment for reversing aging. By transfusing plasma from a younger person into an older person, there is some suggestion that health can improve. This relates not only to metabolism but also bone health and cognition. Other companies are investigating the use of placental stem cells in a similar fashion. Notable companies in this field include Altos Labs, Calico Life Sciences, and Hevolution Foundation. Based on research using these methods, some believe aging could be slowed by 20-30% and promote better health. These health discoveries this year are far from definitive, but they do show potential promise to slow aging effects.
Stem cells are considered to be important when trying to reverse or slow the aging process. Thus, it’s not surprising that one of the health innovations in 2023 in this field pertained to new findings about stem cells. Researchers have now found that stem cells accumulate increasing amounts of waste with age. This waste within the cell bogs down its function, and it accumulates because a key cellular organelle declines. Termed aggresomes, a lower amount of these is directly proportional to stem cell functional declines. As such, efforts are now being pursued to increase these aggresomes within stem cells. Each of these health discoveries this year are exciting when it comes to anti-aging. But much more funding and support is needed to do this costly research. Perhaps one of the major advances for 2024 will be in this area.
A Shift in Obesity Management
Research and new health discoveries this year were abundant, but at the same time, there was some shifts in medical perspectives. One of the most notable ones involved how obesity is being reframed as a disease instead of a lifestyle issue. Without question, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise are important. But key research findings found that the hypothalamus area in our brains often determines how we metabolize and store calories. Those who are genetically predisposed to one pathway tend to store calories and are thus at risk for being overweight. For these individuals, no amount of dieting and exercise will completely reverse their weight issues in the long run. It was precisely these health discoveries this year that prompted many doctors to reconsider obesity as an actual illness.
Understanding this, health innovations in 2023 included several new medications being used to treat obesity. These drugs are glucagon-like proteins that actually work at the level of the hypothalamus. Drugs like Semaglutide and Wegovy can be taken monthly and have lasting effects on weight. Overall, these health innovations in 2023 weight management can reduce body mass by 12% on average. Studies have also shown that these medications improve concurrent diabetes and heart disease. This is big news for healthcare since as many as 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese. But these medications aren’t without caveats. In addition to being $1300 a month and not covered by insurance, they can have gastrointestinal side effects. Regardless, these shifts in medical thinking about obesity will undoubtedly result in advances in this field.
Healthcare Getting Smarter
Health discoveries this year covered a broad range of medical fields. But at the same time, health innovations in 2023 also involved healthcare administration. Increasingly, cost and resource constraints have been undermining healthcare outcomes. This was particularly true this year when it came to healthcare staffing. These pressures required healthcare systems to revisit various strategies for retaining and recruiting talent. These also forced many healthcare organizations to reexamine their front office practices and how they capture and analyze health data. Revenue cycle management has now become a greater focus for administrators at all healthcare levels. And how Big Data is utilized will become increasingly important as we move past 2023 and into the future.