The Most Powerful Advances in Health in 2014 – Blaine Pollock

While 2014 will perpetually be known as the year of the world’s biggest Ebola outbreak, the virus is just one of a few huge changes in our medical and personal world.


Scientists have gone quite a bit further in our understanding of medicine than last year.  From HIV vaccines to Fitness Trackers, the virus is just one of several impactful changes in our medical and personal health world.


  • Fitness Trackers

Personal tracking devices like Jawbone and Fit Bit log every step you take, every bite you eat, and every hour you sleep.  All of that data is potentially a fortune for health researchers.  They are hoping that people who track their health data can provide scientists real world insights they can potentially use to make observations.


  • $650 Million dollar donation to the Mental Health Community:

The death of Robin Williams and other high profile people kept depression, suicide and mental health at the head of the news in 2014.  Losing Williams and others like Richard Hoffman, sparked important debates about how mental illness has affected their lives.  Philanthropist and businessman Ted Stanley stated in July of 2014 his donation of $650 million to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which will finance research to look for and treat the genetic roots of mental illness.  Stanley’s son has bipolar disorder.


  • Cancer patients can now use their own immune system to fight cancer:

 Cancer patients now have the amazing ability of their own immune system to shrink their tumors with immunotherapy drugs – a class of medication that boost your immune system with man-made immune proteins, or train your immune cells to recognize and attack cancer.   The Food and Drug Administration approved the first of its kind drug, called Keytruda for patients with advanced stage melanoma who can no longer respond to other drugs.  This is the first of several being develop to battle a wide variety of cancers.


  • Sequencing of Cancer Tumor Genes:

Scientists are working on ways to analyze the genes of cancer tumors to see how they differentiate from a patient’s healthy tissue.  This process is called genomic sequencing which is letting them identify what makes tumors worsen.  Genomic testing helps doctors match patients with clinical trials or medication that can best shrink tumors or stop growth, all the while doing as little harm as possible to the healthy tissue.  This is making cancer care more personalized.


  • Lowest smoking rates ever:

The rates of cigarette smoking are continuing to decline in the United States.  As of the end of 2013, the rates had dropped to under 20%, which is the lowest rate since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started to keep track in 1965.  In November 2014, it was noted that while some people still smoke, they’re smoking less cigarettes.  E-cigarettes and other positive cultural changes happening in the U.S. have assisted with this.


  • An HIV Vaccine is very close:

There is a vaccine that is looking very hopeful that protects monkeys from contracting SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus, a disease equivalent to HIV in humans).   Scientists at Columbia University may soon start a preliminary human trial based on research they completed injecting monkeys with long-lasting AIDS drugs.


  • An Ebola vaccine is in the works:

 Two highly promising Ebola vaccines are presently in phase 1 clinical trials.  Both are two different viruses that have an Ebola gene inserted in them, to induce immunity in this deadly disease.  Concerns about mild joint pain halted one of the trials on December 11, 2014, and was temporarily suspended.  Ebola has now infected around 18,000 people and killed around 6,300, according to the most recent World Health Organization.  The epidemic started with a single case in December 2013 in West Africa.



Author: Blaine Pollock