Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 2nd 2014 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, January 2, 2014
With a baby cured of HIV and breakthroughs in
dementia, it s been a year where two of the great
scourges of our time have been put on the back
Meanwhile a vision of the future of medicine has
emerged, with scientists growing miniature organs
-including brains---and performing the first steps of
Here are some of the highlights of the year in med-
Hiv baby cure
One of the most remarkable stories of the year
was a baby girl in the US seemingly being "cured"
Her mother had an uncontrolled HIV infection
and doctors suspected the baby would be infected
too, so they decided to give antiretroviral drugs at
Normally the drugs hold the virus in check, but
the very early treatment seems to have prevented
HIV taking hold.
The baby is now three, has been off drugs for more
than a year and has no sign of infection.
However, as this analysis explains, a cure for HIV
is still a distant prospect. Yet there have been other
developments---two patients have been taken off their
HIV drugs after bone-marrow transplants seemed
to clear the virus.
HIV was once thought to be impossible to cure;
now there is real optimism in the field.
Going through an early-menopause used to be
seen as the end of a woman s reproductive life.
But this year a baby was born after doctors, in the
US and Japan, developed a technique to "reawaken"
the ovaries of women who had a very early
They removed a woman s ovaries, activated them
in the laboratory and re-implanted fragments of
Any eggs produced were then taken and used
during normal IVF.
Fertility experts described the findings as a "poten-
However, things will not change for women going
through the menopause at a normal age as poor egg
quality will still be a major obstacle.
Angelina Jolie's cancer
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie had a double
mastectomy after her doctors said she had an 87 per
cent chance of developing breast cancer during her
She has a mutation in her DNA, called BRCA1,
which greatly increases the odds of both breast and
In a newspaper article she said: "I feel empowered
that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes
my femininity...for any woman reading this, I hope
it helps you to know you have options."
Lab-grown mini organs
A very special human brain was grown from skin
cells entirely in a laboratory.
The pea-sized "cerebral organoid" is similar to the
brain of a nine-week-old foetus.
It has distinct brain regions such as the cerebral
cortex, the retina, and an early hippocampus, which
would be heavily involved in memory in a fully devel-
oped adult brain.
Scientists hope the organoids, which are not capable
of thought, will transform the understanding of the
development of the brain and neurological disorders.
And it s not just brains. Japanese researchers said
they were "gobsmacked" at making tiny functioning
livers in the same way.
They think transplanting thousands of
these liver buds could help to reverse liver
On a larger scale, researchers have made
full-sized kidneys for rats which were able
to make urine.
Their vision is to take a donor kidney and
strip it of all its old cells to leave a honey-
comb-like scaffold, which would then be
used to build a new kidney out of a patient s
Expect more from the "grow-your-own
organs" field in the coming years.
Dementia on the back foot
Understanding the billions of neurons
which make up the human brain, one of
the most complex structures in the universe,
is one of the greatest challenges in medical
This year marked a major breakthrough
in defeating neurodegenerative diseases such
as Alzheimer s.
A team of UK Medical Research Council
scientists used a chemical to stop the death
of brain cells, in a living brain, that would
have otherwise died due to a neurodegen-
...and other medical stories of 2013
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