Healthcare is a rapidly evolving field. There is a constant stream of new innovations in healthcare changing the way doctors diagnose and treat patients. Every year, Cleveland Clinic assembles doctors and scientists to evaluate upcoming medical innovations. What do they consider the top recent innovations in healthcare for 2022? Continue reading to find out!
Below is a summary for each of Cleveland Clinic’s Top 10 Medical Innovations in Healthcare for 2022.
1. Next generation of mRNA vaccines.
Did you know vaccines date back to the end of 19th century? Although vaccines have saved countless lives, traditional vaccines can take many years, sometimes decades, to develop and produce. However, as globalization rapidly brings new diseases around the world, we can’t wait afford to wait years for new vaccines. Fortunately, the development of mRNA vaccines has drastically accelerated the process, making this one of the most exciting innovations in healthcare.
Even though most of us had not heard of mRNA vaccines prior to COVID-19, scientists have been working for decades on the technology of mRNA vaccines. Importantly, past preclinical and clinical trials showed that mRNA vaccines provide a safe and long-lasting immune response in humans. Since the technology was in place and proven, scientists were able to develop, produce, approve, and ship effective COVID-10 vaccines in less than a year.
What is mRNA technology?
mRNA technology, first discovered in the 1960s, mimics a viral protein and tricks the immune system into mounting an immune response against the “invader.” This in turn produces powerful antibodies that can provide long-lasting protection against a viral infection.
What’s the future of mRNA therapies?
Improvements in the science lead to RNA therapies have led to cost-effective, fairly simple to manufacture therapies that can target previously undruggable pathways. Prior to COVID-19, scientists developed RNA therapies for a broad range of conditions, including cancer and the Zika virus.
Importantly, these RNA therapies have the potential to eliminate some of healthcare’s most challenging diseases quickly and efficiently. According to Cleveland Clinic, RNA therapies have ushered in “a new frontier in fighting disease”.
2. PSMA-targeted therapy for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among US men, and the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. Unfortunately, 200,000+ men receive a prostate cancer diagnosis in the US every year.
Although many patients survive prostate cancer, men who develop metastatic cancer have worse outcomes and an increased chance of death.
Getting an accurate image is key.
Accurate imaging allows doctors to identify the exact location of the tumor, determine the stage of the cancer, and detect recurrences, all critical for the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. However, conventional imaging methods, including CT, MRI, and bone scans, offer limited accuracy.
PSMA holds promise for better imaging.
A new imaging technology, called PMSA PET scans, may significantly improve imaging capabilities.
What do all those letters mean?
PMSA (prostate-specific membrane antigen) is an antigen found in high levels on the surface of cancer cells and may be a biomarker for prostate cancer.
PET, an existing imaging technology, stands for positron emission tomography.
How does this work?
A PMSA PET scan uses a radioactive tracer to locate and attach to PSMA proteins, which are then visible by PET. Doctors can use this in conjunction with CT or MRI scans to see where prostate cancer cells reside.
What’s the future of PMSA PET scans?
Experts expect this will soon be the new standard of care for detecting metastasis of prostate cancer.
In 2020, the FDA approved this technology based on Phase III clinical trials, which demonstrated a substantially increase in accuracy for detecting prostate metastasis, as compared to bone and CT scans.
Who are the best candidates for PSMA PET scans?
These scans will be very helpful for men with a prostate cancer diagnosis who are at risk for metastatic disease, or previously treated men who have a rising PSA indicating a recurrence.
3. New treatment for the reduction of LDL cholesterol.
Heart disease is a killer. In fact, it causes 25% of deaths in the US. And high levels of blood cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoproteins (LDL-C), are a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.
Doctors commonly prescribe statins to decrease cholesterol production and increase the liver’s removal of cholesterol. However, for some patients, even the highest dose of statins doesn’t lower their LDL-C levels adequately.
Inclisiran for LDL-C.
Inclisiran is a new type of drug that targets LDL-C. This medication, given twice a year by injection, provides effective and sustained LDL-C reduction in conjunction with statins.
What’s the future for Inclisiran?
This is a game-changer for heart disease patients was approved by the FDA in December 2021.
4. New drug for type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is chronic condition that impacts the ability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin and to manage insulin production. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes each year in the US has recently doubled.
In type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, blood glucose levels remain chronically elevated, making it hard for the body to maintain blood sugar levels.
Although some patients can control their type 2 diabetes by exercising and eating a healthy diet, others must take medication or insulin to manage their diabetes.
In the past, doctors often prescribed metformin. However, in 2020, the FDA found high amounts of cancer-causing agents in metformin and therefore stopped most of its production. Additionally, many patients take insulin, which has dramatically risen in price. Unfortunately, this left many patients with few affordable options since other medications come with difficult side effects.
New medication on the horizon.
A promising new treatment, injected once a week, is a combination of GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide receptor agonist). This treatment will be a new class of drug called “dual GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonists”.
Although the name is a mouthful, clinical trials show this combination of drugs limit a blood sugar spike after eating. And it slows digestion, so patients feel full longer and eat less.
What’s the future of this treatment?
Once FDA approved this treatment could potentially be the most effective therapy for diabetes and obesity ever developed.
5. Breakthrough treatment for postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is very common and is caused by a hormonal imbalance. Physical, emotional, and behavioral changes can arise in the period immediately after childbirth up to 4 months post-delivery.
Although many women benefit from counseling and anti-depressant medications, others find these treatments provide little or no relief.
A new neurosteroid treatment can help.
A new IV infusion therapy, given around the clock for 60 hours, uses a neurosteroid to control the brain’s response to stress. This treatment targets the signaling experts believe is deficient in women with hormone-sensitive postpartum depression. Moreover, this treatment seems to work very quickly, as compared to anti-depressant medications which take 4-6 weeks to work.
What’s the future of this treatment?
The FDA approved this treatment in 2019.
6. Targeted medication for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a chronic disease in which the heart muscle excessively contracts, can cause difficult symptoms and cardiac dysfunction. The American Heart Association estimates that 1 out of 500 people have HCM, which can cause fatigue and physical limitations.
Because there is no medication that targets the cause of HCM, doctors have treated symptoms with drugs created for other types of heart problems, including beta-blockers, anti-arrhythmic drugs, calcium channel blockers, and anticoagulants. But since these drugs don’t address the cause of HCM in many patients, they often don’t make a difference. Therefore, many patients need surgery to relieve the thickening of the heart muscle.
A new drug targets HCM.
Fortunately, a new treatment could reduce the root cause of HCM in many patients. This new drug, a targeted cardiac myosin inhibitor, not only slows the progression of the disease, but it can also improve the quality of life.
The future of this new drug.
The target date for an FDA decision on approval is April 28, 2022. If approved, this would be the first drug dedicated specifically to treating HCM, providing new hope to patients and doctors.
7. Non-hormonal alternatives for menopausal hot flashes.
More than 50% of women experience menopausal hot flashes, which last an average of 7 years. These sudden feelings of warmth, often with sweating and a rapid heartbeat, can interfere with daily life and sleep.
Doctors may prescribe hormone therapy for women with severe hot flashes. However, hormone therapy comes with some potentially dangerous side effects. Moreover, many women don’t want to use hormone therapy, while others are not good candidates.
A new group of non-hormonal drugs could help.
Fortunately, in clinical trials, a new group of non-hormonal drugs (NK3R antagonists) shows great promise for relieving moderate to severe menopausal hot flashes.
What’s the future of these drugs?
Currently, additional clinical trials must take place to fully understand the effectiveness and safety of these new drugs. Personally, I am hopeful this exciting innovation in healthcare will become a successful treatment for alleviating symptoms of menopause.
8. Implantable device for severe paralysis.
Approximately 5.4 million Americans have some form of paralysis, caused primarily by strokes, followed by spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis. Unsurprisingly, paralysis often leads to a decline in overall health.
Currently, there is no cure for paralysis.
New technology holds promise.
Recently, a team implanted brain-computer interface (BCI) technology into paralyzed patients to help them recover lost motor control and to control digital devices. The implanted electrodes collect movement signals from the brain and translate them into movement commands. Excitingly, this technology has restored voluntary motor impulses in patients with severe paralysis due to brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, or muscle dysfunction.
BCI devices may help people with severe disabilities increase their ability to interact with their environment, thereby giving them newfound independence.
What’s the future of BCI devices?
Although this technology is in its infancy, the FDA designated it as a “breakthrough device”, making this one of the exciting innovations in healthcare.
9. Artificial intelligence for early detection of sepsis.
Sepsis, a severe inflammatory response to infection, is a leading cause of hospitalization and death worldwide. (To learn more about sepsis, read my blog post Why is Sepsis so Dangerous?)
Unfortunately, septic shock has a very high mortality rate, making early diagnoses critically important. However, the early symptoms of sepsis are similar to those of other conditions, making early detection tricky. Furthermore, it can take up to 2 days to receive test results, further delaying a diagnosis.
Artificial intelligence (AI) can help.
Fortunately, a new AI tool that monitors patients’ electronic health records, flags key sepsis risk factors in real-time, making it easier to rapidly detect sepsis. Importantly, identifying patients with high risk of sepsis can prompt early intervention, can improve outcomes, lower healthcare costs, and save lives.
10. Predictive analytics for hypertension
In general, hypertension (high blood pressure) shows no symptoms, even though it increases the risk for heart disease, heart failure, strokes, and other serious health problems. Certainly, if you don’t know you have hypertension, you can’t receive appropriate treatment.
How can predictive analytics help?
Predictive analytics use collective healthcare data to forecast disease risk, prognosis, and treatment success. Doctors can use these analytics to identify warning signs of hypertension in their patients before the condition becomes severe, allowing them to devise appropriate treatment regimens, which can in turn, improve outcomes.
My thoughts on these recent innovations in healthcare.
Although Cleveland Clinic considers these recent innovations in healthcare to be promising, I strongly recommend you always speak with your doctor and research all options before making treatment decisions.
Additionally, I suggest you read these blog posts:
- Understanding Medical Information Is Harder Than Most Realize.
- The Importance of Shared Decision-Making in Healthcare.
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- Why are Second Opinions Important?
- How Can You Get the Best Healthcare? Actively Participate!