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3 Key Medical News Stories: 6th June 2019

A silver spoon balancing three white cubes of sugar is set against a blue background

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! In our latest edition, we bring you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope over the past week – just in time for your med school applications.

Joining us this week: heart patches, STIs and sugar.

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Heart Patches

Researchers reveal a new technology that could help repair the damage caused by a heart attack

Recent medical news highlights the “pumping patch” and its potential in the treatment of heart attacks.

During a heart attack, otherwise known as a myocardial infarction, an artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle becomes blocked. It therefore starves the heart of oxygen and causes cell death.

The patch grows in a laboratory from the patient’s own cells into a healthy, working heart muscle, before being applied to the heart. The patch also releases chemicals that repair existing heart cells. Once applied, the patch can potentially repair the currently irreversible damage of heart attacks. There is also scope for the use of the patch in heart failure treatment.

The new treatment appears to be safe when tested on animals and patient trials should start within two years.

What can we learn from this?

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the UK and the leading cause of death worldwide. Although treatment and management of heart attacks has improved tremendously over the years, there is always room for improvement.

This new patch is a groundbreaking new approach to heart disease, essentially replacing dead cells using the patient’s own cells and regenerating the heart.

Question to think about: What do you think about the use of stem-cells in the future of medicine?

Read: Preparing for Medical School 101

STIs

Cases of STIs on the rise in England

Latest statistics show that the number of sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses increased by 5% from 2017 to 2018, with gonorrhoea increasing the most.

The most common STIs are chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhoea and genital herpes.

The rise is STIs is worrying, especially as there is a growing concern regarding cases of “super-gonorrhoea”, a strain of gonorrhoea that is resistant to the drugs usually used in treatment.

Recent years have seen funding cuts to the sexual health service, which along with the stigma associated with STIs, has led to experts worrying that many are not getting tested when they ought to be.

What can we learn from this?

Sexual health is a varied and interesting area of medicine that can hugely affect patient and public health. Despite this, the continued stigma attached to sexual health deters people from seeking screening. In an ideal world, a sexual health check-up should feel no different from a regular check-up with a GP.

Although attitudes to sexual health are gradually shifting, funding for the services has also decreased in recent years. This leaves room for the rate of STIs to rise, as a result.

Question to think about: Do you think there is a stigma attached to sexual health services? How does this affect patients and what do you think can be done about it?

Read: How to Create an Effective UCAT Timetable

Sugar

A leading think tank suggests we should treat sugar like smoking

For over a decade, public health measures have worked towards heavily discouraging the public from smoking. This includes a smoking ban that came into effect in 2007 and introducing plain packaging to products in 2017.

Now, there are signs that sugar is heading in the same direction. Already, sugary drinks are discouraged via the ‘sugar-tax’. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that sweets, snacks and sugary drinks should also adopt the plain packaging designed to make them appear less appealing to consumers.

The industry is fiercely against the move, arguing that branding is a “fundamental commercial freedom”.

However, the child obesity crisis requires tackling one way or another; so some argue there may be a place for bold actions such as these.

What can we learn from this?

It is widely accepted that high levels of sugar in our diet increases our risk of diseases, such as diabetes. Therefore, initiatives are working towards deterring the public from consuming too much sugar.

The sugar tax, initially launched in 2018, applies to fizzy drinks. Another initiative by Public Health England, launched in 2017, aims to reduce sugar in popular foods by 20% by 2020. This came after the announcement that an average 10-year-old boy exceeds the sugar consumption limits for an 18 year old.

Question to think about: What do you think is driving the obesity crisis? Is taxing unhealthy foods the solution?

Read: The Sugar Tax: An Interview Guide

Words: Katie Burrell

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