Updated: Nov 29, 2018
Countless new products and medications hit stores’ shelves and doctors’ prescription pads every year. Many are a result of small tweaks to already available treatments. A select few, though, totally change the game: A preventative migraine drug slashes monthly headaches in half, an injectable gene restores sight to those with a degenerative eye condition, and a better-designed sunscreen helps more people keep damaging rays at bay. These 10 medical advances represent how science, technology, and creative thinking can help us live longer, better lives.
The first migraine-prevention drug
Twelve percent of people worldwide live with the pounding head pain and other debilitating effects of migraine. What’s worse? The drugs commonly used to prevent the attacks are meant for other ailments—high blood pressure, seizures, depression. These medicines don’t always work and often cause intolerable side effects. The newly-approved drug Aimovig is the first to prevent migraines by targeting a specific molecular interaction involved in the disorder. The medicine blocks a neurotransmitter called the calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP), which stimulates brain cells active in migraines. The monthly injection reduces the number of monthly migraine attacks by an average of 50 percent, with far fewer side effects.
Finally, sunscreen designed for dark skin
Everyone who soaks up the sun needs skin protection. Yet, most sunscreens leave an undesirable white cast on darker skin that won’t fade until washed off with soap. Black Girl Sunscreen, though, is specifically designed for people of color. The FDA-approved product includes a blend of UVA- and UVB-fighting chemicals selected because their chemistry avoids that white residue. The lotion also contains multiple moisturizers to help prevent dry skin.
Ultrasounds for everyone
Ultrasounds are incredibly useful: They allow physicians to visualize our internal organs, muscles, tendons, and even the blood vessels in our hearts. But the machines are also cumbersome and expensive. Costly piezoelectric crystals must be carefully incorporated into each probe, and different areas of the body require their own probes; a high-frequency ultrasound reaches shallow tissue just under the skin, while a low-frequency one visualizes tissue deep under the skin, like the heart muscle. The Butterfly iQ is different. Instead of a piezo crystal, the device uses a far cheaper silicon chip that can generate frequencies needed for any depth. This reduces the cost of an ultrasound machine from $40,000 or more to just $2,000, putting the purchase within reach of more physicians.