As we head into 2020 more and more discoveries about the human body are coming to light. Even after hundreds of years of medical and biological knowledge our body still has plenty of secrets waiting to be uncovered. Here are some of the amazing discoveries that happened in 2019.
Blood tests that could help diagnose Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is an unpleasant pain disorder and because it has been difficult to objectively diagnose many people still refuse to believe it is real. Now not only is there is finally proof that it exists but there also may be a way to treat it effectively.
In March the Journal of Biological Chemistry published the news that researchers have found a way to test for Fibromyalgia by finding a particular molecule in the blood.
This discovery means that not only can a physician effectively diagnose the patient but scientists can start to develop some more effective treatments.
More research is likely to be needed using a larger study population, however, the hope is that a blood test will be widely available within the next 5 years.
You can still smell without a smell center in the brain
It sounds incredible but a study published this November in Neuron suggests that a human being does not need an olfactory bulb (smell center) in their brain to have a sense of smell.
There is a lot more to smell than previously thought – around 0.6% of women with no olfactory bulb still had a normal sense of smell. This suggests that the absence of the smell center is not necessarily the reason why someone may be born without the ability to smell.
Scientists remain unsure as to how this works but one possibility is that other areas of the brain produce an alternative map of smells. This research will undoubtedly influence the range of treatments that can be developed to help those who lose their sense of smell.
Autoimmune disease may be caused by white blood cell death
Autoimmune diseases and their cause remain a challenge to the medical profession. These diseases are often linked to inflammation but this November a study published in Cell Reports suggests that it could also be caused by dying white blood cells.
Shutterstock / Structure of an antibody molecule determined by X-Ray crystallography. The polypeptide chain is displayed in the line style. PDB source 1igt. 3d rendering.
A life and death cycle of blood cells is normal and as they die white blood cells release a protein that attracts other cells to come and clear them away.
The research indicates that if this protein is defective then the dead cells can be left within the body causing an inflammatory response which is often seen in autoimmune disease. This gives doctors a new insight into the cause of these diseases and could open whole new avenues for treatment.
A memory booster can help the brain
Diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's cause distressing symptoms, particularly memory loss. However, in April a study was published in Nature Neuroscience indicated that applying a very weak electrical current to the brain could help stimulate it and make it work more effectively.
Trials of the non-invasive technique have indicated that it improved the way the brain areas communicated and increased plasticity. Plasticity is the process by which the brain works to repair itself and this was shown to give a boost in short-term memory for healthy older adults.
This discovery may lead the way to new treatments for Alzheimer's and other conditions that affect memory without the need for invasive procedures or medication.
DNA is not the only building block of our body
In September a study by scientists found that there could be over a million variants involved with heredity had DNA not evolved to take over the task. We already know that RNA works with DNA to influence the coding of genes.
This complex study indicates that had our environmental conditions been different we could well have evolved in different ways. They are hopeful that this discovery could lead to these molecules being utilized for developing treatments for genetic disease.
As we move into the ‘20s we have an exciting time ahead – new research is happening all the time which could pave the way for more discoveries about our bodies that will improve our quality of life and help people with diseases that hitherto provided resistant to treatment.