2023 was a tough year in many ways, but saw significant positive developments in science and medicine, Washington Post reports

2023 saw new understanding and the start of a treatment
for dementia, as clinical trials cotinue at the University
of Kentucky and other sites. (iStock photo via Washington Post)

Kentucky Health News

Despite wars, the most mass killings since 2006 and the hottest average temperatures in human history, “2023 also was a year with significant positive developments, including in scientific research and medicine,” The Washington Post reports, with a motive: “Research has indicated that uplifting news can provide an emotional buffer against distressing news and feelings of hopelessness — and even encourage optimism or action.” Here are some things the Post listed:
The World Health Organization approved a new malaria vaccine that has been shown to be much more effective than the only previous vaccine against the potentially deadly disease. “The WHO said it expects the vaccine, which costs $2 to $4 per dose and has been shown to reduce symptomatic cases by 75 percent after three doses within a year, to be available by the middle of 2024,” the Post reports. The U.S. has about 2,000 cases of malaria each year, most of them contracted in other nations.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first pill to treat postpartum depression, which affects up to one in five womenand can cause “experience intense hopelessness and, in rare cases, psychosis — and it can last for years,” the Post notes. “The new drug is taken once a day for two weeks and, unlike the existing treatment of an IV injection that may take as long as 60 hours to administer in a health-care setting, it can be taken at home.”

The FDA also approved two gene-therapy treatments for sickle-cell disease, “a rare and debilitating condition that affects around 100,000 Americans, most of them Black. The disease causes extreme, constant pain and can drastically cut the life span of those affected,” the Post notes. “Both are intensive, expensive procedures — and require chemotherapy, which has significant side effects. But patients who have received the treatments have spoken of its profoundly beneficial impact on their lives.”
Scientists made progress in understanding dementia, the Post reports. One study “suggested that lifestyle habits, including regular mental and physical activity, eating a healthful diet, and regular social contact were linked with a slower rate of memory decline,” the Post reports. “Another found that living in areas with more natural green spaces was associated with lower rates of hospital admissions for diseases including dementia, while separate research indicated that the use of hearing aids could cut the risk of cognitive decline by nearly half.”

Meanwhile, the FDA approved, for the first time, to a drug that modestly slows Alzheimer’s disease. While difficult questions about safety, effectiveness and cost remain, many neurologists say that having a drug that slows Alzheimer’s is nonetheless a milestone after years of failed trials. The University of Kentucky is one of the sites of the clinical trials, and at last report was still seeking participants.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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