Madonna wasn’t the only prolific person in the 1980s: some huge discoveries and inventions in the medical world happened during the decade. Advances in the treatment of chronic disease, the development of a vaccination against hepatitis B, and the discovery of key processes within the human body were all made in the 80s. Here are some key breakthroughs that have changed medicine.
Diabetes affects millions of people worldwide. Since the discovery of insulin in 1922, diabetics have had a much longer life expectancy than was previously achievable. Until 1982, all insulin for injection had to be extracted from animals – a process costly both in human time and animal suffering. In 1982, the first synthesized human insulin was developed using DNA mapping technology. This allowed insulin to be produced quickly, have amino acids carefully controlled, and be separate from the medical animal industry. It has enabled people with moral and religious convictions to treat diabetes without compromising their beliefs.
The Discovery of the Telomere Mechanism
Telomeres are the minuscule caps that protect the end of DNA strands. The easiest way to picture them is as being similar to the plastic caps on the end of a pair of shoelaces. Without telomeres, strands of DNA are extremely vulnerable. Cells replenish by copying themselves. Each time they copy, they are protected by smaller telomeres. When cells have copied themselves so much that they no longer have protective caps on the end of their DNA strands, they die. This is essentially the cause of physical aging. Telomeres can be measured in order to gauge the biological age of a cell. The discovery of this process by Elizabeth Blackburn in the early 1980s was very important. Her discovery enabled all sorts of knowledge about genetics to be developed and put into practice in medicine.
Laser Eye Surgery
Traditionally, ocular surgery was very invasive. This meant that it was not a worthwhile endeavor to reshape the corneas of people suffering from shortsightedness – even though it could be achieved in theory. The use of surgical lasers to shape the cornea changed that paradigm entirely. In 1988, the first LASIK surgery was completed. Companies like VSON Laser Eye Surgery Brisbane now perform hundreds of quick, non-invasive, and (most importantly) permanent sight enhancing surgeries every year.
Hepatitis B Vaccination
Vaccinations are always major breakthroughs, and the development of a vaccine for hepatitis B in 1981 by Maurice Hilleman was no different. Hepatitis B is an infectious disease that affects the liver. It is highly contagious and is estimated to have spread to around one-third of the entire global population. Around 750,000 people die every year due to complications caused by Hepatitis. The vaccine developed by Hilleman and his team is now considered to be an essential medicine by the World Health Organization and is typically given to babies not long after they are born. Eighty-five to ninety percent of people given the vaccine develop antibodies that prevent them from contracting the disease later in life. Vaccination has been a huge success.
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