10 Greatest Medical Discoveries

"0 Greatest Medical Discoveries Of All Time NUMBER 10: Penicillin In 1928, scientist Alexander Fleming left a number of petri dishes uncovered in his lab while he went on holiday Upon his return, he discovered that bacterial mould had grown in some places but not in others

What had prevented the mould from growing further was the presence of a substance that would later be developed into penicillin Today, penicillin is one of the world’s most widely used drugs, prescribed to treat a great variety of bacterial infections The New World Encyclopedia estimates that approximately 200 million lives have been saved by its discovery NUMBER 9: IVF In 1977 a pioneering procedure took place, which resulted in the birth of Louise Brown – the first ever human conceived through In Vitro Fertilization The breakthrough had been made possible by Dr

Patrick Steptoe, who had been the first person to safely remove eggs from a woman’s ovaries Using physiologist Robert Edwards’ knowledge of how to fertilize an egg outside of the body, Steptoe managed to successfully implant the zygote into Louise’s mother, Leslie Brown Since then, fertility treatment has helped allow over 5 million babies to be born worldwide NUMBER 8: Anesthesia The introduction of anesthesia has completely transformed surgery For much of history, surgeons would operate on fully conscious patients

They would saw through limbs in less than a minute, as the strapped-down amputee howled in agony Many different substances have since been used as anesthetics, with the greatest amount of progress in the practice occurring in the 19th century Opium, ether, chloroform, and even cocaine have all been trialed in surgery Modern anesthesia has allowed for much longer surgical procedures For example, in 1951, doctors in Chicago performed a 96-hour operation to remove a giant ovarian cyst… the longest operation ever performed

NUMBER 7: GERM THEORY Prior to the 19th century realization that illness was caused by microorganisms, no one knew the importance of good hygiene Even doctors were known to walk straight from autopsies to the maternity ward without washing their hands Numerous figures were instrumental in the development of germ theory In 1854 English doctor John Snow linked a cholera outbreak to a particular water pump in London, suggesting a link between contaminated water and disease Microbiologist Louis Pasteur [loo-wee pas-turr] later proved germ theory in laboratory conditions, followed by surgeon Joseph Lister, who pioneered the introduction of sanitary hospital environments

NUMBER 6: X-Rays X-Rays were discovered by accident in 1895 by physicist Wilhelm Röntgen, while he was experimenting with different rays of light Within a month of his discovery, several hospitals in Europe and the United States had constructed X-ray machines and – only six months later – the invention was being used by battlefield physicians to locate bullets in wounded soldiers Today, X-Rays are among the most significant pieces of equipment at a doctor’s disposal, being used to detect fractures, diagnose cancers, and also in dental surgery In 1901 Röntgen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics NUMBER 5: DNA First identified by Friedrich Miescher in 1869, DNA contains all of the genetic information that determines an individual’s distinctive traits

The discovery of DNA’s double helix structure was first noted in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick, using photographs taken by Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins The increased medical comprehension of DNA has led to a much better understanding of numerous diseases It has opened doors for the practice of gene therapy, which could be used to treat debilitating conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis or Alzheimer’s NUMBER 4: Blood Types In 1900 Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner became the first person to successfully identify the O, A and B blood types He was awarded the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine as a result

Landsteiner’s discovery led to an understanding of how a human’s immune system would attack the foreign substances contained within an incompatible blood donation Using this information, the medical world was able to create an infinitely safer system of blood transfusions Today there are 146 million blood transfusions a year in America alone NUMBER 3: Smallpox Vaccination Smallpox was one of the deadliest diseases of all time, killing somewhere between 300 and 500 million people in total

In the late 18th century, Edward Jenner developed the idea of a vaccination against the disease, after he noticed that milkmaids exposed to cowpox were unable to contract smallpox Following his preliminary experiments – including one on his own 11-month-old son – the use of smallpox vaccinations soon became widespread The World Health Organization declared the disease eradicated in 1980 This paved the way for further developments in vaccinations against other diseases NUMBER 2: Insulin With increasing obesity rates and diabetes now affecting 371 million people worldwide, the importance of insulin’s discovery is becoming ever more prominent

In the early 20th century, Type 1 diabetes was effectively a terminal diagnosis, with dietary regulation only having a very limited impact Diabetes is caused by the body’s incapacity to regulate the production of insulin In 1921 scientists from the University of Toronto managed to isolate the insulin hormone for artificial production The following year, 14-year-old Leonard Thompson became the first human to receive an insulin injection, saving his life Sources: World Health Organisation, CBS News, Diabetes

org NUMBER 1: HeLa Cells When Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, she had no idea how vital samples of her cells would be to the future of medicine Known as ‘HeLa Cells’ or ‘the immortal cell line’, Henrietta’s cells were a medical first, as they were able to be cultured indefinitely for use in experiments Scientists have used them to further our understanding of cancer, HIV and the human body in general They were an instrumental factor behind the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s and, consequently, have been credited with saving millions of lives

However, controversy surrounded the cultivation of HeLa cells, as Henrietta and her family were not even aware that the sample had been taken

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