With 2013 just behind us, and the broad landscape of 2014 before us, it helps to look at what we created and discovered over the previous year to understand where this year may take us. 2013 was a year of many leaps forward in medicine, with new technologies changing how we think about the human body. Just as importantly, 2013 medical innovations also focused on the large-scale conditions that affect us, such as migraines, with solutions for possible treatment.

Artificial organs move from concept to reality 

Artificial organs have come a long way, with one in particular leading the charge for most astounding of 2013. Carmat’s artificial heart–developed partly from a cow’s heart and partly from a sensor implant–claims to be the “world’s first fully artificial, self-regulating” heart. It still beats in the first patient who received the heart in December 2013 and, as the company notes, self-regulates based on our emotions, just as a real one would.

3D printing aims even higher 

From tiny livers to human blood vessels, researchers are testing the boundaries of 3D printing and its use in medicine. Perhaps most innovative is the Wake Forest Baptist’s body parts on a chip project. Lab-engineered mini organs that mimic the function of human organs may help researchers more effectively test antidotes and other pharmaceutical compounds. Geraldine Hamilton’s straight-forward talk on TED.com helps explain the importance and application of this new technology based on her work with Wyss Institute.

You can find out more about how 3D medical printing works with MedCityNews’ comprehensive infographic here.

Neuromodulation for cluster and migraine headaches

While these technologies will one day change medicine, other 2013 medical innovations are focused on strategies for treating wide-spread conditions as quickly and effectively as possible. With over 28 million people in the U.S. who suffer from migraine headaches, researchers sought to find a solution that could control migraines at the onset of symptoms.

Neuromodulation therapy is an on-demand, patient-controlled solution for this condition that is currently available in Europe and being tested in the United States. A neurostimulator is implanted in the patient just above the back molars on the side of the face where headache pain typically occurs. A remote control device that the patient places on the cheek above the device stimulates the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) nerve bundle and effectively blocks the headache pain within five to ten minutes.

What other medical innovations have you learned about in 2013?  

Image by Canadian Film Centre via Flickr

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