A year in biomedicine

2013 has been a year with major advances in biomedicine.

In April, President Obama announced an ambitious federal initiative to map the activity of all the neurons in a brain circuit or, ideally, a whole brain. Monitoring thousands of neurons simultaneously could help neuroscientists understand the biological origin of cognition and perception and speed the development of treatments for disorders such as autism or post-traumatic stress disorder.

This year, the FDA approved the first artificial retina prosthetic for use in the United States following the California-made device’s European approval in 2011.

2013 also brought to light a three-dimensional bit of brain tissue, grown from stem cells in a lab, which could be used to study brain function and dysfunction and to potentially screen new medications for toxicity and efficacy. A new type of deep-brain stimulator was implanted into a patient for the first time this year. Deep-brain stimulators are used to deliver therapeutic electric pulses to treat disorders ranging from Parkinson’s to obsessive-compulsive disorder, disorders that many remain difficult to treat.

Researchers developing gene therapies continued to see positive news this year. In March, NIH researchers announced that a two-year-old child infected with HIV at birth may have been cured of the virus.

Genetics has also been a source of news. The latest hit headlines in late November, when the FDA ordered personal genetics company 23andMe to stop selling its genetic analysis test.

A more detailed compilation of the year about to end biomedical stories can be found here.

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A brave new world

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