6. Cancer Screening Via Protein Biomarker Analysis

A new biomarker platform is anticipated to hit the market in 2016. Protein biomarker analysis offers more accurate screening for cancer by detecting changes in the structure of specific blood protein complexes. In contrast to examining gene mutations, which indicates a patient’s risk of developing cancer, this methodology offers “real time information on cancer’s presence.”1 For example, examination of certain urine protein biomarkers has the potential for early detection of lung cancer.8 A three-biomarker blood panel has higher sensitivity and specificity than the fecal occult blood test for detecting early stage colorectal cancer.9

7. Naturally Controlled Artificial Limbs

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Neural signals associated with limb movement have recently been “decoded” by computers, leading to computer-controlled artificial limbs.1 However, this requires subjects to learn to modulate brain activity, which imposes “natural limits on the complexity of tasks that can be performed.”10 New research has discovered an “alternative and complementary brain machine interface (BMI) paradigm that overcomes this limitation by decoding cognitive brain signals,” which expands the range and complexity of tasks that can be accomplished.10 BMIs can control prosthetic arms, wheelchairs, and even a full-body exoskeleton and are being developed with lower-cost robotic components.1

8. First Treatment for Female Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)

In 2015, the FDA approved flibanserin, the first medication to treat female HSDD).11 It became available in October of 2015, but the jury is still out regarding its long-term safety, including risk of hypotension, syncope, and dangerous interactions with alcohol. The drug carries a boxed warning concerning these serious potential adverse effects, and physicians must complete a specialized training program before being allowed to prescribe it. The manufacturer is expected to conduct three postmarketing studies regarding the potential interaction with alcohol.12 Perhaps 2016 will demonstrate how the drug will fare in the real world over time.