8 of the Greatest Medicinal Discoveries in Recent Human History

Updated on May 15, 2020

Medicine has come a long way since the inception of humankind. Looking at recent history, here is what is regarded as the greatest medicinal discoveries.


What we know today as modern medicine is a result of a lot of hard work and detailed research from scientists dating back centuries. The field of medicine has experienced a series of significant medical discoveries.

Looking at recent history, below are 8 of the most progressive medicinal discoveries:

1. The Artificial Heart 

The first successful implant of a permanent artificial heart occurred in 1982. William DeVries, an American cardiothoracic surgeon carried out the history-making surgery. He implanted the patented artificial heart Jarvik-7 to Dr. Barney Clark, a Seattle dentist. The successful transplanted gave Dr. Barney 112 more days of life.

As is with most medical inventions, the artificial heart has gone through a series of iterations to improve its success rate. Today, artificial hearts help patients stay healthy while they nurse their existing hearts back to health.

2. Hepatitis C Cure

Hepatitis C for the longest time was classified as a potentially fatal disease with almost 30% of those diagnosed unable to heal from it. The treatment process involved a 12-month program under heavy anti-viral drugs with major side effects. However, this is no longer the case thanks to a new drug, Sofosbuvir, being among the latest healthcare discoveries.

To cure the disease, Hepatitis C patients take only one daily dose of Sofosbuvir for a period of 12 weeks. The drug is effective in combating all 6 major types of Hepatitis C and has a cure rate of 95%. This not only means a reduced treatment period for patients but also a decline in the high number of deaths caused by Hepatitis C every year.

3. Genomic Sequencing

Launched in 1990, the Humane Genome Project was aimed at sequencing all 3 billion nucleotide base pairs of the human genome. The project confirmed that humans have approximately 20,000-25,00 genes. Routine genomic sequencing has made it easy for doctors to compare healthy DNA sequences with mutated ones so as to diagnose different diseases such as cancers and inherited disorders.

This ground-breaking project served as the beginning of the massive strides to be made in genomic sequencing. With the explosive growth of next-generation sequencing platforms since 2008, genomic sequencing is now accessible to more people and is almost a part of routine clinical care.

4. Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART)

HAART marked the greatest medical advancement in the management of the HIV virus. Their introduction as the standard HIV/AIDS treatment option in 1996 turned the diagnosis of the ailment from a hopeless situation to a manageable condition.

Today, HAART treatment has proven to delay the progression of HIV to AIDS. And even though it is not a cure for HIV/AIDS, the three-drug antiretroviral treatment has increased the survival rate of infected persons by between 4 to 12 years.

5. Stem Cell Therapy

The discovery of the potential of stem cells in the late 1970s was a tremendous medical advancement that developed a new path for the treatment of blood and bone marrow disorders. It was discovered that stem cells could renew themselves even after being inactive for a while and they could also be used to generate any type of human cell under certain conditions.

These two characteristics of stem cells are what ignited the research and development of stem cell therapy for treatment. Today stem cell therapy has been successful in bone marrow transplantations, the treatment of leukemia and most recently in the use of stem cell therapy for lupus nephritis.

6. The First Artificial Pancreas

In 2016, the FDA approved the world’s first artificial pancreas. The MiniMed670G device by Medtronic was approved for use by type 1 diabetes patients above the age of 14. The artificial pancreas is designed to:

• Monitor the glucose levels of the patients
• Administer appropriate amounts of insulin as necessitated
• Help patients identify the patterns of their glucose level to assist them to keep their glucose levels at recommended levels
• Alert the patients when their glucose levels are nearing dangerous high or low levels

The artificial pancreas works by measuring an individual’s blood glucose every five minutes. It administers the relevant amounts of insulin dependent on the readings. This is achievable through the device’s sensor that measures the glucose levels in tissue fluids through a wire inserted under the skin on the upper arm or abdomen.

If glucose levels are high, the level of insulin administered through the device’s pump is increased and vice versa. The artificial pancreas is the best medical invention of today that makes the lives of type 1 diabetes patients much easier and reduces their risk of suffering hypoglycemia.

7. 3D Printing of Body Parts

3D printing has revolutionized the manufacturing industry in recent history. This revolutionary technology is now applied in the field of medicine to facilitate the printing of body parts. 3D printing of body parts is on its way to make organ donation a thing of the past.

2013 marked the first successful 3D printing of a body part which was an ear. Since then, great progress has been made in using 3D printers to produce blood vessels, dental crowns, customized prosthesis and so much more.

8. Non-Surgical Cataract Treatment

For so long, the only treatment option for cataracts has been an operation to replace the clouded eye lens with a clear artificial one. However, this is all set to change with the introduction of a non-surgical cataract treatment that employs the use of eye drops.

In 2015, researchers at the University of California made the discovery that eye drops made from compound 29 had the potential of reducing eye cataracts. Since then, the research has been ongoing through trial runs of the non-surgical cataract treatment.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world and this promising research is set to make significant changes in the treatment of cataracts.

Honorable Mention: Cannabis and CBD as Pain Alternatives

Cannabis and CBD are known as great alternatives to traditional pain medications. While our ancient ancestors already used cannabis and hemp plants, their medicinal use was just recently approved and acknowledged. Who would imagine that they were ones considered banned or illegal? 

Cannabinoids or cannabis compounds, cannabidiol, or CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol or THC bring therapeutic benefits to patients who are suffering from different medical conditions. For instance, CBD-rich cannabis has helped Charlotte Web reduce her hundreds of seizures a week that nearly caused her death for countless of times.

But has medical cannabis been studied in patients with lupus? A new cannabis-derived drug called Lenabasum is thought to help treat swelling and reduce signs of inflammation and joint pain in people who are suffering from lupus. Smaller studies of conditions involving the immune system reported positive results. You can read more here to know more about lupus.  

On the other hand, CBD oil is most sought because it’s generally more accessible over-the-counter and can be administered in different ways and available in various product forms. Check out the different CBD products being sold in the market today:

CBD Oil: This CBD product comes in tiny bottles, which can usually give you 25 milligrams of CBD a day or decent CBD dose. CBD oil and CBD tincture can be ingested, taken under the tongue, or infused in food and drinks.

CBD Topicals: CBD lotions, ointments, balms, salves, and creams promise to provide healthier skin and ease pain associated with skin infections.

CBD Edibles: CBD gummy, CBD cookies, and other commercially sold CBD edibles provide a fun and discreet way to take CBD. Patients who are suffering from arthritis, migraine, menstrual cramps, stress, and anxiety can benefit from the relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD found in CBD edibles.

More Medicinal Discoveries Wait on the Horizon

The face of modern medicine is changing thanks to the advancements made in science. With the growing demand for solutions to health problems, scientists and researchers are pursuing new medicinal discoveries aimed at shaping the future of medicine.

Keep reading our blog for all the latest news and discoveries in the field of medicine.

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.

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