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From taking a tiny snip of skin to create brain cells to treat Alzheimer's disease to a vaccine for HIV, exciting medical developments are near.
Every December pundits and prognosticators polish their crystal balls to make predictions for the following year. Here are ten predictions of medical breakthroughs we may see in 2012—or perhaps 2013 or 2014.

1. Skin cells as stem cells.

Stem cell technology holds enormous promise as a means of restoring damaged or disease tissues. Just 10 years ago scientists only knew how to harvest stem cells from their most obvious source, human embryos. Now the stem cells that form bone, muscle, and fat can be harvested from the patient's own blood stream, cultured in a lab, and returned to the patient in far greater numbers for heart repair. And since 2007, scientists have known how to transform skin cells into stem cells—although the technique has only been performed on two patients.

In 2010, scientists learned how to transform stem cells created from skin cells into brain cells. Although it probably won't be 2012, treatments for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Alzheimer's disease using skin cells—bypassing ethical concerns—are probably on the way over the next 5 years.

2. A pill for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, causes its sufferers to have repeated thoughts, fears, and images and to repeat ritualistic behavior they cannot control. The condition is usually treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. This is approach is effective 58% of the time. Now scientists from the University of South Florida report that cognitive behavioral therapy plus treatment with a tuberculosis drug known as D-cycloserine is effective 72% of the time. Some users of the drug fail to go into complete remission even from the combination of treatments, but most achieve some relief. Clinical trials should be complete in 2012.

3. A new colonoscopy device.

All adults over 50 are advised to get a colonoscopy so doctors can detect polyps before they become cancerous tumors. Almost all adults over 50 dread the thought of the procedure. A new device called  the third-eye retroscope at least offers assurance the doctor will detect tumors that older style colonoscopy sometimes misses.

The third-eye retroscope has both a forward-facing camera and a backward-facing camera, both with lighting systems. The ability to look in both directions helps gastroenterologists detect tumors that grow in folds of the intestine that might otherwise be missed. This device will be generally available in January 2012, although all doctors may not start using it right away.

4. Social distancing to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The problems with vaccinations are two-fold. Not everybody takes them, and they don't always work. When vaccinations don't work or vaccines are not available, then public health officials result to the age-old method of dealing with the spread of disease: quarantine. Modern mathematics, however, suggests that draconian measures don't have to applied as soon as the first few cases are detected. Taking into account that most epidemics surge when quarantine has to be lifted, epidemiologists now believe that it can be helpful to give people time to prepare for their stay indoors. The CDC has already taken these findings into consideration in planning responses to pandemic flu.

5. Microwaves for profuse perspiration.

Some people get drenched with sweat when the weather gets hot. There are few places the problem is worse than in the American South. Some people in the South resort to Botox injections to control sweating but a Metairie, Lousiana physician Dr. William Patrick Coleman has developed a method of treating excessive perspiration with microwave.  He first applies a temporary tattoo to problem skin. The ink accumulates in sweat glands. Dr. Coleman then uses a computer-guided microwave want to destroy the sweat glands without damaging the skin on top of them. Results are permanent.

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