The Top 10 Medical Advances of the Decade

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which was sponsoring a placebo controlled trial of hormone replacement therapy in more than 161,000 healthy women, announced that it was shutting down the study because HRT increased the risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer.

It was the "oops" heard round the world.

Dr. Larry Norton of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, believes the two biggest advances in breast cancer this decade were the targeted-breast cancer treatment with Herceptin and "the finding that post-menopausal hormone replacement is associated with a huge increase in the risk of breast cancer."

But the news from the Women's Health Initiative, as the study was known, wasn't all bad. HRT did reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and fractures and was proven to be an effective treatment for hot flashes and some other menopause symptoms.

10. Scientists Peer Into Mind With Functional MRI

Mind-reading has moved from carnival attraction to the halls of medicine with what is known as a functional MRI.

The medical mind-readers are not trying to identify a card randomly selected from a deck. They are using sophisticated imaging techniques to map the way the mind works.

The process, often called fMRI, traces the working of neurons -- brain cells – by tracking changes in the oxygen levels and blood flow in the brain. The more brain activity in one area, the more oxygen will be used resulting in more blood flow to that area. The patient lies awake inside an MRI scanner and he or she is asked to perform a simple task, like identifying a color or solving a math problem.

As the patient answers the question, the fMRI tracks the areas of the brain that are activated.



As the patient answers the question, the fMRI tracks the areas of the brain that are activated by tracing the speed at which the cells metabolize the sugar, or glucose.

First developed in the early 1990s, fMRI began to shape research at the beginning of the decade.

"It has certainly taken off in the past 10 years as a means for studying the living human brain in action," said Caselli. "It has given us innumerable insights into cognition, social interactions, reward systems, decision making and so on."

Using this technique, researchers are learning valuable information about disease such as depression, brain cancer, autism, memory disorders and even conditions such as the skin disorder psoriasis.

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