After a year that saw the unprecedented Ebola outbreak, the growing use of medical marijuana and Obamacare taking effect, CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus looked ahead Friday on "CBS This Morning" to the most promising medical innovations that could shape 2015.
What many have seen as a sudden boom in health tech may become a trend for the new year. An increase in self-monitoring for vital signs like pulse and blood pressure will enable people to discuss concerns with their doctors, data in hand.
"It's really an era of personal empowerment in health care," Agus said.
Other possible innovations for 2015 include reversing the aging process, advances in blood testing, cholesterol drugs and new ways to combat diseases.
In early May, scientists published studies in Science and Nature Medicine that showed young blood may be able to improve the lives of elderly. The idea was derived from a 1950s experiment by Dr. Clive M. McCay. Through a process called parabiosis, researchers transfused blood from a young mouse to an old mouse.
"All of the sudden they saw new neuron connections in the brain, the heart was stronger, the muscles were stronger; they had effectively reversed aging," Agus said. "What scientists found recently is the way it worked was by turning on stem cells that are asleep once we turn around 25. So what's really profound is the cure, or the ability to reverse aging, is lying within each of us."
Scientists hope, following new evidence, that they will be able to use similar anti-aging treatments for humans.
"This next year ahead we're going to trials to see is it safe and does it work, first in people with cognitive impairment with things like Alzheimer's," Agus said.
Scientists have made significant strides in their approach to blood tests as well.
"Right now it's very inefficient. You go to your doctor, they stick a big needle in your arm, they take tubes and tubes of blood, and then a couple days later they call you with the data," Agus said. "Well, now technology has come out that they prick your finger, and very quickly they have the results of the test. So much cheaper, obviously less painful."
The hope, Agus said, is that a patient will be able to discuss the results with a doctor the same day.
New cholesterol drugs are also expected to gain in popularity. Statins, drugs like Lipitor and Crestor, which are used to lower cholesterol, have been popular since the late 1980s. While they have been largely effective for many who suffer from high cholesterol, not everyone has found success.
A new class of inhibitors, called PCSK9, is aimed at treating those with significantly high, genetically linked cholesterol who don't see enough results from statins.
"It's an injectable, so every couple weeks a shot in the arm, and it lowers the bad cholesterol," Agus said.
It's expected to be approved by the FDA this year.
Agus said the medical community in 2014 also made discoveries on new ways to treat diabetes, obesity and certain psychiatric disorders.
"You can take someone with a bad colon infection and give them the microbiome, or the bacteria, from somebody who's healthy, and it reverses it," Agus said. "That stomach stapling surgery works by changing the microbiome, which gets rid of diabetes and makes you lose weight."