Medical advances to watch for in 2018

Medicine in 2018

The New Year will likely bring continued developments in the fight to improve our health. In 2017, we've seen headlines about new guidelines for blood pressure and the opioid crisis being declared a public health emergency. The FDA also approved gene therapy for childhood leukemia, and now gene editing is even spurring hopes pigs could become organ donors

Next year, CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus says we could see new advances in gene editing to cure or prevent diseases, as well as significantly better vaccines. 

"The first is one that I had this week, which is a shingles vaccine. Remember, a third of us are going to get shingles ... it's a reactivation of chicken pox," Agus said, adding that there are 200,000 cases a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shingles among adults is increasing in the U.S.

"The old vaccine was OK, but this new vaccine is recommended for everybody 50 and older. … It's a pain in the arm but it's going to prevent me from getting pain across my body in the future," Agus said.

The second vaccine Agus talked about is still in development. Researchers are working on a universal flu vaccine that could protect against different strains of the virus so you wouldn't have to get a shot every year.

"This notion of once a year going in and getting a shot for the flu – hopefully that's a thing of the old, and the new now is we can target not the outside of the flu vaccine that changes, but the inside that's more stable. And so those are in clinical trials now and very exciting," Agus said.

One of Agus' biggest concerns going into 2018 is leadership and regulation in the health care field, especially when it comes to innovations in genetics technology like the gene-editing tool CRISPR.

"I'm not even sure who regulates this. If we regulate it here, someone's just going to go to Canada and get it done," Agus said. "But yes, we need real leadership here, because while we can get rid of an inborn error of a genetic disease, what if someone wants to make their child bigger or smarter or blonder or whatever they want to do? They conceivably can do. This is an area, like Spider Man says, with great power comes great responsibility."

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