Health Research

Health Research Breakthroughs

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It starts as an idea. Working together, study volunteers and clinical researchers are able to improve the lives of people today and of future generations by developing innovative medications, treatments, diagnostic procedures, and ways to live healthier. Health research has helped the people in our community and around the world in very real ways.

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has been involved in the discovery and testing of many pivotal, medical breakthroughs. A few examples include: vaccine needle

HPV Vaccine

The human papilloma virus vaccine, developed in our vaccine program, is expected to save hundreds of thousands of lives across the world by eliminating cervical cancer.

A team from URMC was one of several teams around the world to contribute technology that led to a vaccine against cervical cancer. The vaccine, one of only two cancer-preventing vaccines available anywhere in the world, was approved in 2006 and is expected to save hundreds of thousands of lives by protecting against several types of HPV (human papillomavirus), which causes cervical cancers.

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Meningitis Vaccine

A vaccine that URMC scientists created has virtually wiped out a leading cause of meningitis in preschoolers. Their work led to the development of an additional vaccine that prevents other diseases and even reduced cases of antibiotic-resistant infections in the elderly.

By the time a baby is six months old, that child will have most likely benefitted from vaccine advances rooted in URMC health research. A vaccine that URMC scientists created against Haemophilus influenza type B (HIB) has virtually wiped out a leading cause of meningitis in preschoolers. In addition to meningitis, HIB was also the most common cause of acquired mental retardation and deafness in children. The vaccine decreased the number of illnesses caused by HIB from 20,000 to 200 cases each year. Another team of scientists then used the same approach to create a vaccine that prevents infection by pneumococcal bacteria, which cause meningitis, ear infections, pneumonia, and other illnesses. That vaccine, approved in 2000, caused rates of infection to plummet.

The elderly have also benefitted. The vaccine has reduced cases of antibiotic-resistant infections in the elderly who have not received the vaccine — since fewer children have the illness, fewer adults catch it from them.

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Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD)

This medical device shocks and corrects abnormal heart rhythms, significantly reducing death rates in the sickest of heart patients. New research, designed right here at URMC, is revealing ways to use ICDs as a preventive treatment for those who have risk factors for sudden death due to heart problems.

URMC cardiologists have revolutionized the treatment of heart disease worldwide, leading landmark studies that showed that an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), a medical device that can shock and correct an abnormal heart rhythm, significantly reduces death rates in certain groups of patients. While these devices were reserved for the sickest of heart patients, new research has shown that ICDs are a preventive treatment that can save the lives of people who don't yet suffer from arrhythmia problems, but have several risk factors for sudden death. In very recent findings, the team has shown that a device known as the cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator, or CRT-D, dramatically reduces the risk of death in patients with mild heart failure.

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LASIK – Adaptive Optics

After discovering previously unknown irregularities in the human eye, scientists used adaptive optics to correct those imperfections restoring a new level of quality to human vision.

Scientists at URMC have brought about the correction and improvement of human vision previously thought impossible by discovering unknown aberrations in the human eye and developing new ways to correct for those imperfections. They accomplished this by using adaptive optics, a technology first developed to help astronomers remove the twinkle from starlight and take clear images of space through the atmosphere. They took this technology and instead of looking into outer space they turned it inward, using it to peer inside the eye. This research revolutionized the refractive surgery procedure commonly known today as LASIK.

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Treatment for Hot Flashes

A URMC physician discovered a new treatment for hot flashes, a vexing problem for many cancer patients and post-menopausal women.

When a female patient dogged by harsh migraine headaches visited a URMC neurologist, she was prescribed gabapentin, a drug that is commonly used to treat severe headaches. While the drug didn’t prevent her migraines, the patient reported that her hot flashes disappeared completely. The doctor followed up and found a significant decrease in the number of hot flashes in other women, too. This discovery inspired the doctor to go back to the laboratory and perform basic research to find out how the brain maintains body temperature as well as how a drug like gabapentin might affect that process. Since then, several large studies have confirmed that gabapentin is an effective treatment for hot flashes. The findings have led pharmaceutical companies to explore new ways to come up with a completely new treatment for hot flashes.

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