By: Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It has been a busy year in health and medical news. The good news is the bad news wasn’t so bad for Pittsburgh.

Here’s what made headlines in 2010:

Hands-only CPR

If you’re squeamish about doing mouth-to-mouth on a stranger, no problem. Research shows that skipping the “pulmonary” part of cardio-pulmonary rescusitation actually works.

“I think there will be more people who will be willing to jump in and do something with a bystander who has collapsed, and probably see some improved outcomes,” says Deborah Lages, a CPR instructor at St. Clair Hospital.

A Tougher Stance on Concussions

“Concussions are going to be part of football, unless you fundamentally change the game,” says Dr. James Wilberger, a neurosurgeon at Allegheny General Hospital.

These injuries add up, with hidden and long-term effects. Teams at all levels face stiff penalities now if they don’t take players out of the game when their brains get rattled.

High-tech advances

  • Synthetic life

Scientists were able to create DNA in a lab, and put it into a bacterium whose DNA was removed…and it functioned.

With more progress, bacteria could be created to process waste products, or make anti-cancer drugs.

“If you can create a specific bacterium to do good, you could also create one to do harm. There are concerns about that type of thing,” points out Dr. Garth Ehrlich of the Allegheny-Singer Research Institute.

But this would take decades, at least.

  • An artificial ovary

Two different cell types from an ovary were grown together in a petri dish…and eggs grew.

An important achievement, because unfertilized eggs do not freeze well for future use.

“By developing an artificial ovary, we’re able to further enhance things we can do for patients who have cancer become cured of their cancer, and want to have children,” says Dr. Joseph Sanfilippo, an OBGYN at Magee Woman’s Hospital.

Whooping cough made a comeback

“In places where the vaccine levels go down, we see an upsurge in pertussis, whopping cough,” says Dr. Marian Michaels, an infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital. “While we didn’t have that in Pittsburgh, it did happen in California, and unfortunately, really happened with dire consequences.”

In fact, several babies died.

Bed bugs came out of the woodwork.

New York, among other major cities, was hit hard…but not so much this area.

“A lot of the travel and moving is really how the bed bugs spread the best, so maybe that Pittsburgh is a town where people stay for a long time, stay in the same home for a long time, may be less of an issue here,” explains Dr. Douglas Kress, a dermatologist at Children’s Hospital.

Other big stories of 2010:

  • health care reform,
  • the earthquake in haiti and subsequent cholera outbreak,
  • and graphic health hazard warnings on cigarette packaging.

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