Last year marked the start of medical teams in the US undertaking experiments in gene editing. With scientists around the world pushing boundaries with the latest research, it’s almost inevitable that gene editing will become commonplace within the medical world.

Chinese researchers first announced that they would begin editing human genes back in 2015 and just two years later the US followed suit. Led by a leading embryologist, it marked another step in being able to apply the knowledge to a clinical application that could drastically change the way certain inherited illnesses are prevented. Since that announcement, gene editing has made significant strides forward.

For the first time last year, scientists used a gene editing technique to correct a gene mutation in human embryos to the hereditary blood disorder beta thalassemia. The initial study improved mutations at a rate of around 20% but it lays the foundation for further progress as it gains international attention.  Numerous other studies are assessing how gene editing can be used for other genetic conditions.

Researchers are being careful to steer away from accusations of creating ‘designer babies’, with the sole aim of embryo modification so far focused on correcting defective genes that causes inherited diseases. Experiments have so far used CRISPR injected into the egg at the same time as the sperm, removing the potential of mosaicism problems to occur, as the CRISPR tools work from the moment the egg is fertilised. Mosaicism problems, where some cells are not edited, were reported in the initial human embryo trials in China but the problem-solving solution in the US has removed this issue, although the eggs were only developed for a few days.

With gene editing technology and knowledge growing, it’s an area that’s inevitably going to boom in size. However, there are of course concerns that have been raised and some groups that outright oppose the use of any type of gene editing. So far, no babies that have benefitted from gene editing technology have been born but over the next couple of years it’s likely to happen. When it does, the debate will no doubt intensify.

While controversial, gene editing holds lots of potential for removing inherited conditions completely. Is it a medical area that researchers should be pursuing in your opinion?

The innovative iKnife was developed a few years but it’s still making big waves within the industry and is set to continue having an impact on how surgeries are conducted.

The revolutionary knife tells surgeons immediately whether the tissue they are cutting though is cancerous or healthy tissue. Researchers at Imperial College London found that the intelligent tool has a 100% accuracy, removing the need for surgeons and other medical practitioners to wait for information to come from laboratory tests, speeding up surgery times. Removing cancerous tissue is challenging as it’s impossible to tell by sight which tissue is health and which is cancerous, and as fully removing a tumour usually results in the best prognosis for cancer patients the iKnife device can improve patient outcomes. For example, around 20% of breast cancer patients require further surgery to remove all the cancer but the iKnife applications could eliminate this.

It not only means that patients have improved results, but it allows hospitals to better deploy their resources and staff, allowing them to reduce waiting times.

While the iKnife is ground-breaking, it actually uses technology that is decades old. Electrosurgical knives, which rapidly heat tissue to minimise blood loss, are commonly used. The smart part of the iKnife comes in recognising that the smoke created from these tools offer biological information. Through taking this information, the iKnife can almost instantly state whether the tissue is cancerous of not.

The iKnife is already in use at the Imperial College London and is being trialled across several different types of cancer, including breast, colon, and ovarian cancer. But in the future, it could have other applications and be adapted to suit other kinds of surgeries. As a result, it could soon be an essential tool in all surgeries.

So, how will the iKnife affect surgeries throughout hospitals?

Firstly, it will allow surgeons to conduct some surgeries seamlessly. While typically surgeons will have to wait for lab results to come back, the iKnife can remove these waiting times. For hospitals, it can help to reduce costs, fit more surgeries in throughout shifts, and allow them to ensure they’re getting the most out of their skilled staff.

The iKnife is just one tool that’s set to revolutionise the medical sector. In the future it’s expected that it could be used to produce instant analysis of mucous membranes and the respiratory, urinogenital, or gastrointestinal systems.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with medical education news, you could not miss the announcement that the exams medical students sit are going to be changes in a few years. The national exam would change the way doctors are trained and could have a significant impact on the numbers that pass, procedures, and hiring within the industry in the future.

Although plans for the new national exam, called the UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA), were approved back in 2015, the first cohort of students won’t sit the exam until the 2022 as part of their end of year academic exams. But what’s the difference and what does the shift mean.

What is the current process?

At the moment each medical school set their own exams that students are required to pass. Each exam must comply with standards set out by the General Medical Council and must cover certain aspects of the curriculum that has to be taught in all schools. It means that there are differences both in the way students are taught and how they are assessed across the country.

The UKMLA will change that.

From the academic year 2021/22, all those studying medicine will take a unified exam before they are granted a licence to practise in the UK.

Why is it changing?

The main reason the national exam is being introduced is to provide unity across the whole of medical education in the UK. The General Medical Council has stated that the move aims to demonstrate that there’s a common threshold for safe practice, providing reassurance that high standards will be me and upheld across all medical schools.

The information that’s available now

As the first national exam being sat is still some time away, there is some information missing on how it will work. However, most of the basic information is now known.

Anyone who wants to begin practising medicine for 2022 inwards will need to pass the exam, which will test a combination of medical knowledge and clinical skills. The exam itself is likely be integrated into part of medical school finals, rather than being a standalone exam. Despite initial concerns, it’s also been confirmed that UK students are unlikely to have to pay an extra fee to sit the exam.

While some in the medical sector have welcomed the move to a unified exam, others have raised numerous concerns. Do you back the idea of all medical students should sit the same exam before practising?

Each medical school in the UK has its own way of teaching its students and helping them build the skills they need. Which one best matches your personal learning style will vary and there are pros and cons to each option. Picking out the right one for you can help you achieve your full potential while studying and develop your career. In the UK, courses on offer typically use one of these five approaches to training

  1. Traditional teaching style

Traditional courses are lecture based and each subject is taught separately. For two years you’ll undertake pre-clinical, which looks at basic medical sciences, followed by a clinical course that typically last for three years, where you work in hospital wards as well as attending lectures. This teaching style suits those that work well in lecture setting but for those that prefer to take a hands-on approach, it might not be the right teaching style.

  1. Integrated teaching style

While traditional courses separate each subject, the integrated teaching style blends them into systems, aiming to give a more holistic, seamless approach. Lectures still play an important role but this will be complemented by tutorials and self-directed learning. When compared to the traditional teaching style, you’ll also tend to work with patients earlier on within your course development.

  1. PBL teaching style

If you prefer to take a hands-on approach to learning, a PBL, problem based learning, course might be right for you. You’ll be expected to work with and see patient right from the beginning of your course. You’ll be given medical cases to work on and resolve, both individually and as part of a group. Most courses don’t take a pure PBL approach, instead blending it with other teaching styles to include lectures and seminars.

  1. CBL teaching style

Case based learning (CBL) is similar to PBL, in that it takes an integrated approach. You’ll work in small groups to focus on cases, developing the skills and knowledge needed for each case. It combines lectures, clinical skills, seminars, individual study, and other approaches to learning medicine for a diverse range of opportunities.

  1. EBL teaching style

An enquiry based learning (EBL) teaching style is ideal for those that want to take control of their own learning. As the student, you’ll be in charge of leading the areas that you want to study, with the support of a teacher. It includes problem based learning style too.

There are so many different organisations involved in the UK medical sector that it can be confusing to understand what each of them does, what they’re responsible for, and the influence they have. If you’re baffled by the number of organisations, we’ve taken a look at eight of the most prominent to give you a quick overview.

General Medical Council

The primary role of the GMC is to set standards for both medical students and practising doctors across the UK, ensuing that patient care is consistently. The organisation oversees the education and training that’s in place across the country, decides which doctors are qualified to practise in the UK, sets and regulates standards, and where necessary take action against doctors that do meet minimum standards.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

NICE provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. Working closely with industry practitioners, NICE produce evidence backed guides and advice that they can act on to improve care and maximise resources. The body also has a responsibility for developing quality standards and performance metrics that are used across the county.

The World Health Organisation

The WHO doesn’t have a direct influence in the UK health and care system, but it does have an impact. Working across the UN, WHO directs and coordinates international health, including health systems. Evolving from an organisation that aimed to control infectious diseases, this still plays an important role in its mission.

Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission regulates health and social care in England independently. Among its roles are registering care providers, inspecting and rating services, and providing support to protect people. Through its role, the organisation also speaks out on quality issues, bringing them attention to exact change.

British Medical Association

If you’re a doctor, BMA is your trade union and professional body. It’s an organisation that’s well placed to offer employment advice and help you progress towards career development goals. It also acts as a network to connect professionals to further research, improve standards, and more. As a trade union, BMA can also provide support when it’s needed, such as access to legal solutions.

The Medical Research Council

The Medical Research Council aims to improve the health in the UK through supporting scientists in the industry. The organisation’s commitment has resulted in life-changing discoveries that then influence the health sector in the UK and further afield.

The Department of Health and Social Care

The Department of Health influences the sector by being responsible by creating national policies and legislation, providing long-term vision across the whole of the industry. It’s this organisation that ensures health remains at the heart of the government. The role of this department was expanded in January 2018 to include social care.