Billions of pounds have been invested into HIV research around the world and a breakthrough has been made – HIV antibodies have successfully been combined, potentially paving the way for a cure to the infection being found,

In the UK, HIV affects over 100,000 people, around 0.16% of the population, although, worryingly, more than one in ten are unaware of the infection. Although awareness campaigns have led to the number of HIV diagnoses declining since the beginning of the century, thousands still find out they have the infection each year. Improved awareness and better diagnostics mean fewer people are being diagnosed late, which is significantly cutting the number of deaths within the first year diagnosis. Treatment too has rapidly improved – in 2015, less than 1% of people living with a diagnosed HIV infection in the UK died.

Despite this, an HIV cure has yet to be discovered but the latest advancement suggests it may only be a matter of time.

An experimental HIV antibody currently being trialled has successfully suppressed the virus for six months without the need for further treatment. It’s believed the therapy targeted long-lived cells that are affected by the virus, leading to the illness being suppressed. The study, which was conducted by the Beth Israel Medical Centre, the teaching hospital for Harvard Medical, is still in the early stages but its findings are promising. The research suggests that there is an effective way to not only treat HIV but provide protection against the virus too.

The data gathered as part of the study, indicate that focuses on activating and eliminating a fraction of the viral reservoir could be a key area to focus investment and resources in the fight against HIV.

For now, it’s hoped that the antibody drug could lead to an effective vaccine or treatment for those infected but it’s pushing the boundaries of HIV treatment. The US team isn’t the only research team that’s racing towards a cure either, it’s high on the agenda of many other researchers, including some based in Europe, signalling that a vaccine and cure are within grasp.

The latest research covering HIV demonstrates how rapidly medical advancements are progressing. Just forty years ago, HIV was considered a death sentence. Today, it can be effectively diagnosed and managed to allow patient to live long, full lives in spite of the virus.


At the moment, the diagnosis process can seem longwinded and the options you have available aren’t always exactly what you need. But a new tool could soon change that by allowing professionals to quickly and cheaply build up the diagnostic test that they need.

While it’s still in the early stages of development and is being designed with the challenges third world countries face, it’s an idea that has the potential to shape how diagnostic tests are completed in the future. The diagnostic platform comes from the MIT Little Devices Lab and has been dubbed plug-and-play devices due to their customisable features and versatility.

Ampli, as the device is called, uses a set of modular blocks that can be configured in numerous different ways to create effective diagnostic devices. For example, one way of putting the block together will accurately test blood glucose levels in a diabetic patient, while another configuration will be able to detect a viral infection. With little skill required to put the blocks together, the Ampli development could change the way diagnostic procedures are done.

The modular blocks stand out for a number of reasons.

  • They’re low cost – Compared to alternatives, Ampli is incredibly low cost. Each block costs just a few cents making it accessible to smaller labs. It makes it affordable for healthcare professionals to carry out the diagnostic tests that can support patient outcomes and wellbeing.
  • They don’t require specialist handling – The Ampli concept was designed to work in labs around the world, including those that aren’t well equipped with the latest tech. They don’t require any specialist handling and don’t even need to be refrigerated, providing more scope for them to be used.
  • Diagnostic tests can be completed in-house – In some circumstances, samples need to be sent many miles for even basic tests to be conducted. The modular block approach means they can be completed in-house, reducing wait times and how treatment progresses.
  • They’re adaptable – Ampli can act as a single kit to diagnose a range of conditions, with around 40 blocks at present. It’s an adaptable approach to medicine that can be changed to reflect the demands of each healthcare professional.

The team behind Ampli aim to get the product into small labs and they’re already working on new blocks and configurations that would provide further testing capabilities. Is the Ampli approach something you’d like to see expanded to operations in the UK, could it be useful in a modern healthcare setting?


Technology has already transformed the medical sector and it’s set to revolutionise it even further. The internet of things (IoT) is being adopted across a huge number of industries and medicine is no different. It’s next-generation technology that’s already being used in some medical settings around the world, but its use and influence is set to become far more important.

If you’re not convinced it’ll be affecting the way you work over the next decade, we’ve got five ways the IoT could soon be used every day in the world of healthcare.

  1. Patient tracker

The IoT could soon give doctors and other healthcare professionals access to real time information when patients are at home. For example, with the right devices in place, you’ll be able to see if an elderly patient has taken their prescribed medication. With a large portion of prescribed medicines not being taken correctly, the IoT could allow for resources to be used more effectively while benefiting patients.

  1. Portable diagnostics

Imagine being able to give patients portable diagnostic kits to be used at home that will directly transport the vital information to your system. It’s a method that’s set to become a reality in the near future thanks to the IoT. It’ll be far more convenient for patients, who won’t even need to leave their home, and can reduce demand for appointments and lengthy diagnostics, while still delivering insightful information.

  1. Patient movement within a hospital

In a busy hospital setting, tracking patient movement could provide useful information and speed up processes. Devices, such as a wearable wristband, that are connected to the IoT have a huge opportunity to provide practical data and act as an additional measure to safeguard patients. It’s a tech tool that can also be used to track occupancy, allowing for resources to be deployed quicker, cutting wait times.

  1. Tracking inventory

Managing hospital or medical practice inventory can be a huge challenge and add to expenses when mistakes occur. An IoT approach can build on existing processes by providing further information, such as real time locations, use, and where each product is at in its lifecycle.

  1. Improve preventive care

While care has improved enormously in the last decade alone, there’s a growing emphasis on preventive care, improving patient health and reducing the cost to the healthcare system. IoT devices enable patients to better track their health and understand changes they need to make – it could have a real impact on the way preventable illnesses are treated.

Do you envision the IoT being used in other ways within medicine, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic?

With long organ donation lists and patients being put at risk, an opt out system is being hotly debated in the UK. At the beginning of the year, MPs backed a landmark bill that would introduce an opt out organ donation process, paving the way for it to be an approach that’s adopted in the UK.

The bull was put forward after it was revealed that England has some of the lowest rates of organ donation in Western Europe and around 500 people die every year due to a lack of suitable donors. Should it move forward, the system would mean everyone is listed as a donor unless they actively register their decision to opt out. It would replace a system where donors need to actively register on the NHS Organ Donor Register or a family chooses whether to donate if no decision has been recorded.

But while the opt out system has received the backing of MPs, it still has arguments both for and against.

For opt out organ donation

Right at the top of the list of arguments in favour of the system, it the number of lives it could save. A similar system is already in place in Wales and polls suggest the general public are in favour of being part of the system. This is further underpinned by the fact that medical advancements mean organ transplants are far more likely to be successful, increasing the lives that could be saved.

It’s also argued that those against the opt out system are reasoning based on sentimentality rather than logic when weighed up against the benefits patients could experience with shorter donor waiting lists.

Against opt out organ donation

Despite the pro arguments, there are several core arguments against arguments that need to be addressed. Those that oppose the opt out system typically don’t disagree with trying to extend the organ donation programme but rather the strategy that’s being taken. It’s been stated that the opt out system implies that bodies belong to the state and that campaigns to increase donor recruitment is a better option.

It also raises safeguarding issues, as patients haven’t directly said they do want their organs to be donated and those that want to refuse could feel pressured by social norms to comply.

Do you think an opt out organ donation system will work better than the current process?

There’s being a growing movement towards more patients accessing medical cannabis around the world but in the UK it’s still something of a taboo subject. But with a growing body of evidence in support of using marijuana for a range of conditions, should it be more readily available for patients.

Cannabis based drug Sativex was the first of its kind to be approved in the UK in 2010 and is currently used to treat some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, such as neuropathic pain and spasticity. However, it can only be prescribed by specialist doctors in certain circumstances and isn’t widely used. Other than Sativex, cannabis is considered to be a class B drug and cannot, therefore, be supplied for medical conditions.

As well as MS, cannabis research has suggested the drug can alleviate the symptoms of other conditions, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease but the debate on whether it should be made more widely available continues.

Yes, medical marijuana should be more readily available

One of the key factors behind the pro-medical marijuana debate is that there’s a growing body of evidence that shows it can have a positive impact on a variety of conditions. Over 40 countries, including Australia, Canada, Switzerland, and the US, have decriminalised cannabis in some form, making it far more accessible to patients that could benefit from it. The Royal College of Nursing is one of the most recent organisations to lend its voice in support, noting it can provide relieve pain and control symptoms. The organisation also points out that many painkillers are legal despite being from the same family as heroin.

Another essential point in favour of decriminalising the use of cannabis for medical purposes is the fact that many patients are already turning to the drug, potentially putting themselves in vulnerable situations as they need do so by accessing a street dealer. Legalising the drug would be patients can be certain of what they are taking and be monitored by a professional.

No, medical marijuana shouldn’t be more readily available

Of course, there is a strong case against making medical marijuana more readily available to patients. Firstly, while research has been positive, clinical data still highlights concerns, including those that show use could be dangerous and have a long-term impact that has yet to be fully explored. Some studies, for example, have suggested that long-term use of cannabis could affect critical organ function, indicating that more research would be beneficial to fully understand the effects of cannabis.

Another issue against the drug is what parameters will be set around it and how they will be enforced. For medical marijuana to be used more frequently there would need to be significant changes in regulations and how its use is governed. T

What’s your view on the subject – should doctors have greater capabilities to prescribe medical marijuana for a range of conditions?