The year ahead: ten amazing science and technology
innovations coming up in 2014
From the world's largest underground hotel to Star Wars-style holographic communication, the coming year is set to unveil an array of incredible advances in science and technology
Not every emerging scientific advance is complex, or sophisticated. Or, for that matter, something you'd discuss at the dinner table. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) – the process of transferring fecal bacteria from a healthy individual into a sick recipient - has been around since 1957. But it’s only in the last decade that FMT has been seen as simple, safe, low cost, low risk, accessible, and, apparently, a permanent treatment alternative to increasingly high-strength antibiotics.
To explain: when a patient is given broad-spectrum antibiotics, the effect is to carpet-bomb all the healthy bacteria that live in our guts, leaving the patient open to infection by other bacteria - such as the potentially fatal Clostridium difficile. Since 2000, hypervirulent strains of C. difficile have developed, and now kill over 2,000 people a year in the UK alone. But FMT is the shock troops: a quick, easy way of restoring healthy bacteria into your guts to fight the infection. And fight they do: an incredible 89% of patients are instantly, and permanently, cured.
And new research suggests FMT might also offer cures for not just IBS, colitis, constipation and colonic ulcers – but also a growing number of neurological and auto-immune conditions such as Parkinson's. In October it was announced FMT was now available in pill form, making it slightly more appealing.