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Wednesday, July 1, 1998 Published at 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK


Five decades into the future




Dr Robert Blundell and his son, both GPs, compare their lives in the NHS.
In the 50 years since the NHS was born, medical technology has developed at a fantastic rate. But although transplants and genetic engineering may catch the headlines today, the new age in healthcare was built on antibiotics. In the 1940s, the likes of penicillin, erythromycin and streptomycin were used for the first time to cure common infections.

1948

  • Two new antibiotics, aureomycin and chloromycetin are developed.
  • First successful internal heart surgery is performed.
1949
  • Antibiotic, neomycin, is developed.
1952
  • Vaccine is made against polio.
  • First successful sex-change operation takes place in Europe.
  • Amniocentesis test allows a foetus to be checked for abnormalities.
  • First tranquillizer, reserpine, is made.
1953
  • Open-heart surgery is performed with the aid of a heart-lung machine.
  • Structure of DNA is described.
1954
  • Link between smoking and lung cancer is suggested.
  • First Kidney transplant is performed on an identical twin.
1955
  • Ultrasound is introduced in obstetrics.
1957
  • Interferons (natural substances that fight viruses) are discovered.
1960
  • The pacemaker for the heart is developed. Methicillin, an antibiotic drug, is discovered.
  • Deaf people get hearing aids on the NHS.
1961
  • Contraceptive pill is made available on the NHS.
1962
  • First artificial hip operation
1963
  • First liver transplant is performed.
1965
  • Measles vaccine becomes available.
1966
  • Live virus vaccine for rubella (German measles) is developed.
1967
  • A whole heart is transplanted from one human to another.
  • A coronary bypass operation is performed.
  • Mammography (an X-ray technique) for the detection of breast cancer is introduced.
1968
  • New fertility drugs cause a British woman to give birth to sextuplets
  • A vaccine against meningitis is developed.
  • Epidural anaesthetic technique, to ease pain in childbirth, is announced.
1969
  • A single gene is isolated for the first time.
1970
  • First successful nerve transplant takes place.
1971
  • Surgeons develop the fibre-optic endoscope for looking inside the human body.
1972
  • CAT (computerised axial tomography) scanning provides cross-sectional X-rays of human body.
1973
  • Recombinant DNA technique is developed - arguably the start of genetic engineering.
  • The first NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) image is taken.
1975
  • Endorphins (morphine-like chemicals) in the brain are discovered.
1978
  • Insulin is 'manufactured' in bacteria from synthetic DNA.
  • First 'test tube' baby, Louise Brown, is born.
1980
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is tested.
  • The lithotripter, a machine that uses sound waves to break up kidney stones, is developed.
  • World Health Organisation announces the eradication of smallpox.
1980
  • Artificial heart is transplanted into a patient.
1983
  • HIV virus is isolated.
1985
  • First human cancer gene, retinoblastoma, is isolated
1986
  • First heart, lung, and liver transplant.
  • Surgeons develop an operation for removing tissue from the cornea by laser.
1987
  • First successful five-organ transplant.
  • Entire human knee is transplanted.
  • A laser is used to clear a blocked coronary artery.
1988
  • The abortion pill, RV486, is marketed
  • Combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
1990
  • First surgery on a baby in its mother's womb




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