Dr. Eva Ramón Gallegos: A Female Scientist Making Strides Towards Curing HPV

Early this February, Eva Ramón Gallegos was able to cure 29 women of HPV—a sexually transmitted disease known as human papillomavirus—in an experimental study.

According to Planned Parenthood, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. A large number of women are affected by the disease. It has no cure and can lead to cancer and genital warts. Some strains of the virus can resolve themselves and go away on their own—but if HPV sticks around it can lead to cervical, anal, penile, vaginile and throat cancer. 

Healthcare providers often recommend that young teens between the ages of 11–12 years old be vaccinated for HPV before they're exposed to the virus. This is because the vaccine has little protection for those who have already been exposed. Because of this, healthcare providers push for everyone to be vaccinated—especially because HPV can be mostly prevented. But if not kept in check, HPV can lead to serious consequences. 

Fortunately, a Mexican scientist named Eva Ramón Gallegos was able to use photodynamic therapy in her studies of the disease and eliminate HPV in 80% of her patients. According to the National Cancer Institution, photodynamic therapy uses a drug and a light wavelength to treat areas of the body that have been infected with cancer. The drug collects infected cells so that scientists can differentiate between cancerous cells and healthy cells. Then, the cancerous cells are exposed to light and eliminated from the body. The most important thing to note about photodynamic therapy is the fact it only affects infected cells. This differs from other methods of therapy such as radiation or chemotherapy, which kill ALL cells involved.

However, the American Cancer Society states that photodynamic therapy has its limitations. Because it uses light therapy, it cannot penetrate the deeper layers of the body. It's only able to treat cells that the light can reach.

So the cure for HPV is still a work in progress—but the results are encouraging.

More long-term research has to be done before this can become an official cure, as Dr. Gallegos’ work has not yet been published in a peer review journal to officially acknowledge the study's results. (A peer review journal is a journal that has been reviewed by several other scientists and experts in the field to ensure the journalist’s quality.) She would need a published journal to ensure that her possible cure to HPV has been reviewed by several other scientists and experts to determine the validity of said research.

But I’m sure Dr. Gallegos—as well as many other experts—will work hard to study HPV and provide more knowledge and results, especially after this incredibly encouraging study yielded such life-altering results.

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