In surgical rooms doctors can now operate on patients remotely from their computer screens, guiding robotic arms to an accuracy of a few nanometers. Genetic laboratories equipped with DNA slicing enzymes, a mere sequence of polypeptide chains can make wonders happen. The entire genetic makeup of human beings can be deconstructed into understandable genetic codes. Medical biotechnology has moved forward by leaps and bounds in the last few decades.
Biotechnology Breakthroughs In Medicine
In this article, we have set out to list some of the major breakthroughs of biotechnology in Medicine.
Table of Contents
1. Stem Cell Research
Stem cells can keep dividing infinitely and have the capacity to differentiate into different types body cells, during the early development of an organism. In a laboratory, researchers can program these stem cells to differentiate into specific type of cells. This is where the innovation of biotechnology steps in. Imagine an individual with degenerative spinal disorder that severely impacts their quality-of-life. With the help of stem cell research, it might be possible to grow these stem cells in vitro, in a lab setting, and then implanted back into the affected individual’s body. This would help restore their cognitive acuity, vision, hearing, and other physical features. This may sound far-fetched and like a plot from a sci-fi movie, but the preliminary results have been promising.
2. Human Genome Project
Often lauded as the one of greatest feat of exploration in the human history, the Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific research project coordinated by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy. It was officially launched in 1990 with the goal of determining the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that make up human DNA. In April 2003, the researchers announced that they had completed a preliminary sequencing of the entire human genome. This work of the HGP has allowed researchers to begin to understand the blueprint for building a person. As researchers learn more about the functions of genes and proteins, it has aided them in identifying genes that cause diseases, and in turn looking for effective treatment.
3. Targeted Cancer Therapies
Currently established standard chemotherapies are toxic for healthy cells. Targeted cancer therapies are drugs that work either by interfering the function of specific molecules or by only targeting known cancerous cells, in order to minimize damage to healthy cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, “Eventually, treatments may be individualized based on the unique set of molecular targets produced by the patient’s tumor.”
4. 3D visualization and augmented reality for surgery
Surgery is brutal on a human body, and medical breakthroughs that make the surgical and healing process more efficient is always welcomed. Biotechnology has now made it possible for doctors to view an entire 3D image of the inside of a patient’s body through the use of MRI and CT scans. This allows each organ to be precisely projected, so that the surgeon can make small, targeted incisions to minimize bodily trauma to the patient. Furthermore, augmented reality would allow pertinent information to be displayed directly overlaid over the relevant body parts.
5. HPV vaccine
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is one of the causative agents of cervical cancer. It is the second most lethal cancer in women, second only to breast cancer, killing 275,000 women worldwide every year. Therefore, a successful HPV vaccination is considered a major medical accomplishment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved HPV vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix for use among females between 9 – 26 years of age.
6. Face Transplants
A face transplant is a process of using skin grafts to replace all or a part of the patient’s face with a donor face. The first partial face transplant was performed in Amiens, France in 2005. The next successful transplant was performed five years later in Spain; this was also the first ever full-face transplant. The transplant patient, whose face was severely damaged in an accident, received a new nose, lips, teeth and cheekbones during the 24-hour long surgery.
Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is a relatively new gene-editing system that has been hailed as a groundbreaking tool in medical research. Of its many uses, HIV research is one of them. Researchers can now keep up with the constant genetic mutations by actively testing newly found mutations and constantly editing them to tweak targeted therapies.
8. 3D Printed Organs
Artificial limbs have been in use for centuries, and there has been steady improvement in the mobility and versatility of bionic limbs. Now new advances in bionic technology and 3D printing has taken it even further. It has made it possible to artificially construct internal organs like heart, kidney, and liver. Doctors have been able to successfully implant these into individuals that need them.
9. Nerve Regeneration
Nerve damage from neurodegenerative disease and spinal cord injury has largely been considered irreversible. However, researchers have made significant progress in synthesizing rare enzymes that promote regeneration and growth of injured nerve cells. Neurotrophins are proteins that promote the development of neurons. It is a sequence of small molecular chains that possesses potent neurotrophic properties. Although these neutrophins have some of the shortcomings of protein-based agents, researchers are pursuing this as a possible avenue for nerve regeneration.
10. Brain Signals to Audible Speech
Scientists are working on creating a device that can translate brain signal to audible speech using voice synthesizer. This would serve as an incredible tool in communicating with individuals paralyzed with disease or traumatic injuries. Furthermore, scientists have found that they can use these device on epileptic patients to isolate the source of their seizures.