4 Biotechnology Developments in Medicine

Articles | Online Master's in Health Law and Policy

4 Biotechnology Developments in Medicine

Bioengineers excel in creating health technologies and products that truly revolutionize health care, such devices allow care providers to perform intricate diagnoses and develop medicines that prolong human lives. Biotechnology continues to improve, and researchers have made considerable progress in treating illnesses and injuries, as well as improving overall quality of life for patients. Bearing this in mind, the following biotechnology advancements have changed the human condition in a monumental way.

Alzheimer’s Treatment

Physicians have access to several medications that improve cognition and memory in nearly half of the patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. However, researchers want to improve this statistic. They are currently evaluating dozens of new pharmaceuticals designed to treat the condition. Upon approval, the new treatments might help patients combat Alzheimer’s disease effectively and permanently.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers hope to accomplish this by developing drugs that target amino acids called beta amyloid plaques that congeal in the human brain. These amino acids are especially harmful as they impede human thinking and the ability to recall specific memories.

The drugs would perform a service similar to a heart surgeon removing plaque from a clogged artery, which is currently impossible to mimic in the human brain. These treatments could represent a long sought after breakthrough for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the new drugs, researchers are developing diagnostic tests that can detect early signs of the condition.

Using CRISPR to Search for an HIV Cure

Clustered regular interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) therapy is a revolutionary new medical innovation. The technology enables genetic editing and could eliminate cancer along with many other deadly diseases. Researchers have already removed the HIV virus from living cells in a controlled environment. Hypothetically, CRISPR technology could assist biochemists in creating drugs to treat currently incurable diseases in humans and other life forms. For example, scientists are currently conducting research with the technology in an attempt to improve the ability of food crops to resist diseases and withstand environmental conditions.

While researchers theorize that CRISPR could increase the intelligence of an embryo, they warn that caution is highly warranted if scientists choose to pursue such a potentially unethical endeavor.
Genome editing is the product of over 40 years of research. Throughout these trials, scientists have debated over the balance between regulations and permissions — too much regulation hinders progress while too much permission might deteriorate ethical standards.

Speech Restorer

For consumers afflicted with severe speech impediments, uttering simple words can prove difficult and may only sound intelligible to caregivers, family members, and friends. However, researchers are working on technologies to help patients who suffer from such conditions.

The Voice Input Voice Output Communication Aid (Vivoca) deciphers indistinguishable words using translation technology. The device is so efficient that in some instances, it can complete a sentence for users after processing only two words.

Vivoca consists of a handheld computer and Bluetooth headset. Consumers can customize the device with male and female voices as well as regional dialects. The device can also vocalize specific commands when users push a button.

Well-known figures have provided the likenesses of their voices for the device, such as poet Ian McMillan and BBC news personality Christina Ackroyd. Additionally, users who suffer from conditions such as Parkinson’s or motor neurone disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) that may eventually claim their ability to speak can record their voices for later use with the device.

Cancer treatment

Leukemia, or cancer in the tissues that create blood cells, can affect individuals of all ages — even newborn infants. Researchers have engineered cells using gene therapy to combat the disease. The technology is one the most advanced medical techniques proposed for patient treatment.

Biotechnology firm Cellectis has engineered one such therapy called transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs). Physicians hope the treatment will serve as the “magic bullet” that wipes out cancer. After successfully conducting trials on laboratory specimens, researchers have started testing with over 300 human patients with amazing success.

Medical researchers work continuously to find solutions for human kind’s most pressing health problems. The demand for innovative health solutions is so high that the search for solutions even extends to talented biomedical students. At this early career stage, a bright mind just might discover the next great treatment that revolutionizes health care.

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