Things are looking up for cancer patients — from gene editing to the humble avocado, various forms of treatment are manifesting all over the world. Now, virtual reality systems are making it easier for doctors to treat cancerous tumors.
Once wearing the Oculus VR headset, the wearer can clearly see how the drug combats certain DNA strands inside the cell of a cancerous growth.
The wearer can then look around 360 degrees inside the tumor to see how the drug attaches itself to DNA strands to help dismantle the cancer.
The Oculus VR can eliminate the need of replica training, which is less practical and more expensive. It also provides users with feedback, allowing surgeons to perform more accurately.
“It is helpful in engaging the brain through interacting with a personalized animation someone is familiar with, so it feels real.”
I suppose this means virtual reality can escape its video game bubble and transition into the education industry. After all, there is always value in new technology.
Since “you only live once” became every millennial’s official mantra, people have been on the hunt for the next health craze. Billionaires are sponsoring lab-grown meat experiments, while schools are encouraging students to try vegan lunch menus. Though diet and exercise are key to long living, an Amish community with anti-aging genes may give us some insight.
“For the first time we are seeing a molecular marker of aging (telomere length), a metabolic marker of aging (fasting insulin levels) and a cardiovascular marker of aging (blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness) all tracking in the same direction in that these individuals were generally protected from age-related changes.” [said researcher Douglas Vaughan.]
In short, members of the Amish kindred lacked a protein called PAI-1. Due to Amish locals’ genetic isolation, acquiring the mutation is almost always likely. Scientists are now testing a copycat drug on a control group.
“That was the gateway that could allow us to investigate the impact of a partial PAI-1 deficiency over a lifetime,” says Vaughan.
If the trials are successful, it may see improvements in diabetes research. Sufferers of chronic balding may even grow their hair back.
Finding a cure for cancer has been a dream for doctors and patients alike. Over the years, scientists have made progress using gene-altering treatments, which reprograms T-cells. However, it seems nanomachines may be the answer, as they can destroy cancer cells in mere seconds.
The tiny spinning molecules are driven by light, and spin so quickly that they can burrow their way through cell linings when activated.
A broken outer membrane means a cell is no more. While I can only speak for myself, I think that’s pretty killer. Researchers are developing light-activated methods using the nanomachines for non-invasive treatments.
“These nanomachines are so small that we could park 50,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair, yet they have the targeting and actuating components combined in that diminutive package to make molecular machines a reality for treating disease.”
Not initially meant for medical use, this application for nanomachines is certainly a game-changer. Great things do come in small packages.
Gene editing in healthcare isn’t a novel procedure, but has been seeing fairly recent breakthroughs. The technique has brought us closer to curing paralysis and “butterfly” disease. But in an ambitious first, scientists at Benioff Children’s Hospital have attempted to rewrite DNA in a live patient to cure a rare genetic disorder.
“This is opening up a whole new field of medicine,” said Sandy Macrae, president of Sangamo Therapeutics, which funded the trial. “You can imagine all the diseases that now become possible to treat when you can put in a new copy of the gene, or turn it up or turn it down.”
The experimental patient suffered from Hunter syndrome, which damages organs due to lack of a particular enzyme. Researchers have yet to report on the new method’s success. With only some 12 gene editing trials in progress, the study has a lot to prove but, on the whole, seems promising.
Eric Topol, a geneticist and cardiologist at the Scripps Translational Science Institute, called the new trial “a very important milestone.”
“I’ve been following medicine over 30 years. I’ve never seen anything move at this velocity,”
Thanks to an abundance of brand new technology, gene therapy is getting the boost it deserves. Hopefully it’ll see its patients through to a happy ending.
An avalanche of medical successes this year are sharing a common theme — genes. Gene editing is allowing researchers to more efficiently remedy conditions such as paralysis and leukemia. Though initially an unlikely candidate, gene therapy is now also instrumental in treating junctional epidermolysis bullosa. It saw its first triumph on a “butterfly boy” in Germany.
[Doctors] took a patch of non-blistered skin from the boy’s leg and used a virus to carry a corrected version of the bad DNA into his skin cells.
They grew grafts of the corrected skin and, in three separate operations over several months, replaced the missing skin.
Considering most “butterfly children” don’t make it past 30, genetic skin grafting could make an impact commercially. The therapy corrects stem cells, regenerating healthy substitutes. Since his discharge, the German schoolboy has remained healthy, living without the need for medication.
“This is really the way to go. You can get to the patients early before they have all the complications and suffering,”
With a growing population of “butterfly children”, this breakthrough could potentially relieve a giant itching epidemic.
Since implanting their brain cells into humans in an attempt to treat Parkinson’s, pigs have helped further lab research. Just like mice, they have undergone testing in order to advance the health industry. Now, a new development in gene editing may allow pig-to-human transplants sooner rather than later.
To combat [difficulties], a team from Harvard University and a private company, eGenesis, just created gene-edited pig clones that are completely free of… retroviruses. Now, without the threat of these hidden diseases, it may be possible to safely transplant pig livers, hearts, and other organs.
Simply raising genetically altered pigs could be the ultimate game-changer. However, there is always the risk of organs not being accepted into host bodies.
Emerging technologies, like the CRISPR-Cas9 system of gene editing fame, are getting researchers closer to rejection free transplants.
Alongside lab-growing piglets, researchers are also dabbling into bioprinting. Using a patient’s own cells, bioprinting makes the replication of organs, tissue, and bones possible. It looks like there is greater value to bacon after all.
Thanks to gene editing, we’ve seen much progress in hard-to-treat conditions. Sufferers of both muscular dystrophy and leukemia are experiencing a new variety of treatment options. Now, thanks to CRISPR, a renowned gene editing tool, researchers have increased HIV resistance in animals.
A minor proportion of people harbor a homozygous mutation in CCR5—a gene that encodes a receptor found on immune cells—that thwarts HIV’s attempts to get inside the cells. In an attempt to mimic this natural resistance, researchers mutated CCR5 in human fetal liver hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) and showed that the cells could block HIV infection after transplantation into mice.
Don’t let the medical jargon fool you — while the procedure may be complicated, the concept itself is a lot simpler. By replicating a naturally occurring genetic mutation, T-cells become more resistant to viruses. But results were slow, and researchers were patient, to say the least.
“The long-term reconstitution and secondary transplantation were time-consuming. It took us more than one-year monitoring of the mice to confirm the gene editing is robust in long-term HSCs,”
The study may not have been the first to incorporate gene editing, but it is the first to use CRISPR. We may not have engineered a complete cure (after all, we’ve only targeted mice), but finding one wouldn’t seem too improbable.
Moral of the story? Take risks. Sponsor a child genius. Our future depends on them.
Alongside scientists, mice have played a huge role in health-related breakthroughs. Since previously advancing diabetes research, mice have now led us to a potential cure for paralysis. In particular, gene editing has eliminated muscular dystrophy in mice.
The mice in the study have a rare and severe form of congenital muscular dystrophy known as MDC1A.
The illness is caused by a splice site mutation: a genetic error makes cellular messengers misread a critical section of DNA, like the scratch that makes a record skip.
Researchers in Cohn’s lab used CRISPR to cut out the scratch. Natural cell repair mechanisms stitched the remaining strands of DNA back together, allowing the whole genetic sequence to be read normally.
Follow ups proved that the participating mice were healed completely. The method is also simple, unlike other processes that require the engineering of an entirely new genome. However, as with all animal testing, researchers must carefully consider human trials.
For the first time it’s possible to think about — and this is still at the thinking stage, let’s be clear — the possibilities of gene correction in humans with these diseases,”
Considering that patients with muscular dystrophy rarely make it through their twenties, this could be the change they need. It may be a while, but gene editing holds much promise for the future.
Gene harvesting has allowed for the possibility of growing replacement organs. However, it’s a lot easier said than done. A shortage of donors and genetic material mean we can’t just mass produce parts. But maybe we can 3D print them. Swiss researchers have recently proved 3D printed hearts can beat almost identically to real ones.
The silicone heart features left and right ventricles or chambers, just like a human heart, as well as an additional chamber that acts as the heart’s engine by driving the external pump.
It’s hoped this artificial version can eventually replace mechanical pumps, which are always at risk of failure or causing complications in the body.
With nearly 26 million people suffering from heart failure worldwide, this could be the answer to a pressing issue. The heart is made of silicone and can currently last 3,000 beats. While it’s not quite fit for replacement, it certainly is a promising start.
Meanwhile, earlier this year a team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute used spinach leaves to generate functioning heart tissue, complete with veins that could transport blood.
Looks like it’s going to be a favorable year for hearts.