2018 was very cool for science. From the woman who gave birth with transplanted uterus, to the infamous scandal with children CRISPR and criminology, using genealogical tests to track down criminals last year, we never ceased marveled, where we lead the scientific path. CRISPR and now tops the headlines, but let’s see, what else can you expect in 2019, from medicine and biotechnology.
Here is the history of science and medicine, which can explode with fireworks this year. But first recall the obvious: to predict the future very difficult. Forecasting is the favorite child of statistics and intuition. But January is a great time to look into the crystal ball of the coming year. Last year we predicted widespread approval of gene therapy products — and for the most part guessing. This year’s predictions will be a few.
The use of gene drives
The concept of gene drives scares many. And not without reason. Gene drives is a major step forward in serious working with genes, even in comparison with CRISPR and other gene editing tools. Even when editing the embryonic genes, when altered sperm, egg or embryos, editing of genes affects only a single genetic line — one family — at least in the beginning before she will thrive in General population.
But gene drives, on the other hand, capable of destroying entire species.
In short, these tiny pieces of DNA code which helps to transfer the gene from a parent to a child with almost 100 percent perfect probability. Heard the rule: half of your genes taken from father, half from its mother? Gene drives spit on him.
In other words, the only case where it would be possible to consider the use of gene drive is a change in the genetic composition of the entire population. Sounds like the plot of a film about supervillains, but scientists have planned to test these methods first on the mosquitoes, and then in rodents.
By just having some mutant mosquitoes that carry a gene drives with infertility, for example, scientists could potentially destroy entire populations that carry infectious diseases like malaria, dengue or zika. The technology is so powerful and dangerous that DARPA has allocated $ 65 million to study how to deploy, control, counteract, or even reverse the effects of such impacts on the environment.
In the past year, the United States discreetly given to understand that this technology will be deployed. Currently, the first issue of the genetically modified mosquito is being prepared for testing in Burkina Faso in Africa — the world’s first field experiment with the use of gene drives.
In the experiment, will be released only Anopheles mosquitoes that are vectors of diseases. More than 10,000 males these mosquitoes will be released into the wild. They are genetically sterile, but do not cause infertility and will help scientists to study how they survive and spread, in preparation for the release of other mosquitoes.
Non-profit consortium Target Malaria supported with funding from the bill and Melinda gates Foundation, is developing a gene drive called Mosq which to spread infertility among the population of mosquitoes or destroy all females insects. He tries to break the rules of inheritance — and to save millions of people — and start the experiment in 2024.
Universal flu vaccine
Often, people dismiss flu as the source of irritation, but the infection kills thousands of people a year.
The influenza virus is really as difficult to treat as HIV mutates at a very high speed, making impossible the development of an effective vaccine. Currently scientists use the data to predict the strains that could become epidemic, and urge the public to be vaccinated against these strains. This is partly due to the fact that, on average, the flu vaccine is successful in 50% of cases — throw a coin, heads or tails.
Tired of relying on guesswork, scientists rejected the idea of a universal flu vaccine designed for all strains, even those that have not yet been identified. These vaccines are trying to prevent our immune system about the parts of the flu virus that are least variable from strain to strain.
In November last year, the first universal flu vaccine, developed by BiondVax, has entered the third phase of clinical trials. This means that it has already proven its safety and efficacy in a small number and is currently being tested on a wider population. This vaccine is not based on dead virus, as usual. It uses a chain of amino acids, the chemical components from which proteins to stimulate the immune system to be in a state of high alert.
Perhaps it was in this year the area of universal vaccines is waiting for a breakthrough.
Edit the genes in the body
CRISPR and other gene editing tools filled the headlines last year. What’s next? Experiments to directly edit genes in the body. In September last year, Sangamo Therapeutics of Richmond, California, revealed that the introduced gene editing enzymes patient in the hope to correct the genetic deficit, not allowing it to break down complex sugars.
These efforts differ markedly from the better known therapy CAR-T, which removes cells from the body for genetic engineering, before returning to their owners. Sangamo method directly introduces viruses carrying the edited genes in the body. While the procedure is safe, but it is too early to determine its effectiveness.
This year the company hopes to finally answer that works or not.
If successful, it becomes known that a devastating genetic disorder potentially can be cured with a few injections. With a range of new and more precise tools for editing genes, the list of treatable hereditary diseases are likely to grow. And with the scandal surrounding CRISPR-kids editing genes in the body might be opened more paths, if the results of the Sangamo is positive.
Neuralink and other brain-computer interfaces
Neuralink is fantastic in some way: a tiny implanted in the brain of the particles may associate your biological ON silicon equipment and Internet.
However, this company is Elon musk, founded in 2016, aims to develop: brain-computer interfaces that can be associated with your nervous circuits for the treatment of diseases or even improve your abilities.
In November last year, Musk broke the silence secret of the company, stating that will tell you something “interesting” in a few months.
Desire Mask to achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence is not the driving force for all brain-computer interfaces (NCI). In hospitals the main incentive is the rehabilitation of patients who suffer from paralysis, memory loss or other damages of nerves.
2019 may be the year when NKI and neuromodulators will become ubiquitous in hospitals and get rid of the wires. These devices may finally earn offline in a malfunctioning brain, using electrical stimulation only when needed to reduce side effects and not requiring external monitoring. Or they could allow scientists to control the brain with light, without the need for cumbersome optical fibres.
The opinion of futurists: GMO revolution
His expert opinion has been shared by Mr Kosinets, Phys.N., coordinator of the Russian Association of futurologists:
“The short answer can be only one: our civilization, despite all the difficulties, complexities and problems, is on the brink of GM revolution. And this, of course, is not about transgenic food, and usher in a new era of managing human biology.
It’s pretty simple: human biology is very far of perfection that created us, evolution is not a good designer. The results are, unfortunately, well known, and one of them is tormenting thousands of people ailments, from minor ailments to deadly diseases.
In the fight with them, modern medicine of pills and scalpels, has reached obvious success. But it is also clear that the possibility is limited and the current methods it will never be able to achieve the only acceptable result acceptable to us to cure all diseases.
At the same time to solve this apparent utopia today, the task is possible. The known facts say that today it is obvious that any living creature person can hurt only those illnesses, which allows its biology. People genetically can’t, for example, sick swine fever, and the animals are not biologically capable of rooting many human diseases.
Today, it is clear that a radical cure and does not prevent to prevent HIV infection, all cases of any infectious, nature, only managing biological properties of the organism to genetic and cellular level.
The ability to change not only the cells of embryos, but also the trillions of cells already living, adults… Such Biomedicine is capable of unthinkable today — to provide people with something that today seems incredible — an absolute and permanent health, Biomedicine will give, able. This new medicine will have little resemblance to modern, but infinitely more effective. The first scientific steps in its creation is obvious. Of the possibility of such interference in the work of the body will not simply successfully well to treat the disease, but to prevent their occurrence. It is an entirely different level.”
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