Future of Biotechnology in Healthcare


22 Οκτ 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 5 μήνες)

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Future of Biotechnology in Healthcare
Biotechnology can offer patients more and better healthcare choices. New, innovative diagnostics
and therapies are changing how some human diseases are prevented and others are treated. This
monumental healthcare shift is in its early stages, with novel medicines, diagnostics and technologies
in development that hold great potential to improve patients’ lives.
Chapter Nine:
Future of Biotechnology in Healthcare
Future of Biotechnology in Healthcare
Personalized Medicine
Personalized medicine is the concept that
patients should be treated with therapies and
medicines based specifically on each patient’s
unique genetic makeup, for optimal results .
Currently, the practice of medicine is based
on standards of care that are determined by
averaging responses across large groups of
people . Personalized medicine is a new para-
digm that proposes to manage a patient’s
disease based on the individual patient’s spe-
cific characteristics, including age, gender,
height, weight, diet, genetics and environ-
ment . Genetic testing is beginning to allow
the development of genomic personalized
medicine—medical care based on a patient’s
genotype or gene expression profile .
A major movement in healthcare is phar-
macogenomics. Pharmacogenomics takes
advantage of the fact that individuals have
unique genomes representing their genetic
makeup . Each genome is likely to react differ-
ently to a particular drug and dose amount .
The challenge is to identify which drug and
which dose will work most optimally for
each person or for groups of individuals who
share similar genetics . By understanding a
patient’s genetic makeup, a physician can
better prescribe a drug and dose level that will
optimally work to combat a particular disease .
Advances in DNA technology are the keys to
both pharmacogenomics and personalized
medicine . These advances allow for testing
and identifying an individual’s unique genetic
makeup and then comparing those differenc-
es with the population at large . Knowledge of
the human genome, variations of the genome
among individuals and variations of the encod-
ed proteins produced enables researchers to
develop medicines that address the individual
needs of each patient . Pharmacogenomics
and personalized medicine promise to improve
clinical trials for new drugs, advance screening
technology for diseases and result in more-
effective individualized healthcare and advances
in preventive medicine .
Genetic Testing
The biotechnology industry has brought about
vast improvements in testing and diagnosis for
genetic diseases . The discovery of single-
nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)—single-
nucleotide changes in the DNA sequence—
was one of the major breakthroughs in genetic
testing . SNPs (pronounced “snips”) represent
one of the most common forms of genetic
variation among individuals . When a SNP
occurs in a gene sequence that encodes for
a specific protein, it may change that protein
and cause a disease or increase a patient’s
susceptibility to a disease . Utilizing technology
to detect SNPs allows for more-accurate
diagnosis of genetic diseases and therefore
facilitates treatment decisions . Genetic testing
provides patients with both an understanding
of possible risks for certain diseases and
possible opportunities for prevention .
Molecular diagnostic tests analyze DNA,
RNA or protein molecules to identify a
disease, determine its course, evaluate
responses to therapy or predict individual
predisposition to a disease .
Approximately 10 million SNPs have been
identified in the human genome .
Gene Therapy
Gene therapy is an emerging area of applied
genetics that utilizes recombinant DNA tech-
niques . In this case, the recombinant DNA
molecules themselves are used for therapy .
Gene therapy involves inserting genes,
created by recombinant DNA technology,
into the cells and tissues of patients to treat
their diseases . Scientists are studying gene
therapies for a number of inherited human
diseases involving defective genes . The idea
is to replace them with new, functional genes .
Since the first clinical trial was initiated in
1990, gene therapy research has expanded
greatly, with an increasing number of human
trials . The field, still in experimental stages,
focuses its efforts on patients with severe
and life-threatening diseases who usually
have few treatment options or who have
failed all available therapies .
Stem Cells
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can
renew themselves indefinitely to produce more
stem cells . They can mature and develop
specialized functions or differentiate under
specific growth conditions . Stem cells eventually
differentiate to form all of the different types of
cells that make up the body . The broad potential
of an undifferentiated stem cell to make a variety
of other cells is the focus of stem cell research .
Stem cell therapy, which is still in experimental
stages, involves growing stem cells in the lab
and guiding them toward a desired cell type by
adding different growth factors . The differenti-
ated cells are then surgically implanted . The
theory is that stem cells may then integrate
into the diseased tissue, replace diseased
cells and reverse the effects of the disease .
Cell therapies also could be developed in
which undifferentiated stem cells may be
implanted along with growth factors to guide
their differentiation in the patient’s body . The
aim is to replace the damaged cells with
healthy, disease-free cells—hence the term
regenerative medicine for this approach .
The hope is that stem cells, directed to dif-
ferentiate into specific cell types, could be a
renewable source of replacement cells and
tissues used to treat a wide range of diseases .
Nanotechnology deals with the manipulation
of molecules and structures on a nanometer
(one-billionth of a meter) or atomic scale .
Applying nanotechnology for the improvement
of human health is called nanomedicine.
Biotechnology nanomedicine harnesses living
organisms and/or their components on a very
small scale .
One example of nanomedicine is the experi-
mental use of nanoshells to selectively target
and destroy cancer cells at the cellular level .
Nanoshells are nanoscopic metallic lenses
that are selectively delivered to specific
organs or tumors through the bloodstream .
Nanoshells have the ability to capture infrared
light shown through the skin of a cancer patient
and convert it to heat, which kills only the
targeted cancer cells .
Nanoparticles called buckyballs—uniquely
shaped and constructed carbon molecules—
are also showing potential for drug delivery to
target molecules or cells . They may make it
possible to deliver drugs that do not dissolve
in water . Also, because of their small size,
they allow more of the drug to be delivered
per volume . Scientists are working on nano-
particles to unclog blocked arteries .
Future of Biotechnology in Healthcare
Future of Biotechnology in Healthcare
New Drug Delivery Systems
Biomedical researchers are studying new
ways of delivering drugs within the body that
could improve effectiveness . One example
is the development of microscopic particles
called microspheres that have tiny holes just
large enough to carry and deliver drugs to
their targets . They are made out of materi-
als that resemble naturally occurring fats in
cell membranes and are delivered as a mist
sprayed into the nose or mouth .
Microsphere therapies are currently available
for lung cancer and respiratory illnesses .
Current research is investigating the use of
microspheres to deliver anticancer drugs to
active tumors and for use with anesthetics
in pain management .