Tag Archives: research-breakthrough

Smart pills to help diabetics?

Scientists from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Novo Nordisk collaborate on creating a new kind of drug which aim is to make diabetics’ lives easier and less painful.

Nowadays people suffering from diabetes have to inject insulin multiple times per day to maintain a proper blood glucose level. For the last 100 years scientists tried to find a way to make insulin possible to be taken orally, which is quite a challenge, because many pharmaceutical compounds can’t survive the stomach’s harsh, acidic environment.

The new device created by previously mentioned scientists is about to finally allow diabetics to put injections off and make the whole process a lot easier. The smart pill works by attaching itself to the inside of the stomach and then injecting a payload through the gastric wall. Once the sugar glass that surrounds it is dissolved by acid in the stomach a tiny needle is released and a patient gets a proper dose of insulin.

The current injection is not the most comfortable process because of the pain related to inserting the needle into veins, right? Taking this smart pill orally means the injection will be done inside your stomach, which exactly means that you will not feel any pain. Why? According to Robert Langer, coauthor of the whole project, there are no pain receptors within the gastrointestinal tract.

Leopard Tortoise (Geochelone pardalis), Kruger National Park, South Africa

Moreover, the shape of the pill is inspired by the shape of a leopard tortoise’s shell, which automatically self-rights no matter how it lands – that kind of structure ensures that the device will attach to the gastric wall every time. It’s worth noting that the whole project is still at the proof-of-concept stage and has only been tested in animals, so the device won’t be available in the nearest future.

So, what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think that in the futue smart pills will be a common thing? Let me know down below!

 

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/612917/smart-pills-filled-with-tiny-needles-could-inject-medicine-directly-into-your/

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/02/pills-armed-tiny-needles-could-inject-insulin-other-important-meds-directly-stomach?r3f_986=https://www.google.com/

 

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A NEW GREEN REVOLUTION TO BEGIN?

Tobacco plants that grow as much as 40% larger than usual have been designed by genetic engineers in Illinois. This is the first step in producing larger plants like potatoes which could be distributed to the poor countries throughout the world.

The genetically modified plants are wider and taller from the regular ones. As a team at the University of Illinois and the United States Department of Agriculture said, they gave tobacco something called “photorespiratory bypass”. It is a kind of a cassette of genetic changes that let the plants turn sunlight into energy more efficiently.

What is interesting, in 2016 University of Illinois bioengineers managed to make tobacco plants grow 20% bigger by helping them respond more quickly to changes in light and shade. This time actually they made plants that use less energy during photorespiration, which is a process that plants need to clear out a toxin called glycolate created during photosynthesis. To achieve this, the team had to add about 16,000 letters of novel DNA instructions to tobacco plants.

You are probably wondering why all of these experiments were carried out with the use of tobacco. Not only do tobacco plants grow quickly, but also are easy to genetically modify. The team is known to be already working on similar gene changes to potatoes, soybeans , and cowpeas.

However, as Heike Sederoff, a plant scientist at North Carolina State University claims, there is a long way for researchers to prove that these modifications actually work. He believes that we should not expect such plants in the markets earlier than 20 years from now.

 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of philanthropes and foundation which are hoping that genetic engineering could lead to a huge step forward in farm productivity. Scientists at Illinois were donated by more than $80 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The goal of the whole project, which is called RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) is to increase the yields of staple food crops and improve global food security. As we can find out from their website, the Green Revolution’s advances have already reached their biological limits. They find it crucial to keep pace with this century’s growing population (which is forecasted to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050) and provide food to the biggest possible number of people by making new innovations to agriculture industry.

There are also other organizations trying to find new solutions, like C4 consortium led by Paul Quick at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, which is developing a process called C4 photosynthesis. It boosts plants’ growth by capturing carbon dioxide and concentrating it in specialized cells in the leaves, which allows the photosynthetic process to operate much more efficiently. Researchers claim that engineering C4 photosynthesis into rice and wheat could increase yields per hectare by roughly 50 percent. Alternatively, they believe that it would be possible to use far less water and fertilizer to produce the same amount of food.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Would you buy such genetically modified plants without any concerns? Let me know down below!

 

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/535011/supercharged-photosynthesis/

https://ripe.illinois.edu/objectives/our-story

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612710/gene-engineers-make-super-sized-plants-that-are-40-larger/

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LONGEVITY CLOSER THEN WE THINK?

Humans are thinking about immortality since the dawn of time. Thanks to the current progress in technology we are witnessing a discovery that potentially could rewrite our lives. Senolytics are new class of drugs which may provide us with a better, healthier lives.

Judith Campisi is a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California, and cofounder of a company called Unity Biotechnology in 2011. She is known as a leading figure in the biology of ageing since the early 1990s, when her research revealed that cells enter a phase known as senescence that prevents them from becoming cancerous.

Her research is currently focused on the role of cellular senescence in cancer and other age-related diseases. So, what cellular senescence basically means? According to Wikipedia, it is „one phenomenon by which normal cells cease to divide”. In 1960’s, Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead found out that normal human fetal fibroblasts in culture reach a maximum of approximately 50 cell population doublings before becoming senescent. This phenomenon was called Hayflick limit and is known or overturning a 60-year-old dogma which maintained that all cultured cells are immortal.

It is worth noting that senescent cells in some point come to the kind of twilight state where they are still active but no longer dividing. Campisi’s and other scientists’ researches showed that this was a ‘strategy’ of the evolution process to derail incipient cancer cells, which are known to spread thanks to the cells division.

(PRNewsFoto/UNITY Biotechnology)

Now, Campisi is conducting researches on new class of drugs called senolytics, which eliminate senescent cells and restore more youthful characteristics (in animal experiments). The company called Unity Biotechnology, which she cofounded in 2011, launched a human trial of its first senolytic drug last July.

This actions can cause a moral dilemma whether we should live longer than we already do. Campisi points out that we should not confuse aging and death. She expects that, thanks to senolytics, we will be able to extend our “health span”, which basically means that there is a possibility that we will extend the duration of good health condition of our bodies while living the same amount of time as we currently do.

Today we can observe a debate about the limit to the human life span. Some say it can be 110 years, others claims it to be 150 years. Speaking of this case, Campisi provides us with examples such as world record for extending the life span of a little worm called C. elegans, which is 10-fold. On the other hand, most of the really intensive experiences extend mouse life span (which is about 97% genetically identical to human being) by 20-30%. In the end we just simply do not know what the maximum life span of human being, but there is a possibility that we can extend it even more than we already did, for example thanks to the discovery of vaccines.

 

So, what are your expressions on this topic? Would you like to live longer? Why? Or why not? Would you like to extend your “health span” or you believe that ageing is a necessary part of our lives? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Sources:

https://www.wikipedia.org

https://www.technologyreview.com

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Science makes telekinesis a reality!

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A team of researchers at Duke University headed by brain interface expert Miguel Nicolelis is the reason for a recent breakthrough. They have built a wireless brain machine interface (BMI) that can control a wheelchair. This was tested on two primates. The two monkeys were able to manoeuvre the wheelchair using their mind to get to the place where a bowl of grapes was placed as their reward. Basically, the brain signals are converted into an algorithm that translates cortical activity into physical movements. Brain imaging shows that they were able to calculate distances between themselves and the grapes.

srep22170-f1The BMI was a wireless, high throughput multi-channel device implanted in the brain and the primates used about 300 neurons for motion. The device tracked their brain signals for trajectory to navigate toward the target. This was then used to move the wheelchair in the same path.

This brings a tremendous opportunity for heavily paralyzed people to be able to navigate independently. This opens up a whole lot of possibilities. In future, this could be extended to include other daily activities as well where one can control all the surrounding objects by just using their mind. This is good news for Stephen Hawking, I’m sure!

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