CRISPR-CAS9, contains two crucial molecules that allow it to change DNA. The first is an enzyme called CAS9, and it acts as a pair of molecular scissors, which can cut two strands of DNA at a specific location in the genome, and from that point onwards bits of DNA can be added and removed. The second part is a section of RNA, (gRNA-guide RNA), and it acts as a guide for the CAS9 to cut into the right parts of the genome. The gRNA, is designed to attach to a specific sequence, and forms complementary base pairs, to the target DNA. The gRNA will only bind to the target sequence. This tells the CAS9 where it needs to cut. The process forces an induced mutation which is the target. CRISPR-CAS9 was derived from a bacteria that is found in yoghurt, and has a editing system similar to it. CRISPR-CAS9 is currently the most reliable system for editing genes, and shows a lot of promise, due to its potential it has,credited with the likelihood of treating genetic based diseases, such as cancer or alzheimer's.
However a debate is raging on whether they should part from somatic gene editing (non reproductive cells) and move towards germline (reproductive cells) editing. Germline editing is highly controversial as the effects on the offspring are unknown, but germline editing means whatever change is made in germline cells, will be passed on from generation to generation. This form of gene editing is banned in every country, until recently when UK scientists, were allowed to edit genes, but not allowed for the embryo to become living. US scientists recently backed geen editing but have sent out a stern warning against designer babies, due to the ethical dilemma they present and what impact they can have on society. Top US scientists in this field have said that the technology is not in its prime and is not safe enough to be tested on germline.
In America the US patent office has ruled in a dispute over the invention of CRISPR-CAS9, and kept the controversial patents issued to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT(STAT). Despite this, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle of the University of California, published the first paper on CRISPR-CAS9. The scientific community has acclaimed them as the pioneers of the technology. The has allowed both patents to stand, due to STAT claiming they wrote a paper on how CRISPR-CAS9 can be used in eukaryotic cells. The verdict of the patent office, will have an impact on both licensing of the technique for medical use and the recognition of the pioneers of the technology.
Nanotechnology is the ability of manipulating and producing products at a nanoscale that takes place at lower dimensions and sizes. Nanotechnology has been an increasing solution used by doctors to treat medical issues. There are many uses for Nanotechnology: Drug delivery systems, fuel cells, batteries, disinfectants and many more. Nanomedicine not only can it be used for medical purposes but it can also help open up a new understanding of the human anatomy.
Drug Delivery systems
However these nanomaterials and nanotechnology show a diverse broad range of properties and many useful benefits. One main reason for the use of nanotechnology in medicine for drug delivery systems. Buckyballs or buckminster fullerenes are used to deliver drugs to cancer cells. These nanoparticles work as they are attracted towards the cancer cells.
There are still further tests being conducted to test for the safety of these nanoparticles. Nanoparticles delivering chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells are still being tested and improved to ensure it is safe for everyone to use. Other medical uses including the idea came up with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute of putting in antibodies into carbon nanotubes and using them to detect cancer cells. Furthermore scientists were also able to insert sensors into carbon nanotubes which is inserted into gel that can monitor the nitric oxide levels in the blood.
Malaysian scientist along with Harvard university students and experts are finding a way of using nanotechnology and nanomaterials to find a solution of curing lung disease and COPD. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease which is also a lung disease. This treatment involves using chemotherapeutics combined into fine sprays and then it is inhaled. The nanoparticles in that spray will attach to the lungs and deliver the necessary drugs.
Further uses of nanotechnology involves in potential research of tracking and monitoring cancerous or diseased cells. Then it can be used to transport antibodies and drugs to the target cell. Doctors can use biomarkers and nanomaterials to see molecules and cells the their activity that they undergo.
Currently there is a problem of an ageing population, especially in the United States and Japan. In the United States, the percentage of people above the age of 65, are at 13%, and that is set to nearly double by the year 2050 (Pew Research Centre). Life expectancy rates are also increasing, which means that people are more likely to live to an older age, and that age is also rising. However USA is trumped by Japan in terms of the country with the oldest population, with 20% of the population over 65 years of age. Japan currently faces a problem, as the amount of carers has stagnated, and the population is still climbing. Merrill Lynch published a report that projected a 1 million shortfall of carers by the year 2025.
In order to combat this issue, Japanese technology firms are attempting to develop robots in order to take care of the ageing population. These robots are specifically designed to assist elderly people, and Japan is investing 1/3 of its budget to developing these “carebots”, but the investment is worthwhile as Merrill Lynch report stated that the global personal robot market could reach $17.4 billion by 2020. Panasonic Resyone was the first robot that met standard services; also known as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO 13482, which allows for “close human-robot interactions so that there will be protection against litigation in the event of an accident occurring”. This was done to combat the ethical issues that are faced by robots helping old people. Are robots advanced enough to support an elderly person emotionally, will there subconscious allow them to make decisions that are not calculated by algorithms? Robobear is a humanoid robot that could eliminate the need for multiple carers, by helping transfer elders from the bed to a wheelchair. Other robot prototypes such as the nursing robot from RIKEN, is capable of lifting people. Hondo have created the ASIMO, which is a humanoid robot that can help the elderly by getting them food or turning off lights.
Robots will certainly help solve the need for carers, but the time frame it will take to bridge the gap is the biggest concern, Merrill Lynch estimate the sales of robots to increase substantially over the next 20 years. In the UK, the NHS is under strain with the ageing population, and the need of robots is rising, without an alternative, the NHS will further strain and problems will pile up.