Updated: Aug 24
Written by Simona Currò
New biomedical technologies have been radically changing our world and making our lives better. It is a branch of medicine that involves a great range of activities, from designing medical innovative equipment to conducting researches in order to find the best, the healthiest and the most innovative cure for every kind of rare disease.
Speaking about a future with fewer diseases, in this day in age we cannot go on without discussing the technique of gene editing. This technology involves cutting and modifying DNA in order to defeat pathologies, which in turn improve our lives. The possibilities offered by gene editing are boundless and actually, through gene editing some of the most deadly and dangerous disease in the world could be deleted. These diseases are known to resist destruction, and therefore by using genetic engineering and the body’s natural decline based on a cellular level, this can be slowed down and the length of a healthy life can be enhanced.
On the other hand, there are many factors that prohibit the use of gene editing. One is from a religious point of view. Followers of religion normally do not approve of these techniques since it may seem as a challenge to their God’s power. Some would even say that man cannot uses these technologies since they are not God.
Besides religious arguments, there are also ethic arguments against gene editing. Specifically, these new inventions may lead to ‘human designers’, who may create dangerous modified men.
Moreover, living longer is already causing social problems in the world linked to lack of land and food. In the end, gene editing may have a positive impact on human health, however this sector of medicine still needs to produce more research before society will be ready to fully commit.
Thanks to the rapid advances of discoveries concerning the human genome, people now have the ability to modify and change genes. These new challenges in medicine give parents the option to create ‘designer babies’ which could be possible in the very near future. Designing babies is a new technology that allows scientists to engineer babies genetically in order to reduce the risk of genetic disorders. Many people think that designer babies allows parents to have good looking children. However, from a medicine point of view, the technology is aimed at creating new, healthier and stronger children.
In the future, a process called ‘germ line’ therapy may also attempt to cure genetic diseases such as Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s or Spinal Muscular Atrophy, amongst others. This will be done by replacing faulty embryos in the DNA with healthy DNA. However, these experiments resulted in a lack of genes and parts of DNA, meaning that some babies ended up having fatal effects. These experiments have been performed on animal embryos, but it is still illegal for humans to attempt.
Designing babies is often discussed in society due to the moral and ethical questions surrounding it. Furthermore, from an ethic point of view, children who have been modified by this new technology could create a gap in society. This would mean that they would be clearly distinguished from other children who are not genetically modified. Moreover, these modified children could end up being too intelligent and use this power to negatively affect the world around them.
Lastly, religion does not support scientists manipulating embryos because again, they would be acting like a God. Also, politicians believe that the embryo has no legal choice to allow biomedicine to alter their body.
Bio-printing is the sector of medicine that deals with printed human body parts. This technology could soon be available for transplants. Bio-printing is vastly discussed because on one hand it is a new more efficient and easier printing process, but on the other it is not available for the vast majority of people due to its high price.
However, thanks to this new technology, producing organs for transplants will be quicker and easier, meaning that the long waiting list for organs will decline along with organ trafficking. The drawbacks of this technology are that it requires large amounts of energy consumption to print the organs and there is still no eco-friendly way to produce the prints. Lastly, the most important issue is the high price of the operation, meaning that it is only available to those who can afford it.
Nano-medicine is a micro-scale device that may soon be able to diagnose problems, and resolve those problems, by going into the body. It will be possible to create nano-medicines that have the potential to detect levels of chemical snake nutrients in the body in order to diagnose unhealthy conditions like cancer, and other diseases. In addition, these micro devices will be able to cure certain pathologies and in fact, may transport drugs across the body and deliver them into the target area. As a result, nano-medicines can have benefits on brain cancer therapy but it can cause neurodegenerative process damages.
Moreover, if it is used in the wrong way it may damage the body or make the body dependent on nano-medicine to survive. Most nano-medicines still need improvements and cost reduction in order to become affordable to everyone.
Summing up, new biomedical technologies can enhance our life and the way we approach health problems. However, they have many disadvantages, like the huge cost, that researches can solve to make these new technologies available for the vast majority of people.
In the last 30 years, the biotechnology industry has attracted more than $300 billion in capital. Much of this investment has been based on the belief that biotech owns the potential to transform the healthcare industry. This science-based industry businesses would break down the wall between basic and applied science and produce a trove of new drugs. This, consequently, will generate huge profits and investors will be handsomely rewarded.
Despite the great profit generated by Amgen and Genentech, the biotech industry still looks like an emerging sector and most biotechnology firms don’t earn profits.
Moreover, pharmaceutical and biotechnology sales revenue increased from $534 billion to $775 billion between 2006 and 2015. Furthermore, 67% of drug companies increased their annual profit margins during the same period, up to 20 percent for some companies in certain years. The drug industry spending for research and development increased from $82 billion in 2008 to $89 billion in 2014.
In conclusion, the biotechnology industry could be a very interesting project for WBC. A collaboration between a biotech company and WBC could result in a strategy ensuring growth and developing a strong economic pillar.
What is Biomedical Technology. Learn.org. available from https://learn.org/articles/What_is_Biomedical_Technology.html
University of Warwick (2017). Cells programmed like computers to fight disease. ScienceDaily. Available from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170918093340.htm
DNA and how to adjust it (2017). The Economist. Available from https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21725748-dna-and-how-adjust-it-researchers-get-better-tweaking-genomes-human?zid=314&ah=607477d0cfcfc0adb6dd0ff57bb8e5c9
It is now easy to edit the genomes of plants, animals and humans (2015). The Economist. Available from https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21661799-it-now-easy-edit-genomes-plants-animals-and-humans-age-red-pen?zid=314&ah=607477d0cfcfc0adb6dd0ff57bb8e5c9
Another step forward for gene editing (2017). The Economist, 43, 73-74.
Editing Humanity (2015) The Economist. Available from https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21661651-new-technique-manipulating-genes-holds-great-promisebut-rules-are-needed-govern-its
Chips off the old block (2017). The Economist. Available from http://worldif.economist.com/article/13523/chips-old-block
Twenty years ago the world met the first adult clone, a sheep called Dolly. Her legacy lives on (2017). The Economist. Available from https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21717028-twenty-years-ago-world-met-first-adult-clone-sheep-called-dolly-her-legacy-lives
Max Darnell & David J. Mooney (2017). Leveraging advances in biology to design biomaterials. Nature. Available from https://www.nature.com/articles/nmat4991
How to build organs scratch (2017). The Economist. Available from https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21715638-how-build-organs-scratch
California Institute of Technology (2017). Medicine of the future: New microchip technology could be used to track ‘smart pills’. ScienceDaily. Available from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170918093340.htm
The first organ chips are coming to market and, regulators permitting, will speed up drug testing and reduce the use of laboratory animals (2015). The Economist. Available from https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21654013-first-organ-chips-are-coming-market-and-regulators-permitting-will-speed?zid=318&ah=ac379c09c1c3fb67e0e8fd1964d5247f
A way to detect potentially dangerous blood clots, using nanotechnology (2013). The Economist. Available from https://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/11/nanomedicine?zid=318&ah=ac379c09c1c3fb67e0e8fd1964d5247f
Deegan, G. (2018). Profits up at biomedical firm to €8m – Independent.ie. [online] Independent.ie. Available at: https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/profits-up-at-biomedical-firm-to-8m-37284082.html [Accessed 17 Dec. 2018].
Office, U. (2018). Drug Industry: Profits, Research and Development Spending, and Merger and Acquisition Deals. [online] Gao.gov. Available at: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-40 [Accessed 17 Dec. 2018].