The field of genetic engineering never stays the same for too long. That’s because we live in the digital age where everything, more so technology, is advancing at alarming rates. When the first genetically modified animal was created in 1974, no one could have predicted just how quickly the field of genetic engineering would advance. But here we are.
Genetically modified food is now the norm rather than the exception. Vaccines and other lifesaving drugs are also being developed at complex speeds- the current pandemic vaccine is proof of that. So what noteworthy innovations have been developed in the last couple of years? Here are a few genetic engineering innovations that you ought to know about:
Gene editing has been touted as the biggest innovation of the decade, managing to beat great advancements such as the cloud or social media. While gene editing has been around for some time, it did not really take off until the last 5 years or so. Our ability to specifically edit DNA in living mechanisms has developed considerably and things aren’t going to slow down anytime soon.
As the name suggests, gene editing works by changing the letters of the genome, which is still a relatively new concept when it comes to gene therapy. The field of gene editing has grown so much over the last few years that commercial interest in this new form of gene therapy is outpouring. As it grows, it is expected to become more commonplace particularly as individuals work out how to do it effectively and safely.
Perhaps the most well-known gene-editing technology thus far is CRISPR-Cas9, which was made available for commercial use in 2021 CRISPR-Cas9 is being used all over the world to identify genes that are crucial for all sorts of things including eye development. Another area that’s reaping the rewards of advanced gene editing is plant science; what used to be unimaginable 20 years ago is now possible thanks to gene editing.
Artificial organ replacement
Artificial organ replacement used to be the stuff of fiction novels and films. However, as technology has continued to grow at alarming speeds, so has artificial organ replacement, which is already happening in real life, not just in movies. 3D printing has made it possible for scientists to print small organs.
Case in point, the first 3D printed tracheas was produced in 2013 thus saving a child from fated lung collapse. Since then, all sorts of organs have been printed using 3D printers including but not limited to blood vessels, ears, bladders, and reproductive parts. Fully artificial hearts are no longer limited to thrilling fictional plots.
These days, artificial hearts are so advanced that they have even been successfully tested in clinical trials. Now, researchers are looking further into how this technology can be utilized to use the technology to produce larger organs. All the best genetic engineering books include comprehensive information about how artificial organ replacement so that learners can educate themselves about the growing field.
Life extension technologies
Want to live forever? Well, that’s what life extension technologies promise. Soon, genetic engineers will be able to slow down the aging process and increase our life expectancy by as many as 100 years and more. The first life extension drug has already been produced and could be available to the public in the next couple of years.
This drug promises to advance human life by at least 7 years although experts state that the process of slowing down the aging process in itself could produce even better results than anticipated. Although it is impossible to predict just when this technology will be made available en masse, the work so far seems promising.
Some of the work that has been done so far includes the development of pharmaceuticals capable of acting directly on genes connected to the aging process. Some drugs are also capable of modifying various biological processes involved in cellular aging or even restricting calories for reduced weight gain.
Synthetic food production
Did you ever imagine that we could live in a world where food can be made from scratch by the mere push of a button? In the future, animals may not be our primary source of protein. Lab-grown meat, which is grown entirely from cells is now a reality.
The technology for producing food synthetically has been a reality for some time now. Traditional techniques of food production that relied heavily on processing and the use of artificial components are quickly losing traction with environment-conscious consumers. That’s why food industries and producers are now doing everything that they can to get a piece of this burgeoning technology.
Synthetic or cultured meat, as it is otherwise known, is created using the same biotechnology as the one for creating replacement tissue and organs that are used frequently in medicine. The stem cells from the desired animals such as cows and chickens are grown, shaped, and flavored to give a meat-like result that’s similar to the original.
Automatic diagnostics technology
AI or artificial intelligence used to be unfathomable. However, the use of AI is growing widely in all industries. It has already proven extremely beneficial when it comes to studying and diagnosing a wide selection of genetic diseases just by reading the subject’s genome. The technology has so far been used for the treatment of chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Hundreds of hospitals across the world are uniting to contribute the necessary data that is required for AI to give better diagnostics, as well as personalized treatment. What this will do is save doctors and medical professional time that would otherwise be spent in a long and manual diagnostic process. Advanced automation solutions for diagnosis are already in use but they haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s yet to come.
Even though the field of genetic engineering has come a long way since its advent, there is still a long way to go. This accelerated growth over the last 5 decades or so has raised serious ethical and moral questions to which still, have no clear answers. For the field to keep advancing, these moral and ethical questions must be dealt with sooner rather than later.