A year look back in biology - 2023
2023 has been an incredible year for biology, with groundbreaking discoveries and advancements that have the potential to shape the future of our world. From vaccine innovations to AI and plastic pollution, let's take a closer look at the biology findings that have captivated our attention this year.
The 2023 Nobel Prize in in Physiology or Medicine was granted to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their base modification of nucleoside findings, which later enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.
This is not also important in the COVID-19 vaccine development, but also opens the door for further mRNA-based therapeutics: vaccines, protein synthesis, etc.
CRISPR treatment gets approved
Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics have received conditional marketing authorization from the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency for CASGEVY™, a groundbreaking CRISPR/Cas9 gene-edited therapy addressing sickle cell disease (SCD) and transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia (TDT).
This marks the world's first regulatory approval for a CRISPR-based therapeutic, signifying a historic moment in science and medicine. CASGEVY has been approved to treat eligible patients aged 12 and above with SCD or TDT, and around 2,000 individuals in the U.K. fall within this category. The approval could open the door to a new era of CRISPR applications for severe diseases. Clinical trials globally have shown positive results, freeing patients from severe symptoms or achieving transfusion independence for at least 12 months. SCD and TDT are debilitating blood disorders, and CASGEVY offers a potential revolutionary treatment option for those eagerly awaiting innovative therapies.
Learn more here
Spider silk... in silk worms
Our friends the spider-silk producing goats may soon be able to retire. Scientists have used gene editing to enhance the silk produced by silkworms, making it tougher than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.
Traditional silkworm silk is fragile, while spiders produce robust silk, but are challenging to cultivate. By inserting a small spider silk protein, called MiSp, into silkworms using CRISPR, researchers created transgenic silkworms that spin fibers almost as tough as natural spider silk and six times tougher than Kevlar.
This breakthrough could lead to the development of lightweight yet strong materials for fuel-efficient planes and cars, faster healing wound dressings, and thin but robust sutures for eye surgeries.
Human trial for Brain-Computer Interface gets FDA Approval
Exciting news! Neuralink has received approval to start recruiting participants for the PRIME Study, a groundbreaking first-in-human clinical trial for their wireless brain-computer interface (BCI). The study aims to evaluate the safety and functionality of their implant (N1) and surgical robot (R1), with the goal of enabling people with paralysis to control external devices using their thoughts.
The BCI, once implanted in the brain, will wirelessly transmit signals to an app, allowing participants to control a computer cursor or keyboard through their thoughts. The study is a crucial step in Neuralink's mission to create a generalized brain interface for individuals with unmet medical needs, particularly those with quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or ALS. Curious?
The Rise of AI in Biology
Artificial intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML) has made significant contributions to the field of biology in 2023. AI algorithms have been used to analyze vast amounts of genomic data, leading to the discovery of new structures and applications.
Tackling Plastic Pollution
Plastic pollution has become a global crisis, and in 2023, biologists have been at the forefront of finding solutions. Researchers have discovered species of bacteria that can break down plastic waste, offering a glimmer of hope in the fight against plastic pollution. Niyathi's article above discussed the different enzymatic findings.
Furthermore, innovative biodegradable materials have been developed to replace single-use plastics. These materials are not only environmentally friendly but also have the potential to revolutionize industries such as packaging and manufacturing. It is actually very possible now to create bioplastic from food or agricultural waste, and the futuristic visions are getting closer.
Amino Labs' Community Stories
We are proud to congratulate Rathan, a rising high school sophomore who has been a biology-enthusiasts for a while, for winning multiple scientific awards at the Minnesota Science State Fair. Read more about his journey of finding sustainable paint.
This year, we also joined the Alberta Teacher Conference in Canmore. If you did not join our breakout sessions, you can still view the bioplastic teaching resources here.
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