There are many exciting developments happening in the biological science field right now. Gene editing of plants and animals, immunotherapy for cancer patients and evolutionary medicine are just a few of the areas providing new insights into scientists’ understanding of the world and the building blocks of life.
Graduates of Bachelor of Science degree programs in biological science have the opportunity to be part of an industry teeming with new developments and groundbreaking research. With its focus on the study of the building blocks of life, few fields present as many opportunities to influence health and wellness as biological science, and students in a degree program in this area can learn the skills needed to help make a real impact in the future.
What is the biological science field?
Biological scientists study how life works. The field has a large scope, examining life processes from the level of microbes and molecules to the evolution of species and populations. It encompasses the study of how organisms relate to and interact with their environments as well as how their behaviors and their biological structure may change over time. This field also includes investigations into processes responsible for health and disease.
Biology has applications in many fields, including dentistry, medicine, pharmacy and law. Within these broad fields there are a variety of professional job titles. Some examples of biological science degree jobs include bioinformatics scientists, family physicians, health and safety technicians, foresters and more. While some roles, such as family physician, require additional schooling, a biological sciences degree can prepare you for building a career in this area.
In this way, biological science can be understood not as a single field, but rather as an area of inquiry covering many fields.
What are the trends in the industry today?
Since biological science encompasses many fields, a multitude of exciting discoveries are being made. Let's take a closer look at scientific advancements in some of the most popular areas of biological science:
Scientists have made major breakthroughs in gene editing in plants and animals in the last several years. One particularly exciting area is the development of the genetic engineering tool Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR). This innovation was discussed at length at the Plant and Animal Genomics Conference held in January 2017 in San Diego. CRISPR can now be used to edit the specific genes in rice that make it vulnerable to blight, as well as the genes in citrus trees that make them susceptible to disease, according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. This breakthrough represents a huge step forward in fighting world hunger and creating more sustainable food sources.
A biological science degree can help students begin to understand how the building blocks of plants and animals function on a cellular level. Class discussion can also provide context for these mechanics, addressing contemporary breakthroughs such as CRISPR and how they have affected inquiry in this area.
Immunotherapy for cancer patients
Cancer suppresses the normal ability of proteins, tumors and other elements in the body to send help signals to the immune system. Immunotherapy, however, enables the immune system to "hear" these suppressed signals and quickly respond to them to prevent the cancer from spreading. As the National Cancer Center notes, many advancements have been made in immunotherapies in the past several years.
One class of immunotherapy innovation is immune checkpoint prohibitors, which strengthen the immune system to eradicate cancer cells. Ipilimumab is the first immune checkpoint prohibitor drug to receive approval by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the center. It works by preventing the activation of a particular checkpoint protein, CTLA4, which shuts down T cells to avoid the usual immune system response. Another type of immunotherapy is adoptive cell transfer, which has been shown to completely clear advanced-stage blood cancers in some patients during clinical trials.
These and similar drugs that utilize immunotherapy represent significant progress in the search for effective cancer prevention and treatment methods. With an undergraduate degree in biological science, students can discover the complex workings of the body and learn how each system functions in tandem with others to support overall health.
Personalized and evolutionary medicine
Today, many people are familiar with Darwin's law of natural selection, but his evolutionary theory still has relevant implications. Many scientists are exploring evolution as it relates to modern existence, and how these insights can be used to improve personalized medicine.
The book Evolutionary Medicine by Stephen C. Stearns and Ruslan Medzhitov examines this question. In a review for the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, Alexandra Kuhlmann notes that the book explores how natural variation within populations can lead to increased risk for the development of specific diseases as well as antibiotic resistance. In addition, the work also considers how the disconnect between the qualities of modern life and the environment of earlier humans can also be the cause of contemporary diseases, such as allergies and obesity.
Coursework in an undergraduate degree program in biological science can help you gain a better understanding of the intriguing and complicated relationship between evolutionary history and contemporary health challenges.
Making your mark
Biological scientists can change the world. Commit to making your own mark on the future by enrolling in the online Biological Sciences BS program at Arizona State University. As a biosciences student, you'll have the opportunity to participate in an exciting array of courses. Students can gain hands-on experience through detailed coursework that they can then apply directly to real-life work environments. You can discover carbon compounds in General Organic Chemistry, begin to understand the nature of populations in Social-Behavioral Sciences and Global Awareness and explore heredity in General Genetics.
Online students can participate in cutting-edge virtual reality labs that prepare you to walk into a real lab and conduct biological research, just as flight simulators prepare pilots to land a plane.
If you’re fascinated by the scientific developments mentioned in this article and other advancements revolutionizing our understanding of life, consider receiving your degree in biological science. ASU Online offers a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences degree that can help you explore this exciting field and begin pursuing your career goals.