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.