Sunday, March 1, 2009

Medical Technology Strives to Remove the Fi from Sci-Fi

My lead item for today will be ongoing work to create a universal flu vaccine. Scientists are targeting their attacks on parts of the flu virus that don't mutate and are shared between various strains. If the method works out, it would give us a huge weapon against the potentially deadly, rapidly mutating virus. Currently, it appears the research is focusing on the more deadly strains of the virus rather than the most common ones, which will come as good news to people paranoid about the bird flu.

Elsewhere, researchers for IBM have created a new type of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with resolution fine enough to see structure one hundred million times smaller than a conventional MRI scan. Such resolution could allow the direct observation of biological structures in a way we've never been able to do before. Learning the structures of proteins and other chemicals within the body could lead to better treatments, or even individually targeted drugs. The method has the potential to be far superior to electron microscopy, which is limited to the surface of objects and has the slight disadvantage of being destructive to biological materials.

Finally, the technology to allow parents to select certain genetic traits in their babies has been around for a while now, chiefly used to screen for and prevent a variety of genetic diseases. But now, one company is stepping into the realm of the purely cosmetic, allowing couples to choose eye, hair, and skin color for their babies. The choices are limited to what the DNA of the parents provide, but within those parameters, anything is possible. For a price.

If this was a post on Slashdot, someone would be required to respond: I for one welcome our new flu-immune, customized-drug-using, genetically-engineered overlords.

1 comment:

Lee said...

In soviet russia, genetics choose you!

Oh wait, that kinda made sense...

It is so much fun to see technology progress and catch up or surpass science fiction. On my desk at work I have a teleconferencing unit that does full audio/video - it's a bit smaller than the screens on the Enterprise on the original Star Trek series. My cell phone is about the size of a communicator. Perhaps IBM is working on a tricorder. Or voice recognition - that would be nice.