In writing about the top 10 medical events of the decade, I first began writing about the latest high-tech breakthroughs in genomics, stem cell research, angiogenesis, and so on.
In addition, some of the biggest medical and health events of the past decade were studies documenting the limitations of high-tech interventions like angioplasties and stents and high-tech screening approaches such as those for detecting early prostate cancer and breast cancer as well as increasing evidence documenting the power of low-tech interventions such as comprehensive lifestyle changes.
The Institute of Medicine report described below shows how we can integrate the best of high-tech and low-tech medicine--what works, what doesn't, for whom, and under what circumstances.
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Craig Venter and his colleagues at the non-profit J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) claim that they are about to create life.
In January 2008, a team of 17 researchers at the JCVI created the largest man-made DNA structure by synthesizing and assembling the 582,970 base pair genome of a bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium JCVI-1.0. This work, published in the journal Science, is the second of three key steps toward the team’s goal of creating a fully synthetic organism. In the next step, which is ongoing at the JCVI, the team will attempt to create a living bacterial cell based entirely on the synthetically made genome. The team achieved this technical feat by chemically making DNA fragments in the lab and developing new methods for the assembly and reproduction of the DNA segments.
If successful, one application of synthetic organisms could be to create new sources of energy from algae that could, according to Venter, replace the petrochemical industry in 10 years. Let’s hope he’s right.
Image courtesy flickr
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