Molecular Biology


The emergence of new molecular biology technologies have resulted in significant advancements in the way we detect and treat diseases

  • Karyotyping (pre-natal), gel elctrophoresis (pre-symptomatic) and DNA microarrays can all be used to confirm a medical diagnosis
  • Rational drug design can be used to create specific treatment molecules for a range of conditions


In addition, some of the other new technologies being developed include:


Anti-Drug Vaccines

  • A fragment of the drug molecule is made into a vaccine, such that the body produces specific antibodies for the drug 
  • While the antibodies do not destroy the drug, by forming a complex with the drug it becomes to large to cross the blood-brain barrier 
  • As a result the drug can no longer work as intended, eliminating the addictive effects of drugs such as nicotine, cocaine and heroin


Manufacturing Biomolecules

  • Disorders arising from the absence of a necessary enzyme or protein can be treated with continued injections of the required biomolecule (e.g. IDDM)
  • Using recombinant DNA technologies, such biomolecules can now be mass produced by bacterial colonies (e.g. insulin, monoclonal antibodies)
  • Animal hybrids are also being developed to produce human forms of proteins (e.g. insulin in cow's milk, pigs with human skin for xenotransplants)


Treating Haemophilia via the Isolation of Human Factor IX Clotting Protein from Transgenic Sheep Milk


Nanoparticle Drug Delivery

  • Under current treatments, drugs circulate the body to reach their destination and can potentially damage normal cells in the process 
  • Nanotechnology is being used to develop nanoparticles that can be directed to certain cell types and is being used in the treatment of cancer 
  • Rapidly dividing cells (like cancers) need folic acid and produce ~1000 times more folate receptors on their cell surface 
  • Combining a cancer treatment with folate as part of a nanoparticle may provide an effective treatment for certain types of cancer


Gene Therapy

  • Gene therapy is an experimental treatment that involves introducing genetic material into a person’s cells to fight disease 
  • The process involves identifying genetic mutations which cause disease and inserting corrective copies into the patient’s cells 
  • The main difficulties encountered with this nascent technology involve: 
    • Finding efficient ways to deliver genes to the body 
    • Finding ways to have these genes being consistently expressed 


Antisense Technology

  • Antisense therapy is a procedure being designed to treat disorders caused by the expression of incorrectly folded or harmful proteins 
  • Protein expression is dependent on the production of mRNA transcripts, which are always single stranded 
  • It has been discovered that double stranded mRNA is destroyed by host cell machinery 
  • Antisense therapy aims to introduce complementary mRNA sequences and thus prevent protein expression


Preventing Translation of a Specific Polypeptide via Antisense Technology


Pharmacogenetics

  • Pharmacogenetics involves studying and clinically identifying genetic variations that gives rise to differing response to drugs 
  • Different individuals will respond to drug treatments differently because of polymorphisms in their gene and protein sequences 
  • Pharmacogenetics aims to identify these differences and, by doing so, design and optimize drug treatments to suit individuals 


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