If you want a good idea as to the future rate of progress in a field of medicine, keep your eye on improvements in infrastructure - in common, widely used technologies, techniques and processes. When you see rapid introduction of new methods, or order of magnitude improvements in existing methods, you can be sure that new therapies and other medical applications will be arriving that much more rapidly. A couple of examples from the fields of regenerative medicine, cell therapy and tissue engineering caught my eye today:
Researchers have discovered a way to control the growth rate of replacement tissue and the formation of new blood vessels, which solves one of the vexing problems of growing replacement tissue to treat injuries and trauma in humans.
"Growth factor is typically dumped in and releases over a period of hours," said Giannobile, who also directs the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research. "With certain wounds you might want a lot (of growth factor) in the beginning, and with others you might want a little released over a longer period of time. We've basically found a way to dial up or dial down the release rate of these growth factors."
UC Irvine researchers have discovered a dramatically improved method for genetically manipulating human embryonic stem cells, making it easier for scientists to study and potentially treat thousands of disorders ranging from Huntington’s disease to muscular dystrophy and diabetes.
The new approach is up to 100 times more efficient than current methods at producing human embryonic stem cells with desired genetic alterations.
A greatly lowered cost of production for tailored pluripotent cells will go a long way to expanding and speeding research. It means more experiments per unit outlay in dollars, and more research groups able to afford to employ pluripotent cells for their research. This is the early part of the fall in cost and rise in efficiency that will lead to the blossoming of open source biotechnology - when the cost of entry is so low that tens of thousands of skilled and motivated amateur biotechnicians around the world will collaborate in hundreds of diverse projects to meaningfully advance science and produce new medical technologies.