Medical Science Current Affairs

Scientists create world’s first molecular robot

Scientists from University of Manchester have created world’s first ‘molecular robot’ — millionth of a millimetre in size. It can be used to build molecules and may help discover novel drugs.

Key Facts

The molecular robot is millionth of millimetre in size. It is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms which are basic building blocks required to form molecules. It can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo using a tiny robotic arm.

The molecular robot operates by carrying out chemical reactions in special solutions which can then be controlled and programmed by scientists to perform the basic tasks. It responds to series of simple commands that are programmed with chemical inputs.

Each individual robot is capable of manipulating single molecule. In terms of size context, billion of these molecular robots piled on top of each other will be only same size as a single grain of salt.

Significance: The molecular robot is so small, that it massively reduces demand for materials, dramatically reduce power requirements and can accelerate and improve drug discovery and rapidly increase the miniaturisation of other products.

Potential applications: Such molecular robots can be used for medical purposes, advanced manufacturing processes and even building molecular factories and assembly lines.

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US approves first gene therapy for cancer

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved first gene therapy, a treatment that uses patient’s own immune cells to fight acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

The approval will usher new approach to treatment of cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases. Studies have shown that 83% of patients responded to this treatment, achieving remission within three months.

Key Facts

The gene therapy treatment was originally developed by researchers at University of Pennsylvania and licensed to pharma giant Novartis. It was previously identified as CAR-T cell therapy (CTL019) or tisagenlecleucel and now is called Kymriah.

The treatment is completely different compared to present popular immunotherapy drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors” used to harness immune system that treat variety of cancers by helping the body’s natural T cells better spot tumors.

CAR-T treatment

The CAR-T treatment is not a pill or form of chemotherapy. It uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes (cells) but to turbocharge T cells, immune system cells that cancer can evade. These cells removed from patient’s blood along with white blood cells are encoded with viral vector, reprogrammed in lab. They are reprogrammed to harbor chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that specifically targets cancer cells. The revived and reprogrammed cells after returned to the patient continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years.

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