Engineering better medicine is a key issue that is being faced right now around the world, something which is tied directly to the engineering field. Right now engineers are working to create new systems which use existing genetic information to anticipate smaller changes in the body so that new vaccines and drugs can be assessed for applicability and delivered to those who need them. This issue of providing new medicines is important because each person responds differently to different medicines and as such, there is always a high demand for doctors to be given more guidance with regard to understanding how individual differences in body and genetics can be used to create individualized treatments and not just standard treatments.
The human DNA has over 20,000 genes which work as different codes. Each of the codes within a person are almost all the same, but there are also subtle differences in only one or two genes which can cause an otherwise viable treatment not to work. The different genes in the body can predispose individuals to certain diseases or change the way they respond to popular medical treatments. This means that doctors have to diagnose in a broad manner, but there is potential for doctors to take note of the individual gene differences and offer personalized medicine that tailors drugs and doses to meet the needs of each patient based on their clinical data and their genetic information. This can be furthered by understanding how each body’s proteins and biochemical reactions are set up. By researching personalized medicine, doctors can tell if a person is likely to face certain cancers or other genetic diseases in the future, and what their success rate is. This knowledge can help the individuals to take preventative measures. Another big problem is that of drug resistance. People consume antibiotics and other drugs all the time without realizing it in many cases, because of the antibiotics used in the agriculture and animals consumed. This has resulted in serious drug resistance, something that must be tackled.
The field of engineering plays a significant role in this. Engineers can use drug discovery to offer personalized medicine that is more effective in not only analyzing illnesses, but diagnosing them and treating them. Right now there are many drugs which are unnecessarily or incorrectly prescribed to patients, something that often has no medical benefit but does bring with it inherent harm in the form of medical drug resistance. More precise medical diagnoses can be used to create more targeted therapies. Antibiotics are already something problematic because of how frequently they are inappropriately consumed through food sources. But engineers can help to locate the precise bacterium which causes an infection and create a narrowly targeted drug which can help reduce the current problem of resistance. Organism-specific antibiotics remain one of the most challenging aspects to this current challenge and the engineering field in general. A system has to be created which will analyze the methods by which they attack the body so that an appropriate medicine can be created quickly. In cases of viruses, the small molecules could be specifically engineered to turn off the reproductive aspect of the virus which would help to stop it from spreading. It can be engineered as well to use RNA interferences which would block viruses and stop them from attaching to the RNA or reproducing. Traditional vaccinations are very viable in terms of prevent and even eradicating some diseases, but they might also be used to treat existing diseases. Personalized vaccines can be used in more reliable and effective manners, something that can help medical professionals respond to mass immunization needs especially when a serious outbreak takes place.
There are three sources found to help improve my understanding of this project. The first reference is a comprehensive report about personalized medicine and targeted therapies. The second reference is a report on the current resistance to anti-infective drugs. The third reference is about strategies for combating multidrug-resistant bacteria.
- M. Dietel and C. Sers, ‘Personalized medicine and development of targeted therapies: the upcoming challenge for diagnostic molecular pathology. A review’, Virchows Archiv, vol. 448, no. 6, pp. 744-755, 2006.
- D. Heymann, ‘Resistance to Anti-Infective Drugs and the Threat to Public Health’, Cell, vol. 124, no. 4, pp. 671-675, 2006.
- G. Wright and A. Sutherland, ‘New strategies for combating multidrug-resistant bacteria’, Trends in Molecular Medicine, vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 260-267, 2007.