With this new technology, hospitals and pharmacies could make vaccines and medicines onsite

With this new technology, hospitals and pharmacies could make vaccines and medicines onsite

New research focuses on methods that could change medicine-making worldwide. The scientists propose bursting cells open, removing their DNA and using the cellular gears inside to make therapies.

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Most modern biopharmaceutical medicines are produced by workhorse cells—typically bacterial but sometimes mammalian. The cells receive the synthesizing instructions on a snippet of a genetic code, which they incorporate into their DNA. The cellular machinery—ribosomes, RNAs, polymerases, and other compounds—read and use these instructions to build the medicinal molecules, which are harvested and administered to patients.

Although a staple of modern pharma, this process is complex and expensive. One must first insert the DNA instructions into the cells, which they may or may not uptake. One then must grow the cells, keeping them alive and well, so that they produce the required therapeutics, which then must be isolated and purified. To make this at scale requires massive bioreactors and big factories from where the drugs are distributed—and may take a while to arrive where they’re needed. “The pandemic showed us that this method is slow and cumbersome,” says Govind Rao, professor of biochemical engineering who directs the Center for Advanced Sensor Technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). “We need better methods that can work faster and can work locally where an outbreak is happening.”

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Lina Zeldovich

Lina Zeldovich has written about science, medicine and technology for Popular Science, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Scientific American, Reader’s Digest, the New York Times and other major national and international publications. A Columbia J-School alumna, she has won several awards for her stories, including the ASJA Crisis Coverage Award for Covid reporting, and has been a contributing editor at Nautilus Magazine. In 2021, Zeldovich released her first book, The Other Dark Matter, published by the University of Chicago Press, about the science and business of turning waste into wealth and health. You can find her on http://linazeldovich.com/ and @linazeldovich.

Therapies for Healthy Aging with Dr. Alexandra Bause
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My guest today is Dr. Alexandra Bause, a biologist who has dedicated her career to advancing health, medicine and healthier human lifespans. Dr. Bause co-founded a company called Apollo Health Ventures in 2017. Currently a venture partner at Apollo, she's immersed in the discoveries underway in Apollo’s Venture Lab while the company focuses on assembling a team of investors to support progress. Dr. Bause and Apollo Health Ventures say that biotech is at “an inflection point” and is set to become a driver of important change and economic value.

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Matt Fuchs
Matt Fuchs is the host of the Making Sense of Science podcast and served previously as the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He writes as a contributor to the Washington Post, and his articles have also appeared in the New York Times, WIRED, Nautilus Magazine, Fortune Magazine and TIME Magazine. Follow him @fuchswriter.
This man spent over 70 years in an iron lung. What he was able to accomplish is amazing.

Paul Alexander spent more than 70 years confined to an iron lung after a polio infection left him paralyzed at age 6. Here, Alexander uses a mirror attached to the top of his iron lung to view his surroundings.

Allison Smith / The Guardian

It’s a sight we don’t normally see these days: A man lying prone in a big, metal tube with his head sticking out of one end. But it wasn’t so long ago that this sight was unfortunately much more common.

In the first half of the 20th century, tens of thousands of people each year were infected by polio—a highly contagious virus that attacks nerves in the spinal cord and brainstem. Many people survived polio, but a small percentage of people who did were left permanently paralyzed from the virus, requiring support to help them breathe. This support, known as an “iron lung,” manually pulled oxygen in and out of a person’s lungs by changing the pressure inside the machine.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.