A new research study at Boston Children’s Hospital, in partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute, is using genetic information to predict children’s reactions to medications. The goal is to enable clinicians to select a more personalized therapy for each patient.
Fueled by new cancer therapeutics, last year the annual new molecular and biological entity approval count from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saw its highest year since 1997. One-third of the novel products approved by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) are used to treat cancers of the blood, breast, colon, prostate, skin and thyroid.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University are developing a new early warning system for seizures that is sensitive enough to detect imminent seizures without setting off a large number of false alarms. The software may someday be embedded in a microchip that would continually check electrical activity in the brain and launch electrical stimulation whenever a seizure is beginning to form.
Ed Boyden is creating new brains. A pioneer in the field of optogenetics, he is the founder and principal investigator of the synthetic neurobiology group at the MIT Media Lab, which invents technologies to reveal how cognition and emotion arise from brain networks — and to enable systematic repair of disorders such as epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd).
Using a combination of lasers and genetic engineering, Boyden’s lab implants brains with optical fibers that allow them to activate special proteins in specific neurons and see their connections. In addition to helping create detailed maps of brain circuitry, the engineering of these cells has been used to cure blindness in mice, and could point the way to cures for Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. On the horizon: ways of connecting to the brain via prosthetics.
By inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins into brain cells, neurons can be selectively activated or de-activated with fiber-optic implants. Check out Boyden’s demonstration at TED2011 below.