Gerontologists use genetic engineering

Basic biomedical research

Findings about functional relationships and physiological interactions in the human body enable a deeper understanding of diseases and their origins. Hardly any other field of research benefits as much from the use of genetic engineering methods as basic biomedical research. Investigations are among the most important areas of research
  • for the structure and mode of action of the immune system (immunology),
  • on causes of metabolic diseases,
  • on the development of cancer (oncology),
  • on control mechanisms and cellular signaling pathways in growth (developmental biology) and aging processes (gerontology) and
  • on the structure and functioning of the nervous system (neurobiology).

Bioinformatics is becoming increasingly important, without which a comparison of entire genomes would not be possible. In the coming years, scientists from all over the world want to systematically decipher the entire genome of the 50 most common tumor types and compare it with healthy control tissue.

So-called model organisms are of great importance for basic biomedical research, as they can be used to deal with fundamental biological questions. The most commonly used organisms are:

  • the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (cell biology),
  • the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster (genetics),
  • the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (developmental biology) and
  • the mouse Mus musculus (immunology).

Findings from basic research form the basis for applied research. Only when the basic mechanisms of action have been clarified or new target molecules have been identified can this knowledge be used in the development of novel drugs or new treatment concepts. Research is currently being intensified into forms of therapy in which genetic and biochemical differences and variants are to be recorded in individual patients (pharmacogenetics). At the intersection of basic research and applied research, there is also work on somatic gene therapy, a treatment method in which genes are to be transferred into specific cells of the patient in a targeted manner. Particularly intensive research is currently being carried out on suitable transmission technologies in order to make this form of therapy safer. In August 2017, the responsible US authority approved genetically modified immune defense cells (CAR-T cells) that can specifically identify and destroy certain cancer cells.

Additional information