Cures for deadly brain cancer, sight loss and deafness are among the life changing solutions that could result from what are called the ‘disruptive dozen’ technologies.
Sitting down with senior Harvard faculty attached to Mass General Brigham, America’s leading biomedical research body and affiliate of Harvard Medical School, the question being discussed was: which scientific breakthroughs are on the cusp of transforming healthcare in the near future? The answers were then tested using a rigorous selection process developed by Mass before being distilled down to a dozen solutions.
Among them, RNA – the ‘close chemical brother of DNA’ – which can pass messages between cells to create protein, is seen as a having huge potential to ‘create therapies’ for the deadly brain cancer, glioblastoma.
“This cancer is notoriously difficult to treat and highly adaptable, overcoming practically every treatment that’s so far been deployed against it,” explains Dr Anna Krichevsky, Associate Professor of Neurology, BWH. “Most patients die within a year to 18 months of diagnosis. But now, new approaches that either target RNA or mimic its activity could offer a critical toehold in destroying this aggressive cancer.”
Another of the ‘disruptive dozen’ technologies is cell therapy that could be used to tackle previously incurable eye diseases and blindness. Dr Michael Gilmore, Chief Scientific Officer, Mass Eye and Ear, says “these therapies offer a functional cure by replacing critical cells that have been lost or injured.” One possibility being to replace them with stem cells from the retina.
Mass is recognised as America’s largest academic research enterprise and annually is home to $2 billion of government funded and privately sponsored research.
“The culture of innovation at Mass General Brigham fosters continuous discussion and debate about emerging technologies and which ones will have the biggest impact for patients. The Disruptive Dozen reflects this spirit of discovery and underpins our work to identify what has the potential to significantly improve health care,” added Ravi Thadhani, MD, Chief Academic Officer, Mass General Brigham.