New Treatments - Drugs and Using Genetics

Learning about how drugs are descovered , made and developed.

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Most Drugs come from Plants

Plants and animals produce a vast ariety of different chemicals, some of which can be used as drugs. Alot of our current medicines were discovered by studying plants used in traditional cures.

Scientist identify promising plants and then look for active ingredients (the chemical in the plant that causes the effect)

Some scientist believe that there is a cure for most diseases out there in the rainforest. 

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Different Drugs


Aspirin is used to treat all sorts of pains and to lower fevers. The active ingredient in aspirin was developed from a salicin compound. Salicin occurs naturally in leaves and bark of a willow tree.


Taxol (cancer drug) comes from the bark of a pacific yew tree. The Pacific Yew tree is protected though and very slow growing. So scientists have had to compromise in finding other ways to produce the drug.


Quanine comes from the South American cinchona tree. It used to be the main medicine for malaria but better medicine has been found since. 


newer antil malarial drug, comes from the Artemisia annua plant. More powerful drugs have come from it.

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Drug Developments Costs

Modern drug can be expensive to produce. When developing a new drug companies take out a patent on it , this means only they can sell and produce it for a certain amount of years.This allows the company to make what they've spent on the vast amount of research they had to do in order to develop the drug. But people say the patent means that companies can charge what they want.This is controversial as not everyone who needs the drugs can afford them under patents.

Some people think..

drug companies can charge less and still make a profit . Making a profit from someones illness is unethical. Other companies should be allowed to copy the drugs and reproduce them cheaply.

Some other people think..

it'd be unfair if the other companies could sell the treatment more cheaply- they didn't do any of the expensive research. There'd be no reason for a company to develop new treatments if they can't make a profit. 

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Studying Genes can Lead to Development of New Medi

The Human Genome project taught us a lot of lessons. One being that we have far less genes than we thought we had, only 25000. We also know now where all of those genes are located but we dont know what all of them do.

The study of the human genome is called genomics, which has loads of useful application in various fields. It's applications to medicine we need to know about. 

All diseases depend on genes. Determining which genes make people more likely to get a disease could make diagnosis earlier and even preven it. Identifying defective genes can help scientists understand how disease is caused and so how it's treated. This can be done by drugs or gene therapy. At the moment some drug development is still hit and miss but in the future we could design drugs tailored to each persons individual genes. Scientists still need to do more research in this though .

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Genetically Modified Organisms Can Produce Medicin

We genetically engineer miccroorganisms to produce human proteins. The proteins can be extracted and used to treat the disease. 

This technique doesn't just work with insulin though , it works with other proteins too. In the olden days, patients had to get these proteins other ways e.g from pigs.

Using GM organisms is much better - it's cheaper , easier, and you can get larger amounts. Also , the proteins are a human form and there's less risk of catching animal diseases. 

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stacey jones


Spelling error: Quinine, might be a key word. :) 

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