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Editorial |

Medical Applications of Biotechnology

Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD; Catherine D. DeAngelis, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2005;293(7):866-867. doi:10.1001/jama.293.7.866.
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Innovations and discoveries in biotechnology are revolutionizing medical research. Recent advances in molecular biology, proteomic technologies, genomic applications, cellular and tissue engineering, computational methods, and bioengineering and bioimaging techniques have markedly accelerated the pace of medical research and have created unprecedented opportunities for progress in medical science.

This theme issue of JAMA illustrates the promise and potential of biotechnology in medicine, with reports that demonstrate cutting-edge advances and novel discoveries in several rapidly evolving areas of medical research. In 2 studies on cancer detection, Casey and colleagues1 demonstrate that conversion analysis increases the diagnostic yield of germline mutations in colorectal cancer compared with conventional genomic sequencing, while Grossman and colleagues2 report that a proteomic assay may be a useful adjunct to cystoscopy for detecting bladder cancer. The elegant study by Nettles and colleagues3 using an ultrasensitive genotyping assay to detect drug resistance mutations suggests that intermittent episodes of detectable viremia (ie, “blips”) in patients receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy for human immunodeficiency virus infection most likely represent random variation, rather than clinically significant viremia. Hering and colleagues4 show that single-donor, marginal-dose islet cell transplantation restores insulin independence in patients with type 1 diabetes. Two intriguing reports demonstrate new applications of biotechnology for fetal genetic analysis. Larrabee and colleagues5 suggest that cell-free fetal messenger RNA can be isolated from amniotic fluid and hybridized to gene expression microarrays, while Li and colleagues6 report that paternally inherited fetal point mutations for β-thalassemia are detectable using cell-free DNA in maternal plasma. In 3 overview articles, Jaffer and Weissleder7 describe advances in molecular imaging, Talamini and Hanly8 present current and potential applications of robotic surgery, and Kesselheim and Avorn9 discuss intellectual property issues related to biotechnology research.

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