Plant-grown vaccines: the next step in medicine?

Medicago is growing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate in a relative of the tobacco plant right now.

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  • Canadian biotech company Medicago is growing a vaccine candidate in Nicotiana benthamiana.
  • An Australian relative to tobacco, plant-based vaccines could be cheaper and more reliable than current methods.
  • Medicago just completed phase 3 clinical trials of an influenza vaccine, which could be a game-changer for vaccine production.
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1 in 5 vegetative patients is conscious. This neuroscientist finds them.

This week, Big Think is partnering with Freethink to bring you amazing stories of the people and technologies that are shaping our future.

  • What if vegetative patients are conscious? Neuroscientist Adrian Owen, author of Into The Gray Zone and a professor at Western University in Canada, is using fMRI technology to try to reach the people who may still be aware of their surroundings.
  • Consciousness has traditionally been assessed by asking patients to respond to verbal commands. Through brain imaging, Dr Owen and his team were able to prove that these tests are inadequate, and it's estimated that 20 percent of vegetative patients are conscious but are physically incapable of communicating it.
  • "Communication is the thing that really makes us human," says Dr. Owen. "If we can give these patients back the ability to make decisions, I think we can give them back a little piece of their humanity."
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The surprising future of vaccine technology

We owe a lot to vaccines and the scientists that develop them. But we've only just touched the surface of what vaccines can do.

  • "Vaccines are the best thing science has ever given us," says Larry Brilliant, founding president and acting chairman of Skoll Global Threats. From smallpox, to Ebola, to polio, scientists have successful fought viruses and saved millions of lives. So what's next?
  • As Covaxx (formerly United Neuroscience) cofounder Lou Reese explains in this video, the issue with vaccines is that they don't work against "non-external threats." This is a problem, especially now when internal threats (things that cause cancers, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses) are killing people more than external threats like viruses.
  • The future of vaccine tech, which scientists are already working toward today, is developing safe vaccines to eradicate these destructive internal agents without harming our bodies in the process.


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Meet antivitamins. They may replace your antibiotics one day

German researchers have just solved the mystery of how these substances work.

  • As pathogens' resistance grows, scientists are searching for a class of drugs that could replace antibiotics.
  • Antivitamins that switch off vitamins in bacteria are being investigated.
  • Scientists have been struggling to understand how naturally occurring antivitamins do what they do.

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COVID-19 symptoms appear in a specific order, study finds

One reason to suspect you have COVID-19 may be the order in which the symptoms appear.

Image source: Pormezz/Shutterstock
  • USC researchers identify a distinct order in which COVID-19 symptoms present themselves.
  • SARS-CoV-2 affects the digestive tract in a way that distinguishes it from other similar infections.
  • If you experience these symptoms in this order, call your doctor.
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