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Bioscience in general, including medicine, has been the focus of intense research activity using the tools of molecular biology, especially genetic analysis and manipulation. These methods are leading to the formation of a common infrastructure that spans all levels from basic biology to clinical medicine.
Researchers are moving toward a better understanding of plant chloroplasts and mitochondria (cellular organelles involved in respiratory functions within plant and animal cells) and even human genetics. Research into the evolution of genes and molecules is also making progress. Medical research is leading to a better understanding of the genetics of cancer, AIDS, and other diseases, and physicians are now employing genetic diagnosis and therapy. Of course, genetic manipulation is also raising ethical issues, and in some cases it will be necessary to achieve a social consensus. In addition to their efforts to explain cellular function's at the molecular level, including the molecular functions of cellular mechanisms, especially apoptosis (cell death) and other functions of immunological cells, researchers have also cloned individual experimental animals and produced model animals using trace DNA amplification techniques and embryological engineering.
Cancer will be one focus of medical research, but there is also likely to be considerable research relating to the brain and the mechanisms of aging, In addition, researchers will work to overcome infectious diseases, such as mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy. ) and other diseases caused by prions (protein elements that can cause infections). In the area of clinical medicine, the progress of therapeutic science will be aided not only by genetic therapy but also by advances like noninvasive surgery, which will reduce the physiological impact of surgery by utilizing increasingly precise image-based diagnosis methods, including endoscopy, ultrasound scanning, and cerebral blood-flow monitoring.
In the area of bioorganic chemistry, improved understanding of microorganisms and other bioactive trace substances in insects and microorganisms will lead to the fusion of biochemistry and molecular biology. Applications of this knowledge are expected to include the prevention of diseases and pests. In addition, the techniques of chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology are likely to be used to advance sugar-chain engineering and protein engineering.
Research in the multidisciplinary field of food and nutrition will probably focus on developing functional foods (foods with ingredients capable of producing specific physiological adjustment functions), and on the functioning of food ingredients in relation to cancer, aging, adult diseases, and allergies.
Ecological research is leading to advances in evolutionary ecology, which holds that ecological phenomena are the result of adaptive evolution driven by natural selection. There is also considerable activity in the area of synecology, which focuses on things like interaction between species. This research, which emphasizes cooperation and coexistence rather than competition and predation, is already yielding results. Biodiversity research is another field in which there has been significant progress. A focus of future research will be the relationship between biodiversity and self-organization in ecological systems. It will also be necessary to develop large-scale ecological modeling systems that can accommodate changes on a global scale, including climate change.
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