Regenerative medicine takes a different approach to treating disease by aiming to regrow, repair or replace tissues and organs to restore their normal functions instead of just treating symptoms. This month, Horizon takes a deeper look at the promise of this emerging field and takes stock of where we are now. We look at how scientists are beginning human trials of a technique that repurposes cells from one part of the body to treat disorders in another, and find out how 3D printing is helping to tackle arthritis. We also look at the challenges of mass producing the raw materials for regenerative medicine - stem cells - and some of the regulatory and ethical issues that are emerging as the industry develops.
Regenerative medicine should be governed, firstly, by the principle of do no harm, but a better balance between risk and regulation is required to bring innovations to market more quickly, according to Ton Rabelink, professor of internal medicine and head of nephrology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He says that Europe is in danger of falling behind countries such as Japan and the US if there is not more flexibility in how new therapies are regulated.
As May’s European elections approach, Horizon takes a step back to see what science can tell us about European politics. We look at the latest research into people’s opinions about the EU and how they’ve changed, particularly in response to the financial crisis of 2008, and ask what needs to be done to bring the public closer to politicians. We speak to cryptography expert Dr Steve Kremer about why most of us can’t vote online yet, and democracy specialist Prof. Wolfgang Merkel about the changing political party structures in Europe and whether this is a threat to democracy. We also find out how scientists are working to detect and flag fake news on social media in order to increase the transparency of the information people encounter online.
This month, Horizon explores the global challenge of biodiversity loss. Many experts believe we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, where human-caused factors such as land use and pollution are causing a decline in biodiversity – something that threatens the future of our own species. We speak to British ecologist Professor Georgina Mace about how bad the situation is and what we can do about it. We explore marine ecosystems, where species relocation outpaces that of terrestrial populations, and examine how we can help these environments adapt, as well as finding out what’s in store for bees – our pollinators. Finally, we investigate the services nature provides for people – from cleaning our water to acting as a carbon sink – and ask whether putting a value on natural capital could help save it.
In remote, rural corners of Malawi, hospitals are often faced with life-and-death decisions. Women in need of emergency caesarean sections, older people with hernias, and children with appendicitis need surgery. But should they be rushed to the operating theatre or transferred to specialists in city hospitals?
Mice that have undergone weight loss surgery experience a change in the composition of their gut bacteria and the functioning of their genes, leading scientists to explore the possibility of mimicking these changes to develop a non-surgical treatment for obesity and liver disease in humans.
Technology is helping to improve healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unexpected effects of bariatric surgery could help develop non-surgical obesity treatments.
We should not over-promise about the safety of automated vehicles if we want people to trust them, says Dr Jean- François Bonnefon.