Biotech

A decade ago, Elizabeth Summers' options for birth control suddenly narrowed. Doctors diagnosed her with Factor V Leiden, a rare genetic disorder, after discovering blood clots in her lungs. The condition increases the risk of clotting, so physicians told Summers to stay away from the pill and other hormone-laden contraceptives. "Modern medicine has generally failed to provide me with an effective and convenient option," she says.

But new birth control options are emerging for women like Summers. These alternatives promise to provide more choices to women who can't ingest hormones or don't want to suffer their unpleasant side effects.

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Jared Whitlock
Jared Whitlock is a freelance health reporter. His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, WIRED and Voice of San Diego, with support from USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He's a current fellow in MIT's Knight Science Journalism program.
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Robert Thomas was a devoted runner, gym goer, and crew member on a sailing team in San Diego when, in his 40s, he noticed that his range of movement was becoming more limited.

He thought he was just getting older, but when he was hiking an uphill trail in Lake Tahoe, he kept tripping over rocks. "I'd never had this happen before," Robert says. "I knew something was wrong but didn't know what it was."

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Emily Mullin
Emily Mullin is the acting editor of Leaps.org during summer 2021. Most recently, she was a staff writer covering biotechnology at OneZero, Medium's tech and science publication. Before that, she was the associate editor for biomedicine at MIT Technology Review. Her stories have also appeared in The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine.
Photo by the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

In November 2020, messenger RNA catapulted into the public consciousness when the first COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for emergency use. Around the same time, an equally groundbreaking yet relatively unheralded application of mRNA technology was taking place at a London hospital.

Over the past two decades, there's been increasing interest in harnessing mRNA — molecules present in all of our cells that act like digital tape recorders, copying instructions from DNA in the cell nucleus and carrying them to the protein-making structures — to create a whole new class of therapeutics.

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David Cox
David Cox is a science and health writer based in the UK. He has a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Cambridge and has written for newspapers and broadcasters worldwide including BBC News, New York Times, and The Guardian. You can follow him on Twitter @DrDavidACox.