Discover more from EvoluSean's Toolbox
Top Technologies to Watch in 2023
These cutting-edge technologies promise to bring us closer to understanding the mysteries of the universe, health and disease.
Are you interested in keeping up with the latest and greatest in technology? Look no further! Here's a rundown of some of the most exciting advancements to keep an eye on as we move into 2023. From single-molecule protein sequencing to high-precision radiocarbon dating, there's something for everyone in this list. Get ready to be amazed as we dive into single-molecule protein sequencing, the James Webb Space Telescope, volume electron microscopy, CRISPR anywhere, high-precision radiocarbon dating, and single-cell metabolomics. These cutting-edge technologies promise to bring us closer to understanding the mysteries of the universe, health and disease, and the intricacies of our own cells. So buckle up and get ready for an exciting ride!
Welcome to the 20 new Evolutionaries who have joined us since our last post! If you haven’t subscribed, join 3000+ smart, curious mutants by subscribing here:
Sean’s Summary of:
Since I made a summary of the coolest news from 2022, I figure it’d be fun to talk about some technologies to keep our eyes on moving into 2023.
Single-molecule protein sequencing
The technology of single-molecule protein sequencing is on the horizon, with various researchers and biotechnology firms working on the proof of concept. The proteome, or the complete set of proteins made by a cell or organism, provides valuable information about health and disease, but its characterization has been challenging. Unlike nucleic acids, proteins cannot be amplified, which makes mass spectrometry the most common method of proteomic analysis, but it has limitations in identifying proteins and detecting low-abundance proteins. Single-molecule protein sequencing techniques, such as fluorosequencing and binder protein recognition, aim to sequence all the proteins in a sample, much like the techniques used for DNA. Researchers are also working on techniques that emulate nanopore-based DNA sequencing, profiling polypeptides based on the changes they induce in electric current as they pass through tiny channels. Single-molecule protein sequencing is seen as a promising field, with companies such as Quantum-Si planning to ship first-generation instruments soon and a growing number of start-ups entering the market. This new technology is expected to provide more accurate and comprehensive information about proteins and their role in health and disease.
James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a joint collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, which was launched into orbit in 2021. The JWST was designed to pick up where the Hubble Space Telescope left off and fill in the gaps of Hubble's blind spots. The JWST has an array of 18 beryllium mirrors that are so precisely engineered that they are capable of detecting incredibly faint infrared signals originating billions of light years away. The telescope's design allows it to fill in Hubble's gaps and capture signatures from ancient stars and galaxies that were invisible to the Hubble. Researchers around the world are already queuing up for observation time, and the JWST has already yielded some exciting discoveries such as the ability to measure the atmospheric composition of certain exoplanets. The JWST will be aimed at millions of planets this year to explore in more detail than ever before the other possible planets harboring life!
Volume electron microscopy
Electron microscopy (EM) is a technology that offers high-resolution imaging of samples. However, its limitations are that it only offers surface-level resolution and requires slicing the sample into thin sections. The latest "volume EM" techniques have changed this by offering 3D tissue sample resolution without the need for slicing. These techniques have varying advantages and limitations, such as serial block-face imaging and focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). The Cell Organelle Segmentation in Electron Microscopy (COSEM) initiative at Janelia Research Campus uses bespoke FIB-SEM microscopes and deep-learning algorithms to increase the volume that can be imaged while preserving good spatial resolution. This technology is a "quiet revolution" that is already providing insights in infectious-disease research and cancer biology and is being used to explore the feasibility of reconstructing the entire mouse brain at high resolution.
The genome-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 has revolutionized the field of gene therapy, disease modelling and other areas of research by allowing for defined changes to be made at targeted sites throughout the genome. However, it has limitations as it requires a nearby sequence called a protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) to work effectively. Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston are working on ways to overcome these limitations by engineering protein variants of the commonly used Cas9 enzyme to have less stringent PAM requirements, increasing the chances of off-target edits. Another approach is to engineer and test large numbers of Cas9 variants that exhibit high specificity for distinct PAM sequences. Additionally, virologists at the University of Trento in Italy have combed through more than one million microbial genomes to identify a diverse set of Cas9 variants that could collectively target more than 98% of known disease-causing mutations in humans. With these advancements, the researchers believe that they will have a complete toolbox of editors that can edit any base they want, making the world a better place by improving the accuracy and specificity of gene editing.
High-precision radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a technology that measures the amount of carbon-14 in organic artefacts to determine the date of historical events. It has been used by scientists since the 1940s but only with a precision of a couple of decades. However, advances in the technology, led by physicist Fusa Miyake at Nagoya University, have allowed for a much more precise dating process. Miyake's team found that the presence of a distinctive spike in carbon-14 levels in tree rings, known as "Miyake events", could be used to determine the exact year and season in which a wooden artefact was created. This technology is being applied by archaeologists to study ancient civilizations and volcanic eruptions and could lead to a better understanding of historical development. Miyake's team continues to search for similar carbon-14 spikes to increase the accuracy of this technology.
Metabolomics is a field of study that looks at the small molecules in cells that control their function. This technology is now shifting to the single-cell level, which has the potential to provide more information about the complex functions in cells. However, this transition also presents challenges as some metabolites are ephemeral and difficult to detect. The current methods used in metabolomics require expensive, top-of-the-line hardware. But now, researchers are democratizing the technology by developing open-source software tools such as SpaceM, which uses light microscopy imaging data to enable spatial metabolomic profiling of cells with a standard commercial mass spectrometer. This has the potential to profile hundreds of metabolites in thousands of cells, classify those cells into groups, and enable the creation of 'metabolomic atlases', which will accelerate progress in the field. By understanding the active part of cells, metabolomics has the potential to contribute to the improvement of disease diagnosis and treatment.
In vitro embryo models
The technology of creating embryoid models from embryonic stem (ES) cells and reprogramming human stem cells is helping to fill the knowledge gaps in the early stages of embryonic development. Developmental biologists at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and the University of Cambridge have demonstrated that they can generate implantation-stage mouse embryos entirely from ES cells. Meanwhile, stem-cell biologists at Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health have identified a culture strategy that pushed stem cells back to something resembling eight-cell human embryos. These models can help researchers to understand how a few cells give rise to the complexity of the vertebrate body and how alterations in individual genes can affect normal embryonic development. This technology will aid in the study of early embryonic development and help researchers gain a better understanding of the molecular machinery driving the process, potentially leading to better understanding and treatments for infertility and birth defects.