Last post of the year and it would not be any fun if I didn’t do a roundup of mind blowing discoveries of 2016. These are things that provided solutions to big problems or opened doors for future research. In no particular order but with a bit of bias…
- Precise gene editing – If you haven’t picked up anything on science past few years then let it be CRISPR (pronounced crisper). CRISPR involves targeted gene modification at very specific points of chromosomes by crafted molecules. Besides medical interventions, it could be used to increase food security by increasing crop yield and disease resistance. It also does not fall under GMO regulation as foreign DNA is not detectable in products.
- Immune engineering – the use of genetically altered immune cells may soon be used in cancer therapy. This was successfully conducted using altered white blood cells on 1 year old Layla who was a leukemia patient.
- Conversational interfaces – Consider this an upgrade to Siri or Cortana. DuEr is the voice recognition function of Baidu-the Google equivalent in China. DuEr recognizes the phonetically complex Mandarin and is now working on making it a logical back and forth conversation.
- Reusable rockets- Rockets once launched mostly free fall back to earth in unusable form. Last year, the first rocket made an upright landing back home, which could make space tourism a reality and reduce overhead costs as the rockets could be refueled.
- DNA app store- At the price of about 100 USD you can buy the Helix app, send your spit sample and have your DNA analyzed and the sequence available to you. Probably find out whether you’re at risk of certain diseases or why you drink so much Merlot. Sounds like a techier version of 23AndMe, coming soon on your Android or IOS store.
- Slack- I’m not big on Silicon Valley kind of tech but I hear this software makes it easy to communicate with colleagues based not only in your office but also in other offices. Allow me to make the last comparison in this article; it’s a more pleasantly arranged combination of WhatsApp and Evernote.
- Tesla autopilot- The electric car manufacturer is currently at 70k vehicles with 47M miles with their Autopilot car. You could ‘drive’ to work hands free, while catching up with the papers and drinking your coffee. This article explains how it differs with the Google driverless cars.
- Power from the air- There are countless gadgets in any ordinary home from radios to mobile phones that could soon be used to power other devices that would normally use batteries such as cameras and smoke detectors. This is achieved through backscattering and involves reflection of radio waves normally emitted by devices and can be absorbed by a gadget that has the technology enabled.
These 8 technologies were also reviewed by the trusty MIT technology review.
- 3D printed blood vessels- Just this month, scientists embedded the first 3D printed blood vessels in monkeys. This was done using a stem cell based organic material from the monkeys themselves to counteract rejection. There was a successful integration with the original blood vessels. I had previously covered 3D printing here.
- Urine test for malaria– Malaria is still a public health alert in tropical countries. Having a dipstick kit – similar to a pregnancy one, as opposed to waiting on a lab to check Plasmodium parasites off a microscope slide, is pretty neat. This is still undergoing clinical trials, courtesy of Fyodor Urine Malaria Test that won an Innovation Award in Nigeria.
Happy holidays from Science Unmasked!
Image credit: Scientia Salon
Top Image: Science News