Interesting read for the week: Nature’s seven life science technologies to watch in 2022.
What technologies are likely to impact life science in 2022? In this Nature article by Michael Einstein, he explores seven technologies that might be commonplace and increasingly commercially used over the next years.
- Fully-finished genomes: Last May, the Telomere-to-Telomere (T2T) consortium reported the first end-to-end sequence of the human genome. This allows the turn to produce more representative genome maps and capture greater human allelic diversity. What’s more, the use of these assembly techniques are even being pictured for sequences of every vertebrate species on Earth, possibly making T2T genomes widespread in the next 10 years.
- Protein structure solutions: Significant advances on determining protein structure in terms of both speed and resolution have boosted research in this area. AlphaFold2, a structure-prediction algorithm, has been greatly adopted and proven to yield “almost eerily good” predictions even with multi-chain protein complexes. And improvements in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have enabled teams to generate structures with long-awaited “atomic resolution”.
- Quantum simulation: Quantum computers promise incredible processing power, and a relatively new approach might overcome some challenges. The use of optical tweezers and “Rydberg atoms” has gained such momentum and acceptance that pioneers have started to found companies to apply this technology for lab use, inspiring estimates for such simulators to be commercially available in a year or two while also paving the way for more general quantum computer applications.
- Precise genome manipulation: Most genetic diseases require precise gene correction, something that CRISPR-Cas9 technologies have fallen a bit short for. Yet, two new approaches called Base editing and Prime editing have shown very promising less-disruptive results, with the former even being en route for human trials.
- Targeted gene therapies: A common challenge for nucleic acid-based medicines is their delivery to specific tissues in an easy, non-invasive manner. To this end, adeno-associated viruses and more recently lipid nanoparticles have been brought as possible vehicles for gene-therapy efforts, the latter promising from preclinical results a greater efficacy and less adverse effects overall.
- Spatial multi-omics: The field of spatial transcriptomics has been very active in recent years, making commercial systems available and leading researchers to new methods for mapping gene expression in cells. Insight into areas like protein production, immune cell activation, and even tumorigenesis have stemmed from such technology, showing its bright future.
- CRISPR-based diagnostics: Given the CRISPR-Cas technology’s inherent relation to viral detection, its use in point-of-care diagnostics using other Cas enzymes (notably Cas13) has recently gained more attention. Moreover, RNA-amplification procedures have enabled systems for screening multiple pathogens at once, drastically amplifying the range of screening tests.
We will definitely keep an eye on these technologies and look forward to support start-ups in these fields. (Author: Valle-Sosa, Adrian)
Read the full article here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00163-x