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People to Watch

They are tackling everything from the short supply of data scientists to identifying gut bacteria, and are included on Technology Review's list this year of 35 Innovators Under 35. Broadly Tech Review categorizes their innovators as inventors, visionaries, humanitarians, pioneers, and entrepreneurs, but all are "doing exciting work that could shape their fields for decades."

For instance, Emily Balksus, a 'pioneer' and assistant professor at Harvard University is using DNA sequencing and other approaches to examine the metabolic pathways of gut microbes to better understand how they survive in that environment. Her lab has, Tech Review notes, uncovered bacterial enzymes that convert choline to trimethylamine, a metabolite that is associated with heart disease.

Another pioneer, Megan McCain, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, is working on a heart-on-a-chip device to enable personalized testing of cardiac drugs. And entrepreneur Michael Schmidt is developing software to automate data scientist and bring those skills to companies that may not otherwise be able to snag such talent.

Tech Review also has a related list of Seven Over 70 that shows that people keep innovating through out their lives. That list includes Ada Yonath, who won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for her work on the ribosome and continues to direct the the Weizmann Institute’s Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly, and
Carl Djerassi, who helped invent the synthetic steroid progestin that's used in oral contraceptives and who has recently turned to writing novels and plays with scientists as main characters.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.