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Celebrating the Future

MIT Technology Review's 35 Innovators Under 35 list is chock full of engineers, chemists, biologists, computer scientists, and all around inventively smart people who are paving the way to the future with new approaches to artificial intelligence, solar energy, robotics, water conservation, and more.

Several among them are biomedical researchers who are tackling subjects like rare diseases, gene editing, and single-cell analysis.

Harvard Medical School researcher Evan Macosko, for example, has invented a technology called Drop-Seq, "which allows a researcher to look at thousands of cells, one by one, to determine how each is carrying out its genetic instructions," Technology Review says. Macosko hopes to use it to gain a more thorough understanding of the human brain.

Then there's Zephyrus Biosciences bioengineer Kelly Gardner, who created a test that can measure protein levels in single cells. "Proteins are the functional molecules of the cell," she tells Technology Review. "Measuring them is vital to understanding and targeting disease. But they're much more challenging to measure than DNA because they can't be amplified — you have to measure the molecules that are actually in the cell."

Technology Review also spoke with MIT researcher Kevin Esvelt, who works on perfecting gene editing techniques, and who has designed a safer type of gene drive that can be controlled.

And there's Broad Institute researcher Sonia Vallabh, who recently published a study on prion disease that could lead to a treatment. Her research was inspired by learning that she has a mutation that could lead to the disease, she tells Technology Review, adding that she and her husband "waged a campaign to educate ourselves — taking night classes, attending conferences, and eventually taking new jobs in research labs. We retrained as scientists by day and applied what we were learning to understanding my disease by night. Four years later, we're devoting our lives to developing therapeutics for my disease."

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.