A look back as we fall back…
Hello, and happy Fall! As our internal clocks labor to get back into sync with the annual falling back of our (physical) clocks, I thought I’d update you on some of my newest and most noteworthy articles:
In the online edition of Chemical and Engineering News, I wrote about devices to monitor tissue oxygenation during surgery (Aug. 26) and chemically sniff out sea mines underwater (Oct. 10), as well as a new method to synthesize fluorescent “upconversion nanoparticles” in the microwave (Nov. 3).
In BioTechniques, I wrote about the ongoing problem of cell line misidentification (August) — a problem that could potentially invalidate thousands of studies and millions of dollars worth of research — as well as techniques for monitoring protein conformation in vivo (October) and antibody engineering (November). The latter methods — phage display, yeast display, and related approaches — could ultimately help generate “protein binders” for every protein in the human proteome, an idea that is already moving ahead (viz: this NIH RFA), albeit slowly.
In the August 18 issue of Nature, I wrote about the challenges and opportunities of the physician-scientist career path, while in The Scientist I wrote a how-to guide to reanalyzing publicly available transcriptome data (September). Also in the pages of The Scientist, as part of the magazine’s 25th Anniversary issue, I looked back at a at a quarter-century of genomics technology (October) with genomics luminaries George Church, Leroy Hood, and Mary-Claire King. In that article Dr. King made, I think, the most wonderful observation:
“The fundamental questions of genetics haven’t really changed; what’s changed is our capacity to answer them. We’re now in a position to be able to answer these questions with technology that simply didn’t exist before. But in a way, this technology is wasted on us. This technology should have been in the hands of Darwin and Mendel and much smarter people than any of us. But we’re the ones that have it, and so we can now go back and answer their questions.”
I might debate that point — I can’t imagine a group of researchers much smarter and more creative than King, Hood, and Church — but I do look forward to seeing what they, and the rest of the ‘omics community can do with those technologies over the next 25 years.