ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

October 2017

MIT-CrisprRNA_0.jpg

Image: MIT

Science & Tech

An algorithm for your blind spot
Light lets us see the things that surround us, but what if we could also use it to see things hidden around corners? It sounds like science fiction, but that’s the idea behind a new algorithm out of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) — and its discovery has implications for everything from emergency response to self-driving cars. The CSAIL team’s imaging system, which can work with smartphone cameras, uses information about light reflections to detect objects or people in a hidden scene and measure their speed and trajectory — all in real-time. Learn more here.

Health/Convergence

Researchers engineer CRISPR to edit single RNA letters in human cells
The Broad Institute and MIT scientists who first harnessed CRISPR for mammalian genome editing have engineered a new molecular system for efficiently editing RNA in human cells. RNA editing, which can alter gene products without making changes to the genome, has profound potential as a tool for both research and disease treatment.

In a paper published in Science, senior author Feng Zhang and his team describe the new CRISPR-based system, called RNA Editing for Programmable A to I Replacement, or “REPAIR.” The system can change single RNA nucleotides in mammalian cells in a programmable and precise fashion. REPAIR has the ability to reverse disease-causing mutations at the RNA level, as well as other potential therapeutic and basic science applications. Learn more here.

Biologists identify possible new strategy for halting brain tumors
MIT biologists have discovered a fundamental mechanism that helps brain tumors called glioblastomas grow aggressively. After blocking this mechanism in mice, the researchers were able to halt tumor growth. The researchers also identified a genetic marker that could be used to predict which patients would most likely benefit from this type of treatment. Glioblastoma is usually treated with radiation and the chemotherapy drug temozolamide, which may extend patients’ lifespans but in most cases do not offer a cure. Learn more here.

New test rapidly diagnoses Zika
MIT researchers have developed a paper-based test that can diagnose Zika infection within 20 minutes. Unlike existing tests, the new diagnostic does not cross-react with Dengue virus, a close relative of the Zika virus that can produce false positives on many Zika tests. This test could offer an easy-to-use, cheap, and portable diagnostic in countries where Zika and Dengue are both prevalent and the gold-standard test that measures viral RNA in the bloodstream is not available. Learn more here.