In a recent interview Holden Thorp, a chemist and the editor-in-chief of “Science”, one of the most respected science journals in the world, spoke about the increasingly important role that science will play in our lives in the future.
This is what he foresees:
- Let’s start with genetic editing, “which is surprising, especially with regard to how easy it has become and the broad impact that CRISPR/Cas-9 has on medical technology.”
Thorp is referring to a system based on the use of the Cas9 protein, which is like a pair of “molecular scissors” capable of cutting damaged DNA sequences or replacing them, and correcting, for example, the mutations that cause diseases.
- Microbiome (the incredibly complex world of bacteria and microorganisms that live in our intestines, which we discussed in this article) is without doubt another of today’s key players and will continue to grow in importance in the future:
Microbiome has become a key principle in biology. Its implications range from its obvious involvement in gastrointestinal disorders to diseases that we considered non-communicable, such as cardiovascular disease and those concerning brain development.
- Then we have the technique known as cryoEM “which has changed the way we look at the structures of the biomolecules essential for life.”
CryoEM is a type of cryo-electron microscopy, in which samples are studied at the temperature of liquid nitrogen (between approximately -210 °C and -195 °C). Its use derives from the fact that it enables uncoloured samples or samples that are not fixed in any way to be observed, showing their native environment and doing so with a very high degree of image resolution.
- From the perspective of possible applications, Thorp draws attention to cancer, “which is continuing to make progress and we are now close to seeing all that it can do to improve the lives of patients that are suffering from this disease.”
The immuno-oncology that Thorp is referring to is a field of research that has considerably strengthened immune system response, in particular with regard to several very frequent tumours or those that ae particularly difficult to treat.
- In addition to biological science, Thorp states that perovskite catalysis – for the conversion of solar power – is “particularly promising”. Perovskites are special catalysers used in the chemical and electrochemical reactions that are at the root of many aspects of modern technology and industry, ranging from the storage and conversion of energy to the reduction of toxic emissions in chemical synthesis and materials.
- And last but not least, the environment issue will continue and will remain crucial:
The understanding of mankind’s ruining of the environment and how to counter it will be very important for a long time to come, given that our planet is in the middle of an emergency that will not be coming to an end any time soon.
In his interview, Thorp also states what the goal of “Science” will be in the coming years: to publish a considerable amount of essential information together with its scientific articles, offering other scientists the possibility to able to reproduce the experiments to analyse the data. With a solemn promise: “We will do more and more to help the general public to understand scientific research and its implications.”