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Biological engineering

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Wired

Prof. Ron Weiss co-founded Strand Therapeutics, a biotech company developing mRNA therapies, reports Emily Mullin for Wired. “The notion is that genetic circuits can really have significant impact on safety and efficacy,” says Weiss. “This begins to really open up the door for creating therapies whose sophistication can match the underlying complexity of biology.”

The Boston Globe

Maya Levy '21 speaks with Boston Globe reporter Steve Annear about “The 24-Hour T Ride,” a play written by Levy and friends as part of their work with the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble group. The group is “known to produce 24-hour shows in which only the title is decided on beforehand,” explains Levy. “You can expect silly incredibly local scenes that would not hold up if you performed it anywhere else. You can expect the actors to be having a wonderful time.”

Fierce Biotech

In a new paper, MIT researchers detail how they have used AI techniques to discover a class of “of antibiotics capable of killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),” reports Helen Floresh for Fierce Biotech. “This paper announces the first AI-driven discovery of a new class of small molecule antibiotics capable of addressing antibiotic resistance, and one of the few to have been discovered overall in the past 60 years,” says postdoctoral fellow Felix Wong.

New Scientist

Researchers at MIT have used artificial intelligence to uncover, “a new class of antibiotics that can treat infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria,” reports Jeremy Hsu for New Scientist. “Our [AI] models tell us not only which compounds have selective antibiotic activity, but also why, in terms of their chemical structure,” says postdoctoral fellow Felix Wong.

Interesting Engineering

MIT researchers have developed a new cell imaging technique that offers “the ability to observe up to seven different molecules simultaneously,” writes Amal Jos Chacko for Interesting Engineering. “This could open the door to a deeper understanding of cellular functions, aging, and diseases.”

Nature

MIT researchers have “used an algorithm to sort through millions of genomes to find new, rare types of CRISPR systems that could eventually be adapted into genome-editing tools,” writes Sara Reardon for Nature. “We are just amazed at the diversity of CRISPR systems,” says Prof. Feng Zhang. “Doing this analysis kind of allows us to kill two birds with one stone: both study biology and also potentially find useful things.”

Forbes

Cognito Therapeutics, founded by Prof. Ed Boyden and Prof. Li Huei Tsai, has developed a “specialized headset that delivers 40Hz auditory and visual stimulation” to the brain, which could potentially slow down the cognitive decline and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, reports William A. Haseltine for Forbes. Prof. Li-Huei Tsai “and her team speculated that if gamma wave activity is reduced in Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps, artificially stimulating the brain may enhance synchronized firing and restore cognition,” writes Haseltine.

Freakonomics Radio

Institute Prof. Robert Langer speaks with Freakonomics host Stephen Dubner about his approach to failure and perseverance in his professional career. Langer recalls how despite early failures with developing new drug delivery methods, “I really believed that if we could do this, it would make a big difference in science, and I hoped a big difference in medicine.”

Forbes

Cognito Therapeutics, founded by Prof. Ed Boyden and Prof. Li-Huei Tsai, is using a 40 Hzlight-flickering and auditory headset to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and restore cognition, reports William A. Haseltine for Forbes. “A recent pilot clinical trial found that this technology is not only safe and tolerable for home use, but also has a positive impact on reducing symptoms associated with age-related neurodegeneration,” writes Haseltine.

Forbes

Jasmina Aganovic ’09 founded Future Society, a brand that uses sequenced DNA from extinct flowers to create new scents, reports Celia Shatzman for Forbes. “[With] plants that are from another time, never before have we been able to time travel through smell,” says Aganovic. “But now we can do that, thanks specifically to DNA sequencing. It’s an example of where we're starting off with this concept of limitless nature. It isn't just about stories; it's also about performance.”

Newsweek

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have “genetically engineered bacteria to efficiently turn plastic waste into useful chemicals,” reports Aristos Georgiou for Newsweek. MIT Prof. James Collins and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Prof. Ting Lu explain that they see two potential applications for their work. "In the former case, plastic waste collected from oceans and landfills would be transported to a facility where it would be bioprocessed with engineered microbes,” they note. “In our latter scenario, these microbes could be deployed directly in lands or oceans to bio-transform plastic debris in situ.”

Nature

Writing for Nature, graduate student Jelle van der Hilst offers advice on determining whether the data resulting from an experiment is meaningful and useful. “Although in research it is crucial that you don’t fully trust your data until it has been triple-proven and peer-reviewed,” writes van der Hilst, “we do have to gain some operational confidence in our methods and results. Otherwise, crippled by self-doubt, we’d never bring any new research into the world.”

The Boston Globe

Michal Caspi Tal, a principal research scientist in the department of biological engineering, speaks with Boston Globe reporter Kay Lazar about her research aimed at better understanding why some people develop chronic illness after infection with Lyme disease and Covid-19. “Long Covid and chronic Lyme share so many features that it’s uncanny,” said Tal. “This is a solvable problem. This is not rocket science. This just needs to be looked at with fresh eyes.”