I, Science News-28 October 2019

In your I, Science News Roundup this week I cover the launch of the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED), Google achieving quantum supremacy (or have they?) and ‘prime editing’, CRISPR’s new big brother.

The UK-US alliance looking to boost early cancer detection rates

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has teamed up with the University of Cambridge, Manchester, UCL, Stanford, and Oregon as part of the new International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED). The Alliance looks to develop radical new strategies and technologies to detect cancer at its earliest stage when treatments are most effective.

The creation of the Alliance aims to address the problems in the field of early detection research, which includes under-prioritisation, fragmentation of the researcher community, lack of a clear model for industry collaboration, and access to critical resources including early disease tissue samples.

Has Google achieved ‘quantum supremacy’?

You may have seen this leaked earlier in the year, but Google has now officially published in Nature claiming they have achieved ‘quantum supremacy’. This term refers to a milestone in quantum computing where the computer can solve a problem that would take the best conventional machine thousands of years to perform – and Google’s Sycamore device did so in just 3 minutes 20 seconds.

It could be too soon to pop the bubbly though, as IBM disagrees with Google’s claim. They say that rather than taking thousands of years to solve the problem, their Summit computer (which isn’t quantum) could do so in just 2.5 days and that the bar of so-called ‘quantum supremacy’ is far higher.

Despite that, the feat is still incredibly impressive and a big step forward into the future of quantum computing.

Overhauling CRISPR-Cas9 for more accurate gene editing

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have improved upon the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system to produce a new technique dubbed ‘prime editing’. Published in Nature, the team describes how they managed to make 175 different DNA edits to humans cells with never seen before precision.

Gene editing systems aim to seek out specific DNA sequences and replace them with other ones. Currently, the CRISPR-Cas 9 system is good as the seeking side of things, but less so at the replacing. Prime editing uses an altered version of Cas 9 that’s fused with another protein, which cuts the DNA in such a way that it creates fewer mistakes.

This progress raises fresh hopes for the treatment of genetic disorders, but still have a while to go before it can be used in humans.

This week’s news was written by Harry Jenkins, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London. Photo from pixabay.com

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