Start the year running with a tip-off to the 10 technologies that received the most interest from our R&D community in the final quarter of 2017.
Taking article views as an indicator of interest from industry, we see these innovations from academia to hold plenty of promise for the year ahead (in terms of commercial interest and social benefit). That’s why they’re the top tech to scout in 2018!
Register for free access to IN-PART and connect with advances from the frontiers of research.
A treatment for tech-tired eyes
Itching, dryness, sensitivity to light… As the tech industry booms and screen time increases, dry eyes symptoms have become familiar. Also caused by refractive surgery, contact lenses, and autoimmune disease, dry eyes can be treated with drops or gels. But, their difficult application often makes us wince. Plus, they tend to dissolve too quickly.
At the University of Manchester, a team of researchers working on dry eyes syndrome have created a new, lipid-based treatment. This remedy is resistant to contamination, has a longer residence time in the eye, and a longer shelf-life. It can be laid using an applicator, making it as easy as applying eyeliner on the lower eyelid!
Catalysts are required in a wide range of critical processes – from reducing harmful car emissions, to producing ammonia for fertilizing crops and de-icing aeroplane wings. Their ability to effectively speed up reactions is directly linked to their available surface area. Nanoscale catalysts are now widely used in industry. However, the tendency of atoms to cluster together has, this far, prevented significant improvements in catalyst loading.
Researchers at Curtin University in Australia have developed a novel method for manufacturing single atom catalysts. These atomic-scale accelerants have high conductivity, selectivity, and stability, and can be made in a three-step, one-pot process for a 10-fold improvement in catalyst loading.
Unfortunately, this technology is no longer available for collaboration, but there is a similar innovation on IN-PART from researchers at the University of Kansas: Design, Synthesis, and Characterization of Novel Nano-Metal Catalysts for Polyol Hydrogenolysis
An end to needles
Patients suffering from diabetes, and other diseases that are managed by monitoring molecular concentrations in blood, can be required to draw blood a minimum of 4 times per day. While they may adapt quickly to the fear factor of pricking themselves with a needle, there are still risks associated with missed or delayed checks.
A novel technology from researchers at Northeastern University in the USA aims to minimize these risks with a biocompatible nanosensor that can be embedded within the skin. The sensor produces a fluorescent intensity that is dependent on the concentration of the molecule in question. A smartphone camera is then used to capture the fluorescent intensity for continuous and simple needle-free monitoring.
Unlocking the microbiome
From faecal transplants to over-the-counter pre- and pro-biotics, public attention surrounding the human gut has reached fever pitch in recent years. Disorders ranging from mental health to allergies and asthma are becoming increasingly linked to our gastrointestinal tracts.
Academics at Yale University are developing a high-throughput profiling platform for identifying host-microbe interactions within the gut. By gaining an understanding of which host organisms bind to specific bacteria or viruses, scientists will be able to rapidly develop novel therapeutic pathways for microbiota-driven diseases.
Infectious disease diagnostics in the Lyme light
Ticks infect thousands of people with Lyme disease annually, and years after treatment people can be left with joint pain and swelling. Yet, current methods of diagnosis are limiting early detection and effective disease monitoring.
Academics at Columbia University are tackling these limitations by developing a diagnostic immunoassay that relies on detecting two acute phase response proteins in blood. In conjunction, the causative Borrelia bacteria levels in the skin and blood are also measured. It is hoped that this combinational approach will help provide earlier detection and active infection monitoring, and so improve Lyme disease management.
Sensitive, simple, and specific cancer diagnosis
For cancer patients, quality of life is greatly dependent on the accurate diagnosis and effective management of treatments. A staggering 90% of breast cancer patients have an increased lifespan due to early diagnosis.
At the University of Edinburgh, scientists have singled-out a genetic signature that they believe will make breast cancer diagnosis more effective. Built into a simple blood test, this new diagnostic signature has been shown to be significantly more accurate, specific, and sensitive than existing methods on the market. The Edinburgh scientists also hope that their technology can be extended to identify genetic signatures in other types of cancer.
Unfortunately, this technology is no longer available for collaboration, but there is a similar innovation on IN-PART from researchers at University Health Network: Real-Time Liquid Biopsy Cancer Diagnosis and Monitoring.
Turning genes on/off with light
Installing light-activated chemical switches that enable protein translation to be turned on or off has huge potential in the fields of genetic engineering, genome research, and even regenerative medicine. However, ‘photoswitch’ compounds are unstable, and the need for continuous UV light damages cells and mutates DNA.
Now, a team of researchers at Hokkaido University in Japan have developed a photoswitch cap for mRNA that can turn on protein production with a flash of 370 nm light and turn it off again with a second flash at 430 nm. Using this technique, gene expression can be controlled without the need for lengthy UV exposure or additional gene editing steps.
Anti-inflammatories for the engines of life
Mitochondria play a crucial role in the processes of cell survival, metabolism, and inflammation. Steady synthesis of the gasomediator H2S is essential to proper mitochondrial function, but this can be perturbed, leading to inflammatory, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disorders.
Researchers at the University of Exeter have developed small molecules called MTHDs (mitochondria-targeted H2S donors), that specifically target mitochondria and mimic the natural, slow and sustained release of H2S. In situations where H2S production is derailed, these molecules can step in and help relax blood vessels, inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines, and stop the production of apoptotic caspases.
Enhanced sunscreen for humans and materials
Many of us will associate sun-damage with temporary redness and pain but the true effects can be much longer lasting. When not protected against, the UVB and UVA wavelengths of light that penetrate the earth’s atmosphere can induce skin cancer, eye damage, and ageing.
Commercially-available sunscreens tend to only block around 93% of UVB and UVA rays, but researchers at the University of Arizona have developed a technology that improves upon these sunscreens by absorbing UV rays up to 400nm. The benefits aren’t just limited to skin care either. This new polymeric sunscreen can also protect paints, plastics, woods, and other UV sensitive surfaces.
Sorting cells with acoustics
Existing cell sorting systems are commonly inhibited by high initial costs, high-maintenance requirements, and low biocompatibility. In the case of fragile or sensitive cells – such as neurons, stem cells, liver cells, and sperm cells – they can also reduce cell viability and functions…
Now, researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland have developed a simple, cell-friendly, compact and low-cost acoustic sorter, as an enabling technology for use with delicate cells in medical, biomedical, pharmaceutical, and environmental applications. It has already shown great bio-compatibility and excellent precision in dissociating live and dead cells.
Unfortunately, this technology is no longer available for collaboration, but there is a similar innovation on IN-PART from researchers at Nagoya University: Ultra-Stable, High Speed Single Living Cells Separation System.
Technology features written by Margaux (1), Emma (2, 3, 4), Sayali (5, 6), Dan (7,8 ) & Sarah (9, 10).
Editing & production by Alex
Quality control by Emma
Copyrights reserved unless otherwise agreed – IN-PART Publishing Ltd. 2018.
For other top innovations published on IN-PART, explore:
Image attribution (in order of appearance):
Sylvanus Urban / Unsplash (CC0)
Anthony D’Onofrio, et al., / Flickr (CC 2.0)
NIAID / Flickr (CC 2.0)
Mnolf / Wikimedia (CC SA 3U)
Alysa Bajenaru / Unsplash (CC0)
LadyofHats / Wikimedia (CC0)
Chezbeate / Pixabay (CC0)
ZEISS Microscopy / Wikimedia (CC 2.0)
IN-PART is a matchmaking platform for university-industry collaboration. It helps businesses to find, evaluate and collaborate with advances in science and technology from academics who are actively looking for strategic external partnerships.
Utilising natural language processing, smart-matching algorithms, and proactive community engagement, IN-PART connects businesses with the most relevant university-developed technology and expertise. IN-PART’s Community Engagement team provide a personal introduction to the associated person in the university for pre-collaboration discussions.
Access to IN-PART is without cost to businesses as the platform is maintained by university subscriptions. IN-PART does not claim any downstream fee for successful collaborations. A premium service is also available for companies seeking a proactive technology scouting tool.