Genomics is about as popular in science circles as Adele is in pop music. Sequencing is getting cheaper and faster and the molecular editing system known as CRISPR offers opportunities to edit DNA in living cells.
What about the role played by molecules other then nucleic acids, and the proteins they help create? What about glycans and lipids?
“I’d like to suggest we’re entering the post-genomic era,” says Marth, who is director of the Center for Nanomedicine at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (See Marth deliver a talk about nanotechnology and engineering atMD&M West.)
Cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, neurodegenerative diseases—none of these diseases can be described simply though DNA, Marth says. Think, for example, how monozygotic (“identical”) twins share the same DNA, but not the same diseases.
“So what’s happening? We’re getting environmental influences: things we eat, bugs that we’re infected with, chemicals we’re in contact with. These are describing disease, and this is what we need to understand. And you can’t do that without looking at metabolism in the cell.”
Engineers have an important role to play in figuring this out, because the devices needed to effectively analyze these interactions are not like anything that is presently out there, Marth says. Marth is presently working with bioengineering colleagues on such devices, which Marth thinks will greatly increase diagnostic abilities. Rest