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Here Comes the Digital Chemistry Revolution

27 October 2020
Giulio Prisco

Digital Chemistry

Scientists at University of Glasgow have developed a universal approach to digitizing chemistry. According to CNBC, this is a “digital breakthrough in chemistry that could revolutionize the drug industry.” Digital chemistry “could lead to safer drugs, more efficient solar panels, and a disruptive new industry.”

In a research paper published in Science, the scientists describe a programming system which could remove the vast majority of the effort required to program chemical robots - automatic systems that produce chemicals on demand.

The scientists have found a way to use natural language processing to create instructions for chemical robots. A program, called SynthReader, scans scientific papers and recognizes procedures for organic and inorganic chemical synthesis.

Synthreader automatically breaks those procedures down to simple instructions. Then it stores the instructions in a format called Chemical Description Language, or XDL. XDL is a new open source language for describing chemical and material synthesis.

The scientists have also developed a chemical robot, called Chemify. It can read and run XDL files that have been shared among users. According to the scientists, Chemify is an order of magnitude cheaper than other chemical robots.

This “could help doctors make drugs on demand in the future,” said research leader Lee Cronin. “It could even mean that future manned missions to Mars could take raw chemical materials with them and make whatever they need right there on the red planet.”

Daily Aspirin Against COVID Complications

Researchers at the University of Maryland have suggested that daily aspirin could help prevent severe complications from COVID-19. Aspirin is an inexpensive, accessible medication with a well-known safety profile.

A study is published in Anesthesia and Analgesia. It reports that hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were taking a daily low-dose aspirin to protect against cardiovascular disease had a significantly lower risk of complications and death compared to those who were not taking aspirin.

Aspirin takers were less likely to be placed in the intensive care unit (ICU). They were less likely to be hooked up to a mechanical ventilator. And they were more likely to survive the infection, compared to hospitalized patients who were not taking aspirin.

CRISPR Editing Tech for Larger Pieces of DNA

Scientists at UC San Francisco have developed a new technology for cutting larger pieces of DNA out of a cell's genome. A research paper is published in Nature Methods. It describes a new CRISPR-Cas3 system.

Recently, the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to the main developers of the related CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Using the Cas3 enzyme permits removing much longer stretches of DNA quickly and accurately, compared to using the Cas9 enzyme.

According to the scientists, CRISPR-Cas3 should also allow entire genes to be inserted into the genome. And it would have industrial, agricultural, and even human gene therapy applications.

Gene Therapy restores Visual Function in Mice

Using gene editing technology, researchers led by UC Irvine have restored retinal and visual functions in laboratory mice. The mice were suffering from inherited retinal disease.

A study is published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. It illustrates the use of a new generation of CRISPR technology, referred to as “base editing.” It can be used as a treatment for inherited retinal diseases.

According to the researchers, the study lays the foundation for the development of a new therapeutic modality. And it could be applied to a wide range of inherited ocular diseases caused by different gene mutations.

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