Introduction to special issue

Power couple: Science and technology

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Science  31 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6405, pp. 864-865
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6405.864

Every revolution in technology is followed by an explosion of new scientific knowledge. Biology is no exception. Van Leeuwenhoek's microscope jump-started microbiology, polymerase chain reaction revolutionized molecular biology (see Editorial in this issue), and single-cell imaging and sequencing approaches remarkably advanced immunology, cancer research, developmental biology, and beyond.

Recent years have witnessed disruptive innovations in biotechnology. Researchers have never been equipped with more powerful tools to probe biology. Breakthroughs in electron microscopy allow biomolecular complexes to be visualized with high resolution, offering insight into the workings of these molecular machines. Ingenious methods to break the diffraction limit in microscopy enable single molecules to be observed and tracked in single cells. Not only do we see cells in ever-greater detail, but with CRISPR-mediated gene editing techniques, biologists can precisely and easily manipulate cellular genomes of diverse organisms. As we gain understanding of biological networks, tools including those based on CRISPR give us the ability to record biological events, to detect and treat disease, and to engineer plants with new traits and greater productivity.

When biologists encounter problems that cannot be solved by currently available technologies, shared creativity between researchers drives the development of better and smarter tools. New technologies, in turn, push the frontier of biology. This synergy has been moving our society and humanity forward, and the advent of artificial intelligence is likely to speed up this cycle of discovery.

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