MIT’s 10 breakthrough technologies for 2023: Abortion pills via telehealth and engineered organs

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Engineered organs that could end transplant waiting lists, abortion pills on demand and mass-marketing military drones that will revolutionize warfare are among those listed on MIT Technology Review‘s 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2023.

The list also includes the use of CRISPR to edit away people’s problems with high cholesterol by rewriting a sliver of their DNA, artificial intelligence that makes artwork and NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to remodel our knowledge of the cosmos. 

The 22nd annual list features critical technological advances predicted to change how we live and work fundamentally. 

MIT Technology Review, owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, compiled the list of companies or institutions set to develop breakthroughs and when the public can expect these innovations.

MIT Technology Review announced its 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2023, which are advanced technologies predicted to change our lives

Mat Honan, editor-in-chief of MIT Technology Review, said: ‘Our breakthrough technologies lists are fascinating snapshots of the evolution of big tech innovation breakthroughs. 

‘They document the progress we have made in many of the core areas at the intersection of science and engineering. Inclusion is not an endorsement as much as it is a statement about the potential impact of a technology. 

‘Some of my favorite picks on the list this year are the ones that inspire a sense of awe and wonder at the scope of human achievement.’

CRISPR for high cholesterol: Editing genes to save lives

The list includes the use of CRISPR to edit away people's problems with high cholesterol by rewriting a sliver of their DNA. In July 2022, a patient in New Zealand received a gene-editing medicine (pictured) that permanently lowered her cholesterol

The list includes the use of CRISPR to edit away people’s problems with high cholesterol by rewriting a sliver of their DNA. In July 2022, a patient in New Zealand received a gene-editing medicine (pictured) that permanently lowered her cholesterol

Artificial intelligence is a major technology and is being used to create stunning pieces of artwork

Artificial intelligence is a major technology and is being used to create stunning pieces of artwork

WHO: Verve Therapeutics, Beam Therapeutics, Prime Medicine, Broad Institute 

WHEN: 10 to 15 years

In July 2022, a patient in New Zealand received a gene-editing medicine that permanently lowered her cholesterol.

The move led to a trial among 40 individuals from the UK and the US, who are now testing ‘Verve-101.’

The cholesterol-lowering treatment, developed by Verve Therapeutics, relies on a form of gene editing called base editing, or ‘CRISPR 2.0.’ 

Verve-101 deletes a tiny hereditary flaw that causes life-threatening amounts of fatty substances in the blood.

In November, a team of scientists led University of California, Los Angeles, announced they had tailored DNA-editing technology to turbocharge how the body fights cancer cells.

These systems are given simple instructions on what the creator wants via text. Tools like DALL-E and Midjourney, for example, can create everything from absurd hypotheticals and porn to realistic faces of fake people and self-portraits in a matter of seconds

These systems are given simple instructions on what the creator wants via text. Tools like DALL-E and Midjourney, for example, can create everything from absurd hypotheticals and porn to realistic faces of fake people and self-portraits in a matter of seconds

They modified patients’ genes to instruct cancer-fighting cells to swarm tumors using CRISPR, administered as a one-off injection.

Then there is the lasted form of CRISPR, ‘CRISPR 3.0,’ which lets scientists insert pieces of DNA into a genome, which could allow them to replace disease-causing genes.

AI that makes images: Systems create stunning images from simple phrases

WHO: OpenAI, Stability AI, Midjourney, Google 

WHEN: Now

OpenAI released its original version of DALL-E, named after Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali, and Pixar robot WALL-E, in January 2021.

This system launched as a limited test of ways AI could represent concepts – from boring descriptions to flights of fancy.

And a year later, OpenAi released DALL-E 2, which produces complete images from a simple plain English sentence.

The new version can create images from simple text, add objects to existing images, or even provide different points of view on an existing image. 

MIT Technology Review notes that ‘the biggest game-changer was Stable Diffusion, an open-source text-to-image model released for free by UK-based startup Stability AI in August.

This system also produces stunning images, but is designed to run on a home computer rather than a professional device.

‘By making text-to-image models accessible to all, Stability AI poured fuel on what was already an inferno of creativity and innovation,’ according to MIT Technology Review.

While many might not thing chips are advancing, the standard at which they are made is. The open standard known as RISC-V simplifies instructions given to the processor to accomplish tasks and provides the flexibility to create thousands

While many might not thing chips are advancing, the standard at which they are made is. The open standard known as RISC-V simplifies instructions given to the processor to accomplish tasks and provides the flexibility to create thousands

‘Millions of people have created tens of millions of images in just a few months. But there are problems, too.’

Google has long been in the AI industry but is making a stronger push to stay relevant. 

The tech giant released AI-generated video clips that looked like human hands made them. 

A chip design that changes everything: New standards will let anyone create chips

WHO: RISC-V International, Intel, SiFive, SemiFive, China RISC-V Industry Alliance

WHEN: Now

Computer chip designs are expensive and hard to license. 

That is all about to change thanks to the popular open standard known as RISC-V, which simplifies the instructions given to the processor to accomplish tasks and provides the flexibility to create thousands of possible custom processors.

This new standard would also speed up the process for companies to get their products to market. 

RISC-V’s simplest design has just 47 instructions. But RISC-V also offers other design norms for companies seeking chips with more complex capabilities.

America has long been the leader in using drones on the battlefield. This is due to its Predator (pictured)  that was conceived in the early 1990s and cost around $40 million

America has long been the leader in using drones on the battlefield. This is due to its Predator (pictured)  that was conceived in the early 1990s and cost around $40 million

Technologies are advancing to allow other countries to create war drones at a lower cost. For example, Iran produced a $30,000 drone capable of long-range missions that Russia used (pictured)

Technologies are advancing to allow other countries to create war drones at a lower cost. For example, Iran produced a $30,000 drone capable of long-range missions that Russia used (pictured) 

‘About 3,100 members worldwide, including companies and academic institutions, are now collaborating via the nonprofit RISC-V International to establish and develop these norms,’ according to MIT Technology Review.

‘In February 2022, Intel announced a $1 billion fund that will, in part, support companies building RISC-V chips.’

Although slowly, these chips are currently being used and are found in earbuds, hard drives and AI processors.

Mass-market military drones: Providing drones at a lower price will change the way wars are fought

WHO: Baykar Technologies, Shahed Aviation Industries

WHEN: Now

America has long been the leader in using drones on the battlefield.

This is due to the nation’s Predator which was conceived in the early 1990s and cost around $40 million.

With the news of the US Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, medical experts set out to provide care to those in states where abortion is now banned by shipping abortion pills to their homes

Hey Jane is one of the many companies shipping pills, which are prescribed by a medical professional following a consultation

With the news of the US Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, medical experts set out to provide care to those in states where abortion is now banned  by shipping abortion pills to their homes

One reason for the dominance is that the US has the funds for such technologies.

However, MIT Technology Review notes that the game has changed, and military drones are being produced at a lower price, allowing nations like Ukraine, Iran and Turkey to utilize the weapons.

For example, Iran produced a $30,000 drone capable of long-range missions, while Turkey produced its own for $5 million. 

‘The tactical advantages are clear. What’s also sadly clear is that these weapons will take an increasingly horrible toll on civilian populations around the world,’ reads the report.

Abortion pills via telehealth: A new market emerges after the overturn of Roe v. Wade   

WHO: Choix, Hey Jane, Aid Access, Just the Pill, Abortion on Demand, Planned Parenthood, Plan C

WHEN: Now

Medical treatment was transformed when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the US. 

People could get treatment using a smartphone or computer in the comfort of their homes.

And with the news of the US Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, medical experts set out to provide care to those in states where abortion is now banned. The procedure is illegal in 11 states.

Nonprofits like Aid Access and startups like Choix, Hey Jane and  Just the Pill launched in what like seemed overnight.

Organs on demand is another on MIT's list. This innovation could save hundreds of thousands of lives.  Terminal heart failure sufferer David Bennett underwent the nine-hour experimental procedure where he received a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig

Organs on demand is another on MIT’s list. This innovation could save hundreds of thousands of lives.  Terminal heart failure sufferer David Bennett underwent the nine-hour experimental procedure where he received a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig

In 2019, researchers in Germany created transparent human organs using a new technology that could pave the way to print three-dimensional body parts such as kidneys for transplants

In 2019, researchers in Germany created transparent human organs using a new technology that could pave the way to print three-dimensional body parts such as kidneys for transplants

These companies ship abortion pills to people’s homes after they sign up with a photo ID and consult with a medical provider via video call, text or an app, who then prescribes the pills.

 And while abortion is illegal in nearly a dozen states, this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved online and brick-and-mortar retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills to patients who have a prescription – regardless of their location.

Organs on demand: Gene-editing animal organs, 3D printing organs and growing organs in a lab to save human lives

WHO: eGenesis, Makana Therapeutics, United Therapeutics

WHEN: 10 to 15 years 

More than 106,000 people in the US are waiting for an organ transplant, and science is stepping in to create organs to help save lives.

In 2019, researchers in Germany created transparent human organs using a new technology that could pave the way to print three-dimensional body parts such as kidneys for transplants.

Scientists led by Ali Erturk at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich have developed a technique that uses a solvent to make organs such as the brain and kidneys transparent.

Electric vehicles are here to stay, and Tesla is leading the pack. The world's roads saw about 16.5 million EVs cruising in 2022, triple the amount in 2018, and global sales were up by 75 percent from the same period in 2022

Electric vehicles are here to stay, and Tesla is leading the pack. The world’s roads saw about 16.5 million EVs cruising in 2022, triple the amount in 2018, and global sales were up by 75 percent from the same period in 2022

However, Tesla has competition. MIT notes Hyundai's IONIQ 5 that was announced last year

However, Tesla has competition. MIT notes Hyundai’s IONIQ 5 that was announced last year

Lasers then scan the organ in a microscope that allows researchers to capture the entire structure, including the blood vessels and every single cell in its specific location.

Another method is genetically modifying animal organs, which the world witnessed in January 2022.

Terminal heart failure sufferer David Bennett underwent the nine-hour experimental procedure at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where he received a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig.

Surgeons used a heart taken from a pig that had undergone gene editing to make it less likely that his body’s immune system would reject the organ. 

The inevitable EV: Electric vehicles have been available for decades. Now they’ve finally become mainstream

WHO: BYD, Hyundai, Tesla, Volkswagen

WHEN: Now 

Electric vehicles have made waves in the automobile industry, as many nations are phasing out gas-powered cars for greener versions.

The world’s roads saw about 16.5 million EVs cruising in 2022, triple the amount in 2018, and global sales were up by 75 percent from the same period in 2022.

The largest player is Elon Musk’s Tesla, which has held most of the market since it sold the first Model S sedan in 2012.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is set to change what we know about the cosmos and is revealing what the early universe looked like. Here is an image of a 13.5-billion-year-old galaxy

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is set to change what we know about the cosmos and is revealing what the early universe looked like. Here is an image of a 13.5-billion-year-old galaxy

However, Tesla has been joined by Volkswagen and Hyundai, among others like Ford, which are planning to overtake Musk’s company.

Herbert Diess, the current chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen Group, said the German company is looking to surpass Tesla by 2025. 

VW sold 452,900 EVs worldwide in 2021, while Tesla sold 930,422. 

Hyundai recently gained popularity with its IONIQ 5 for $72,000, which was named Carsales Car of the Year for 2021.

The IONIQ 5 is the first electric vehicle to win the Carsales prize since the Tesla Model S was named Car of the Year in 2015 and was one of three fully electric cars on the Carsales 2021 shortlist of 12 models. 

James Webb Space Telescope: A marvel of precision engineering that could revolutionize our view of the early universe

WHO: NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, Space Telescope Science Institute

WHEN: Now

The world is also seeing never-before-images of stars forming in deep space

The world is also seeing never-before-images of stars forming in deep space

The James Webb Space Telescope, launched December 25, 2021, spent the last year wowing the world with amazing never-before-seen pictures of the cosmos.

Developed by NASA, the $10 billion telescope is a collaboration between the US, Europe and Canada.

Webb is the world’s largest and most powerful orbital space telescope, capable of peering back 100 to 200 million years after the big bang.

The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement.

Webb has shared images of galaxies that formed 13.5 billion years ago, just 300 million years after the big bang, the first photos of stars formed and recently identified a previously unknown planet.

Ancient DNA analysis: Provides scientists with a time machine to see the past

WHO: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, David Reich Lab at Harvard 

WHEN: Now

Ancient DNA analysis provides scientists with a trip back in time to learn about early humans. Scientists analyzed DNA from 4,000-year-old mummies found in China and found the individuals were from a local tribe, not visitors from the West as previously believed

Ancient DNA analysis provides scientists with a trip back in time to learn about early humans. Scientists analyzed DNA from 4,000-year-old mummies found in China and found the individuals were from a local tribe, not visitors from the West as previously believed

Scientists analyzed DNA from a strand of hair that belonged to Sitting Bull

The DNA matched Ernie Lapointe, confirming he is the great-grandson of the famed Native American

 Ernie Lapointe (right) made headlines in 2021 when his DNA matched the famed Native American Sitting Bull (left)

A man made headlines in 2021 when his DNA matched the famed Native American Sitting Bull.

University of Cambridge-led experts demonstrated the technique known as ‘autosomal DNA’ that collected DNA from a strand of hair taken from Sitting Bull and pulled DNA from it. 

The team then matched the DNA with Ernie Lapointe, confirming he is the great-grandson of the Native American leader. 

Going back in time, scientists analyzed DNA from 4,000-year-old mummies found in China and found the individuals were from a local tribe, not visitors from the West as previously believed.

The team compared the mummies’ DNA with samples from five individuals who lived further north in the Dzungarian Basin about 5,000 years ago, making them the oldest known human remains in the region. 

Battery recycling: New ways to recover the crucial metals in batteries could make electric vehicles more affordable

WHO: CATL, Umicore, Redwood Materials, Li-Cycle, Cirba

WHEN: Now 

Battery recycling is seeing a boom as the world moves away from gas-powered vehicles and toward zero-emission versions

Battery recycling is seeing a boom as the world moves away from gas-powered vehicles and toward zero-emission versions

Batteries used in electric cars, laptops and other electronics have long been tossed in landfills because there is no method for recycling.

Battery recycling is an effective way of reprocessing and reusing batteries to reduce wastage. 

It prevents the potential threat surfacing from dumping heavy metals and toxic chemicals into the environment. 

In 2022, the market value shot up to $15.81 billion and is predicted to reach a whopping $36 billion in 2028. 

CATL announced a $5 billion battery recycling center in China last year to recycle EV batteries for chemicals such as cobalt and lithium. 

Umicore has a plant in Belgium with an annual capacity of 7,000 lithium-ion batteries and battery production scrap, equivalent to 35,000 EV batteries.

The plant started operations in 2011 to treat portable electronic batteries and the first generations of EV batteries.

The recovered metals will be delivered in battery-grade quality at the end of the Umicore recycling process, allowing them to be re-circulated into the production of new Li-ion batteries.

These facilities are also likely to appear worldwide as nations are adopting EVs to combat climate change, making zero-emission cars cheaper because there would be more materials available.

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