• 1. Decay-Fighting Microbes
Bacteria living on teeth convert sugar into lactic acid, which erodes enamel and causes tooth decay. Florida-based company ONI BioPharma has engineered a new bacterial strain, called SMaRT, that cannot produce lactic acid—plus, it releases an antibiotic that kills the natural decay-causing strain. Dentists will only need to swab SMaRT, now in clinical trials, onto teeth once to keep them healthy for a lifetime.
• 2. Artificial Lymph Nodes
Scientists from Japan’s RIKEN Institute have developed artificial versions of lymph nodes, organs that produce immune cells for fighting infections. Though they could one day replace diseased nodes, the artificial ones may initially be used as customized immune boosters. Doctors could fill the nodes with cells specifically geared to treat certain conditions, such as cancer or HIV.
• 3. Asthma Sensor
Asthma accounts for a quarter of all emergency room visits in the U.S., but a sensor developed at the University of Pittsburgh may finally cause that number to plummet. Inside the handheld device, a polymer-coated carbon nanotube—100,000 times thinner than a human hair—analyzes breath for minute amounts of nitric oxide, a gas that lungs produce prior to asthma attacks.