Big data is a term for data sets that are extremely large and complex that only a few short years ago were not capable of being processed with traditional data processing applications. Challenges in big data include the capture, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, querying and privacy, among other concerns. Data sets are growing rapidly because there are increasingly more avenues for data including mobile devices, software logs, cameras, microphones, wireless networks, etc. The massive amounts of data available or "big data" can be overwhelming. The kinds of big data analytics performed by Google, Amazon, Yahoo and many others can be beyond the scope of our understanding or capabilities.
At first glance, it seems counterintuitive. To learn more about how cells go awry causing disease, it seems logical to focus on the minutiae of a cell's molecular components: the specific genes, proteins, and small molecules that change over time leading to a disease state. Instead, Ernest Fraenkel, MIT associate professor in the Department of Biologic Engineering, first takes a macro view for finding new ways to understand and cure diseases. "When you are faced with making any sense of the 10,000 or 20,000 molecules that are present within a cell and evolve during disease, you need an entirely new approach to figure out what is really important among all the changes you see," Fraenkel explains. He develops computational and laboratory experimental methods to uncover the molecular pathways that go awry in disease and search for new strategies and intervention targets.
But as costs continue to grow for health care systems here and around the world, pharmacists have become increasingly utilized as direct patient care providers, rather than just as overqualified dispensaries. Provinces across Canada have been using pharmacists for issues like emergency contraception counseling, colon cancer screening, and even treating minor ailments like acne and oral thrush. Here in the United States, Medicaid programs have deployed pharmacists as smoking-cessation counselors, patient educators, and diabetes case managers. Veterans Affairs uses clinical pharmacists to decrease waiting times for patients seeking care for chronic conditions, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Research suggests that pharmacists have increased flu vaccination rates, in states where they can give them.
An artist's impression of the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe, which aims to be the first to land on a comet. Several research groups, including a team led by geneticist Erika Sasaki and stem-cell biologist Hideyuki Okano at Keio University in Tokyo, hope to create transgenic primates with immune-system deficiencies or brain disorders. This could raise ethical concerns, but might bring us closer to therapies that are relevant to humans (mice can be poor models for such disorders). The work will probably make use of a gene-editing method called CRISPR, which saw rapid take-up last year. The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft could become the first mission to land a probe on a comet.