From the Editor
What we now call the scientific method grew out of the observations and interactions with the world we experience in our daily lives. These experiences are limited by our own physical limitations. Technology, which can be defined as the practical application of knowledge, can extend these capabilities and allow us to learn more about and do more with our environment.
Our own field of microbiology grew out of the development of a technology from a completely different one. Developments in optics allowed Anton van Leeuwenhoek and Roger Hooke to see things others could not, demonstrating that we live in a world of microbes. New technologies developed in all disciplines of science have continued to expand the scope and capabilities of microbiology.
Now, the pace of technological development in the digital age has become blinding across all areas of life. By accelerating the rate that we can accumulate and analyze information, computational advances are driving transformations in all of the sciences. We now have the ability to break through boundaries and assess data in quantities and contexts that lead to insights that were previously inaccessible. We've certainly seen this in the explosion of 'omics—genomics, metagenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and many more tools that allow the large-scale characterization of our ecosystem. These approaches have allowed us to study the microbiomes of humans, animals and plants from virtually every accessible environmental niche. These studies have allowed us to learn exquisite details about our world that we could not have inferred using earlier experimental tools.
In the first 2019 issue of Microcosm, we focus on some technological developments that build upon what we’ve learned about microbe-host interactions to promote favorable outcomes. Examples include using microbials to fight cancer, as highlighted in Rita Algorri's article on treatment of cancer with viruses. To treat diseases like phenylketonuria and Crohn's disease, we can not only alter our own gut microbiome, but also the metabolic capabilities of specific organisms in it, as described in the article by Monika Buczek. In addition to new approaches for treating disease, changes in diagnostic technology are transforming the clinical lab, providing results that are faster, more precise and cheaper, thereby setting the stage for a revolution in patient care.
This issue also marks the departure of Patrick Lacey as managing editor of Microcosm. Patrick has played a critical role in communicating science to members as editor of ASM News and Microbe prior to the evolution of Microcosm. He has provided innovative insights, perspicacious perspectives and careful editing that have made our society's magazines interesting, fun and readable. We will miss him greatly!
Stanley Maloy, Ph.D.