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Technology Tuesday: January 10


Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: Researchers are teaching bodies to fight cancer with nanodiscs, physicists create incredibly tiny wires made from diamonds, a life insurance company is replacing its employees with AI, helping your teeth heal themselves, and Tesla releases a new version of its enhanced autopilot function.


With Nanodiscs Your Own Immune System Can Be Taught To Eliminate Tumors


In the future, getting customized cancer treatments might just be a matter of injecting virtually invisible discs into into your body. University of Michigan scientists have had early success testing 10nm “nanodiscs” that teach your body to kill cancer cells. Each disc is full of neoantigens, or tumor-specific mutations, that tell your immune system’s T-cells to recognize those neoantigens and kill them. When you pair them up with immune checkpoint inhibitors (which boost the T-cells’ responses), they can not only wipe out existing tumors, but prevent them from reemerging later.

This testing has been limited to mice so far, but it’s promising. The nanodiscs took 10 days to eliminate tumors, and they shut down identical tumors when they were reinserted 70 days later. For the researchers, the big challenge right now is scaling the tests to see if they still hold up with larger animals. If the approach proves successful with humans, the days of generic cancer solutions might be limited — so long as doctors could get a sample of your cancer, they’d stand a realistic chance of eliminating the disease.



Physicists Create Atomic Wiring Made from Diamonds


While you aren’t likely to find a diamond that contains only 10 atoms and weighs less than a billionth of a billionth of a carat on any engagement rings, these extremely small diamonds known as diamondoids are very useful in laboratories. They consist of interlocking cages of carbon and hydrogen, like LEGO building blocks taken to the molecular level, and because they are so small, they can do things regular diamonds can’t.

Back in 2002, scientists achieved a breakthrough in diamondoid research when they found a way to isolate and purify larger diamondoids, giving them access to a wider variety of shapes and sizes. They’ve since used these 99-percent-pure diamondoids to improve electron microscope images, coat computer chips, and now, create ultra-thin electrical wires.



Life Insurance Company Lays Off Human Employees In Favor of AI


It looks like the job automation trend is getting to Japan, bringing the country a step closer to a future of layoffs in favor of intelligent machines. Japanese firm Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Co. is laying off more than 30 of its employees and is replacing them with artificial intelligence (AI) systems that will perform payout calculations for policyholders.

For Fukoku Mutual, the move is seen as a practical and beneficial, with expected increase in productivity at 30 percent and a calculated return on investment in less than two years.“The insurance firm will spend about 200 million yen to install the AI system, and maintenance is expected to cost about 15 million yen annually,” writes the Japanese daily The Mainichi. “Meanwhile, it’s expected that Fukoku Mutual will save about 140 million yen per year by cutting the 34 staff.” Understandably, the 34 employees whose jobs are set to be eliminated by March 2017 aren’t going to be so happy.



New Treatment Helps Your Teeth Repair Themselves


Nobody likes a toothache. At the slightest sign of a damaged tooth, many of us run to our dentists so they can fill the cavities caused by trauma or infection — or perhaps just a persistent sweet tooth. Researchers from King’s College London may have found a better way to deal with damaged teeth, one that doesn’t involve just plugging the holes. Instead, their method stimulates the renewal of living stem cells within the teeth.

Usually, dental fillings — those man-made tooth cements — are composed of calcium or some silicon-based product. While they do cover the soft pulp within a tooth that gets exposed in cases of damage (thus causing us pain), the fillings remain in the teeth indefinitely. Because they never degrade, the fillings prevent the normal mineral level of the tooth from being completely restored, according to the study, which is published in the journal Scientific Reports.



Tesla Pushes Out Enhanced Autopilot Function


As the race to improve autonomous driving technology heats up between the biggest names in the industry, Tesla is already making a big push in 2017 to remain at the forefront.

Last week, Elon Musk confirmed that the first 1,000 vehicles in Tesla’s fleet had been equipped with an active version of Enhanced Autopilot, with the same software appearing in “shadow mode” throughout the rest of the fleet. This version of the autopilot system integrated a traffic aware cruise control feature, forward collision warning, and an autosteer beta version enabled only at “low speed.” Yesterday, the company released an updated version of Enhanced Autopilot, again in active mode for 1,000 vehicles and shadow mode for the rest.



Know any interesting stories we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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