Technology Tuesday: March 22
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: Cancer treating nanoparticles, recovering memories for Alzheimer’s victims, DARPA is trying to build a “learning machine”, 3D printing cartilage, and creating “Omnifocal” glasses.
Nanoparticles Effectively Treat Cancer in Mice
For most cancer patients, it’s not the original tumor that poses the greatest risk. It’s the metastases that invade the lung, liver, and other tissues. Now, researchers have come up with an approach that tricks these spinoff tumors into swallowing poison. So far the strategy has only been tested in mice, where it proved highly effective. But the results are promising enough that the researchers are planning to launch clinical trials in cancer patients within a year.
The new work is “very innovative stuff,” says Steven Libutti, a geneticist and cancer surgeon at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, who was not involved in the study. The treatment, he explains, works in three steps to place a conventional chemotherapeutic agent near the nucleus (or nuclei) of a metastatic cancer cell where the drug molecules are most lethal. “It’s almost like a multistage rocket” that lifts astronauts off Earth, sends them to the moon, and returns them safely, he says.
Retreiving Lost Memories From Early Stage Alzheimer’s
Memory loss is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and heartbreaking for loved ones to watch progress. Gone are the details of a first love or a child’s wobbly first steps. The achievements of a distinguished 30-year career. And the tall tales of traveling the globe that once had everyone rolling on the floor with laughter.
Scientists had assumed for a long time that the disease destroys how those memories are encoded and makes them disappear forever. But what if they weren’t actually gone — just inaccessible?
DARPA Intends to Use Nerve Simulation to Stimulate Learning
The body’s branching network of peripheral nerves connects neurons in the brain and spinal cord to organs, skin, and muscles, regulating a host of biological functions from digestion to sensation to locomotion. But the peripheral nervous system can do even more than that, which is why DARPA already has research programs underway to harness it for a number of functions—as a substitute for drugs to treat diseases and accelerate healing, for example, as well as to control advanced prosthetic limbs and restore tactile sensation to their users.
Now, pushing those limits further, DARPA aims to enlist the body’s peripheral nerves to achieve something that has long been considered the brain’s domain alone: facilitating learning. The effort will turn on its head the usual notion that the brain tells the peripheral nervous system what to do.
Scientists Create Bio-Ink to 3D Print Cartilage
Athletes, the elderly and others who suffer from injuries and arthritis can lose cartilage and experience a lot of pain. Researchers are now reporting, however, that they have found a way to produce cartilage tissue by 3-D bioprinting an ink containing human cells, and they have successfully tested it in an in vivo mouse model. The development could one day lead to precisely printed implants to heal damaged noses, ears and knees.
Omnifocal Glasses Focus on Whatever You’re Looking At… Automatically
It happens to everyone—you get older and your near-sighted vision fades, an ailment known as presbyopia. Inevitably you end up tilting your head back to peer through the bottom of a pair of multifocal glasses just to read something.
An Israeli company called Deep Optics thinks its new high-tech glasses lens can change that. The “omnifocals” have the ability to change their optical power in real time, allowing the wearer to look wherever he or she wants without limiting the field of view or compromising clarity.
Know any interesting stories we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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