Finding and Curing Cancer in One Step
Imagine going in for an MRI to find out whether a suspicious lump is cancerous. Today, a positive result would mean discussing several treatment options with your doctor: surgery, radiation, chemo, or some combination. All are risky, unpleasant, and may not get rid of the cancer. Now imagine going in and being offered a pill before the MRI that would let them kill any cancer, if present, at the same time. Wouldn't you take that pill?
This imaginary scenario might be closer than you think. Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have created a very talented nanoparticle: it can be tracked on MRI while it hunts cancer cells, tags them with a fluorescent dye and kills them with heat. While it's only been tested in laboratory cultures, it's the early fruit in a new field called “theranostics” that will allow doctors to diagnose and treat diseases in a single procedure.
The nanoparticles are based on nanoshells, invented by Naomi Halas in the 1990s and currently in human clinical trials for cancer treatment. The nanoshells have the peculiar ability to grab laser light that would normally pass through the body and convert it into heat that can kill tumors. For this study, the nanoshells were modified by adding a fluorescent dye that glows under near-infrared light – which is invisible and harmless to humans. The shells also received a layer of iron oxide that would show up on an MRI, and an antibody that would let them bind to the surface of breast and ovarian cancer cells. The particles have yet to be tested in animals, and testing in humans is at least two years away. But it could, quite literally, revolutionize cancer detection and treatment.
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Now That's a Smart Bike Wheel!
MIT gave bike riding a high-tech boost with a smart wheel they unveiled at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. The Copenhagen wheel features a battery that can store the energy from braking and return the power for climbing hills or increasing your speed. It's all controlled by a sensor that measures your effort when you ride.
The wheel is actually a large round red hub that can be retrofitted onto any bicycle. Aside from giving you a boost, the hub can talk to an iPhone via a Bluetooth connection. An iPhone app lets it display your speed, direction, and distance traveled; it can even monitor traffic conditions, smog, and let you know the location of your biking buddies. The hub is totally self-contained; no other gadgets need to be installed on the bicycle to make it work.
The idea behind the Copenhagen wheel is to make biking more enjoyable, so more people use this form of pollution-free transportation more often. The wheel is expected to hit stores within a year. It won't be cheap, however; expect to spend between $500 and $1,000 to add it to your two-wheeled transportation. That's about the same price as a standard electronic bike.
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