Therapeutic viruses help turbocharge the immune system against cancer

The illustration shows a cancer cell (center) surrounded by immune T-cells augmented with an oncolytic (cancer-fighting) virus. A new study describes how a combination of immunotherapy and virotherapy, using myxoma virus, provides new hope for patients with treatment resistant cancers.

By Richard Harth

The immune system has evolved to safeguard the body from a wildly diverse range of potential threats. Among these are bacterial diseases, including plague, cholera, diphtheria and Lyme disease, and viral contagions such as influenza, Ebola virus and SARS CoV-2.

Despite the impressive power of the immune system’s complex defense network, one type of threat is especially challenging to combat. This arises when the body’s own native cells turn rogue, leading to the phenomenon of cancer. Although the immune system often engages to try to rid the body of malignant cells, its efforts are frequently thwarted as the disease progresses unchecked.The illustration shows a cancer cell (center) surrounded by immune T-cells augmented with an oncolytic (cancer-fighting) virus. A new study describes how a combination of immunotherapy and virotherapy, using myxoma virus, provides new hope for patients with treatment resistant cancers. 

In new research appearing in the journal Cancer Cell, corresponding authors Grant McFadden, Masmudur Rahman and their colleagues propose a new line of attack that shows promise for treatment-resistant cancers.

The approach involves a combination of two methods that have each shown considerable success against some cancers. The study describes how oncolytic virotherapy, a technique using cancer-fighting viruses, can act in concert with existing immunotherapy techniques, boosting the immune capacity to effectively target and destroy cancer cells. 

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‘Mind-Reading’ Technology Translates Brainwaves into Photos


Researchers are developing “mind-reading” technology that can translate a person’s brainwaves into photographic images. 

In an article published in Nature, researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands revealed the results from an experiment where they showed photos of faces to two volunteers inside a powerful brain-reading functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. 

An fMRI scanner is a type of noninvasive brain imaging technology that detects brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow.

As the volunteers looked at the images of faces, the fMRI scanned the activity of neurons in the areas of their brain responsible for vision. 

The researchers then fed this information into a computer’s artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm which could build an accurate image based on the information from the fMRI scan. 

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New approach using CRISPR can engineer massive quantities of cells for therapeutic applications

Reviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.

A new variation of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system makes it easier to re-engineer massive quantities of cells for therapeutic applications. The approach, developed at Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco (UCSF), lets scientists introduce especially long DNA sequences to precise locations in the genomes of cells at remarkably high efficiencies without the viral delivery systems that have traditionally been used to carry DNA into cells.

“One of our goals for many years has been to put lengthy DNA instructions into a targeted site in the genome in a way that doesn’t depend on viral vectors,” says Alex Marson, MD, PhD, director of the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology and senior author of the new study. “This is a huge step toward the next generation of safe and effective cell therapies.”

In the new paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Marson and his colleagues not only describe the technology but show how it can be used to generate CAR-T cells with the potential to fight multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, as well as to rewrite gene sequences where mutations can lead to rare inherited immune diseases.

“We showed that we can engineer more than one billion cells in a single run, which is well above the number of cells we need to treat an individual patient,” says first author Brian Shy, MD, PhD, a clinical fellow in Marson’s lab.

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Google opens up its experimental AI chatbot for public testing

Google opens up LaMDA to the public, but it’s launching with guardrails that aim to prevent it generating offensive responses.

By Liam Tung

Google has opened up its AI Test Kitchen mobile app to give everyone some constrained hands-on experience with its latest advances in AI, like its conversational model LaMDA.

Google announced AI Test Kitchen in May, along with the second version of LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), and is now letting the public test parts of what it believes is the future of human-computer interaction.

AI Test Kitchen is “meant to give you a sense of what it might be like to have LaMDA in your hands,” Google CEO Sunday Pichai said at the time.

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Blue Origin’s ‘Orbital Reef’ Space Station Gets Green Light from NASA

By Ryan Whitwam

The International Space Station (ISS) has been a key part of humanity’s presence in space for years, but its useful life is coming to an end. NASA and other stakeholders currently plan to end ISS operations by 2031, but what comes next? NASA is funding the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development Program (CLD) to encourage aerospace firms to build new stations, and a proposal from Blue Origin and Sierra Space just got the green light to move forward. 

The station, known as Orbital Reef, was submitted to NASA for System Definition Review (SDR) earlier this summer. This report allowed the agency to assess the feasibility of the design, and it’s good news for Blue Origin and Sierra Space — NASA believes the companies have the technology and expertise to successfully build the Orbital Reef. Initial timelines project that construction could begin in 2026, and the station could begin operating as early as 2027. 

Whereas space on the ISS was controlled exclusively by partnering space agencies, these new commercial projects will be different. “The microgravity factories and services provided by Orbital Reef have the potential to revolutionize every industry and become a major growth contributor to the U.S. and world economies,” said Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space. Other partners in the endeavor include Amazon, Boeing, and Arizona State University. 

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China makes progress in reusability with secretive second flight of suborbital spaceplane

A Long March 2D carrying the Yunhai-1 (02) satellite lifts off from Jiuquan in 2019. The unrelated suborbital spaceplane also launched vertically from Jiuquan, with no further details provided.

By Andrew Jones

Suborbital vehicle to combine with orbital spaceplane for fully reusable space transportation system.

HELSINKI — China has performed its first repeated use of a suborbital spaceplane as part of efforts to develop a fully reusable space transportation system.

The suborbital vehicle launched vertically from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on Friday, Aug. 26 Beijing time (Aug. 25 Eastern), according to CASC, China’s main space contractor. 

The suborbital spaceplane later landed at Alxa Right Banner airport in Inner Mongolia. The short statement provided neither images of the craft nor information such as time, duration or apogee of the launch. 

The launch occurred while an orbital spaceplane—launched Aug. 4 and an apparent part of a planned two-vehicle reusable system—continues to orbit the Earth.

The clandestine mission marks the second flight for the suborbital spaceplane, which was developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), a major CASC subsidiary.

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Elon Musk says Tesla cars will connect to Starlink’s new cellular-broadcasting satellites

Using the same tech it just announced in partnership with T-Mobile


Elon Musk just announced that the upcoming second-generation Starlink internet satellites include cellular antennas for connections with phones from T-Mobile in the US and potentially other operators as well. 

Following the event, he responded to tweets asking whether the connections will work with Tesla’s electric cars, which currently connect to AT&T’s LTE network. According to Musk, the answer is yes.

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Technological convergence: Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence

By Montse Guardia

For a few years, technology has allowed us to exchange languages. We can travel safely, despite our ignorance of multiple languages ​​that is because we have the necessary support in our pocket. At the same time, we can learn these languages ​​regardless of where we are thanks to studying them with native speakers through mobile applications. 

We are prepared to create tools that allow us to tele-communicate between different cultures, growing in knowledge and wisdom, beyond our knowledge of the vocabulary, grammar, and expressions of a language. 

We are in the century in which we teach communication to machines, in which we get machines to express themselves naturally even in non-verbal communication. We are, we are prepared to learn, disseminate and deepen AI. But George Bernard Shaw told us that “the biggest problem of communication is the illusion that it has taken place”, we are in an era in which words are quickly labels to which we associate not only concepts, but also ideas and opinions and confusion. 

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NASA Engineer’s Quantum Dot Instrument Enables Spacecraft-as-Sensor Concept

Multiple solar sail ScienceCraft gather light spectra from Neptune’s moon Triton. Credits: Mahmooda Sultana NASA 

By Keith Cowing

In NASA’s hunt for water and resources beyond Earth, a new technology could coat the “skin” of a satellite, turning its entire surface into a sensor that tallies the chemicals present on distant planets.

Solving the mysteries of our home planet, solar system, and beyond is a key priority for NASA, and the new sensor could be a powerful tool in the investigation. Mahmooda Sultana, an instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, developed the Quantum Dot Spectrometer to help.

Quantum dots are a type of semiconducting nanocrystal that absorbs and re-emits different wavelengths of light depending on their size, shape and chemical composition. Sultana gets her dots, which vary from 2 to 10 nanometers or less than 50 atoms thick, from the lab of chemistry professor Moungi Bawendi, at the Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She then uses them to break down light from a planet or other target into portions of the spectrum, creating a sort of fingerprint which reveals what elements or compounds that light has touched.

“Basically, we are converting the entire optical problem into a math problem,” Sultana said. “The dots can be identified in the lab to register light of a particular wavelength – a fraction of the chemical fingerprint. Detectors on the other side of the dots collect the fractions, then the data is handed over to computers on the ground to reassemble the complete fingerprint.”

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World’s first floating pod homes launched in Panama starting at $295,000

The luxury smart homes receive deliveries by drone and come with underwater marine detection cameras

Panama will be home to the world’s first community of floating SeaPods, with the inaugural pod now in the water at Linton Bay Marina in Colon.

Ocean Builders, a company specialising in innovative marine technology, has officially launched what it says are the first floating eco-restorative pod homes in the world.

Perched three metres above sea level on the Caribbean coast of Panama, the futuristic units are designed to accommodate two people and are on sale now, with prices ranging from $295,000 to $1.5 million.

Floating pod homes launched in Panama

By December, the first overnight guests will be able to bed down in the pods, and 100 fully-owned units will be ready for full-time residents by summer next year.

A second batch of more than 1,000 of the pods will go into production next year.

Designed by Dutch architect Koen Olthuis, the futuristic SeaPods are geared toward climate-conscious travellers who want to live on the water, but don’t want to give up the luxuries of modern living.

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‘Chameleon Robots:’ These Robots Can Change Colors and Mimic Their Surroundings Through 3D Printing

These chameleon-like robots could pave the way for flexible electronics.

By Joaquin Victor Tacla

3D printing technology has come a long way throughout the years, and its vast potential in the field of robotics was even more materialized when it was recently used to develop chameleon-like robots.

Researchers from the Southern University have created flexible, elastic light-emitting devices that may be incorporated with soft robots using a 3D printing technique.

This technique was applied in a soft robot that can adjust its colors to blend in with its surroundings and might help create wearable electronics, next-generation smart displays, and artificial camouflage.

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