Technology Tuesday: November 15

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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: New nanoparticle cancer treatments, using machine learning to analyze genes, synthetic biotics in pill form, new treatments for heart failure, and a new brain-computer interface device meets success.


Researchers Create Effective New Nanoparticle Cancer Treatment

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In the fight against cancer, doctors dish out combination-blows of surgery, chemotherapy and other drugs to beat back a merciless foe. Now, scientists have taken early steps toward adding a stinging punch to clinicians’ repertoire.

A novel targeted therapy using nanoparticles has enabled researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology to purge ovarian tumors in limited, in vivo tests in mice. “The dramatic effect we see is the massive reduction or complete eradication of the tumor, when the ‘nanohydrogel’ treatment is given in combination with existing chemotherapy,” said chief researcher John McDonald.

 

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Unlocking Big Genetic Datasets

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The same algorithms that personalize movie recommendations and extract topics from oceans of text could bring doctors closer to diagnosing, treating and preventing disease on the basis of an individual’s unique genetic profile.

In a study to be published Monday, Nov. 7 in Nature Genetics, researchers at Columbia and Princeton universities describe a new machine-learning algorithm for scanning massive genetic data sets to infer an individual’s ancestral makeup, which is key to identifying disease-carrying genetic mutations.

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Designer Bacteria Cures What Ails You

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Sometime next year, volunteers in the U.S. could start swallowing capsules stuffed with genetically engineered E. coli.

The experimental pills, designed by Synlogic, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, synthetic biology startup, contain bacteria designed to treat a rare metabolic disease by recognizing when they reach a person’s stomach and then soaking up large amounts of ammonia.

The treatment, slated for its first clinical test during 2017, is an early example of what the company’s founders call “synthetic biotics”—or intestinal bacteria endowed with genetic programs that allow them to sense something going on in the body and then take an action, like deliver a drug or release a colored chemical useful in a diagnostic test.

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A New Method For Curing Heart Failure

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Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes identified two chemicals that improve their ability to transform scar tissue in a heart into healthy, beating heart muscle. The new discovery advances efforts to find new and effective treatments for heart failure.

Heart failure afflicts 5.7 million Americans, costs the country $30.7 billion every year, and has no cures. When heart muscle is damaged, the body is unable to repair the dead or injured cells. Gladstone scientists are exploring cellular reprogramming — turning one type of adult cell into another — in the heart as a way to regenerate muscle cells in the hopes of treating, and ultimately curing, heart failure.

 

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First Home Brain Implant Lets Paralyzed Woman Communicate

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A paralysed woman has learned to use a brain implant to communicate by thought alone. It is the first time a brain–computer interface has been used at home in a person’s day-to-day life, without the need for doctors and engineers to recalibrate the device.

“It’s special to be the first,” says HB, who is 58 years old and wishes to remain anonymous. She was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2008. The disease ravages nerve cells, leaving people unable to control their bodies. Within a couple of years of diagnosis, HB had lost the ability to breathe and required a ventilator. “She is almost completely locked in,” says Nick Ramsey at the Brain Center of University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

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