52. Exploring Lunar Lava Caves, Possible HIV Vaccine in Trials, Robot Guide Dog
52. Exploring Lunar Lava Caves, Possible HIV Vaccine in Trials, Robot Guide Dog
Cool STEM News:
Cancer discovery could revive failed treatments for solid tumors | MedicalXPress
- New research, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine from the UVA Cancer Center, could rescue once-promising immunotherapies.
- Immunotherapy utilizes the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells.
- This immunotherapy antibody approach, or “DR5-targeting antibodies”, would do really well at killing cancer tumors in lab tests, but would be ineffective when tested in people during clinical trials. (Stage-Fright?)
- Antibodies target a receptor on the cancer cells’ surface called death receptor-5 (DR5) essentially telling the cancer cells to die and allow the immune system to permeate in the tumor.
- The researcher from UVA, Jogender Tushir-Singh, found that those approaches had affected the human immune system, suppressing the immune response.
- This allowed the cancer tumors to evade the immune system and continue to grow.
- Tushir-Singh and his colleagues through their research were able to increase the approaches’ effectiveness significantly in lab models, reducing tumor size and improving overall survival in lab mice.
- Combination therapy by “co-targeting the negative biological processes with improved, immune-activating therapy.”
- Tushir-Singh provided his thoughts on the research outcome:
- “We would like to see these strategies in clinical trials, which we strongly believe have huge potential in solid tumors … Our findings are extraordinary: Along with the translational impact, our work also explains, after more than 60 years of research in the field, why most approaches targeting [cell death] have not done well in clinical trials and ultimately develop resistance to therapies.”
A BB-8 Style Robot For Exploring Lava Caves on the Moon | Digital Trends
- Andreas Nuechter, a professor of robotics and telematics at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU) in Germany is the lead on a project building a rolling robot.
- There are hopes this robot could be utilized to explore a system of hidden lava caves on the moon.
- Computations of these lava tubes estimated they could be some 3 miles across—wide enough to comfortably fit the island of Manhattan.
- The spherical robot is called DAEDALUS, an acronym that stands for Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lunar Underground Structures.
- DAEDALUS is designed to explore the cave network beneath the Marius Hills skylight.
- Nuechter explains why Lava Tubes are of interest for future Moon missions: “Lava tubes are particularly interesting since they could actually provide, in the far future, shelter to humans from radiation and all the nasty effects you have on the moon … If you plan to live on the moon, it would make sense to use the existing geologic structures to go underground.”
- This is right in line with what Dr. Riccardo Pozzobon said in a 2017 presentation for the European Planetary Science Congress: “Lava tubes are environments shielded from cosmic radiation and protected from micrometeorites flux, potentially providing safe habitats for future human missions. They are also, potentially, large enough for quite significant human settlements – you could fit most of the historic city centre of Riga into a lunar lava tube.”
- DAEDALUS Specs:
- 46-centimeter, transparent spherical autonomous robot.
- Scientific instruments contained in a protective plexiglass-like sphere.
- Move by rolling.
- Possible protruding “sticks” to help with movement and be utilized as a tripod to anchor the robot.
- Whole idea of the mission that was submitted:
- Lower DAEDALUS into the caves with some form of crane.
- Utilize cameras and lidar sensors to scan its surroundings, creating a 3D map.
- Would provide info on how stable the walls are, and what materials are in them.
- The DAEDALUS project is still a work in progress, yet to be given the official go-ahead by the European Space Agency. It is likely that it will not be deployed for another decade. However, Nuechter said he is confident the technology will be ready to go a lot sooner than that.
HIV vaccine stimulates ‘rare immune cells’ in early human trials | LiveScience
- A new vaccine for HIV is raising excitement after its first in-human trials showed 97% success at stimulating a rare set of immune cells that play a key role in fighting the virus.
- Developed by scientists at Scripps Research in San Diego and the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
- The vaccine is currently in Phase I clinical trials and has been tested in only 48 people so far.
- William Schief, an immunologist at Scripps whose laboratory led the vaccine development, said in a statement: “With our many collaborators on the study team, we showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans … We believe this approach will be key in making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens.”
- Researchers have had issues with nailing down a vaccine because HIV mutates quickly to avoid antibodies.
- The new approach focuses on a rare set of antibodies known as broadly neutralizing antibodies.
- They bind to spike proteins on HIV, which is the key the virus uses to enter our cells.
- These spike proteins don’t mutate nearly as much as the virus, which caused the researchers to focus on it.
- Vaccine was created to cause the body to increase the production of these broadly neutralizing antibodies since our body only produces a small amount.
- Like I said at the beginning, it showcased in this small trial to increase the antibodies in 97% of the participants.
New Robodog Guides the Visually Impaired With Lasers | Interesting Engineering
- A team of scientists from the University of California, Berkeley has developed a four-legged robodog to safely guide the visually impaired.
- In a study published March 26, the researchers showed that their prototype pup can keep an eye on its master and utilize lasers to steer them around obstacles.
- Project leader Zhongyu Li explains to New Scientist the possibilities of their robodog: “Using a robotic guide dog, we can directly deploy our code from one robot to another … As time goes by and the hardware becomes more affordable, we can actually use this kind of dog to help, to serve, humans.”
- Whole idea is to get around the time consuming process of training certified guide dogs.
- Additionally, a robodog would have access to technology a normal dog obviously doesn’t (i.e. GPS).
- Tim Stafford from the UK charity Guide Dogs had the same point I wanted to bring up about the loss of companionship of a real life guide dog:
- “They value their dog as a partner, companion, and family member, as well as a guide dog … It is this deep bond which makes the relationship unique and so much more than just a way to get around safely.”
Swyft raises $17.5 million to bring same-day delivery to all the retailers that aren’t Amazon | TechCrunch
- Bringing this article up, not because of the funding but the concept behind the company.
- Swyft is a marketplace, connecting a network of shipping carriers with vendors. While also providing software to those carriers to make them more efficient.
- Essentially creating a vast network allowing carriers to pick up more inventory without adding to their infrastructure.
- Swyft is looking to amass an army composed of all of the smaller players, including mom and pop retailers and vendors as well as smaller, regional carriers.
- Banding together through software, these carriers and retailers can match the scale and influence of the behemoths without spending a fortune.
- The key ingredient to Swyft is not its aggregation of couriers, but the software it provides to them.
- Automating a good size of what they’re traditionally doing by hand.
- 25-30% cheaper than the usual options.
- Eurie Kim of Forerunner Investors (who co-led the investing) explained why this technology is needed for other small retailers:
- “I don’t know what percent of your purchases are from Amazon, but for me it’s like 150% … I’d prefer to buy elsewhere with the pandemic, and support local and independent brands, but Amazon’s trained us all to have fast and free shipping. It feels like an opportunity where the consumer experience is really lacking and the burden on merchants and retailers is extremely heavy.”
- Reminds me of the online book website (Bookshop) to help independent bookstores (Episode 30)