Amazing Medical, Physics and Engineering Breakthroughs

Medical Breakthroughs

This has been a stunning week for science.

In medicine, Penn State scientists say they may have found a way to kill breast cancer within a week using a virus. As RawStory writes:

Scientists at the Penn State College of Medicine said this week they have discovered a virus that is capable of killing all grades of breast cancer “within seven days” of first introduction in a laboratory setting.

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When combined in a lab recently, AAV2 eradicated all the breast cancer cells “within seven days,” according to researchers. Better still, it proved capable of wiping out cancer cells at multiple stages, negating the need for differing treatments used today.

Scientists also took a huge step in controlling aids. As Huffington Post reports:

Spanish scientists at the National Biotech Centre in Madrid say a new vaccine could reduce HIV to a “minor chronic infection.”

The researchers report that 90% of participants given the MVA-B vaccine showed an immune response to the virus and 85% kept the immunity a year later.

According to a press release from The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC):

The success of this vaccine, CSIC’s patent, is based on the capability of human’s immune system to learn how to react over time against virus particles and infected cells. “MVA‐B vaccine has proven to be as powerful as any other vaccine currently being studied, or even more,” says Mariano Esteban, head researcher.

MVA‐B is an attenuated virus, which has already been used in the past to eradicate smallpox, and also as a model in the research of many other vaccines. The “B” stands for the HIV subtype it is meant to work against, the most common in Europe.

Once injected, the vaccine teaches the volunteer’s immune system to track down and fight off the virus. “It is like showing a picture of the HIV so that it is able to recognize it if it sees it again in the future,” Esteban says.

The researcher added “If this genetic cocktail passes Phase II and Phase III future clinic trials, and makes it into production, in the future HIV could be compared to herpes virus nowadays.”

The Journal of Leukocyte Biology claims that scientists have discovered a “master key” – Alphavbeta6 – to unlock new treatments for autoimmune disorders.

And scientists have also made progress in treating bipolar disorders and schizophrenia, identifying a mechanism in which environmental exposure in some individuals with genetic predispositions changes their methylation processes in harmful ways.

Physics and Engineering Breakthroughs

CERN announced that they had measured particles – neutrinos – traveling faster than the speed of light. If true, this would turn our basic physics understanding on its head.

Many noted that the brilliant scientist Nikola Tesla predicted faster-than-light “neutrons” in 1932:

All of my investigations seem to point to the conclusion that they are small particles, each carrying so small a charge that we are justified in calling them neutrons. They move with great velocity, exceeding that of light.

But – despite the similarity between the words “neutrons” and “neutrinos” – Tesla was actually referring to cosmic rays, not neutrinos.

More importantly, many believe that the CERN results were erroneous. So we’ll have to wait to see whether or not the test results are confirmed.

Another commonly-accepted theory came under question this week. As BBC reports:

Dwarf galaxies suggest dark matter theory may be wrong

Scientists’ predictions about the mysterious dark matter purported to make up most of the mass of the Universe may have to be revised.

Research on dwarf galaxies suggests they cannot form in the way they do if dark matter exists in the form that the most common model requires it to.

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Leading cosmologist Carlos Frenk spoke of the “disturbing” developments at the British Science Festival in Bradford.

As Popular Science notes:

A new energy harvesting device converts low-frequency vibrations into electricity. The device, the size of a U.S. quarter ….

Researchers at MIT have developed a tiny energy-harvester that is able to harness low-frequency vibrations like those made by a bridge or pipeline and converting them to electricity for wireless sensors.

Wireless sensors are used for all kinds of things, from monitoring factory machines and oil pipelines to keeping track of pollution. While the efficiency of their energy consumption has improved, the sensors’ batteries still need to be changed occasionally. MIT’s device, a microelectromechanical system (we prefer the term energy-harvester) makes electricity from the vibrations of foot traffic and other low-power energy sources from the environment, potentially removing the need for batteries completely.

The quarter-sized energy-harvester has improved on the designs of similar devices by taking inspiration from the bridges themselves. MIT’s energy-harvester consists of a microchip with a bridge-like structure anchored at either end. On the bridge is a weight sitting on one layer of piezoelectric material (PZT), which naturally gathers electric charge when faced with mechanical stress. Other devices use a cantilever beam instead of a bridge to pick up vibrations, which is much less efficient. MIT’s design picks up a wider range of vibrations and produces 100 times more energy than any other harvester available.

(Here’s MIT’s announcement).

Scientists also played “ping pong” with single electrons, which may provide an important technique for transferring quantum information.

For more amazing recent science discoveries, read this.

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