Even trade?: Treatment stops cancer, although it may make you blind
National Cancer Institute researchers report that an experimental cancer treatment successfully stopped the spread of malignant cells in mice but, on the downside, also destroyed healthy eye cells causing vision loss. The scientists report the mixed results in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. The study involved a therapy that involved extracting immunity-boosting T cells from patients (in this case mice), having them replicate in the lab, and then injecting them back into the subjects to target a substance made by melanomas. The latter, the most fatal type of skin cancer, affects melanocytes—cells that produce pigment, or melanin, responsible for skin and eye color. The injections successfully attacked the tumor cells but also went after healthy ones. Joan Stein-Streilein, an ophthalmologist at Harvard Medical School's Schepens Eye Research Institute who was not involved in the study, says that if enough pigment-producing cells in the eye's iris (colored part) are destroyed, it can lead to blindness. Also, destruction of healthy melanocytes in the skin can result in a condition known vitiligo, which causes white patches. The researchers note that steroid eye drops appeared to stave off destruction of the iris cells, but they warned researchers to heed the findings in designing new immunotherapies.
Putting the heat on energy-efficiency in cars
One thing that cars are good at producing—in addition to pollution—is heat (just touch the hood of your car after a long drive). Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM are developing a thermoelectric converter that can turn heat from a car's exhaust fumes—which can reach 1,292 degrees Fahrenheit (700 degrees Celsius)—into electricity that the car can use to power itself and, in the process, cut fuel consumption by as much as 7 percent as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Two thirds of the energy produced when a car turns fuel into energy is emitted unused in the form of heat—with about 30 percent radiated from the engine block and another 30 to 35 percent escaping as exhaust fumes. The researchers envision a car that can use the heat generated by its exhaust pipe to produce and store an electric current—much like a battery does. If they're right, cars would be able to use this energy source to power their headlights, engine-cooling fans and air conditioners, thereby gulping down less fuel.
Fantastic voyage: Pill-cam allows doctors to tour esophagus and stomach
Miniature cameras that patients can swallow help doctors view interior images of intestines, but they've never been much good at taking pictures of the esophagus (where they spend only three or four seconds on their way to the stomach) or the stomach itself—where their 0.2-ounce (five-gram) weight causes them to quickly drop to the lower wall and obscure useful information. Physicians instead rely on endoscopy exams to get a look at a patient's esophagus or stomach. But a steerable camera (being developed by a team of researchers from Israeli-based technology company, Given Imaging, Ltd.; the Israelite Hospital in Hamburg, Germany; Imperial College London; and the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering) may give those leery of endoscopies another option: They can swallow a camera-bearing pill that also holds a transmitter to send images to an outside receiver, along with a battery and several light diodes that briefly flare up like a flashbulb every time a picture is snapped. The doctor controls the camera's movement using a magnet held over the patient's body. A prototype device has already demonstrated in an experiment that the camera can be kept in the esophagus for about 10 minutes, even if the patient is sitting upright.