Pulse 96: A Cure for Cancer? Beware Political Propaganda
Last week, the press and social media went afire with reports, first published in Jerusalem Post, that Israeli scientists think they might have found the first complete cure for cancer.
“We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer,” said Dan Aridor, Chairman of the Board of Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi). “Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks, and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market.”
AEBi founder and CEO Ilan Morad added that the company has concluded its first exploratory mice experiment, which inhibited human cancer cell growth and had no effect at all on healthy mice cells, in addition to several in-vitro trials.
When something sounds too good to be true, some skepticism is healthy. I can’t wait to read more about this research in peer-reviewed scientific journals, but I am not holding my breath until then. Predictably, many news outlets have expressed strong doubts on AEBi’s claimed breakthrough. Tempering excessive early enthusiasm for claimed cancer breakthroughs is an important function of the responsible press.
But Wired’s hatchet job is really over the line. According to a Wired writer, the story must be “both bogus and tragic” because it was enthusiastically covered by Fox News and “Pro-Trump twitter troll Jacob Wohl ... followed shortly by conservative political pundit Glenn Beck.” The writer even feels the need to emphasize that Jerusalem Post is a “centrist” newspaper.
Now, it seems needless to say that the political positions of those who are initially enthusiastic about a claimed cure for cancer have nothing -- nothing whatsoever -- to do with the plausibility of the claim, which can only be evaluated with scientific studies and clinical trials. But the fact that, in a story like this, a journalist emphasizes irrelevant things for political propaganda, tells me something very sad about portions of the media.
I am mostly skeptical, but I am really hoping that AEBi will prove me wrong.
Hydrogel ingestible pill for extended health monitoring. MIT engineers have designed an ingestible hydrogel pill that, upon reaching the stomach, quickly swells to the size of a soft, squishy ping-pong ball and stays in the stomach for an extended period of time. The inflatable pill, described in a study published in Nature Communications, is embedded with a sensor that continuously monitors a patient’s health for up to 30 days. If the pill needs to be removed from the stomach, a patient can drink a solution of calcium that triggers the pill to quickly shrink to its original size and pass safely out of the body.
Engineered virus effectively kills cancer in the lab. Hokkaido University researchers have engineered a virus that selectively targets and kills cancer cells. The virus, called dl355, has an even stronger anticancer effect than another engineered virus currently used in clinical practice, according to a study published in Oncology Reports. The researchers infected several types of cultured cancer cells with 100 dl355 virus particles per cell and found that nearly all the cancer cells died within seven days. In contrast, most normal cells infected with the virus did not die, even after seven days. Several cancer cell lines managed to survive low doses of dl355, but all cancer cells were killed by the virus as the dose was increased.
Thought-to-speech translation could enable efficient BCIs. Neuroengineers at Columbia University have created a system that translates thought into intelligible, recognizable speech, a critical step toward brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). The system, described in a research paper published in Scientific Reports, harnesses the power of speech synthesizers and artificial intelligence, and could lead to new ways for computers to communicate directly with the brain.
Artificial skin could provide superhuman perception. Researchers at University of Connecticut are developing new sensors that could lead to artificial skin, able to mimic the sensing properties of skin. Such a sensor would need to be able to detect pressure, temperature, and vibration. A study published in Advanced Materials describes such a sensor, which consists of a silicone tube wrapped in a copper wire and filled with a special fluid made of iron oxide nanoparticles. The scientists are persuaded that artificial skin could also provide “superhuman” abilities that human skin does not have, such as the ability to detect magnetic fields and sound waves.
New promising drug compounds could be next-generation AML therapeutics. Purdue University researchers are developing a series of drug compounds that have shown promise in treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer that is one of the most lethal. A research paper published in EBioMedicine describes these compounds, which, according to the scientists, have a great potential to be the next-generation AML therapeutics for relapsed patients who no longer respond to existing therapeutics.
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