Monthly Archives: December 2019

Rent For One Year a Green 3D Printed House Inspired By Mars NASA Projects.

AI SpaceFactory, a multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency, launched TERA, a high-tech and green eco-home designed for off-grid living on earth. Inspired by their NASA-award-winning Mars habitat MARSHA, the first TERA accepts limited pre-bookings on Indiegogo and will be available starting March 2020 for one year before it is recycled and reprinted elsewhere.


TERA, the first space-tech eco-habitat by AI SpaceFactory, is built from recyclable, biodegradable materials that can be composted at the end of its lifecycle. Actually, the B&B will be 3D printed on-site and equipped with “the most advanced technological and eco-friendly products, emphasizing the beauty of its natural environment while promoting a new, sustainable way of living on this Plane”. The retreat will be located in the woods of Upstate New York with views of the Hudson River, on undisturbed natural lands, 1.5 hours by train from NYC. The project offers a futuristic and sustainable experience of life on and beyond our planet.

“We realized the materials and technology we developed for long-term missions on Mars had the potential to be leaps and bounds more sustainable than conventional construction on Earth, […] TERA will challenge everything we know about architecture and construction. It could transform the way we build on Earth – maybe even save our planet” said David Malott, CEO, and chief architect.  AI SpaceFactory, founded in 2017, developed TERA with the same design logic and 3D printing technologies as their NASA-award-winning Mars habitat MARSHA. In fact, the agency wants to revolutionize the conventional building practices, through the use of plant-based materials, found to be up to three times as strong as concrete. TERA, with a very low impact on its surroundings, can be dismantled, recycled and reprinted elsewhere.


The Rising Of Gene Therapy

After false starts, drugs that manipulate the code of life are finally changing lives. The idea for gene therapy—a type of DNA-based medicine that inserts a healthy gene into cells to replace a mutated, disease-causing variant—was first published in 1972. After decades of disputed results, treatment failures and some deaths in experimental trials, the first gene therapy drug, for a type of skin cancer, was approved in China in 2003. The rest of the world was not easily convinced of the benefits, however, and it was not until 2017 that the U.S. approved one of these medicines. Since then, the pace of approvals has accelerated quickly. At least nine gene therapies have been approved for certain kinds of cancer, some viral infections and a few inherited disorders. A related drug type interferes with faulty genes by using stretches of DNA or RNA to hinder their workings. After nearly half a century, the concept of genetic medicine has become a reality.

These treatments use a harmless virus to carry a good gene into cells, where the virus inserts it into the existing genome, canceling the effects of harmful mutations in another gene.

GENDICINE: China’s regulatory agency approved the world’s first commercially available gene therapy in 2003 to treat head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. Gendicine is a virus engineered to carry a gene that has instructions for making a tumor-fighting protein. The virus introduces the gene into tumor cells, causing them to increase the expression of tumor-suppressing genes and immune response factors.The drug is still awaiting FDA approval.

GLYBERA: The first gene therapy to be approved in the European Union treated lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD), a rare inherited disorder that can cause severe pancreatitis. The drug inserted the gene for lipoprotein lipase into muscle cells. But because LPLD occurs in so few patients, the drug was unprofitable. By 2017 its manufacturer declined to renew its marketing authorization; Glybera is no longer on the market.

IMLYGIC: The drug was approved in China, the U.S. and the E.U. to treat melanoma in patients who have recurring skin lesions following initial surgery. Imlygic is a modified genetic therapy inserted directly into tumors with a viral vector, where the gene replicates and produces a protein that stimulates an immune response to kill cancer cells.

KYMRIAH: Developed for patients with B cell lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that affects white blood cells in children and young adults, Kymriah was approved by the FDA in 2017 and the E.U. in 2018. It works by introducing a new gene into a patient’s own T cells that enables them to find and kill cancer cells.

LUXTURNA: The drug was approved by the FDA in 2017 and in the E.U. in 2018 to treat patients with a rare form of inherited blindness called biallelic RPE65 mutation-associated retinal dystrophy. The disease affects between 1,000 and 2,000 patients in the U.S. who have a mutation in both copies of a particular gene, RPE65. Luxturna delivers a normal copy of RPE65 to patients’ retinal cells, allowing them to make a protein necessary for converting light to electrical signals and restoring their vision.

STRIMVELIS: About 15 patients are diagnosed in Europe every year with severe immunodeficiency from a rare inherited condition called adenosine deaminase deficiency (ADA-SCID). These patients’ bodies cannot make the ADA enzyme, which is vital for healthy white blood cells. Strimvelis, approved in the E.U. in 2016, works by introducing the gene responsible for producing ADA into stem cells taken from the patient’s own marrow. The cells are then reintroduced into the patient’s bloodstream, where they are transported to the bone marrow and begin producing normal white blood cells that can produce ADA.

YESCARTA: Developed to treat a cancer called large B cell lymphoma, Yescarta was approved by the FDA in 2017 and in the E.U. in 2018. It is in clinical trials in China. Large B cell lymphoma affects white blood cells called lymphocytes. The treatment, part of an approach known as CAR-T cell therapy, uses a virus to insert a gene that codes for proteins called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) into a patient’s T cells. When these cells are reintroduced into the patient’s body, the CARs allow them to attach to and kill cancer cells in the bloodstream.

ZOLGENSMA: In May 2019 the FDA approved Zolgensma for children younger than two years with spinal muscular atrophy, a neuromuscular disorder that affects about one in 10,000 people worldwide. It is one of the leading genetic

causes of infant mortality. Zolgensma delivers a healthy copy of the human SMN gene to a patient’s motor neurons in a single treatment.

ZYNTEGLO: Granted approval in the E.U. in May 2019, Zynteglo treats a blood disorder called beta thalassemia that reduces a patient’s ability to produce hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that contains iron, leading to life-threatening anemia. The therapy has been approved for individuals 12 years and older who require regular blood transfusions. It employs a virus to introduce healthy copies of the gene for making hemoglobin into stem cells taken from the patient.The cells are then reintroduced into the bloodstream and transported to the bone marrow, where they begin producing healthy red blood cells that can manufacture hemoglobin.

The approach called ‘Gene Interference‘ uses a synthetic strand of RNA or DNA (called an oligonucleotide) that, when introduced into a patient’s cell, can attach to a specific gene or its messenger molecules, effectively inactivating them. Some treatments use an antisense method, named for one DNA strand, and others rely on small interfering RNA strands, which stop instruction molecules that go from the gene to the cell’s protein factories.


AI Classify Chest X-Rays With Human-Level Accuracy

Analyzing chest X-ray images with machine learning algorithms is easier said than done. That’s because typically, the clinical labels required to train those algorithms are obtained with rule-based natural language processing or human annotation, both of which tend to introduce inconsistencies and errors. Additionally, it’s challenging to assemble data sets that represent an adequately diverse spectrum of cases, and to establish clinically meaningful and consistent labels given only images.

In an effort to move forward the goalpost with respect to X-ray image classification, researchers at Google devised AI models to spot four findings on human chest X-rays: pneumothorax (collapsed lungs), nodules and masses, fractures, and airspace opacities (filling of the pulmonary tree with material). In a paper published in the journal Nature, the team claims the model family, which was evaluated using thousands of images across data sets with high-quality labels, demonstrated “radiologist-levelperformance in an independent review conducted by human experts.

The study’s publication comes months after Google AI and Northwestern Medicine scientists created a model capable of detecting lung cancer from screening tests better than human radiologists with an average of eight years experience, and roughly a year after New York University used Google’s Inception v3 machine learning model to detect lung cancer. AI also underpins the tech giant’s advances in diabetic retinopathy diagnosis through eye scans, as well as Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind’s AI that can recommend the proper line of treatment for 50 eye diseases with 94% accuracy.

This newer work tapped over 600,000 images sourced from two de-identified data sets, the first of which was developed in collaboration with Apollo Hospitals and which consists of X-rays collected over years from multiple locations. As for the second corpus, it’s the publicly available ChestX-ray14 image set released by the National Institutes of Health, which has historically served as a resource for AI efforts but which suffers shortcomings in accuracy.

The researchers developed a text-based system to extract labels using radiology reports associated with each X-ray, which they then applied to provide labels for over 560,000 images from the Apollo Hospitals data set. To reduce errors introduced by the text-based label extraction and provide the relevant labels for a number of ChestX-ray14 images, they recruited radiologists to review approximately 37,000 images across the two corpora.

Google notes that while the models achieved expert-level accuracy overall, performance varied across corpora. For example, the sensitivity for detecting pneumothorax among radiologists was approximately 79% for the ChestX-ray14 images, but was only 52% for the same radiologists on the other data set.

Chest X-ray depicting a pneumothorax identified by Google’s AI model and the panel of radiologists, but missed by individual radiologists. On the left is the original image, and on the right is the same image with the most important regions for the model prediction highlighted in orange

The performance differences between datasets … emphasize the need for standardized evaluation image sets with accurate reference standards in order to allow comparison across studies,” wrote Google research scientist Dr. David Steiner and Google Health technical lead Shravya Shetty in a blog post, both of whom contributed to the paper. “[Models] often identified findings that were consistently missed by radiologists, and vice versa. As such, strategies that combine the unique ‘skills’ of both the [AI] systems and human experts are likely to hold the most promise for realizing the potential of AI applications in medical image interpretation.”

The research team hopes to lay the groundwork for superior methods with a corpus of the adjudicated labels for the ChestX-ray14 data set, which they’ve made available in open source. It contains 2,412 training and validation set images and 1,962 test set images, or 4,374 images in total.

We hope that these labels will facilitate future machine learning efforts and enable better apples-to-apples comparisons between machine learning models for chest X-ray interpretation,” wrote Steiner and Shetty.  


Ultrasound Waves Eliminate Prostate Tumours 2 Times Out Of 3

Blasting prostate cancer with sound waves eliminates tumours in nearly two thirds of patients, a study suggests. Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles, who tested the technology on 115 men with prostate cancer, saw tumours destroyed in 80 per cent of men they treated.

And 65 per cent of patients were still clear of cancer a year later. Some 47,000 men each year develop prostate cancer in the UK. Despite rapid advances in other cancer types, which have resulted in falling death rates, the number of men who die from prostate cancer is still going up, with 11,800 men in Britain lost each year to the disease. And of those who do survive, many are left with severe side effects as a result of surgery, including incontinence and impotence. The new treatment, called MRI-guided transurethral ultrasound ablation – or TULSA – comes with few of those side effects, the researchers said.  TULSA works by delivering precise doses of sound waves to diseased prostate tissue while sparing surrounding healthy nerve tissue.

It works using on a rod-shaped device, inserted into the urethra, which sends out sound waves from 10 ultrasound-generating elements. The elements are controlled automatically by a software algorithm that can adjust the shape, direction and strength of the therapeutic ultrasound beam. The procedure takes place in an MRI scanner so that doctors can closely monitor treatment and assess the degree and location of heating.

The technique – which uses precise pulses of ultrasound to attack tumours in a session lasting less than an hour – could mean many men avoid surgery

Unlike with other ultrasound systems on the market, you can monitor the ultrasound ablation process in real time and get immediate MRI feedback of the thermal dose and efficacy“, said Research leader Professor Steven Raman. ‘It’s an outpatient procedure with minimal recovery time.’

The treatment, which took an average of 51 minutes, saw prostate volume decreased on average from 39 cubic centimeters 3.8 cubic centimeters a year after treatment. Blood levels of ‘prostate-specific antigen’, or PSA, a marker of prostate cancer, fell by an average of 95 per cent. There were low rates of severe toxicity and no bowel complications.

We saw very good results in the patients, with a dramatic reduction of over 90 per cent in prostate volume and low rates of impotence with almost no incontinence,’ Professor Raman said.

The device, which is already approved for clinical use in Europe, is an advance on another technique that has been used on the NHS for several years called ‘HIFU‘, or high-intensity focused ultrasound. TULSA could also be used to treat men with non-cancerous enlarged prostate – a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH – which affects half of all men over the age of 50, and 60 per cent of those over 60.

There are two very unique things about this system,’ Professor Raman said. ‘First, you can control with much more finesse where you’re going to treat, preserving continence and sexual function. ‘Second, you can do this for both diffuse and localised prostate cancer and benign diseases, including benign hyperplasia.’

TULSA also has the benefit of allowing further treatment if needed, he said. If it fails, then the procedure can be repeated, and more aggressive invasive approaches like surgery and radiotherapy can still be used.

Simon Grieveson, head of research funding at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘Over 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK and many face a difficult decision about what treatment they should have. Current treatments for localised disease, such as surgery or radiotherapy, can be very effective, but they are not without a risk of side effects. ‘In addition, many men with low-risk prostate cancer may be able to avoid radical treatments like this altogether, and instead have their cancer monitored under active surveillance. ‘Whilst novel treatments like this one could potentially cause fewer side effects, we cannot tell from these results alone whether this could be as effective as the treatment options that are currently available and if so, which men could benefit the most.


How Do Killer Immune Cells Protect Themselves?

White blood cells, which release a toxic potion of proteins to kill cancerous and virus-infected cells, are protected from any harm by the physical properties of their cell envelopes, find scientists from UCL and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. Until now, it has been a mystery to scientists how these white blood cells – called cytotoxic lymphocytesavoid being killed by their own actions and the discovery could help explain why some tumours are more resistant than others to recently developed cancer immunotherapies.

The research, published in Nature Communications, highlights the role of the physical properties of the white blood cell envelope, namely the molecular order and electric charge, in providing such protection.

Cytotoxic lymphocytes, or white blood cells, rid the body of disease by punching holes in rogue cells and by injecting poisonous enzymes inside. Remarkably, they can do this many times in a row, without harming themselves. We now know what effectively prevents these white blood cells from committing suicide every time they kill one of their targets,” according to Professor Bart Hoogenboom (London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL Physics & Astronomy and UCL Structural & Molecular Biology), co-author of the study.

The scientists made the discovery by studying perforin, which is the protein responsible for the hole-punching. They found that perforin’s attachment to the cell surface strongly depends on the order and packing of the molecules – so-called lipids – in the membrane that surrounds and protects the white blood cells.