Cancer-killing solar water

It seems almost every week there is a new “cure for cancer”, yet decades go by and none materialise.

We hear about myriad promising treatments every year and I can’t recall a single one that has really been the “breakthrough” it was originally hailed as. (Save maybe for the HPV vaccine.)

Which is why this latest one is all the more intriguing.

From University of California, Irvine:

A new immunotherapy screening prototype developed by University of California, Irvine researchers can quickly create individualized cancer treatments that will allow physicians to effectively target tumors without the side effects of standard cancer drugs.

UCI’s Weian Zhao and Nobel laureate David Baltimore with Caltech led the research team that developed a tracking and screening system that identifies T cell receptors with 100-percent specificity for individual tumors within just a few days.

The University of California, Irvine article about it doesn’t mention the words “cure” or “breakthrough” anywhere. But the treatment it is presenting has to be one of the most promising I’ve read about.

Basically, what the researchers have developed will let companies make immunotherapy drugs that target individual’s specific tumours.

Targeting specific tumours with immunotherapy isn’t new. But, as the article notes, identifying the right cells to target can take years and costs $500,000 per patient. This new treatment does it in days – and at much reduced cost.

As the authors of the study note: “traditional cancer treatments have offered a one-size-fits-all disease response, such as chemotherapy drugs which can involve systemic and serious side effects.”

Whereas immunotherapy, or T-cell therapy as it’s also known, uses the patient’s own immune system to destroy the cancer.

It makes much more sense to do it this way and also results in far fewer side-effects than traditional treatment.

The problem is the time and money it takes to make these individualised treatments. And that’s exactly where this new technique can help.

From the article:

By using miniscule oil-water droplets, Zhao’s team designed a device that allows for individual T cells to join with cancer cells in microscopic fluid containers. The TCRs that bind with the cancer cells’ antigens can be sorted and identified within days, considerably faster than the months or year that previous technologies required. The technology also significantly reduces the cost of making individualized TCRs and accelerates the pipeline of TCR-T cell therapy to clinic.

I’m sure this will be picked up by the wider press over the next few days. But if you want to find out more about this therapy for yourself, you can read the research paper here.

Solar liquid developed that stores heat from sun for more than a decade

When I first heard about this story I thought it was about a new form of solar electricity generation.

Most “solar” developments we hear about are.

They tend to be either more efficient ways of converting the sun’s energy to electricity, or more efficient ways to store it in batteries.

This one is different.

It’s not about electricity at all, it’s about heat – which is what we use a lot of our electricity to supply.

From Interesting Engineering (what a great name for a publication):

Scientists in Sweden have developed a specialized fluid, called a solar thermal fuel, that can reportedly store energy captured from the sun for over a decade. “A solar thermal fuel is like a rechargeable battery, but instead of electricity, you put sunlight in and get heat out, triggered on demand,” Jeffrey Grossman, an engineer works with these materials at MIT explained to NBC News.

If you’re ever used one of those one-time heat packs that you crack and they release heat, this is sort of like that. Only it’s powered by the sun, it’s reusable and it’s a liquid.

From the article:

Incredibly, the energy stays trapped there even when the molecule cools down to the room temperature. To put the trapped energy to use, the liquid is put through a catalyst which returns the molecule to its original form, releasing energy in the form of heat.

How long does that energy stay trapped in the liquid? Up to 18 years say its inventors. The team that developed it has put it to use as a heating system in its building:

When an energy demand occurs, the fluid is pushed through a catalyst that converts the molecules back to their original form, warming the liquid by 63 degrees Celsius. This warm liquid can be used for can then have application in everything from domestic heating systems, powering a building’s water heater, dishwasher, clothes dryer and much more. The liquid is then pumped back to the roof to be rescued.

Apparently this setup has “already caught the eye of several large investors”. So we could soon see solar heating systems like this start to pop up around the world.

From the looks of it, these systems would require very little electricity to operate and could perhaps be ideal for “off the grid” locations around the world.

Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

PS It seems I’m not the only one who thinks creative subjects could become much more important as AI overtakes us in intelligence. (If you missed my article: “Life as we know it”, you can read it here.)

In this great column by Dave Trott he mentions that Alibaba founder and multi-multi-multi billionaire ($38.6 billion) Jack Ma has left Alibaba to concentrate on educational charity work.

“We cannot keep teaching our kids to compete with machines: in 30 years, they will be in trouble because a machine is smarter. We have to teach them something unique, that a machine can never catch up with. In this way, in 30 years, our kids will have a chance,” says Ma. Something to think about.

Category: Genetics and Biotechnology

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