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Jeff Sutherland

Twice the Energy with Half the Stress

Electric nanoparticles can target and kill cancer cells by zapping them

Particles that produce electrical signals when bombarded with ultrasound could be a way to direct a cell-killing treatment directly to tumors. by Emerging Technology from the arXiv January 7, 2019 One potentially valuable way to attack cancer cells is to zap them with low-intensity alternating current. This interferes with the flow of calcium and potassium ions in and out of the cells, a process so important that disrupting it ultimately kills them. Recommended for You Watch this super-speedy 3D printer make objects suddenly appear Self-driving cars could make city congestion a whole lot worse An obsession with computer vision shows the lopsided nature of the AI boom We analyzed 16,625 papers to figure out where AI is headed next Lasers can send a whispered audio message directly to one person’s ear But there is a problem with this approach: healthy cells are just as susceptible to ion channel disruption as cancer cells, so the treatment kills healthy and cancerous cells alike. What’s needed is a way to focus the treatment on cancer cells while leaving the healthy ones untouched. Enter Attilio Marino at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Enrico Almici at the Polytechnic University of Turin, and colleagues in Italy. These guys use piezoelectric nanoparticles that generate current inside the body when repeatedly compressed with ultrasound. And they have gathered the first evidence that this could be turned into an effective treatment for cancer. MIT Technology Review, 7 Jan 2019