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Exploring the Immune Landscape of Cancer

Researchers have successfully mapped out the immune landscape of cancer cells. A recent study revealed that the immune gene expression in tumors varied by molecular type, and they have isolated six immune subtypes. Over 10,000 patients with 33 different kinds of cancer were tested during the course of the research. This research is playing a major role in precision medicine and point treatments for patients and created The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Gene signature.

Their bold discovery will provide cancer researchers a wealth of information that applies to various kinds of cancer. More importantly, identifying the immune targets could eventually lead to finding more effective treatments.

Immunotherapy as a Viable Cancer Option

Immunotherapy uses substances made from living organisms to fight cancer. Most cancer cells thrive because they are able to hide from the body’s immune system. Some immunotherapies mark cancer cells so the body’s immune system can find and destroy them. Other kinds boost the immune system over all to fight cancer cells better. 

Sneaky Cancer cells hid and thrive in the body's immune System, Precision medicine is trying to address
Sneaky cancer cells hide and thrive in the body’s immune system

Cancer immunotherapy is revolutionizing cancer care and treatment. Advancements and additional discoveries have given scientists a clear picture of how the immune system of cancer cells work. They have found that antibodies against CTLA-4, PD-1, and PD-L1 effectively addressed a number of malignancies. However, researchers wanted to further explore how the immune microenvironment was driving these responses.

They are also using dendritic cell training, CAR T cells, small molecule inhibitors, endogenous viral DNA targeting as well as other techniques.

“We integrated major immunogenomics methods to characterize the immune tumor microenvironment (TME) across 33 cancers analyzed by TCGA, applying methods for the assessment of total lymphocytic infiltrate, immune cell fractions from deconvolution analysis of mRNA-seq data, immune gene expression signatures, neoantigen prediction, TCR and BCR repertoire inference, viral RNA expression, and somatic DNA alterations. Transcriptional regulatory networks and extracellular communication networks that may govern the TME were found, as were possible germline determinants of TME features, and prognostic models were developed,” the study, published by Elsevier Inc., read.

The Six Immune Subtypes

Researchers identified and characterized six immune subtypes which were present in multiple tumors. The results of this study have a bold impact on future studies in the field of immunogenomics. More importantly, it serves as a take off point for more effective treatment and better cancer management.

Scientists isolated six immune subtypes, namely: wound healing, IFN-γ dominant, inflammatory, lymphocyte depleted, immunologically quiet, and TGF-β dominant. The subtypes each have their own differences in macrophage or lymphocyte signatures, overall cell proliferation, expression of immunomodulatory genes, and prognosis, among other characteristics.

Researchers said these categories could suggest specific treatment approaches for certain cancers. The data is now considered a “living resource” that the immunogenomics community can use.

“With our increasing understanding that the tumor immune environment plays an important role in prognosis as well as response to therapy, the definition of the immune subtype of a tumor may play a critical role in the predicting disease outcome as opposed to relying solely on features specific to individual cancer types, “ the scientists wrote.

These six immune subtypes are across all human malignancies. They play a role in the “prognosis, genetic, and immune modulatory alterations that may shape the specific types of immune environments we have observed”.

Dendritic Cell Training, CAR T Cells, and Endogenous DNA Targeting

Dendritic cells serve as regulators of immune response and work to mediate T cell immunity.  These dendritic cells are adapt at initiating a T cell response and directing T cell polarization. While still a new science, they are showing promise in creating a CD8 T cell response in mice targeting cancer immunity.

Another area of promise is the use of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR T) cells in targeting and eliminating malignant gliomas. The evolution of the adoptively transferred CAR T cells is treating the effects of standard of care chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Precision medicine is also utilizing engineered sequence-specific endonucleases to create DNA double-strand breaks. The gene targeting is in use to alter specific DNA sequences in a endogenous genes. The gene targeting is being shown to both knock-out and knock-in mutants in mice.

Immunotherapy’s goal is to stop or slow down the growth of cancer cells. It also tries to keep them from spreading to other parts of the body, as well as help the immune system find and destroy cancer cells on its own. While, Chemotherapy or other drug-based treatments are in use today, the treatment is extremely promising.

Coupled with early cancer detection,  immunotherapy and precision medicine can revolutionize cancer treatments all over the world.

 

Who Should be Blamed in the Multimillion Dollar Cryptocurrency Theft?

Cryptocurrency is a divisive topic. It’s even more divisive when news about compromised cryptocurrency exchanges or crypto crimes arise. And in February 2018, BitGrail and Nano made it difficult to trace which caused the massive 17M Nano coin theft (approximately $132M).

The Pitfalls of Cryptocurrency

Most people find cryptocurrency difficult to understand and do not appreciate cryptocurrency because the concept is new and complex. Unlike using credit cards, cryptocurrency is not always an option for online payments. There are no banks that regulate these cryptocurrency transactions. Instead, these transactions are strictly person to person and listed in public blockchains verified by miners. The blockchains store the transactions permanently. In traditional banking, customer service helps you rectify wrong transactions. In cryptocurrency, such a convenience does not exist, even in cases where money is stolen.

Cryptocurrency is legal in only a small number of countries. It is not yet widely considered legal and regulated. Most of all, cryptocurrency is an uncertain and volatile digital money system that is always a target for hacks. Corporations and investors refuse to participate in something that is highly unstable, unpredictable, and susceptible to theft.

Blame Game for Blockchains

BitGrail owner, Francesco Firano, claimed that Nano’s software had bugs, making it vulnerable for theft. There was a reported crash in the node that records the transaction, so the exchanges were not witnessed. He insinuated that some coins were “double spent” without detection. Double spending is a form of fraud where the same amount of coins in one transaction is used in another. This is a hefty accusation against cryptocurrency as developers install provisions in the system that prevent double spending.

crypto crimes in blockchains is on the rise
Has the majority finally accepted cryptocurrency? Maybe not, especially after the multimillion-dollar theft

Nano developers fired back. They said the problem lies in BitGrail’s software as their blockchains ledger did not indicate any double spending occurrences or stolen money. The developers also alleged that Firano had been misinforming the Nano team about the financial competence of BitGrail. They leaked conversations that indicated Firano asking them to change the blockchain. This raised many eyebrows as transactions are immutable in the world of cryptocurrency and therefore should be impossible to fork.

This heated exchange also put Nano in hot water as it revealed their ability to alter the blockchain.

Firano said that there are also issues with the timestamp technology of Nano. Nano then denied these claims by saying that they conducted a re-synchronization of its nodes, effectively giving each transaction with the accurate timestamps.

Legal Battles


Both sides are still refusing to take the blame even after the funds were stolen. Users have headed to the courtrooms with a class action lawsuit on behalf of investors. Nano stated that they will sponsor a legal fund for those affected by the hack. This fund would pay for the representation fees in pursuing their legal interests against BitGrail.

BitGrail, in contrast, said that they have plans to refund their users of the stolen money if they did not involve the court in the matter. They intend to pay back their users by creating a token, BitGrail Shares. Users will receive 20% of the lost amount, with the remaining 80% covered by BitGrail Shares. Even with this response, they are not taking the responsibility for the hack and still pointed to the Nano’s alleged protocol issues.

A Lose-Lose Situation

While it is still unclear which party is at fault for the theft, the damage has already been done. People have lost money, and most of all, confidence in trading with BitGrail and Nano. In instances like these, both parties must step up and be accountable as the satisfaction of their patrons are at stake.

U.S. Department of Transportation’s 10 Winning Drone Pilot Projects

The Department of Transportation declared the first 10 winners, out of 149 submitted entries, of the Drone Pilot Projects. This happens six months after the Trump Administration’s announcement of its new program. It will support the development of drone testing across the United States. The three-year commercial drone program is meant to delve into the future use of drone delivery with the assistance from private firms. Those private companies will be accompanied by three state transportation agencies, two universities, and two US cities.

The 10 programs will tackle the major challenges in incorporating drones into the county’s airspace. It will have minimal risks related to security and public safety. These programs offer greater efforts, for those enrolled to the program, on regulations and stability to the general public and local governments, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) operators, and owners. The estimated potential economic benefits of UAS to the country’s airspace will amount to $82 billion. This will happen in the next 10 years. The projected job opportunities will hit 100,000 jobs.

The program also aims to evaluate several operational concepts. Examples include flights over people, night flight operations, package delivery, flight over the line of sight of pilots. It also includes counter-UAS security procedures, security and reliability of data connected between drones and pilots, and local operations. All of these are UAS strategies regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Immediate opportunities arising from the program cover a wide range of industries. The industries cover photography, commerce, precision agriculture, emergency management, and infrastructure monitoring and inspections.

US Drone Pilot Projects Winners—But Who was Left Out?

Among the winners are Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple, and Qualcomm, which are involved as tech partners, along with AT&T, Airbus, NASA, FedEx, Uber, and many others. Amazon and the popular drone manufacturer DJI are not on the list. Listed here are the first 10 approved proposals from local, state and tribal entities.

 

The U.s Government Announces The Top 10 Drone Pilot Projects
The Top 10 Drone Pilot Projects

1. Citof San Diego (California)

The proposal focuses on using various technologies, such as 5G test networks, 4G LTE network, along with AT&T’s FirstNet—the national first responder network authority. In addition, the program aims to address efficient delivery of packaged foods and to improve border protection. It will also focus on autonomous vehicle interconnections, international commerce, and surveillance.

2. Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (Durant, Oklahoma)

This project uses drone operations in public safety, agricultural, and infrastructure inspections, with scheduled night flights and BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) operations. Its listed partners are the Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory and CNN.

3. Kansas Department of Transportation (Wichita, Kansas)

Microsoft is one of the the its supporting partners. This project’s focus is to deploy drones to support rural areas during BVLOS operations, with the assistance of UAS for improving agriculture.

4. Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (Herndon, Virginia)

This proposal is partnered with NASA, AT&T, Intel, Alphabet’s Project Wing, Airbus, Dominion Energy, and Virginia Tech. It aims to study the feasibility of package delivery services by drone in urban and rural settings, using the latest technologies like detect and avoid, radar systems, identification and tracking, and mapping tools.

5. Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (Memphis, Tennessee)

The program has a projected annual benefit of $500 million, with partners including Agricenter International and FedEx. The program will use drones for aircraft inspections and autonomous system that can support airport operations. It will also include package delivery and perimeter safety and security.

6. Lee County Mosquito Control District (Fort Myers, Florida)

The goal is to deploy low-altitude drones to survey and monitor the mosquito population within the area. Likewise, it aims to use satellite connectivity and infrared imaging.

7. North Carolina Department of Transportation (Raleigh, North Carolina)

The program targets to explore local package delivery in a defined and safe flight zone via developing drone delivery stations within the local communities. The Depart of Transportation also believes that small companies will greatly benefit from this project.

Apple, one of the program’s major technology partners, will surely benefit. The company will deploy the UAS to enhance their mapping technology.

8. North Dakota Department of Transportation (Bismarck, North Dakota)

This drone pilot projects proposal includes a wide array of applications that can improve and expand drone operations during night flight and beyond visual line of sight.

9. The City of Reno (Nevada)

The drone program focuses on the time-constraint delivery of life-saving medical devices and materials in rural and urban settings, including medical equipment in emergency situations.

10. University of Alaska-Fairbanks (Fairbanks, Alaska)

This proposal’s main focus is on pipeline inspection and developing drone systems that can work effectively during harsh climates and in remote areas. And the program will use several technologies for its development. These include ADS-B, satellite services, collision avoidance, and infrared imaging.

Program Outlook

According to the Department of Transportation, the tasks for drone pilot projects  have just started. They still need to require the winning agencies to submit their memorandums of agreement to the FAA. For this reason, once these participating agencies have met the requirements, they have around two and half years to conduct the trials. Additionally, they need to share their progress and data to the DOT and FAA, which can be used to create better nationwide regulations on how drones should be used in the long run.

The Bold Impact of Self-Driving Cars on Society

It’s 7:30 in the morning. You open an app on your mobile device and summon a driverless car to pick you up for work. As soon as you settle inside the vehicle, the car’s software cues in the route. So you sit back, scroll through your email and prepare mentally for the day. The ride was smooth and swift. You are at your desk by 7:50 AM, still a few minutes early. You have enough time to chat with colleagues before tackling the day’s task. Is this the future of the Self-Driving Car? How Will Self Driving Cars Impact Society in a few years time?

Autonomous driving is the future of transportation. And by future, we mean not so distant future. We are already seeing some of these disruptive concepts racing their way to the market. Leading this self-driving car race is Alphabet’s Waymo. A spin-off from Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, Waymo is beating General Motors in this race. With more features and simulations developed for autonomous driving, Uber, Tesla, Toyota, Apple, BMW, Nissan, Honda, and Volvo are not far behind.

Waymo was able to reach a deal to purchase a thousand Chrysler Pacifica minivans by January 2018. These vehicles will be fitted with sensors, allowing them to pick up signals within hundreds of yards at 360 degrees. The company is testing its on-demand driverless cars in urban areas of Arizona, and soon, in Phoenix. Likewise, General Motors is collaborating with Chevrolet and plans to start a ride-hailing company by 2019. Car companies are working with other industries to test the viability of this self-driving car technology. Toyota has been collaborating with e-Palette; Ford is testing driverless delivery with Domino’s Pizza as well as ride-hailing with Lyft.

Future Mobility that is Fast but Not Furious

Driving and owning a car is deeply rooted in the American culture. The country’s automobile industry has survived and thrived for almost a century. Cars have a special place in pop culture and in the entertainment industry. Songs, animations, and movie franchises all play to automobiles and the need for speed, such as Rush’s Red Barchetta. On a personal level, getting your first car is a coming-of-age ritual. Families and friends go on road trips and long drives as a way to bond.

But according to many automotive executives, the future of mobility does not include owning and driving a car. Roads will be teeming with driverless on-demand cars that transport people from point A to point B. The system will be so efficient that owning a car will not be necessary. This takes away the trouble of finding a parking space. Less vehicles also mean decongested roads, allowing faster travel time. When people spend less time on the road, they spend more time on life and self-enriching activities.

Kasra Moshakani (Uber Technologies), agrees with this direction:

We do think when we think about the future of urban mobility, it’s about shared rides…But self-driving is also a big piece of that. A future where individuals don’t own cars, they don’t spend hours and hours in traffic, they don’t spend and stress while behind the wheel.

Moreover, Florida District 24 State Senator Jeff Brandes shares his excitement about these developments during the Synapse Innovation Summit. He stated, “The idea that we can go point to point and do that in a seamless, autonomous fashion is going to allow us to save billions of dollars and to leapfrog some of the technologies that are out there today.”

Benefits and Disruptions

The cars of the future will mostly run by electricity, and this will be beneficial on the environment. This means less waste and emissions in the air. Builders can create more residential areas and recreational spots from reclaimed parking spaces. Since the routes have been mapped in the system, car accidents are minimized. Individuals who have visual problems, as well as the elderly and differently abled, will be able to move around using self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars will radically change society globally. It is predicted that driving a car will be phased out. Obviously, jobs related to driving vehicles will vanish. This includes bus and taxi drivers, courier and delivery drivers, lawnmower operators, and tractor drivers. Industries that support automobiles will also feel the disruption. People working in road construction, driving schools, car licensing, and registration will have to consider other industries. Same goes for car rental and sales, car insurance, and traffic and city route planning workers.

The State of the Self-Driving Car

Autonomous Driving infographic

The automobile industry has now gone beyond demonstrating how good the technology is. Car and technology companies have now shifted their focus on the safety of autonomous driving. This is in the light of recent driverless car accidents involving Uber and Tesla.

There is still a lot more work to do. The automobile industry need to reevaluate and readjust the mechanisms involved in self-driving cars. A human driver can perceive the environment at a glance. A self-driving car would need to receive a large amount of data from sensors, tracking systems, and cameras before it can evaluate its environment. This delay will also impact the self-driving car’s decision-making capability. This presents a host of opportunities to improve the current technology.

People can recognize the opportunities if there are more discussions about the topic. Jeff Brandes, Florida State Senator, focuses on policies. He asks, “So what is the policy of the state? How do we get people comfortable with this conversation? How do we get the cities comfortable to allow the deployments in their communities?”

The advent of the automobile was met with reluctance at the beginning of the 20th century. Back then, pedestrians walked alongside wagons and carriages. Cars and automobiles have gone a long way from its challenging beginnings. It is set to undergo another wave of disruption with the introduction of autonomous driving. Car makers create more vehicle models with intelligent capacities. By 2020, we may be seeing cars without steering wheels or gas pedals.