Want to know what to do with your life. A diverse committee of experts from around the world, at the request of the U.S. National Science Foundation, identified 14 challenges that, if met, would improve how we live.
Here is their list in no particular order. You can learn more about each challenge by clicking on it.
The committee decided not to rank the challenges. NAE is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important and to provide comments at the Engineering Challenges website
Courtesy NIH/National Institute on Aging
Doctors in California have developed a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, in which patients show tremendous improvement within minutes.
Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain which can severely impair memory, thinking and behavior. The researchers noticed that Alzheimer’s patients have very high levels of a protein called TNF, which is known to regulate brain activity. The treatment involves injecting an anti-TNF drug into the patient’s spinal fluid. The drug, Etanercept, has already been approved by the FDA for treatment of other diseases. The study involved only a small number of patients, but the strong positive results of this early test give hope that an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s could be on the horizon.
NOTE: As always when we discuss medical treatment on Science Buzz, it is important to point out – we are not doctors. We cannot give medical advice, nor should you take medical advice from anyone over the Internet. If you have questions about this treatment, you need to consult your physician.
Scientists in California are developing a way to tell cancer cells from normal cells, using nanotechnology to measure the cells’ softness.
Some microbes are resistant to antibiotics. Researchers in England have developed a way to change the molecular structure of antibiotics to make them more effective against these “superbugs.”
A scientist in Texas has come up with a way to use
muon detectors to search for buried cities.
A European study has found that women taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are at a higher risk for blood clots and heart disease.
For years researchers have tried to find a vaccine that will prevent people from contracting the disease. The problem is, the parasite enters the bloodstream at a particular phase in its life cycle. Collecting the parasite at that stage is tricky, because it lives in the salivary glands of the mosquito.
But now a research lab in suburban Maryland has figured out a way to collect the parasites. They breed their own highly infectious mosquitoes, which they keep locked behind five doors so none escape. Once the parasite has reached the proper stage, workers kill the mosquitoes and extract the parasite.
After they collect the parasite, they disable it and render it harmless. It can then be injected into a person. The body recognizes the parasite as a foreign body and produces antibodies to fight it. These antibodies stay in the bloodstream, protecting the person from any real parasites they may later pick up.
Early test indicate the vaccine could be up to 90% effective, and protect against malaria for 10 months or more. Human trials are to begin next year.
You can learn more about malaria in The Science Museum’s on-line exhibit.
New treatments for AIDS and cancer, based on nanoparticles, are about to go into human trials. Both treatments use dendrimers, molecules with multiple arms. Each arm can be designed to do different things. In the case of the AIDS treatment, the arms clasp onto docking sites on the virus’s coating, preventing it from attaching to and infecting healthy cells. In the cancer treatment, some of the arms hold folic acid, which cancer cells absorb; the other arms hold an anti-cancer drug, which is then released inside the cancerous cell.
Dendrimers were invented 30 years ago, but have had few practical applications, since they are difficult and expensive to make. But new processes promise to speed up production, perhaps unlocking the promise of these molecules.
To see images of dendrimers, go here.
Researchers at Stanford have developed a blood test which, in early trials, has been 90% accurate in identifying patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The test is also 80% accurate in predicting who will get Alzheimer’s in the next 2 to 6 years.
The article notes:
At present, treatments for Alzheimer's disease are not very effective, so some people might not want early notification that they have an incurable ailment. But other people might want it.
What do you think? If you had an incurable disease that would not start to manifest itself for several years, would you want to know?