At the beginning of this month, I cam across some fantastic sounding news regarding cancer treatments. It’s been known that cancer cells arm themselves with a flag — which the Stanford team persists in calling the “don’t eat me” flag — the way some healthy cells do. If I remember this correctly, red blood cells work with the same antibody.
This meant that the Stanford team that conducted the research could use a protein to mask the expression of this flag, called CD47, thus taking down cancer cells’ defense mechanism. Astoundingly, the cancers implanted in mice either disappeared or reduced significantly. The red blood cells would be targeted as well, since their CD47 flag would be masked as well, but it didn’t seem to leave any lasting damage. In fact, the Stanford study indicates that CD47 is expressed about three times more in some cancer cells as compared to healthy cells. That would mean that the lion’s share of defense-destruction happened with the cancer cells.
Now, I’ve been pointed to an article of a study that suggests that a common virus could be used to target and kill cancer cells. This is incredibly late — by a few years! — which I didn’t realize, but it would be interesting to see why it hasn’t been followed up on.
Other fun stuff, in a completely different field — remember how graphene was meant to be the next big thing in semiconductor technology? And then it… wasn’t? The trouble is that, apparently, even though graphene conducts extremely well, it’s impractical to use for anything requiring switching applications, like transistors. Semiconductors require something called a bandgap, a range of energy during which the they go from being unable to allow any current through to letting current through easily (there’s a much better explanation in Wikipedia, regarding the physics behind it).
And then there was molybdenite, which is very similar to graphene but which actually does have a bandgap in the right spot. Now, researchers in multiple groups have reported being able to synthesize silicene, which is a structure whose existence has been verified through a scanning tunneling electron microscope. It has a unique structure that lets electrons travel in a way that resembles the switching mechanism that transistors need. The trouble will be adapting silicene to the current transistor creation process.
It’ll be fascinating to see which of these alternatives gets developed the most rapidly and efficiently over the next decade, which is when silicon’s limits are predicted to be reached.