ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

September 2009

Health Science

Taking Aim at Aggressive Cancer Cells
A team of researchers led by the Whitehead and Broad Institutes has discovered a chemical that works in mice to kill the rare but aggressive cells within breast cancers that have the ability to seed new tumors.

These cells, known as cancer stem cells, are thought to enable cancers to spread-and to re-emerge after seemingly successful treatment. Although further work is needed to determine whether this specific chemical holds therapeutic promise for humans, the study shows that it is possible to find chemicals that selectively kill cancer stem cells. Read more >>

The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Initiative for Chemical Genetics.

Tumor Mutations Can Predict Chemo Success
New work by MIT cancer biologist shows that the interplay between two key genes that are often defective in tumors determines how cancer cells respond to chemotherapy.

The findings should have an immediate impact on cancer treatment, say, Michael Hemann and Michael Yaffe, the two MIT biology professors who lead the study. The work could help doctors predict what types of chemotherapy will be effective in a particular tumor, which would help tailor treatments to each patient. Read more >>

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the David H. Koch Fund.

Nanoparticles Target Ovarian Cancer
Tiny particles carrying a killer gene can effectively suppress ovarian tumor growth in mice, according to a team of researchers from MIT and the Lankenau Institute.

The findings could lead to a new treatment for ovarian cancer, which now causes more than 15,000 deaths each year in the United States. Because it is usually diagnosed at a relatively late stage, ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease. Read more >>

The research was funded by the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health.

Robotics

Robots Swim with the Fishes
Borrowing from Mother Nature, a team of MIT researchers has built a school of swimming robo-fish through the water just as gracefully as the real thing, if not quite as fast.

Mechanical engineers Kamal Youcef-Toumi and Pablo Valdivia Y Alvrado have designed the sleek robotic fish to more easily maneuver into areas where traditional underwater autonomous vehicles can't go. Fleets of the new robots could be used to inspect submerged structures such as boats and oil and gas pipes; patrol ports, lakes and rivers; and help detect environmental pollutants. Read more >>

This work was funded by the Singapore-MIT Alliance and Schlumberger Ltd.

Material Technology

A Fabric with Vision
Imagine a soldier's uniform made of a special fabric that allows him to look in all directions and identify threats that are to his side or even behind him. In work that could turn such science fiction into reality, MIT researchers have developed light-detecting fibers that, when weaved into a web, act as a flexible camera. Fabric composed of these fibers could be joined to a computer that could provide information on a small display screen attached to a visor, providing the soldier greater awareness of his surroundings. Read more >>

This work was supported by the Army Research Office through the ISN, the National Science Foundation through the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Department of Energy.