Stair­way to heaven

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to mi­grate away from the tu­mour and ul­ti­mately move to other places in the body in a process known as metas­ta­sis.

“Cel­lu­lar mo­bil­ity makes can­cers grow fast, and it makes can­cers ho­moge­nous in the sense that can­cer cells share a com­mon set of mu­ta­tions,” said Har­vard’s Martin Nowak, who led the re­search. “I fur­ther be­lieve that the abil­ity to form metas­tases, which is what ac­tu­ally kills pa­tients, is a con­se­quence of se­lec­tion for lo­cal mi­gra­tion.”

Driver mu­ta­tions also play a role in drug re­sis­tance. If a small num­ber of cells are re­sis­tant to a ther­apy, they can quickly repli­cate, caus­ing a re­lapse of the can­cer even if nearly all of the other can­cer­ous cells are wiped out.

“Our ap­proach does not pro­vide a mirac­u­lous cure for can­cer,” said the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh’s Bartek Wa­claw, who was also in­volved in cre­at­ing the new 3D model. “How­ever, it sug­gests pos­si­ble ways of im­prov­ing can­cer ther­apy. One of them could be tar­get­ing lo­cal cel­lu­lar mi­gra­tion and not just growth, as stan­dard ther­a­pies do.” SPACE EL­E­VA­TORS ARE the stuff of sci-fi dreams, tak­ing as­tro­nauts into space with­out the need for fuel-guz­zling rock­ets. But there’s one big prob­lem: how do you build a struc­ture tall enough, that’s also strong enough to sup­port its own weight?

Cana­dian space com­pany Thoth Tech­nol­ogy thinks it has a so­lu­tion. It has patented a free­stand­ing space tower that’s com­posed of a se­ries of pneu­matic pres­sure cells. Each of th­ese cells, made from a high-strength ma­te­rial such as Kevlar, is filled with pres­surised gas, keep­ing the struc­ture rigid as it gets buf­feted by winds.

Reach­ing 20km (12 miles) into the sky, the el­e­va­tor wouldn’t take as­tro­nauts di­rectly into or­bit. In­stead, it’d be used as a take­off and land­ing pad for sin­gle-stage space planes, which Thoth claims will save more than 30 per cent of the fuel when com­pared to con­ven­tional rock­ets. The elec­tri­cal el­e­va­tor could also ferry sci­en­tists and tourists back and forth. Beats a trip to Ma­galuf, any­way… Patent num­ber: US 9,085,897

A 3D com­puter model is shed­ding new light on how tu­mours grow and, more im­por­tantly, spread

Thoth’s space el­e­va­tor would be a land­ing pad

on a very tall pil­lar

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