SNOOZE (this week in Science News): February 14

    Graphic by Savannah Christensen / North by Northwestern

    Do you smell that?

    Love is in the air, and this Valentine’s Day week, we commemorate the love of our One True Pairing: science and technology.

    Here are the most exciting science events this week:

    Trump budget plans to slash climate science funding

    How bad is it?

    The Trump administration’s suggested budget cuts would greatly damage the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding – $2.5 billion, or 23 percent, of its budget would be cut. Affected programs would include the Office of Science and Technology, water restoration initiatives in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, and funding for the prosecution of environmental crimes.

    These programs are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Trump apparently wants a future where there are no icebergs left at all.

    Are other science agencies affected?

    For the moment, NASA and the National Institutes of Health are safe. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Department of Energy, face cuts, though not to the same magnitude as the EPA.

    A shot for cancer?

    Is this real?!

    Indeed it is – in mice! Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine were able to eliminate tumors in mice with breast cancer via two injections. Even those that had metastasized, or spread to new areas of the body away from the original tumor site, were defeated by the immune system. Considering the currently-limited treatments for cancer, like radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, this is a massive advancement.

    How does it work?

    “Cancers often exist in a strange kind of limbo with regard to the immune system. Immune cells, like T cells, recognize the abnormal proteins often present on cancer cells and infiltrate to attack the tumor,” said Dr. Idit Sagiv-Barfi, one of two authors of the study. “However, as the tumor grows, it often devises ways to suppress the activity of the T cells.” In response to this, Ronald Levy, the other author, developed a method to reactivate these cancer-recognizing T cells by injecting two agents, one a stretch of DNA and the other an antibody, directly into a tumor. These T cells allow the immune system to destroy the tumor, then leave and search for identical tumors in other parts of the body.

    In the study, 87 out of 90 mice had all tumors eliminated, and the remaining three responded well to a second round of treatment.

    This sounds very exciting, but when can we expect this treatment to reach the masses?

    Sooner than you think! The treatment has been approved for human clinical trials in lymphoma patients. “I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system,” says Levy. This creates even more excitement for the future uses of this cancer treatment.

    SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy rocket

    Did you scream in excitement watching the launch?

    I can proudly say I did. I also scared people in my dorm who thought I was being attacked.

    What does this mean for space travel?

    The Falcon Heavy can carry up to 140,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit, which makes it the most powerful rocket currently flying. Additionally, the price of these launches is estimated at $90 million, which is a steal considering that a Falcon 9 launch, SpaceX’s staple reusuable rocket, costs $62 million, and the Falcon Heavy makes use of three Falcon 9 rockets.

    Mars, here we come.


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