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Air pollution can lead to lung cancer. The connection suggests new ways to stop cancer in its tracks.

Researchers at Francis Crick Institute found that air pollution can "wake up" existing mutations, triggering them to turn into lung cancer. The scientists used their new understanding about this connection to prevent cancer in mice.

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Forget taking a deep breath. Around the world, 99 percent of people breathe air polluted to unsafe levels, according to data from the World Health Organization. Activities such as burning fossil fuels release greenhouse gases that contribute to air pollution, which could lead to heart disease, stroke, asthma, emphysema, and some types of cancer.

“The burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, and air pollution is now recognized as the single biggest environmental threat to human health,” wrote the authors of a 2021 WHO report.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.
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CandyCodes could provide sweet justice against fake pills

A bioengineer at the University of California, Riverside, may have found a way to prevent counterfeit medications: pill coatings inspired by the sprinkles on baked goods and candies.

Photo by danilo.alvesd on Unsplash

When we swallow a pill, we hope it will work without side effects. Few of us know to worry about a growing issue facing the pharmaceutical industry: counterfeit medications. These pills, patches, and other medical products might look just like the real thing. But they’re often stuffed with fillers that dilute the medication’s potency or they’re simply substituted for lookalikes that contain none of the prescribed medication at all.

Now, bioengineer William Grover at the University of California, Riverside, may have a solution. Inspired by the tiny, multi-colored sprinkles called nonpareils that decorate baked goods and candies, Grover created CandyCodes pill coatings to prevent counterfeits.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.
For patients with macular degeneration, new hope for restored sight

An implant, combined with the glasses and tiny video camera modeled in this photo, could improve the eyesight of millions of people with degenerative eye diseases in the coming years.

Daniel Palanker

For millions of people with macular degeneration, treatment options are slim. The disease causes loss of central vision, which allows us to see straight ahead, and is highly dependent on age, with people over 75 at approximately 30% risk of developing the disorder. The BrightFocus Foundation estimates 11 million people in the U.S. currently have one of three forms of the disease.

Recently, ophthalmologists including Daniel Palanker at Stanford University published research showing advances in the PRIMA retinal implant, which could help people with advanced, age-related macular degeneration regain some of their sight. In a feasibility study, five patients had a pixelated chip implanted behind the retina, and three were able to see using their remaining peripheral vision and—thanks to the implant—their partially restored central vision at the same time.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.