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In a paper published last month, researchers at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization described the effectiveness of Caenorhabditis elegans, a millimeter long, mud-loving nematode, in detecting chemicals associated with explosives. If they’re right, bomb detection could get cheaper and easier. But not everyone is convinced that they are.
Nematodes aren’t the first organism investigated for their keen sense of smell. Dogs, rats, pigs, cows, insects, bacteria and even plants and have been used to find all kinds of explosives. So far, nothing has worked as well as the trusty canine snout.
But according to Dr. Stephen Trowell, the team’s leader, a machine that uses his worms could surpass all these in sensitivity. “All signs are that it’s as good as it gets,” he said.
The nematodes smell chemicals like nitroglyceride and cyclohexanone — both found in the air around homemade C4 explosives — through tiny scent organs on the sides of their mouths called amphids. Each amphid has twelve different kinds of receptors that relay signals to the brain.
Trowell thinks he can extract these receptors from the nematode and incorporate them into a portable testing device, removing the organism from the process entirely. To do so, they will have to couple the receptors to an electric signal, so their response would be readable by the machine. The specifics of the apparatus are still under wraps; Trowell wouldn’t give any details until their paper describing the mechanics was published.
So should bad guys really be worried? Glen Rains doesn’t think so. “There’s always talk about doing this electronically eventually,” said Rains, a biological and agricultural engineer at the University of Georgia in Athens, who has been working on training wasps to detect everything from explosives to crop disease. But, he said, the mechanization of these odor responses “will be further down the road than some people realize.”
One of the roadblocks Trowell and his team might encounter is that the proteins they extract have to still work outside of the worm. That’s not always the case, said Jeffrey Tomberlin, an entomologist at Texas A&M in College Station, who trains flies to detect odors, worries that proteins removed from the worm might stop sniffing all together. By taking the components out, he said, “you could lose the true essence of the response.”
The nematodes’ sense of smell is not only highly sensitive, but also specific — they can’t detect everything. In Trowell’s study, published in PLoS ONE in early September, they only responded to compounds associated with homemade and commercial explosives, and not high-end military bombs. Still, Trowell said, “many of the things that are available to people with bad intentions, we can detect.”
Despite skepticism from others in his field, Trowell’s lab has found no shortage of interest. The Australian Department of Defense recently gave the lab a grant to build a prototype of their bomb-sniffing machine, and the team filed for a patent on similar technology in January. It remains to be seen, however, if their device actually works.
In the meantime, Trowell isn’t limiting himself, or his worms, to bombs. His team is already using the nematodes to detect food and wine quality, and he hopes to use the worms to sniff out diseases by analyzing someone’s breath. While the technology might not be there yet, Trowell isn’t the only one excited about biological noses. Tomberlin agreed that when it comes to the potential applications, “the only limitation is our imagination.”
This article is provided by Scienceline, a project of New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.
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In 2014, the famous British scientist Stephen Hawking said that efforts to create ‘thinking machines’ pose a danger to human existence.
In an interview with the BBC, he said, ‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’
It was a stark statement, so why did he make it?
First, he made the statement in response to a question about how AI had helped improve the tools he used to speak.
Prof Hawking said that while early AI had proven very useful, the consequences of creating something that could match or surpass human intelligence are very concerning.
“It [the AI] would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate,” he said.
“Humans, limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”
Now that everyone has seen the immense yet flawed power of generative AI like ChatGPT and Bard (by Google), does Prof Hawking’s prediction appear even closer to reality?What are the biggest dangers of AI?
The biggest dangers of AI include the following:
Autonomous weapons that gain a ‘mind of their own’ and start killing people
AI’s power for social and electoral manipulation, especially in weakening democracies like the US and the UK
Invasion of privacy and social grading (like China’s social credit system)
Millions of job losses due to AI-powered job automation
AI biases and prejudices that put minority populations at risk
Algorithmic trading that could trigger the next financial crisis
And it’s not just the tech bros and scientists who envision the incredible power of AI.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin said, “Artificial intelligence is the future for Russia and all humankind. It comes with enormous opportunities but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
Read more: An open letter calling for a pause on large AI projects by the Future of Life Institute.Stay compliant, stay competitive
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Book a callCan AI take over the world?
AI encompasses various technologies and applications and is not a single entity.
It is unlikely that a single AI system or application could dominate the world.
However, soon, machines could be so sophisticated they can hack into essential systems such as power grids and financial systems, gaining control of vital aspects of human life on the planet.What did Elon Musk say about AI?
As far back as 2014, Elon Musk warned an audience at MIT that AI is “our biggest existential threat”.
“I think we should be cautious about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess our [humanity’s] biggest existential threat, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful,” said Musk.
“I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to ensure that we don’t do something very foolish.”
He went on to say: “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out.”
Read more: As a company director, leader or board member, you should ensure your organisation has a policy on AI use in the workplace. Here’s a guide.Why AI will not take over the world
In straightforward terms, AI will have difficulty replacing humans because AI can’t replace human talent.
In specific tasks, artificial intelligence excels, but it must rely on training data to “think”.
Artificial intelligence cannot innovate or create, so businesses will still rely on humans to develop new ideas.
Communication is another thing humans excel at. Good communication is essential for leadership, team building, and establishing relationships with clients.
AI won’t replace human talent; it may even help it thrive.
AI is a tool, just like the printing press that revolutionised communication, or the personal computer, and then the Internet, which changed the world financially, socially and creatively.Will AI replace the human race?
In 2023, Musk told the New York Times that AI would grow vastly more intelligent than humans and overtake the human race by 2025, adding that things would get “unstable or weird.”
Despite Musk’s prediction, most experts in the field say humanity will survive as AI develops but there are growing calls for the industry to be regulated.
Learn more about ChatGPT at work. Maximising use, preventing misuse.
Global warming has already affected our sea levels and permafrost, and now it’s coming after plants and animals. A new study shows that if we current on our current trajectory of global warming, 16 percent of species will be in danger of extinction.
University of Connecticut professor Mark Urban performed a meta-analysis of five years’ worth of multispecies studies, evaluating how extinction risk varied depending on “future global temperature increases, taxonomic groups, geographic regions, endemism, modeling techniques, dispersal assumptions, and extinction thresholds.” To counteract the wide variation in predictions, Urban analyzed studies that used both conservative and liberal extinction thresholds. He found that risk accelerates as our global temperature rises, and extinction risks are highest in South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Possible reasons for increased risk in certain regions are the number of endemic species within a small range, and, for Australia and New Zealand, small land masses that restrict species from moving to more suitable climates. Regions that haven’t been studied as thoroughly might also face greater risks; for example, there were only four studies in Asia.
Since the studies available varied so widely in their predictions, Urban says he did his study to come up with a more global picture of extinction risks from climate change. He believes his meta-analysis takes into account uncertainties and provides “an overall mean” of the studies. “Depending on which study you look at, you can come away with a rosy or gloomy view of climate change extinctions,” he says. “That’s because each study focuses on different species, regions of the world, and makes different assumptions about climate change and species’ biologies.”
Though the studies Urban analyzed were diverse, they didn’t give the complete picture: many lacked information on factors like species interactions, dispersal differences, and evolution. These factors could significantly affect a species’ extinction risk. Urban says his study is a summary of the current information available, and he hopes his work inspires biologists to incorporate these processes into future models.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, we’re right now in the midst of the worst species die-offs since the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, with 1,000 to 10,000 times the regular extinction rate. And last year, National Geographic reported that one species may have already gone extinct because of global warming: the golden toad.
To stop the current trajectory of climate change and protect the at-risk species, Urban says, we need to do three things. First, plan out how we can limit future warming. Second, develop more exact predictive models of species’ responses to climate change and pinpoint which species are most in danger. Third, take conservation measures to protect the species with the highest risk of extinction.
All of this sounds pretty doable, considering the extreme measures others have taken–like living in an orange ball atop a melting iceberg for a year.
Predicted extinction risks from climate change differ by region. The areas with the highest extinction risk are South America, Australia, and New Zealand (14 to 23 percent), and North America and Europe have the lowest risk (5 to 6 percent). Urban/ScienceMag.org
The NeuroArm, a non-ferrous microsurgical robot—shown here with an electrified cutting tool and suction instrument—was used to remove a patient’s brain tumor in 2008, while she was being scanned with an MRI. University of Calgary
Chances are, you aren’t, and never will be, an astronaut. So the recent revelation that NASA is funding the development of a somewhat gruesome-sounding surgical bot—a fist-size contraption that would enter a patient’s gas-engorged abdomen to staunch bleeding or remove a ruptured appendix—isn’t exactly news you can use. The more relevant announcement might be from Intuitive Surgical, which announced that its newest robo-surgeon has been approved by the FDA. With thinner and more maneuverable arms, the da Vinci Xi will turn more open surgeries into minimally-invasive, robot-assisted procedures. Instead of requiring large incisions to get at various portions of a patient’s anatomy, the Xi will let surgeons reach essentially anywhere in the abdomen through smaller less traumatic punctures. With this clearance, the likelihood that you’ll one day be under the robotic knife just jumped significantly.
This is the near-term for robotic surgery, a gradual expansion of machines throughout the body, and through the full range of possible procedures. In addition to the da Vinci’s primary focus on the abdomen, bots are currently aiming drills in the brain, reshaping joints, and using lasers to correct vision. But the future of surgical bots appears be in some of the most challenging and specialized operations: microsurgery, or surgeries performed at a microscopic scale.
“Right now all of the operations we do are on the scale of human eyes and human hands,” says Catherine Mohr, director of medical research for Intuitive Surgical, referring to da Vinci-assisted procedures. “That’s because traditionally, medicine has been the laying of hands of the physician onto the patient, and trying to intervene. But we may be able to get that patient that much better an outcome because we’ve changed the scale of that interaction with robotics.”
It’s not that microsurgery is unheard of today. The issue is that, despite the fact that microscope-enabled surgery has been practiced for close to a century, it’s such a remarkably difficult and specialized skill, that the spectrum of related procedures is vanishingly narrow. And when those operations are possible, the waiting list for qualified surgeons can stretch for up to a year.
Robots, however, could turn more surgeons into microsurgeons, by translating large movements into minuscule ones. “Think about working in Photoshop, and you’re zoomed way in, working a pixel at a time on an image,” says Mohr. “Your mouse motions are still comfortable motions with your hand, but the scale that you’re working at is completely different.”
Microsurgery wouldn’t replace traditional surgeries, but could help solve specific problems. One example—though Mohr noted that it isn’t FDA approved, or backed up with overwhelming clinical data—would be treating breast cancer patients, who often suffer severe swelling and pain in their arms and hands following the removal of lymph nodes. This condition, called lymphedema, is caused by the disruption of natural drainage channels, meaning that blood isn’t flowing properly back through the patient’s system. Redirecting blood flow is theoretically possible, but incredibly challenging, as surgeons try to sew tiny vessels that are only barely visible under a microscope. “I’m excited that, if I can change that scale, for someone who’s got this terrible edema, we could start sewing their lymphatic channels onto the local veins, and drain it,” says Mohr. “So instead of spending their lives with compression stockings on their arms, we can go in and do a small intervention and fix it.”
For Intuitive Surgical, microsurgery is a target for research, but not a confirmed direction for development. But a microsurgical robot built by researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands is currently in clinical trials, with results expected by 2023. The unnamed bot is operated with dual joysticks and a foot pedal that adjusts the scale. It’s initially intended for complex reconstructive procedures in the hand and face, offering increased precision for microscopic procedures, such as connecting nerve fibers and tiny blood vessels.
The NeuroArm, a robot that can perform micro-scale neurosurgery while a patient is undergoing an MRI, has already been used in Canada to remove a 21-year-old patient’s brain tumor. The bot, which uses non-ferrous materials (to avoid interacting with the MRI’s magnets), was acquired by surgical imaging firm IMRIS, and has since been rebranded as the SYMBIS Surgical System. SYMBIS isn’t available for sale yet, but IMRIS already sells specialized MRI systems, which allow for scans mid-procedure. Once it’s cleared for use, SYMBIS would allow the surgeon to image the patient’s brain without removing instruments.
There are other examples of microsurgical bots currently in development, including Johns Hopkins University’s Steady-Hand Eye Robot, which deals solely with retinal procedures, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Micron, a handheld robotic instrument that would use gyroscopes and actuators to actively boost the precision of the surgeon. All of these systems are years and possibly decades from use, if they make it to market at all. But Intuitive Surgical’s interest in microsurgery is a clear indication of what’s to come. Despite a series of lawsuits leveled at the company in 2013, and the subsequent negative media coverage and pummeling in the stock market, Intuitive is the biggest maker of surgical robots, and one of the driving forces in the entire robotics industry, with systems that routinely sell for more than $2M, and more than 200,000 da Vinci procedures conducted yearly. And according to Mohr, adding micro-scale capabilities might not require entirely new robots, but rather new instruments and other modular components that would attach to some portion of the more than 2500 da Vinci’s already installed worldwide.
For us prospective patients, it doesn’t necessarily matter who makes microsurgery more accessible. What matters is that it’s coming. “We as a medical community haven’t made a lot of therapies that require that kind of super microscopic view and manipulation, because those are at the limit of what the human hands can do at unscaled motion,” says Mohr. “But if we kind of break that barrier, I think it will unleash a lot of new therapies that will have profound effects on patients’ lives.”
It takes a hookworm four to six weeks to travel through the human body and reach the gut, where it latches onto the small intestine and sucks blood to sustain itself.
That doesn’t just sound gross; it also sounds like a situation that would outrage the immune system into action. But if you take an endoscope and film these worms once they are ensconced in a human gut, says Alex Loukas, a molecular parasitologist at James Cook University, the area appears healthy rather than inflamed.
This bizarre observation hints that being worm-infested might have its upsides. To survive in the human body, hookworms and other gut-dwelling beasties have to be able to calm inflammation. Loukas and other researchers are investigating whether intestinal worms might be able to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, from celiac disease to autism to allergies. The idea behind this experimental worm therapy is that squirmy creatures called helminths evolved alongside us and actually benefit our immune system.
“It looks like it could save a tremendous amount of human pain and suffering,” says William Parker, an associate professor of surgery at the Duke University School of Medicine. “But it needs to be investigated.”
Worm therapy has a mixed record in clinical trials. For years, people have opted not to wait for FDA approval, using worms to self-treat their illnesses at home. Still, researchers are continuing to study the benefits of worm therapy. Others are entranced by the notion of using the worms as inspiration for new, improved medications.
“What we’re trying to conserve isn’t friendly…It’s not a little baby doe with those big eyes or a baby fur seal,” says Garin Aglietti, owner of chúng tôi a Mexico-based helminth provider. “But they’re an important part of ecosystems.”
Scientists, doctors, and those who self-treat are exploring what roles helminths might play in the human ecosystem.A worm by any other name
Intestinal worms have been our boon companions for many thousands of years. Today, around 24 percent of the world’s population is infected with soil-transmitted helminths. When people carry only a few worms, they’re often harmless. But in larger numbers, the parasites can cause problems such as abdominal pain and weakness. Hookworms can leave people anemic. In many parts of the world, children are often infected early in life—building up heavy burdens of worms. “It can have disastrous consequences on their physical and mental development,” Loukas says.
These worms don’t transmit directly from person to person. Instead, their eggs pass out of the body in feces and contaminate the soil in areas with poor sanitation. Nowadays, people in high-income countries rarely encounter parasitic worms.
Yet in these countries, diseases related to an overactive immune system are on the rise; more than 23.5 million Americans are now affected by autoimmune diseases.
It’s widely accepted that the composition of our gut microbial community is easily and commonly disrupted, contributing to many health problems. Perhaps, some scientists argue, the absence of intestinal worms is also a factor. Before the agricultural revolution, humans lived in less crowded conditions. This meant it was harder to pick up harmful numbers of helminths, Parker says. Our immune systems were, however, used to a small number of worms in their midst.
Over time, human and worm coevolved. Eventually, the thinking goes, our immune system came to rely on having helminths around to “train” it to develop properly. Without worms, the immune system is more likely to go rogue.
“They have been given a blanket label of parasites,” Parker says. Yet the same creature that acts as a parasite in high numbers may help us in small doses.
Not everyone is convinced. Helena Helmby, an immunologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, is skeptical that an increase in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases is related to missing worms. A disrupted microbial community is more plausible, she says. “Worms are not the only answer.” Another possibility is that worms are beneficial largely because they’re manipulating the microbiota.
What we do know is that helminths are adept at influencing the immune system. In order to ensure their own survival, these worms must dampen the immune response that would otherwise wipe them out. They do this in part by secreting molecules with anti-inflammatory properties.
That is where the promise of worm therapy lies.An uneven record
Humans have turned leeches, maggots, and bacteria into medicinal tools. Why not worms?
Helminths are appealing because they don’t appear to suppress the immune system across the board—rather, they tune it. “The immune function gets more specific and targeted at the actual danger to us, and less inflammatory in general,” Parker says. “The immune system without helminths can be much like a police force that has only hand grenades. There’s a tremendous amount of force there but it’s not very specific and not targeted.”
Scientists and people who self-treat with worms have honed in on a few candidates. Several, including pig whipworm (Trichuris suis) and rat tapeworm (Hymenolepis diminuta) are adapted to other mammals and generally can’t survive to their adult stage in humans. Human hookworm (Necator americanus) is another popular choice. They can stick around for more than a year, making them cheaper for self-treaters. But they are also more likely to cause side effects (typically cramping or anemia). Very rarely, the worms that don’t usually colonize humans can make existing psychiatric issues worse, Parker says. Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of worms with anthelmintic drugs.
So far, worms have shown promise in animal studies and small trials with humans. When scientists take the soup of proteins and other molecules secreted by worms and inject it into rodents, they can prevent all sorts of ailments like inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Loukas says.
And Parker and his colleagues have shown that when rat pups are born from a mother colonized with helminths, their brains are more protected against inflammation induced elsewhere. He believes that, accordingly, helminths may eventually help with anxiety disorders, migraine headaches, and depression. Scientists now suspect that inflammation plays a role in many of these conditions. He also suspects that helminths are more effective in preventing an overactive immune response from happening than turning off an ongoing reaction. So they would show more promise for treating seasonal allergies than those caused by irritants people are constantly exposed to, like dust.
The work of Joel Weinstock, then a gastroenterologist at the University of Iowa, launched much of the nascent field when he and his colleagues found that pig whipworm seemed to ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. In another trial, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison saw pig whipworm apparently reduce the number of lesions on the nerve cells of people with multiple sclerosis. Another multiple sclerosis trial in the United Kingdom using hookworms has recently concluded.
In autoimmune diseases, there’s typically an overabundance of a type of T cells—a kind of white blood cell—that pump out inflammation-causing chemicals. When the gut in people with celiac disease encounters gluten, there’s a boost in the numbers of these cells. But when people with celiac disease had hookworms in their guts, these cells did not increase after they slowly reintroduced gluten. Instead, the numbers of a different “peacekeeping” T cell that calms inflammation rose. It appears that the worms prompt an increase in these soothing cells, which can travel around the body to quiet down the immune response, Loukas says. He’s now about two-thirds done enrolling people for a larger, 70-person clinical trial on celiac disease led by colleagues John Croese and Paul Giacomin.
However, “There’s a checkered history recently in terms of clinical trials,” he says. In 2013, two large clinical trials on irritable bowel disease using pig whipworm failed to show any benefit. One speculation about why these trials may not have worked is because the company changed the solution the eggs were stored in, perhaps in a way that made them ineffective, Parker says. Regardless of the reason, since this major setback pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to get onboard with helminth therapy, although smaller trials have continued.DIY
Helminths aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to combat any illness. It’s not legal to sell them in this country to treat a disease, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Some people with debilitating autoimmune conditions are taking matters into their own hands. They travel to other countries where helminths are available and bring back a personal supply to the United States, or order from the black market online.
“Basically the whole thing is now stuck in this no man’s land where it continues to grow in the underground,” says Judy Chinitz, a co-founder of Biome Restoration, which provides the larvae of rat tapeworm in the United Kingdom.
Parker estimates that between 6,000 and 7,000 people worldwide use worms to manage the symptoms of their illnesses, including both adults and children. He and his colleagues have spent years surveying the self-treating community, the physicians supervising people who had decided to self-treat, and companies that sell the eggs or larvae. “We’ve gotten more than 10 percent of everybody on planet Earth who’s ever tried a helminth for therapy,” he says. Talking doctors has allowed them to build a picture that includes people who tried worm therapy and found it ineffective or unpleasant, as well as people who are pleased with their internal guests.
“We initially thought that people aren’t going to go for this,” Parker says. But, “If somebody’s sick [and] especially if somebody’s child is sick, they will try just about anything.” Many self-users feel that helminths have boosted their quality of life, although others detect no improvement. Journalist Moises Velasquez-Manoff tried hookworms to see if they might help his alopecia and hay fever. Ultimately, the worms did not pan out and the side effects were unpleasant.
Necator americanus chúng tôi
Velasquez-Manoff picked up his worms in Mexico, from Aglietti. There are a few other well-known providers that operate around the world; generally they strongly recommend that you involve a physician if you are determined to take helminths, or provide their own, Parker says.
However, helminth production is generally not regulated or inspected as a drug would be. People who self treat do run risks not incurred by those who sample worms through a clinical trial. And because ongoing treatment with helminths is so expensive, some unscrupulous providers offer cheap versions that may be produced in non-sterile conditions or come from unreliable sources.
In the United Kingdom, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency allows Biome Restoration to produce their larvae as a non-pharmaceutical product. Recently, the European Union has updated its rules for what is considered a novel food. Chinitz and Detlev Goj, owner and CEO of Tanawisa, a Thailand-based provider of pig whipworm eggs, are interested in seeking approval to have their helminths classified under this category in Europe (in Thailand, they are considered a natural medicine).
Hookworm larvae are delivered through a patch on the skin, while the eggs or larvae of other species are ingested. The dose varies, depending on the species and illness. But it’s typical for people to take 25 or so hookworms at a time to eventually build up a colony of around 100, Parker says. Other species must be consumed every few weeks. For pig whipworm, this means swallowing thousands of eggs at a time. Goj, who has tried this himself, says that experience was “Nothing special. It was like drinking juice.”Worm in a pill
Some researchers believe that a more promising avenue lies in the molecules helminths secrete.
“They are pathogens, I think people need to be realistic about that,” Helmby says. “We would be much better off not using live infection, but actually harnessing the product these parasites produce and then using them for anti-inflammatory treatments.”
Loukas and his colleagues feel similarly. “Evolution has taken care of drug design for us,” he says. As in his clinical trials, he is focusing on hookworms. He and his colleagues have identified the 100 most abundant proteins that the worms produce. They’ve selected a protein called AIP-2 that seems especially promising and protects against asthma in mice. It’s not clear yet how it exactly it works, although it does boost inflammation-calming T cells. He’s working with pharmaceutical companies to develop it as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease and other ailments in humans.
Loukas views his trials with lives worms as evidence the worms can influence the immune system, rather than that they are the ideal vehicle for treatment. A minority of the volunteers Loukas has worked with did experience intense gut pain when the worms first arrived, although this typically disappears after 12 to 16 weeks. That said, the volunteers are offered a deworming drug after their trial, but most don’t take it. “In almost every scenario the patients have refused the drug and have kept their worms. They love them,” Loukas says.
Intestinal worms are not particularly charismatic to most people, though. “There’s still that ick factor,” Loukas says. And producing live worms is complicated. One must collect feces from volunteers, recover the eggs, raise them to the larval stage, and clean them up so they won’t transmit any germs to the person they infect. It’s not really possible to scale up this process to the point where you’d be able to treat millions of people, Loukas says.
Developing a pill or injectable from worm proteins will be a formidable challenge, however. “There’s so many molecules that are secreted by the helminth…and there’s a lot going on there that would be impossible to recapitulate with a single pharmaceutical,” Parker says. “You’d have to reinvent the whole worm basically.”
Worm proteins haven’t been tested in people yet; a clinical trial is probably two to three years away. Medications based on individual worm proteins, or combinations of a few different ones, probably won’t be on the market for more than 10 years.Onwards and inward
To move forward and gain FDA approval, worm therapy will need large clinical trials, and it’s hard to raise funds for those without backing from pharmaceutical companies. Parker is afraid that worm therapy will languish for decades like fecal transplants, which were actually tested in 1958 but have only recently become popular to treat pernicious gut infections. “It has interest, but it’s also got baggage from these failed trials,” he says.
Still, there are small signs of progress. “One of the big roadblocks is having the parasites that the FDA will allow you to infect people with,” says John Hawdon, vice president of the American Society of Parasitologists and a researcher at the George Washington University. He and his colleagues are applying for permission to grow hookworm larvae to standards fit for testing in humans. Currently, there is no place in the United States where this is allowed; Hawdon anticipates a lengthy application process.
“As a long-term goal we may be the place to get the larvae to do the clinical trials to determine if this works or not,” he says. “It’s got a lot of promise, but we’re just not there yet, to say whether it works or not, and I don’t recommend people doing it on their own.”
A 5G Galaxy S10 could hurt – not help – Samsung
Samsung needs a big hit with the Galaxy S10 in 2023, but while 5G seems like an obvious lure for impatient upgraders, the fledgling next-gen network technology might end up harming more than helping. The Galaxy S10 went, unsurprisingly, unmentioned during Samsung’s CES 2023 keynote this week, though the carrier did discuss its 5G plans.
That first Samsung 5G phone, the company has confirmed, should be arriving in the first half of this year. Samsung isn’t the only device-maker to be hoping to beat rivals to the punch with 5G, of course, even if it’s one of the largest.
Clearly, there are bragging rights to be had if you’re among the first to launch a new technology. When it comes to 5G, we’ve seen carriers and phone-makers alike all rush to announce their handiwork in the area. AT&T’s maligned “5G E” badging for its 5G Evolution-capable phones, rolling out on devices now, is one good example. The perception of being ahead of the game when it comes to delivering 5G – even if you’re actually re-branding what other carriers would call LTE Advanced – is too rich an opportunity to miss.
Motorola, for much the same reason, announced its first 5G-compatible smartphone late last year. Again, the Moto Z3 doesn’t actually support 5G out of the box today. Instead, you’ll have to add a 5G Moto Mod sometime this year, which effectively has a separate 5G phone – complete with a processor and a battery of its own, along with the 5G-capable modem, only missing the display – packaged inside.
The downside, as both AT&T and Motorola have discovered with their 5G ploys, is that the shine that comes with being first can be quickly wiped away if the experience doesn’t match up. We saw that happen back in the days of the first LTE smartphones, too. Then, the first generation of LTE-capable devices arrived to huge fanfare and big marketing promises, only for users to find they had middling speed improvements and dreary battery life.
Although the Galaxy S-range has generally been a heavy-hitter for Samsung, it’s also evident that buyers aren’t going to upgrade on naming alone. The Galaxy S9 launched early in 2023 is a good example of that. Despite the promotions, many buyers decided it was simply too similar to its predecessor, and opted to wait things out.
Samsung clearly needs a hit in 2023 with the Galaxy S10. If the leaked specifications we’ve been seeing over the past few months are anything to go by, it’s making sure its new flagship not only delivers internal upgrades but, with a “hole-punch” display expected on select models, looks sufficiently distinctive, too. That’s a good strategy, but a misplaced focus on 5G could still yank the rug out from under the Galaxy S10.
The risks are various. Battery life is likely to be a concern with first-generation 5G, as are factors like weight and heat. Some will be beyond Samsung’s control, too: market availability of 5G is going to be patchy at best, as operators gradually roll out their networks, and little will sour owners of 5G-capable phones on the technology like hardly ever being able to use it.
Rather than focusing on a single 5G-capable version of the S10, Samsung’s strategy – if the leaks are to be believed – is to hedge its bets. In fact there could be as many as four versions of the phone, spanning the Galaxy S10 Lite, the S10 Standard, the S10+, and through finally to the S10+ 5G Edition, aka the Verizon Bolt.
Only one of the four would be 5G-enabled, the rest presumably topping out at LTE Advanced. The risk Samsung takes, though, is that the Galaxy S10+ 5G Edition would be seen as the de-facto flagship of the range. Any negative feedback about it could easily cascade down onto the rest of the S10 line-up, even if they’d be rightly expected to be better-selling devices.
Patience has its drawbacks too. Apple, for instance, is believed to be waiting for 2023 for an iPhone 5G, with factors like battery life, network availability, and power management all said to be making the Cupertino firm cautious about over-promising and under-delivering. Still, at a time when iPhone sales are struggling to meet Apple’s predictions, that restraint could prove costly.
There may not be a perfect strategy for Samsung and 5G, therefore, only a best-case scenario. The Galaxy S10 needs to balance expectations if it’s not to suffer part of the almost inevitable 5G backlash.
IMAGE Venya Geskin
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