Elizabeth Holmes Admits Doctoring Lab Reports With Pharma Company Logos
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News:
Theranos founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes returned to the witness stand Tuesday, confirming key aspects of the prosecutor's allegations behind the 11 counts of fraud she faces, but asserting that there was nothing wrong in what she did. The prosecution has repeatedly shown jurors lab reports emblazoned with logos of the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Schering-Plough. Witnesses from those companies who worked with Theranos testified that the use of the logos was unauthorized and they were unaware of it at the time. Holmes admitted that she was the one who had added the logos to Theranos lab reports and sent them to Walgreens as she pursued a deal to put her blood-testing startup's diagnostic machines in the pharmacy's retail stores. "This work was done in partnership with those companies and I was trying to convey that," she said by way of explanation. "I wish I had done it differently," she added.
Addressing another key point made by the prosecution, Holmes said that when Theranos switched from using on-site analyzers to process samples to a centralized lab approach, it used third-party devices rather than its own equipment as an "invention" because there were too many samples to handle. Witnesses have testified that Theranos' signature blood-testing machine repeatedly failed quality assurance tests and delivered erroneous results. Holmes said the company didn't tell its business partners about this arrangement because it was a trade secret. She rebutted the prosecution's arguments about some of the alleged misrepresentations she made to investors, the media and business partners, affirming that she had received specific positive reports from employees and outside experts and believed their statements to be true.
When presented with company emails and PowerPoint presentations, defense attorney Kevin Downey asked Holmes about specific instances brought up by the prosecution. Jurors saw an email sent to Holmes by then-chief company scientist, biochemist Ian Gibbons, about the development of Theranos' fourth-generation device. "Our immunoassays match the best that can be done in clinical labs and work with small blood samples. Generally our assays are faster by a factor of three to 10 than kits," Gibbons wrote. Downey asked Holmes what she took that email to mean. "I understood that the 4 series could do any blood test," she replied. If Holmes is convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison. She may also face "a $250,000 fine and full or partial restitution to investors, totaling nearly $155 million," adds NBC News.
California Moves To Recommend Delaying Algebra To 9th Grade Statewide
California is in the process of approving new guidelines for math education in public schools that "
pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, de-emphasizes calculus, and applies social justice principles to math lessons," writes Joe Hong via the San Francisco Standard. The new approach would have been approved earlier this month but has been delayed due to the attention and controversy it has received. Here's an excerpt from the report:
When Rebecca Pariso agreed to join a team of educators tasked in late 2019 with California's new mathematics framework, she said she expected some controversy. But she didn't expect her work would be in the national spotlight. [...] Every eight years (PDF), a group of educators comes together to update the state's math curriculum framework. This particular update has attracted extra attention, and controversy, because of perceived changes it makes to how "gifted" students progress -- and because it pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, de-emphasizes calculus, and applies social justice principles to math lessons. San Francisco pioneered key aspects of the new approach, opting in 2014 to delay algebra instruction until 9th grade and to push advanced mathematics courses until at least after 10th grade as a means of promoting equity.
San Francisco Unified School District touted the effort as a success, asserting that algebra failure rates fell and the number of students taking advanced math rose as a result of the change. The California Department of Education cited those results in drafting the statewide framework. But critics have accused the district of using cherry-picked and misleading assertions to bolster the case for the changes. The intent of the state mathematics framework, its designers say, is to maintain rigor while also helping remedy California's achievement gaps for Black, Latino and low-income students, which remain some of the largest in the nation. At the heart of the wrangling lies a broad agreement about at least one thing: The way California public schools teach math isn't working. On national standardized tests, California ranks in the bottom quartile among all states and U.S. territories for 8th grade math scores.
Yet for all the sound and fury, the proposed framework, about 800-pages long, is little more than a set of suggestions. Its designers are revising it now and will subject it to 60 more days of public review. Once it's approved in July, districts may adopt as much or as little of the framework as they choose -- and can disregard it completely without any penalty. "It's not mandated that you use the framework," said framework team member Dianne Wilson, a program specialist at Elk Grove Unified. "There's a concern that it will be implemented unequally."
Mozilla Is Ending Support For Its Firefox Password Manager Sync App
Mozilla announced last week via a
support article that its Firefox Lockwise password manager app
will reach end-of-life on December 13th. The final release versions are 1.8.1 (iOS) and 4.0.3 (Android) and will no longer be available to download or reinstall after that date. The Verge reports:
What started in 2018 as a small experimental mobile app called Lockbox ended up bringing a way to access saved passwords and perform autofills on iOS, Android, and desktop devices to a small but enthusiastic following of Firefox fans. The app was also later adapted as a Firefox extension. It seemed like it was apt to stick around for the long run.
The support article recommends that users continue accessing passwords using the native Firefox browsers on desktop and mobile. In an added note on the support site, Mozilla suggests that later in December, the Firefox iOS app will gain the ability to manage Firefox passwords systemwide. The note alludes to Mozilla adopting the features of Lockwise and eventually integrating them into the Firefox browser apps natively on all platforms.
New Windows Zero-Day With Public Exploit Lets You Become An Admin
A security researcher has publicly disclosed an exploit for a new Windows zero-day local privilege elevation vulnerability that
gives admin privileges in Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows Server. BleepingComputer reports:
As part of the November 2021 Patch Tuesday, Microsoft fixed a 'Windows Installer Elevation of Privilege Vulnerability' vulnerability tracked as CVE-2021-41379. This vulnerability was discovered by security researcher Abdelhamid Naceri, who found a bypass to the patch and a more powerful new zero-day privilege elevation vulnerability after examining Microsoft's fix. Yesterday, Naceri published a working proof-of-concept exploit for the new zero-day on GitHub, explaining that it works on all supported versions of Windows.
"This variant was discovered during the analysis of CVE-2021-41379 patch. the bug was not fixed correctly, however, instead of dropping the bypass," explains Naceri in his writeup. "I have chosen to actually drop this variant as it is more powerful than the original one." Furthermore, Naceri explained that while it is possible to configure group policies to prevent 'Standard' users from performing MSI installer operations, his zero-day bypasses this policy and will work anyway. BleepingComputer tested Naceri's 'InstallerFileTakeOver' exploit, and it only took a few seconds to gain SYSTEM privileges from a test account with 'Standard' privileges, as demonstrated in [this video]. When BleepingComputer asked Naceri why he publicly disclosed the zero-day vulnerability, we were told he did it out of frustration over Microsoft's decreasing payouts in their bug bounty program. A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement: "We are aware of the disclosure and will do what is necessary to keep our customers safe and protected. An attacker using the methods described must already have access and the ability to run code on a target victim's machine."
Naceri recommends users wait for Microsoft to release a security patch, as attempting to patch the binary will likely break the installer.
Components Shortage Sends Smartphone Market Into Decline
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Component shortages have been wreaking havoc on the tech industry since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and smartphones are no outlier. Decelerated production schedules have given way to smaller stock and delayed launches. All of this has resulted in a decline in smartphone sales in Q3 of 2021 compared to Q3 2020, Gartner reported today. According to numbers the research firm shared today, sales to consumers dropped 6.8 percent. A deficit in parts like integrated circuits for power management and radio frequency has hurt smartphone production worldwide.
"Despite strong consumer demand, smartphone sales declined due to delayed product launches, longer delivery schedule, and insufficient inventory at the channel," Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. The analyst added that the production schedules of "basic and utility" phones were more affected by supply constraints than "premium" ones. As a result, premium smartphone sales actually increased during this time period, even though smartphone sales overall declined. Still, shoppers were left with limited options, Gartner noted. Samsung ended up winning the greatest market share (20.2 percent), thanks to its foldable smartphones. Apple's quarterly market share (14.2 percent) was aided by new features in its iPhones, namely the A15 processor and improvements to battery life and the camera sensor. Gartner also pointed to interest in 5G.
Japan Allocates $5.2 Billion To Fund Chip Plants By TSMC and Others
allocating about $5.2 billion of its fiscal 2021 supplementary budget to support advanced semiconductor manufacturers, Nikkei has learned. From the report:
The government plans to invest about 400 billion yen in a new factory set up by the world's largest contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. in Kumamoto prefecture, southwest Japan. The remaining 200 billion yen will go toward setting up other new factories, with projects under consideration including by U.S. memory chipmaker Micron Technology and Japan's Kioxia Holdings. The Japanese government is considering making semiconductors a new area of focus under a law targeting companies developing high-speed 5G technologies, meaning it would approve investment plans for their factories under the revised law. [...] The 600 billion yen fund would cover subsidies over several years. Companies would receive support under the condition that they would increase production when there is supply shortage, as the Japanese government hopes to ensure a stable domestic chip supply.
Atom Bank Introduces Four-Day Work Week Without Cutting Pay
The online bank Atom Bank has
introduced a four-day work week for its 430 staff without cutting their pay. The BBC reports:
Employees now work 34 hours over four days and get Monday or Friday off, when previously they clocked up 37.5 hours across the whole week. Boss Mark Mullen told the BBC it was inspired by the pandemic and would help improve wellbeing and retain staff. However, employees will have to work longer hours on the days that they are in.
Atom was one of the UK's first digital challenger banks and had 2.7 billion pounds of loans on its books in the last financial year. Its new working arrangements kicked in on 1 November after a review found they would not affect customer service or productivity. Mr Mullen said the new arrangement was voluntary, but strongly reflected his staff's preferences for more flexible working. "Everyone is expected to stick to it," he added. "I can't be sending my staff emails on a Friday, I can't expect to them to respond to them."
Tile Is Selling Its Bluetooth Tracking Business To Life360 For $205 Million
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
Tile popularized marking items and tracking them from your phone with its small Bluetooth tags, but suddenly faces more competition from giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung. The company that started out of an incubator and crowdfunding campaign has announced it will be acquired by Life360, which calls itself a "leading family safety platform." The deal is valued at $205 million and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022. Tile has developed its product line over the years with a variety of different trackers and partnerships with other companies to use its technology. It also has a subscription service, Tile Premium, with extra features, battery replacements, and insurance against potential losses. However, the game may have changed once Apple and Google started building their own item-locating features into iPhones and Android devices.
Life360 bills itself as an overall family safety app, with location sharing between family members, crash detection, and other features. Over the summer, it announced that it has over 1 million paying customers and reported its valuation had crossed $1 billion. It also acquired another item locating hardware startup, Jiobit, which makes cellular-connected trackers for kids and pets. Life360 expects the deal will increase the global footprint for both companies, Tile's non-Bluetooth Finding Network, and create a larger combined subscriber base. Currently listed on the stock exchange in Australia, Life360 says it has plans for a "potential dual listing in the US" next year.
UK Visa Scheme for Prize-winning Scientists Receives No Applications
Not a single scientist has applied to a UK government visa scheme for
Nobel prize laureates and other award winners since its launch six months ago, New Scientist reported Tuesday. From a report:
The scheme has come under criticism from scientists and has been described as "a joke." In May, the government launched a fast-track visa route for award-winners in the fields of science, engineering, the humanities and medicine who want to work in the UK. This prestigious prize route makes it easier for some academics to apply for a Global Talent visa -- it requires only one application, with no need to meet conditions such as a grant from the UK Research and Innovation funding body or a job offer at a UK organisation.
The number of prizes that qualify academics for this route currently stands at over 70, and includes the Turing Award, the L'Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science International Awards, and various gongs awarded by professional or membership bodies both in the UK and elsewhere. "Winners of these awards have reached the pinnacle of their career and they have so much to offer the UK," said home secretary Priti Patel when the prestigious prize scheme launched in May. "This is exactly what our new point-based immigration system was designed for -- attracting the best and brightest based on the skills and talent they have, not where they've come from." But a freedom of information request by New Scientist has revealed that in the six months since the scheme was launched, no one working in science, engineering, the humanities or medicine has actually applied for a visa through this route.
Apple Just Provided the Perfect Example of Why You Can't Trust App Store Review Scores
Apple Podcasts rises above bad reviews,
but at what cost? From a report:
You pissed off people by somewhat breaking your app, and they're leaving angry reviews. How can you salvage your reputation? Apple just found one incredibly effective way -- get listeners to submit better reviews by interrupting their podcast experience with an in-app prompt to submit a rating. That's how the Apple Podcasts app went from a publicly embarrassing 1.8-star score all the way to 4.6 stars in a little over a month without any actual fixes, as developer and App Store watchdog Kosta Eleftheriou points out. And it's still going up: according to AppFigures data, the app has been getting thousands of ratings every day since November 9th, with the vast, overwhelming majority of them issuing a 5-star score. The app has made it to 4.7 stars overall as of this writing and is firmly the No. 1 App Store search result for "podcast." It looks far more desirable to a new user than it might have before.
If you think there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, you might be right -- it could definitely be that people who bother to submit reviews tend to be angry, and a lot of people who love Apple Podcasts and never bothered to look it up in the App Store (remember, it's preinstalled!) are finally balancing things out. But do those people actually love Apple Podcasts? Because if you really look at the reviews, it seems like some funny business is going on. There are new, positive reviews, but they aren't reviews of the Apple Podcasts app at all -- they're reviews of podcasts themselves.
Crypto Oversight Road Map Is Set by US Banking Regulators
U.S. banking agencies provided more insight into their plans for regulating cryptocurrencies on Tuesday, issuing a to-do list of their priorities for next year and announcing a new policy that would require banks to
seek permission before offering digital currency products. From a report:
The Federal Reserve and other banking agencies released an agenda outlining areas of focus, including how they plan to weigh custody, crypto-backed loans and the possibility of capital standards, according to a joint statement. Separately, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that banks must get an additional sign-off from the regulator before engaging with digital coins. "Throughout 2022, the agencies plan to provide greater clarity on whether certain activities related to crypto-assets conducted by banking organizations are legally permissible," the Fed, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance said in the statement.
China's New Privacy Law Leaves US Behind
While China's sweeping new data privacy laws have
left tech companies confused about how to comply, they also put the U.S. even further behind in the global race to set digital standards. From a report:
China enacted its Personal Information Privacy Law earlier this month, following Europe as the second major international player to have its own sweeping data privacy regulations. The law, regarded as China's version of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation, is a set of rules for how businesses can collect, use, process, share and transfer personal information. Another Chinese data regulation, the Data Security Law, went into effect Sept. 1. The laws aim to protect Chinese citizens from the private sector, while the Chinese government still has easy access to personal data.
In May, influential U.S. business groups sent comments, viewed by Axios, to the National Peopleâ(TM)s Congress protesting that the draft lawâ(TM)s vague language, monetary penalties and criminal liabilities were harsh. They also said it would hurt innovation by being overly prescriptive and burdensome. The U.S. still does not have a federal data privacy law, and China's move could allow it to set future global norms on its terms. Meanwhile, tech companies doing business in China will have to navigate the vague new rules, and that could be expensive.
Moscow Tells 13 Mostly US Tech Firms They Must Set Up in Russia by 2022
Russia has demanded that 13 foreign and mostly U.S. technology companies be officially represented on Russian soil by the end of 2021 or face possible restrictions or outright bans. From a report:
The demand, from state communications regulator Roskomnadzor late on Monday, gave few details of what exactly the companies were required to do and targeted some firms that already have Russian offices. Foreign social media giants with more than 500,000 daily usershave been obliged to open offices in Russia since a new law took effect on July 1. The list published on Monday names the companies for the first time.
It lists Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and messaging app Telegram, all of which Russia has fined this year for failing to delete content it deems illegal. Apple, which Russia has targeted for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the mobile applications market, was also on the list. None of those companies responded to requests for comment. Roskomnadzor said firms that violate the legislation could face advertising, data collection and money transfer restrictions, or outright bans.
Apple Sues Israeli Spyware Maker, Seeking To Block Its Access To iPhones
sued the NSO Group, the Israeli surveillance company, in federal court on Tuesday, another setback for the beleaguered firm and the unregulated spyware industry. From a report:
The lawsuit is the second of its kind -- Facebook sued the NSO Group in 2019 for targeting its WhatsApp users -- and represents another consequential move by a private company to curb invasive spyware by governments and the companies that provide their spy tools. Apple, for the first time, seeks to hold NSO accountable for what it says was the surveillance and targeting of Apple users. Apple also wants to permanently prevent NSO from using any Apple software, services or devices, a move that could render the company's Pegasus spyware product worthless, given that its core business is to give NSO's government clients full access to a target's iPhone or Android smartphone.
Apple is also asking for unspecified damages for the time and cost to deal with what the company argues is NSO's abuse of its products. Apple said it would donate the proceeds from those damages to organizations that expose spyware. Since NSO's founding in 2010, its executives have said that they sell spyware to governments only for lawful interception, but a series of revelations by journalists and private researchers have shown the extent to which governments have deployed NSO's Pegasus spyware against journalists, activists and dissidents. Apple executives described the lawsuit as a warning shot to NSO and other spyware makers. "This is Apple saying: If you do this, if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers, dissidents, activists or journalists, Apple will give you no quarter," Ivan Krstic, head of Apple security engineering and architecture, said in an interview on Monday.
Samsung Picks Texas Site for $17 Billion Advanced US Chip Plant
Samsung Electronics has
decided to build an advanced U.S. chip plant in Texas, a win for the Biden administration as it prioritizes supply chain security and greater semiconductor capacity on American soil. From a report:
South Korea's largest company has decided on the city of Taylor, roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) from its giant manufacturing hub in Austin, a person familiar with the matter said. Samsung and Texas officials will announce the decision Tuesday afternoon, according to people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified because the news hasn't been made public. A Samsung representative said it hadn't made a final decision and declined further comment. Samsung is hoping to win more American clients and narrow the gap with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Its decision, which came months after de facto leader Jay Y. Lee was released from prison on parole, follows plans by TSMC and Intel Corp. to spend billions on cutting-edge facilities globally. The industry triumvirate is racing to meet a post-pandemic surge in demand that has stretched global capacity to the max, while anticipating more and more connected devices from cars to homes will require chips in future. The plant will cost Samsung $17 billion to set up, according to WSJ.
India To Propose Prohibiting All Private Cryptocurrencies
India is preparing a bill to
regulate cryptocurrencies, which will be presented to parliament in the session starting Nov. 29. From a report:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government proposes to help the central bank create an official digital currency, according to a description of the bill, posted on parliament's website Tuesday. "The bill also seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India, however, it allows for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses," the text reads.
An 'Incident' With the James Webb Space Telescope Has Occurred
A short update on the projected launch date of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope came out of NASA on Monday, and it wasn't exactly a heart-warming missive. From a report:
The large, space-based telescope's "no earlier than" launch date will slip from December 18 to at least December 22 after an "incident" occurred during processing operations at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. That is where the telescope will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket provided by the European Space Agency. "Technicians were preparing to attach Webb to the launch vehicle adapter, which is used to integrate the observatory with the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket," NASA said in a blog post. "A sudden, unplanned release of a clamp band -- which secures Webb to the launch vehicle adapter -- caused a vibration throughout the observatory."
Microsoft's Qualcomm Exclusivity Deal for Windows on Arm Reportedly Ending Soon
Qualcomm reportedly has an exclusivity deal with Microsoft for Windows on Arm licenses. From a report:
The pair launched Windows on Arm laptops in 2016, and so far we haven't seen any devices launch without a Qualcomm chip. XDA-Developers reports that Qualcomm has had an exclusivity deal on Windows on Arm, but that it's set to expire soon. The report comes days after MediaTek held its executive summit with members of the media last week, where it shared its ambitions to build its own chip for Windows on Arm PCs. If Microsoft's exclusivity deal is about to end with Qualcomm, this could open the door for many more vendors supporting Windows on Arm. Samsung, MediaTek, and even Apple's M1 chips could eventually support Windows on Arm.
Italian Competition Watchdog Fines Apple, Amazon $225M
Italy's antitrust watchdog has fined Apple and Amazon
a total of more than 200 million euros ($225 million) for cooperating to restrict competition in the sale of Apple and Beats branded products in violation of European Union rules. From a report:
An investigation found that provisions in a 2018 agreement between the U.S. tech giants limited access to Italy's Amazon marketplace to selected resellers, the Italian Competition Authority said Tuesday. The watchdog slapped Apple with a 134.5 million euro ($151.32 million) fine and Amazon with a 68.7 million euro ($77.29 million) penalty. It also ordered them to end the restrictions and give resellers access in a "non-discriminatory manner." Both Apple and Amazon said they would appeal.
EU Lawmakers Pass Strict New Rules Affecting Big US Tech
The lead committee in the European Parliament writing new tech rules passed measures Tuesday that could
impact major U.S. and European tech companies. Lawmakers voted to approve measures in the draft Digital Markets Act that could mean:
1. A company's messaging or social media app is interoperable, to prevent users feeling forced to use one or the other because that's where their friends are
2. A ban on behavioral targeting of ads to minors
3. Fines of as much as 20% of a company's global annual sales for breaches for the law
Companies identified as "gatekeepers" and therefore set to be accountable under the DMA include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Booking.com, and could later hit online marketplaces Zalando and Alibaba.
Niantic Raises $300 Million At $9 Billion Valuation To Build the 'Real-World Metaverse'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
Niantic, the augmented reality platform that's developing games like Pokemon GO, raised $300 million from Coatue, valuing the company at $9 billion. The San Fransisco-based startup, which initially spun out of Google, will use this money to build what it calls the "real-world metaverse." As early as August, Niantic founder and CEO John Hanke has referred to the metaverse -- at least, the one that renders us bound to VR headsets, like in "Ready Player One" -- as a "dystopian nightmare."
Unlike Facebook, which changed its company name to Meta to signal its investment in VR technology, Niantic wants to develop technology that brings people closer to the outside world. Earlier this month, Niantic unveiled its Lightship AR Developer Kit (ARDK), which makes tools to develop AR games publicly available for free to anyone who has a basic knowledge of the Unity game engine. "At Niantic, we believe humans are the happiest when their virtual world leads them to a physical one," Hanke said at the time. "Unlike a sci-fi metaverse, a real-world metaverse will use technology to improve our experience of the world as we've known it for thousands of years." The funding will help expand the ARDK, which has already been used by companies like Coachella, Historic Royal Palaces, Universal Pictures, SoftBank, Warner Music Group and the PGA of America to create augmented reality experiences.
Apple Users Cancel Spotify Over Lack of HomePod Support
Long-time Slashdot reader
We know Spotify has many complaints about Apple, specifically how Apple Music competes with Spotify. This has resulted in many complaints about unfair competition from Spotify, enough to bring about the scrutiny of European regulators. However, it appears Spotify might be the architect of their own complaints, from not supporting AirPlay 2 (which they rapidly backtracked on due to customer complaints), to now, not supporting the HomePod natively.
Apple introduced third-party support for the HomePod, which allows the speaker to natively play audio from streaming services without requiring an iOS device. Most notably, when the list of providers supporting the feature was announced by Apple, Spotify was conspicuously absent. Now Apple users are demanding Spotify add support for HomePod or they are switching to Apple Music.
Cancer Cells Use 'Tiny Tentacles' To Suck Mitochondria Out of Immune Cells
Hmmmmmm shares a report from SciTechDaily:
Investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and MIT used the power of nanotechnology to discover a new way that cancer can disarm its would-be cellular attackers by extending out nanoscale tentacles that can reach into an immune cell and pull out its powerpack. Slurping out the immune cell's mitochondria powers up the cancer cell and depletes the immune cell. The new findings, published in Nature Nanotechnology, could lead to new targets for developing the next generation of immunotherapy against cancer.
To investigate how cancer cells and immune cells interact at the nanoscale level, [corresponding author Shiladitya Sengupta, PhD, and co-director of the Brigham's Center for Engineered Therapeutics] and colleagues set up experiments in which they co-cultured breast cancer cells and immune cells, such as T cells. Using field-emission scanning electron microscopy, they caught a glimpse of something unusual: Cancer cells and immune cells appeared to be physically connected by tiny tendrils, with widths mostly in the 100-1000 nanometer range. (For comparison, a human hair is approximately 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers). In some cases, the nanotubes came together to form thicker tubes. The team then stained mitochondria -- which provide energy for cells -- from the T cells with a fluorescent dye and watched as bright green mitochondria were pulled out of the immune cells, through the nanotubes, and into the cancer cells.
"By carefully preserving the cell culture condition and observing intracellular structures, we saw these delicate nanotubes and they were stealing the immune cells' energy source," said co-corresponding author Hae Lin Jang, PhD, a principal investigator in the Center for Engineered Therapeutics. "It was very exciting because this kind of behavior had never been observed before in cancer cells. This was a tough project as the nanotubes are fragile and we had to handle the cells very gently to not break them." The researchers then looked to see what would happen if they prevented the cancer cells from hijacking mitochondria. When they injected an inhibitor of nanotube formation into mouse models used for studying lung cancer and breast cancer, they saw a significant reduction in tumor growth.