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Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Defeating the cancer, AI

COULD the immune system be reprogrammed to fight cancer? It seems that macrophages - immune cells roped in by tumours to help them grow - can be turned into cancer killers.

Macrophages normally clean up dead and dying cells after an infection. In theory, macrophages should gobble up cancer cells too. "They should [swallow] dead and dying cancer cells, and stimulate an immune response against the tumour," says David Ian Stott of the University of Glasgow, UK.

Instead, cancer cells release chemical signals that persuade macrophages to turn traitor, releasing growth factors that feed the tumour rather than destroy it. "Macrophages are educated by cancer cells to promote tumour growth," says Thorsten Hagemann at Barts and The London Queen Mary's Medical School in London. "If you remove macrophages from mice that are susceptible to cancer, they develop fewer tumours."


My comment: Can't they just convince that cells to not communicate with the cancer cells? I thought there are such treatments already. Or at least the idea of them.


When your software crashes, you probably restart your PC and hope it doesn't happen again, or you get the bug fixed. But not Rachel Wood. When a program she was testing screwed up a task that a 2-year-old would find easy, she was elated.

The reason for this seemingly perverse reaction is that Wood's program didn't contain a bug, but had committed a famous cognitive goof identified by the psychology pioneer Jean Piaget. Known as the A-not-B error, it is made by babies between 7 and 12 months old and is seen as one of the hallmarks of fledgling human intelligence.

Wood's robot has a brain far simpler than a baby's. But unravelling the events that led to this human-like behaviour - something that is easier to do in a computer program than a real brain - could help improve our understanding of artificial intelligence.


My comment: Bravo. I can't wait to see a working AI, it will be truly historical moment. And then it gets scary.

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