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A High-Voltage Fight Against Cancer

Researchers are trying to kill tumors by zapping them with high-voltage, nanosecond electric pulses

6 min read

10 June 2004--In the relentless battle against cancer, researchers are now experimenting with a shocking new treatment--literally. They discovered that by zapping cells with extremely brief, high-voltage electric pulses, they could trigger the self-destruct mechanism in the cells' biochemical machinery. This mechanism, called apoptosis or programmed cell death, occurs naturally in the body, as tissues continually eliminate cells that are old, damaged, or simply no longer necessary.

The researchers are trying to find types of electric pulses that can trigger the suicide mechanism in cancer cells without affecting healthy ones. They hope the method will one-day serve as a tumor treatment that is less invasive than surgical removal and has fewer harmful side effects than chemotherapy. But critics caution that the technology is clinically unproven and may not make it out of the lab.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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