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Mini lab-created organs successfully check cancer treatments
Organoid culture
Microscopic images of lab-grown organoids from a patient with metastatic gastroesophageal cancer. Photo: George Vlachogiannis / Institute of Cancer Research at the Royal Cancer Hospital

Scientists used lab-grown cells from an individual's cancer tumor to study their response to different drugs, according to a new study published in Science Thursday.

Why it matters: These cells, called organoids, bring us a step toward honing precision medicine for patients with aggressive, metastatic gastrointestinal cancers.

"It could allow clinicians not only to test known anticancer drugs but also other drugs that are not being used in cancer but that could be re-purposed for that particular patient."
— Meritxell Huch of the University of Cambridge's Gurdon Institute
Erin Ross Feb 22
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The science of conspiracies: Where Flat Earth meets Pizzagate
A flat earth surrounded by flying saucers
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

"Fake news" was rampant throughout the 2016 election — and it's still around. But it's hardly new: people have believed in conspiracy theories for ages, and scientists are no stranger to combating them.

The bottom line: From anti-vaccine conspiracies to climate change denial to those who believe in modern "fake news," many conspiracy theories are united by one idea: “Nothing is an accident. They never accept randomness,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol who studies climate change denial.

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Scientists put human cells in a sheep embryo. Here's what that means.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Researchers have successfully incorporated human cells into a sheep embryo — the first step in a process that they hope may one day allow them to grow replacement organs in other animals. The advance is one of several recent ones in a burgeoning field that is raising ethical questions.

The bottom line: Advances in the past year are important proofs-of-principle that this is even a plausible approach but an organ hasn't been grown in a large animal.

"We’re a long way away from getting a human tissue in a pig or sheep," says Thorold Theunissen, a stem cell biologist at Washington University School of Medicine. "It's a tantalizing prospect and important that more experiments are done.”
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Wilbur Ross wants to turn the moon into an outer space "gas station"
Solar eclipse viewing
Wilbur Ross, flanked by Jeff Sessions and Ivanka Trump, watches the partial solar eclipse from the White House. Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration's outer space vision is a commercial paradise, where private innovators colonize the low Earth orbit and help the government send Americans to Mars.

What's new: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC Thursday morning that the next big step in commercializing space is to turn the moon into "a kind of gas station for outer space."

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What happens in an age of "peak human"
Hopping a ride in Jalandhar, India. Photo: Shammi Mehra / AFP / Getty

Earth will have almost 10 billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations, and yet another billion by the turn of the century, creating a substrate of tension under climate change, aging, and automation. But Vienna-based demographers say these forecasts overstate the population trend. Instead, they say, we are headed for a population plateau and decline — in short, "peak human."

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The Trump administration's vision for space: A commercial paradise
Pence
Pence at the first National Space Council meeting in October 2017. Photo: Joel Kowsky / NASA via Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence, the chair of the newly reconvened National Space Council, outlined President Trump's space strategy at the council's second meeting Wednesday. Pence said that for companies looking to commercialize low Earth orbit, "the government will be a partner and customer, not a competitor."

Why it matters: SpaceX's successful launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket in early February put the spotlight on private companies who have stepped into the space race. Trump says he plans to send Americans back to the moon, and then onto Mars, and his administration hopes to accomplish these goals with the help of private industry.

Erin Ross Feb 21
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Pigeons may be proxies for pollution in people
Pigeons, surrounded by snow, cluster on dry ground around a New York City storm drain to stay warm
Pigeons of New York. Photo: Cem Ozdel / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Pigeons and people living in the same neighborhood are likely to have comparable rates of lead exposure, according to a study presented at the 2018 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in Austin, Texas.

Why it matters: The birds might one day serve as the metaphorical canary in a coal mine, alerting officials to pollution-caused illnesses before they occur in humans.

Ina Fried Feb 21
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Indian entrepreneurs pledge $30 million to use "AI for good"
Indian Prime Minister Modi attended the recent opening of the Wadhwani Institute in Mumbai
Indian Prime Minister Modi attended the recent opening of the Wadhwani Institute in Mumbai. Photo: Wadhwani Institute

A new research center in Mumbai aims to use artificial intelligence to help the hundreds of millions of people that live on less than $2 a day.

Why it matters:

"The benefits of AI are going to the top whatever — 5,10 20 percent. ... So far it's made relatively little difference to the bottom 20-30 percent of the world's population."
— India entrepreneur Sunil Wadhwani tells Axios
Bob Herman Feb 20
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Mayo Clinic CEO is retiring
Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy speaks at an event.
Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy speaks at an event in 2013. Photo: Karen Bleier / AFP via Getty Images

Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy will retire from his position at the end of 2018.

Why it matters: This opens up one of the most prestigious executive positions in health care, given Mayo Clinic's clinical reputation. Mayo Clinic's board — which includes big names such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former Ford CEO Alan Mulally and President Obama's former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — hopes to pick Noseworthy's successor by the fall.

Go deeper: Noseworthy raised eyebrows last year after he said the medical center would prioritize patients who have private health insurance over those who have Medicare and Medicaid.

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X-ray reveals hidden artwork behind Picasso painting
Pablo Picasso seated at a table with many of his paintings. Photo: Gjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Researchers using x-ray technology discovered hidden artwork beneath one of Pablo Picasso's Blue Period paintings, National Geographic reports. The 1902 painting La Misereuse Accroupie (The Crouching Beggar) analyzed by a team of researchers from U.S. and Canada revealed Picasso painted over a landscape portrait by an unknown artist.

Flashback: In 1957, Picasso said that x-ray technology might be used to reveal a hidden work in one of his earliest paintings.