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Transport for London
Transport for London

London Underground Map Gets a Redesign to Help Riders With Anxiety

Transport for London
Transport for London

For some London commuters, riding the Underground is a tedious part of the daily grind. For riders with claustrophobia or anxiety disorders, it can be a source of dread. In an effort to make travel accessible to more passengers, Transport for London, the city transportation authority, has published a Tube map identifying routes that bypass long stretches of tunnels, The Independent reports.

Though London’s subway system is called the Underground, most stops are located above street level. It is possible to ride the transit network across London without venturing beneath the city for uninterrupted periods. Even so, some residents prone to anxiety or panic attacks in tight spaces avoid the Tube altogether.

The new design aims to make commuting a more tolerable experience for nervous riders. In the updated map, sections of lines located underground are highlighted in gray, making them easier to navigate around. Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of the advocacy group Anxiety UK, said in a statement:

"This new map is an excellent resource for those wishing to avoid journeys where there are tunnels, serving as a great pre-journey planning aid and increasing access to public transport. I sincerely hope that the map will encourage those with claustrophobia and/or panic attacks who have previously avoided this form of public transport out of fear to re-consider their use of the Tube."

Section of London Underground map.
Transport for London

Section of London Underground map.
Transport for London

Opening up its services to more customers has become a top priority for Transport for London. In April, it made "please offer me a seat" badges available to riders with physical ailments that often go unnoticed. Riders who tested the program said it made 72 percent of their journeys easier.

[h/t Independent]

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Medicine
New Cancer-Fighting Nanobots Can Track Down Tumors and Cut Off Their Blood Supply
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Scientists have developed a new way to cut off the blood flow to cancerous tumors, causing them to eventually shrivel up and die. As Business Insider reports, the new treatment uses a design inspired by origami to infiltrate crucial blood vessels while leaving the rest of the body unharmed.

A team of molecular chemists from Arizona State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences describe their method in the journal Nature Biotechnology. First, they constructed robots that are 1000 times smaller than a human hair from strands of DNA. These tiny devices contain enzymes called thrombin that encourage blood clotting, and they're rolled up tightly enough to keep the substance contained.

Next, researchers injected the robots into the bloodstreams of mice and small pigs sick with different types of cancer. The DNA sought the tumor in the body while leaving healthy cells alone. The robot knew when it reached the tumor and responded by unfurling and releasing the thrombin into the blood vessel that fed it. A clot started to form, eventually blocking off the tumor's blood supply and causing the cancerous tissues to die.

The treatment has been tested on dozen of animals with breast, lung, skin, and ovarian cancers. In mice, the average life expectancy doubled, and in three of the skin cancer cases tumors regressed completely.

Researchers are optimistic about the therapy's effectiveness on cancers throughout the body. There's not much variation between the blood vessels that supply tumors, whether they're in an ovary in or a prostate. So if triggering a blood clot causes one type of tumor to waste away, the same method holds promise for other cancers.

But before the scientists think too far ahead, they'll need to test the treatments on human patients. Nanobots have been an appealing cancer-fighting option to researchers for years. If effective, the machines can target cancer at the microscopic level without causing harm to healthy cells. But if something goes wrong, the bots could end up attacking the wrong tissue and leave the patient worse off. Study co-author Hao Yan believes this latest method may be the one that gets it right. He said in a statement, "I think we are much closer to real, practical medical applications of the technology."

[h/t Business Insider]

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Medicine
New Peanut Allergy Patch Could Be Coming to Pharmacies This Year
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About 6 million people in the U.S. and Europe have severe peanut allergies, including more than 2 million children. Now, French biotechnology company DBV Technologies SA has secured an FDA review for its peanut allergy patch, Bloomberg reports.

If approved, the company aims to start selling the Viaskin patch to children afflicted with peanut allergies in the second half of 2018. The FDA's decision comes in spite of the patch's disappointing study results last year, which found the product to be less effective than DBV hoped (though it did receive high marks for safety). The FDA has also granted Viaskin breakthrough-therapy and fast-track designations, which means a faster review process.

DBV's potentially life-saving product is a small disc that is placed on the arm or between the shoulder blades. It works like a vaccine, exposing the wearer's immune system to micro-doses of peanut protein to increase tolerance. It's intended to reduce the chances of having a severe allergic reaction to accidental exposure.

The patch might have competition: Aimmune Therapeutics Inc., which specializes in food allergy treatments, and the drug company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. are working together to develop a cure for peanut allergies.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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