Scientists create first ever 3D cancer protein image
Scientists from Cancer Research UK have succeeded in creating the first ever 3D image of a protein that can help to prevent cancer.
The team from the charity’s Glasgow-based facility, the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, were able to map the structure of the c-Cbl protein, which controls cell growth.
Using high-tech X-Ray analysis the researchers found that when the c-Cbl protein is working as it should it changes shape.
This are now hoping this new discovery could lead to improved cancer treatments and prevention techniques.
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When the c-Cbl protein is defective or faulty, which it is known to be in some leukaemia patients, their cell growth is unregulated meaning cells divide excessively and could trigger cancer.
However, it was revealed that when the c-Cbl protein is switched on, it labels a cell receptor molecule for destruction.
In healthy cells the receptor amplifies a chain of cell signals resulting in normal cell growth, but in cancer cells these signals do not get switched off leading to uncontrolled cell growth.
By labelling the receptor molecule for destruction, the cell growth signal is switched off at the right time.
If c-Cbl cannot change to its active shape, it cannot label the receptor for destruction.
Dr Danny Huang from Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute in Glasgow was the lead author of the research, which has now been published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Commenting on the findings, he said: “Using cutting-edge research techniques we’ve created the first 3D image of the structure of this protein, which is pretty incredible because in real life it’s about the size of a millionth of a hair width.
“We were intrigued to see that this protein actually changes shape when it’s switched on.
“Understanding the structure of this protein is vital because if the protein can’t be switched on it is more likely to cause cancer,” he added.
“So cracking the 3D structure is a step towards designing the cancer drugs of the future.”
Meanwhile, Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, added: “Thanks to the generosity of the public, we’re able to fund a broad range of research projects like this across the UK to help us better understand how cancer cells grow, survive and spread.
“We hope these intriguing 3D structures of a key cancer protection protein will help pave the way to new approaches to tackle this disease more effectively,” she said.
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Image c/o BBC News
Peloton vulnerable to cyber attacks, McAfee research finds
Peloton, the popular exercise bikes, were found to be vulnerable to cyber attacks according to the latest research from McAfee.
For those still unfamiliar with Peloton, it is a brand of electric bikes that combines high end exercise equipment with cutting-edge technology. Its products use a wi fi connection to connect to a large tablet that interfaces with the components of the exercise device, and provides an easy way for physical activity enthusiasts to attend virtual workout classes over the internet several times a week.
“Behind the scenes is a standard Android tablet, and this hi-tech approach to the exercise bikes has not gone unnoticed. Viral marketing mishaps aside, Peloton has garnered attention recently regarding surrounding the privacy and security of its products. So McAfee decided to take a look for themselves and purchased a Peloton Bike+.
Researchers looked at Android devices, and uncovered a vulnerability that could allow an attacker with either physical access to the Bike+ or access during any point in the supply chain to gain remote access to the bike’s tablet, including the camera, microphone and personal data.
To the user there would be no indication the Bike+ has been tampered with, potentially putting Peloton’s 16.7 million users at risk of being hacked.
The flaw was found in the Android Verified Boot (AVB) process, leaving Peloton open to attackers.
They were able to bypass the Android Verified Boot process, which normally verifies all code and data within the system before booting. Researchers were able to get the device to boot bypassing this step.
This can lead to an Android OS being compromised by an attacker who is physically present. Even worse, the attacker could boot up the Peloton with a modified credential to gain privileges, granting them access to the bike remotely.
As the attacker never has to unlock the device to boot it up, there would be no trace of any access they achieved on the device. This type of attack could also happen at any point from construction to warehouse to delivery, by installing a backdoor into the Android tablet without the user ever knowing.
Given the simplicity and criticality of the flaw, McAfee informed Peloton even as auditing was ongoing. The vendor was sent full details, and shortly after, Peloton confirmed the issue and subsequently released a fix for it.
The patched image no longer allows for the “boot” command to work on a user build, mitigating this vulnerability entirely. Further conversations between McAfee and Peloton confirmed that this vulnerability is also present on the Peloton Tread exercise equipment.
Peloton’s Head of Global Information Security, Adrian Stone, commented on the research: “this vulnerability reported by McAfee would require direct, physical access to a Peloton Bike+ or Tread. Like with any connected device in the home, if an attacker is able to gain physical access to it, additional physical controls and safeguards become increasingly important.
"To keep our members safe, we acted quickly and in coordination with McAfee. We pushed a mandatory update in early June and every device with the update installed is protected from this issue.”