Angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, is an important physiological process used for healing and reproduction. Abnormal angiogenesis, either excessive or insufficient, is associated with many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, amongst many others. In these cases, new ‘abnormal’ blood vessels grow and feed diseased tissues with nutrients and oxygen, provoking the destruction of normal tissues. In the case of cancer, the abnormal vessels allow the tumor mass to grow in size, and facilitate the spreading of cancerous cells into the circulation system, where they lodge in other organs and create tumor metastases.
Interfering with the creation of these new networks of abnormal blood vessels prevents the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, stopping the cancer’s growth. While research shows a high prevalence of microscopic cancers in healthy people, the vast majority of these small lesions will never become cancerous and deadly, because they are not able to induce the formation of new blood vessels that nourish them. Therefore, there is an urgent unmet medical need to create smart probes that detect tiny lesions before they become symptomatic, or alternatively, to find a way to regress them in a selective manner back to a dormant or normal state.
The suggested treatment relies on connecting existing methods to nanometer-sized smart carriers that will lead them selectively to target tumors and their surrounding network of blood vessels, and significantly reduce the amount of drugs required as well as the extent of the treatment, ultimately abrogating the side effects associated with standard chemotherapy. It will eventually be possible to treat cancer patients based on a blood test, obfuscating the need to detect the tumors and their precise location. Using non-toxic nanomedicines, it may be possible in the future to treat cancer as a preventive measure before it becomes symptomatic or, in cases where one cannot be cured completely, to make cancer a chronic yet manageable disease. Understanding the interactions between tumor cells and normal cells will revolutionize the way we think about cancer, making it a curable or at least dormant disease leading to major improvement in the quality of life of those who suffer from it.
Comparing cancer tumor development with rapid urban growth exhibits similarities in both processes: In both cases if left untreated, infrastructure grows at an uncontrollable pace in order to nourish the new ‘tissue’, both within the biological and urban realms, bringing the system closer to its ‘point of collapse`.
Tel-Aviv provides a good example of this. Over the past decade, the city has evolved into a magnet for young creatives, causing a rise in growth and a change in the cities demographic structure. As a result, the local housing market has not been able to keep up with increasing demand. Various urban solutions are evolving in order to provide affordable and appropriate housing solutions, but these solutions frequently lack the necessary support and infrastructure, and frequently bring forth questionable living standards.
Cancer treatment engages smart nano-probes to identify and disrupt the infrastructure created during angiogenesis to treat diseased areas before they reach their pathological stage. This begs the question; can we treat overcrowding through the identification of both healthy or unhealthy infrastructure created as a result of rapid urban growth? These questions have become increasingly urgent in the case of Tel-Aviv, where market forces have created a massive change in the structure of the city, with little research or understanding as to how this will affect the city social and ecological services. Tel Aviv is today known as Israel’s startup capital, and is ranked as one of the most innovative cities worldwide. The city is undergoing a digital revolution through the implementation of innovative systems that enhance the well-being of city dwellers. The challenge is to embrace these emerging new solutions by innovatively applying and cross referencing accumulated data, and by optimizing tools for the creation of a more balanced urban ecosystem.
The application of bio-processes challenge current planning practices, and raise questions about the ways we can control the different disorders associated with urban densification. Can we monitor existing densification, determine the problematic issues and diagnose them in time to prevent collapse? Or should we expect a ‘point of Crisis’? The challenge is to use big data to leverage the benefits of densification, strengthening the advantages while simultaneously averting the `breaking bad` scenario.
Redefining the City – Towards Bio Smart City 3.0
Smart City 3.0 is supported by communication systems akin to sensory receptors in the human body. Processes in both the theoretical model and the human body are facilitated by the absorption of stimuli, and the response that follows the absorption of incoming incitements. Information gathered in the city allows us to monitor events and changing urban situations that require our response. Like the human body, where normative and pathological processes exist, the city is in a process of constant dynamic change where various processes of densification are carried out simultaneously as a new ‘tissue’ forms. In the body, there are natural mechanisms of control, but at a certain point, the body loses its ability to cure itself and pathological processes overtake and destroy the system. The use of ‘big data’ for analytical purposes, combined with the proposed nano-technological approach, can be applied to urban zones, sending `intelligent agents` to identify, detect and treat the affected area without destroying healthy tissues. These tools can prevent the development of destructive pathological phenomena, and strengthen the healing processes through a focused treatment suitably adapted to local problems.
Making the analogy between the biological research and urban planning constitutes a call to learn from physiological and pathological processes in nature and explore how we can harness the wisdom of nature and science for the benefit of planning and architecture. Just as the proposed cancer treatment uses the already accruing process in the body for the benefit of the treatment, Smart city 3.0 should use the evolving and accumulated data and information to provide targeted solutions for local situations. Integrating responsive technology that will react to a variety of issues and events is the key for establishing balanced, stable and resilient cites, all the while introducing a new social and environmental approach to the nature-human ecosystem.
Professor Ronit Satchi-Fainaro is the Chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. She is the Head of the Cancer Angiogenesis and Nanomedicine Laboratory at Tel Aviv University, and a Visiting Professor at Harvard University.
Mechanical & Electrical implementation: Eng. Yacov Biofcic, ER&D – Engineering, Research & Development
Cancer Angiogenesis and Nanomedicine Laboratory, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University: Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, in collaboration with Galia Tiram.
Supported by Tel Aviv University and Palram Industries LTD
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