March 10, 2014
The start of life as seen on smartphones
(The Irish Examiner) – The Instituto Marques in Barcelona, which has treated more than 1,000 Irish patients, has a hi-tech incubator called the Embryoscope, which allows couples to watch the embryos in the first days and weeks live on the internet before they are transferred to the womb. Dr Hans Arce, assisted reproduction consultant at the clinic which specialises in long-standing and unexplained infertility, said Irish patients feel closer to the process of conceiving their baby through the webcam images which were only previously seen by the embryologists working in the laboratory.
March 6, 2014
Artificial organs may finally get a blood supply
(MIT Technology Review) – In what may be a critical breakthrough for creating artificial organs, Harvard researchers say they have created tissue interlaced with blood vessels. Using a custom-built four-head 3-D printer and a “disappearing” ink, materials scientist Jennifer Lewis and her team created a patch of tissue containing skin cells and biological structural material interwoven with blood-vessel-like structures. Reported by the team in Advanced Materials, the tissue is the first made through 3-D printing to include potentially functional blood vessels embedded among multiple, patterned cell types.
Bionic arm gives cyborg drummer superhuman skills
(New Scientist) – JASON BARNES had wanted to be a professional drummer since he was a teenager. But when he lost his arm in a freak accident he thought his dream was over. Now he has a second chance at the big time – thanks to a brand new robotic arm. Barnes lost the lower half of his right arm two years ago, after getting an electric shock while cleaning a vent hood in a restaurant. But he refused to give up on his musical dream, so he built a simple drumming device out of a brace and some springs that attached to his arm.
“Biological time travel”
(Harvard Magazine) – From glowing fish to bacteria that can count, synthetic biologists are now able to create life forms never before seen on earth. “Historians and Ecclesiastes be damned,” says Sophia Roosth, assistant professor in the history of science. “In the first decades of the twenty-first century, a number of things are new under the sun.” In a lecture last Wednesday drawn from her forthcoming book, Synthetic: How Life Got Made, Roosth, a Joy Foundation Fellow this year at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, described her analysis of recent attempts at “de-extinction,” the effort to recreate extinct or endangered species using modern technologies.
March 5, 2014
Celebrity salami company BiteLabs isn’t quite ready to go to market with test-tube human meat
(Huffington Post) – A start-up called BiteLabs has been floating the idea of making salami out of test-tube meat grown from celebrity tissue samples, and has provided flavor profiles to whet potential supporters’ appetites. JLaw’s proposed flavor profile is described as having “notes of honey… spiced with orange zest and ginger,” whereas James Franco’s is “smoky, sexy, and smooth.” BiteLabs suggests pairing Kanye West’s bold, spicy test-tube steak with a strong bourbon.
March 4, 2014
Heart implants, 3-D printed to order
(MIT Technology Review) – It’s a poetic fact of biology that everyone’s heart is a slightly different size and shape. And yet today’s cardiac implants—medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators—are basically one size fits all. Among other things, this means these devices, though lifesaving for many patients, are limited in the information they can gather. Researchers recently demonstrated a new kind of personalized heart sensor as part of an effort to change that. The researchers used images of animals’ hearts to create models of the organ using a 3-D printer. Then they built stretchy electronics on top of those models. The stretchy material can be peeled off the printed model and wrapped around the real heart for a perfect fit.
A powerful new way to edit DNA
(New York Times) – Already the molecular system, known as Crispr, is being used to make genetically engineered laboratory animals more easily than could be done before, with changes in multiple genes. Scientists in China recently made monkeys with changes in two genes. Scientists hope Crispr might also be used for genomic surgery, as it were, to correct errant genes that cause disease. Working in a laboratory — not, as yet, in actual humans — researchers at the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands showed they could fix a mutation that causes cystic fibrosis.
March 3, 2014
New nanotechnology method to fight cancer with tissue-penetrating light
(Nanowerk News) – Researchers from UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed an innovative cancer-fighting technique in which custom-designed nanoparticles carry chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor cells and release their cargo when triggered by a two-photon laser in the infrared red wavelength.
February 28, 2014
Phantom limb pain relieved when amputated arm is put back to work (w/ video)
(Medical Xpress) – Max Ortiz Catalan, researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, has developed a new method for the treatment of phantom limb pain (PLP) after an amputation. The method is based on a unique combination of several technologies, and has been initially tested on a patient who has suffered from severe phantom limb pain for 48 years. A case study shows a drastic reduction of pain.
February 27, 2014
Microchip sniffs out cancer like dogs sniff out drugs
(Wired) – Billy Boyle is cofounder and president of operations at Owlstone Nanotech, whose sensors can be programmed to filter out and quantify chemicals by odour. The technology has the potential to “sniff out” illnesses such as lung and colon cancer, similar to how dogs sniff out drugs or explosives at airports. Boyle will be speaking at Wired Health on 29 April.
February 24, 2014
Scientists just created some of the most powerful muscles in existence
(Io9) – In a surprising breakthrough for the world of materials science, researchers have created some of the most powerful artificial muscles we’ve ever seen. And they did it with simple fishing line. These freakishly strong and cheap muscles could revolutionize robotics, and perhaps one day our own bodies.
February 20, 2014
Don’t worry, we’re already cyborgs
(Forbes) – There is an existential unease lying at the root of the Internet of Things — a sense that we may emerge not less than human, certainly, but other than human. Well, not to worry. As Kelsey Breseman, engineer at Technical Machine, points out, we don’t need to fret about becoming cyborgs. We’re already cyborgs: biological matrices augmented by wirelessly connected silicon arrays of various configurations. The problem is that we’re pretty clunky as cyborgs go. We rely on screens and mobile devices to extend our powers beyond the biological.
February 19, 2014
What technology is revolutionizing cancer treatment? The same one that is changing the world
(Medical Daily) – What are the most tomorrow technologies in the field of cancer medicine? The first thought that comes to mind for many people would be personalized medicine, while others would immediately champion nanotechnology. Yet underlying both these revolutionary fields is the new technology that has been made possible by the startling advances in genomic sequencing: synthetic biology. Scientists are beginning to design DNA molecules, proteins, and complex genetic circuits — biological organisms.
A new tool that seals bullet wounds in seconds with high-tech sponges
(Wired) – Caught in a fire fight, a soldier might hope for air support rained down from a Predator Drone, a kitted out AR-15 assault rifle, and soon, a tube full of high-tech cotton balls. The last item on the list might seem out of place, but the XStat syringe, filled with scientifically advanced sponges, can plug a life-threatening bullet wound in a matter of seconds.
February 18, 2014
Can ‘robotic’ pills replace injections?
(The Wall Street Journal) – The adage “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning” is destined for a futuristic makeover. Doctors may just as easily recommend swallowing sophisticated gadgets instead. That is the hope of prolific inventor Mir Imran, who has created a robotic pill to replace injectable drugs for chronic conditions such as diabetes. The gadget, in preclinical studies and backed by Google Inc.’s venture-capital unit, consists of an ingestible polymer and tiny hollow needles made of sugar that are designed to safely deliver drugs to the small intestine.
February 17, 2014
The dawn of the age of artificial intelligence
(The Atlantic) – The advances we’ve seen in the past few years—cars that drive themselves, useful humanoid robots, speech recognition and synthesis systems, 3D printers, Jeopardy!-champion computers—are not the crowning achievements of the computer era. They’re the warm-up acts. As we move deeper into the second machine age we’ll see more and more such wonders, and they’ll become more and more impressive.
Nanotechnology treated contact lenses may improve glaucoma treatment
(Nanowerk) – By 2020, nearly 80 million people are expected to have glaucoma, a disorder of the eye that, if left untreated, can damage the optic nerve and eventually lead to blindness. The disease often causes pressure in the eye due to a buildup of fluid and a breakdown of the tissue that is responsible for regulating fluid drainage. Doctors commonly treat glaucoma using eye drops that can help the eye drain or decrease fluid production.
February 14, 2014
A drug-dealing robot that upends the pharmacy model
(Wired) – The technical backbone of PillPack is a suite of drug-dealing robots. A large, beige machine in PillPack’s New Hampshire office is filled with a cornucopia of curatives which are dispensed into the plastic packets. The strip of dose packs is then fed through another robot that reviews each plastic packet for quality control purposes before a team of pharmacists double check the prescriptions and send them off to patients.
(The Economist) – THE most insidious thing about cancer is its tendency to spread. A lone primary tumour can be tackled by knife or radiation beam, as well as drugs, with a reasonable hope of success. But once it has metastasised, and spread secondary cancers around a patient’s body, such treatments are much less likely to be effective for any length of time. Stopping metastasis would thus be a great achievement. And a device created by Matteo Moretti of the Galeazzi Orthopaedic Institute, in Milan, and Roger Kamm of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, may be a step towards that goal. Their invention, which they describe in Biomaterials, is a lab-on-a-chip that mimics the metastasis of breast cancer into bone marrow.
Brain process take paper shape
(Phys.org) – A paper-based device that mimics the electrochemical signalling in the human brain has been created by a group of researchers from China. The thin-film transistor (TFT) has been designed to replicate the junction between two neurons, known as a biological synapse, and could become a key component in the development of artificial neural networks, which could be utilised in a range of fields from robotics to computer processing.
February 13, 2014
“Robocop”: When will cyborgs walk among humans
(CBS News) – Although the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence have made significant gains within the past 15 years, do not expect to see RoboCops walking among humans in the near future, said Charles Higgins, an associate professor of neuroscience and electrical engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson.