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March 19, 2014

The Next Big Thing You Missed: 3-D Printing Promises Better Bionic Limbs for the War-Wounded

(Wired) – But at the famed MIT Media Lab, the 27-year-old doctoral student is now using 3-D printing and advanced math to create a new kind of artificial limb he believes can significantly improve the lives of amputees in Sierra Leone and across the rest of the world. Sengeh relies on data-backed digital models to fashion prosthetics that he says better match the contours of the human body. And because these prosthetics are fabricated by 3-D printers, he says, they become far easier to produce.

March 18, 2014

3-D Printer Saves Toddler Struggling to Breathe

(CNN) – After doing a CT scan of Garrett’s trachea and bronchi, Hollister used a 3-D printer to create a splint out of a biopolymer called polycaprolactone. On January 31, Ohye sewed the splint around Garrett’s right and left bronchi to expand his airway. The doctors say the splint will be absorbed by Garrett’s body during the next three years as his airways grow stronger. In the meantime, Garrett is breathing easier and needs less help from the ventilator.

Nanomedicine: New Solutions or New Problems?

(Nanowerk) – A new report from Health Care Without Harm (“Nanomedicine: new solutions or new problems?”) gives an overview of nanomedicine in general with particular emphasis on environmental and human health risks, as well as raising regulatory issues that need to be addressed in order for nanomedicine to deliver on its promises without unduly introducing new risks.

Nanotechnology So Good You Can Eat It

(The Guardian) – In the last few years, the idea of electronics that can be literally eaten – or at least can safely dissolve in the body or in the environment – has unexpectedly evaded the science fiction realm, mostly thanks to advances in nanotechnology. In 2010, a group led by Siegfried Bauer – a physicist at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Germany – built a prototype of a transistor fully made of edible materials. “Polymers were made from corn, dielectric materials from sugar-like substances, semiconductors from carrot components and electrodes from thin layers of gold – that have an E number in Europe, that is, they can be taken in as food,” says Bauer.

March 17, 2014

Cryoablation and Nanoparticle-encapsulated Anticancer Drug Combined to Destroy Cancer Stem-like Cells

(Medical News Today) – Combining nanodrug-based chemotherapy and cryoablation provides an effective strategy to eliminate cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) the root of cancer resistance and metastasis, which will help to improve the safety and efficacy of treating malignancies that are refractory to conventional therapies.

March 14, 2014

Health data boom heralds new era of personalised medicine

(BBC) – We are moving from a world where we treat illnesses to one where we predict and prevent them, advised by mobile doctors in our pockets. This new era of medicine is being driven by an explosion in health-related data from a growing range of public and private sources, analysed by increasingly powerful number-crunching computers. And now that sequencing human genomes is getting faster and cheaper, the days of truly personalised healthcare are drawing closer.

Genetic languages guide the design of synthetic biological systems

( – Researchers at Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have used a computer-aided design tool to create genetic languages to guide the design of biological systems. Known as GenoCAD, the open-source software was developed by researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech to help synthetic biologists capture biological rules to engineer organisms that produce useful products or health-care solutions from inexpensive, renewable materials.

March 12, 2014

Pioneering 3D printing reshapes patient’s face in Wales

(BBC) – A survivor of a serious motorbike accident has had pioneering surgery to reconstruct his face using a series of 3D printed parts. Stephen Power from Cardiff is thought to be one of the first trauma patients in the world to have 3D printing used at every stage of the procedure. Doctors at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, had to break his cheekbones again before rebuilding his face.

Lose weight by ballooning up with new pill

(ABC News) – A new diet pill called the Obalon inflates inside your stomach to mimic the results of weight loss surgery. Once you swallow the pill, the device can stay in your stomach up to three months before it is removed. The pill’s maker, Obalon Therapeutics, claims overweight and obese patients can lose up to 20 pounds in three months because it helps you feel full, so you eat less. You can swallow up to three balloons in a 12-week period to speed up weight loss, according to the company.

Smartphones to diagnose diseases in real time

(Medical News Today) – A team from the US is developing a disease diagnostic system based on nanotechnology that will only require a smartphone and a $20 lens attachment to read results. While there are still some challenges to overcome, they are hopeful the end result will be an affordable diagnostic tool that can be used in the field.

March 11, 2014

Synthetic biologists shine light on genetic circuit analysis

(R & D) – In a significant advance for the growing field of synthetic biology, Rice Univ. bioengineers have created a toolkit of genes and hardware that uses colored lights and engineered bacteria to bring both mathematical predictability and cut-and-paste simplicity to the world of genetic circuit design.

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.


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