science + technology news

The top 10 emerging technologies of 2016

June 23, 2016

nanosensors

The World Economic Forum’s annual list of this year’s breakthrough technologies, published today, includes “socially aware” openAI, grid-scale energy storage, perovskite solar cells, and other technologies with the potential to “transform industries, improve lives, and safeguard the planet.” The WEF’s specific interest is to “close gaps in investment and regulation.”

“Horizon scanning for emerging technologies is crucial to staying abreast of developments that can radically transform our world,… read more

Unexpected discovery reveals secret of how cancer spreads in the body

Could help develop treatments to prevent metastasis (awesome animated video)
June 23, 2016

primary tumor (credit: Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL)

Metastasis (spread of cancer) is one of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment. It is often not the original tumor that kills, but secondary growths. But a key question in cancer research has been how vulnerable cancer cells are able to survive once they break away from a tumor to spread around the body.

“Metastasis is currently incurable and remains one of the key targets of cancer research,” said… read more

‘Holy grail’ of breast-cancer prevention in high-risk women may be in sight

June 21, 2016

Breast cancer prevention (credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute)

Australian researchers have discovered that an existing medication could have promise in preventing breast cancer in women carrying a faulty BRCA1 gene, who are at high risk of developing aggressive breast cancer.

Currently, many women with this mutation choose surgical removal of breast tissue and ovaries to reduce their chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Notably, in May 2013,… read more

Could deep-learning systems radically transform drug discovery?

AI drug-discovery engine to be presented at Machine Intelligence Summit in Berlin on June 29-30
June 17, 2016

(credit: Insilico Medicine)

Scientists at Insilico Medicine have developed a new drug-discovery engine that they say is capable of predicting therapeutic use, toxicity, and adverse effects of thousands of molecules, and they plan to reveal it at the Re-Work Machine Intelligence Summit in Berlin, June 29–30.

Drug discovery takes decades, with high failure rates. Among the reasons: irreproducible experiments with poor choice of animal models and inability to… read more

A low-cost ‘electronic nose’ spectrometer for home health diagnosis

June 16, 2016

Current experimental design of transmitter radio-frequency front end for a rotational spectrometer. Using integrated circuits (such as the one below “CHIP1”) in an electronic nose will make the device more affordable. (credit: UT Dallas)

UT Dallas researchers have designed an affordable “electronic nose” radio-frequency front end for a rotational spectrometer — used for detecting chemical molecules in human breath for health diagnosis.

Current breath-analysis devices are bulky and too costly for commercial use, said Kenneth O, PhD, a principal investigator of the effort and director of Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE). Instead, the researchers used CMOS integrated circuits… read more

Wearable artificial kidney prototype successfully tested

June 14, 2016

Working prototype of wearable artificial kidney developed by Victor Gura, MD, and his team (credit: Stephen Brashear/University of Washington)

An FDA-approved exploratory clinical trial of a prototype wearable artificial kidney (WAK) — a miniaturized, wearable hemodialysis machine —  at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle has been completed, the researchers reported June 2 in an open-access paper in JCI Insight.

The seven patients enrolled in the study reported “significantly greater treatment satisfaction during the WAK treatment period compared with ratings of care during periods of conventional… read more

Higher intake of whole grains associated with lower risk of major chronic diseases and death

Even small increases in consumption could bring substantial health benefits
June 13, 2016

Cereal Plant, 7-Grain Bread,Wholegrain Food (credit iStock)

A meta-analysis of 45 studies (64 publications) of consumption of whole grain by an international team of researchers, led by Dagfinn Aune, PhD, at Imperial College London, found lower risks of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease overall, as well as deaths from all causes and from specific diseases, including stroke, cancer, diabetes, infectious and respiratory diseases.

The researchers say these results “strongly support dietary recommendations to increase intake… read more

Electrical fields aid wound healing

June 10, 2016

Time-lapse photo of human macrophages migrating directionally toward an anode . Left: no electric field. Right: Two hours after 150 mV/mm electric field applied (white lines shows the movement path toward candida yeast; numbers indicate start and end positions of cells). (credit: Joseph I. Hoare et al./JLB)

Small electrical currents appear to activate certain immune cells to jumpstart or speed wound healing and reduce infection when there’s a lack of immune cells available, such as with diabetes, University of Aberdeen (U.K.) scientists have found.

In a lab experiment, the scientists exposed healing macrophages (white blood cells that eat things that don’t belong), taken from human blood, to electrical fields of strength similar to that… read more

Dietary fiber has biggest influence on successful aging, research reveals

June 2, 2016

(credit: iStock)

Eating the right amount of dietary fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits can help us avoid disease and disability into old age, according to an open-access paper published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences by scientists from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia.

Using data compiled from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study… read more

Cell-phone-radiation study finds associated brain and heart tumors in rodents

May 27, 2016

Glioma in rat brain (credit: Samuel Samnick et al./European Journal of Nuclear Medicine)

A series of studies over two years with rodents exposed to radio frequency radiation (RFR) found low incidences of malignant gliomas (tumors of glial support cells) in the brain and schwannoma tumors in the heart.*

The studies were performed under the auspices of the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Potentially preneoplastic (pre-cancer) lesions were also observed in the brain and heart of male rats… read more

Automated top-down design technique simplifies creation of DNA origami nanostructures

Nanoparticles for drug delivery and cell targeting, nanoscale robots, custom-tailored optical devices, and DNA as a storage medium are among the possible applications
May 27, 2016

The boldfaced line, known as a spanning tree, follows the desired geometric shape, touching each vertex just once. A spanning tree algorithm is used in the new DNA origami method to map out the proper routing path for the DNA strand. (credit: Public Domain)

MIT, Baylor College of Medicine, and Arizona State University Biodesign Institute researchers have developed a radical new top-down DNA origami* design method based on a computer algorithm that allows for creating designs for DNA nanostructures by simply inputting a target shape.

DNA origami (using DNA to design and build geometric structures) has already proven wildly successful in creating myriad forms in 2- and… read more

Cancer-patient big data can save lives if shared globally

May 23, 2016

Data-sharing vision as facilitated by GA4GH through its working groups (credit: GA4GH)

Sharing genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could revolutionize cancer prevention and care, according to a paper in Nature Medicine by the Cancer Task Team of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH).

Hospitals, laboratories and research facilities around the world hold huge amounts of this data from cancer patients, but it’s currently held in isolated “silos” that don’t talk to each other, according to… read more

Gene helps prevent heart attack, stroke; may also block effects of aging

May turn out to be the "fountain-of-youth gene," say researchers
May 20, 2016

This is an atherosclerotic lesion. Such lesions can rupture and cause heart attacks and strokes. (credit: UVA School of Medicine)

University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered that a gene called Oct4 — which scientific dogma insists is inactive in adults — actually plays a vital role in preventing ruptured atherosclerotic plaques inside blood vessels, the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found that Oct4 controls the conversion of smooth muscle cells into protective fibrous “caps” inside plaques, making the plaques less likely to… read more

A simple home urine test could scan for diseases

May 18, 2016

Prototype urinalysis device (credit: Gennifer T. Smith et al./Lab On A Chip)

Stanford University School of Engineering | This easy-to-assemble black box is part of an experimental urinalysis testing system designed by Stanford engineers. The black box is meant to enable a smartphone camera to capture video that accurately analyzes color changes in a standard paper dipstick to detect conditions of medical interest.

Two Stanford University electrical engineers have designed a simple new low-cost, portable urinalysis device that could allow patients… read more

Ingestible ‘origami robot’ lets doctors operate on a patient remotely

May 16, 2016

An "origami robot" unfolds itself from an ingestible capsule, and can be used to perform operations in the body (credit: Melanie Gonick/MIT)

MIT researchers and associates have developed a tiny “origami robot” that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by a physician via an external magnetic field, crawl across the stomach wall to operate on a patient. For example, it can remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound.

Every year, 3,500 swallowed button batteries are reported in the U.S. alone. Frequently, the batteries are… read more

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