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The new medicine: hacking our biology

October 1, 2012

mind-controlled_robot

The New Medicine: Hacking Our Biology is part of the series “Engineers of the New Millennium” from IEEE Spectrum magazine and the Directorate for Engineering of the National Science Foundation. These stories explore technological advances in medical inventions to enhance and extend life.

AFTER A STROKE: REGAINING MUSCLE CONTROL — A “music glove” based on the video gameFrets on Fire makes rehabilitation more fun.

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You’re far less in control of your brain than you think

When your eyes tell your hands what to think
October 1, 2012

haptic_torque_perception

You’ve probably never given much thought to the fact that picking up your cup of morning coffee presents your brain with a set of complex decisions. You need to decide how to aim your hand, grasp the handle and raise the cup to your mouth, all without spilling the contents on your lap.

A new Northwestern University study shows that, not only does your brain… read more

How to assemble designer biomolecular nanomachines

October 1, 2012

Precise assembly of protein-based nanostructures (credit: Mathias Strackharn et al./Journal of the American Chemical Society)

Assembling novel biomolecular machines requires nanometer precision. Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) researchers have now found a way to acheive it.

The finely honed tip of the atomic force microscope (AFM) allows one to pick up single biomolecules and deposit them elsewhere with nanometer accuracy. The technique is referred to as Single-Molecule Cut & Paste (SMC&P), and was developed by the research group led by LMU… read more

Surgeons use woman’s own tissue to rebuild ear lost to cancer

Cartilage model placed under forearm skin to grow new covering
October 1, 2012

ear_reconstruction

Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine have successfully created a new ear for a woman who lost one of her ears to an aggressive form of skin cancer.

The reconstruction required six operations over a period of 20 months, beginning in January 2011. It is one of the most complicated ear reconstructions ever performed at Johns Hopkins, according to surgeons involved in the case.… read more

Over-65s at increased risk of developing dementia with benzodiazepine

October 1, 2012

senior_citizens

Patients over the age of 65 who begin taking benzodiazepine (a popular drug used to treat anxiety and insomnia) are at an approximately 50% increased risk of developing dementia within 15 years compared to never-users, an open access study published on bmj.com suggests.

The authors say that “considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects, indiscriminate widespread use… read more

How attention helps you remember: the role of astrocytes

New study finds long-overlooked cells help the brain respond to visual stimuli
October 1, 2012

A human astrocyte cell

A new study from MIT neuroscientists sheds light on a neural circuit that makes us likelier to remember what we’re seeing when our brains are in a more attentive state.

The team of neuroscientists found that this circuit depends on a type of brain cell long thought to play a supporting role, at most, in neural processing. When the brain is attentive, those cells, called… read more

Another augmented-reality glasses design emerges

October 1, 2012

epfl_glasses

EPFL scientists in the Laboratory of Photonic Devices are developing a prototype of a pair of augmented-reality glasses that are similar to Google Glass.

A mini-projector on the frames projects a holographic image on the lens.

One technical challenges is to allow the user to simultaneously see the information displayed on the lenses — which are too close to the eye for… read more

Planetary Resources ‘now hiring asteroid miners’

October 1, 2012

asteroid

“Do you want to be an Asteroid Miner? Well, here’s your chance!” — an email we just received.

“We’re looking for passionate college students for paid coop positions to help us mine asteroids this spring and summer,” it reads. “If you love space and want to contribute directly to the development of the next generation of space exploration technologies, we want to hear from you (or from anyone you… read more

How memory load leaves us ‘blind’ to new visual information

October 2, 2012

Dangerous distraction? (Credit: Garvin)

Trying to keep an image we’ve just seen in memory can leave us blind to things we are “looking” at, according to a new study by neuroscientists.

It’s been known for some time that when our brains are focused on a task, we can fail to see other things that are in plain sight. It’s called ”inattentional blindness.”

Here’s an example: count the number of basketball passes… read more

Gene-modified cow makes milk rich in protein, study finds

October 2, 2012

cows

Scientists have altered the genes of a dairy cow to produce milk that’s rich in a protein used in numerous food products and lacking in a component that causes allergies in humans.

Using a process called RNA-interference that turns certain genes on or off, scientists from New Zealand produced a cow whose milk had increased casein, a protein used to make cheese and other foods, and almost no… read more

Google’s answer to Siri thinks ahead

A smartphone helper that answers queries before you even ask them
October 2, 2012

Google Now (credit: Google)

Google’s vision of how a smartphone can become a trusted, all-knowing assistant is rolling out to consumers in the form of Google Now.

It’s a feature of the newest iteration of Android, Jelly Bean, which is so far available on only a handful of smartphones, and suggests that Google has ambitions to go well beyond what Siri has shown so far, Technology Review reports.… read more

Liquid air ‘offers energy storage hope’

October 2, 2012

wind farms

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers says liquid air can compete with batteries and hydrogen to store excess energy generated from renewables, BBC News reports.

IMechE says “wrong-time” electricity generated by wind farms at night can be used to chill air to a cryogenic state at a distant location. When demand increases, the air can be warmed to drive a turbine.

 

Stem cells improve visual function in blind mice

October 2, 2012

retina_AMD

An experimental treatment for blindness, developed from a patient’s skin cells, improved the vision of blind mice in a study conducted by Columbia ophthalmologists and stem cell researchers.

The findings suggest that induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — which are derived from adult human skin cells but have embryonic properties — could soon be used to restore vision in people with macular degeneration and other… read more

Keeping tumor cells alive to test different drugs

Conditionally reprogrammed cells act as stem-like epithelial cells and offer promise for personalized medicine
October 2, 2012

Using a newly discovered cell technology, Georgetown University Medical Center researchers were able to identify an effective therapy for a patient with a rare type of lung tumor. The single case study provides a snapshot of the new technology’s promising potential, but the researchers caution that it could be years before validation studies are completed and regulatory approval is received for its broader use.

The patient in the… read more

‘Green Brain’ project to create autonomous flying robot with honeybee brain

October 2, 2012

The honeybee brain: a schematic view of the major neuropils of the central brain area excluding the eyes, showing the olfactory pathway (credit: Randolf Menzel and Martin Giurfa/TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences)

Scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are embarking on an ambitious project to produce the first accurate computer models of a honeybee brain in a bid to advance our understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how animals think.

The team will build models of the systems in the brain that govern a honeybee’s vision and sense of smell. Using this information, the researchers… read more

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