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Dramatic remissions in blood cancer in immunotherapy treatment trial

"We are at the precipice of a revolution in cancer treatment based on using immunotherapy." --- Stanley Riddell, MD
March 10, 2016

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Recent advances in an immune-cell cancer treatment — a type of immunotherapy* using engineered immune cells to target specific molecules on cancer cells — are producing dramatic results for people with cancer, according to Stanley Riddell, MD, an immunotherapy researcher and oncologist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.**

Riddell and his colleagues have refined new methods of engineering a patient’s own immune cells to better target and kill… read more

Amputee feels texture with a ‘bionic’ fingertip

Other artificial-touch uses include robotics in surgery, rescue, and manufacturing
March 10, 2016

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Amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen is the first person in the world to recognize texture (smoothness vs. roughness) using an artificial “bionic” fingertip surgically connected to nerves in his upper arm. The experimental system was developed by EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) and SSSA (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna).

“The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand,” says Sørensen. “I felt the texture sensations at the tip of… read more

CRISPR enhancements: improving the ability to delete genes

March 9, 2016

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) technology employs a guide RNA to direct the Cas9 enzyme (light blue) to a target DNA sequence. Once there, Cas9 will bind when it finds a protospacer-adjacent motif sequence (red) in the DNA and cut both strands, priming the gene sequence for editing. (credit: Adapted from OriGene Technologies)

Scientists have found a way to improve the efficiency of the controversial gene editing technology, CRISPR/Cas9 (“CRISPR”).

Lauded as a groundbreaking technology that allows scientists to modify genes* for many different applications, CRISPR/Cas9 has hit stormy waters over the ethics of editing human embryos. Although the technology is faster and cheaper than past gene editing techniques, one of the problems cited is that the efficiency of deleting unwanted… read more

AlphaGo machine-learning program defeats top Go player in first match

March 9, 2016

AlphaGo (left) vs. Sedol (right) in last minute of Match 1 (credit: DeepMind)

Google DeepMind’s machine-learning AlphaGo program has defeated South Korean Go champion Lee Sedol in the first match of five historic matches between human and AI, taking place in Seoul.

The second round will take place today (Wednesday March 9 in U.S.) at 11 PM ET (1 PM KST), also covered on YouTube.

Last October, AlphaGo defeated European Go champion Fan Hui 5-0, making it the first… read more

Rats vs. computers vs. rat cyborgs in maze navigation

Is there a human metaphor here somewhere?
March 7, 2016

Electrode implant in a laboratory rat used to deliver electrical stimulation to the brain (credit: Vdegroot at Dutch Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

What would happen if we combined synthetic and biological systems, creating an intelligent cyborg rat? How would it perform?

Researchers in China decided to find out by comparing the problem-solving abilities of rats, computers, and rat-computer “cyborgs,” as they reported in an open-access PLOS ONE paper.

Rats: Six rats were trained for a week to run a series of unique mazes. After training, the researchers tested… read more

Deep learning helps robots perfect skills

March 7, 2016

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BRETT (Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks) has learned to improve its performance in household chores through deep learning and reinforcement learning to provide moment-to-moment visual and sensory feedback to the software that controls the robot’s movements.

For the past 15 years, Berkeley robotics researcher Pieter Abbeel has been looking for ways to make robots learn. In 2010 he and his students programmed BRETT to… read more

Stretchable, flexible ‘meta-skin’ cloaks objects from radar at a range of frequencies

"Invisibility cloak" may be further developed to operate in visible or infrared light ranges
March 7, 2016

Wraparound meta-skin (credit: Siming Yang et al./Scientific Reports)

Iowa State University engineers have developed a new flexible, stretchable, and  tunable “meta-skin” (metamaterial) “invisibility cloak” that uses rows of small liquid-metal devices to cloak an object from radar over a wide range of frequencies — and possibly at visible or infrared light ranges in the future.

The  skin has rows of split ring resonators embedded inside layers of silicone sheets. The… read more

Human-skin discovery suggests new anti-aging treatments

March 4, 2016

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For the first time, researchers have reported decreases in levels of a key molecule in aging human skin, which could lead to developing new anti-aging treatments and screening new compounds.

Scientists have known for some time that major structures in the cell called mitochondria (which generate and control most of the cell’s supply of energy) are somehow involved in aging, but the exact role of the mitochondria… read more

Converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbon nanotubes for use in batteries

March 4, 2016

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The electric vehicle of the future will be carbon negative (reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide) not just carbon neutral (not adding CO2 to the atmosphere), say researchers at Vanderbilt University and George Washington University (GWU).

The trick: replace graphite electrodes in lithium-ion batteries (used in electric vehicles) with carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers recovered from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The new technology… read more

How to trigger self-powered mechanical movement

Could be used for detecting substances, moving particles to build small structures, and delivering medications
March 3, 2016

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A new way to use the chemical reactions of certain enzymes to trigger self-powered mechanical movement has been developed by a team of researchers at Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh.

These enzyme micropumps could be used for detecting substances, moving particles to build small structures, and delivering medications.

“One potential use is the release of insulin to a diabetes patient from a reservoir at a… read more

Stretchable electronics that can quadruple in length

Ideal for prosthetics or robot skin
March 3, 2016

Intrinsically stretchable biphasic gold–gallium thin films. Picture of a biphasic gold–gallium film patterned by photolithography with critical dimension of 100 μm on a 40 μm thick poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) elastomer membrane. Scale bar: 5 mm; Inset scale bar: 500 μm. (credit: Arthur Hirsch et al./Advanced Materials)

EPFL researchers have developed films with conductive tracks just several hundreds of nanometers thick that can be bent and stretched up to four times their original length. They could be used in artificial skin, connected clothing, and on-body sensors.

Instead of bring printed on a board, the tracks are almost as flexible as rubber and can be stretched up to four times their original length and in… read more

Monkeys learn to drive wheelchairs with their thoughts

Goal is to enable severely paralyzed patients to one day become mobile
March 3, 2016

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Duke Health neuroscientists have developed a brain-machine interface (BMI) that allows monkeys to steer a robotic wheelchair with their thoughts.

The BMI uses signals from hundreds of neurons recorded simultaneously in two regions of the monkeys’ brains that are involved in movement and sensation. As the animals think about moving toward their goal — in this case, a bowl containing fresh grapes — computers translate their brain… read more

First ‘natural machine’ augmented reality product Meta 2 launches to developers

Iron Man meets Princess Leia
March 2, 2016

Meta 2 (credit: Meta)

Last month, Meta CEO Meron Gribetz wowed TED with a sneak peak at the company’s new Meta 2 augmented-reality product. Today, Meta announced that the Meta 2 Development Kit is now available for pre-orders.

Meta 2′s Iron-Man-like immersive functionality appears similar to Hololens and Magic Leap, but with a wider 90-degree field of view, 2560 x 1440 high-DPI display, and natural hand-controlled operation.

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Better memory through electricity

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation found to boost memory and mental performance of laboratory mice; may lead to treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s
March 1, 2016

Transient increase in intracellular Ca2+ during tDCS initiates molecular cascades leading to persistent changes in chromatin structure of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These include the phosphorylation of CREB, its binding to BDNF promoter I and recruitment of CREB/CREB-binding protein (CBP). CBP, in turn, promotes H3 acetylation at lysine 9 (H3K9ac) acetylation of BDNF (specifically at promoter I). As a result, stimuli such as long-term potentiation (LTP) induction protocol in slices or learning and memory in vivo are more effective in promoting transcription of BDNF previously primed by anodal tDCS. (credit: Maria Vittoria Podda et al./Scientific Reports)

Researchers at Catholic University Medical School in Rome have boosted the memory and mental performance of laboratory mice by transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and identified the molecular trigger for the improvement.

A noninvasive technique for brain stimulation, tDCS is applied using two small electrodes placed on the scalp, delivering short bursts of low-intensity electrical currents.

After exposing the mice to single 20-minute tDCS sessions, the… read more

‘Fingerprinting’ and neural nets could help protect power grid, other industrial systems

Scenario: Terrorists have just hacked into the U.S. electrical grid and sent false data or malicious commands to destroy a remote electrical substation, turning off power to a city...
March 1, 2016

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Georgia Tech researchers have developed a device fingerprinting technique that could improve the security of the electrical grid and other industrial systems.

“The stakes are extremely high; the systems are very different from home or office computer networks,” said Raheem Beyah, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The networked systems controlling the U.S.… read more

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