science + technology news

3D-printed silicone guide with chemical cues helps regenerate complex nerves after injury

Research could help more than 200,000 people annually who suffer from nerve injuries or disease
September 18, 2015

3D scans of a nerve are used to create a custom regeneration guide. (credit: University of Minnesota)

A national team of researchers used a combination of 3-D imaging and 3-D printing techniques to create a custom silicone guide implanted with biochemical cues to help nerve regeneration after an injury.

Nerve regeneration is a complex process, which is why regrowth of nerves after injury or disease is very rare and often permanent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As a test, the researchers used a 3-D scanner… read more

Controlling brain cells with ultrasound

Sonogenetics may be able to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle, and other cells using ultrasonic waves, similar to optogenetics
September 15, 2015

For the first time, sound waves are used to control brain cells. Salk scientists developed the new technique, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively and noninvasively turn on groups of neurons in worms that could be a boon to science and medicine. (credit: Salk Institute)

Salk scientists have developed a new method, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic waves (the same type of waves used in medical sonograms).

This new method may have advantages over the similar light-based approach known as optogenetics, particularly for human therapeutics. It is described today (Sept. 15, 2015) in the journal Nature Communications.

Sreekanth Chalasani,… read more

Cocoa flavanols lower blood pressure and increase blood-vessel function in healthy people

Poor diet and high blood pressure now number one risk factors for death
September 14, 2015

Cocoa pods (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Two recently published studies in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) demonstrate that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens the burden on the heart that comes with the aging and stiffening of arteries, while reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD)

As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible and less able to expand to let blood flow and circulate normally, and… read more

‘Lab-on-a-Chip’ microfluidics technology may cut costs of lab tests for diseases and disorders

Requires 90 percent less sample fluid
September 14, 2015

The Rutgers lab-on-a chip is three inches long and an inch wide -- the size of a glass microscope slide. (credit: Mehdi Ghodbane)

Rutgers engineers have developed a breakthrough microfluidics device that can significantly reduce the cost of sophisticated lab tests while using 90 percent less sample fluid than needed in conventional tests.

It uses miniaturized channels and valves to replace “benchtop” assays — tests that require large samples of blood or other fluids and expensive chemicals that lab technicians manually mix in trays of tubes or plastic platesread more

Cancer patient receives 3D-printed ribs in world-first surgery

September 12, 2015

(Credit: CSIRO)

A Spanish cancer patient has received a 3D-printed titanium sternum and rib cage.

Suffering from a chest wall sarcoma (a type of cancerous tumor that grows, in this instance, around the rib cage), the 54 year old man needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced. This part of the chest is notoriously tricky to recreate with prosthetics, due to the complex geometry and design required… read more

First known magnetic wormhole created

Could make MRIs more comfortable for patients and improve magnetic imaging
September 7, 2015

magnetic-wormhole ft

A wormhole* that can connect two regions of space magnetically has been created in the laboratory and experimentally demonstrated by physicists at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain.

This is not a wormhole in space, as in the movie Interstellar. It’s a special design that transfers a magnetic field from one location in space to another in such a way that the process is magnetically… read more

Life expectancy climbs worldwide but people spend more years living with illness and disability

Global life expectancy has risen by more than six years since 1990
September 2, 2015

Life expectancy at birth, both sexes, 2013 (credit: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation)

The good news: as for 2013, global life expectancy for people in 188 countries has risen 6.2 years since 1990 (65.3 to 71.5). The bad news: healthy life expectancy (HALE) at birth rose by only 5.4 years (56.9 to 62.3), due to fatal and nonfatal ailments (interactive visualization by country here).

In other words, people are living more years with illness and disability. Ischemic heart disease, lower… read more

Lack of sleep connected to catching a cold, new research confirms

If you sleep six hours a night or less, you are 4 times more likely to catch a cold
September 1, 2015

(credit: iStock)

If you sleep six hours a night or less a night, you are 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold (five hours or less, 4.5 times more likely) compared to those who sleep more than seven hours in a night.

That’s the finding of a study by  Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in the… read more

Older people in Germany and England getting smarter, but not fitter

September 1, 2015

smarter not fitter

People over age 50 are scoring better on cognitive tests than people of the same age did in the past — a trend that could be linked to higher education rates and increased use of technology in our daily lives, according to a new study published in an open-access paper in the journal PLOS ONE. But the study also showed that average physical health of the older population has declined.… read more

Anti-aging effects (in mice) of a dietary supplement called alpha lipoic acid

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can also stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres
August 25, 2015

Shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are both a sign of aging and contribute to it (credit: NIGMS)

Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found that the dietary supplement alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, with positive effects in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.

In human cells, shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are a sign of aging and also contribute to aging.

The discovery highlights… read more

‘Tricorder’-style handheld MouthLab detects patients’ vital signs, rivaling hospital devices

Could be used by people without special training at home or in the field
August 25, 2015

MouthLab ft

Inspired by the Star Trek tricorder, engineers and physicians at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed a hand-held, battery-powered device called MouthLab that quickly picks up vital signs from a patient’s lips and fingertip.

Updated versions of the prototype could replace the bulky, restrictive monitors now used to display patients’ vital signs in hospitals and actually gather more data than is typically collected during… read more

Surprising results from brain and cognitive studies of a 93-year-old woman athelete

August 18, 2015

Olga Kotelko's brain "does not look like a 90-plus-year-old" ---  Beckman Institute director Art Kramer

Brain scans and cognitive tests of Olga Kotelko, a 93-year-old Canadian track-and-field athlete with more than 30 world records in her age group, may support the potential beneficial effects of exercise on cognition in the “oldest old.”

In the summer of 2012, researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois invited her to visit for in-depth analysis… read more

Trans fats, but not saturated fats, linked to greater risk of death and heart disease

August 14, 2015

Which of these is a killer food? (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A study led by researchers at McMaster University has found that that trans fats are associated with greater risk of death and coronary heart disease, unlike saturated fats, which are also not associated with an increased risk of stroke or Type 2 diabetes.

The findings were published in an open-access paper August 12 by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Trans vs. saturatedread more

Study links aerobic fitness, thinner gray matter, and better math skills in kids

August 12, 2015

Cortical thickness regions of interest. Starred regions are areas in which higher-fit children showed decreased cortical thickness compared to lower-fit children. (credit: Laura Chaddock-Heyman et al./PLOS ONE)

A new study reveals that 9- and 10-year-old children who are aerobically fit tend to have significantly thinner gray matter than their “lower-fit” peers. Thinning of the outermost layer of brain cells in the cerebrum is associated with better mathematics performance, researchers report in an open-access paper in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study suggests, but does not prove, that cardiorespiratory fitness contributes to gray matter thinning —… read more

Biocompatible interfaces replace silicon and metal in neural prosthetic devices

Avoid immune-system rejection, failures, neurodegeneration
August 11, 2015

Left: collagen; right: matrigel (credit: Wen Shen et al./Microsystems & Nanoengineering)

Researchers at the University of Georgia’s Regenerative Bioscience Center have developed a biocompatible implantable neural prosthetic device to replace silicon and noble metal in neural prosthetic devices. The goal is to avoid immune-system rejection, failures due to tissue strain, neurodegeneration, and decreased fidelity of recorded neural signals.

Implantable neural prosthetic devices in the brain have been around for almost two decades, helping people living with limb loss and… read more

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