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A machine-learning system that trains itself by surfing the web

December 8, 2016

newspaper

MIT researchers have designed a new machine-learning system that can learn by itself to extract text information for statistical analysis when available data is scarce.

This new “information extraction” system turns machine learning on its head. It works like humans do. When we run out of data in a study (say, differentiating between fake and real news), we simply search the Internet for more data, and then… read more

Implantable device targets cancer, other illnesses with controlled long-term drug delivery

5000 nanochannels control release; can deliver medicinal doses for several days or a few weeks, also effective for HIV and damaged joints
December 2, 2016

This diagram describes how the device Dr. Hood helped to develop is implanted into a cancerous tumor. (credit: Lyle Hood/UTSA)

A new drug-delivery system based on an tiny implantable capsule could “revolutionize” the delivery of medicine to treat cancer and a host of other diseases and ailments, according to researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).

“The problem with most drug-delivery systems is that you have a specific minimum dosage of medicine that you need to take for it to be effective,” said… read more

Disney Research wants to make VR haptics as immersive as visuals

Adding the missing dimension in VR: body sensations
December 2, 2016

VR haptics ft

Disney Research has developed a 360-degree virtual-reality app that enables users to enhance their experience by adding customized haptic (body sensations) effects that can be triggered by user movements, biofeedback, or timelines.

A team led by Ali Israr, senior research engineer at Disney Research, has demonstrated the haptic plugin using a unique chair to provide full body sensations and a library of “feel… read more

Triggered by ultrasound, microbubbles open the blood-brain barrier to administer drugs without harming other areas of the body

December 2, 2016

Microbubbles with the fluorescent substance in their lipid coating, from which the effect of the ultrasound causes them to be released into the desired area of the brain. (credit: UEIL, C. Sierra et al.)

Using ultrasound to bypass the blood-brain barrier (BBB), Columbia University researchers have succeeded in releasing drugs only in the specific area of the brain where they are needed — not in the rest of the body. The goal is to help treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases without collateral damage.

The BBB is an impassable obstacle for 98% of drugs, which it treats as pathogens and… read more

Tracking large neural networks in the brain by making neurons glow

November 30, 2016

Individual neuron glowing with bioluminescent light produced by a new genetically engineered sensor. (credit: Johnson Lab, Vanderbilt University)

A new kind of bioluminescent sensor developed by Vanderbilt scientists causes individual brain cells to glow in the dark, giving neuroscientists a new tool to track what’s happening in large neural networks in the brain.

The sensor is a genetically modified form of luciferase, the enzyme that fireflies and other species use to produce light.

Traditional electrical techniques for recording the activity of neurons are limited… read more

Electric current and antiobiotic kill multidrug-resistant bacteria in biofilms

November 30, 2016

e-scaffold-treated biofilm cells ft

A Washington State University research team has successfully used a mild electric current combined with an antibiotic to kill multidrug-resistant pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 bacteria in a lab-cultured biofilm.

These bacteria are responsible for chronic and serious infections in people with lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, and in chronic wounds. They also often cause pneumonia for people who are on ventilators and infections in burn… read more

Smart skin patch releases blood thinners in closed-loop control system

Prevents both thrombosis and spontaneous hemorrhaging; no need for patients to test blood on a regular basis
November 30, 2016

The thrombin-responsive microneedle patch is made of heparin-modified hyaluronic acid. (credit: Yuqi Zhang)

North Carolina researchers have developed a smart skin patch designed to monitor a patient’s blood and release a blood-thinning drug, as needed, to prevent thrombosis (dangerous blood clots).

Thrombosis — one of the leading causes of cardiovascular mortalities and morbidities worldwide — occurs when blood clots disrupt the normal flow of blood in the body, which can cause severe health problems such as pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.… read more

Caltech scientists use bacterial protein to merge silicon and carbon and create new organosilicon compounds

Could lead to products that are more environmentally friendly and potentially much less expensive; raises questions about alien lifeforms
November 25, 2016

organosilicon-based life ft

Scientists at Caltech have “bred” a bacterial protein with the ability to make silicon-carbon bonds, with applications in several industries — something only chemists could do before. The research was published in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Science.

Molecules with silicon-carbon (organosilicon) compounds are found in pharmaceuticals and many other products, including agricultural chemicals, paints, semiconductors, and computer and TV screens. Currently, these products are made… read more

Battery breakthrough charges in seconds, lasts for a week

November 25, 2016

Supercapacitor prototype showing flexible design (credit: ACS Nano)

University of Central Florida researchers have developed a radical new supercapacitor design that could one day replace lithium-ion batteries, allowing users to charge a mobile phone in a few seconds and with a charge that lasts a week, according to the researchers. The new battery would be flexible and a fraction of the size of a lithium-ion battery.

The proof-of-concept design is based on a hybrid supercapacitor composed of… read more

New neural-network algorithm learns directly from human instructions instead of examples

November 25, 2016

Conventional neural-network image-recognition algorithm trained to recognize human hair (left), compared to the more precise heuristically trained algorithm (right) (credit: Wenzhangzhi Guo and Parham Aarabi/IEEE Trans NN & LS)

A new machine learning algorithm designed by University of Toronto researchers Parham Aarabi and Wenzhi Guo learns directly from human instructions, rather than an existing set of examples, as in traditional neural networks. In tests, it outperformed existing neural networks by 160 per cent.

Their “heuristically trained neural networks” (HNN) algorithm also outperformed its own training by nine per cent — it learned to recognize hair in… read more

Google’s new multilingual Neural Machine Translation System can translate between language pairs even though it has never been taught to do so

Machine translation breakthrough has been implemented for 103 languages
November 25, 2016

Google Neural Machine Translation1

Google researchers have announced they have implemented a neural machine translation system in Google Translate that improves translation quality and enables “Zero-Shot Translation” — translation between language pairs never seen explicitly by the system.

For example, in the animation above, the system was trained to translate bidirectionally between English and Japanese and between English and Korean. But the new system can also translate between Japanese and… read more

New unique brain ‘fingerprint’ method can identify a person with nearly 100% accuracy

Could provide biomarkers to help researchers determine how factors such as disease, the environment, and different experiences impact the brain and change over time
November 18, 2016

local connectome fingerprint

Researchers have “fingerprinted” the white matter of the human brain using a new diffusion MRI method, mapping the brain’s connections (the connectome) at a more detailed level than ever before. They confirmed that structural connections in the brain are unique to each individual person and the connections were able to identify a person with nearly 100% accuracy.

The new method could provide biomarkers to help researchers… read more

This tiny electronic device applied to the skin can pick up heart and speech sounds

November 18, 2016

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and Northwestern University have developed a tiny, soft, wearable acoustic sensor that measures vibrations in the human body and can be used to monitor human heart health and recognize spoken words.

The stretchable Band-aid-like device attaches to the skin on nearly any surface of the body, using “epidermal electronics” to capture sound signals from the body.

It’s… read more

Test of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the brain shows improved multitasking performance

November 15, 2016

tDCS anode electrode

In an experiment at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, researchers* have found that transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) of the brain can improve people’s multitasking skills and help avoid the drop in performance that comes with information overload.

The study was reported in a pre-publication paper in the open-access journal Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. It was motivated by the observation that various… read more

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics leading to rise of resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria

November 15, 2016

Prolonged preventive antibiotics after incision closure do not prevent infections, but they do change the composition of bacteria in the host at other anatomic locations. The result is resistant colonization of the patient and potentially an infection with Clostridium difficile, shown here. (credit: CDC)

Overuse and misuse of antimicrobial agents in hospitals is an urgent problem. Surgeons around the world, who often prescribe antibiotics for surgical prophylaxis, need to take a leadership role in promoting “antimicrobial stewardship programs” (ASPs) that can optimize antimicrobial agent use in the hospital.

That’s the message from the Surgical Infection Society and the World Society of Emergency Surgery in an open-access paper entitled “Antimicrobial Stewardship: A read more

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