science + technology news

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3D ‘body-on-a-chip’ project aims to accelerate drug testing, reduce costs

Initial system uses micro-sized 3D liver, heart, and lung "organoids"
October 9, 2017

Scientists created miniature models of hearts, lungs, and livers and combined them into an integrated "body-on-a-chip" system, fed with nutrient-rich fluid to mimic blood (credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center)

A team of scientists at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and nine other institutions has engineered miniature 3D human hearts, lungs, and livers to achieve more realistic testing of how the human body responds to new drugs.

The “body-on-a-chip” project, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, aims to help reduce the estimated $2 billion cost and 90 percent failure rate that pharmaceutical companies face… read more

A battery-free origami robot powered and controlled by external magnetic fields

September 22, 2017

Wirelessly powered and controlled magnetic folding robot arm can grasp and bend (credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

Harvard University researchers have created a battery-free, folding robot “arm” with multiple “joints,” gripper “hand,” and actuator “muscles” — all powered and controlled wirelessly by an external resonant magnetic field.

The design is inspired by the traditional Japanese art of origami (used to transform a simple sheet of paper into complex, three-dimensional shapes through a specific pattern of folds, creases, and crimps). The prototype device is capable of complex,… read more

New system allows near-zero-power sensors to communicate data over long distances

Could make low-cost remote medical monitoring and the "internet of things" practical
September 18, 2017

A flexible epidermal medical-data patch prototype successfully transmitted information at up to 37500 bits per second across a 3,300-square-feet atrium. (credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington)

University of Washington (UW) researchers have developed a low-cost, long-range data-communication system that could make it possible for medical sensors or billions of low-cost “internet of things” objects to connect via radio signals at long distances (up to 2.8 kilometers) and with 1000 times lower required power (9.25 microwatts in an experiment) compared to existing technologies.

“People have been talking about embedding connectivity into everyday objects … for… read more

Walking DNA nanorobot could deliver a drug to a precise location in your body

Future uses could include creating programmable drugs or delivering them when a specific signal is received in the bloodstream or cells
September 15, 2017

DNA nanorobot cargo carrier (credit: Ella Maru Studio)

Caltech scientists have developed a “cargo sorting” DNA nanorobot programmed to autonomously “walk” around a surface, pick up certain molecules, and drop them off in designated locations.

The research is described in a paper in the Friday, September 15, 2017 issue of Science.

The major advance in this study is “their methodology for designing simple DNA devices that work in parallel to solve nontrivial tasks,”… read more

Miniature MRI simulator chip could help diagnose and treat diseases in the body at sub-millimeter precision

September 13, 2017

Illustration of an ATOMS microchip localized within the gastrointestinal tract. The chip, which works on principles similar to those used in MRI machines, is embodied with the properties of nuclear spin. (credit: Ella Marushchenko for Caltech)

Caltech researchers have developed a “Fantastic Voyage” style prototype microchip that could one day be used in “smart pills” to diagnose and treat diseases when inserted into the human body.

Called ATOMS (addressable transmitters operated as magnetic spins), the microchips could one day monitor a patient’s gastrointestinal tract, blood, or brain, measuring factors that indicate a patient’s health — such as pH, temperature, pressure, and sugar concentrations — with… read more

These fast, low-cost medical technologies will replace ultrasound and X-rays for specific uses

September 8, 2017

Smartphone heart diagnosis (credit: Caltech)

A radical software invention by three Caltech engineers promises to allow your smartphone camera* to provide detailed information about a critical measure of your heart’s health: the “left ventricular ejection fraction” (LVEF) — the amount of blood in the heart that is pumped out to the blood system with each beat. This figure is used by physicians as a base for diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.

You’ll simply hold… read more

Flexible ‘electronic skin’ patch provides wearable health monitoring anywhere on the body

August 23, 2017

Mobile Application of the Soft Electronic Skin ft

A radical new electronic skin monitor developed by Korean and U.S. scientists tracks heart rate, respiration, muscle movement, acceleration, and electrical activity in the heart, muscles, eyes, and brain and wirelessly transmits it to a smartphone, allowing for continuous health monitoring.

KurzweilAI has covered a number of biomedical skin-monitoring devices. This new design is noteworthy because the soft, flexible self-adhesive patch (a soft silicone material about four centimeters or 1.5… read more

Drinking coffee associated with lower risk of death from all causes, study finds

July 17, 2017

(credit: iStock)

People who drink around three cups of coffee a day may live longer than non-coffee drinkers, a landmark study has found.

The findings — published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine — come from the largest study of its kind, in which scientists analyzed data from more than half a million people across 10 European countries to explore the effect of coffee consumption on risk of mortality.… read more

Meditation, yoga, and tai chi can reverse damaging effects of stress, new study suggests

Even a two-minute brisk walk every half hour will work wonders
July 3, 2017

Tai chi (credit: iStock)

Mind-body interventions such as meditation, yoga*, and tai chi can reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA that cause ill-health and depression, according to a study by scientists at the universities of Coventry and Radboud.

When a person is exposed to a stressful event, their sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response) is triggered, which increases production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). That molecule… read more

Common antioxidant could slow symptoms of aging in human skin

May 31, 2017

These cross-section images show three-dimensional human skin models made of living skin cells. Untreated model skin (left panel) shows a thinner dermis layer (black arrow) compared with model skin treated with the antioxidant methylene blue (right panel). A new study suggests that methylene blue could slow or reverse dermal thinning (a sign of aging) and a number of other symptoms of aging in human skin. (credit: Zheng-Mei Xiong/University of Maryland)

University of Maryland (UMD) researchers have found evidence that a common, inexpensive, and safe antioxidant chemical called methylene blue could slow the aging of human skin, based on tests in cultured human skin cells and simulated skin tissue.

“The effects we are seeing are not temporary. Methylene blue appears to make fundamental, long-term changes to skin cells,” said Kan Cao, senior author on the study and an associate… read more

3D-printed ‘bionic skin’ could give robots and prosthetics the sense of touch

Could also be printed directly on human skin for pulse monitoring or as a human-machine interface --- imagine a computer mouse built into your fingertip
May 26, 2017

A one-of-a-kind 3D printer built at the University of Minnesota can print touch sensors directly on a model hand. Credit: Shuang-Zhuang Guo and Michael McAlpine, University of Minnesota, "3D Printed Stretchable Tactile Sensors," Advanced Materials. 2017. (credit: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. )

Engineering researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a process for 3D-printing stretchable, flexible, and sensitive electronic sensory devices that could give robots or prosthetic hands — or even real skin — the ability to mechanically sense their environment.

One major use would be to give surgeons the ability to feel during minimally invasive surgeries instead of using cameras, or to increase the sensitivity of surgical… read more

New 3D printing method may allow for fast, low-cost, more-flexible medical implants for millions

Cuts time to create implants from days or weeks to hours, potentially saving lives
May 15, 2017

Model silicone 3D-printed trachea implant (credit: University of Florida)

UF Soft Matter | Silicone is 3D-printed into the micro-organogel support material. The printing nozzle follows a predefined trajectory, depositing liquid silicone in its wake. The liquid silicone is supported by the micro-organogel material during this printing process.

University of Florida (UF) researchers have developed a method for 3D printing soft-silicone medical implants that are stronger, quicker, less expensive, more flexible, and more comfortable… read more

A ‘smart contact lens’ for diabetes and glaucoma diagnosis

May 10, 2017

Smart contact lens on mannequin eye

Korean researchers have designed a “smart contact lens” that may one day allow patients with diabetes and glaucoma to self-monitor blood glucose levels and internal eye pressure.*

The study was conducted by researchers at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Kyungpook National University School of Medicine, both of South Korea.

Most previously reported contact lens sensors can only monitor a single analyte (such as glucose)… read more

New nuclear magnetic resonance technique offers ‘molecular window’ for live disease diagnosis

Could use existing non-invasive MRI technology
May 3, 2017

A novel NMR technique developed at U of T Scarborough has the potential for noninvasive disease diagnosis using current MRI technology. (credit: University of Toronto Scarborough)

University of Toronto Scarborough researchers have developed a new “molecular window” technology based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that can look inside a living system to get a high-resolution profile of which specific molecules are present, and extract a full metabolic profile.

“Getting a sense of which molecules are in a tissue sample is important if you want to know if it’s cancerous, or if… read more

Travelers to Mars risk leukemia cancer, weakened immune function from radiation, NASA-funded study finds

March 27, 2017

The spleen from a mouse exposed to a mission-relevant dose (20 cGy, 1 GeV/n) of iron ions (bottom) was ~ 30 times the normal volume compared with the spleen (top) from a control mouse. (credit: C Rodman et al./Leukemia)

Radiation encountered in deep space travel may increase the risk of leukemia cancer in humans traveling to Mars, NASA-funded researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and colleagues have found, using mice transplanted with human stem cells.

“Our results are troubling because they show radiation exposure could potentially increase the risk of leukemia,” said Christopher Porada, Ph.D., associate professor of regenerative medicine and… read more

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