Monthly Archives: January 2019

New Cheap Test Boosts Detection Of Diseases

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a highly innovative new enzyme biomarker test that has the potential to indicate diseases and bacterial contamination saving time, money and possibly lives. The test, developed by scientists at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s, can detect enzyme markers of disease known as proteases in humans, animals and food products.

Proteases are crucial for microorganism growth and are responsible for the progression of many diseasesLevels of proteases can be highly elevated in the urine of patients with diabetic kidney disease, or at the sites of infected wounds. Similarly, in cows, an elevation of proteases in their milk can reveal diseases such as bovine mastitis, a type of mammary gland infection. In food, proteases produced by bacteria contaminated in meat and dairy products can lead to rancidity, as well as decreased shelf life and quality. Current protease detection methods are costly, time-consuming and are not always effective. Scientists at Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security have developed a nanosensor which has resulted in sensitive, fast and cost effective protease detection in milk and urine.

Not only is the test cheap to produce, but it can be used anywhere and is not reliant on laboratory conditions. Eliminating the need to carry out tests in a laboratory setting is life-changing. As well as being cost-effective, it means faster diagnosis,” says Dr Claire McVey, Queen’s researcher and co-author on the study.

The gold-nanoparticle based nanosensor devised by Queen’s researchers indicates when proteases are present through a visible colour-change reactionGold nanoparticles are well known for their capability in speeding up the oxidization of a chemical called tetramethylbenzidine (TMB), visible through a vivid blue-colour formation.

When we add TMB to the casein-covered gold nanoparticles, we can tell virtually instantly if proteases are present by whether or not the solution turns blue. Normally such testing takes much longer,” explains Dr Cuong Cao, the lead academic on the study.

Using this approach, proteases can be detected within 90 minutes without the need for complicated or expensive laboratory equipment.

The findings have been published in the journal Nano Research,

Source: https://www.qub.ac.uk/

Electronic Braille: Reimagined

The British company Bristol Braille Technology is developing Canute 360, the world’s first multi-line digital Braille e-reader. Developed with, by, and for the blind community, Canute 360 will make reading digital Braille books affordable, practical and enjoyable.

Canute 360 is a standalone desktop multi-line Braille e-reader. Compatible with all six-dot Braille codes, Canute 360 can condense an entire Braille library into one device.

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Features:

  • 360 cells: nine lines of forty characters of Braille
  • Supports all six-dot Braille codes (including music, maths and foreign languages) and tactile graphics
  • Dimensions: 36.5 X 18.5 X 8 cm (approx 14 x 7 x 1.5 inches), 2.8KG
  • 2 X USB A; 1 X USB A; Video out; SD Card slot;
  • 3.55mm audio out
  • 3 page navigation buttons
  • 9 line select keys
  • Contextual help button

Source: http://www.bristolbraille.co.uk

Potential Revolutionnary Treatment For Alzheimer’s

Leaky capillaries in the brain portend early onset of Alzheimer’s disease as they signal cognitive impairment before hallmark toxic proteins appear, new USC research shows. The findings, which appear in Nature Medicine, could help with earlier diagnosis and suggest new targets for drugs that could slow or prevent the onset of the disease.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is expected to more than double to about 14 million in 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five Alzheimer’s drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to temporarily help with memory and thinking problems, but none treats the underlying cause of the disease or slow its progression. Researchers believe that successful treatment will eventually involve a combination of drugs aimed at multiple targets.

USC’s five-year study, which involved 161 older adults, showed that people with the worst memory problems also had the most leakage in their brain’s blood vessels — regardless of whether abnormal proteins amyloid and tau were present.

This image depicts a blood vessel in the brain that has become leaky, or permeable.

The fact that we’re seeing the blood vessels leaking, independent of tau and independent of amyloid, when people have cognitive impairment on a mild level, suggests it could be a totally separate process or a very early process,” said senior author Berislav Zlokovic, director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “That was surprising that this blood-brain barrier breakdown is occurring independently.”

In healthy brains, the cells that make up blood vessels fit together so tightly they form a barrier that keeps stray cells, pathogens, metals and other unhealthy substances from reaching brain tissue. Scientists call this the blood-brain barrier. In some aging brains, the seams between cells loosen, and the blood vessels become permeable.

If the blood-brain barrier is not working properly, then there is the potential for damage,” said co-author Arthur Toga, director of the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine. “It suggests the vessels aren’t properly providing the nutrients and blood flow that the neurons need. And you have the possibility of toxic proteins getting in.

Participants in the study had their memory and thinking ability assessed through a series of tasks and tests, resulting in measures of cognitive function and a “clinical dementia rating score.” Individuals diagnosed with disorders that might account for cognitive impairment were excluded. The researchers used neuroimaging and cerebral spinal fluid analysis to measure the permeability, or leakiness, of capillaries serving the brain’s hippocampus, and found a strong correlation between impairment and leakage.

“The results were really kind of eye-opening,” said first author Daniel Nation, an assistant professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “It didn’t matter whether people had amyloid or tau pathology; they still had cognitive impairment.”

Source: https://news.usc.edu/

How To Drive A Wheelchair With Facial Expressions

Combustible engines. Wind power. Solar power. Now, apparently, we have face power.

A Brazilian startup called HOO.BOX Robotics is developing a wheelchair that’s completely powered by facial-recognition technology. In other words, your pretty smile actually can move you forward in life.
More seriously, the HOO.BOX team envisions this tech-powered wheelchair will be extremely useful for people suffer from conditions that limit the use of their hands and arms, such as cerebral palsy or results of a stroke. The prototype, called Wheelie, was initially developed by researchers at Brazil’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, State University of Campinas (FEEC / Unicamp).

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Wheelie utilizes a laptop and Intel’s RealSense facial-recognition camera to capture and decipher nearly 80 points from person’s face. The software can be programed to recognize facial movements such as a full smile, half smile, wrinkled nose, kissy face, tongue out or puffed-out cheeks and then assign those actions to driving the wheelchair forward, backward, turning left or right, or stopping it.

The trick to making this practical was finding facial cues that were comfortable for, say, stroke patients to perform, while also not so common as to limit the user’s ability to have a conversation while driving.

Source: http://www.hoo-box.com/
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https://www.foxnews.com/

Hyundai’s New Car Has Legs

We’ve all read the studies—or heard our doctors’ diatribes—telling us to stop sitting all day, stand up, and start walking around. The movement has been going on for years. But for the first time, it appears as if the benefits of walking has trickled down from humans to cars.

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At CES Monday, Hyundai introduced Americans to the Elevate, a walking concept vehicle with four robotic, bendable legs and a look made for the movies. (If Transformers director Michael Bay had a “meltdown” over a teleprompter issue at CES in 2014, we wonder what his reaction would have been to these puppies.)

Although Hyundai didn’t present a full-scale prototype, the mock-up design of the Elevate as well as its intended purpose to rapidly respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises are impressive.

When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot. Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete,” John Suh, Vice President and Head of Hyundai CRADLE, said in a press release.

This technology goes well beyond emergency situations. People living with disabilities worldwide that don’t have access to an ADA ramp could hail an autonomous Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in,” Suh continued. “The possibilities are limitless.”

Source: http://fortune.com/

Cartilage-like Material Boosts Batteries Durability

Your knees and your smartphone battery have some surprisingly similar needs, a University of Michigan professor has discovered, and that new insight has led to a “structural battery” prototype that incorporates a cartilage-like material to make the batteries highly durable and easy to shape.The idea behind structural batteries is to store energy in structural components—the wing of a drone or the bumper of an electric vehicle, for example. They’ve been a long-term goal for researchers and industry because they could reduce weight and extend range. But structural batteries have so far been heavy, short-lived or unsafe.

In a study published in ACS Nano, the researchers describe how they made a damage-resistant rechargeable zinc battery with a cartilage-like solid electrolyte. They showed that the batteries can replace the top casings of several commercial drones. The prototype cells can run for more than 100 cycles at 90 percent capacity, and withstand hard impacts and even stabbing without losing voltage or starting a fire.

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A battery that is also a structural component has to be light, strong, safe and have high capacity. Unfortunately, these requirements are often mutually exclusive,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, who led the research.

To sidestep these trade-offs, the researchers used zinc—a legitimate structural material—and branched nanofibers that resemble the collagen fibers of cartilageAhmet Emrehan Emre, a biomedical engineering PhD candidate, sandwiches a thin sheet of a cartilage-like material between a layer of zinc on top and a layer of manganese oxide underneath to form a battery

Nature does not have zinc batteries, but it had to solve a similar problem,” Kotov said. “Cartilage turned out to be a perfect prototype for an ion-transporting material in batteries. It has amazing mechanics, and it serves us for a very long time compared to how thin it is. The same qualities are needed from solid electrolytes separating cathodes and anodes in batteries.”

In our bodies, cartilage combines mechanical strength and durability with the ability to let water, nutrients and other materials move through it. These qualities are nearly identical to those of a good solid electrolyte, which has to resist damage from dendrites while also letting ions flow from one electrode to the other.

Source: https://news.umich.edu/

Cheap Nano-Catalysts For Better Fuel Cells

Researchers at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science & Technology (DGIST) in Korea have developed nano-catalysts that can reduce the overall cost of clean energy fuel cells, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) transform the chemical energy produced during a reaction between hydrogen fuel and oxygen into electrical energy. While PEMFCs are a promising source of clean energy that is self-contained and mobile – much like the alkaline fuel cells used on the US Space Shuttle – they currently rely on expensive materials. Also, the substances used for catalysing these chemical reactions degrade, raising concerns about reusability and viability.

DGIST energy materials scientist Sangaraju Shanmugam and his team have developed active and durable catalysts for PEMFCs that can reduce the overall manufacturing costs. The catalysts were nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods with ceria and cobalt nanoparticles on their surfaces; essentially carbon nanorods containing nitrogen, cobalt and ceria. Ceria (CeO2), a combination of cerium and oxygen, is a cheap and environmentally friendly semiconducting material that has excellent oxygen reduction abilities.

The fibres were made using a technique known as electrospinning, in which a high voltage is applied to a liquid droplet, forming a charged liquid jet that then dries midflight into uniform, nanosized particles. The researchers’ analyses confirmed that the ceria and cobalt particles were uniformly distributed in the carbon nanorods and that the catalysts showed enhanced electricity-producing capacity.

The ceria-supported cobalt on nitrogen-doped carbon nanorod catalyst was found to be more active and durable than cobalt-only nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods and platinum/carbon. They were explored in two important types of chemical reactions for energy conversion and storage: oxygen reduction and oxygen evolution reactions.

The researchers conclude that ceria could be considered among the most promising materials for use with cobalt on nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods to produce stable catalysts with enhanced electrochemical activity in PEMFCs and related devices.

Source: https://www.dgist.ac.kr/

How To Reduce Fuel Burn By 60 Percent In Future Planes

Boeing Co unveiled a speedier and higher-flying version of a concept plane on Tuesday aimed at sharply reducing fuel use thanks to its elongated ultra-light wings. The so-called Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) aircraft boasts a 170-foot (52 meter) wingspan that sits atop the fuselage and is braced from underneath by a truss in a design reminiscent of biplanes from the early years of aviation. The world’s largest planemaker and U.S. space agency NASA have been studying the concept plane for nearly a decade as part of the Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research program. Boeing unveiled a reconfigured model or prototype and artist’s rendering at an aerospace conference in San Diego.

Chicago-based Boeing said it tweaked the plane’s designs with an optimized truss and a modified wing sweep that allow it to fly at speeds of Mach .8, or about 600 miles (965 km) per hour, slightly faster than previous designs but on par with current passenger jetliners. Boeing said the jet ideally would reduce fuel burn by 60 percent compared to an aircraft in 2005, but said it did not have final data to compare the fuel savings to present-day aircraft.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

How To Use The Body’s Inbuilt Healing System

Imperial researchers have developed a new bioinspired material that interacts with surrounding tissues to promote healing. Materials are widely used to help heal wounds: Collagen sponges help treat burns and pressure sores, and scaffold-like implants are used to repair broken bones. However, the process of tissue repair changes over time, so scientists are looking to biomaterials that interact with tissues as healing takes place.

Now, Dr Ben Almquist and his team at Imperial College London have created a new molecule that could change the way traditional materials work with the body. Known as traction force-activated payloads (TrAPs), their method lets materials talk to the body’s natural repair systems to drive healing.

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The researchers say incorporating TrAPs into existing medical materials could revolutionise the way injuries are treated.

Our technology could help launch a new generation of materials that actively work with tissues to drive healing,” said Dr Almquist, from mperial’s Department of Bioengineering.
After an injury, cells ‘crawl’ through the collagen ‘scaffolds’ found in wounds, like spiders navigating webs. As they move, they pull on the scaffold, which activates hidden healing proteins that begin to repair injured tissue. The researchers in the study designed TrAPs as a way to recreate this natural healing method. They folded the DNA segments into three-dimensional shapes known as aptamers that cling tightly to proteins. Then, they attached a customisable ‘handle’ that cells can grab onto on one end, before attaching the opposite end to a scaffold such as collagen.
During laboratory testing of their technique, they found that cells pulled on the TrAPs as they crawled through the collagen scaffolds. The researchers tailor TrAPs to release specific therapeutic proteins based on which cells are present at a given point in time.

This is the first time scientists have activated healing proteins using differing cell types in man-made materials. The technique mimics healing methods found in nature. “Creatures from sea sponges to humans use cell movement to activate healing. Our approach mimics this by using the different cell varieties in wounds to drive healing,” explains Dr Almquist.”

This approach is adaptable to different cell types, so could be used in a variety of injuries such as fractured bones, scar tissue after heart attacks, and damaged nerves. New techniques are also desperately needed for patients whose wounds won’t heal despite current interventions, like diabetic foot ulcers, which are the leading cause of non-traumatic lower leg amputationsTrAPs are relatively straightforward to create and are fully man-made, meaning they are easily recreated in different labs and can be scaled up to industrial quantities.

TrAPs could harness the body’s natural healing powers to repair bone

TrAPs provide a flexible method of actively communicating with wounds, as well as key instructions when and where they are needed. This intelligent healing is useful during every phase of the healing process, has the potential to increase the body’s chance to recover, and has far-reaching uses on many different types of wounds. This technology could serve as a conductor of wound repair, orchestrating different cells over time to work together to heal damaged tissues,” said Dr Almquist.

The findings are published in Advanced Materials.

Source: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/

 

Guided Bullet Modifies Its Course To Hit Moving Target

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, which developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed in February its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.

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This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds. Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.

The EXACTO program developed new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. The program sought to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines.

Source: https://www.darpa.mil/