Monthly Archives: June 2019

Remote-Controlled Drug Delivery Implant

People with chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease may one day forego the daily regimen of pills and, instead, receive a scheduled dosage of medication through a grape-sized implant that is remotely controlled.

Researchers from Houston Methodist successfully delivered continuous, predetermined dosages of two chronic disease medications using a nanochannel delivery system (nDS) that they remotely controlled using Bluetooth technology. The nDS device provides controlled release of drugs without the use of pumps, valves or a power supply for possibly up to year without a refill for some patients. This technology will be tested in space next year.

A proof-of-concept paper recently published in Lab on a Chip (online June 25) explains how the Houston Methodist nanomedicine researchers accomplished long-term delivery of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure, medications that are often administered at specific times of the day or at varying dosages based on patient needs.

Nanomedicine scientists at Houston Methodist Research Institute created a remote-controlled implantable nanochannel drug delivery system (nDS) the size of a grape

We see this universal drug implant as part of the future of health care innovation. Some chronic disease drugs have the greatest benefit of delivery during overnight hours when it’s inconvenient for patients to take oral medication. This device could vastly improve their disease management and prevent them from missing doses, simply with a medical professional overseeing their treatment remotely,” said Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., corresponding author and chair of the department of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Grattoni and the Houston Methodist researchers have worked on implantable nanochannel delivery systems to regulate the delivery of a variety of therapies for medical issues ranging from HIV-prevention to cancer. As basic research progresses with the remote-controlled device, the Houston Methodist technology is planned for extreme remote communication testing on the International Space Station in 2020. The team hopes that one day the system will be widely available to clinicians to treat patients remotely via telemedicine. This could provide both an improvement in the patients’ quality of life and a reduction of cost to the health care system.

Source: https://www.houstonmethodist.org/

How To Initiate Bacterial Suicide to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

Overuse of antibiotics has escalated the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Unfortunately, the growth of resistance has outpaced the development and discovery of new antibiotics and limited the treatment of bacterial infections.

Now, scientists are turning to a uniquely human advantage, the ability to think and reason, to solve the issue. Now, we’re tricking pathogenic microbes into killing themselves.

In April, a team of French scientists published a new kind of molecular trickery that selectively kills harmful and antibiotic-resistant bacteria without traditional antibiotics. The research, led by genomicist Rocío López-Igual and colleagues at the Pasteur Institute capitalized on mechanisms of gene regulation to trick Vibrio cholerae into producing self-destructive toxins. This approach could be adapted to target other microbes and reduce the need for antibiotics.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a major threat to human health

V. cholerae, which causes cholera, encodes multiple toxins in its genome. Bacterial toxins inhibit vital processes like DNA replication or cell division. Typically, anti-toxins – that the bacteria also produce themselves –protect bacteria from poisoning themselves. Stress activates the toxins, often leading to cell death. Although exactly why bacteria maintain deadly toxin genes is still puzzling, we know that artificially activating the toxins provides a route to kill bacteria. The star of López-Igual and her colleagues’ method is a toxin that inhibits, an important bacterial enzyme. Normally, DNA gyrase relieves stress from twisted DNA strands, so preventing DNA gyrase activity causes breaks in DNA. And like in human cells, such severe DNA damage is also fatal to bacterial cells.The researchers manipulated the DNA sequences of V. cholerae to create a code for production of the toxin in specific kinds of bacteria. The specificity of bacterial gene regulation ensures that only certain bacteria can interpret this code. Bad news for the ones that can: they end up triggering their own death.

Source: https://massivesci.com/

Graphene Boosts Life Time Of Implantable Devices

The United States is seeing an increase in the number of neurological diseases. Stroke is ranked as the fifth leading cause of death, with Alzheimer’s being ranked sixth. Another neurological disease – Parkinson’s – affects nearly 1 million people in the U.S. each year. Implantable neurostimulation devices are a common way to treat some of these diseases. One of the most commonly used elements in these devices is platinum microelectrodes – but it is prone to corrosion, which can reduce the functional lifetime of the devices. Purdue University researchers have come up with a solution to help – they are adding a graphene monolayer to the devices to protect the microelectrodes.

I know from my industry experience that the reliability of implantable devices is a critical issue for translating technology into clinics,” said Hyowon “Hugh” Lee, an assistant professor in Purdue’s College of Engineering and a researcher at the Birck Nanotechnology Center, who led the research team. “This is part of our research focusing on augmenting and improving implantable devices using nano and microscale technologies for more reliable and advanced treatments. We are the first ones that I know of to address the platinum corrosion issue in neurostimulation microelectrodes.

Lee said he learned about the advantage of using graphene from his colleague at Birck Nanotechnology Center, Zhihong Chen, who is an expert in graphene technology. The team has shown the graphene monolayer to be an effective diffusion barrier and electrical conductor.

If you attempt to deliver more charge than the electrode can handle, it can corrode the electrode and damage the surrounding tissues,” Lee said. He also thinks that microscale electrodes are going to play a key role in the future with more demand for precise and targeted neurostimulation therapy. “We think neurosurgeons, neurologists, and other scientists in neuroengineering field will be able to use this electrode technology to better help patients with implantable devices for restoring eyesight, movement, and other lost functionalities.”

Lee and his team are working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization on patenting and licensing the technology. They are looking for partners interested in licensing it.

The research has been published in the journal  2D Materials.

Source: https://www.purdue.edu/

Most Metastatic Colorectal Cancers Have Spread Before Diagnosis

Colorectal cancers often spread before the initial tumor is detected, according to a new Stanford study. Identifying patients in whom early metastasis is likely could better guide treatment decisions. Up to 80% of metastatic colorectal cancers are likely to have spread to distant locations in the body before the original tumor has exceeded the size of a poppy seed, according to a study of nearly 3,000 patients by researchers at the Stanford University School of MedicineIdentifying patients with early-stage colorectal tumors that are born to be bad may help doctors determine who should receive early treatments, such as systemic chemotherapy, to kill cancer cells lurking far from the tumor’s original location.

This finding was quite surprising,” said Christina Curtis, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and of genetics at Stanford. “In the majority of metastatic colorectal cancer patients analyzed in this study, the cancer cells had already spread and begun to grow long before the primary tumor was clinically detectable. This indicates that metastatic competence was attained very early after the birth of the cancer. This runs counter to the prevailing assumption that metastasis occurs late in advanced primary tumors and has implications for patient stratification, therapeutic targeting and earlier detection.”

Researchers and clinicians have assumed that cancers acquire the ability to metastasize through the gradual accumulation of molecular changes over time. These changes, the thinking goes, confer specific traits that eventually allow cancer cells to escape the surrounding tissue, enter the bloodstream and take up residence in new locations. In this scenario, metastasis, if it occurs, would be a relatively late event in the evolution of the primary cancer.

Curtis, who co-directs the molecular tumor board at the Stanford Cancer Institute, is the senior author of the study, which was published online June 17 in Nature Genetics. Postdoctoral scholar Zheng Hu, PhD, is the lead author.

Source: http://med.stanford.edu/

The Roots Of Parkinson’s In The Brain Discovered

Researchers from King’s College London have uncovered the earliest signs of Parkinson’s disease in the brain, many years before patients show any symptomsParkinson’s disease could be spotted in the brain more than a decade before symptoms emerge, scientists have discovered, raising hopes that early treatment could prevent the condition ever taking hold.

Researchers from King’s College London studied the brains of people living in the northern Peloponnese of Greece who suffer from a rare genetic mutation that makes Parkinson’s almost inevitable. Most will develop the disease in their 40s but scientists found that by their 20s and 30s they had already lost of up to 34 per cent of the brain cells that process the hormone serotonin. The damage had occurred even before symptoms developed, offering an early warning sign of the approaching disease. The results, published in The Lancet Neurology, challenge the traditional view of the disease and could potentially lead to screening tools for identifying people at greatest risk.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, after Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is characterised by movement and cognitive problems but is known to become established in the brain a long time before patients are diagnosed. Studying the crucial early stages of the disease, when treatment could potentially slow its progress, is a huge challenge.

The new study, funded by the Lily Safra Foundation, provides the first evidence of a central role for the brain chemical serotonin in the very earliest stages of Parkinson’s. The results suggest changes to the serotonin system could act as a key early warning signal for the disease. Chief investigator Professor Marios Politis, Lily Safra Professor of Neurology & Neuroimaging at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), says: ‘Parkinson’s disease has traditionally been thought of as occurring due to damage in the dopamine system, but we show that changes to the serotonin system come first, occurring many years before patients begin to show symptoms. Our results suggest that early detection of changes in the serotonin system could open doors to the development of new therapies to slow, and ultimately prevent, progression of Parkinson’s disease.’

Source: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/

The Rise Of The Hydrogen Electric Car

China‘s State Council has announced last month a proposal to promote the development and construction of fueling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell cars. It was a Friday, and too late to trade on the news. On Monday, Chinese punters were ready: In the first few minutes of trading, fuel cell-related stocks gained more than $4 billion in market value, with several hitting their daily limits. The bullishness lasted all week. It’s likely to run for much longer. In less than a decade, the Chinese government has used subsidies and other policies to create the world’s largest market for battery-powered electric vehicles. That market isn’t without problems and limits, so the government is looking to diversify its bets on carbon-free transportation. Fuel cells, a technology that’s being hotly pursued in other East Asian countries (as well as the  U.S.), is their favored means of doing it. Chinese investors, having seen the opportunities created by the support for battery-electric vehicles, are right to get in early.

Fuel cells, like batteries, generate electricity that can drive a motor and vehicle. The similarities mostly stop there. Batteries are large, heavy and require charging by electricity that may or may not be generated from renewable resources. By contrast, fuel cells generate electricity (and, as a byproduct, heat and water) when hydrogen interacts with oxygen. They don’t need charging; instead, they require onboard hydrogen tanks, which are both lighter and capable of holding far more energy than a battery (allowing them to travel further). And unlike batteries, which can require hours to charge, vehicles powered in this way can be refueled in minutes, similar to traditional internal combustion engines.

Of course, if it were so easy, hydrogen vehicles would already dominate battery-powered cars (and internal combustion engines, too). Several crucial bottlenecks have inhibited their growth. First, fuel cells are the most expensive components in the car, and for years they’ve made the technology uncompetitive with battery electrics. For example, the Toyota Mirai – the Japanese company’s signature fuel-cell vehicle – sells for around $70,000 (unsubsidized). Meanwhile, Chinese battery-electric vehicles can sell for less than $10,000. Second, fuel cells might be clean-burning but hydrogen is often generated from fossil fuels, including coal. That’s problematic if the goal is carbon reduction. And third, hydrogen infrastructure – everything from pipelines to fueling stations – is both expensive and rare. In China, the cost of a hydrogen station is around $1.5 million. That’s a tough investment to make, especially when there are fewer than 5,000 fuel-cell vehicles operating in the country.

Ultimately, success will require overcoming significant technical and market hurdles. China‘s success in building a battery-electric industry guarantees that it’ll be in the race, if not the eventual leader, in this next stage in decarbonizing transport. For Chinese investors, that’s a bet worth making.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/

Supercomputer Finds Oil 10 Times Faster

Energy major Total said its new supercomputer – which has propelled it to a world ranking as the most powerful computer in the sector – will enable its geologists to find oil faster, cheaper and with a better success rate. The Pangea III computer build by IBM will help process complex seismic data in the search for hydrocarbons 10 times faster that before, Total said on Tuesday. The computing power of the Pangea III has been increased to 31.7 so-called ‘petaflops’ from 6.7 petaflops in 2016, and from 2.3 petaflops in 2013, Total said, adding that it was the equivalent of around 170,000 laptops combined. The computer ranks as number 1 among supercomputers in the oil and gas sector, and number 11 globally, according to the TOP500 table (www.top500.org) which ranks supercomputers twice a year. Total’s European peer Eni’s HPC4 supercomputer is ranked number 17 in the global top 500 list.

Oil and gas companies, along with other industrial groups, are increasingly relying on powerful computers to process complex data faster. This enables them to cut costs while boosting productivity and the success rate of projects. Total did not say how much it had invested in the new supercomputer. The company’s senior vice president for exploration, Kevin McLachlan, told Reuters that 80% of the Pangea III’s time would be dedicated to seismic imaging.

We can do things much faster,” he said. “We are developing advanced imaging algorithms to give us much better images of the sub-surface in these complex domains and Pangea III will let us do it 10 times faster than we could before.” Total said the new algorithms can process huge amounts of data more accurately, and at a higher resolution. It would also help to locate more reliably hydrocarbons below ground, which is useful in complex environments where it is exploring for oil trapped under salt, such as Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico, Angola and the Eastern Mediterranean. McLachlan expected the increased computer power to affect Total’s success rate in exploration, because of the better imaging, and in oil well appraisals, development and drilling.

What used to take a week, now takes us a day to process,” he said, adding that tens of millions of dollars of savings would be made on the oil wells as a direct result of obtaining better images.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

Smart Materials Built With The Power Of Sound

Researchers have used sound waves to precisely manipulate atoms and molecules, accelerating the sustainable production of breakthrough smart materials.  Metal Organic Frameworks, or MOFs, are incredibly versatile and super porous nanomaterials that can be used to store, separate, release or protect almost anythingPredicted to be the defining material of the 21st century, MOFs are ideal for sensing and trapping substances at minute concentrations, to purify water or air, and can also hold large amounts of energy, for making better batteries and energy storage devices. Scientists have designed more than 88,000 precisely-customised MOFs – with applications ranging from agriculture to pharmaceuticals – but the traditional process for creating them is environmentally unsustainable and can take several hours or even days

Now researchers from RMIT in Australia have demonstrated a clean, green technique that can produce a customised MOF in minutes. Dr Heba Ahmed, lead author of the study published in Nature Communications, said the efficient and scaleable method harnessed the precision power of high-frequency sound waves.

Dr Heba Ahmed holding a MOF created with high-frequency sound waves.

Dr Heba Ahmed holding a MOF created with high-frequency sound waves

MOFs have boundless potential, but we need cleaner and faster synthesis techniques to take full advantage of all their possible benefits,” Ahmed, a postdoctoral researcher in RMIT’s Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory, said. “Our acoustically-driven approach avoids the environmental harms of traditional methods and produces ready-to-use MOFs quickly and sustainably. “The technique not only eliminates one of the most time-consuming steps in making MOFs, it leaves no trace and can be easily scaled up for efficient mass production.

Metal-organic frameworks are crystalline powders full of tiny, molecular-sized holes. They have a unique structuremetals joined to each other by organic linkers – and are so porous that if you took a gram of a MOF and spread out its internal surface area, you would cover an area larger than a football pitch. Some have predicted MOFs could be as important to the 21st  century as plastics were to the 20th.

During the standard production process, solvents and other contaminants become trapped in the MOF’s holes. To flush them out, scientists use a combination of vacuum and high temperatures or harmful chemical solvents in a process called “activation”. In their novel technique, RMIT researchers used a microchip to produce high-frequency sound waves. Co-author and acoustic expert Dr Amgad Rezk said these sound waves, which are not audible to humans, can be used for precision micro- and nano-manufacturing.

At the nano-scale, sound waves are powerful tools for the meticulous ordering and manoeuvring of atoms and molecules,” Rezk said.

Source: https://www.rmit.edu.au/

Huawei is launching“Hongmeng” to replace Android

China’s Huawei is in the process of potentially launching its “Hongmeng” operating system (OS) to replace the U.S. Android OS, an executive said on Thursday, after Reuters reported that the company has applied to trademark the OS in various countries.

Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecoms network gear, has filed for a Hongmeng trademark in countries such as Cambodia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand, data from the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shows. It also filed an application in Peru on May 27, according to the country’s anti-trust agency Indecopi. Data from a U.N. body showed that Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is aiming to trademark the OS in at least nine countries and Europe, in a sign it may be deploying a back-up plan in key markets as U.S. sanctions threaten its business model.

President Donald Trump’s administration last month put Huawei on a blacklist that barred it from doing business with U.S. tech companies such as Alphabet Inc, whose Android OS is used in Huawei’s phones. Andrew Williamson, vice president of Huawei’s public affairs and communications, said Hongmeng was moving forward.

Huawei is in the process of potentially launching a replacement,” Williamson said in an interview in Mexico City. “Presumably we’ll be trying to put trademarks.”

Huawei has a back-up OS in case it is cut off from U.S.-made software, Richard Yu, chief executive of the company’s consumer division, told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview earlier this year. The U.S. official, meeting with officials in Europe to warn against buying Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks, said only time would tell if Huawei could diversify.

It is a fair question to ask if one decides to go with Huawei and Huawei continues to be on our entity list, will Huawei be able to actually deliver what it promises any particular client,” Jonathan Fritz, the U.S. State Department’s director for international communications policy, told reporters in Brussels.

The company, also the world’s second-largest maker of smartphones, has not yet revealed details about its OS.The applications to trademark the OS show that Huawei wants to use Hongmeng for gadgets ranging from smartphones and portable computers to robots and car televisions.

Source: http://www.reuters.com

Electric Aircraft Powered By Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Developers unveiled a hover craft billed as the first flying vehicle to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells on Wednesday in Southern California, in a show-and-tell that raised some eyebrows but never left the ground.  Massachusetts aerospace company Alaka’i Technologies has thrown its hat into the urban air mobility ring, announcing development of an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The power system differentiates the company’s conceptual five-passenger aircraft, called Skai, from other high-profile battery– and hybrid-powered designs unveiled in recent months. Alaka’i‘s concept is unique because many concepts for eVTOL aircraft would be fully or partially powered by lithium ion batteries, a market-proven but imperfect battery chemistry.

Designed by Alaka’i in partnership with BMW Group’s Designworks division, Skai will eventually be capable of carrying up to five passengers and performing missions such as disaster recovery and medical flights, says Alaka’i, which takes its name from the Hawaiian word for “leader“.

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We are moving swiftly and have developed applications for immediate testing and use this year. Our best estimate is Skai will be in practical use in the year 2021,” says Alaka’i co-founder and chief technology officer Brian Morrison.

Skai likely will first perform non-passenger missions, with full certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration to follow, he says. Skai will initially have one pilot and carry four passengers, but the company envisions the design evolving to a fully autonomous, five-passenger aircraft.

Skai will have 400nm (741km) range, ability to carry payloads of 1,000lb (454kg), flight duration of 4h and be capable of about 100kt (185km/h) speeds. Alaka’i expects an eventual Federal Aviation Administration variant of Skai will have capacity to carry five passengers. The conceptual aircraft’s three fuel cells will generate electricity needed to power six motors, each of which will drive a single lifting prop. The company calls the hydrogen fuel system safe and environmentally friendly. The aircraft’s systems will generate hydrogen by stripped it from water in a process called electrolysis.

Fuel cells use an electrochemical reaction to break hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons. The electronics travel through a circuit, creating electricity, then reunite with the protons and with oxygen to create water and heat, according to the US Department of Energy. Morrison declines to specify the state of Alaka’i’s fuel cell technology, calling that information proprietary.

Skai will carry 200 litres (53 USgal) or 400 litres of “liquid hydrogen” in onboard tanks, and refueling will take less than 10min, it says. The fuel cells will have lifespans of 15,000-20,000h of flight, says Alaka’i.

Source: https://alakai.com/
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https://www.flightglobal.com/