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Quadriplegic Man Moves Again Just By Thinking

Bill Kochevar grabbed a mug of water, drew it to his lips and drank through the straw. His motions were slow and deliberate, but then Kochevar hadn’t moved his right arm or hand for eight years. And it took some practice to reach and grasp just by thinking about it. Kochevar, who was paralyzed below his shoulders in a bicycling accident, is believed to be the first person with quadriplegia in the world to have arm and hand movements restored with the help of two temporarily implanted technologies.

A brain-computer interface with recording electrodes under his skull, and a functional electrical stimulation (FES) system activating his arm and hand, reconnect his brain to paralyzed muscles. Holding a makeshift handle pierced through a dry sponge, Kochevar scratched the side of his nose with the sponge. He scooped forkfuls of mashed potatoes from a bowl—perhaps his top goal—and savored each mouthful. Kochevar (56, of Cleveland) is the focal point of research led by Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Center at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center (UH).


brain implant2

For somebody who’s been injured eight years and couldn’t move, being able to move just that little bit is awesome to me,” said Kochevar. “It’s better than I thought it would be.”

 

He’s really breaking ground for the spinal cord injury community,” commented Bob Kirsch, chair of Case Western Reserve’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, executive director of the FES Center and principal investigator (PI) and senior author of the research. “This is a major step toward restoring some independence.”

A study of the work has been published in the The Lancet.

Source: http://thedaily.case.edu/

A Smartphone App To Loose Weight

Psychologists at the University of Exeter (UK) have found that less than ten minutes a day of ‘brain training’ using a game they have devised can slow impulses to reach for unhealthy snacks, and reduce calorie intake. Using neuroscience and lab trials to devise a proven method of curbing unhealthy food intake, Professor Natalia Lawrence’s Food Trainer app is being launched this week free to the public, in a month when people traditionally make resolutions to lose weight and cut down on junk foodDr Natalia Lawrence is a cognitive neuroscientist at Exeter University. She designed the app after using brain imaging to study how the brain’s reward system responded to pictures of unhealthy food.

food trainer

It’s very exciting to see that our free and simple training can change eating habits and have a positive impact on some people’s lives,” she said. “It’s a tool to help people make healthier choices. In an age where unhealthy food is so abundant and easily available and obesity is a growing health crisis, we need to design innovative ways to support people to live more healthily. We are optimistic that the way this app is devised will actually encourage people to opt for healthy food such as fruit and vegetables rather than junk food.

Among those to have used the training is Fiona Furness, a studios manager for a charity providing studios for artists, who went from around 11 stone to around nine stone after taking part in a trial of the food training game. She said the “pounds just melted way”. “I used to feel really guilt about my bad snacking habits. I’d often be rushing about, and I’d grab something high calorie and unsatisfying – often a pack of crisps. I’d be hungry again really soon afterwards so it became a vicious cycle. The results have been remarkable,” she explained. “These days, if I am feeling peckish I’ll go for a banana or a pack of almonds. That’s the food I’m craving. I’m now closer to nine stone than 11 – the pounds just melted away over eight or nine months without me even noticing. The weight loss wasn’t really my goal though – I feel younger and more energetic. Perhaps I’m particularly susceptible to this kind of brain training, but it has been transformative for me.

A study of 83 adults showed that people who played the game online just 4 times in one week lost weight and ate an average of 220 kcal less per day – roughly equivalent to a chocolate-iced doughnut.The academics found in trials that playing the game without distractions for a few minutes a day can train the brain to control impulses to reach for chocolate, cakes, crisps or alcohol. The release of the free app will allow dieters or those who want to cut consumption of junk food or alcohol to try it and in the process generate more anonymous data to help psychologists measure how effective an app version of the brain-training programme can be.

The basis of the app is published research showing that people are more inclined to choose foods or drink high in sugar and fat because they activate the brain’s reward system, stimulating the release of dopamine and endorphins, which can produce feelings of pleasure and make the person want more. Research has found that the more people activate brain areas associated with reward when they see foods, the more they eat and the more weight they gain. Once triggered, these impulses can be hard to control.

Source: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/

First Graphene-Enhanced Aircraft

Prospero, the first model aircraft to incorporate a graphene skinned wing, was successfully flown at the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK earlier this year. The flight sets an example of how graphene might be used within the aerospace sector. Prospero has been exhibited at Composites Europe in Düsseldorf, Germany. Graphene exhibits impressive mechanical, thermal, electrical and barrier properties which are important features within the aerospace and automotive sector. It can be used as a nano-additive within thermoplastics and thermosets to improve the mechanical properties of the base material and also reduce weight. Upon further optimisation, thermal, electrical and barrier properties can also be imparted into a material, opening opportunities for multifunctional performance.

prospero

GRAPHENE: The one atom-thick material is 200 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity better than any material known to man. Scientists believe graphene has thousands of potential commercial applications, including being used in the next generation of aeroplanes and high-speed trains.

 

The test flight of Prospero represents a new stage in a research partnership which is investigating the effects of graphene in drag reduction, thermal management and ultimately the ability to achieve lightning strike protection for aerospace and other related sectors. This research is a joint collaboration between the University of Manchester and the University of Central Lancashire and several SMEs, including Haydale Composite Solutions. The University of Manchester is a partner of the Graphene Flagship, EU’s largest ever research initiative. During Composites Europe the Graphene Connect Workshop will highlight the wide range of applications for graphene in the aerospace sector.

Source: http://phys.org/

NonCarbon SuperCapacitor Produces More Power

Energy storage devices called supercapacitors have become a hot area of research, in part because they can be charged rapidly and deliver intense bursts of power. However, all supercapacitors currently use components made of carbon, which require high temperatures and harsh chemicals to produce. Now researchers at MIT and elsewhere have for the first time developed a supercapacitor that uses no conductive carbon at all, and that could potentially produce more power than existing versions of this technology.

mit-supercapacitor

We’ve found an entirely new class of materials for supercapacitors,” Dincă says.

Dincă and his team have been exploring for years a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, which are extremely porous, sponge-like structures. These materials have an extraordinarily large surface area for their size, much greater than the carbon materials do. That is an essential characteristic for supercapacitors, whose performance depends on their surface area. But MOFs have a major drawback for such applications: They are not very electrically conductive, which is also an essential property for a material used in a capacitor.

One of our long-term goals was to make these materials electrically conductive,” Dincă says, even though doing so “was thought to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.” But the material did exhibit another needed characteristic for such electrodes, which is that it conducts ions (atoms or molecules that carry a net electric charge) very well.

All double-layer supercapacitors today are made from carbon,” Dincă says. “They use carbon nanotubes, graphene, activated carbon, all shapes and forms, but nothing else besides carbon. So this is the first noncarbon, electrical double-layer supercapacitor.”

The team’s findings are being reported in the journal Nature Materials, in a paper by Mircea Dincă, an MIT associate professor of chemistry; Yang Shao-Horn, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy; and four others.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

Yahoo secretly scanned emails for U.S. intelligence

In compliance with a classified U.S. government demand, Yahoo scanned hundreds of millions e-mails for specific information, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Sources who did not want to be identified say that would have meant a specific phrase in an e-mail or attachment. Some surveillance experts say this is the first such major case to surface of an Internet company agreeing to an intelligence request by searching all arriving messages. The content of the information intelligence officers were looking for is not known. Reuters was unable to determine what data, if any, Yahoo may have handed over.

yahoo-headquarters

A day after the Reuters report broke, Yahoo issued a statement denying the story. The statement from a Yahoo spokesperson and sent to TechRadar reads, “The [Reuters] article is misleading. We narrowly interpret every government request for user data to minimize disclosure. The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.”

It’s interesting to note that the statement says the Reuters report is “misleading” and not unequivocally false. There may be some truth to the original story, but Yahoo is not saying which parts are accurate.

However, Yahoo does deny the existence of the email scanning tool that anonymous sources revealed to Reuters. It’s unknown why Yahoo originally provided us with a statement that read, “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” only to follow up with a denial 12 hours later with the statement above.

Yahoo built custom software for the US government to help its spy agencies look for specific information in any of its users’ emails, according to a new report.

Reuters claims Yahoo built the program last year at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). The publication learned about the company’s alleged actions through interviews with two anonymous former Yahoo employees and another anonymous source familiar with the matter.

While technically legal according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA), Yahoo‘s move to allow real-time mass surveillance of its users is unprecedented. It’s also unknown what exactly the NSA and FBI were looking for.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Triggered Immune Cells Attack Cancer

Stanford researchers accidentally discovered that iron nanoparticles invented for anemia treatment have another use: triggering the immune system’s ability to destroy tumor cellsIron nanoparticles can activate the immune system to attack cancer cells, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The nanoparticles, which are commercially available as the injectable iron supplement ferumoxytol, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat iron deficiency anemia.

The mouse study found that ferumoxytol prompts immune cells called tumor-associated macrophages to destroy cancer cells, suggesting that the nanoparticles could complement existing cancer treatments.

macrophages-attack-cancerA mouse study found that ferumoxytol prompts immune cells called tumor-associated macrophages to destroy tumor cells.

It was really surprising to us that the nanoparticles activated macrophages so that they started to attack cancer cells in mice,” said Heike Daldrup-Link, MD, who is the study’s senior author and an associate professor of radiology at the School of Medicine. “We think this concept should hold in human patients, too.

The study showed that the iron nanoparticles switch the macrophages back to their cancer-attacking state, as evidenced by tracking the products of the macrophages’ metabolism and examining their patterns of gene expression.

Furthermore, in a mouse model of breast cancer, the researchers demonstrated that the ferumoxytol inhibited tumor growth when given in doses, adjusted for body weight, similar to those approved by the FDA for anemia treatment.

Daldrup-Link’s team conducted an experiment that used three groups of mice: an experimental group that got nanoparticles loaded with chemo, a control group that got nanoparticles without chemo and a control group that got neither. The researchers made the unexpected observation that the growth of the tumors in control animals that got nanoparticles only was suppressed compared with the other controls.

The discovery, described in a paper published online in Nature Nanotechnology, was made by accident while testing whether the nanoparticles could serve as Trojan horses by sneaking chemotherapy into tumors in mice.
Source: http://med.stanford.edu/

Implanted Neural Nanocomputers To Boost Failing Human Brains

As neural implants become more and more advanced, researchers think humans may be able to overcome diseases and defects like strokes and dementia with the help of nanocomputers in our brains.

With the forecasted inevitable rise of the machines — be they robots or artificial intelligences — humans are beginning to realize that they should work to maintain superiority. There are a few ideas about how we should do it, but perhaps the most promising option is to go full cyborg. (What could possibly go wrong?) On Monday, a company called Kernel, announced that it would be leading the charge.

Active_brain

The idea is something straight out of dorm room pot-smoking sessions. What if, the exhaling sophomore muses, we put computers inside our brains? Unfortunately for prospective stoner-scientists, the actual creation of such a device — a functioning, cognitive-enhancing neural implant — has long evaded bioengineers and neuroscientists alike.

Kernel thinks it’s past time to make real progress. Theodore Berger runs the Univerity of Southern California’s Center for Neural Engineering, and he caught the eye of Bryan Johnson, a self-made multimillionaire who’s obsessed with augmenting human intelligence. With Johnson’s entrepreneurial money and Berger’s scientific brain, the two launched Kernel.
For now, Berger and Johnson are focusing on achievable goals with immediate impacts. They are creating an analogous human neural implant that can mitigate cognitive decline in those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and the aftereffects of strokes, concussions, and other brain injuries or neurological diseases. If Kernel is able to replicate even the 10 percent cognitive improvement that Berger demonstrated in monkeys, those who suffer from these cognitive disorders will be that much more capable of forming memories and living out enjoyable lives.

Source: https://www.inverse.com/

Solar Tents in Malawi Boost Sources Of Nutrition

Traders in southern Malawi could soon have bigger fish to fry. A low-tech solar tent made from polythene stretched over a wooden frame is being used to dry fish more efficiently. Fish traders say it helps prolong the shelf life of the catch and fetches a higher price at market.

solar tentsCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

I can tell you that I am a very happy and thankful woman because of this solar dryer project“, says Jennifer Mussa, fish trader.
Agricultural innovation fund Cultivate Africa’s Future is encouraging traders to improve processing methods. Fishing employs over 50,000 and is a crucial source of nutrition in Malawi, but 40 percent of fish is lost during processing.

So it reduces the amount of time that the fish processors would take to dry it. It also prevents loss of the fish due to predation… some birds and what have you and dust. And ideally it does increase the quality of fish“, comments fisheries expert Dr. Mangani Katundu. Fish here is mostly processed through solar drying, frying or smoking. The Australian-Canadian fund is also encouraging the use of energy saving kilns for smoking.

This method is effective and is a simpler way to smoke fish. We are using very little wood and it takes a short time to smoke lots of fish as you can see here“, adds Loveness Mphongo, fish trader.  The new methods are expected to help reduce the losses and boost incomes for fish sellers. It’s hoped the project can be extended to other fishing communities across Africa.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

One Molecule Plays David Against The Goliath Of Aging

Are pomegranates really the superfood we’ve been led to believe will counteract the aging process? Up to now, scientific proof has been fairly weak. And some controversial marketing tactics have led to skepticism as well. A team of scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the company Amazentis wanted to explore the issue by taking a closer look at the secrets of this plump pink fruit. They discovered that a molecule in pomegranates, transformed by microbes in the gut, enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of aging. In nematodes and rodents, the effect is nothing short of amazing. Human clinical trials are currently underway, but these initial findings have already been published in the journal Nature Medicine. 

pomegranates

As we age, our cells increasingly struggle to recycle their powerhouses. Called mitochondria, these inner compartments are no longer able to carry out their vital function, thus accumulate in the cell. This degradation affects the health of many tissues, including muscles, which gradually weaken over the years. A buildup of dysfunctional mitochondria is also suspected of playing a role in other diseases of aging, such as Parkinson’s disease.
The scientists identified a molecule that, all by itself, managed to re-establish the cell’s ability to recycle the components of the defective mitochondria: urolithin A. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” says Patrick Aebischer, co-author on the study. “It’s a completely natural substance, and its effect is powerful and measurable.”

The team started out by testing their hypothesis on the usual suspect: the nematode C. elegans. It’s a favorite test subject among aging experts, because after just 8-10 days it’s already considered elderly. The lifespan of worms exposed to urolithin A increased by more than 45% compared with the control group.

These initial encouraging results led the team to test the molecule on animals that have more in common with humans. In the rodent studies, like with C. elegans, a significant reduction in the number of mitochondria was observed, indicating that a robust cellular recycling process was taking place. Older mice, around two years of age, showed 42% better endurance while running than equally old mice in the control group.

According to study co-author Johan Auwerx, it would be surprising if urolithin A weren’t effective in humans. “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.”

Urolithin A’s function is the product of tens of millions of years of parallel evolution between plants, bacteria and animals. According to Chris Rinsch, co-author and CEO of Amazentis, this evolutionary process explains the molecule’s effectiveness: “Precursors to urolithin A are found not only in pomegranates, but also in smaller amounts in many nuts and berries. Yet for it to be produced in our intestines, the bacteria must be able to break down what we’re eating. When, via digestion, a substance is produced that is of benefit to us, natural selection favors both the bacteria involved and their host. Our objective is to follow strict clinical validations, so that everyone can benefit from the result of these millions of years of evolution.”

Source; http://actu.epfl.ch/

 

Cheap Biosensor Detects Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Parkinson’s

A biosensor developed by researchers at the National Nanotechnology Laboratory (LNNano) in Campinas, São Paulo State, Brazil, has been proven capable of detecting molecules associated with neurodegenerative diseases and some types of cancer.

biosensor LNNano

The device is basically a single-layer organic nanometer-scale transistor on a glass slide. It contains the reduced form of the peptide glutathione (GSH), which reacts in a specific way when it comes into contact with the enzyme glutathione S-transferase (GST), linked to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, among other diseases. The GSH-GST reaction is detected by the transistor, which can be used for diagnostic purposes.

The project focuses on the development of point-of-care devices by researchers in a range of knowledge areas, using functional materials to produce simple sensors and microfluidic systems for rapid diagnosis.

Platforms like this one can be deployed to diagnose complex diseases quickly, safely and relatively cheaply, using nanometer-scale systems to identify molecules of interest in the material analyzed,” explained Carlos Cesar Bof Bufon, Head of LNNano’s Functional Devices & Systems Lab (DSF) and a member of the research team for the project, whose principal investigator is Lauro Kubota, a professor at the University of Campinas’s Chemistry Institute (IQ-UNICAMP).

In addition to portability and low cost, the advantages of the nanometric biosensor include its sensitivity in detecting molecules, according to Bufon.

This is the first time organic transistor technology has been used in detecting the pair GSH-GST, which is important in diagnosing degenerative diseases, for example,” he explained. “The device can detect such molecules even when they’re present at very low levels in the examined material, thanks to its nanometric sensitivity.” A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter (10-9 meter), or one millionth of a millimeter.

The system can be adapted to detect other substances, such as molecules linked to different diseases and elements present in contaminated material, among other applications. This requires replacing the molecules in the sensor with others that react with the chemicals targeted by the test, which are known as analytes.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/

In 2029 Immortality May Be Possible

Scientist Ray Kurzweil (Google‘s Director of Engineering) reckons man could become immortal in just a few years’ time. The 61-year-old American – dubbed the smartest futurist on Earth by Microsoft founder Bill Gates – has consistently predicted new technologies many years before they arrived. Here, Ray explains why he believes today’s 60-year-olds could go on to live forever. We are living through the most exciting period of human historyComputer technology and our understanding of genes — our body’s software programs — are accelerating at an incredible rate. He and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing. Then nano-technology will let us live for ever.

Already, blood cell-sized submarines cnanorobotsalled nanobots are being tested in animals. These will soon be used to destroy tumours, unblock clots and perform operations without scars.

Ultimately, nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work thousands of times more effectively. Within 25 years we will be able to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or go scuba-diving for four hours without oxygen. Heart-attack victims — who haven’t taken advantage of widely available bionic hearts — will calmly drive to the doctors for a minor operation as their blood bots keep them alive. Nanotechnology will extend our mental capacities to such an extent we will be able to write books within minutes. If we want to go into virtual-reality mode, nanobots will shut down brain signals and take us wherever we want to go. Virtual sex will become commonplace. And in our daily lives, hologram-like figures will pop up in our brain to explain what is happening.

These technologies should not seem at all fanciful. Our phones now perform tasks we wouldn’t have dreamed possible 20 years ago. In 1965, an university’s only computer cost £7million and was huge. Today your mobile phone is a million times less expensive and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion times more capable for the same price.

According to Kurrzweil’s theory — the Law of Accelerating Returns — we will experience another billion-fold increase in technological capability for the same cost in the next 25 years. So we can look forward to a world where humans become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs. This might sound far-fetched, but remember, diabetics already have artificial pancreases and Parkinson’s patients have neural implants. As we approach the 21st Century’s second decade, stunning medical breakthroughs are a regular occurrence.

In 2008 we discovered skin cells can be transformed into the equivalent of embryonic cells. So organs will soon be repaired and eventually grown. In a few years most people will have their entire genetic sequences mapped. Before long, we will all know the diseases we are susceptible to and gene therapies will mean virtually no genetic problems that can’t be erased. It’s important to ensure we get to take advantage of the upcoming technologies by living well and not getting hit by a bus.

By the middle of this century we will have back-up copies of the information in our bodies and brains that make us who we are. Then we really will be immortal.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com
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http://www.thesun.co.uk/

How To Monitor and Combat Diabetes With A Simple Patch

In the future, diabetics may be able to replace finger prick tests and injections with this non-invasive smart patch to keep their glucose levels in check.

patch against diabetesCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The device is a type of patch which enables diabetic patients to monitor blood sugar levels via sweat without taking blood samples and control glucose levels by injecting medication“, says Kim Dae-Hyeong, researcher at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Seoul National University, South Korea.

After analyzing the patient’s sweat to sense glucose, the patch’s embedded sensors constantly test pH, humidity, and temperature – important factors for accurate blood sugar readings. The graphene-based patch is studded with micro-needles coated with medication that pierce the skin painlessly. When the patch senses above normal glucose levels a tiny heating element switches on which dissolves the medication coating the microneedles and releases it into the body. The prototype worked well in mice trials.

Diabetic patients can easily use our device because it does not cause any pain or stress them out. So they can monitor and manage blood glucose levels more often to prevent increasing it. Therefore, our device can greatly contribute to helping patients avoid complications of the disease“, comments Professor Kim Dae-Hyeong. Researchers want to lower the cost of production, while figuring out how to delivery enough medication to effectively treat humans, both major hurdles towards commercialization. The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology in March.

Source: http://www.ibs.re.kr/