Articles from September 2016



Wave Of Destruction In Cancer Cells

Nanoparticles known as Cornell dots, or C dots, have shown great promise as a therapeutic tool in the detection and treatment of cancer.

Now, the ultrasmall particles – developed more than a dozen years ago by Ulrich Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering at Cornell University – have shown they can do something even better: kill cancer cells without attaching a cytotoxic drug.

The study was led by Michelle Bradbury, director of intraoperative imaging at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and associate professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Michael Overholtzer, cell biologist at MSKCC, in collaboration with Wiesner. Their work details how C dots, administered in large doses and with the tumors in a state of nutrient deprivation, trigger a type of cell death called ferroptosis.

wave-of-destruction-against-cancer

If you had to design a nanoparticle for killing cancer, this would be exactly the way you would do it,” Wiesner said. “The particle is well tolerated in normally healthy tissue, but as soon as you have a tumor, and under very specific conditions, these particles become killers.”

In fact,” Bradbury said, “this is the first time we have shown that the particle has intrinsic therapeutic properties.

Source: http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/

Osteoarthritis: NanoParticles Stop Destruction Of Cartilage

Osteoarthritis is a debilitating condition that affects at least 27 million people in the United States, and at least 12 percent of osteoarthritis cases stem from earlier injuries. Over-the-counter painkillers, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, help reduce pain but do not stop unrelenting cartilage destruction. Consequently, pain related to the condition only gets worse. Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown in mice that they can inject nanoparticles into an injured joint and suppress inflammation immediately following an injury, reducing the destruction of cartilage.

osteoarthritisResearchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that injecting nanoparticles into an injured joint can inhibit the inflammation that contributes to the cartilage damage seen in osteoarthritis. Shown in green is an inflammatory protein in cartilage cells. After nanoparticles are injected, the inflammation is greatly reduced

 

I see a lot of patients with osteoarthritis, and there’s really no treatment,” said senior author Christine Pham, MD, an associate professor of medicine. “We try to treat their symptoms, but even when we inject steroids into an arthritic joint, the drug only remains for up to a few hours, and then it’s cleared. These nanoparticles remain.

Frequently, an osteoarthritis patient has suffered an earlier injury — a torn meniscus or ACL injury in the knee, a fall, car accident or other trauma. The body naturally responds to such injuries in the joints with robust inflammation. Patients typically take drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and as pain gets worse, injections of steroids also can provide pain relief, but their effects are short-lived.

In this study, the nanoparticles were injected shortly after an injury, and within 24 hours, the nanoparticles were at work taming inflammation in the joint. But unlike steroid injections that are quickly cleared, the particles remained in cartilage cells in the joints for weeks.

The nanoparticles used in the study are more than 10 times smaller than a red blood cell, which helps them penetrate deeply into tissues. The particles carry a peptide derived from a natural protein called melittin that has been modified to enable it to bind to a molecule called small interfering RNA (siRNA). The melittin delivers siRNA to the damaged joint, interfering with inflammation in cells.

Source: https://source.wustl.edu/

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/

Acidity In Atmosphere Produced By Industries Has Vanished

New r

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) have shown that human pollution of the atmosphere with acid is now almost back to the level that it was before the pollution started with industrialisation in the 1930s.  The Greenland ice sheet is a unique archive of the climate and atmospheric composition far back in time. The ice sheet is made up of snow that falls and never melts, but rather remains year after year and is gradually compressed into ice. By drilling ice cores down through the kilometre-thick ice sheet, the researchers can analyse every single annual layer, which can tell us about past climate change and concentration of greenhouse gases and pollutants in the atmosphere.

Acid in the atmosphere can come from large volcanic eruptions and manmade emissions from industry. You can measure acidity in the ice by simply passing an instrument that can measure conductivity over the ice core. If there is a high level of acidity, the measurement turns out and it works great for measuring the climate of the past all the way back to the last interglacial period 125,000 years ago. But if you want to measure atmospheric acidity for the last 100 years, it is more difficult as the annual layers are located in the uppermost 60 metres and there the ice is more porous as it has not yet been compressed into hard ice. But the last 100 years are interesting for climate researchers as it is the period where we have had massive pollution of the atmosphere from industrialisation, vehicle use and people’s energy consuming lifestyles.

banquiseWe have therefore developed a new method that can directly measure the acidity of the ice using a spectrometer. We have an ice rod that is cut along the length of the ice core. This ice core rod is slowly melted and the meltwater runs into a laboratory where they take a lot of chemical measurements. With our new method you can also measure the acidity, that is to say, we measure the pH value and this is seen when the water changes colour after the addition of a pH dye. We can directly see the fluctuations from year to year,” explains Helle Astrid Kjær, postdoc in the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

The results come from studies of the Greenland ice sheet and are published in the scientific journal, Environmental Science and Technology.

Source: http://news.ku.dk/

Electric Train: Bye Bye Diesel, Hello Pure Air !

The French company Alstom has presented its zero-emission train at InnoTrans, the railway industry’s largest trade fair (Berlin September 2016). Despite numerous electrification projects in several countries, a significant part of Europe’s rail network will remain non-electrified in the long term. In many countries, the number of diesel trains in circulation is still high – more than 4,000 cars in Germany, for instance.

Coradia iLint from Alstom is a new CO2-emission-free regional train and alternative to diesel power. It is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, its only emission being steam and condensed water while operating with a low level of noise. Alstom is among the first railway manufacturers in the world to develop a passenger train based on such a technology. To make the deployment of the Coradia iLint as simple as possible for operators, Alstom offers a complete package, consisting of the train and maintenance, as well as also the whole hydrogen infrastructure out of one hand thanks to help from partners.

Alstom expects to sign a firm order for a production build of hydrogen fuel cell powered multiple-units by the end of the year, Coradia LINT Product Manager Stefan Schrank told Railway Gazette on September 20.

The expected initial firm order would cover units for service in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Alstom has already signed letters of intent with four German Länder covering a total of 60 trainsets, and anticipates firm orders for between 40 and 70 units by the end of 2017. Schrank was speaking at InnoTrans following the unveiling of the first of two pre-production iLINT fuel cell multiple-units which are to be tested on regional services around Hannover under an agreement with the Land of Niedersachsen. The two pre-production units are owned by Alstom, which plans to conduct testing throughout 2017, including at the Velim test circuit. Type approval from Germany’s Federal Railway Office is expected by the end of 2017, enabling the start of trial passenger running around Hannover in late 2017 or early 2018.

alstom-hydrogen-electric-train

The fuel cell trainsets have the same bodies, bogies and drive equipment as the conventional diesels, and the two units will directly replace two diesel units to provide a real-world comparison of performance.

The hydrogen tanks and fuel cells are mounted on the car roofs, with the tanks carrying 94 kg of hydrogen per car, enough for around one day or 700 km of operation. The fuel cells were supplied by Hydrogenics, after Alstom took a decision to partner with an experienced specialist rather than develop its own technology. The fuel cells are linked to lithium ion batteries from Akasol.

Alstom anticipates that operating costs will be comparable to diesel units. The environmental footprint of the trainsets will depend on how the hydrogen is produced; under Germany’s current electricity generating mix and electrolysis produces an unfavourable comparison to diesel, but the generating mix predicted for 2020 would make the hydrogen greener, Schrank said.

He sees a bright future for fuel cells, which he believes have now reached a comparable level of development to diesel engines 100 years ago.

Source: http://www.railwaygazette.com/

SuperRobot Arm Drone

Japanese company Prodrone has released what it calls “the world’s first dual robot arm large-format drone“, with the ability to carry heavy objects and perform detailed tasks. The PD6B-AW-ARM drone weighs 20 kilograms and can carry objects with a maximum weight of 10 kilograms. It can fly for up to 30 minutes, with a maximum forward speed of 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour), and has a maximum operating altitude of 5,000 meters (16,404 feet).

prodroneCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The PD6B-AW-ARM, a large-format drone equipped with two internally-developed robotic arms, enabling it to directly accomplish a variety of tasksProdrone, headquartered in Nagoya, Japan, has developed a wide range of commercial and industrial drones through development agreements with numerous industrial drone companies.

Examples of these operations include the abilities to grasp and carry differently shaped cargo using its arms; to attach or join things; to cut cables; to turn dials; to flick switches; to drop lifesaving buoys; to retrieve hazardous materials, etc. Drones must be able to perform a variety of operations at high altitudes, over long distances, and in places where it would be too dangerous for humans.

Up to now the industrial and commercial drone market has focused on using drones for photography and filming, mapping, surveying, spraying pesticides, etc., but there is increasingly strong demand for drones to be able to directly perform specific “hands-on” operations.

Source: http://news.asiaone.com/
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https://www.prodrone.jp/

Algorithm Replicates Perfectly Your Handwriting

In a world increasingly dominated by the QWERTY keyboard, computer scientists from University College London (UCL) have developed software which may spark the comeback of the handwritten word by analysing the handwriting of any individual and accurately replicating it.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEOcomputer-program-replicates-handwriting

The scientists have created ‘My Text in Your Handwriting’, a programme which semi-automatically examines a sample of a person’s handwriting, which can be as little as one paragraph, and generates new text saying whatever the user wishes, as if the author had handwritten it themselves. “Our software has lots of valuable applications. Stroke victims, for example, may be able to formulate letters without the concern of illegibility, or someone sending flowers as a gift could include a handwritten note without even going into the florist. It could also be used in comic books where a piece of handwritten text can be translated into different languages without losing the author’s original style”, said First author, Dr Tom Haines (UCL Computer Science).

Co-author, Dr Oisin Mac Aodha (UCL Computer Science), adds: “Up until now, the only way to produce computer-generated text that resembles a specific person’s handwriting would be to use a relevant font. The problem with such fonts is that it is often clear that the text has not been penned by hand, which loses the character and personal touch of a handwritten piece of text. What we’ve developed removes this problem and so could be used in a wide variety of commercial and personal circumstances.”

Published in ACM Transactions on Graphics, the machine learning algorithm is built around glyphs – a specific instance of a character.

Source: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

New Drug Reduces Osteoporosis dramatically

Felicia Cosman, MD, an endocrinologist at Helen Hayes Hospital Regional Bone Center in West Haverstraw, New York, and professor of medicine at Columbia University, and colleagues performed a prespecified subgroup analysis of data from 2,463 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (aged 49-86 years; mean age, 69 years) enrolled in the phase 3 ACTIVE trial. Participants were randomly assigned 80 g subcutaneous abaloparatide (n = 824) or placebo (n = 821), or open-label 20 g subcutaneous teriparatide (n = 818).

osteoporosis
At 18 months, participants assigned abaloparatide had a 9.2% increase in Bone Mass Measurement (BMD) from baseline at the lumbar spine, 3.4 % at the total hip,  3.4% and 2.9% at the femoral neck compared with placebo. Morphometric vertebral fractures were reduced by 86%, nonvertebral fractures by 43% and major osteoporotic fractures by 70% in the abaloparatide group compared to placebo. Compared with teriparatide, major osteoporotic fractures were reduced by 55% in the aloparatide group.
Reductions in new morphometric vertebral and nonvertebral fractures were similar across subgroups, as were increases in BMD, and researchers observed no meaningful interactions between baseline risk factor subgroups and treatment effects. “Our findings suggest that abaloparatide-SC, if approved, has the potential to provide consistent protection against fractures and to increase BMD in a broad group of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, regardless of baseline age, BMD or prior fracture history,” Cosman said.

http://www.healio.com/

Mapping The Tooth Enamel At The Atomic Scale

Material and structures engineers worked with dentists and bioengineers to map the exact composition and structure of tooth enamel at the atomic scale. Using a relatively new microscopy technique called atom probe tomography, their work produced the first-ever three-dimensional maps showing the positions of atoms critical in the decay process. The new knowledge on atom composition at the nanolevel has the potential to aid oral health hygiene and caries prevention, and has been published today in the journal Science Advances.

smiling-with-teeth

The dental professionals have known that certain trace ions are important in the tough structure of tooth enamel but until now it had been impossible to map the ions in detail. The structure of human tooth enamel is extremely intricate and while we have known that magnesium, carbonate and fluoride ions influence enamel properties scientists have never been able to capture its structure at a high enough resolution or definition“, said Professor Julie Cairney, Material and Structures Engineer in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, University of Sidney, Australia.

The dental professionals have known that certain trace ions are important in the tough structure of tooth enamel but until now it had been impossible to map the ions in detail. “The structure of human tooth enamel is extremely intricate and while we have known that magnesium, carbonate and fluoride ions influence enamel properties scientists have never been able to capture its structure at a high enough resolution or definition.”“What we have found are the magnesium-rich regions between the hydroxyapatite nanorods that make up the enamel”, she comments. “This means we have the first direct evidence of the existence of a proposed amorphous magnesium-rich calcium phosphate phase that plays an essential role in governing the behaviour of teeth “.

We were also able to see nanoscale ‘clumps’ of organic material, which indicates that proteins and peptides are heterogeneously distributed within the enamel rather than present along all the nanorod interfaces, which was what was previously suggested”, adds  co-lead researcher on the study, Dr Alexandre La Fontaine from the University’s Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis . “The mapping has the potential for new treatments designed around protecting against the dissolution of this specific amorphous phase. “The new understanding of how enamel forms will also help in tooth remineralisation research.”

Source: http://sydney.edu.au/

Graphene Audio Speakers

Graphene has been hailed as a wonder material since it was first made more than a decade ago. It’s showing up in an increasing number of products, including coatings, sports equipment and even light bulbs. Now scientists are one step closer to making graphene audio speakers for mobile devices. They report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces a simple way to fabricate once-elusive thermoacoustic speakers using the ultra-thin material.

graphene-speakers

Conventional speakers today rely on many mechanical parts that vibrate to create sound and must be encased in an acoustic cavity — essentially, in a box. But this approach complicates manufacturing and limits where listeners can put their speakers. Scientists have been pursuing ways around this by turning to a principle conceived of more than a century ago: thermoacoustics, the production of sound by rapidly heating and cooling a material rather than through vibrations. Science has caught up to this concept largely thanks to the development of graphene, which is highly conductive and durable. Some efforts to make graphene speakers have succeeded, but making them en masse would be challenging. Jung-Woo Choi, Byungjin Cho, Sang Ouk Kim and colleagues at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) wanted to come up with a simpler approach.

The researchers developed a two-step (freeze-drying and reduction/doping) method for making a sound-emitting graphene aerogel. An array of 16 of these aerogels comprised a speaker that could operate on 40 Watts of power with a sound quality comparable to that of other graphene-based sound systems. The researchers say their fabrication method is practical and could lend itself to mass production for use in mobile devices and other applications. Because the speaker is thin and doesn’t vibrate, it could fit snugly against walls and even curved surfaces.

Source: https://www.acs.org/

Robots Can Speak Like Real Humans

Generating speech from a piece of text is a common and important task undertaken by computers, but it’s pretty rare that the result could be mistaken for ordinary speech. A new technique from researchers at Alphabet’s DeepMind  (Google) takes a completely different approach, producing speech and even music that sounds eerily like the real thing.

robot-terminator

Early systems used a large library of the parts of speech (phonemes and morphemes) and a large ruleset that described all the ways letters combined to produce those sounds. The pieces were joined, or concatenated, creating functional speech synthesis that can handle most words, albeit with unconvincing cadence and tone. Later systems parameterized the generation of sound, making a library of speech fragments unnecessary. More compact — but often less effective.

WaveNet, as the system is called, takes things deeper. It simulates the sound of speech at as low a level as possible: one sample at a time. That means building the waveform from scratch16,000 samples per second.

milliwavenetEach dot is a separately calculated sample; the aggregate is the digital waveform.

You already know from the headline, but if you don’t, you probably would have guessed what makes this possible: neural networks. In this case, the researchers fed a ton of ordinary recorded speech to a convolutional neural network, which created a complex set of rules that determined which tones follow other tones in every common context of speech.

Each sample is determined not just by the sample before it, but the thousands of samples that came before it. They all feed into the neural network’s algorithm; it knows that certain tones or samples will almost always follow each other, and certain others will almost never. People don’t speak in square waves, for instance.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/tone

Nanotechnology Fights Malignant Melanoma

Changes in the genetic make-up of tissue samples can be detected quickly and easily using a new method based on nanotechnology. This report researchers from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel in first clinical tests with genetic mutations in patients with malignant melanoma. According to estimates by the American Skin Cancer Foundation, today more people develop skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer together.
Although malignant melanoma accounts for only about 5 percent of skin cancers, these are the most serious cases and can result in death. Around half of all patients who develop malignant melanoma exhibit a particular genetic change (mutation). This involves a change in the BRAF gene (B gene for Rapid Acceleration of Fibrosarcoma) that leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation. There are now drugs that exploit these specific mutations and fight the cancer, significantly extending patients’ life expectancy. However, they work only if the corresponding genetic mutation is actually present. Where it is not, they give rise to severe side effects without producing the desired effect.

melanoma

It is therefore essential that we are able to identify the mutations reliably in tissue samples. That is the only way of ensuring that patients get the right treatment and successful outcomes,” explains the paper’s co-author, Professor Katharina Glatz of the Institute of Pathology at University Hospital Basel.

The journal Nano Letters has published the study.

 Source: https://www.unibas.ch/