Articles from March 2017



Your browsing history may be up for sale soon

A US House committee is set to vote on whether to kill privacy rules that would prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users’ web browsing histories and app usage histories to advertisers. Planned protections, proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would have forced ISPs to get people’s consent before hawking their data – are now at risk. Here’s why it matters.

Your web browsing patterns contain a treasure trove of data, including your health concerns, shopping habits and visits to porn sites. ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit. The fact that you’re looking at a website at all can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.

spy your dataIf you ask the ISPs, it’s about showing the user more relevant advertising. They argue that web browsing history and app usage should not count as “sensitiveinformation.
Not all ISPs want to abolish the privacy protections. A list of several smaller providers – including Monkeybrains.net, Cruzio Internet and Credo Mobile – have written to representatives to oppose the decision. “One of the cornerstones of our businesses is respecting the privacy of our customers,” they said.
How does this differ from the way Google and Facebook use our data?
It’s much harder to prevent ISPs from tracking your data. You can choose not to use Facebook or Google’s search engine, and there are lots of tools you can use to block their tracking on other parts of the web, for example EFF’s Privacy Badger.

Consumers are generally much more limited for choice of ISP, in some cases only having one option in a given geographical area. This means they can’t choose one of the ISPs pledging to protect user data.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/

A Brain-computer Interface To Combat The Rise of AI

Elon Musk is attempting to combat the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) with the launch of his latest venture, brain-computer interface company NeuralinkLittle is known about the startup, aside from what has been revealed in a Wall Street Journal report, but says sources have described it as “neural lace” technology that is being engineered by the company to allow humans to seamlessly communicate with technology without the need for an actual, physical interface. The company has also been registered in California as a medical research entity because Neuralink’s initial focus will be on using the described interface to help with the symptoms of chronic conditions, from epilepsy to depression. This is said to be similar to how deep brain stimulation controlled by an implant helps  Matt Eagles, who has Parkinson’s, manage his symptoms effectively. This is far from the first time Musk has shown an interest in merging man and machine. At a Tesla launch in Dubai earlier this year, the billionaire spoke about the need for humans to become cyborgs if we are to survive the rise of artificial intelligence.

cyborg woman

Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,”CNBC reported him as saying at the time. “It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.” Transhumanism, the enhancement of humanity’s capabilities through science and technology, is already a living reality for many people, to varying degrees. Documentary-maker Rob Spence replaced one of his own eyes with a video camera in 2008; amputees are using prosthetics connected to their own nerves and controlled using electrical signals from the brain; implants are helping tetraplegics regain independence through the BrainGate project.

Former director of the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Arati Prabhakar, comments: “From my perspective, which embraces a wide swathe of research disciplines, it seems clear that we humans are on a path to a more symbiotic union with our machines.

Source: http://www.wired.co.uk/

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/

Nanocoatings Reduce Dental Implant Bacterial Infection By 97%

According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), 15 million Americans have crown or bridge replacements and three million have dental implants – with this latter number rising by 500,000 a year. The AAID estimates that the value of the American and European market for dental implants will rise to $4.2 billion by 2022. Dental implants are a successful form of treatment for patients, yet according to a study published in 2005, five to ten per cent of all dental implants fail. The reasons for this failure are several-fold – mechanical problems, poor connection to the bones in which they are implanted, infection or rejection. When failure occurs the dental implant must be removed. The main cause for dental implant failure is peri-implantitis. This is the destructive inflammatory process affecting the soft and hard tissues surrounding dental implants. This occurs when pathogenic microbes in the mouth and oral cavity develop into biofilms, which protects them and encourages growth. Peri-implantitis is caused when the biofilms develop on dental implants.

A research team comprising scientists from the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Engineering at the University of Plymouth, have joined forces to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a new nanocoating for dental implants to reduce the risk of peri-implantitis.

dentistIn this cross-Faculty study we have identified the means to protect dental implants against the most common cause of their failure. The potential of our work for increased patient comfort and satisfaction, and reduced costs, is great and we look forward to translating our findings into clinical practice,”  commented Professor Christopher Tredwin, Head of Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry.

In the study, the research team created a new approach using a combination of silver, titanium oxide and hydroxyapatite nanocoatings. The application of the combination to the surface of titanium alloy implants successfully inhibited bacterial growth and reduced the formation of bacterial biofilm on the surface of the implants by 97.5 per cent.

Not only did the combination result in the effective eradication of infection, it created a surface with anti-biofilm properties which supported successful integration into surrounding bone and accelerated bone healing.

The results of their work are published in the journal Nanotoxicology.

Source: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/

Clean Renewable Source Of Hydrogen Fuel For Electric Car

Rice University scientists have created an efficient, simple-to-manufacture oxygen-evolution catalyst that pairs well with semiconductors for solar water splitting, the conversion of solar energy to chemical energy in the form of hydrogen and oxygen.

anode RiceA photo shows an array of titanium dioxide nanorods with an even coating of an iron, manganese and phosphorus catalyst. The combination developed by scientists at Rice University and the University of Houston is a highly efficient photoanode for artificial photosynthesis. Click on the image for a larger version

The lab of Kenton Whitmire, a Rice professor of chemistry, teamed up with researchers at the University of Houston and discovered that growing a layer of an active catalyst directly on the surface of a light-absorbing nanorod array produced an artificial photosynthesis material that could split water at the full theoretical potential of the light-absorbing semiconductor with sunlight. An oxygen-evolution  catalyst splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. Finding a clean renewable source of hydrogen fuel is the focus of extensive research, but the technology has not yet been commercialized.

The Rice team came up with a way to combine three of the most abundant metalsiron, manganese and phosphorus — into a precursor that can be deposited directly onto any substrate without damaging it. To demonstrate the material, the lab placed the precursor into its custom chemical vapor deposition (CVD) furnace and used it to coat an array of light-absorbing, semiconducting titanium dioxide nanorods. The combined material, called a photoanode, showed excellent stability while reaching a current density of 10 milliamps per square centimeter, the researchers reported.

The results appear in two new studies. The first, on the creation of the films, appears in Chemistry: A European Journal. The second, which details the creation of photoanodes, appears in ACS Nano.

Source: http://news.rice.edu/

How Brain Waves Can Control VR Video Games

Virtual reality is still so new that the best way for us to interact within it is not yet clear. One startup wants you to use your head, literally: it’s tracking brain waves and using the result to control VR video games.

Boston-based startup Neurable is focused on deciphering brain activity to determine a person’s intention, particularly in virtual and augmented reality. The company uses dry electrodes to record brain activity via electroencephalography (EEG); then software analyzes the signal and determines the action that should occur.

neurons2

You don’t really have to do anything,” says cofounder and CEO Ramses Alcaide, who developed the technology as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. “It’s a subconscious response, which is really cool.”

Neurable, which raised $2 million in venture funding late last year, is still in the early stages: its demo hardware looks like a bunch of electrodes attached to straps that span a user’s head, worn along with an HTC Vive virtual-reality headset. Unlike the headset, Neurable’s contraption is wireless—it sends data to a computer via Bluetooth. The startup expects to offer software tools for game development later this year, and it isn’t planning to build its own hardware; rather, Neurable hopes companies will be making headsets with sensors to support its technology in the next several years.

Source; https://www.technologyreview.com/
AND
http://neurable.com/

NanoMachine Lifts 15 times Its Weight

Using advanced 3-D printing, Dartmouth College researchers have unlocked the key to transforming microscopic nanorings into smart materials that perform work at human-scaleNanomachines (nanocomputers) can already deliver medication and serve as computer memories at the tiny nanometer scale. By integrating a 3-D printing technique pioneered at Dartmouth’s Ke Functional Materials Group, researchers may unlock even greater potential for these mini-machines.

3D printing nanomachines

A 3-D printed gel structure lifts and lowers a U.S. dime when alternately exposed to water and DMSO solvent

Up until now, harnessing the mechanical work of nanomachines has been extremely difficult. We are slowly getting closer to the point that the tiny machines can operate on a scale that we can see, touch and feel.” said Chenfeng Ke, Assistant Professor for Chemistry at Dartmouth College and principle investigator for the research.

In an example provided by Ke, the first-generation smart material lifted a dime weighing 2.268g. The coin, 15 times the weight of the that lifted it, was raised 1.6 mm– the equivalent of a human lifting a car. “Creating nanomachine-based smart material is still extraordinarily complex and we are only just beginning, but this new technique could allow the design and fabrication of complex smart devices that are currently beyond our grasp,” said Ke.

The research was published on March 22 in the online edition of Angewandte Chemie, the journal of the German Chemical Society.

Source: http://www.keresearchgroup.com/
A
ND
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/

Cheap, Non-Toxic, Super Efficient Solar Cell

In the future, solar cells can become twice as efficient by employing a few smart little nano-tricks. Researchers are currently developing the environment-friendly solar cells of the future, which will capture twice as much energy as the cells of today. The trick is to combine two different types of solar cells in order to utilize a much greater portion of the sunlight.

solar_nano

These are going to be the world’s most efficient and environment-friendly solar cells. There are currently solar cells that are certainly just as efficient, but they are both expensive and toxic. Furthermore, the materials in our solar cells are readily available in large quantities on Earth. That is an important point,” says Professor Bengt Svensson of the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo (UiO) and Centre for Materials Science and Nanotechnology (SMN) in Norway.

Using nanotechnology, atoms and molecules can be combined into new materials with very special properties. The goal is to utilize even more of the spectrum of sunlight than is possible at present. Ninety-nine per cent of today’s solar cells are made from silicon, which is one of the most common elements on Earth. Unfortunately, silicon solar cells only utilize 20 per cent of the sunlight. The world record is 25 per cent, but these solar cells are laced with rare materials that are also toxic. The theoretical limit is 30 per cent. The explanation for this limit is that silicon cells primarily capture the light waves from the red spectrum of sunlight. That means that most of the light waves remain unutilized.

The new solar cells will be composed of two energy-capturing layers. The first layer will still be composed of silicon cells. “The red wavelengths of sunlight generate electricity in the silicon cells in a highly efficient manner. We’ve done a great deal of work with silicon, so there is only a little more to gain.” The new trick is to add another layer on top of the silicon cells. This layer is composed of copper oxide and is supposed to capture the light waves from the blue spectrum of sunlight.

Source: http://www.apollon.uio.no/

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/

Virtual Images that Blend In And Interact With The Real-World

Avegant, a Silicon Valley startup that sells a pair of headphones equipped with a VR-like portable screen, is breaking into augmented reality. The company today announced that it’s developed a new type of headset technology powered by a so-called light field display.

Avegant ARCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The research prototype, which Avegant eventually plans on turning into a consumer product, is based on the company’s previous work with its Glyph projector. That device was a visor of sorts that floats a virtual movie screen in front of your eyes, and developing it gave Avegant insight into how to build an AR headset of its own.

Like Microsoft’s HoloLens and the supposed prototype from secretive AR startup Magic Leap, Avegant’s new headset creates virtual images that blend in and interact with the real-world environment. In a demo, the company’s wired prototype proved to be superior in key ways to the developer version of the HoloLens. Avegant attributes this not to the power of its tethered PC, but to the device’s light field display — a technology Magic Leap also claims to have developed, yet has never been shown off to the public.

The demo I experienced featured a tour of a virtual Solar System, an immersion within an ocean environment, and a conversation with a virtual life-sized human being standing in the same room. To be fair, Avegant was using a tethered and bulky headset that wasn’t all that comfortable, while the HoloLens developer version is a refined wireless device. Yet with that said, Avegant’s prototype managed to expand the field of view, so you’re looking through a window more the size of a Moleskine notebook instead of a pack of playing cards. The images it produced also felt sharper, richer, and more realistic.

In the Solar System demo, I was able to observe a satellite orbiting an Earth no larger than a bocce ball and identify the Big Red Spot on Jupiter. Avegant constructed its demo to show off how these objects could exist at different focal lengths in a fixed environment — in this case a converted conference room at the company’s Belmont, California office. So I was able to stand behind the Sun and squint until the star went out of focus in one corner of my vision and a virtual Saturn and its rings became crystal clear in the distance.

Source: http://www.theverge.com/

How To Create Human Skin With 3D Bio-Printers

Spanish scientists are making human skin using a 3D bio-printer. Engineered skin was the first living human organ available commercially but its production can be expensive and time-consuming. This research at Madrid’s Carlos III University could one day lead to the mass production of skin.

bioprinter

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The idea of applying 3D bio-printers for the creation of human tissue and organs is a real breakthrough because it has changed the way people in this field think because until now we have been doing it manually. Being able to use a bio-printer to control the amount of skin over time and space gives us new possibilities that were unimaginable when we worked manually,” says Jose Luis Jorcano, Head of the CIEMAT/UC3M  Bioengineering Department.

To bio-engineer skin on a 3D bio-printer, the key component is “bio-ink,” a substance loaded with biological components such as plasma containing human skin cells. Using a computer, scientists deposit these “bio-inks” on a print bed to form the skin. Although years away, scientists believe the technology could be used to bio-engineer more complex human organs.

The idea for the future would be to be able to fully print complex organs such as hearts or kidneys but as I said, that’s the desire and the dream all of us who work in this field have, but there is no date for it yet,” explains Jose Luis Jorcano, who is the co-creator of the bio-printer.

The scientists say their prototype can produce 100 cm2 of 3D printed skin in less than 35 minutes.

Source: http://www.uc3m.es/
AND
http://www.reuters.com/

How To Eradicate Undetectable HIV Cells

French researchers have identified a marker that makes it possible to differentiate “dormantHIVinfected cells from healthy cells. This discovery will make it possible to isolate and analyze reservoir cells which, by silently hosting the virus, are responsible for its persistence even among patients receiving antiviral treatment, whose viral load is undetectable. It offers new therapeutic strategies for targeting infected cells. This research is part of the ANRS strategic program “Réservoirs du VIH”.

HIV detection

Since 1996, there has been consensus among the scientific community that a cure for HIV will involve targetingreservoir cells” that host the virus in the organisms of patients undergoing triple therapy. HIV can remain hidden in these reservoirs, in latent form, for several decades, eluding the immune system’s response and antiviral treatments, without any viral protein being expressed. But if treatment ceases, the virus massively proliferates and the disease progresses again. Patients must therefore receive treatment for life. To envisage eliminating this dormant virus, a first stage consists in distinguishing the HIV-infected reservoir cells from their healthy counterpart cells, which resemble them to a very large degree. This is what has been achieved by a team of researchers, who have identified a marker of reservoir cells: a protein present only on the surface of infected cells.

Hypothesizing that HIV might leave a mark on the surface of its host cell, researchers from the Institut de génétique humaine (CNRS/Montpellier University) first worked in vitro on an infection model developed in their laboratory. After comparing infected cells and healthy cells, they noticed one particular protein, coded by a gene among the hundred of those expressed in a specific way by infected cells. Present only on the surface of the infected cells, the CD32a protein thus met, in vitro, the criteria of a reservoir cell marker. This was then confirmed by experiments on clinical samples. By studying blood samples from 12 patients living with HIV and receiving treatment, the researchers isolated the cells expressing the marker and observed that almost all were HIV carriers. In vitro, the activation of these cells induced a production of viruses capable of reinfecting healthy cells whereas their elimination entailed a significant delay in viral production.

The findings are the result of a collaboration between the CNRS, Montpellier University, Inserm, the Institut Pasteur, the Henri-Mondor AP-HP hospital in Créteil, the Gui de Chauliac hospital (CHU de Montpellier) and the VRI (Vaccine Research Institute), and is published in the journal Nature on March 15, 2017. A patent owned by the CNRS has been filed for the diagnostic and therapeutic use of the identified marker.

Source: http://presse.inserm.fr/