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/

Adhesive Holds From Extreme Cold To Extreme Heat

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Dayton Air Force Research Laboratory and China have developed a new dry adhesive that bonds in extreme temperatures—a quality that could make the product ideal for space exploration and beyond.

The gecko-inspired adhesive loses no traction in temperatures as cold as liquid nitrogen or as hot as molten silver, and actually gets stickier as heat increases, the researchers report.

The research, which builds on earlier development of a single-sided dry adhesive tape based on vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Liming Dai, professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve and an author of the study teamed with Ming Xu, a senior research associate at Case School of Engineering and visiting scholar from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

hanging

Ming Xu, senior research associate at Case Western Reserve, hangs from two wooden blocks held to a painted wall with six small pieces of the double-sided adhesive.

Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes with tops bundled into nodes replicate the microscopic hairs on the foot of the wall-walking reptile and remain stable from -320 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,832 degrees, the scientists say.

When you have aligned nanotubes with bundled tops penetrating into the cavities of the surface, you generate sufficient van der Waal’s forces to hold,” Xu said. “The dry adhesive doesn’t lose adhesion as it cools because the surface doesn’t change. But when you heat the surface, the surface becomes rougher, physically locking the nanotubes in place, leading to stronger adhesion as temperatures increase.”

Because the adhesive remains useful over such a wide range of temperatures, the inventors say it is ideally suited for use in space, where the shade can be frigid and exposure to the sun blazing hot.

In addition to range, the bonding agent offers properties that could add to its utility. The adhesive conducts heat and electricity, and these properties also increase with temperature. “When applied as a double-sided sticky tape, the adhesive can be used to link electrical components together and also for electrical and thermal management,”said Ajit Roy, of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory.

This adhesive can thus be used as connecting materials to enhance the performance of electronics at high temperatures,” Dai comments. “At room temperature, the double-sided carbon nanotube tape held as strongly as commercial tape on various rough surfaces, including paper, wood, plastic films and painted walls, showing potential use as conducting adhesives in home appliances and wall-climbing robots.”

Source: http://thedaily.case.edu/

Sensor One Million Times More Sensitive Detects Cancer Far Earlier

Physicists and engineers at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) have developed an optical sensor, based on nanostructured metamaterials, that’s 1 million times more sensitive than the current best available–one capable of identifying a single lightweight molecule in a highly dilute solution. Their goal: to provide oncologists a way to detect a single molecule of an enzyme produced by circulating cancer cells. Such detection could allow doctors to diagnose patients with certain cancers far earlier than possible today, monitor treatment and resistance and more.

cwru sensor

The prognosis of many cancers depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis” said Giuseppe “Pino” Strangi, professor of physics at Case Western Reserve and leader of the research.

Very early, most circulating tumor cells express proteins of a very low molecular weight, less than 500 Daltons,” Strangi explained. “These proteins are usually too small and in too low a concentration to detect with current test methods, yielding false negative results.

“With this platform, we’ve detected proteins of 244 Daltons, which should enable doctors to detect cancers earlier–we don’t know how much earlier yet,” he said. “This biosensing platform may help to unlock the next era of initial cancer detection.”

The researchers believe the sensing technology will also be useful in diagnosing and monitoring other diseases as well.

Their research is published online in the journal Nature Materials.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org

Nanoparticles Trigger Immune System To Destroy Cancer

The shells of a common plant virus, inhaled into a lung tumor or injected into ovarian, colon or breast tumors, not only triggered the immune system in mice to wipe out the tumors, but provided systemic protection against metastases, researchers from Case Western Reserve University and Dartmouth University report. The scientists tested a 100-year-old idea called in-situ vaccination. The idea is to put something inside a tumor and disrupt the environment that suppresses the immune system, thus allowing the natural defense system to attack the malignancy.

That something—the hard coating of cowpea* mosaic virus—caused no detectible side effects, which are a common problem with traditional therapies and some immunotherapies.

cowpeas

The cowpea virus-based nanoparticles act like a switch that turns on the immune system to recognize and fight against the tumor – as well as to remember it,” said Nicole Steinmetz, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve, appointed by the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

The particles are shockingly potent,” said Steven Fiering, professor of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. “They’re easy to make and don’t need to carry antigens, drugs or other immunostimmulatory agents on their surface or inside.”

The team’s research is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

* Cowpeas are one of the most important food legume crops in the semiarid tropics covering Asia, Africa, southern Europe, and Central and South America

Source: http://blog.case.edu/

Power Source Woven Into Fabrics

Wearable power sources for wearable electronics are limited by the size of garments. With that in mind, researchers at Case Western Reserve University ( CWRU)  have developed flexible wire-shaped micro *supercapacitors that can be woven into a jacket, shirt or dress. By their design or by connecting the capacitors in series or parallel, the devices can be tailored to match the charge storage and delivery needs of electronics donned.

While there’s been progress in development of those electronics–body cameras, smart glasses, sensors that monitor health, activity trackers and more–one challenge remaining is providing less obtrusive and cumbersome power sources.

wearable electronics

The area of clothing is fixed, so to generate the power density needed in a small area, we grew radially-aligned titanium oxide nanotubes on a titanium wire used as the main electrode,” said Liming Dai, the Kent Hale Smith Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. “By increasing the surface area of the electrode, you increase the capacitance.

Dai and Tao Chen, a postdoctoral fellow in molecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve, published their research on the microsupercapacitor in the journal Energy Storage Materials. The study builds on earlier carbon-based supercapacitors.

*A capacitor is cousin to the battery, but offers the advantage of charging and releasing energy much faster.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/

How To Inhibit Breast Cancer Metastasis

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University combined finely crafted nanoparticles with one of nature’s potent disrupters to prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer in mouse models. The highly aggressive cancer subtype is difficult to manage and, currently, the FDA has no approved targeted treatments. But striking results from a new study, published in the journal Cancer Research make the researchers optimistic they have a potential game-changer for triple negative cancer and more.


breast cancer

There are multiple targets within a cell,” said William Schiemann, professor of oncology at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a leader of the research. “With this technology, we can target any gene or any location, for other cancers, more diseases—potentially even immunology-based diseases.”

Regular injections of nanoparticles carrying siRNA,  silenced the gene that regulates expression of the protein β3 integrin. Expression of β3 integrin in the cell-development process called the endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), is essential for the cancer to spread from its primary tumor.

Nearly 15 percent of breast cancers in the United States are triple negative, and the subtype is most prevalent among African-American women in their 20s and 30s. According to the National Cancer Institute, the five-year survival rate for women whose cancer is discovered early and contained to a primary tumor is 98 percent. But, the survival rate for those diagnosed with distant metastases plummets to less than 25 percent.

To try to tackle metastasis, Schiemann teamed with Zheng-Rong Lu, the M. Frank and Margaret Domiter Rudy Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve, Jenny Parvani, now a postdoctoral investigator, PhD student Maneesh Gujrati and undergraduate student Margaret Mack. Lu’s lab has been developing lipid-based nanoparticles to deliver medicines to specific targets in the body for a decade. Lipids include fats and oils, but these organic molecules are also building blocks in cell structures and functions.

In this study, five mice with a mouse version of triple-negative breast cancer were injected with particles every five days for 14 weeks. Compared to control mice, the treated mice’s tumors shrunk significantly, but more importantly, the treatment significantly inhibited metastasisFour weeks after treatment was stopped, the treated mice remained tumor free while cancer continued to grow in untreated controls. No significant difference in body weight across treatment groups and controls were found, indicating low toxicity of the treatments.

Source: http://blog.case.edu/

How To Locate Blood Vessel Plaques Before Stroke

A team of researchers, led by scientists at Case Western Reserve University, has developed a multifunctional nanoparticle that enables magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to pinpoint blood vessel plaques caused by atherosclerosis. The technology is a step toward creating a non-invasive method of identifying plaques vulnerable to rupture–the cause of heart attack and stroke—in time for treatment.
Currently, doctors can identify only blood vessels that are narrowing due to plaque accumulation. A doctor makes an incision and slips a catheter inside a blood vessel in the arm, groin or neck. The catheter emits a dye that enables X-rays to show the narrowing.
However, Case Western Reserve researchers report online today in the journal Nano Letters that a nanoparticle built from a rod-shaped virus commonly found on tobacco locates and illuminates plaque in arteries more effectively and with a tiny fraction of the dye.
More importantly, the work shows that the tailored nanoparticles home in on plaque biomarkers. That opens the possibility that particles can be programmed to identify vulnerable plaques from stable, something untargeted dyes alone cannot.


From a chemist’s point of view, it’s still challenging to make nanoparticles that are not spherical, but non-spherical materials are advantageous for medical applications” said Nicole F. Steinmetz, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve. “Nature is way ahead of us. We’re harvesting nature’s methods to turn them into something useful in medicine.”
Source: http://blog.case.edu/

How To Replace Human Eye Lenses

Drawing heavily upon nature for inspiration, a team of researchers has created a new artificial lens that is nearly identical to the natural lens of the human eye. This innovative lens, which is made up of thousands of nanoscale polymer layers, may one day provide a more natural performance in implantable lenses to replace damaged or diseased human eye lenses, as well as consumer vision products; it also may lead to superior ground and aerial surveillance technology. This work, which the Case Western Reserve University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and PolymerPlus team describes in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express, also provides a new material approach for fabricating synthetic polymer lenses.
The fundamental technology behind this new lens is called “GRIN” or gradient refractive index optics. In GRIN, light gets bent, or refracted, by varying degrees as it passes through a lens or other transparent material. This is in contrast to traditional lenses, like those found in optical telescopes and microscopes, which use their surface shape or single index of refraction to bend light one way or another.

“The human eye is a GRIN lens,” said Michael Ponting, polymer scientist and president of PolymerPlus, an Ohio-based Case Western Reserve spinoff launched in 2010. “As light passes from the front of the human eye lens to the back, light rays are refracted by varying degrees. It’s a very efficient means of controlling the pathway of light without relying on complicated optics, and one that we attempted to mimic.
Source: http://www.osa.org

Breast Cancer: Earlier, Life-saving Diagnosis

Malignant cells that leave a primary tumor, travel the bloodstream and grow out of control in new locations cause the vast majority of cancer deaths. After a breast cancer cell enters the bloodstream, it most often stops in the liver, spleen or lungs and begins overexpressing surface molecules called integrins. Integrins act as a glue between the cancer cell and the lining of a blood vessel that feeds the organ. A team of scientists, engineers and students across five disciplines from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio – USA – built nanochains that home in on metastases before they’ve grown into new tissues, and, through magnetic resonance imaging, detect their locations. Images of the precise location and extent of metastases could be used to guide surgery or ablation, or the same technology used to find the cancer could be used to deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to the cells before a tumor forms, the researchers suggest. The work is described in this week’s online issue of the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.
Micrometastases can’t be seen with the naked eye, but you have to catch them at this stage – see the exact spots they’re located and see them all,” said Efstathios Karathanasis, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and radiology, and senior author. “Even if you miss only one, you prolong survival, but one metastasis can still kill.
Source: http://www.case.edu/
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nn303833p