The Rise Of The Cyborg

Researchers from UCLA and the University of Connecticut have designed a new biofriendly energy storage system called a biological supercapacitor, which operates using charged particles, or ions, from fluids in the human body. The device is harmless to the body’s biological systems, and it could lead to longer-lasting cardiac pacemakers and other implantable medical devices like artificial heart.

The UCLA team was led by Richard Kaner, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering, and the Connecticut researchers were led by James Rusling, a professor of chemistry and cell biology. A paper about their design was published this week in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Pacemakers — which help regulate abnormal heart rhythms — and other implantable devices have saved countless lives. But they’re powered by traditional batteries that eventually run out of power and must be replaced, meaning another painful surgery and the accompanying risk of infection. In addition, batteries contain toxic materials that could endanger the patient if they leak.

The researchers propose storing energy in those devices without a battery. The supercapacitor they invented charges using electrolytes from biological fluids like blood serum and urine, and it would work with another device called an energy harvester, which converts heat and motion from the human body into electricity — in much the same way that self-winding watches are powered by the wearer’s body movements. That electricity is then captured by the supercapacitor.

Combining energy harvesters with supercapacitors can provide endless power for lifelong implantable devices that may never need to be replaced,” said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the study.

Source: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/

New Technique Identifies Cancer In Urine Or Blood

A team of researchers, led by Professor Yoon-Kyoung Cho of Life Science at UNIST  (South Korea) has recently developed a new technique that effectively identifies cancer-causing substances in the urine or blood.

In the study, Professor Yoon-Kyoung Cho of Life Science, a group leader at IBS Research Center for Soft and Living Matter (CSLM) presented an integrated centrifugal microfluidic platform (Exodisc), a device that isolates extracellular vesicles (EVs) from urine.  The research team expects that this may be potentially useful in clinical settings to test urinary EV-based biomarkers for cancer diagnostics.

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are cell-derived nanovesicles (40-1000 nm in size), present in almost all types of body fluids, which play a vital role in intercellular communication and are involved in the transport of biological signals for regulating diverse cellular functions. Despite the increasing clinical importance of EVs as potential biomarkers in the diagnosis and prognosis of various diseases, current methods of EV isolation and analysis suffer from complicated procedures with long processing times. For instance, even ultracentrifugation (UC), the most commonly used method for EV isolation, requires time-consuming steps involving centrifugation and acquisition of large sample volumes, and the results suffer from low yield and purity.

To overcome these limitations, Professor Cho presented a new lab-on-a-disc platform for rapid, size-selective, and efficient isolation and analysis of nanoscale EVs from raw biological samples, such as cell-culture supernatant (CCS) or cancer-patient urine.

EXODISC

The Exodisc is compoased of two independent filteration units (20nm and 600nm in size) within a disk-shaped chip to enable the processing of two different samples simulateously,” says Hyun-Kyung Woo (Combined M.S./Ph.D. student of Natural Science), the first author of the study. “Upon spinning the disc, the urine sample is transferred through two integrated nanofilters, allowing for the enrichment of unirary EVs within the size range of 20 to 600 nm.”
Using Exodisc, it is possible to isolate EVs from raw samples within 30 minutes,” says Professor Cho. “The process of passing the filter through centrifugal force is automatically carried out, effectively recovering the enriched EVs.”

On-disc ELISA using urinary EVs isolated from bladder cancer patients showed high levels of CD9 and CD81 expression, suggesting that this method may be potentially useful in clinical settings to test urinary EV-based biomarkers for cancer diagnostics,” explains Vijaya Sunkara of Life Sciences, the co-first author.
The results of the study has been published in the February issue of ACS Nano journal.

Source: http://news.unist.ac.kr/

Nanotechnology Improves Next Generation Of Batteries

In the global race to create more efficient and long-lasting batteries, some are betting on nanotechnology — the use of minuscule parts — as the most likely to yield a breakthrough. Improving batteries’ performance is key to the development and success of many much-hyped technologies, from solar and wind energy to electric cars. They need to hold more energy, last longer, be cheaper and safer. Research into how to achieve that has followed several avenues, from using different materials than the existing lithium-ion batteries to changing the internal structure of batteries using nanoparticles — parts so small they are invisible to the naked eye. Nanotechnology can increase the size and surface of batteries electrodes, the rods inside the batteries that absorb the energy. It does so by effectively making the electrodes sponge-like, so that they can absorb more energy during charging and ultimately increasing the energy storage capacity. Prague-based company HE3DA in Czech Republic has developed such a technology by using the nanotechnology to move from the current flat electrodes to make them three dimensional. With prototypes undergoing successful testing, it hopes to have the battery on the market at the end of this year.

Tesla Model 3

In the future, this will be the mainstream,” said Jan Prochazka, the president. He said it would be targeted at high-intensity industries like automobiles and the energy sector, rather than mobile phones, because that is where it can make the biggest difference through its use of his bigger electrodes.

In combination with an internal cooling system the batteries, which are being tested now, should be safe from overheating or exploding, a major concern with existing technologies. Researchers at the University of Michigan and MIT have likewise focused on nanotechnology to improve the existing lithium-ion technology. Others have sought to use different materials. One of the most promising is lithium oxygen, which theoretically could store five to 10 times the energy of a lithium ion battery, but there have been a number of technical problems that made it inefficient. Batteries based on sodium-ion, aluminium-air and aluminium-graphite are also being explored. There’s even research on a battery powered by urine.

Source: http://www.he3da.cz/
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20 Pence Reusable Sensor To Detect Diabetes

A low-cost, reusable sensor which uses nanotechnology to screen for and monitor diabetes and other conditions, has been developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Cambridge, for use both in clinics and home settings. According to the International Diabetes Federation, there are an estimated 175 million undiagnosed diabetic patients worldwide, 80% of whom live in low- and middle– income countries. Development of non-invasive and accurate diagnostics that are easily manufactured, robust and reusable will allow for simple monitoring of high-risk individuals in any environment, particularly in the developing world.

These sensors can be used to screen for diabetes in resource-poor countries, where disposable test strips and other equipment are simply not affordable,” said Ali Yetisen, a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, who led the research. The sensors can be produced at a fraction of the cost of commercially-available test strips. A single sensor would cost 20 pence to produce, and can be reused up to 400 times
The sensors use nanotechnology to monitor levels of glucose, lactate and fructose in individuals with diabetes or urinary tract infections, and change colour when levels reach a certain concentration. They can be used to test compounds in samples such as urine, blood, saliva or tear fluid. Recently, the team has also partnered with a non-governmental organisation to deploy the technology for field use in Ghana early next year.

Source: http://www.cam.ac.uk/