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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Electrodes melt in between you brain and more, 2010

Mars, people! Mars!
Image: Chocolate Hills

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell


  1. Hopes soar for burn victims as 'mother' of all skin cells found
  2. Gene bandage rejuvenates wasted muscle
  3. Chemical cocktail affects humans and the environment
  4. A brain-recording device that melts into place
  5. MEMS device generates power from body heat
  6. Bladeless wind turbine inspired by Tesla

Hopes soar for burn victims as 'mother' of all skin cells found

Scientists have found the "mother", or origin, of all skin cells and say their discovery could dramatically improve skin treatments for victims of wounds and burns.

Hans Clevers and a team of Dutch and Swedish researchers conducted a study in mice and found that Lrg6, the stem cell that produces all the different cells of the skin, actually lives in hair follicles.

The findings, which they say will translate for human use, mean it may be possible to harness these stem cells to help with wound repair or skin transplants for burns victims, they said in a study in the Science journal on Thursday.

The skin has three different populations of cells — hair follicles, moisturizing sebaceous glands, and the tissue in between, known as the interfollicular epidermis.

Clevers said the advantage offered by the "mother" stem cell finding would be that they could grow skin from its original basis — allowing it to be "real new skin" with moisture from sebaceous glands and the ability to grow hair. He said experts now need to learn how to isolate the Lrg6 cells from human skin. source

My comment: Cool! Really, really cool. I had burns, I know how difficult they heal and how painful they are. So as always, this is a great hope for better medicine. Just not on what strange place they found it. In the hair!

Gene bandage rejuvenates wasted muscle

Around 1 in 3500 boys are born with DMD, the result of mutations in a gene on the X chromosome for the protein dystrophin. Boys with DMD tend to need wheelchairs by age 12 and die of cardiac or respiratory failure before they reach 30.
Rather than trying to correct the genetic defects, Wilton's team created nucleic acid snippets that bind to sections of messenger RNA corresponding to the DMD mutations. If injected, these bandages cause the mutations, which normally prevent dystrophin production, to be skipped over during protein-making.
In 2003 the approach seemed to work in mice. In 2009, injecting the snippets into the foot muscle of seven boys with DMD triggered dystrophin production there. Now the team has injected the snippets into the blood of 20 boys with DMD.
Last week, Wilton told the World Congress of Internal Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, that tissue biopsies suggest dystrophin is being produced throughout the bodies of boys who received high doses of the bandage.
It is not yet clear if the dystrophin will increase the boys' muscle strength, but Wilton points out it did in animals.  source
My comment: Nice, huh?! I love telling about working treatments. Because most of the time, there are announcements of great breakthrough that need years or decades to reach common people. Well, this one is almost there. 

Chemical cocktail affects humans and the environment

March 29, 2010
Throughout our lives we are exposed to an enormous range of man-made chemicals, from food, water, medicines, cosmetics, clothes, shoes and the air we breathe. At the request of the EU, researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have looked at the risk of "chemical cocktails" and have proposed a number of measures that need to be implemented in the current practice of chemical risk assessment.
In 2005 an American study showed that newborn babies have an average of 200 non-natural chemicals in their blood - including pesticides, dioxins, and . In a Swedish study, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found 57 different pesticides in Swedish rivers and streams, many of them occurring simultaneously. However, the effects of chemicals on humans and the environment are traditionally evaluated on the basis of single substances, chemical by chemical.

The European Commission has been tasked with producing recommendations in 2010 on how combinations of hormone-disrupting substances should be dealt with on the basis of existing legislation, and with assessing suitable legislative changes in 2011.

In order to map out the current situation, researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the University of London carried out a review of the state of the art of mixture toxicology and ecotoxicology. The study showed that all the relevant research is unambiguous: the combined "cocktail effect" of is greater and more toxic than the effect of the chemicals individually.

"Assessing every conceivable combination is not therefore realistic, and predictive approaches must be implemented in risk assessment. " source
My comment: Any surprise here? No, not at all. We all know that chemical cocktails ought to react different with out body that the single chemicals in them. But nobody researched and nobody cared, because nobody wanted to put breaks to the overgrowing chemical industry. Well, happy us, now we have a boom of cancers, allergies and weird diseases. Obviously we cannot ban every chemical cocktail, because that will bring us back 2 centuries ago. What we can do is to at least take the most frequent combinations and to study them in detail. And then to look for patterns and to build models. If we want to keep humans and Nature healthy and safe, that is.

A brain-recording device that melts into place

April 18, 2010

Scientists have developed a brain implant that essentially melts into place, snugly fitting to the brain's surface. The technology could pave the way for better devices to monitor and control seizures, and to transmit signals from the brain past damaged parts of the spinal cord.
The study, published in , shows that the ultrathin flexible implants, made partly from silk, can record more faithfully than thicker implants embedded with similar electronics.
The simplest devices for recording from the brain are needle-like electrodes that can penetrate deep into brain tissue. More state-of-the-art devices, called micro-electrode arrays, consist of dozens of semi-flexible wire electrodes, usually fixed to rigid silicon grids that do not conform to the brain's shape.
In people with epilepsy, the arrays could be used to detect when seizures first begin, and deliver pulses to shut the seizures down. In people with injuries, the technology has promise for reading complex signals in the brain that direct movement, and routing those signals to healthy muscles or prosthetic devices.
"The focus of our study was to make ultrathin arrays that conform to the complex shape of the brain, and limit the amount of tissue damage and inflammation," said Brian Litt, M.D., an author on the study and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. The silk-based implants developed by Dr. Litt and his colleagues can hug the brain like shrink wrap, collapsing into its grooves and stretching over its rounded surfaces.
The implants contain metal electrodes that are 500 microns thick, or about five times the thickness of a human hair. The absence of sharp electrodes and rigid surfaces should improve safety, with less damage to brain tissue.
Recently, the team described a flexible silicon device for recording from the heart and detecting an abnormal heartbeat.
In the future, the researchers hope to design implants that are more densely packed with electrodes to achieve higher resolution recordings.sourceMy comment: That sounds very very creepy. I know it's a good research, good science and good product, but still, it's very very spooky to think of ultra-thin electrodes that melt in between you brain. Brrr. But from the other side, if they can help people with brain damage and/or to lead to new computer interface, I guess we'll have to swallow our disgust and say "Wepee".

MEMS device generates power from body heat

April 29, 2010 By Lisa Zyga
( -- In an attempt to develop a power source that is compact, environmentally friendly, and has an unlimited lifetime, a team of researchers from Singapore has fabricated an energy harvesting device that generates electricity from body heat or any environment where there is a temperature gradient. Their device, called a thermoelectric power generator, attaches to the body and generates a power output of a few microwatts, which could be useful for powering implanted medical devices and wireless sensors. source

Bladeless wind turbine inspired by Tesla

May 7, 2010 by Lisa Zyga

( -- A bladeless wind turbine whose only rotating component is a turbine/driveshaft could generate power at a cost comparable to coal-fired power plants, according to its developers at Solar Aero. The New Hampshire-based company recently announced its patent on the Fuller wind turbine, which is an improvement on a patent issued to Nikola Tesla in 1913.

The bladeless wind turbine is completely enclosed in a relatively small compact unit. Instead of using wind-powered blades to rotate a shaft and generator, the Tesla-inspired design consists of an array of closely spaced, parallel, thin metal disks separated by spacers. When air flows in the spaces between the disks, the spacers are arranged in such a way as to provide inward momentum to the air, causing the disks to move. The disks are connected to a shaft by spokes, so that the rotating disks cause the shaft to rotate as well. As explained in the patent held by Howard Fuller, the turbine design “provides in converting to mechanical power.” source
My comment: That also sound pretty cool and I would gladly buy something like this. Big wind turbines are kind of ugly, something more compact will be more unobtrusive to the eye (and probably the ear). Though, with those serious investments in the wind power, I think the efficiency must be really really good in order for that product to earn money to the creators and to get introduced on the market. Well, good luck!

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