Differently Abled and Our Glorious Gadgets
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Differently Abled and Our Glorious Gadgets
Articles on the joys and challenges of being differently abled and the gadgets that help us be independent and productive.
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FingerReader: MIT finger device reads to the blind in real time

FingerReader: MIT finger device reads to the blind in real time | Differently Abled and Our Glorious Gadgets | Scoop.it

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing an audio reading device to be worn on the index finger of people whose vision is impaired, giving them affordable and immediate access to printed words.

 

The so-called FingerReader, a prototype produced by a 3-D printer, fits like a ring on the user’s finger, equipped with a small camera that scans text. A synthesized voice reads words aloud, quickly translating books, restaurant menus and other needed materials for daily living, especially away from home or office.

 

Reading is as easy as pointing the finger at text. Special software tracks the finger movement, identifies words and processes the information. The device has vibration motors that alert readers when they stray from the script, said Roy Shilkrot, who is developing the device at the MIT Media Lab.

 

For Jerry Berrier, 62, who was born blind, the promise of the FingerReader is its portability and offer of real-time functionality at school, a doctor’s office and restaurants.

 

“When I go to the doctor’s office, there may be forms that I wanna read before I sign them,” Berrier said.

 

He said there are other optical character recognition devices on the market for those with vision impairments, but none that he knows of that will read in real time.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Stem-Cell Therapy for Blindness Is Moving Towards Clinical Trials

Stem-Cell Therapy for Blindness Is Moving Towards Clinical Trials | Differently Abled and Our Glorious Gadgets | Scoop.it
Advanced Cell Technology is testing a stem-cell treatment for blindness that could preserve vision and potentially reverse vision loss.

 

A new treatment for macular degeneration is close to the next stage of human testing—a noteworthy event not just for the millions of patients it could help, but for its potential to become the first therapy based on embryonic stem cells.

 

This year, the Boston-area company Advanced Cell Technology plans to move its stem-cell treatment for two forms of vision loss into advanced human trials. The company has already reported that the treatment is safe (see “Eye Study Is a Small but Crucial Advance for Stem-Cell Therapy”), although a full report of the results from the early, safety-focused testing has yet to be published. The planned trials will test whether it is effective. The treatment will be tested both on patients with Stargardt’s disease (an inherited form of progressive vision loss that can affect children) and on those with age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss among people 65 and older.

 

Although complete data from the trials of ACT’s treatments have yet to be published, the company has reported impressive results with one patient, who recovered vision after being deemed legally blind. Now the company plans to publish the data from two clinical trials taking place in the U.S. and the E.U. in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Each of these early-stage trials includes 12 patients affected by either macular degeneration or Stargardt’s disease.

 

The more advanced trials will have dozens of participants, says ACT’s head of clinical development, Eddy Anglade. If proved safe and effective, the cellular therapy could preserve the vision of millions affected by age-related macular degeneration. By 2020, as the population ages, nearly 200 million people worldwide will have the disease, estimate researchers. Currently, there are no treatments available for the most common form, dry age-related macular degeneration.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Lucile Debethune's curator insight, April 21, 2014 6:50 AM

Je m'éloigne un peu des sujets de cybernétique mais pas si loin, car la bioingénierie est aussi un moyen technologique de modifier l'humain. Les cellules souches sont reprogrammes depuis quelques années, et on peut asssister à des sauts technologiques de plus en plus important, notamment avec l'utilisation de technologies comme les imprimantes 3D pour recréer des organes, gerer les relation avec des prothèses bioméchaniques, etc... 

Aun iveau de la vision plusieurs grands axes émergent, soit avec un "remède" comme ici (surtout face à la dégénration cellulaire due à certaines maladie ou à la vieillesse), soit avec des prothèses de plus en plus miniaturisées et reliées au cerveau. 

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Insulin pill may soon become a reality

Insulin pill may soon become a reality | Differently Abled and Our Glorious Gadgets | Scoop.it

The idea of oral insulin has been around since the 1930s, but the difficulties of making it seemed too big to overcome. First, insulin is a protein – when it comes in contact with stomach enzymes, it is quickly destroyed. Second, if insulin can pass through the stomach safely, it is too big a molecule (about 30 times the size of aspirin) to be absorbed into the bloodstream, where it needs to be in order to regulate blood-sugar levels.

 

Sanyog Jain at India’s National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research and his colleagues have been working on delivering insulin in the oral form for many years. Their first fully-successful attempt came in 2012, when they developed a formulation that successfully controlled blood-sugar level in rats. But the materials used were too expensive to consider commercialising the technology.

 

Now, in a paper published in the journal Biomacromolecules, they have found a cheaper and more reliable way of delivering insulin. They overcome the two main hurdles by, first, packing insulin in tiny sacs made of lipids (fats), and, second, attaching to it folic acid (vitamin B9) to help improve its absorption into the bloodstream.

 

The lipids they use are cheap and have been successfully employed to deliver other drugs before. These help to protect insulin from being digested by stomach enzymes, which gets it to the small intestine. When the lipid-covered sacs enter the small intestine, special cells on its lining called microfold cells are attracted to the folic acid in them. The folic acid helps activate a transport mechanism that can let big molecules pass through into the blood. The amount of folic acid used in the formulation also seems to be in the safe region.

 

In rats, Jain’s formulation was as effective as injected insulin, although the relative amounts that entered the blood stream differed. However, it was better in one key aspect. Whereas the effects of an injection are quickly lost (in less than 6 to 8 hours), Jain’s formulation helped control blood-sugar level for more than 18 hours.

 

The most important part of the research comes after successful testing in animals – the formulation needs to be given to human volunteers. But, Jain said, “at a government institute like ours, we don’t have the sort of money needed for clinical trials.”

 

He may not have to wait for long, as big pharma companies have been searching for an insulin pill formulation for decades. Two of them, Danish pharma giant Novo Nordisk and Israeli upstart Oramed are in a race to come up with a solution. Google’s venture capital arm, Google Ventures, recently invested $10m in Rani Therapeutics with the hope it will help develop oral insulin. Indian firm Biocon also does oral insulin research, and it recently signed an agreement with pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb.

 

Oramed is ahead, with their oral insulin product soon to enter phase-II clinical trials, which is the most advanced stage any oral insulin formulation has ever reached. Its chief scientist, Miriam Kidron, said of Jain’s research: “Most people have the same basic idea to develop an insulin pill, but its the little differences that will determine ultimate success.”

 

While Kidron did not reveal Oramed’s formulation, she said, “we attempted liposomal delivery before, just like Jain’s work, but we weren’t successful.” She warned that translating success from rats to humans is very difficult. And she is right – most drugs have a high cull-rate at each stage of their development. Even so, research like Jain’sgive hope that an insulin pill may not remain a dream for long.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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MRI brain scans detect people with early Parkinson's disease

MRI brain scans detect people with early Parkinson's disease | Differently Abled and Our Glorious Gadgets | Scoop.it
Oxford University researchers have developed a simple and quick MRI technique that offers promise for early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

 

The new MRI approach can detect people who have early-stage Parkinson's disease with 85% accuracy, according to research published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

 

'At the moment we have no way to predict who is at risk of Parkinson's disease in the vast majority of cases,' says Dr Clare Mackay of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, one of the joint lead researchers. 'We are excited that this MRI technique might prove to be a good marker for the earliest signs of Parkinson's. The results are very promising.'

 

Claire Bale, research communications manager at Parkinson's UK, which funded the work, explains: 'This new research takes us one step closer to diagnosing Parkinson's at a much earlier stage – one of the biggest challenges facing research into the condition. By using a new, simple scanning technique the team at Oxford University have been able to study levels of activity in the brain which may suggest that Parkinson's is present. One person every hour is diagnosed with Parkinson's in the UK, and we hope that the researchers are able to continue to refine their test so that it can one day be part of clinical practice.'

 

Parkinson's disease is characterised by tremor, slow movement, and stiff and inflexible muscles. It's thought to affect around 1 in 500 people. There is currently no cure for the disease, although there are treatments that can reduce symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible.


Parkinson's disease is caused by the progressive loss of a particular set of nerve cells in the brain, but this damage to nerve cells will have been going on for a long time before symptoms become apparent.


Conventional MRI cannot detect early signs of Parkinson's, so the Oxford researchers used an MRI technique, called resting-state fMRI, in which people are simply required to stay still in the scanner. They used the MRI data to look at the 'connectivity', or strength of brain networks, in the basal ganglia – part of the brain known to be involved in Parkinson's disease.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Researchers Clone Cells From Two Adult Men

Researchers Clone Cells From Two Adult Men | Differently Abled and Our Glorious Gadgets | Scoop.it
After years of failed attempts, researchers have successfully generated stem cells from adults. The process could provide a new way for scientists to generate healthy replacements for diseased or damaged cells in patients

 

After years of failed attempts, researchers have finally generated stem cells from adults using the same cloning technique that produced Dolly the sheep in 1996.

 

A previous claim that Korean investigators had succeeded in the feat turned out to be fraudulent. Then last year, a group at Oregon Health & Science University generated stem cells using the Dolly technique, but with cells from fetuses and infants.In this case, cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man were used to generate two separate lines of stem cells.
The process, known as nuclear transfer, involves taking the DNA from a donor and inserting it into an egg that has been stripped of its DNA. The resulting hybrid is stimulated to fuse and start dividing; after a few days the “embryo” creates a lining of stem cells that are destined to develop into all of the cells and tissues in the human body. Researchers extract these cells and grow them in the lab, where they are treated with the appropriate growth factors and other agents to develop into specific types of cells, like neurons, muscle, or insulin-producing cells.
Reporting in the journal Cell Stem Cell, Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology, and his colleagues found that tweaking the Oregon team’s process was the key to success with reprogramming the older cells. Like the earlier team, Lanza’s group used caffeine to prevent the fused egg from dividing prematurely. Rather than leaving the egg with its newly introduced DNA for 30 minutes before activating the dividing stage, they let the eggs rest for about two hours. This gave the DNA enough time to acclimate to its new environment and interact with the egg’s development factors, which erased each of the donor cell’s existing history and reprogrammed it to act like a brand new cell in an embryo.


The team, which included an international group of stem cell scientists, used 77 eggs from four different donors. They tested their new method by waiting for 30 minutes before activating 38 of the resulting embryos, and waiting two hours before triggering 39 of them. None of the 38 developed into the next stage, while two of the embryos getting extended time did. “There is a massive molecular change occurring. You are taking a fully differentiated cell, and you need to have the egg do its magic,” says Lanza. “You need to extend the reprogramming time before you can force the cell to divide.”

 

While a 5% efficiency may not seem laudable, Lanza says that it’s not so bad given that the stem cells appear to have had their genetic history completely erased and returned to that of a blank slate. “This procedure works well, and works with adult cells,” says Lanza.

 

The results also teach stem cell scientists some important lessons. First, that the nuclear transfer method that the Oregon team used is valid, and that with some changes it can be replicated using older adult cells. “It looks like the protocols we described are real, they are universal, they work in different hands, in different labs and with different cells,” says Shoukhrat Mitalopov, director of the center for embryonic cell and gene therapy at Oregon Health & Science University, and lead investigator of that study.

 

VIDEO: Breakthrough in Cloning Human Stem Cells: Explainer

 

MORE: Stem-Cell Research: The Quest Resumes


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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