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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

We are less than a decade away from 3D printing functional transplantable hearts

We are less than a decade away from 3D printing functional transplantable hearts | Amazing Science |
3D "bioprinting" takes a three-dimensional, biological structure and essentially clones it using a printer.

Louisville researcher Stuart Williams is not talking about a far-off, science-fiction effort when he describes how local scientists will create new, functioning human hearts — using cells and a 3-D printer.

“We think we can do it in 10 years — that we can build, from a patient’s own cells, a total ‘bioficial’ heart,” said Williams, executive and scientific director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, a collaboration between the University of Louisville and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.

The project is among the most ambitious in the ever-growing field of three-dimensional printing that some experts say could revolutionize medicine.

Known for creating products as diverse as car parts and action figures, 3-D printing is also being used to create models of human bones and organs, medical devices, personalized prosthetics and now, human tissues. Williams describes the process as taking a three-dimensional structure “and essentially cloning it, using a printer.”

“Bioprinting is pretty much done everywhere,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina, where scientists recently won an award for innovations in bioprinting. “Our ultimate goal is increasing the number of patients who get organs.”

In February 2013, doctors at Weill Cornell Medical College and biomedical engineers at Cornell University in New York announced they had used 3-D printing and injectable gels made of cells to build a facsimile of a human ear that looks and acts like a real one.

And in the case of the baby in Michigan, university officials said the splint was created from a CT scan of the patient’s trachea and bronchus, integrating a computer model with 3-D printing. The baby, who used to stop breathing every day when his collapsed bronchus blocked the flow of air, was off a ventilator three weeks after the surgery, and officials say he hasn’t had breathing trouble since.

Wake Forest scientists, like their peers in Louisville, are working on organs. Officials at Wake Forest say their scientists were the first in the world to engineer a lab-grown organ, and they hope to scale up the process by printing organs with a custom printer. Institute scientists there have also designed a bioprinter to print skin cells onto burn wounds.

So far, Williams said, he knows of no instance where a tissue or organ created through 3-D printing has been implanted in a human. But he said the race is on.

“I think this will have an incredible effect on trauma patients … on the armed forces. You can imagine printing a jaw, printing muscle cells, printing the skin,” he said. “Ultimately I see it being used to print replacement kidneys, to print livers, and to print hearts — and all from your own cells.”


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Michio Kaku: What does the future look like?

Dr. Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics at City University of New York shares his vision of mankind's future.

Laura E. Mirian, PhD's curator insight, December 9, 2013 4:15 PM


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Amazon reveals AI air drone capable of delivering goods to customers within 30 minutes of ordering

Amazon reveals AI air drone capable of delivering goods to customers within 30 minutes of ordering | Amazing Science |

As early as 2015, your Amazon purchases could be dropped at your door within 30 minutes courtesy of unmanned aerial drones. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed plans for the delivery service Prime Air (an extension of Amazon Prime which guarantees two-day shipping) in a 60 Minutes prime time interview.


The service would ship orders under five pounds (2.3 kg) after they are packed into small plastic containers and then scooped up by Amazon's custom-built "octocopter." The drone then delivers the package to customers within a 10 mile (16 km) radius of Amazon's fulfillment centers.


Clearly the company will need to jump through various hoops to get the service off the ground, with public safety being a primary concern. "Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies designed to commercial aviation standards," the company says.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently working on rules and regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles, a process which Amazon hopes will be completed sooner rather than later. "We hope the FAA's rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015. We will be ready at that time."


We have seen a rise in proposals for the use of drones to deliver commercial products. One Australian startup plans to use drones to deliver school textbooks to customers in March 2014, while The Burrito Bomberhopes to be dropping Mexican cuisine on people as soon as 2015. With Amazon's product range, however, Prime Air would be the first to do so on such a large and diverse scale.


It may sound like science fiction, but given that Bezos claims that 300 items per second will be ordered from Amazon on Cyber Monday, it is possible that flocks of Prime Air drones will be zipping around above us in the very near future.

elke de turck's curator insight, December 31, 2013 8:41 AM

Company: Amazon

Segment: Retail - online selling and delivering

ICT-solution: Octocoper (a drone)


Summary: Amazon has built a drone, the Octocoper that will be able to deliver goods (< 5 pounds) within a radius of 16 miles in under 60 minutes.


Business objectives: Because of its fast delivery, people will order regular stuff (like for example cleaning products) online as well. Amazon's profits will rise significantly (which is bad for normal shops).

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Neuroengineering - Engineering Memories - The Future is Now

Dr. Theodore Berger's research is currently focused primarily on the hippocampus, a neural system essential for learning and memory functions.

Theodore Berger leads a multi-disciplinary collaboration with Drs. Marmarelis, Song, Granacki, Heck, and Liu at the University of Southern California, Dr. Cheung at City University of Hong Kong, Drs. Hampson and Deadwyler at Wake Forest University, and Dr. Gerhardt at the University of Kentucky, that is developing a microchip-based neural prosthesis for the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for long-term memory. Damage to the hippocampus is frequently associated with epilepsy, stroke, and dementia (Alzheimer's disease), and is considered to underlie the memory deficits characteristic of these neurological conditions.

The essential goals of Dr. Berger's multi-laboratory effort include: (1) experimental study of neuron and neural network function during memory formation -- how does the hippocampus encode information?, (2) formulation of biologically realistic models of neural system dynamics -- can that encoding process be described mathematically to realize a predictive model of how the hippocampus responds to any event?, (3) microchip implementation of neural system models -- can the mathematical model be realized as a set of electronic circuits to achieve parallel processing, rapid computational speed, and miniaturization?, and (4) creation of conformal neuron-electrode interfaces -- can cytoarchitectonic-appropriate multi-electrode arrays be created to optimize bi-directional communication with the brain? By integrating solutions to these component problems, the team is realizing a biomimetic model of hippocampal nonlinear dynamics that can perform the same function as part of the hippocampus.

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Ultrasound pulses could replace daily injections for diabetics

Ultrasound pulses could replace daily injections for diabetics | Amazing Science |

There could be hope for diabetics who are tired of giving themselves insulin injections on a daily basis. Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are developing a system in which a single injection of nanoparticles could deliver insulin internally for days at a time – with a little help from pulses of ultrasound.


The biocompatible and biodegradable nanoparticles are made of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid), and contain a payload of insulin. Each particle has either a positively-charged chitosan coating, or a negatively-charged alginate coating. When the two types of particles are mixed together, these oppositely-charged coatings cause them to be drawn to each other by electrostatic force.



Via Ray and Terry's
Joseph Perrone's comment, January 12, 2014 12:35 PM
Researchers in north Carolina are developing a way to help people with diabetes. so instead of giving insulin shots every day they are working on a way to use one shot and use that for days on end with the use of ultrasounds. This will make it much easier on the people who take the shots every single day. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I really think that this will be very useful to the diabetics! sounds much better that giving yourself a shot everyday! Must be painful to do that stuff. Good artical!
Taylor Marie Price's comment, February 5, 2014 5:18 PM
UNC and NC State students are trying to develop a way for diabetics to receive their insulin without daily injections. The plan is for nanoparticles to carry a payload of insulin to last a few days...................................As a diabetic I think it is a great idea and would be absolutely AMAZING!!! Even though I'm currently on a insulin pump which allows less shots it would even better if I had something that worked in the way the nanoparticles would work so it would allow me to not have to worry about forgetting as often or having to stress about giving my insulin to myself.
Madison Punch's comment, April 13, 2014 2:36 PM
It's so cool to know that in my home state, students are trying to improve treatment mediums for diabetics. It's a tough thing to deal with and to control and it's rad that more ways to accommodate the disease.
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Printing the Human Body: How It Works and Where It Is Headed

Printing the Human Body: How It Works and Where It Is Headed | Amazing Science |

The rise of 3D printing has introduced one of the most ground-breaking technological feats happening right now. The most exciting part, though, doesn't have anything to do with printing electronics or fancy furniture, but in producing human tissues, otherwise known as bioprinting. While it is still in its infancy, the future of bioprinting looks very bright and will eventually result in some major advances for society, whilst also saving billions for the economy this is spent on research and development.

Steve Kingsley's curator insight, November 27, 2013 9:27 PM

Will HP buy Organovo, which invented and produces the NovoGen bioprinter?

Pamela D Lloyd's curator insight, November 29, 2013 5:46 PM

Such astonishingly wonderful ways to use the new 3D printing technology.

David Stapleton's curator insight, July 15, 2017 12:18 AM
Amazing look at you
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Will 2-D Tin be the Next Super Material, Conducting Electricity with 100 Percent Efficiency at Room Temperature?

Will 2-D Tin be the Next Super Material, Conducting Electricity with 100 Percent Efficiency at Room Temperature? | Amazing Science |

A single layer of tin atoms could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.


Researchers call the new material "stanene," combining the Latin name for tin (stannum) with the suffix used in graphene, another single-layer material whose novel electrical properties hold promise for a wide range of applications.


"Stanene could increase the speed and lower the power needs of future generations of computer chips, if our prediction is confirmed by experiments that are underway in several laboratories around the world," said the team leader, Shoucheng Zhang, a physics professor at Stanford and the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES), a joint institute with SLAC. The team’s work was published recently in Physical Review Letters.


For the past decade, Zhang and colleagues have been calculating and predicting the electronic properties of a special class of materials known as topological insulators, which conduct electricity only on their outside edges or surfaces and not through their interiors. When topological insulators are just one atom thick, their edges conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency. These unusual properties result from complex interactions between the electrons and nuclei of heavy atoms in the materials.


“The magic of topological insulators is that by their very nature, they force electrons to move in defined lanes without any speed limit, like the German autobahn,” Zhang said. “As long as they’re on the freeway – the edges or surfaces – the electrons will travel without resistance.”


In 2006 and 2009, Zhang’s group predicted that mercury telluride and several combinations of bismuth, antimony, selenium and tellurium should be topological insulators, and they were soon proven right in experiments performed by others. But none of those materials is a perfect conductor of electricity at room temperature, limiting their potential for commercial applications.

Penny Briers's curator insight, November 25, 2013 5:18 AM

Is stanene the new graphene?

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Salk scientists for the first time generate "mini-kidney" structures from human stem cells

Salk scientists for the first time generate "mini-kidney" structures from human stem cells | Amazing Science |

For the first time, Salk scientists have grown human stem cells into early-stage ureteric buds, kidney structures responsible for reabsorbing water after toxins have been filtered out. In the laboratory, the scientists used mouse embryonic kidney cells (seen in red in the above picture) to coax the human stem cells to grow into the nascent mushroom-shaped buds (blue and green). Their discovery is a major step in developing regenerative techniques for growing replacement human kidneys.

Scientists had created precursors of kidney cells using stem cells as recently as this past summer, but the Salk team was the first to coax human stem cells into forming three-dimensional cellular structures similar to those found in our kidneys.

"Attempts to differentiate human stem cells into renal cells have had limited success," says senior study author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and holder of the Roger Guillemin Chair. "We have developed a simple and efficient method that allows for the differentiation of human stem cells into well-organized 3D structures of the ureteric bud (UB), which later develops into the collecting duct system."

Simon Jean Nunez's curator insight, January 23, 2014 7:20 PM

"For the first time, the Salk researchers have generated three-dimensional kidney structures from human stem cells, opening new avenues for studying the development and diseases of the kidneys and to the discovery of new drugs that target human kidney cells." Really great work, what's next?

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Study: Sun Will End Life on Earth in 2.8 Billion Years

Study: Sun Will End Life on Earth in 2.8 Billion Years | Amazing Science |
A brightening sun will likely snuff out all life on Earth in around 2.8 billion years, suggest astrobiologists.


Currently at a comfortable temperature for life on Earth, our aging sun will slowly warm over its lifetime. Within about five billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuel and bloat into a "red giant" star that may even engulf our planet.


Things will get toasty for existing life-forms long before that red giant stage is reached. The question examined by a team led by astrobiologist Jack O'Malley-James, of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, is: When will things get too hot for life to continue?


Using measures such as temperature and abundance of water and food to examine the future health of Earth's biosphere, the scientists have mapped out how all life may begin to die off. They also analyzed what Earth's "biosignature" might look like to a distant alien civilization searching for life. The study has been accepted for publication by theInternational Journal of Astrobiology and released recently on the physics archive maintained by the Cornell University Library.


Plants will go first. The team's long-range weather forecast for the far future shows that as temperatures on Earth begin to slowly rise, more water vapor will form, resulting in the steady removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Plants rely on carbon dioxide to generate energy through photosynthesis, so the complete removal of CO2 would be bad news for foliage. The first hints of the death of life on Earth, the study found, will come in 500 million years, when less-hardy species of plants begin to die off as global carbon dioxide levels drop.


As more plant species go extinct, so will the animals that rely on them as a source of food and oxygen. "When plant numbers decline, these two commodities become increasingly scarce, resulting in the simultaneous end of animals over the next billion years alongside the end of plants," the study says.


Only microbes will be left. By about 2.8 billion years from now, only hardy communities of microbes will be left behind to inherit the Earth. But as the Earth continues to relentlessly warm, oceans will evaporate, triggering a runaway greenhouse effect, which will lead to rapid further heating of the planet and a very scarce supply of liquid water.


"Only the hardiest microbes will be able to cope with this, until even they can no longer survive when temperatures cross the threshold at which DNA breaks down—around 140°C [284°F]," added O'Malley-James.


The team hopes that these findings may help our own search for life beyond Earth, by expanding the number of potential signatures of life to look for when we learn to analyze planetary atmospheres in more detail.


"A planet in a later stage of its habitable development may appear uninhabited if we only look for the signs of life as we know it on Earth today," said O'Malley-James. "Knowing what other potential signatures life could have could help us make a positive detection of life on a planet that may previously have been ignored."

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Sensory Substitution and Brain Plasticity: How to Augment our Senses

Since 1968 scientists have been creating sensory substitution and augmentation devices. With these devices they try to replace or enhance one sense by using another sense. For example, in tactile–vision, stimulation of the skin driven by input to a camera is used to replace the ordinary sense of vision that uses our eyes. The feelSpace belt aims to give people a magnetic sense of direction using vibrotactile stimulation driven by a digital compass. This talk discusses these developing technologies, mentions psychologists studying the minds and behavior of subjects who use these kind of devices, and analyzes the nature of perceptual experience and sensory interaction. The talk also explores the nature, limits and possibilities of these technologies, how they can be used to help those with sensory impairments, and what they can tell us about perception and perceptual experience in general.

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David M. Eagleman at #beinghuman2013: The Future of Being Human

David Eagleman examines how the contemporary journey into massive scales of space, time, and big data irreversibly expands our perspective on ourselves. At Being Human 2013, a recent forward-thinking lecture series, Jer Thorp and David Eagleman delivered new keynotes speculating on the future of being human. The conference, which took place in San Francisco last month, focused on how our perception of the world will change in the future. And, how big data and other technological and medical innovations will affect the way we interact with our surroundings. 

Eagleman kicked off his speech by explaining that every animal in the world (humans included) has "their own window on reality." Our perception of our environment, known as our "umwelt," is typically determined by the biological tools we're born with. Humans, for example, are not equipped to see x-rays or gamma rays or feel the shape of the magnetic field. Eagleman asks: "How are our technologies going to expand our umwelt, and therefore, the experience of being human?" 

"Our peripheral sensory organs are what we've come to the table with—but not necessarily what we have to stick with," he explains. He describes how we're moving into the MPH (Mr. Potato Head) model of evolution: Our eyes, ears, fingers, etc., essentially act like plug-and-play external devices that can be substituted to improve or enhance our view of the world. "The bottom line is that the human umwelt is on the move," he concludes. "We are now in a position as we move into the future of getting to chose our own plug-and-play devices." Imagine being able to see by transmitting electronic impulses through your tongue, or, embedding magnets into your fingertips that allow you to feel the pull of the magnetic field. There's so much happening in the world that we can't see, and Eagleman envisions a future where we can plug into new experiences and broaden our view of the our environment.

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EPFL is developing a tiny, personal blood testing laboratory that implants under your skin

EPFL is developing a tiny, personal blood testing laboratory that implants under your skin | Amazing Science |

EPFL scientists have developed a tiny, portable personal blood testing laboratory: a minuscule device implanted just under the skin provides an immediate analysis of substances in the body, and a radio module transmits the results to a doctor over the cellular phone network. This feat of miniaturization has many potential applications, including monitoring patients undergoing chemotherapy.


Humans are veritable chemical factories - we manufacture thousands of substances and transport them, via our blood, throughout our bodies. Some of these substances can be used as indicators of our health status. A team of EPFL scientists has developed a tiny device that can analyze the concentration of these substances in the blood. Implanted just beneath the skin, it can detect up to five proteins and organic acids simultaneously, and then transmit the results directly to a doctor’s computer. This method will allow a much more personalized level of care than traditional blood tests can provide. Health care providers will be better able to monitor patients, particularly those with chronic illness or those undergoing chemotherapy. The prototype, still in the experimental stages, has demonstrated that it can reliably detect several commonly traced substances.

The device was developed by a team led by EPFL scientists Giovanni de Micheli and Sandro Carrara. The implant, a real gem of concentrated technology, is only a few cubic millimeters in volume but includes five sensors, a radio transmitter and a power delivery system. Outside the body, a battery patch provides 1/10 watt of power, through the patient’s skin – thus there’s no need to operate every time the battery needs changing.


Information is routed through a series of stages, from the patient’s body to the doctor’s computer screen. The implant emits radio waves over a safe frequency. The patch collects the data and transmits them via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, which then sends them to the doctor over the cellular network.


Great care was taken in developing the sensors. To capture the targeted substance in the body – such as lactate, glucose, or ATP – each sensor’s surface is covered with an enzyme. “Potentially, we could detect just about anything,” explains De Micheli. “But the enzymes have a limited lifespan, and we have to design them to last as long as possible.” The enzymes currently being tested are good for about a month and a half; that’s already long enough for many applications. “In addition, it’s very easy to remove and replace the implant, since it’s so small.”


The electronics were a considerable challenge as well. “It was not easy to get a system like this to work on just a tenth of a watt,” de Micheli explains. The researchers also struggled to design the minuscule electrical coil that receives the power from the patch.


The prototype has already been tested in the laboratory for five different substances, and proved as reliable as traditional analysis methods. The project brought together eletronics experts, computer scientists, doctors and biologists from EPFL, the Istituto di Ricerca di Bellinzona, EMPA and ETHZ. It is part of the Swiss Nano-Tera program, whose goal is to encourage interdisciplinary research in the environmental and medical fields. Researchers hope the system will be commercially available within 4 years.


More wearable technology news here:

Patricia Nicoll's curator insight, October 6, 2013 9:46 PM

Instantaneous sampling and blood results

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WIRED: A neuroscientist's radical theory of how highly complex networks become conscious

WIRED: A neuroscientist's radical theory of how highly complex networks become conscious | Amazing Science |
It’s a question that’s perplexed philosophers for centuries and scientists for decades: where does consciousness come from?


Neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, thinks he might know the answer. According to Koch, consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be. That's just the way the universe works.

What Koch proposes is a scientifically refined version of an ancient philosophical doctrine called panpsychism -- and, coming from someone else, it might sound more like spirituality than science. But Koch has devoted the last three decades to studying the neurological basis of consciousness. His work at the Allen Institute now puts him at the forefront of the BRAIN Initiative, the massive new effort to understand how brains work, which will begin next year.


Koch's insights have been detailed in dozens of scientific articles and a series of books, including last year's Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. Wired talked to Koch about his understanding of this age-old question.

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Here Come 5 Dimensions: 5D Stores Much More Data Than 3D

Here Come 5 Dimensions: 5D Stores Much More Data Than 3D | Amazing Science |
Glass media that stores data in 3-spatial and 2-optical dimensions could outlast us all


An experimental computer memory format uses five dimensions to store data with a density that would allow more than 300 terabytes to be crammed onto a standard optical disc. But unlike an optical disc, which is made of plastic, the experimental media is quartz glass. Researchers have long been trying to use glass as a storage material because it is far more durable than existing plastics.


A team led by optoelectronics researcher Jingyu Zhang at the University of Southampton, in the U.K., has demonstrated that information can be stored in glass by changing its birefringence, a property related to how polarized light moves through the glass.


In conventional optical media, such as DVDs, you store data by burning tiny pits on one or more layers on the plastic disc, which means you're using three spatial dimensions to store information. But in Zhang's experiment, he and colleagues exploit two additional, optical dimensions.


When their data-recording laser marks the glass, it doesn’t just make a pit: it changes two parameters of the birefringence of the glass. The researchers set these parameters, called slow axis orientation and strength of retardance, by controlling the polarization and intensity of their laser beam. Add the two optical dimensions to three spatial coordinates and the result is "5D data storage," as Zhang calls it.


Previous attempts at storing data in glass consisted of burning tiny holes into the material, but that approach means that an optical microscope is required to read out the data. Zhang's goal is to write data into glass in a format readable with lasers, like existing optical discs, to keep data-reading costs down.


The writing costs will be higher, though, since changing birefringence in glass requires fine control of a laser's polarization and intensity. Earlier attempts involved rotating the laser and using an attenuator, Zhang says, but that could take several seconds between writing operations, making it far too slow for practical applications.


Instead Zhang and colleagues bounced the beam of their ultrafast writing laser off a tiny, commercially available LCD-like screen called a spatial light modulator, or SLM (see illustration below). It changes its reflectivity quickly in response to electrical charges, giving the team fine control over the intensity of the reflected beam.

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Micro-robots will become soft and move like biological organisms, experts predict

Micro-robots will become soft and move like biological organisms, experts predict | Amazing Science |

Increasingly small robots can carry out their functions even inside the human body. No, this isn’t a sci-fi dream. The technology is almost ready. However there is still one condition they must meet to be effective: these devices need to have the same "softness" and flexibility as biological tissues.

This is the opinion of scientists like Antonio De Simone, from SISSA (the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste) and Marino Arroyo from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, who have just published a paper in the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids. Taking inspiration from unicellular water micro-organisms, they studied the locomotion mechanisms of "soft robots."


Forget cogwheels, pistons and levers: miniaturized robots of the future will be 'soft.' "If I think of the robots of tomorrow, what comes to mind are the tentacles of an octopus or the trunk of an elephant rather than the mechanical arm of a crane or the inner workings of a watch. And if I think of micro-robots then I think of unicellular organisms moving in water. The robots of the future will be increasingly like biological organisms" explains Antonio De Simone.

De Simone and his team at SISSA have been studying the movement of euglenids, unicellular aquatic animals, for several years. One of the aims of De Simone's research -- which has recently been awarded a European Research Council Advanced Grant of 1,300,000 euro -- is to transfer the knowledge acquired in euglenids to micro-robotics, a field that represents a promising challenge for the future. Micro-robots may in fact carry out a number of important functions, for example for human health, by delivering drugs directly to where they are needed, re-opening occluded blood vessels, or helping to close wounds, to name just a few.

To do this, these tiny robots will have to be able to move around efficiently. "Imagine trying to miniaturize a device made up of levers and cogwheels: you can't go below a certain minimal size. Instead, by mimicking biological systems we can go all the way down to cell size, and this is exactly the direction research is taking. We, in particular, are working on movement and studying how certain unicellular organisms with highly efficient locomotion move."


In their study, De Simone and Arroyo simulated euglenid species with different shapes and locomotion methods, based chiefly on cell body deformation and swelling, to describe in detail the mechanics and characteristics of the movement obtained.


"Our work not only helps to understand the movement mechanism of these unicellular organisms, but it provides a knowledge base to plan the locomotion system of future micro-robots."

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Human memories are ‘geotagged’ with spatial information, researchers find

Human memories are ‘geotagged’ with spatial information, researchers find | Amazing Science |

Neurons that encode spatial information form “geotags” for specific memories and these geotags are activated immediately before those memories are recalled, a team of neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania and Freiburg University has discovered. They used a video game in which people navigate through a virtual town delivering objects to specific locations.

“These findings provide the first direct neural evidence for the idea that the human memory system tags memories with information about where and when they were formed and that the act of recall involves the reinstatement of these tags,” said Michael Kahana, professor of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences.


Kahana and his colleagues have long conducted research with epilepsy patients who have electrodes implanted in their brains as part of their treatment. The electrodes directly capture electrical activity from throughout the brain while the patients participate in experiments from their hospital beds.


As with earlier spatial memory experiments conducted by Kahana’s group, this study involved playing a simple video game on a bedside computer. The game in this experiment involved making deliveries to stores in a virtual city. The participants were first given a period where they were allowed to freely explore the city and learn the stores’ locations. When the game began, participants were only instructed where their next stop was, without being told what they were delivering.


After they reached their destination, the game would reveal the item that had been delivered, and then give the participant their next stop.

After 13 deliveries, the screen went blank and participants were asked to remember and name as many of the items they had delivered in the order they came to mind.


This allowed the researchers to correlate the neural activation associated with the formation of spatial memories (the locations of the stores) and the recall of episodic memories (the list of items that had been delivered).


“During navigation, neurons in the hippocampus and neighboring regions can often represent the patient’s virtual location within the town, kind of like a brain GPS device,” Kahana said. “These ‘place cells’ are perhaps the most striking example of a neuron that encodes an abstract cognitive representation.”

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The Bio-intelligence Explosion

The Bio-intelligence Explosion | Amazing Science |
How recursively self-improving organic robots will modify their own source code and bootstrap our way to full-spectrum superintelligence.
Via Szabolcs Kósa
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Developing a Fax Machine to Copy Life on Mars

Developing a Fax Machine to Copy Life on Mars | Amazing Science |
DNA sequencing and DNA synthesis are becoming faster and cheaper, and J. Craig Venter wants to use the technology to bring Martian life to Earth.


 J. Craig Venter is looking for a new world to conquer — Mars. He wants to detect life on Mars and bring it to Earth using a device called a digital biological converter, or biological teleporter. Although the idea conjures up “Star Trek,” the analogy is not exact. The transporter on that program actually moves Captain Kirk from one location to another. Dr. Venter’s machine would merely create a copy of an organism from a distant location — more like a biological fax machine.

Still, Dr. Venter, known for his early sequencing of the human genome and for his bold proclamations, predicts the biological converter will be his next innovation and will be useful on Earth well before it could ever be deployed on the red planet.


The idea behind it, not original to him, is that the genetic code that governs life can be stored in a computer and transmitted just like any other information.


Dr. Venter’s system would determine the sequence of the DNA units in an organism’s genome and transmit that information electronically. At the distant location, the genome would be synthesized — or chemically recreated — inserted into what amounts to a blank cell, and “booted up,” as Mr. Venter puts it. In other words, the inserted DNA would take command of the cell and recreate a copy of the original organism.


To test some ideas, he and a small team of scientists from his company and from NASA spent the weekend here in the Mojave Desert, the closest stand-in they could find for the dry surface of Mars.


The biological fax is not as far-fetched as it seems. DNA sequencing and DNA synthesis are rapidly becoming faster and cheaper. For now, however, synthesizing an organism’s entire genome is still generally too difficult. So the system will first be used to remotely clone individual genes, or perhaps viruses. Single-celled organisms like bacteria might come later. More complex creatures, earthly or Martian, will probably never be possible.


Dr. Venter’s company, Synthetic Genomics, and his namesake nonprofit research institute have already used the technology to help develop an experimental vaccine for the H7N9 bird flu with the drug maker Novartis.


Typically, when a new strain of flu virus appears, scientists must transport it to labs, which can spend weeks perfecting a strain that can be grown in eggs or animal cells to make vaccine.


But when H7N9 appeared in China in February, its genome was sequenced by scientists there and made publicly available. Within days, Dr. Venter’s team had synthesized the two main genes and used them to make a vaccine strain, without having to wait for the virus to arrive from China.


Dr. Venter said Synthetic Genomics would start selling a machine next year that would automate the synthesis of genes by stringing small pieces of DNA together to make larger ones.


Eventually, he said, “we’ll have a small box like a printer attached to your computer.” A person with a bacterial infection might be sent the code to recreate a virus intended to kill that specific bacterium.


“We can send an antibiotic as an email,” said Dr. Venter, who has outlined his ideas in a new book, “Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life.” Proteins might also be made, so that diabetics, for instance, could “download insulin from the Internet.”

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Diamond ‘flaws’ may pave the way for nanoscale MRI and thermometry of single cells

Diamond ‘flaws’ may pave the way for nanoscale MRI and thermometry of single cells | Amazing Science |

Breakthrough offers high-sensitivity nanoscale sensors, and could lead to magnetic imaging of neuron activity and thermometry on a single living cell. - See more at:


By exploiting flaws in miniscule diamond fragments, researchers say they have achieved enough coherence of the magnetic moment inherent in these defects to harness their potential for precise quantum sensors in a material that is 'biocompatible'.


Nanoscopic thermal and magnetic field detectors - which can be inserted into living cells - could enhance our understanding of everything from chemical reactions within single cells to signalling in neural networks and the origin of magnetism in novel materials.


Atomic impurities in natural diamond structure give rise to the colour seen in rare and coveted pink, blue and yellow diamond. But these impurities are also a major research focus in emerging areas of quantum physics.


One such defect, the Nitrogen-vacancy Centre (NVC), consists of a gap in the crystal lattice next to a nitrogen atom. This system tightly traps electrons whose spin states can be manipulated with extreme precision.

Electron coherence - the extent to which the spins of these particles can sustain their quantum mechanical properties - has been achieved to high levels in the NVCs of large 'bulk' diamonds, with coherence times of an entire second in certain conditions - the longest yet seen in any solid material.


However in nanodiamonds - nanometer sized crystals that can be produced by milling conventional diamond - any acceptable degree of coherence has, until now, proved elusive.


Nanodiamonds offer the potential for both extraordinarily precise resolution, as they can be positioned at the nano-scale, and biocompatibility - as they have can be inserted into living cells. But without high levels of coherence in their NVCs to carry information, these unique nanodiamond benefits cannot be utilised.


By observing the spin dynamics in nanodiamond NVCs, researchers at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, have now identified that it is the concentration of nitrogen impurities that impacts coherence rather than interactions with spins on the crystal surface.


By controlling the dynamics of these nitrogen impurities separately, they have increased NVC coherence times to a record 0.07 milliseconds longer than any previous report, an order of significant magnitude - putting nanodiamonds back in play as an extremely promising material for quantum sensing.

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Edible sensors that fit inside pills and tell your doctor when pills are taken predicted to be released in 2014

Edible sensors that fit inside pills and tell your doctor when pills are taken predicted to be released in 2014 | Amazing Science |

"If you look at every healthcare system in the world, it's finished," says Don Cowling, VP at Proteus Digital Health. "Instead of spending $10 billion (£6.4billion) trying to find a new molecule, why not spend half a billion getting today's products working properly?" That's what he is doing at California and London-based Proteus Digital Health, which harvests biological data using ingestible sensors and skin patches, to improve diagnosis and treatments already available. It's making edible sensors that fit inside pills and tell your doctor when pills are taken. They're expected to come to market in late 2014.


When a patient takes pills erratically and their condition worsens, a doctor may simply up the dose. Proteus is building silicon, copper and magnesium chips of about 1mm squared that can be inserted into tablets -- these report via Bluetooth when a pill's been taken.


In May, the firm announced a $62.5 million (£38.9 million) funding round, including investment from Oracle. But smart pills are just the start, says Cowling. Proteus's patch sensor can gather dozens of other data points, including heart rate, to present a sophisticated picture of patient health -- like a medical-grade FuelBand. "We can now get a formal classification of what disability looks like -- we can measure it." 

Elvin Joel Estrada's curator insight, November 20, 2013 1:55 PM

Modern Medicine,  is breaking your privacy?

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J Craig Venter wants to digitize DNA and transmit the signal to teleport organisms

J Craig Venter wants to digitize DNA and transmit the signal to teleport organisms | Amazing Science |

Craig Venter states:

"As the industrial age is drawing to a close, I think that we're witnessing the dawn of the era of biological design. DNA, as digitized information, is accumulating in computer databases. Thanks to genetic engineering, and now the field of synthetic biology, we can manipulate DNA to an unprecedented extent, just as we can edit software in a computer. We can also transmit it as an electromagnetic wave at or near the speed of light and, via a "biological teleporter", use it to recreate proteins, viruses and living cells at another location, changing forever how we view life."

"At this point in time we are limited to making protein molecules, viruses, phages and single microbial cells, but the field will move to more complex living systems. I am confident that we will be able to convert digitised information into living cells that will become complex multicellular organisms or functioning tissues."

"We could send sequence information to a digital-biological converter on Mars in as little as 4.3 minutes, that's at the closest approach of the red planet, to provide colonists with personalised drugs. Or, if Nasa's Mars Curiosity rover were equipped with a DNA-sequencing device, it could transmit the digital code of a Martian microbe back to Earth, where we could recreate the organism in the laboratory. We can rebuild the Martians in a P4 spacesuit lab -- that is, a maximum-containment lab -- instead of risking them crash-landing on the surface. I am assuming that Martian life is, like life on Earth, based on DNA. I think that because we know that Earth and Mars have continually exchanged material, in the order of 100kg a year, making it likely that Earth microbes have travelled to and populated Martian oceans long ago and that Martian microbes have survived to thrive on Earth. Simple calculations indicate that there is as much biology and biomass in the subsurface of our Earth as in the entire visible world on the planet's surface. The same could be true for Mars."

"If the life-digitalizing technology works, then we will have a new means of exploring the universe and the Earth-sized exoplanets and super Earths. To get a sequencer to them soon is out of the question with present-day rocket technology -- the planets orbiting the red dwarf Gliese 581 are "only" about 22 light-years away -- but it would take only 22 years to get the beamed data back. And that if advanced DNA-based life does exist in that system, perhaps it has already been broadcasting sequence information."

"Creating life at the speed of light is part of a new industrial revolution. Manufacturing will shift from centralised factories to a distributed, domestic manufacturing future, thanks to the rise of 3D printer technology. Since my own genome was sequenced, my software has been broadcast into space in the form of electromagnetic waves, carrying my genetic information far beyond Earth. Whether there is any creature out there capable of making sense of the instructions in my genome, well, that's another question."

Dmitry Alexeev's curator insight, November 1, 2013 4:01 AM

J Craig Venter has already been teleported))

I love him for his style of reporting simple deeds as awesome technologies) 


Nalina Nagarajan's curator insight, November 9, 2013 4:24 PM

Star trekkies for real!

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Data Driven Computing: The Future Fabric of Data Analysis

Data Driven Computing: The Future Fabric of Data Analysis | Amazing Science |
The nature of computing has changed dramatically over the last decade, and more innovation is needed to weather the gathering data storm.


When subatomic particles smash together at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, they create showers of new particles whose signatures are recorded by four detectors. The LHC captures 5 trillion bits of data — more information than all of the world’s libraries combined — every second. After the judicious application of filtering algorithms, more than 99 percent of those data are discarded, but the four experiments still produce a whopping 25 petabytes (25×10E15 bytes) of data per year that must be stored and analyzed. That is a scale far beyond the computing resources of any single facility, so the LHC scientists rely on a vast computing grid of 160 data centers around the world, a distributed network that is capable of transferring as much as 10 gigabytes per second at peak performance.


Google’s Alon Halevy believes that the real breakthroughs in big data analysis are likely to come from integration — specifically, integrating across very different data sets. “No matter how much you speed up the computers or the way you put computers together, the real issues are at the data level,” he said. For example, a raw data set could include thousands of different tables scattered around the Web, each one listing crime rates in New York, but each may use different terminology and column headers, known as “schema.” A header of “New York” can describe the state, the five boroughs of New York City, or just Manhattan. You must understand the relationship between the schemas before the data in all those tables can be integrated.


That, in turn, requires breakthroughs in techniques to analyze the semantics of natural language. It is one of the toughest problems in artificial intelligence — if your machine-learning algorithm aspires to perfect understanding of nearly every word. But what if your algorithm needs to understand only enough of the surrounding text to determine whether, for example, a table includes data on coffee production in various countries so that it can then integrate the table with other, similar tables into one common data set? According to Halevy, a researcher could first use a coarse-grained algorithm to parse the underlying semantics of the data as best it could and then adopt a crowd-sourcing approach like a Mechanical Turk to refine the model further through human input. “The humans are training the system without realizing it, and then the system can answer many more questions based on what it has learned,” he said.


Chris Mattmann, a senior computer scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and director at the Apache Software Foundation, faces just such a complicated scenario with a research project that seeks to integrate two different sources of climate information: remote-sensing observations of the Earth made by satellite instrumentation and computer-simulated climate model outputs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would like to be able to compare the various climate models against the hard remote-sensing data to determine which models provide the best fit. But each of those sources stores data in different formats, and there are many different versions of those formats.


Many researchers emphasize the need to develop a broad spectrum of flexible tools that can deal with many different kinds of data. For example, many users are shifting from traditional highly structured relational databases, broadly known as SQL, which represent data in a conventional tabular format, to a more flexible format dubbed NoSQL. “It can be as structured or unstructured as you need it to be,” said Matt LeMay, a product and communications consultant and the former head of consumer products at URL shortening and bookmarking service Bitly, which uses both SQL and NoSQL formats for data storage, depending on the application.

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The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond — and Why They Might Not Come True

The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond — and Why They Might Not Come True | Amazing Science |

The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond. 

Every year, the editors of the Futurist magazine identify the most provocative forecasts and statements about the future that we’ve published recently and we put them to into an annual report called “Outlook.” It’s sprawling exploration of what the future looks like at a particular moment in time. To accompany the report, we draft a list of our top 10 favorite predictions from the magazine’s previous 12 months. What are the criteria to be admitted into the top 10? The forecast should be interesting, relatively high impact, and rising in likelihood. In other words, it’s a bit subjective.


There are surely better methods for evaluating statements about the future, but not for our purposes. You see, we aren’t actually interested in attempting to tell our readers what will happen so much as provoking a better discussion about what can happen—and what futures can be avoided, if we discover we’re heading in an unsavory direction.


The future isn’t a destination. But the problem with too many conversations about the future, especially those involving futurists, is that predictions tend to take on unmitigated certainty, sounding like GPS directions. When you reach the Singularity, turn left—that sort of thing. In reality, it’s more like wandering around a city, deciding spur of the moment what road to take.

Via Szabolcs Kósa, Margarida Sá Costa
Say Keng Lee's curator insight, October 7, 2013 5:06 AM

Fascinating forecasts!

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Method of recording brain activity could lead to mind-reading devices, Stanford scientists say

Method of recording brain activity could lead to mind-reading devices, Stanford scientists say | Amazing Science |

A brain region activated when people are asked to perform mathematical calculations in an experimental setting is similarly activated when they use numbers -- or even imprecise quantitative terms, such as "more than" -- in everyday conversation, according to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists.


Using a novel method, the researchers collected the first solid evidence that the pattern of brain activity seen in someone performing a mathematical exercise under experimentally controlled conditions is very similar to that observed when the person engages in quantitative thought in the course of daily life.


"We're now able to eavesdrop on the brain in real life," said Josef Parvizi, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences and director of Stanford's Human Intracranial Cognitive Electrophysiology Program. Parvizi is the senior author of the study, published Oct. 15, 2013 in Nature Communications. The study's lead authors are postdoctoral scholar Mohammad Dastjerdi, MD, PhD, and graduate student Muge Ozker.


The finding could lead to "mind-reading" applications that, for example, would allow a patient who is rendered mute by a stroke to communicate via passive thinking. Conceivably, it could also lead to more dystopian outcomes: chip implants that spy on or even control people's thoughts.


"This is exciting, and a little scary," said Henry Greely, JD, the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and steering committee chair of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, who played no role in the study but is familiar with its contents and described himself as "very impressed" by the findings. "It demonstrates, first, that we can see when someone's dealing with numbers and, second, that we may conceivably someday be able to manipulate the brain to affect how someone deals with numbers."


The researchers monitored electrical activity in a region of the brain called the intraparietal sulcus, known to be important in attention and eye and hand motion. Previous studies have hinted that some nerve-cell clusters in this area are also involved in numerosity, the mathematical equivalent of literacy.


However, the techniques that previous studies have used, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, are limited in their ability to study brain activity in real-life settings and to pinpoint the precise timing of nerve cells' firing patterns. These studies have focused on testing just one specific function in one specific brain region, and have tried to eliminate or otherwise account for every possible confounding factor. In addition, the experimental subjects would have to lie more or less motionless inside a dark, tubular chamber whose silence would be punctuated by constant, loud, mechanical, banging noises while images flashed on a computer screen.


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