Patients fitted with an orthopedic prosthetic commonly experience a period of intense pain after surgery. In an effort to control the pain, surgeons inject painkillers into the tissue during the operation. When that wears off a day or two later, the patients are given morphine through a catheter placed near the spine. Yet catheters are not particularly comfortable, and the drugs spread throughout the body, affecting all organs. Researchers in EPFL's Microsystems Laboratory are now working on a biodegradable implant that would release a local anesthetic on-demand over several days. Not only would this implant reduce patients' post-op discomfort, but there would be no need for further surgery to remove it. They developed a tiny biodegradable electronic circuit, made from magnesium, that could be heated wirelessly from outside the body. Once integrated into the final device, the circuit will allow to release controlled amounts of anesthetic in a specific location over several days. After that, the implant will degrade safely inside the body. This research has been published in Advanced Functional Materials. One capsule with several reservoirs The electronic circuit -- a resonant circuit in the shape of a small spiral -- is just a few microns thick. When exposed to an alternating electromagnetic field, the spiral resonator produces an electric current that creates heat. The researchers' end-goal is to pair the resonators with painkiller-filled capsules and then insert them into the tissue during surgery. The contents of the capsules could be released when an electromagnetic field sent from outside the body melts the capsule membrane. "We're at a key stage in our project, because we can now fabricate resonators that work at different wavelengths," says Matthieu Rüegg, a PhD student and the study's lead author. "That means we can release the contents of the capsules individually by selecting different frequencies." The heat-and-release process should take less than a second. A novel manufacturing technique The researchers had to get creative when it came time to manufacture their biodegradable resonators. "We immediately ruled out any fabrication process that involved contact with water, since magnesium dissolves in just a few seconds," says Rüegg. They ended up shaping the magnesium by depositing it on a substrate and then showering it with ions. "That gave us more flexibility in the design stage," he adds. They were eventually able to create some of the smallest magnesium resonators in the world: two microns thick, with a diameter of three millimeters. The team's invention is not quite ready for the operating room. "We still need to work on integrating the resonators into the final device and show that it's possible to release drugs both in vitro and in vivo," concludes Ruegg.
As part of the SMC Corporation, which operates in 83 countries and runs more than 31 production facilities, SMC Deutschland GmbH offers a comprehensive portfolio of products ranging from valves to thermo-chillers in more than 12,000 basic models and over 700,000 variants to suit a whole host of different industries. This makes it Germany's leading partner and solution provider for pneumatic and electric automation technology. To defend this sought-after position, the company is committed to constantly optimizing and developing its portfolio. For example, SMC has recently overhauled its pulse valves and brought them to market in their latest incarnation - the JSXFA series. The pulse valves in the JSXFA series really come into their own whenever the production process requires maximum power from a single blast of air. Capable of achieving 15 percent higher peak pressure, while also reducing compressed air consumption by a third, these new valves are at the top of their class in terms of pure performance data. Not only that, but their response time is now almost twice as fast as that of previous models, and their service life has been increased to an impressive 10 million cycles. "By achieving high peak pressure while also maintaining very low air consumption, the new pulse valves are suitable for any application that requires a powerful blast of air," explains Olaf Hagelstein, product manager at SMC Deutschland. In his view, one of the key applications for these valves will be cleaning filter elements. When it comes to effectively cleaning and removing extremely fine particles, he believes a powerful pressure pulse makes all the difference. "But, of course, the pulse valves are also ideal for removing any unwanted goods from the production line with a blast of air," he adds. "Ultimately, increasing performance while also reducing energy consumption is an appealing proposition for any industry. It's something all blow-off and cleaning applications can benefit from."
Medical advancements can come at a physical cost. Often following diagnosis and treatment for cancer and other diseases, patients' organs and cells can remain healed but damaged from the medical condition. In fact, one of the fastest growing medical markets is healing and/or replacing organs and cells already treated, yet remain damaged by cancer, cardiovascular disease and other medical issues. The global tissue engineering market is expected to reach $11.5 billion by 2022. That market involves researchers and medical scientists working to repair tissues damaged by some of the world's most debilitating cancers and diseases. One big challenge remains for the market - how to monitor and continuously test the performance of engineered tissues and cells to replace damaged ones. Purdue University researchers have come up with a 3D mapping technology to monitor and track the behavior of the engineered cells and tissues and improve the success rate for patients who have already faced a debilitating disease. The technology is published in the June 19 edition of ACS Nano. My hope is to help millions of people in need. Tissue engineering already provides new hope for hard-to-treat disorders, and our technology brings even more possibilities." Chi Hwan Lee, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering in Purdue's College of Engineering, who leads the research team The Purdue team created a tissue scaffold with sensor arrays in a stackable design that can monitor electrophysiological activities of cells and tissues. The technology uses the information to produce 3D maps to track activity. "This device offers an expanded set of potential options to monitor cell and tissue function after surgical transplants in diseased or damaged bodies," Lee said. "Our technology offers diverse options for sensing and works in moist internal body environments that are typically unfavorable for electronic instruments." Lee said the Purdue device is an ultra-buoyant scaffold that allows the entire structure to remain afloat on the cell culture medium, providing complete isolation of the entire electronic instrument from the wet conditions inside the body. Lee and his team have been working with Sherry Harbin, a professor in Purdue's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, to test the device in stem cell therapies with potential applications in the regenerative treatment of diseases. Their works align with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration, celebrating the global advancements in health as part of Purdue's 150th anniversary. Health, including disease monitoring and treatment, is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration's Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues. Lee and the other researchers worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the new device.
Allergies and different types of asthma are becoming more common worldwide, and air pollution and indoor air problems put a strain on the respiratory organs of increasing numbers of people. From the 1990s onwards, Professor of Biomedical Technology and Head of the Physiological Signal Analysis Group Tapio Seppänen has focused on the research of respiratory wave signals with his research team. Their long-term work has resulted in a mobile respiratory measurement tool called the Respiratory effort test. “We wanted to create a quick, easy and affordable way to measure the ease or difficulty of breathing”, says Professor Seppänen. “We explored the possibilities of using a mobile phone to measure respiration. Today's mobile phones contain many sensors and advanced measurement technology, making them a versatile measuring tool.” The mobile phone travels with everyone, without the need for separate measuring devices. Now the Respiratory effort test is in the phase of clinical testing, and a global patent application has been submitted. Chest movements reveal heavy breathing Traditionally, respiratory events in the upper and lower airways are measured with a whole body plethysmograph, BodyBox, only available in the largest hospitals. The measurement is conducted in an airtight box, by inhaling into a tube. Measurements performed with BodyBox require trained personnel and a visit to a hospital. Lasting one whole hour, the examination can be strenuous for the patient. The Respiratory effort test provides the same information within a few minutes by using the patient’s own mobile phone. “In this respect, we have replaced the BodyBox with a mobile phone,” Tapio Seppänen laughs. "We use a mobile phone to measure the breathing, and mathematical models to calculate details related to the respiratory wave. The resulting information can be used to interpret abnormal respiratory events.” As breathing becomes constricted, the airways contract and air resistance grows. This also increases the amount of breathing work. “Chest movement reflects the breathing work performed by the diaphragm and intercostal muscles between the ribs. They create a vacuum to draw in air, and when relaxing, they let the air flow out,” Seppänen says. “If there is a stenosis in the airways, you will have to press with your muscles and do more work to move the airflow. As a result, the chest movement changes. We can calculate such a blockage on the basis of the signal shape.” “The Respiratory effort test uses artificial intelligence in a medical application. The application recognises patterns in the respiratory event, that is, the machine is taught how to find a pattern reliably. The application also instructs the user on how to take the measurement correctly. In other words, a person has dialogue with a machine.” Measurements within a few minutes In addition to Tapio Seppänen, the Respiratory effort test is developed by Professor Olli-Pekka-Alho from the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, MSc Tiina Seppänen, who is working on her doctoral dissertation in the field of medical technology, and Project Researcher Niina Palmu. Niina Palmu is an expert in the commercialisation of health technology, and she is also involved in the commercialisation of the Respiratory effort test. She also examines how patients can best be guided through the measurement process. “During the measurement, a mobile phone is placed in the correct position on the chest. Inhalation takes place according to precise instructions: at first, you breathe through your nose, mouth closed, in and out, taking big breaths but in a normal manner,” says Palmu. This provides material on respiratory events taking place in the upper airways. “Then you breathe through your mouth, holding your nose in order to obtain a result of the respiratory event taking place in the lower airway. Finally, the Respiratory effort test provides results on the ease of breathing separately for the upper and lower airways, and the overall result,” Niina Palmu says. A measurement can be taken at home, at the workplace or at a doctor's office. “In order to make the measurements taken at home reliable, we need to instruct the user on how to conduct the measurements correctly. This is one of our research questions: how to instruct people?” Niina Palmu says contemplatively. “The device must also be instructive; it must indicate whether the measurement has been taken correctly,” adds Seppänen. The Respiratory effort test has many target groups In interviews with doctors, measurements based on a smartphone received a surprised and enthusiastic reception. “It is handy to measure with a device that is already in your pocket,” says Niina Palmu. “The Respiratory effort test is a convenient method for assessing the effectiveness of treatment and for home monitoring. Asthmatics’ drug response can be assessed by using the test. Moreover, measurements can be taken several times a day, at different times of the day and in different situations. You can also do this at the workplace if there are problems with indoor air, or outdoors in surrounded pollution or street dust”, describes Tapio Seppänen. The Respiratory effort test also supports parents in assessing the situation of an asthmatic child or young person. A measurement makes it is easier to decide whether to administer more medication or take the child to see a doctor. “If you have a pulmonary disease, asthma or COPD, you will adapt to it. The situation starts to feel normal, even if it is objectively poor. A measurement gives you the right picture of the situation”, says Tapio Seppänen. Before the Respiratory effort test can enter the market, there is a long and thorough test phase ahead. 'Clinical testing lasts for years, as this is a medical device. We are now looking for funding for the validation phase,” Seppänen and Palmu say. MobiResp project, in which the Respiration effort test was developed, received Proof of Concept funding from the University of Oulu in 2017. The New business from business ideas (TUTLI) funding granted by Business Finland made it possible to identify the innovation’s business opportunities. Research funding is still needed before the Respiration effort test can be placed on the market. Text: Satu Räsänen Physiological Signal Analysis Group Center for Machine Vision and Signal Analysis
Chondral injuries of the knee are a common source of pain in athletes but one of the main methods of diagnosing and staging these injuries, MRI, has a specificity of 73 percent and sensitivity of 42 percent. Using arthroscopy to stage the degree of the injury is a more accurate way to evaluate the knee prior to surgery. The doctors reviewed 98 patients who had autologous chondrocyte implantation, osteochondral allograft transplantation and meniscus allograft transplantation. "Based on our review, a change in treatment plan was made in 47 percent of cases in which staging arthroscopy was used to evaluate articular cartilage surfaces," said lead researcher Dr. Hytham S. Salem of Rothman Institute. Arthroscopy is performed after a standard sterile skin preparation and involves injecting local anesthetic subcutaneously at the portal sites and within the knee joint. It is often performed in office while patients are awake and alert. "The results of our study indicate that staging arthroscopy is an important step in determining the most appropriate treatment plan for chondral defects prior to OCA, ACI and MAT," Salem said. "Addressing all knee's pathology can be important for the success of cartilage restoration surgery, and treatment plans may change based on the extent and location of cartilage damage."
Badri Roysam, chair of the University of Houston Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is leading a $3.19 million project to create new technology that could provide an unprecedented look at the injured brain. The technology is a marriage, as Roysam calls it, between a new generation of “super microscopes,” that deliver detailed multi-spectral images of brain tissue, and the UH supercomputer at the HPE Data Science Institute, which interprets the data. “By allowing us to see the effects of the injury, treatments and the body’s own healing processes at once, the combination offers unprecedented potential to accelerate investigation and development of next-generation treatments for brain pathologies,” said Roysam, co-principal investigator with John Redell, assistant professor at UTHealth McGovern Medical School. Funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the project also includes NINDS scientist Dragan Maric and UH professors Hien Van Nguyen and Saurabh Prasad. The team is tackling the seemingly familiar concussion, suffered globally by an estimated 42 million people. This mild traumatic brain injury, usually caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, disrupts normal brain function, setting off a cascading series of molecular and cellular alterations that can result in neurological, cognitive and behavioral changes. Concussions have long confounded scientists who face technological limitations that hinder a more comprehensive understanding of the pathological changes triggered by concussion, causing an inability to design effective treatment regimens. Until now. “We can now go in with eyes wide open whereas before we had only a very incomplete view with insufficient detail,” said Roysam. “The combinations of proteins we can now see are very informative. For each cell, they tell us what kind of brain cell it is, and what is going on with that cell.” The impact is immediate Injury to the brain causes immediate changes among all brain cells, severing some connections and potentially causing blood to leak into the brain — where blood is never supposed to be — by breaching the blood/brain barrier. After a concussion, the brain tissue becomes a complex “battleground,” said Roysam, with a mix of changes caused by the injury, secondary changes due to drug treatments, side effects and the body’s natural processes. Untangling these processes will allow the team to develop new medication “cocktails” of two or more drugs. “We will present a carefully validated and broadly applicable toolkit with unprecedented potential to accelerate investigation and develop next-generation treatments for brain pathologies,” said Roysam. Once validated, the new technology can also be applied to strokes, brain cancer and other degenerative diseases of the brain.
More than 20 million Germans could supply themselves completely with self-generated solar power. This is the result of an E.ON calculation based on an evaluation of your own data. "66 percent of our photovoltaic customers generate more electricity throughout the year than they consume over the same period," says Victoria Ossadnik, CEO of E.ON Energie Deutschland. Extrapolated to the whole of Germany, if two out of three homes * were to produce their own solar power, the required electricity for more than 10 million households or about 20 million ** Germans could be fully covered by solar energy. "The further expansion of decentralized photovoltaic systems is not only sustainable, but also efficient and could significantly accelerate the social transition to renewable energies," adds Victoria Ossadnik from E.ON. In addition, electric cars, e-bikes or the new e-scooter could be charged at home with solar power. So far, about 1.6 million systems have been installed in Germany. Store solar power with batteries Much of their electricity is produced by photovoltaic systems from spring to autumn. To store surplus electricity on sunny days, batteries can increase their self-consumption quota to around 70 percent in order to use the energy in the evenings, for example. With virtual storage systems such as the E.ON SolarCloud, customers can even save their solar power indefinitely and thus supply themselves 100% sustainably. The energy from this virtual power account, customers can retrieve at any time, even in the darker season, when no sun is shining. The calculation is based on a data set of more than 1,000 households owned by E.ON customers with their own photovoltaic system, whose generated energy was compared to the required electricity consumption of the last twelve months. The households are spread over the entire federal territory with a focus on southern Germany.
ANN ARBOR—An injection of nanoparticles can prevent the body’s immune system from overreacting to trauma, potentially preventing some spinal cord injuries from resulting in paralysis. The approach was demonstrated in mice at the University of Michigan, with the nanoparticles enhancing healing by reprogramming the aggressive immune cells—call it an “EpiPen” for trauma to the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. “In this work, we demonstrate that instead of overcoming an immune response, we can co-opt the immune response to work for us to promote the therapeutic response,” said Lonnie Shea, the Steven A. Goldstein Collegiate Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Lonnie Shea Lonnie Shea. Image credit: Michigan Engineering Trauma of any kind kicks the body’s immune response into gear. In a normal injury, immune cells infiltrate the damaged area and clear debris to initiate the regenerative process. The central nervous system, however, is usually walled off from the rough-and-tumble of immune activity by the blood-brain barrier. A spinal cord injury breaks that barrier, letting in overzealous immune cells that create too much inflammation for the delicate neural tissues. That leads to the rapid death of neurons, damage to the insulating sheaths around nerve fibers that allow them to send signals, and the formation of a scar that blocks the regeneration of the spinal cord’s nerve cells. All of this contributes to the loss of function below the level of the injury. That spectrum includes everything from paralysis to a loss of sensation for many of the 12,000 new spinal injury patients each year in the United States. Previous attempts to offset complications from this immune response included injecting steroids like methylprednisolone. That practice has largely been discarded since it comes with side effects that include sepsis, gastrointestinal bleeding and blood clots. The risks outweigh the benefits. But now, U-M researchers have designed nanoparticles that intercept immune cells on their way to the spinal cord, redirecting them away from the injury. Those that reach the spinal cord have been altered to be more pro-regenerative. With no drugs attached, the nanoparticles reprogram the immune cells with their physical characteristics: a size similar to cell debris and a negative charge that facilitates binding to immune cells. In theory, their nonpharmaceutical nature avoids unwanted side effects. With fewer immune cells at the trauma location, there is less inflammation and tissue deterioration. Second, immune cells that do make it to the injury are less inflammatory and more suited to supporting tissues that are trying to grow back together. “Hopefully, this technology could lead to new therapeutic strategies not only for patients with spinal cord injury but for those with various inflammatory diseases,” said Jonghyuck Park, a U-M research fellow working with Shea. Previous research has shown success for nanoparticles mitigating trauma caused by the West Nile virus and multiple sclerosis, for example. “The immune system underlies autoimmune disease, cancer, trauma, regeneration—nearly every major disease,” Shea said. “Tools that can target immune cells and reprogram them to a desired response have numerous opportunities for treating or managing disease.” The research, published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was supported by The National Institutes of Health. Shea is also the William and Valerie Hall Chair of Biomedical Engineering and a professor of chemical engineering.
With 42 subsidiaries and branches around the world, the Pilz Group offers a whole host of end-to-end automation solutions. These cover sensor, control and drive technology and include systems for industrial communication, diagnostics and visualization. An international range of services featuring consultancy, engineering and training completes the portfolio. Besides mechanical and plant engineering, Pilz solutions are also used in numerous other sectors such as wind energy, rail technology and robotics. One of the hottest topics in robotics right now concerns cobots - a product of human-robot collaboration (HRC). To ensure companies can meet the strict safety standards that protect human coworkers, Pilz has developed the Pilz Robot Measurement System "PRMS". Due to high customer demand, the company is now also offering the system to buy, alongside the tried-and-tested rental version. The PRMS collision measurement set can be used to measure force and pressure to validate HRC applications in line with Method 4 of ISO/TS 15066. Thanks to new silicone compression elements, the device is even more user-friendly and also replicates the Shore values from ISO/TS 15066. The force and pressure measurements can then be easily evaluated using the PRMS Assistant software. And as if that were not enough, the all-in-one PRMS package also includes a one-day seminar explaining the measurement system and standards and providing practical training. What’s more, this all-in-one hassle-free package from Pilz covers maintenance, calibration and software updates for the PRMS, too.
In order to manage its global logistics network dynamically, the German industrial corporation Thyssenkrupp is opting for an in-house solution which has been created in cooperation with Microsoft . The “alfred” artificial intelligence solution is to become the central collection point for all information relevant to the company in the medium term and make the processes around the delivery chain more flexible. That could ultimately work to the benefit of the customer – through better adaptation of prices and quality to specific requirements and through faster delivery. Already since its introduction in 2019, the AI solution has optimized all transport routes and is providing faster availability of materials at the company’s sites. It is based on Microsoft Azure Machine Learning and in future will process and analyze around 14 million order items a year, identify optimal delivery routes and determine the material needs of individual industries and companies at specific locations. Thyssenkrupp’s in-house developments also include the IIoT platform toii , by means of which the company is networking its machine park.