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  • Machine learning to decrease brain injury deaths

    NEWS

       |   21/01/2019    |   32
    Machine learning to decrease brain injury deaths
    Engineering & Fabrication  Automation system  Automation system

    The implants, described in a study published in the January 14 issue of Nature Medicine, are intended to promote nerve growth across spinal cord injuries, restoring connections and lost function. In rat models, the scaffolds supported tissue regrowth, stem cell survival and expansion of neural stem cell axons out of the scaffolding and into the host spinal cord. "In recent years and papers, we've progressively moved closer to the goal of abundant, long-distance regeneration of injured axons in spinal cord injury, which is fundamental to any true restoration of physical function," said co-senior author Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, professor of neuroscience and director of the Translational Neuroscience Institute at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Axons are the long, threadlike extensions on nerve cells that reach out to connect to other cells. "The new work puts us even closer to real thing," added co-first author Kobi Koffler, PhD, assistant project scientist in Tuszynski's lab, "because the 3D scaffolding recapitulates the slender, bundled arrays of axons in the spinal cord. It helps organize regenerating axons to replicate the anatomy of the pre-injured spinal cord." Co-senior author Shaochen Chen, PhD, professor of nanoengineering and a faculty member in the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at UC San Diego, and colleagues used rapid 3D printing technology to create a scaffold that mimics central nervous system structures. "Like a bridge, it aligns regenerating axons from one end of the spinal cord injury to the other. Axons by themselves can diffuse and regrow in any direction, but the scaffold keeps axons in order, guiding them to grow in the right direction to complete the spinal cord connection," Chen said. The implants contain dozens of tiny, 200-micrometer-wide channels (twice the width of a human hair) that guide neural stem cell and axon growth along the length of the spinal cord injury. The printing technology used by Chen's team produces two-millimeter-sized implants in 1.6 seconds. Traditional nozzle printers take several hours to produce much simpler structures. The process is scalable to human spinal cord sizes. As proof of concept, researchers printed four-centimeter-sized implants modeled from MRI scans of actual human spinal cord injuries. These were printed within 10 minutes. "This shows the flexibility of our 3D printing technology," said co-first author Wei Zhu, PhD, nanoengineering postdoctoral fellow in Chen's group. "We can quickly print out an implant that's just right to match the injured site of the host spinal cord regardless of the size and shape." Researchers grafted the two-millimeter implants, loaded with neural stem cells, into sites of severe spinal cord injury in rats. After a few months, new spinal cord tissue had regrown completely across the injury and connected the severed ends of the host spinal cord. Treated rats regained significant functional motor improvement in their hind legs. "This marks another key step toward conducting clinical trials to repair spinal cord injuries in people," Koffler said. "The scaffolding provides a stable, physical structure that supports consistent engraftment and survival of neural stem cells. It seems to shield grafted stem cells from the often toxic, inflammatory environment of a spinal cord injury and helps guide axons through the lesion site completely."

  • New AI can detect urinary tract infections

    NEWS

       |   18/01/2019    |   33
    New AI can detect urinary tract infections
    Medical & Healthcare  Diagnostic Imaging Labs  Diagnostic Imaging Labs

    In a paper published in PLOS ONE, scientists from the University of Surrey's Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) detail how, in an NHS clinical trial, they used a technique called Non-negative Matrix Factorisation to find hidden clues of possible UTI cases. The team then used novel machine learning algorithms to identify early UTI symptoms. The experiment was part of the TIHM (Technology Integrated Health Management) for dementia project, led by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and in partnership with the University of Surrey and industry collaborators. The project, which is part of the NHS Test Beds Programme and is funded by NHS England the Office for Life Sciences, allowed clinicians to remotely monitor the health of people with dementia living at home, with the help of a network of internet enabled devices such as environmental and activity monitoring sensors, and vital body signal monitoring devices. Data streamed from these devices was analysed using machine learning solutions, and the identified health problems were flagged on a digital dashboard and followed up by a clinical monitoring team. According to The World Health Organisation, around 50 million people worldwide have dementia. This number is estimated to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050. According to the Alzheimer's Society, one in four hospital beds in the UK are occupied by a person with dementia, while around 22 percent of these admissions are deemed to be preventable. Payam Barnaghi, Professor of Machine Intelligence at CVSSP, said: "Urinary tract infections are one of the most common reasons why people living with dementia go into hospital. We have developed a tool that is able to identify the risk of UTIs so it is then possible to treat them early. We are confident our algorithm will be a valuable tool for healthcare professionals, allowing them to produce more effective and personalised plans for patients." Professor Adrian Hilton, Director of CVSSP, said: "This development hints at the incredible potential of Professor Barnaghi's research here at CVSSP. Machine learning could provide improved care for people living with dementia to remain at home, reducing hospitalization and helping the NHS to free up bed space." Dr Shirin Enshaeifar, Senior Research Fellow at CVSSP, said: "I am delighted to see that the algorithms we have designed have an impact on improving the healthcare of people with dementia and providing a tool for clinicians to offer better support to their patients." Professor Helen Rostill, Director of Innovation and Development at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The TIHM for dementia study is a collaborative project that has brought together the NHS, academia and industry to transform support for people with dementia living at home and their carers. Our aim has been to create an Internet of Things led system that uses machine learning to alert our clinicians to potential health problems that we can step in and treat early. The system helps to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers and could also reduce pressure on the NHS."

  • Powerful microscope revolutionizes cell insights

    NEWS

       |   17/01/2019    |   37
    Powerful microscope revolutionizes cell insights
    Medical & Healthcare  Diagnostic Imaging Labs  Diagnostic Imaging Labs

    Certain bacteria and viruses can harness the cells' motility machinery to invade our bodies. Understanding how cells move – and the rod-like actin filaments that drive the process – is key to learning how to halt or promote motility to improve human health. Now, using one of the most powerful microscopes in the world, scientists from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) have identified a dense, dynamic and disorganized actin filament nanoscaffold – resembling a haystack – that is induced in response to a molecular signal. This is the first time researchers have directly visualized, at the molecular level, a structure that is triggered in response to a cellular signal – a key finding that expands our understanding of how cells move. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). "Cyro-electron microscopy is revolutionizing our understanding of the inner workings of cells," says Dorit Hanein, Ph.D., senior author of the paper and professor in the Bioinformatics and Structural Biology Program at SBP. "This technology allowed us to collect robust, 3D images of regions of cells – similar to MRI, which creates detailed images of our body. We were able to visualize cells in their natural state, which revealed a never-before-seen actin nano-architecture within the cell." In the study, the scientists used SBP's cryo-electron microscope (Titan Krios), artificial intelligence (AI) and tailor-made computational and cell imaging approaches to compare nanoscale images of mouse fibroblasts to time-stamped light images of fluorescent Rac1, a protein that regulates cell movement, response to force or strain (mechanosensing) and pathogen invasion. The images revealed a densely packed, disorganized, scaffold-like structure comprised of short actin rods. These structures sprang into view in defined regions where Rac1 was activated, and quickly dissipated when Rac1 signaling stopped – in as little as two and a half minutes. This dynamic scaffold contrasted sharply with various other actin assemblies in areas of low Rac1 activation – some comprised of long, aligned rods of actin, and others comprised of short actin rods branching from the sides of longer actin filaments. The volume encasing the actin scaffold was devoid of common cellular structures, such as ribosomes, microtubules, vesicles and more, likely due to the structure's intense density. Next, the scientists would like to expand the protocol to visualize more structures that are created in response to other molecular signals and to further develop the technology to allow access to other regions of the cell. "This study is only the beginning. Now that we developed this quantitative nanoscale workflow that correlates dynamic signaling behavior with the nano-scale resolution of electron cryo-tomography, we and additional scientists can implement this powerful analytical tool not only for deciphering the inner workings of cell movement but also for elucidating the dynamics of many other macromolecular machines in an unperturbed cellular environment," says Hanein. She adds, "Actin is a building-block protein; it interacts with more than 150 actin binding proteins to generate diverse structures, each serving a unique function. We have a surplus of different signals that we would like to map, which could yield even more insights into how cells move." MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP)

  • Wireless pacemaker for the brain

    NEWS

       |   16/01/2019    |   34
    Wireless pacemaker for the brain
    Medical & Healthcare  Medical Equipment  Medical Equipment

    The device, named the WAND, works like a "pacemaker for the brain," monitoring the brain's electrical activity and delivering electrical stimulation if it detects something amiss. These devices can be extremely effective at preventing debilitating tremors or seizures in patients with a variety of neurological conditions. But the electrical signatures that precede a seizure or tremor can be extremely subtle, and the frequency and strength of electrical stimulation required to prevent them is equally touchy. It can take years of small adjustments by doctors before the devices provide optimal treatment. WAND, which stands for wireless artifact-free neuromodulation device, is both wireless and autonomous, meaning that once it learns to recognize the signs of tremor or seizure, it can adjust the stimulation parameters on its own to prevent the unwanted movements. And because it is closed-loop - meaning it can stimulate and record simultaneously - it can adjust these parameters in real-time. "The process of finding the right therapy for a patient is extremely costly and can take years. Significant reduction in both cost and duration can potentially lead to greatly improved outcomes and accessibility," said Rikky Muller, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley. "We want to enable the device to figure out what is the best way to stimulate for a given patient to give the best outcomes. And you can only do that by listening and recording the neural signatures." WAND can record electrical activity over 128 channels, or from 128 points in the brain, compared to eight channels in other closed-loop systems. To demonstrate the device, the team used WAND to recognize and delay specific arm movements in rhesus macaques. The device is described in a study that appeared in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

  • E-bandage speeds wound healing in rats

    NEWS

       |   16/01/2019    |   32
    E-bandage speeds wound healing in rats
    Medical & Healthcare  Healthcare Products & Aids  Healthcare Products & Aids

    Chronic skin wounds include diabetic foot ulcers, venous ulcers and non-healing surgical wounds. Doctors have tried various approaches to help chronic wounds heal, including bandaging, dressing, exposure to oxygen and growth-factor therapy, but they often show limited effectiveness. As early as the 1960s, researchers observed that electrical stimulation could help skin wounds heal. However, the equipment for generating the electric field is often large and may require patient hospitalization. Weibo Cai, Xudong Wang and colleagues wanted to develop a flexible, self-powered bandage that could convert skin movements into a therapeutic electric field. To power their electric bandage, or e-bandage, the researchers made a wearable nanogenerator by overlapping sheets of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), copper foil and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The nanogenerator converted skin movements, which occur during normal activity or even breathing, into small electrical pulses. This current flowed to two working electrodes that were placed on either side of the skin wound to produce a weak electric field. The team tested the device by placing it over wounds on rats' backs. Wounds covered by e-bandages closed within 3 days, compared with 12 days for a control bandage with no electric field. The researchers attribute the faster wound healing to enhanced fibroblast migration, proliferation and differentiation induced by the electric field.

  • Making sure the glass is always half full

    NEWS

       |   15/01/2019    |   29
    Making sure the glass is always half full
    Plants & Machinery  Temperature Control  Temperature Control

    Established in 1946, WIKA is a global family-run company and a world leader in pressure and temperature measuring technology. In fact, when it comes to fill levels, flow rates and calibration technology, the WIKA Group and its workforce of 9,300 set the standard. The company has now raised the bar yet again by launching the first device of its type in the shape of a float switch with PNP or NPN switching output signals. The “"GLS 1000" captures the fill level of liquids with an accuracy equal to or less than one millimeter. In a world-first, the digitalized float-based measuring principle of this new WIKA fill level switch is based on semiconductor sensors that support an unlimited number of switching cycles. If the user requires, up to four switch points can be specified with a minimum distance of just 2.5 millimeters between each, which means even the smallest of level changes can trigger a switching pulse. What's more, the "GLS 1000" features a temperature output with Pt100/Pt1000 resistance for monitoring the temperature of liquids. As it is similar in shape and structure to its conventional counterparts, the "GLS 1000" digital float switch can be used as an economical replacement for classic PNP/NPN limit level switches, even though it uses electronic switching principles.

  • Robot serves 3D printer at Voodoo

    NEWS

       |   14/01/2019    |   35
    Robot serves 3D printer at Voodoo
    Engineering & Fabrication  Automation system  Automation system

    Voodoo Manufacturing is based in the New York borough of Brooklyn and specializes in delivering 3D print jobs. The company is focused on industrial mass production, but is in competition with service providers who use conventional injection molding processes. To utilize the more than 200 3D printers on the company’s approximately 1700 m2 premises more efficiently, the business is using a UR10-model cobot from Danish market leader Universal Robots. The robot arm is mounted on a mobile base and can reach around 100 of the installed 3D printers. It is responsible for removing used printing plates from the equipment, placing them on a conveyor belt and loading the printers with new plates. Automation has allowed Voodoo Manufacturing to triple its production – not least because the UR10 also works at night, monitored by proprietary software. With an additional UR10, the company hopes to increase utilization of its printer capacity from the current level of 30-40% to around 90%, further reducing production costs. The firm’s long-term goal is to install up to 10,000 3D printers served by several cobots in order to work more cost-effectively than the injection-molding industry.

  • Old batteries to store solar energy

    NEWS

       |   14/01/2019    |   31
    Old batteries to store solar energy
    Engineering & Fabrication  Industrial & Metal Fabrication  Industrial & Metal Fabrication

    The e-mobility trend is creating a new problem. What to do with all the old batteries that still work but are unsuitable for driving due to deteriorating performance? Swedish automotive group Volvo is now taking part in a project putting retired bus batteries to use in a solar installation. Specifically, the project involves the new Viva residential complex owned by housing cooperative Riksbyggen in Göteborg, which was designed as a sustainable project. Under an energy supply plan drawn up in collaboration with energy provider Göteborg Energi and the Johanneberg Science Park, energy from the photovoltaic installations on the roofs of the apartment buildings is stored by batteries previously installed in the electric buses on line 55 in Göteborg. The installations deploy 14 used lithium-ion batteries, linked up to create a 200 kWh storage unit. They are intended to store excess electricity from the solar installation so that it can be made available at peak times or even sold. The batteries can also be used to store electricity from the national power grid.

  • Digital health to support precision cancer medicine in iCAN

    NEWS

       |   14/01/2019    |   28
    Digital health to support precision cancer medicine in iCAN
    Medical & Healthcare  Healthcare  Healthcare

    Cancer research at the genetic and molecular level has already enabled new targeted therapies. At the same time it has revealed the complexity and diversity of cancer - we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Identification of new significant treatment targets in cancer cells and their supporting normal tissue requires development of a precision cancer medicine toolbox. "The iCAN flagship leverages on the unique strengths Finland has in the areas of top-level cancer research, various registers and digital health. We will for example collect gene function and drug sensitivity data from isolated tumor cells and cancer cells grown outside of the human body and combine these with digital health/lifestyle data obtained during treatment or provided by the patients themselves. Data mining is also developed by utilization of artificial intelligence. The new knowledge obtained should provide a basis for development of the right treatment for each patient," says the director of the iCAN flagship, Academy Prof. Kari Alitalo from the University of Helsinki. The iCAN flagship was awarded 11 million euros from the Academy of Finland for the first four year period. Total funding is aimed to reach an annual level of 51 million euros through commitment of the host organisations and especially through increased business collaborations. "We believe iCAN will become a global model for integration of digital health/lifestyle data with precision medicine tools. The flagship also emphasizes empowerment of the patients in all parts of the chain from research to treatment. In addition, iCAN enables new health sector innovations and business based on top research at the University of Helsinki. Over twenty pharma and digital health companies have already expressed their interest to join the flagship," notes Rector of the University of Helsinki Jari Niemela. The interdisciplinary flagship brings together researchers from cancer biology and cancer genomics to machine learning, digital health and clinical research. "Helsinki University Hospital HUS is strongly committed to taking advantage of digital health data in cancer research in the new iCAN flagship. Our data lake offers a globally unique research infrastructure for data mining and we have the first OECI-accredited Comprehensice Cancer Center in the Nordics. The flagship also supports the regional and national cancer center and the health sector growth strategy," says HUS Chief Medical Office Markku Makijarvi.

  • How herpesviruses shape the immune system

    NEWS

       |   13/01/2019    |   28
    How herpesviruses shape the immune system
    Medical & Healthcare  Diagnostic Imaging Labs  Diagnostic Imaging Labs

    The human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is globally widespread and the majority of adults are carriers, also in Germany. After an infection, the virus hides in the body for a lifetime, which usually goes unnoticed. However, when the immune system is weakened, as is the case after transplants or when unborn children become infected during pregnancy, it can cause damage to a range of different organs including the nervous system. It is therefore important to find out whether an appropriate immune response against the virus is present in order to prevent such damage from occurring. Dr. Andreas Moosmann heads a DZIF research group at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and is specialised in studying immune responses to viruses. "In healthy humans, cytomegalovirus replication is curbed by T cells in particular," explains Moosmann. Billions of different T cells patrol through our body. Each cell has its own sensor on its surface, a so-called T cell receptor, which is able to identify just a small portion of a specific pathogen. As soon as this sensor is activated, the T cell turns into a killer cell. The infected cell is then killed and the viruses contained within it cannot replicate any longer. "Just by looking at specific T cells in the blood, we can now precisely detect whether a virus is present," says Moosmann. The problem up to now has been that complex techniques challenged such analyses. "Separate tests were required for every individual type of T cell and for each particular specificity," says Moosmann. In order to identify viruses more rapidly and precisely, Moosmann and his Munich team of scientists developed a method that enables analysis of millions of T cells with one single test. "We sequence ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the blood samples, through which we can identify existing types of T cell receptors that are specific for different parts of CMV," explains PhD candidate Alina Huth. Using this new method, the scientists were able to identify 1052 CMV-specific T cell receptors in eight healthy virus carriers. In a second group of 352 donors, the scientists measured the prevalence of these sequences, enabling them to very precisely predict infected donors. The results will be serve to establish a database of virus-specific T cell receptors. According to the scientists, this method can also be used for other viruses. Biologist Dr Xiaoling Liang is convinced that "This diagnostic method will deliver more information at a lower cost and is therefore attractive for clinicians in future. We can now develop a test that can directly determine the immune status for different viruses in one step." The applications of such a test are manifold. For example, it could be used to predict viral infections in transplant patients and other people with weakened immune systems and enable timely treatment. "We believe this test has great potential. It could, for example, also be used to check if a vaccination has been successful. And it will promote research on the connections between infections, auto-immune diseases and allergies," adds Moosmann.