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  • Troubleshooting embedded systems becomes easier

    NEWS

       |   09/01/2019    |   37
    Troubleshooting embedded systems becomes easier
       

    Embedded systems are for example used in aircraft, trains or industrial robots. As they are designed to ensure machine safety, the entire hardware has to be checked regularly, costing a lot of time and money. A research team from Kaiserslautern has developed a model that can analyze the effects of hardware errors on the software. It turned out that most of the errors did not affect the programs. It thus suffices "to focus on specific areas where errors are important for the software," says Christian Bartsch, first author of the study. Troubleshooting becomes less complicated and thus faster and cheaper. The method even makes it possible to certify protection mechanisms for certain hardware errors. Companies could then analyze whether their security arrangements are sufficient for the potential problems. The study paper was distinguished with an award in Arizona.

  • Microneedles technique for quicker diagnoses of major illnes…

    NEWS

       |   09/01/2019    |   39
    Microneedles technique for quicker diagnoses of major illnes…
    Medical & Healthcare  Diagnostic Imaging Labs  Diagnostic Imaging Labs

    Now a technique using microneedles able to draw relatively large amounts of interstitial fluid - a liquid that lurks just under the skin - opens new possibilities. Previously, microneedles - tiny, hollow, stainless steel needles - have drained tiny amounts of interstitial fluid needed to analyze electrolyte levels but could not draw enough fluid to make more complicated medical tests practical. The new method's larger draws could be more effective in rapidly measuring exposure to chemical and biological warfare agents as well as diagnosing cancer and other diseases, says Sandia National Laboratories researcher and team lead Ronen Polsky, who is principal investigator on the project sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Sandia's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. "We believe interstitial fluid has tremendous diagnostic potential, but there has been a problem with gathering sufficient quantities for clinical analysis," said Polsky. "Dermal interstitial fluid, because of its important regulatory functions in the body, actually carries more immune cells than blood, so it might even predict the onset of some diseases more quickly than other methods." The relatively large quantities of pure interstitial fluid extracted, which have never before been achieved, make it possible to create a database of testable molecules, such as proteins, nucleotides, small molecules and other cell-to-cell signaling vesicles called exosomes. Their presence or absence in a patient's interstitial fluid would then indicate, when an individual's data is transmitted by electronic means to a future data center, whether bodily disorders like cancers, liver disease or other problems might be afoot. The new microneedle extraction protocol achieved its latest results by modifying a technique described in a 1999 technical paper. The original technique drew fluid with a microneedle attached to a flat substrate penetrating the skin. In the recent modification, a concentric ring from a horizontally sliced insulin pen injector surrounding the needle was used serendipitously and a far greater amount of fluid became available. "The earlier paper showed less than a microliter per insertion and our new needles were getting up to 2 microliters per needle, so we hypothesized the difference had to be the mounting around the needle modulating the pressure pressed on the skin," said Sandia researcher Phillip Miller, the lead author on the paper. "By creating arrays of needles, our extractable amount increased from 2 microliters to up to 20 microliters in human subjects." One microliter is about 0.000034 fluid ounces. Interstitial fluid, the transparent fluid that surrounds all human cells, is most commonly experienced as the liquid that puffs up blisters. It is so important for the transport of biomolecules between cells and as an intermediary between blood and the lymphatic system that some researchers have referred to it, like skin, as another bodily organ. Interstitial fluid's advantage for patients is that it can be probed by 1.5-millimeter (approximately .06 inches) needles that are too short to reach nerves that cause pain. It also has no red blood cells to cloud the results of tests. Until this latest research, the fluid had only one difficulty: the inability of researchers to collect enough of it unspoiled by cell fragments to perform an adequate number of tests for complete characterization. A microneedle pressed into the skin would send up just the interstitial fluid it had displaced - a fraction of a microliter. Alternatively, inserting a tiny fluid pump brought forth large but damaged quantities of fluid.

  • Computer model shows how to better control MRSA outbreaks

    NEWS

       |   09/01/2019    |   39
    Computer model shows how to better control MRSA outbreaks
    Medical & Healthcare  Diagnostic Imaging Labs  Diagnostic Imaging Labs

    The research team developed a computer model of MRSA outbreaks using more than 2 million admission records from 66 hospitals in Stockholm County, Sweden, representing a period of six years. Their model recreated outbreaks of the most prevalent MRSA strain, UK EMRSA-15, which is present in 16 countries worldwide, including the United States. Adapting statistical techniques used in weather forecasting, the model simulates two connected dynamics at the individual scale: transmission within hospitals and infections imported from the community. Information on when and where patients were admitted and discharged and who was diagnosed for MRSA is used to reveal a group of "stealth colonizers"- individuals who are infectious but whose status is invisible. The model-inference system estimated as many as 400 asymptomatic MRSA cases per month in the Swedish hospitals, and that up to 61 percent of MRSA infections diagnosed in the hospital setting were imported from the community. More than revealing hidden transmission dynamics, the new MRSA simulation method calculates the chances each patient might get infected. The researchers tested the value of these probabilities by simulating an intervention that provides treatment to high-risk patients. They found their targeted intervention was better at controlling an outbreak than current practices, which involve either treating patients who have spent the most time in hospital, treating patients with the most contacts in hospital, or using contact tracing to treat those patients who were exposed to a patient testing positive for the infection. The targeted intervention provided a 50 percent further reduction in infections and 80 percent further reduction in colonized patients. "Compared with traditional intervention strategies that may overlook a considerable number of invisible colonized patients, this new model-inference system can identify a pivotal group for treatment, namely individuals who may otherwise transmit MRSA asymptomatically," says first author Sen Pei, a postdoctoral research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Columbia Mailman School. The researchers first validated their inference method using virtual outbreaks generated with the computer model. Unlike records from the hospital, where only infections are observed, this model-generated outbreak "observes" all outbreak characteristics (e.g., the number of "stealth" colonized patients). They then used the simulated observations of infection as input for their model-inference method and were able to reliably estimate the hidden dynamics of the virtual outbreak, including rates of MRSA importation from the community and numbers of colonized patients. These findings confirmed the validity of the approach and motivated its application to the Swedish hospital data. The researchers say they plan on applying their system to other antimicrobial resistant pathogens and in settings with a higher burden of disease. "Our method provides a powerful and cost-effective way for hospitals and public health officials to contain outbreaks of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant infections as they become increasingly common," says senior author Jeffrey Shaman, associate Prof. of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia Mailman.

  • Positively porous

    NEWS

       |   09/01/2019    |   35
    Positively porous
    Industrial Goods  Fabricated Metal Products  Fabricated Metal Products

    Founded in 2011, the relatively young company Exxentis AG has successfully established itself as a manufacturer of porous aluminum, working with customers throughout different sectors across the whole of Europe. The Swiss company's porous aluminum products are manufactured at its production sites to the highest quality standards by means of salt casting, and are specially designed to offer the many advantages of the porous metal's unique structure. Moreover, as the pores of popular sintered metals correspond to the metal in porous aluminum and vice versa, the two materials complement each other well in terms of structure. Whatever the task at hand, Exxentis AG finds the perfect solution by providing bespoke technical advice and actively liaising with customers from start to finish. Wherever required, a dedicated team of experienced and highly skilled engineers is on hand to develop tailor-made solutions and separate parts for complex and unusual tasks in a range of industrial applications. The company's technology also makes it possible to manufacture one-off prototypes to test out customers' ideas - quickly and at an affordable cost. Porous aluminum with a small pore size, for example, is used in vacuum tables or plates for creating vacuums. Complex vacuum molds or press molds are deployed in areas such as thermoforming or to produce foam materials made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) or expanded polypropylene (EPP). Given that it has a high specific surface area and is completely permeable, porous aluminum is equally well suited to manufacturing next-generation heat exchangers. Last but not least, its open cell structure and high specific surface area also make the material a great choice for providing effective acoustic insulation.

  • Machine learning may predict a healthy old age

    NEWS

       |   02/01/2019    |   42
    Machine learning may predict a healthy old age
    Medical & Healthcare  Diagnostic Imaging Labs  Diagnostic Imaging Labs

    "This experiment was designed to determine whether there are molecular signatures of aging across the entire range of the human life span," says co-senior author Saket Navlakha, an assistant professor in Salk's Integrative Biology Laboratory. "We want to develop algorithms that can predict healthy aging and non-healthy aging, and try to find the differences." "The study provides a foundation for quantitatively addressing unresolved questions in human aging, such as the rate of aging during times of stress," says Prof. Martin Hetzer, co-senior author, as well as Salk's vice president and chief science officer. The researchers focused on a type of skin cell called dermal fibroblasts, which generate connective tissue and help the skin to heal after injury. They chose this type of cell for two reasons: first, the cells are easy to obtain with a simple, non-invasive skin biopsy; second, earlier studies indicated that fibroblasts are likely to contain signatures of aging. This is because, unlike most types of cells that completely turn over every few weeks or months, a subset of these cells stays with us our entire lives. The investigators analyzed fibroblasts taken from 133 healthy individuals ranging in age from 1 to 94. To get a representative sample, the team studied an average of 13 people for each decade of age. The lab cultured the cells to multiply, then used a method called RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to look for biomarkers in the cells that change as people get older. RNA-Seq uses deep-sequencing technologies to determine which genes are turned on in certain cells. Using custom machine-learning algorithms to sort the RNA-Seq data, the team found certain biomarkers indicating aging, and were able to predict a person's age with less than eight years error on average. "We took a 'kitchen sink' approach with this project," says first author Jason Fleischer, a Salk postdoctoral fellow. "Rather than going into this research with an idea of what we wanted to find, we decided to look at the changes in expression of all the protein-coding genes and let the algorithms sort it out. We used what's called an ensemble machine-learning method to do this." The analysis from the Salk team was different from earlier approaches taken by other labs to study biological aging. Most previous studies focused on changes at only a few DNA methylation sites, rather than looking at changes of expression on the whole genome. The dataset was also much larger than any research of this type that has ever been done before, because it included so many people representing a range of decades. The researchers have made the data public so that other investigators can use it. To validate the algorithm, the team also used fibroblasts from 10 patients with progeria, a genetic disease characterized by accelerated aging. Based on analysis of the molecular signatures from these patients, who ranged in age from two to eight, the model predicted them to be about a decade older than their calendar age. "The fact that our system can predict this kind of aging shows that this model is starting to get at the true underpinnings of biological age," Fleischer says.

  • Sensors to detect and measure cancer's ability to spread

    NEWS

       |   02/01/2019    |   41
    Sensors to detect and measure cancer's ability to spread
    Medical & Healthcare  Diagnostic Imaging Labs  Diagnostic Imaging Labs

    "Cancer would not be so devastating if it did not metastasize," said Pradipta Ghosh, MD, professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine departments of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, director of the Center for Network Medicine and senior study author. "Although there are many ways to detect metastasis once it has occurred, there has been nothing available to 'see' or 'measure' the potential of a tumor cell to metastasize in the future. So at the Center for Network Medicine, we tackled this challenge by engineering biosensors designed to monitor not one, not two, but multiple signaling programs that drive tumor metastasis; upon sensing those signals a fluorescent signal would be turned on only when tumor cells acquired high potential to metastasize, and therefore turn deadly." Cancer cells alter normal cell communications by hijacking one of many signaling pathways to permit metastasis to occur. As the tumor cells adapt to the environment or cancer treatment, predicting which pathway will be used becomes difficult. By comparing proteins and protein modifications in normal versus all cancer tissues, Ghosh and colleagues identified a particular protein and its unique modification called tyrosine-phosphorylated CCDC88A (GIV/Girdin) that are only present in solid tumor cells. Comparative analyses indicated that this modification could represent a point of convergence of multiple signaling pathways commonly hijacked by tumor cells during metastasis. The team used novel engineered biosensors and sophisticated microscopes to monitor the modification on GIV and found that, indeed, fluorescent signals reflected a tumor cell's metastatic tendency. They were then able to measure the metastatic potential of single cancer cells and account for the unknowns of an evolving tumor biology through this activity. The result was the development of Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) biosensors. Although highly aggressive and adaptive, very few cancer cells metastasize and that metastatic potential comes and goes, said Ghosh. If metastasis can be predicted, this data could be used to personalize treatment to individual patients. For example, patients whose cancer is not predicted to metastasize or whose disease could be excised surgically might be spared from highly toxic therapies, said Ghosh. Patients whose cancer is predicted to spread aggressively might be treated with precision medicine to target the metastatic cells. "It's like looking at a Magic 8 Ball, but with a proper yardstick to measure the immeasurable and predict outcomes," said Ghosh. "We have the potential not only to obtain information on single cell level, but also to see the plasticity of the process occurring in a single cell. This kind of imaging can be used when we are delivering treatment to see how individual cells are responding." The sensors need further refinement, wrote the authors, but have the potential to be a transformative advance for cancer cell biology.

  • Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with …

    NEWS

       |   21/12/2018    |   55
    Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with …
    Medical & Healthcare  Healthcare  Healthcare

    A recent experimental study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Washington University, and Columbia University on nanoscale collagen fibrils reported on, previously unforeseen, reasons why collagen is such a resilient material. Because one collagen fibril is about one millionth in size of the cross-section of a human hair, studying it requires equally small equipment. The group in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at U of I designed tiny devices--Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems--smaller than one millimeter in size, to test the collagen fibrils. "Using MEMS-type devices to grip the collagen fibrils under a high magnification optical microscope, we stretched individual fibrils to learn how they deform and the point at which they break," said Debashish Das, a postdoctoral scholar at Illinois who worked on the project. "We also repeatedly stretched and released the fibrils to measure their elastic and inelastic properties and how they respond to repeated loading." Das explained, "Unlike a rubber band, if you stretch human or animal tissue and then release it, the tissue doesn't spring back to its original shape immediately. Some of the energy expended in pulling it is dissipated and lost. Our tissues are good at dissipating energy-when pulled and pushed, they dissipate a lot of energy without failing. This behavior has been known and understood at the tissue-level and attributed to either nanofibrillar sliding or to the gel-like hydrophilic substance between collagen fibrils. The individual collagen fibrils were not considered as major contributors to the overall viscoelastic behavior. But now we have shown that dissipative tissue mechanisms are active even at the scale of a single collagen fibril." A very interesting and unexpected finding of the study is that collagen fibrils can become stronger and tougher when they are repeatedly stretched and let to relax. "If we repeatedly stretch and relax a common engineering structure, it is more likely to become weaker due to fatigue," said U of I Professor Ioannis Chasiotis. "While our body tissues don't experience anywhere near the amount of stress we applied to individual collagen fibrils in our lab experiments, we found that after crossing a threshold strain in our cyclic loading experiments, there was a clear increase in fibril strength, by as much as 70 percent." Das said the collagen fibrils themselves contribute significantly to the energy dissipation and toughness observed in tissues. "What we found is that individual collagen fibrils are highly dissipative biopolymer structures. From this study, we now know that our body dissipates energy at all levels, down to the smallest building blocks. And properties such as strength and toughness are not static, they can increase as the collagen fibrils are exercised," Das said. What's the next step? Das said with this new understanding of the properties of single collagen fibrils, scientists may be able to design better dissipative synthetic biopolymer networks for wound healing and tissue growth, for example, which would be both biocompatible and biodegradable.

  • Don't forget your swimming costume!

    NEWS

       |   21/12/2018    |   50
    Don't forget your swimming costume!
    Industrial Goods  Packaging Materials  Packaging Materials

    At this year's CeMAT in Hannover, packaging specialist Storopack unveiled a number of innovations centered around automated protective packaging processes. The company's exhibits in Hall 20 included systems that automatically dispense the correct amount of protective packing material for boxes and can be easily integrated into existing packaging lines. This enables manufacturers and mail order companies to make their logistics processes more productive. Trade fair visitors were also able to see a variety of different integration solutions for themselves in realistic conditions using augmented reality. Storopack's new automated systems allow users to separate packing material dispensing from the actual packing process. This not only simplifies procedures but also delivers solutions in line with the Storopack Working Comfort® principle, designed to ensure highly ergonomic working. To take just one example, air pillows can be detached with a single movement of the hand. Storopack also used CeMAT 2018 to showcase its high-performance packaging systems from the PAPERplus, AIRplus and FOAMplus ranges. While PAPERplus paper cushioning systems and the associated protective packaging materials are suitable for both small and large, heavy items, AIRplus® machines produce air cushions that secure and protect particularly sensitive products in boxes. The FOAMplus® Bag Packer² produces foam packaging at the touch of a button that adjusts to the individual contours of the packaged goods.

  • Simply moving more

    NEWS

       |   21/12/2018    |   49
    Simply moving more
    Plants & Machinery  Packaging Machinery  Packaging Machinery

    Now in the capable hands of the third generation, family-run Albert Fezer Maschinenfabrik, based near Stuttgart, enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide as a leader in vacuum handling technology. The company communicates continuously with its customers to drive forward developments in innovative and economic system solutions. Besides simplifying and speeding up production processes, the aim is also to constantly improve safety. The company's outstanding customer service is reflected in its DIN ISO 9001 quality management certification. A prime example of Fezer's customer-focused development can be seen in its new VacuQuicklift for universal loads weighing up to 35 kilograms. The VacuQuicklift combines a whole host of benefits. All the requisite functions - from engagement and lifting to lowering and releasing - are performed with the same control lever. Its unique quick-release-system does away with the need to lift or tilt the load, speeding up the work process immensely - particularly when it comes to commissioning or re-stacking boxes, containers or crates. The VacuQuicklift is available in two standard versions - one for entirely horizontal applications, the other with a manual swivel feature that enables the operator to tip workpieces. As all the functions are controlled with one hand, the other is left free to help maneuver loads into the desired position.

  • Two-layer solar cells improve energy efficiency

    NEWS

       |   21/12/2018    |   52
    Two-layer solar cells improve energy efficiency
    Industrial Goods  Testing & Precision Equipment  Testing & Precision Equipment

    HMI-ID11-089rf_NRL Two-layer solar cells improve energy efficiency (Picture: NREL (NREL is a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy)) At the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering in Los Angeles, materials scientists have developed a new type of thin-film solar cell that generates more energy from sunlight than conventional cells do. The element features a base consisting of a 2 μm layer of copper, indium, gallium and selenide (CIGS). The team led by Professor Yang Yang then applied a 1 μm layer of perovskite, a cost-effective lead and iodine compound. The two layers are connected by a nanoscale interface that was also developed at UCLA. It gives the solar element a higher level of voltage, allowing it to generate more energy. The two layers are affixed to an approximately 2 mm glass substrate. The CIGS base layer alone achieves an efficiency of around 18.7%. Together with the perovskite layer, the efficiency increases to 22.4%. The additional performance has now been confirmed by independent tests in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the US Department of Energy. Professor Yang Yang expects to be capable of improving the efficiency of these two-layer cells by an additional 30%.