Particles deliver cancer drugs.

UNSW chemical engineers have synthesised a new iron oxide nanoparticle that delivers cancer drugs to cells while simultaneously monitoring the drug release in real time.

The result, published online in the journal ACS Nano, represents an important development for the emerging field of theranostics – a term that refers to nanoparticles that can treat and diagnose disease.

Iron oxide nanoparticles that can track drug delivery will provide the possibility to adapt treatments for individual patients,” says Associate Professor Cyrille Boyer from the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering.

By understanding how the cancer drug is released and its effect on the cells and surrounding tissue, doctors can adjust doses to achieve the best result.

Importantly, Boyer and his team demonstrated for the first time the use of a technique called fluorescence lifetime imaging to monitor the drug release inside a line of lung cancer cells.

“Usually, the drug release is determined using model experiments on the lab bench, but not in the cells,” says Boyer. “This is significant as it allows us to determine the kinetic movement of drug release in a true biological environment.”

Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles have been studied widely because of their applications as contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. Several recent studies have explored the possibility of equipping these contrast agents with drugs.

However, there are limited studies describing how to load chemotherapy drugs onto the surface of magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, and no studies that have effectively proven that these drugs can be delivered inside the cell. This has only been inferred.

With this latest study, the UNSW researchers engineered a new way of loading the drugs onto the nanoparticle’s polymer surface, and demonstrated for the first time that the particles are delivering their drug inside the cells.

“This is very important because it shows that bench chemistry is working inside the cells,” says Boyer. “The next step in the research is to move to in-vivo applications.”

Medication May Help Treat Cocaine Addiction For The First Time.

Photo credit: Drug Enforcement Administration

 19.7K  31  8 reddit4 googleplus9

There are no current FDA-approved medications for cocaine addiction, but that might be about to change. A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry from researchers at University of Virginia’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences has shown that cocaine dependence can be treated with the repurposed medication topiramate.

Topiramate (trade name Topamax) is an anticonvulsant that has been used to treat a variety of conditions, such as seizures associated with epilepsy and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, bipolar disorder, alcohol dependance, and migraine prevention.

The double-blind study consisted of 142 individuals addicted to cocaine. Half of the group was randomly assigned to receive topiramate while the other half was given a placebo. Over the course of the 12 weeks for the study, the topiramate group reported significantly more cocaine-free days which indicate the likelihood of cocaine-free weeks. Additionally, the topiramate group reported fewer cravings and increased functioning when compared to the placebo group.

Side effects were mild and minimal, including inattentiveness, skin tingling, taste distortions, and decreased appetite. High doses of topiramate have been associated with glaucoma, though that was not a factor in this study. Ultimately, the results of the study suggest that topiramate is a safe and effective drug for combatting cocaine dependence.

Because topiramate has been shown to be effective in cocaine and alcohol addictions, head researcher Bankole A. Johnson is optimistic that understanding how the chemicals interact with the brain could help scientists understand the neurobiological cause of addiction.

Cocaine, a derivative of the South American coca plant, causes more emergency room visits than any other illegal substance. Cocaine is an intense stimulator of the central nervous system and affects the circulatory system by increasing heart rate while constricting blood vessels. Cocaine use can lead to stroke or cardiac arrest, which may cause death.

– See more at:

Measuring Blood Sugar With Light.

Technology designed in Germany may help people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes; described in Review of Scientific Instruments

WASHINGTON D.C. October 25, 2013 — One of the keys to healthful living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is monitoring blood glucose (sugar) levels to ensure they remain at stable levels. People can easily and reliably do this at home using electronic devices that read sugar levels in a tiny drop of blood.

Now a team of German researchers has devised a novel, non-invasive way to make monitoring easier. Using infrared laser light applied on top of the skin, they measure sugar levels in the fluid in and under skin cells to read blood sugar levels. They describe their method in the current edition of Review of Scientific Instruments, which is produced by AIP Publishing.

“This opens the fantastic possibility that diabetes patients might be able to measure their glucose level without pricking and without test strips,” said lead researcher, Werner Mäntele, Ph.D. of Frankfurt’s Institut für Biophysik, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität.

“Our goal is to devise an easier, more reliable and in the long-run, cheaper way to monitor blood glucose,” he added.

The “Sweet Melody” of Glucose

Their new optical approach uses photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) to measure glucose by its mid-infrared absorption of light. A painless pulse of laser light applied externally to the skin is absorbed by glucose molecules and creates a measurable sound signature that Dr. Mäntele’s team refers to as “the sweet melody of glucose.” This signal enables researchers to detect glucose in skin fluids in seconds.

The data showing the skin cell glucose levels at one-hundredth of a millimeter beneath the skin is related to blood glucose levels, Mäntele said, but previous attempts to use PAS in this manner have been hampered by distortion related to changes of air pressure, temperature and humidity caused by the contact with living skin.

To overcome these constraints, the team devised a design innovation of an open, windowless cell architecture. While it is still experimental and would have to be tested and approved by regulatory agencies before becoming commercially available, the team continues to refine it.

Completely Blind People Still Able To React To Light.

Photo credit: gun4hire

 1484  77  2 reddit0 googleplus1

Humans need light for a variety of reasons. Beyond allowing us to perceive our environment with sight, light also activates activity in the brain. A recent study has unexpectedly shown that even individuals who are completely blind are influenced by the presence of light. The presence or absence of light controls many bodily functions, including heart rate, attentiveness, mood, and reflexes. The study will be published in an upcoming edition of Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. The work is a collaboration between a research team at the University of Montreal and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The experiment was performed by exposing people who are completely blind to a blue light. The light was turned on and off and the participants were asked whether the light was on or off. The participants were shown to have a non-conscious response to the light, despite not being able to see it. There were more positive identifications made than could be explained by chance alone, though the awareness was non-conscious. This light perception comes from ganglion cells in the retina, which are different from the rod and cone cells that process light for sight.

Next, researchers tested if attentiveness was affected by the presence of light. For this activity, participants had to match sounds with lights on or off. Even though the participants could not visualize the light, they showed an increased attentiveness when light was shining into their eyes.

Finally, the test participants completed a brain scan with functional MRI (fMRI) to measure alertness, memory, and cognition recognition while performing tasks of matching sounds. Across the board, the tasks were completed more efficiently when light was present.

Because of these results, the researchers are speculating that light perception is part of the default mode network. This is the name for the brain activity that occurs non-consciously in the background, while other tasks take priority. They speculate that the ability to perceive light even without actively converting it into images is done to continually pay attention to and monitor the environment. If this is correct, it might help explain why cognitive performance is improved in the presence of light.

– See more at:

Swaddling resurgence ‘damaging hips’


Parents are risking their babies‘ health because of a surge in the popularity of swaddling, according to an orthopaedic surgeon.

The technique involves binding the arms and legs with blankets and is used to help calm a baby and prevent crying.

But Prof Nicholas Clarke, of Southampton University Hospital, said swaddling was damaging developing hips.

The Royal College of Midwives and other experts advised parents to avoid tightly swaddling a child.

Restricts movement

Swaddling has been widely used in many cultures globally. It is thought the blanket wrapping can simulate the feelings of being in the womb and calm the child.

But the technique holds the legs out straight and restricts movement, which can alter the development of the hip joint.

“Start Quote

Swaddling should not be employed in my view as there is no health benefit but a risk for adverse consequences of the growing and often immature hips”

Andreas Roposch Great Ormond Street Hospital

Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Prof Clarke argued: “There has been a recent resurgence of swaddling because of its perceived palliative effect on excessive crying, colic and promoting sleep.

“In order to allow for healthy hip development, legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. This position allows for natural development of the hip joints.

“The babies’ legs should not be tightly wrapped in extension and pressed together.”

Jane Munro, of the Royal College of Midwives, said it was a “seemingly innocuous” thing to do, but it posed “significant problems” for the baby.

She said there was also the risk of the baby overheating and a raised risk of cot death.

She added: “We advise parents to avoid swaddling, but it is also crucial that we take into account each mother’s cultural background, and to provide individualised advice to ensure she knows how to keep her baby safe, able to move and not get overheated.”

Video guidance

Andreas Roposch, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “Similar effects may be seen in all devices or manoeuvres that place the legs in a purely straight position for prolonged periods in this critical age of early infancy.

“Swaddling should not be employed in my view, as there is no health benefit but a risk for adverse consequences of the growing and often immature hips.”

Rosemary Dodds, of parenting charity the NCT, advised against tight swaddling.

“It is helpful to raise awareness of hip dysplasia in relation to swaddling. Some parents and babies seem to like swaddling, but it is important that babies do not overheat and their legs are not restricted.

“Videos are available on the NCT website showing parents who want to swaddle their baby how to do so safely.”

Alzheimer’s insight from DNA study.

Alzheimer’s insight from DNA study

Perfect Imaging, From Theory to Reality via Simulations.

Perfect imaging refers to the idea of producing images with details below the diffraction limit, where even the smallest elements can be resolved to unlimited sharpness regardless of the wavelength of light being used. While just a theory 150 years ago, research has brought us closer to reality over the years. Now, by way of simulation, researchers at Cedint Polytechnic University of Madrid in Spain are taking it one step further.

Maxwell Fish-Eye Lens and the Diffraction Limit

Imaging systems have long been the subject of study for famous physicists like Maxwell, who proposed a fish-eye lens that uses a gradient index lens between a pair of points in space. The pair is defined by two opposite points laying on the spherical surface. Such a lens was supposed to be a “perfect imaging” system or, in other words, a system capable of focusing (imaging) the smallest detail from one point of its surface to another. Maxwell’s proposal was considered impossible to implement with an ordinary material with a positive index of refraction due to the diffraction limit. In practice, this means that in processes like photolitography, the size of features of an electronic device cannot be smaller than the wavelength of the light being used.

Below the Diffraction Limit with Ordinary Materials

In 2004 it was proven that an artificial material with a negative refractive index (also known as a metamaterial) could be used to overcome the diffraction limit. Later, in 2009, a breakthrough theory showed that an ordinary material could in fact be used to manufacture a Maxwell fish-eye lens. The latter approach intrigued professor Juan Carlos Miñano and his research team at Cedint Polytechnic University of Madrid. They decided to use simulation to prove the theory that the diffraction limit could be surpassed by designing a device with the equivalent optical properties of a Maxwell fish-eye lens, but with a different geometry: a spherical geodesic waveguide.

Spherical Geodesic Waveguide for Perfect Imaging

A spherical geodesic waveguide, which was designed by Miñano and his colleagues, is a very thin spherical metallic waveguide filled with a non-magnetic material (see figure below). At the moment, it’s still a proposed device that can be studied, optimized, and fabricated thanks to simulation. Miñano’s team couldn’t resort to geometrical optics, and therefore, to solve Maxwell’s equations with real-world accuracy, they decided to rely on COMSOL Multiphysics and the RF Module. The spherical geodesic waveguide model was designed and simulated using COMSOL by postdoctoral researcher Dejan Grabovickic from Miñano’s group.

Spherical geodesic waveguide for perfect imaging showing a cross section of the coaxial cable and spherical waveguide
The spherical geodesic waveguide with the drain port on top (left), where a cross section of the coaxial cable and its mesh are shown. The cross section (right) of the spherical geodesic waveguide including the drain port.

The spherical geodesic waveguide is designed for short-distance transmission and demonstrated super imaging properties: it can sense changes in the position of its receiver that are much smaller than the wavelength of the light being used. Super imaging could drastically reduce the size of integrated electronics, and as Dejan states in the IEEE Spectrum magazine insert, Multiphysics Simulation, it could allow for the production of integrated electronics that are “much smaller than what is the state of the art — something like 100 times smaller.”

Silicon Supercapacitor Powers Phones for Weeks on Single Charge.


Material scientists at Vanderbilt University have developed a supercapacitor made out of silicon. Previously thought to be kind of a crazy idea, the silicon capacitor can be built into a chip — which could give cellphones weeks of life from one charge, or solar cells that produce energy with or without the sun. Pretty sweet deal.Published in Scientific Reports, the first-ever silicon supercap stores energy by gathering ions on the surface of the porous material. Different from batteries, which work on chemical reactions, the silicon supercaps can be charged in minutes and last way longer. Silicon had been considered unsuitable for supercaps because of the way it reacts with the electrolytes that make the energy-storing ions.

“If you ask experts about making a supercapacitor out of silicon, they will tell you it is a crazy idea,” said assistant professor Cary Pint, who headed the development team at Vanderbilt. “But we’ve found an easy way to do it.”

Pint’s team coated the silicon in carbon — well, technically a few nanometers of graphene — and it stabilized the surface of the silicon, making it perfect for storing energy.

“All the things that define us in a modern environment require electricity,” said Pint. “The more that we can integrate power storage into existing materials and devices, the more compact and efficient they will become.”

Geekosystem is a Mashable publishing partner that aims to unite all the tribes of geekdom under one common banner. This article is reprinted with the publisher’s permission.

Tired? Troubled love life? Try banning the gadgets from the bedroom.

Late-night fiddling with devices stimulates your brain and invades what should be a quiet space. Time to turn off

Man on mobile in bed

‘The ill effects of poor sleep on relationships is well documented.’ Photograph: Justin Pumfrey/Getty Images

Two films I watched at the London Film Festival this month jarred with me in an unexpected way. Drinking Buddies and Afternoon Delight are what might be called mumblecore movies – all improvised dialogue and plots that home in on relatively minor events in the emotional lives of their protagonists. I’ll spare you my reviews, but an incidental aspect of these self-consciously naturalistic portrayals of contemporary urban life depressed me. Namely, the proliferation of gadgetry in the bedroom, by which I do not mean sex toys.

In a scene from Drinking Buddies, for example, one half of a couple sits in bed one evening, catching up with her emails on a MacBook, while her boyfriend conducts a text conversation on his smartphone, thus rudely inviting interlopers into their intimate space. Technology similarly seeps into the bedroom in Afternoon Delight, with post-coital stressy business texting rendered as quotidian as brushing your teeth.

There is nothing unusual about this set-up these days – it’s just that these films held a mirror up to a facet of my life that I already didn’t really approve of, and projected it on to a giant screen. My bedside table usually has a phone and an iPad lying on it, as well as paper books; sometimes there’s even a laptop too, although I do try to put that out for the night with the cat, the tiny pulsating “sleep mode” light is just too obviously anathema to actual human sleep.

Is nowhere sacred? Must the ability to text, tweet or post images be at our fingertips while we’re sleeping? The fact that our books, films and alarm clocks often live in the same devices as our various inboxes and social network apps lazily justifies our need to take them to bed with us, but I am not alone in checking my emails, or catching up with current affairs last thing before lights out. I know this is not conducive to proper, satisfying sleep but I do it anyway, and wake up with a headache.

I’m just as bad when I wake up. The first thing I do in the morning is pick up my phone to check the time. Then I compulsively unlock it to “check the weather”. But as soon as my eyes fix on the screen, my attention scatters a thousand different ways, taking me down all sorts of rabbit holes until I finally set it back down, with a twitchy brain and still no idea whether it’s going to rain because it’s the one thing I forgot to check.

Another justification for taking these devices to bed is that there simply isn’t enough time to keep up with the continuous tidal wave of computer-related chores and correspondences, and therefore any quiet moment is fair game for a quick holiday-planning/sock-buying/online-banking session. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that, if the Top five regrets of the dying article (which serially returns to the most-read list on this website) were to be updated in 2033, an item about never allowing yourself a break from screen-based life to daydream or properly rest, even when ill in bed, makes an appearance.

The actor, Daniel Craig, recently credited banning technology from the bedroom as key to his keeping his marriage to Rachel Weisz a happy one. I see his point. Aside from all of this gadgetry allowing friends, colleagues and chores to gatecrash the marital bed, the ill-effects of poor sleep on relationships is well documented. One study, which chimed with me, demonstrating the positive effects of gratitude on overall wellbeing, found that poor sleepers were more selfish and less likely to feel gratitude.

Poor sleep, of course, has countless other negative effects on health, happiness and productivity. And insomnia may predict Alzheimer’s. It is not uncommon for people to tweet or update their Facebook status in the middle of the night when they have insomnia. Aside from the brain-scrambling stimulation of the internet, there is evidence that staring at backlit screens keeps brains more alert and suppresses melatonin levels (although the jury’s out on whether it scrambles melatonin production enough to disrupt sleep .)

I read this fact in an article reporting that Arianna Huffington, the doyenne of digital publishing herself, has banned phones and computers from her bedroom in the name of a good night’s sleep. This reminded me of how I felt when I read that many senior staff at Silicon Valley behemoths including Apple, eBay and Yahoo send their kids to schools based on the Steiner approach, that ban screens from their classrooms and frown upon their use at home: suckered. Could it be that these guys know better than to get high on their own supply?

Wind Power Blades Get Bigger, Turbines Get Smarter.

A look at tomorrow’s turbines

Wind Power Future
Metal inserts built into the carbon-fiber blade during manufacture mean the root end, bolted to the hub, can be slimmer, stronger, and more aerodynamically efficient. • Fabricating the carbon fiber in modular pieces, rather than one long blade, ensures the material’s consistency and reduces the risk of failure. • An erosion-protection material molded into the leading edge of the blade reduces wear and tear over the blade’s lifetime.
Graham Murdoch

In 2012, wind power added more new electricity production in the U.S. than any other single source. But even with 60 gigawatts powering 15 million homes, wind supplants just 1.8 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions. Tomorrow’s turbines will have to be more efficient, more affordable, and
in more places.

The Supersize Route

Bigger Blades

Big rotors generate more electricity, particularly from low winds, but oversize trucks hauling blades the length of an Olympic pool can’t reach many wind-energy sites. Blade Dynamics fabricates its 160-foot, carbon-fiber blade in multiple pieces, which can then be transported by standard trucks and assembled at a nearby location. It’s a stepping-stone for 295-foot and 328-foot blades now being designed for offshore turbines. (Currently, the world’s longest prototype is 274 feet.) The colossal size should enable 10- to 12-megawatt turbines, double the generation capacity of today’s biggest models.

Wind Power Scale
Graham Murdoch

The Networked Solution

Smarter Turbines

Reducing the variability of wind energy could position it to compete as a stable source of power. General Electric’s new 2.5-megawatt, 394-foot-diameter wind turbine has an optional integrated battery for short-term energy storage. It also connects to GE’s so-called Industrial Internet so it can share data with other turbines, wind farms, technicians, and operations managers. Algorithms analyze 150,000 data points per second to provide precise region-wide wind forecasts and enable turbines to react to changing conditions, even tilting blades to maximize power and minimize damage as a gust hits.

The Hybrid Hail Mary

Man-Made Thunderstorm Power

Solar Wind Energy’s downdraft tower is either ingenious or ludicrous. The proposed 2,250-foot-high concrete tower will suck hot desert air into its hollow core and infuse it with moisture, creating a pressure differential that spawns a howling downdraft. “You’re capturing the last 2,000 feet of a thunderstorm,” says CEO Ron Pickett. The man-made tempest would spin wind turbines that could generate up to 1.25 gigawatts (though it’s designed to operate at 60 percent capacity) on the driest, hottest summer days—more than some nuclear power plants. The Maryland-based company plans to break ground in Arizona as soon as 2015, provided it can secure $900 million in funding—a large sum but perhaps not outlandish when compared with a $14-billion nuclear reactor now under construction.