Paralysed rats takes 1,000 steps thanks to remote-controlled technology

Scientists in the US have made paralysed rats walk again by directing electrical pulses at their spinal cords to mimic commands normally sent by the brain. A human trial is next.


A team at the the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Switzerland has restored movements to entirely paralysed rats, allowing them to walk fluidly on their hind legs while their upper bodies are supported by a tiny harness. The technique involves zapping the rat’s spinal cord with electrical pulses to replace the commands that are normally sent out by the brain, but are obscured when the spine is severely injured.

The Swiss scientists worked with six paralysed rats and placed flexible electrodes in the lower parts of their severed spinal cords. A drug called serotonin agonist was administered, which improves the communication between the spinal cord and the legs, and then the rats were placed in a little harness and onto a treadmill.

Receiving electrical pulses directly to their spinal cords, the rats were able to make over 1,000 steps, and could even walk up rat-sized stairs. “This is the first closed-loop control system that can really adjust leg movements in real time, despite paralysis,” one of the team, neuroscientist Gregoire Courtine, told Courtney Humphries at MIT’s Technology Review

Publishing their results in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the team hopes to trial the technique on human subjects to see if they can replicate this amazing result.


A separate study by researchers from the University of Louisville and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US has seen four paralysed men have movement restored to their hips, legs and feet this year thanks to a similar technique known as epidural stimulation. “Though the movements achieved were modest – and fall short of allowing the men to walk on their own – the technology let them exercise their legs, which seemed to restore some movement,” Courtine told Humphries at Technology Review.

The US technique is far from perfect – not only are the movements restricted and not very coordinated, but the electrical stimulators need to be manually operated. Which is where the Swiss team’s technology can make a significant improvement, because it’s more automated and remotely operated, plus the software has been built to constantly adjust the electrical pulses itself to ensure synchronised, rhythmic stepping movements. This gives the rat a steady, more balanced walk.

“The better it is, the better it will free up the individual that is being stimulated so that person does not have to make constant decisions,” said UCLA physiologist, V. Reggie Edgerton, from the US team to Technology Review.

The Swiss team hopes to test their technology on a human volunteer next year, and if successful, they will move on to larger trials. They’re also looking into extending the capabilities of this technology to one day allow the patients to control the spine-stimulating electrical pulses using their thoughts alone.

Prevalence and Associations of VTE in Patients With Newly Diagnosed Lung Cancer

BACKGROUND:  The risk of VTE before anticancer therapy in patients with lung cancer is not well defined.

METHODS:  A total of 673 hospitalized patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer were examined for VTE within 1 week after admission at five hospitals between January 2009 and January 2011. Additionally, VTE diagnoses within the last 3 months were reviewed. All VTE events were confirmed with imaging studies. Blood cell count and serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels were measured before initial treatment.

RESULTS:  VTE events occurred in 89 of the 673 patients (13.2%) enrolled in this study. Forty-two patients (6.2%) developed lower extremity DVT alone, 33 patients (4.9%) developed pulmonary embolism (PE) alone, and 14 patients (2.1%) developed both DVT and PE. By multivariate logistic regression analysis, distant metastasis (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.2-3.9) and leukocytosis (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.5-5.4) were significantly associated with DVT, adenocarcinoma (OR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.1-4.4) and anemia (OR, 4.6; 95% CI, 1.4-14.5) were significantly associated with PE, and an elevated CEA level in tertiles was linearly associated with PE (P for trend = .06). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for the prognostic or diagnostic CEA values was 0.68 (95% CI, 0.59-0.76; P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS:  The prevalence of VTE was high in patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer. In patients with lung cancer, the factors associated with DVT might be different from those associated with PE. An elevated CEA level might facilitate the identification of patients at a higher risk of developing PE.

Vaccines as Biological Weapons? Live Avian Flu Virus Placed in Baxter Vaccine Materials Sent to 18 Countries .

There’s a popular medical thriller novel in which a global pandemic is intentionally set off by an evil plot designed to reduce the human population. In the book, a nefarious drug company inserts live avian flu viruses into vaccine materials that are distributed to countries around the world to be injected into patients as “flu shots.” Those patients then become carriers for these highly-virulent strains of avian flu which go on to infect the world population and cause widespread death.

There’s only one problem with this story: It’s not fiction. Or, at least, the part about live avian flu viruses being inserted into vaccine materials isn’t fiction. It’s happening right now.

Deerfield, Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Baxter International Inc. has just been caught shipping live avian flu viruses mixed with vaccine material to medical distributors in 18 countries. The “mistake” (if you can call it that, see below…) was discovered by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada. The World Health Organization was alerted and panic spread throughout the vaccine community as health experts asked the obvious question: How could this have happened?

As published on (…), serious questions like this are being raised:

“Baxter International Inc. in Austria ‘unintentionally contaminated samples with the bird flu virus that were used in laboratories in 3 neighbouring countries, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease’. Austria, Germany, Slowenia and the Czech Republic – these are the countries in which labs were hit with dangerous viruses. Not by bioterrorist commandos, but by Baxter. In other words: One of the major global pharmaceutical players seems to have lost control over a virus which is considered by many virologists to be one of the components leading some day to a new pandemic.”

Or, put another way, Baxter is acting a whole lot like a biological terrorism organization these days, sending deadly viral samples around the world. If you mail an envelope full of anthrax to your Senator, you get arrested as a terrorist. So why is Baxter — which mailed samples of a far more deadly viral strain to labs around the world — getting away with saying, essentially, “Oops?”

But there’s a bigger question in all this: How could this company have accidentally mixed LIVE avian flu viruses (both H5N1 and H3N2, the human form) in this vaccine material?

Was the viral contamination intentional?

The shocking answer is that this couldn’t have been an accident. Why? Because Baxter International adheres to something called BSL3 (Biosafety Level 3) – a set of laboratory safety protocols that prevent the cross-contamination of materials.

As explained on Wikipedia (…):

“Laboratory personnel have specific training in handling pathogenic and potentially lethal agents, and are supervised by competent scientists who are experienced in working with these agents. This is considered a neutral or warm zone. All procedures involving the manipulation of infectious materials are conducted within biological safety cabinets or other physical containment devices, or by personnel wearing appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment. The laboratory has special engineering and design features.”

Under the BSL3 code of conduct, it is impossible for live avian flu viruses to contaminate production vaccine materials that are shipped out to vendors around the world.

This leaves only two possibilities that explain these events:

Possibility #1: Baxter isn’t following BSL3 safety guidelines or is so sloppy in following them that it can make monumental mistakes that threaten the safety of the entire human race. And if that’s the case, then why are we injecting our children with vaccines made from Baxter’s materials?

Possibility #2: A rogue employee (or an evil plot from the top management) is present at Baxter, whereby live avian flu viruses were intentionally placed into the vaccine materials in the hope that such materials might be injected into humans and set off a global bird flu pandemic.

It just so happens that a global bird flu pandemic would sell a LOT of bird flu vaccines. Although some naive people have a hard time believing that corporations would endanger human beings to make money, this is precisely the way corporations now behave in America’s ethically-challenged free-market environment. (Remember Enron? Exxon? Merck? DuPont? Monsanto? Need I go on?)

Make no mistake: Spreading bird flu is a clever way to create demand for bird flu vaccines, and we’ve all seen very clearly how drug companies first market the problem and then “leap to the rescue” by selling the solution. (Disease mongering of ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc.)

Why it all suddenly makes sense

Until today, I would not have personally believed such a story. I personally thought talk of bird flu vaccines being “weaponized” was just alarmist hype. But now, in light of the fact that LIVE bird flu viruses are being openly found in vaccine materials that are distributed around the world, I must admit the evidence is increasingly compelling that something extremely dangerous is afoot.

Baxter, through either its mistakes or its evil intentions, just put the safety of the entire human race at risk. Given all the laboratory protocols put in place to prevent this kind of thing, it is difficult to believe this was just a mistake.

There is some speculation, in fact, that the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people worldwide (…), was intentionally started by injecting servicemen with “experimental” flu vaccines that actually contained live, “weaponized” flu material just like the material being distributed by Baxter today.

Examine the historical record. You’ll find that the 1918 flu originated with servicemen. Even more interestingly, it began in multiple cities, simultaneously! There is no single point of origin with the 1918 flu. It appears to have “spontaneously” sprung up across multiple cities all at once, including a military base in Kansas. (Kansas? Yep. So how did it get to Kansas in an era when air traffic was virtually non-existent? Vaccines, of course!)

All those cities and servicemen have one thing in common: Flu shot vaccinations given to them by the military.

If you put the pieces together on this, it’s not too difficult to suspect that influenza could potentially be used as a tool of control by governments or drug companies to catalyze outrageous profit-taking or power grabbing agendas. A desperate, infected population will gladly give up anything or pay anything for the promise of being cured.

Or was it just an innocent mistake? Oops!

But for the skeptics who dismiss any such talk of conspiracy theories, let’s examine the other possibility: That a global avian flu pandemic was nearly unleashed unintentionally due to the outrageous incompetence of the companies handling these viral strains.

As we just saw, this is a very real possibility. Had this live bird flu virus not been detected, it could have very easily found its way into vaccines that were injected into human beings. And this, in turn, could have unleashed a global avian flu pandemic.

If the drug companies making and handling these materials are so careless, then it seems like it’s only a matter of time before something slips through the safety precautions again and gets unleashed into the wild. And that leads to essentially the same scenario: A global pandemic, widespread death, health care failures and a desperate population begging for vaccines.

So either way — whether it’s intentional or not — you essentially get the same result.

Why a global pandemic is only a matter of time

I am on the record stating that a global pandemic is only a matter of time. The living conditions under which humans have placed themselves (crowded cities, suppressed immune systems, etc.) are ideal for the spread of infectious disease. But I never dreamed drug companies could actually be accelerating the pandemic timeline by contaminating vaccine materials with live avian flu viruses known to be highly infectious to humans. This, it seems, is a whole new cause for concern.

You can believe what you will. Maybe you agree with the nefarious plot theory and you agree that corporations are capable of great evils in their quest for profits. Or perhaps you can’t accept that, so you go with the “accidental contamination” theory, in which your beliefs describe a very dangerous world where biohazard safety protocols are insufficient to protect us from all the crazy viral strains being toyed with at drug companies and government labs all across the world.

In either case, the world is not a very safe place when deadly viral strains are placed in the hands of the inept.

We are like children playing God with Mother Nature, rolling the dice in a global game of Viral Roulette where the odds are not in our favor. With companies like Baxter engaged in behaviors that are just begging to see the human race devastated by a global pandemic wipeout, it might be a good time to question the sanity of using viral strains in vaccines in the first place.

Vaccine-pushing scientists are so proud of their vaccines. They think they’ve conquered Mother Nature. Imagine their surprise when one day they learn they have actually killed 100 million human beings by unleashing a global pandemic.

We came close to it this week. A global pandemic may have just been averted by the thinnest of margins. Yet people go on with their lives, oblivious to what nearly happened.

What’s inescapable at this point is the fact that the threat of a pandemic that looms for all of human civilization, and that drug companies may, themselves, be the source of that threat.

Important Resources

Read my book How to Beat the Bird Flu here:…

See a remarkable collection of quotes and accounts from authors writing about the 1918 influenza pandemic here:

Stories about Baxter International, Inc. and its avian influenza “oops” moment

The Canadian Press:………

Learn more:

4 serious risks & problems with mammograms

Even though mammography is the most widely used screening method for breast cancer, there are a number of valid arguments for alternative methods. Research has shown that mammograms are not the definitive answer to early detection, and in fact, can often cause more problems than they solve. So what is wrong with mammography?

Mammograms can add to cancer risk

John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D., an authority on the effects of ionizing radiation, spent 30 years studying the effects of low-dose radiation on humans, much like that given in a mammogram. He estimated that 75% of breast cancers could be prevented by avoiding or minimizing exposure to ionizing radiation from mammography, x-rays, and other medical devices.

In addition to exposing a woman to harmful radiation, the actual mammography procedure, compressing the breast, may help spread an existing mass of cancer cells, causing them to metastasize from the breast tissue.

High rate of false positive

A Swedish study of 60,000 women aged 40-64, who were screened for breast cancer, revealed that of the 726 who were referred to an oncologist for treatment, 70% of them were found to be cancer free. According to the Lancet, of the 5% of mammograms that suggest further testing, as high as 93% show up as false positives.

Due to the fact that many of these tests produce false positives, they can lead to many unnecessary biopsies and other invasive medical procedures. In truth, biopsies performed for 70% to 80% of all positive mammograms do not show any presence of cancer. According to some estimates, 90% of these call backs are because of unclear readings due to dense overlying breast tissue.

High rate of false negatives

While false positives cause unnecessary stress and medical intervention, false negatives can be fatal. The breast tissue of women under 40 is generally denser; it is therefore more difficult to detect tumors by mammography.

For women aged 40-49, the National Cancer Institute notes there is a high incidence of missed tumors, and that 40% of tests come out as false-negatives.

Estrogen distorts breast x-rays

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) obscures mammogram results. According to a study of 8,800 postmenopausal women aged 50 and older, the use of ERT leads to a 71% increased chance of receiving a false positive from a mammogram. It was also found that women on ERT were more likely to get more false-negative readings.

Mammography may also miss tumors measuring less than 2 cm in diameter; however, a tumor can be felt manually once it reaches 1 cm in diameter (and often even smaller) through proper self-examination. For this reason, many medical experts believe that self-examination is the most effective, safest, and least expensive method of detecting early stages of breast cancer.

Safer methods of breast cancer screening are becoming available, such as thermography, which uses infrared heat emissions to detect cancer, rather than radiation.

Should one have a confirmed case of breast cancer, it becomes vitally important to avoid all the daily habits that cause (and facilitate) cancer growth, and to incorporate a clean and plant based diet that is full of anti-cancer properties and nutrients.

Learn more about those habits and some of the top foods for cancer in the =sources below. Also checkout Cure Cancer & Johanna Budwig.


Should All Women Be Screened for BRCA1 and BRCA2?

Who should be tested — and when? These are the big questions people ask when it comes to genetic screening, especially for commonly known mutations.

It’s safe to say more people know about BRCA1 and BRCA2 than the average mutations. High-profile cases such as Angelina Jolie’s have brought attention to them.

They have been in the news again recently, too. Well-respected researchers have publicly supported offering BRCA1 and BRCA2 screening and testing to all women after age 30.

It’s a bold statement. But even as someone who believes in the power of genetic counseling and testing, I’m not sure we — as a healthcare system in this country — are ready for it.

“In the future, BRCAtesting may become like a mammogram or colonoscopy — a routine part of care once you reach a certain age. But in the meantime, there are certainly steps we can take to protect more women from cancer.”

Charis Eng, MD, PhD

Founding Chairwoman of the Genomic Medicine Institute

Population-based testing

This new opinion is based on recent results of a study among the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

People in this group have a much higher risk of having BRCA1 orBRCA2 mutations than the non-Ashkenazi general population.  For example, the frequency of people carrying a genetic mutation among the Ashkenazi population is 1.8 percent to 3 percent, compared to a mean of less than 0.07 percent in the non-Ashkenazi general population.

And in the study, women with a BRCA1 mutation, for example, had a 60 percent risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer by age 60. The crux of this study is that 50 percent of the families identified as having mutations also did not have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Why is that important? Because family history is a major red flag for genetic screening.

I understand the concern. The argument is that current screening guidelines result in missed cases. Doctors may not know enough to recommend genetic screening when it could save lives. Or patients may not know enough to ask. And too often, a personal case of cancer is the first time a patient comes in for screening.

So the idea is to offer BRCA1 and BRCA2 screening to all women after age 30 in the hopes that we find more of these mutations before they lead to cancer.

Are we ready?

One day in the future, the healthcare system may be ready for such screenings. We’re not there yet, in my opinion.

Nobody likes to talk about cost, but it’s an important factor. Whether our current system could bear the cost of such a huge change is up for debate. The screening itself may be feasible, but offering lifelong surveillance to women identified with mutations could present capacity issues. The cost of genetic counseling is a factor, too, but such counseling is critical. Without it, not enough doctors have the expertise to put genetic screening results and implications into clinical context for patients.

But it’s also a question of research. Will we identify enough additional mutations and prevent enough new cancer cases through general screenings to make such a program worthwhile? I hope the answer is yes, but researchers will need to design large-scale studies to test that theory. And those studies will need to cover patients from the general population, not only a group that is at very high risk for BRCA mutations.

However, I agree that we — all of us — can do better now for the women who face breast cancer risks.

The first step is better education, both for patients and for doctors. If more doctors know about the crucial work that genetic counselors do, they will make more referrals when needed. If more patients know how to craft an accurate and thorough family health history, those doctors will have even better information to work with.

And women who are concerned should be proactive, because the first step in assessing your risk is asking. This is true whether you are a member of a very high-risk group, such as Ashkenazi Jewish women, or if you simply wonder what your risk level is.

Ask your doctor for genetic counseling. Genetic counselors are trained to help you determine which screenings may benefit you and protect your future health — and that includes screenings for BRCA1 andBRCA2. They also are trained to help you deal with what comes after a positive screening. They can help prepare you for critical conversations with surgeons about options such as prophylactic mastectomy, for example, and they’ll walk you through what to expect in terms of increased monitoring for cancer risk.

In the future, BRCA testing may become like a mammogram or colonoscopy — a routine part of care once you reach a certain age. But in the meantime, there are certainly steps we can take to protect more women from cancer.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes in the Ebola Outbreak .

Experts weigh in on how the outbreak got this out of control

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently projected that if trends continue unimpeded, cases of Ebola could pass the million mark by January. While that’s an unlikely scenario, many are still wondering: How on earth did it get this bad? We canvassed experts for some clues.

1. The response was far too slow
There was a period in April when it appeared that the Ebola outbreak had subsided, prompting a collective sigh of relief. Guinea’s Ministry of Health even said that country’s caseload appeared to be under control. But the outbreak didn’t subside. Instead, it barreled through interconnected towns and villages in more-populated areas of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. And after the outbreak’s perceived lull, however, came one of the largest flare-ups. Some scientists say that during that time, their warnings were ignored.

In a recent paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the original researchers to discover Ebola in 1976, writes: “Ebola has reached the point where it could establish itself as an endemic infection because of a highly inadequate and late global response … It was not until five months and 1,000 deaths later that a public health emergency was declared, and it was nearly another two months before a humanitarian response began to be put in place.”

2. A lack of cultural sensitivity
Patricia Omidian, a medical anthropologist, was sought by the World Health Organization (WHO) to spend time in Liberia to help Ebola response workers better understand the communities they were serving. “I think the biggest mistake that occurred very early was that primary health care was ignored and communities were not included in their own health issues,” she says. “Programs were rolled out and people were told what not to do. No effort was made to ensure engagement and increase trust.”

Omidian’s work included explaining some of the cultural practices among Liberians, including burial rituals that involve a lot of physical contact, putting mourners at risk of contracting the virus. “This disease attacks the best of [Liberians’] culture — that of touching and caring and kindness,” says Omidian.

3. We don’t have deployable medical teams
The CDC, WHO and U.N. have important jobs when it comes to containment practices like tracking down people who may have come in contact with infected patients, and using technology to predict disease spread. However, none of those groups actually treat patients, or have doctors and nurses they can deploy. This is something that Dr. Jack Chow, professor of global health at Carnegie Mellon University and a former WHO assistant director general, says needs to change.

“The Obama mission to Liberia, which is relying on the military at the last minute, shows that the U.S. and other industrial countries haven’t built up comparable deployable medical units on the civilian side, and need to do so to prepare against future ‘flashdemics’ — high-velocity, high-lethality outbreaks,” says Chow. “In addition to building an international epidemic response force, we need to conceptualize ‘global health defense’ to include bolstering the health systems of the poorest countries.”

4. A lack of approved drugs and cures
The scarcity of drugs and vaccines is not due to a lack of innovation. Drugs have been in development for years, but since pharmaceutical companies have had no financial incentive to fund them, researchers have hit walls. “People like me and others who have worked for years in vaccines and countermeasures are frustrated,” Thomas Geisbert, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said in an earlier TIME article. The supply of ZMapp, the drug that was given to a few health care workers, is exhausted. It comes from a small pharmaceutical company with nine employees, and the drug grows in a tobacco plant — requiring scientists to wait for a new crop to grow just for a new batch. Thankfully, clinical trials for other drugs have kicked off.

5. Treating Ebola as a “West Africa” problem
“It’s crucial countries not be lumped together,” says Nigerian Minister of Economy and Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. “The media writes about Africa and West Africa, but there needs to be differentiation. This will end up hurting the economies of countries that have no problems. Ghana never had any cases, Burkina Faso never had any cases.” Okonjo-Iweala was also the former vice president of the World Bank, and has seen how stigma damages economies.

“We should stick to the specific countries so as not to cause massive economic damage,” says Okonjo-Iweala. “We have worked very hard to get the private sector to invest in Africa for the continent to grow based on the fact that we are a continent with a lot of vigor and good rates of return on investment. If you scare away investors by lumping the continent into one big mass, what good does it do? It will take another decade to recover.”

Nigeria has had 19 cases, seven deaths and everyone else survived. As of Tuesday, the 21 days of incubation expired for people who treated the infected, so currently no one is being monitored. “We’ve worked hard as a continent to overcome this kind of stigma of disease,” says Okonjo-Iweala

Fossil of ancient multicellular life sets evolutionary timeline back 60 million years .

Geobiologists shed new light on multicellular fossils from a time 60 million years before a vast growth spurt of life known as the Cambrian Explosion occurred on Earth.

A fossil of a 600 million-year-old multicellular organism displays unexpected evidence of complexity.
Credit: Virginia Tech

A Virginia Tech geobiologist with collaborators from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found evidence in the fossil record that complex multicellularity appeared in living things about 600 million years ago — nearly 60 million years before skeletal animals appeared during a huge growth spurt of new life on Earth known as the Cambrian Explosion.

The discovery published online Wednesday in the journal Nature contradicts several longstanding interpretations of multicellular fossils from at least 600 million years ago.

“This opens up a new door for us to shine some light on the timing and evolutionary steps that were taken by multicellular organisms that would eventually go on to dominate the Earth in a very visible way,” said Shuhai Xiao, a professor of geobiology in the Virginia Tech College of Science. “Fossils similar to these have been interpreted as bacteria, single-cell eukaryotes, algae, and transitional forms related to modern animals such as sponges, sea anemones, or bilaterally symmetrical animals. This paper lets us put aside some of those interpretations.”

In an effort to determine how, why, and when multicellularity arose from single-celled ancestors, Xiao and his collaborators looked at phosphorite rocks from the Doushantuo Formation in central Guizhou Province of South China, recovering three-dimensionally preserved multicellular fossils that showed signs of cell-to-cell adhesion, differentiation, and programmed cell death — qualities of complex multicellular eukaryotes such as animals and plants.

The discovery sheds light on how and when solo cells began to cooperate with other cells to make a single, cohesive life form.

The complex multicellularity evident in the fossils is inconsistent with the simpler forms such as bacteria and single-celled life typically expected 600 million years ago.

While some hypotheses can now be discarded, several interpretations may still exist, including the multicellular fossils being transitional forms related to animals or multicellular algae.

Xiao said future research will focus on a broader paleontological search to reconstruct the complete life cycle of the fossils.

Xiao earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Beijing University in 1988 and 1991 and his doctoral degree from Harvard University in 1998. He worked for three years at Tulane University before arriving at Virginia Tech in 2003.

He is currently active in an editorial role for seven professional publications and has published more than 130 papers.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lei Chen, Shuhai Xiao, Ke Pang, Chuanming Zhou, Xunlai Yuan. Cell differentiation and germ–soma separation in Ediacaran animal embryo-like fossils. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13766

New device wirelessly charges your phone from a distance

Finally! Researchers in the US have developed a new device called MagMIMO that can wirelessly charge your phone using a magnetic field, pointing to a cordless future where all our devices are being charged wherever we go.


That ugly mass of cords you’re tyring to hide under your bed? Its time has almost come to an end. Scientists at MIT have invented a new device that can sense where your phone is and fire a magnetic field in its direction to keep it charged up. No plugging in required, ever.

Wireless chargers might already exist, but they’re not as flexible as you might expect. “With charging pads, you have to remember to take your phone out of your pocket and place it on the pad, positioned in exactly the right way,” lead researcher from MIT, Dina Katabi, told Hal Hodson at New Scientist. “In our vision we wanted to have people’s phone charge the minute they are sitting next to their desk: they go to a meeting, they come back, the phone starts charging again.”

The MagMIMO prototype has solved the orientation problem – it doesn’t matter which way your phone is facing, and it don’t need to remain still, so you can be using it while it charges. Right now the phone can be charged at a distance of 30 centimetres, and the team is working on increasing that range.

The device works almost like good old-fashioned radio communications, where Wi-Fi routers pick up on a computer connecting with them and then increase the signal right back. But instead of using radio waves, the MagMIMO uses magnetic fields. “An array of wire coils generates a magnetic field and when a phone disrupts that field, MagMIMO senses it and focuses on the phone by creating a slightly different field with each coil,” Hodson says at New Scientist. “The magnetic fields reinforce each other so as to maximise the strength of the overall field reaching the phone.”

The magnetic field creates an electrical current in the coil, which charges any nearby phones.

At the recent International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking in Hawaii, the team reported that from a distance of 30 centimetres, they can charge a completely dead iPhone 4 to 100 percent in five hours. It uses no more power than current chargers, but can automatically start working on your phone, even if it’s still sitting in your pocket.

This is a pretty exciting development, because it’s pointing towards a future where we’ll never have to plug anything in; in fact, we’ll never even have to think about charging our devices, because we’ll have wireless power everywhere, just like Wi-Fi is right now. Horrible mass of cords, your days are numbered!