The World’s First Cyborg Artist Can Detect Earthquakes With Her Arm

We’ve come a long way since the word “cyborg” was first coined in 1960 by scientists Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline who used it as a short form of “cybernetic organism.” In an article first published in the Astronautics journal, they defined it as a man-machine system that can live in different environments than humans normally could not and with additional senses. But what else?

Women are cyborgs, too, like the Catalan cyborg artist Moon Ribas, who has an online sensor implanted in her left arm. The dancer and choreographer can feel earthquakes in real time, which she calls her “sixth sense.” She had a tiny cybernetic implant grafted into her left elbow in 2013. Whenever she senses an earthquake through an online seismograph, her arm vibrates. Depending on the scale of an earthquake on the Richter scale, she’ll get a weaker or stronger vibration as a way to sense what she calls “the heartbeat of our planet.”

Ribas became a cyborg primarily to take contemporary dance to the next level, like Waiting for Earthquakes, a stage performance where she literally waits until she gets a vibration in her arm then allows it to lead her dance movements. Since her chip can sense earthquakes that are as little as one on the Richter scale, which people cannot feel (they’re called ‘microquakes’ and they are often around volcanoes before they erupt). She typically has an earthquake vibration in her arm every 10 minutes, as there are roughly 50 earthquakes a day. But if not, her dance performance has her standing still on a stage, similar to waiting in a waiting room.

After three years of having her arm sensor, Ribas now wants to add a location sensor on her left arm that enables her to sense how close an earthquake is to her, which intensifies the closer the earthquake is to her. She will also get two vibrating chips implanted in the bottom of her feet. “After awhile I realized it would make more sense to feel earthquakes through my feet because they actually touch the earth,” she said on the phone from Barcelona. “The prototype has already been made, I can wear it permanently.”

Maybe getting a cyborg chip is like getting a tattoo: Once you start, you can’t stop? But it isn’t about becoming more superhuman or machine-like. “I have an interest in sci-fi, but nature is already amazing—some animals can see ultraviolet and infra-red, while some jellyfish never die. If we apply these things to our reality, our understanding of the planet will also change.”

On her feet, Ribas will be able to feel the seismic activity of the moon, also known as moonquakes (it’s just a coincidence her name is Moon). But she’ll still be able to feel the earth. “My arm will vibrate with the earth and my feet will be on the moon,” she said.

There was previously a lunar seismograph on the moon but it was stopped in 1977, now it has been replaced by a data-gathering satellite. “I have to connect to the satellite and find a way to get light data in real time,” said Ribas. “I have to contact NASA or I want to find a way to get my own satellite up there.”

Along with her partner, Neil Harbisson, a cyborg who has a Wi-Fi-enabled antenna in his skull to hear light frequencies, they’re working to grow the cyborg art movement. This summer, they launched Cyborg Nest, a cyborg productcompany which sells subdermal implants which is the first step to becoming a cyborg.

They’re also doing an open call for collaborators called Cyborg Futures, which aims to promote cyborg art, and they’re encouraging others to become cyborgs with the Cyborg Foundation, which defends cyborg rights. “It’s about the right and the freedom to choose the senses you want to have,” she said. “I have the right to change my body.”

Despite some backlash from medical ethicists and religious groups, Ribas doesn’t plan to stop her work anytime soon. “We get threats saying we are against humanity,” said Ribas. “We see it as something that creates more empathy to the earth and humanity, it creates more respect.”

Novartis data presented at ERS showcases once-daily COPD portfolio and further demonstrates efficacy of Ultibro® Breezhaler® (QVA149) .


  • BLAZE study also demonstrated significant improvements in shortness of breath with QVA149 compared to tiotropium 18 mcg in patients with moderate-to-severe COPD[3]


  • SPARK study showed similar rates of reduction in exacerbations with once-daily Seebri® Breezhaler®(glycopyrronium bromide) and open-label tiotropium 18 mcg in patients with severe-to-very severe COPD[4],[5]


Novartis announced today new analyses of data for once-daily Ultibro® Breezhaler®(investigational QVA149 – indacaterol 85 mcg/glycopyrronium 43 mcg delivered dose, equivalent to 110 mcg/50 mcg metered dose per capsule), which showed significant improvements in lung function, shortness of breath and health-related quality of life for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients versus all comparators[1],[2].These data were part of 39 respiratory abstracts presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Barcelona, Spain.


First results from a pooled analysis of 4,891 COPD patients in the IGNITE clinical trial program (SHINE, ILLUMINATE and SPARK studies) showed that QVA149 provided superior, rapid and sustained improvements in lung function, and significantly reduced shortness of breath, compared to placebo, once-daily indacaterol maleate 150 mcg,glycopyrronium 50 mcg, open-label (OL) tiotropium 18 mcg and twice-daily salmeterol/fluticasone fixed dose combination (FDC SFC) 50 mcg/500 mcg[1],[2]. These improvements were maintained throughout the duration of the trials[1],[2].


“COPD is known to affect an estimated 210 million people worldwide[6] and is projected to be the third leading cause of death by 2020[7].Many patients find COPD symptoms really tough to cope with – even if they’re already taking treatment,” said Tim Wright, Head of Development, Novartis Pharmaceuticals. “Novartis is pleased that these new analyses further support that the efficacy of dual therapy, which has the potential to make a real difference to peoples’ lives.”


Currently being assessed in a clinical trial program involving over 10,000 patients[8]-[18], investigational QVA149 is a Fixed-Dose Combination (FDC) of two bronchodilators, Onbrez® Breezhaler® (indacaterol maleate), a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (LABA) and Seebri® Breezhaler® (glycopyrronium bromide), a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA). Both are currently used by healthcare professionals as individual therapies to treat COPD.


QVA149 recentlyreceived a positive opinion for approval from the European Medicine Agency’s (EMA) Committee for the Human use of Medicinal Products (CHMP) in July 2013 as a maintenance bronchodilator treatment to relieve symptoms in adult patients with COPD.


About additional data presented at ERS

A new evaluation of patients with moderate-to-severe COPD from the BLAZE study showed that QVA149 provided significant improvements in patient-reported shortness of breath compared to tiotropium 18 mcg[3].


Clinical data for Seebri® Breezhaler® (glycopyrronium bromide) presented at ERS included efficacy and safety results from the SPARK study[4],[5]. At Week 64, once-daily glycopyrronium 50 mcg showed similar efficacy to OL tiotropium 18 mcg in reducing the rate of exacerbations, improving lung function and health-related quality of life, and reducing rescue medication use in patients with severe-to-very severe COPD[4].


In analyses from the SPARK study, glycopyrronium 50 mcg (via Breezhaler®) showed a safety profile in patients with severe-to-very severe COPD that was similar to OL tiotropium 18 mcg (via HandiHaler®)[5].


These results build upon the data previously presented from the glycopyrronium bromide Phase III GLOW trials and provide further evidence for Seebri® Breezhaler® as a once-daily LAMA option for COPD patients.


About the IGNITE clinical trial program

In the Phase III IGNITE clinical trial program, QVA149 is being investigated for the treatment of COPD patients as aninhaled, once-daily, FDC of indacaterol maleate and glycopyrronium bromide. IGNITE is one of the largest international clinical trial programs in COPD comprising 11 studies in total (ILLUMINATE, SHINE, BRIGHT, ENLIGHTEN, SPARK, BLAZE, ARISE, BEACON, RADIATE, LANTERN, FLAME) with more than 10,000* patients across 52 countries[8]-[20]. The first eight studies (ILLUMINATE, SHINE, BRIGHT, ENLIGHTEN, SPARK, BLAZE, ARISE, BEACON) completed in 2012. The studies are designed to investigate the efficacy, safety and tolerability, lung function, exercise endurance, exacerbations, shortness of breath and quality of life in patients treated with QVA149.


Results from the Phase III IGNITE trials[8]-[18]demonstrated statistically significant improvements in bronchodilation with QVA149 versus comparator treatments widely used as current standards of care[21]. Data showed that QVA149 significantly improved bronchodilation compared to OL tiotropium 18 mcg, SFC 50 mcg/500 mcg, indacaterol maleate 150 mcg, glycopyrronium 50 mcg and placebo providing a rapid onset within five minutes, and sustained bronchodilation during a 24 hour period which was maintained for up to 26 weeks[22]. In the IGNITE Phase III trial program, QVA149 also showed symptomatic improvements versus placebo in COPD patients[8],[9],[11],[21]. These symptomatic improvements included shortness of breath, exercise tolerance, rescue medication use and health-related quality of life[8],[9],[11],[21].


In clinical studies, QVA149 demonstrated an acceptable safety profile with no meaningful differences between the treatment groups (placebo, indacaterol 150 mcg, glycopyrronium 50 mcg, OL tiotropium 18 mcg, SFC 50 mcg/500 mcg) in the incidence of adverse and serious adverse events[8],[9],[10],[11],[22].


*Total refers to all 11 IGNITE studies.


About the Novartis COPD portfolio

Novartis is committed to addressing the unmet medical needs of COPD patients and improving their quality of life by providing innovative medicines and devices.


Onbrez® Breezhaler® (indacaterol maleate) is a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (LABA) that offers clinically relevant 24 hour bronchodilation combined with a rapid onset of action within five minutes at first dose, as demonstrated in the INERGIZE Phase III trial program[23]-[27]. Onbrez® Breezhaler® 150 mcg once-daily provided greater clinical benefit in terms of reduced shortness of breath, lower use of rescue medication and improved health status, compared with blinded tiotropium bromide 18 mcg in patients with moderate-to-severe COPD[34]. Onbrez®Breezhaler®is approved in approximately 100 countries around the world for maintenance bronchodilator treatment of airflow obstruction in adult patients with COPD[38]. It was first launched in the EU (150 mcg and 300 mcg once-daily doses) and has since received approvals in markets worldwide including Japan (Onbrez® Inhalation Capsules 150 mcg once-daily) and US (ArcaptaTM NeohalerTM 75 mcg once-daily).


Once-daily Seebri® Breezhaler® (glycopyrronium bromide) is a novel inhaled long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA; also referred to as a long-acting anticholinergic) indicated as a maintenance bronchodilator treatment to relieve symptoms in adult patients with COPD[39]. Glycopyrronium bromide was exclusively licensed to Novartis in April 2005 by Vectura and its co-development partner Sosei. Phase III data from the GLOW 1, 2 and 3 studies demonstrated that glycopyrronium 50 mcg delivered rapid and significant sustained improvements in lung function (measured by mean FEV1) from Day 1 compared with placebo and sustained this for 24 hours over 52 weeks, and significantly improved exercise endurance versus placebo[40]-[42]. Seebri® Breezhaler® is approved in the EU/EEA, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and a number of other countries.


Novartis continues development of respiratory products for delivery via a single-dose dry powder inhaler (SDDPI) called the Breezhaler® device which has low air flow resistance, making it suitable for patients with different severity of airflow limitation[43]. The Breezhaler® device allows patients to hear, feel and see that they have taken the full dose correctly[39].


Novartis is committed to addressing the unmet medical needs of COPD patients and improving their quality of life by providing innovative medicines and devices.


About COPD

COPD is a progressive life-threatening disease that makes it hard to breathe, with symptoms that have a destructive impact on patients’ function and quality of life[7],[44]. It affects an estimated 210 million people worldwide[7] and is projected to be the third leading cause of death by 2020[6]. COPD is often considered to be a disease of later years, but estimates suggest that 50% of those with COPD are now less than 65 years old, resulting in increases in absenteeism, premature retirement and reductions in workforce participation

Source: Novartis Newsletter.

MRI visualizes proton dose distribution.

“How can proton therapy not be clinically better than intensity-modulated radiation therapy?” That was the question posed by Thomas Bortfeld, PhD, speaking at the recent European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) annual meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

The answer lies in uncertainty over the range of the proton beam, surmised the Harvard Medical School professor of medical physics and director of the physics research division of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Radiation Oncology and its Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center in Boston.

This uncertainty can be reduced by measuring the proton range in vivo. Several techniques are being investigated for this purpose, including dosimetry in body cavities; other possibilities are PET and prompt gamma imaging, which detect secondary particles created as the proton beam travels through the patient. But another option is the use of MRI to visualize the proton dose distribution, by imaging radiation-induced tissue changes, Bortfeld told ESTRO attendees.

The idea is to use MRI to image tissue changes that occur on a molecular level following proton irradiation. The technique has already been successfully used to infer the delivered dose in proton therapy of the spine. Here, irradiation causes the blood-producing bone marrow to be replaced by fat, which shows up as areas of increased intensity in post-treatment MR images.

While this MR imaging method works well for treatment of bony structures, can it be used elsewhere? Bortfeld cited an example in which contrast-enhanced MRI was used to observe changes in liver tissue following brachytherapy.

After treatment, a reduction in contrast uptake was seen in the treated areas of the liver. “We expected to see a similar effect for proton therapy, and we did,” he noted.

Bortfeld described a study performed at Massachusetts General Hospital in which MR images were recorded 2.5 months after five fractions of proton therapy. A reduced signal was seen in central parts of the liver. Contours of the area of signal reduction were in good agreement with the high-dose region in the treatment plan.

Bortfeld’s research group is also trying to understand the underlying molecular process, and believes that radiation-induced and cytokine-mediated changes of the irradiated liver cells disable the active contrast media uptake.

The main advantages of MRI range imaging are better spatial resolution and improved signal-to-noise ratio compared with PET. In comparison with prompt gamma imaging, MRI can offer 3D information combined with anatomical information. The main disadvantage at present is the delay between the start of treatment and the observation of changes in the MR image.

The key question now, therefore, is whether similar changes in MR images can be observed after just a few days of treatment. If this is possible, then small misalignments could be detected between proton fractions and compensated for in later treatments. He said that Christian Richter, PhD; Joao Seco, PhD; and colleagues from MGH are currently running a trial to determine the time point in the treatment process at which such changes can be observed.

Source: Radiation Oncology Digital Community.