Indian Researcher Makes Touch Sensitive Prosthetic Arm That Could Give New Life To Amputees.


Though prosthetics have come a long way towards enabling people who have lost their limbs to fully function, they still lack in certain areas like fine motor skills and the sense of touch. Now, researchers at the University of Glasgow have developed new technology that could remedy the latter.

Touch Sensitive Prosthetic Arms Could Give New Life To Amputees, And Even Contribute To Nanny Robots

A team from the Glasgow School of Engineering has developed artificial skin that would allow amputees to regain their sense of touch when using a prosthetic. The prototype involves using a polymeric protective layer over the prosthetic’s surface, that sends back pressure and temperature signals to the wearer. For example, someone wearing this prosthetic could pick up a cup of coffee, and would be able to feel the grain of the ceramic as well as how hot the mug is.

 The problem these researchers, headed by Dr Ravinder Dahiya, faced is that such a device needed its own power source, making it necessary to also attach a battery pack to the robotic arm. Of course, this made the prosthetic bulky and unwieldy. The solution then, was to develop a version of the touch-sensitive layer that could power itself.

As such, the team began experimenting with graphene, a material that remains transparent and flexible while also being incredibly durable. Using this, the researchers were able to make a new protective layer that was also capable of converting solar energy, 98 percent of the light hitting it to be exact. They did this by layering the graphene over a set of solar cells underneath the “skin”, which would generate energy while in the sun and power the wearer’s sense of touch.

Touch Sensitive Prosthetic Arms Could Give New Life To Amputees, And Even Contribute To Nanny Robots

RAVINDER DAHIYA WITH HIS PROTOTYPE PROSTHETIC

However, the researchers believe they still have a lot of improvements to make to the prototype. The device is still too bulky, so the next step is to miniaturise the technology further, in order to bring the prosthetic’s weight closer to that of a real human hand. The team is also researching a way to store the solar energy converted in a light-weight battery pack within the device. Doing that would give the wearer the full experience of a mobile, sensitive hand, without worrying about when it will run out of power.

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While the technology has been designed with amputees in mind, it could also eventually find its way to applications in robotics. A touch-sensitive skin could give a huge boost to the development of caregiver robots. With a sense of touch feeding back data, these bots could exercise restraint when dealing with infants, the old, or infirm, while still allowing them utilise more strength when say, picking up and moving household objects.

Source:indiatimes.com

Obesity Epidemic May See Slowdown With New Ingredient That Makes You Feel Full.


New Food Ingredient Helps Fill You Up

Feeling fuller without eating as much may be obesity’s ultimate treatment trick. 

A new food ingredient that can make you feel fuller may be the solution for our obesity epidemic. Manipulating an overweight or obese person’s appetite by sprinkling an ingredient that will make them feel fuller than they really are, may be the trick two-thirds of America has been waiting for. Researchers Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow, revealed the power of their new ingredient’s health potential in the journal Gut.

“There is significant interest in how food components like dietary fiber interact with gut microbes to influence health, but much of the evidence we rely upon comes from laboratory and animal studies,” the study’s coauthor Dr. Douglas Morrison from the Environmental Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, said in a press release. “It is often difficult to translate these findings directly into successful human interventions. Packaging propionate up to more efficiently deliver it to the large intestine has allowed us to make direct observations in humans that propionate may play an important role in weight management.”

For the first step, researchers took 20 volunteers, fed them with the dietary fiber inulin-propionate ester (IPE), and then released them in front of a buffet. Propionate is produced when dietary fibers breakdown in the gut, but IPE produces much larger quantities than normal. They told them to eat as much as they wanted while they observed.  Those who had IPE ate 14 percent less food on average and when their blood was tested they found higher concentrations of the appetite-reducing hormone leptin in their blood. “These exciting findings could at last open up new ways to manipulate gut microbes to improve health and prevent disease,” Morrison said.

Researchers took another 60 volunteers, but this time they were overweight. Half were given IPE in a powder form and the other half were give inulin. After 24 weeks, only one participant given IPE gained more three percent of their weight and as a result had overall less fat in their abdomens and livers compared to those in the inulin group. Fat that accumulates in the stomach and around the liver is the worst kind to gain. It increases the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and can lead to other long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.

“Molecules like propionate stimulate the release of gut hormones that control appetite, but you need to eat huge amounts of fiber to achieve a strong effect,” the study’s lead researcher Gary Frost, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said in a press release. “We wanted to find a more efficient way to deliver propionate to the gut. This small, proof-of-principle study shows encouraging signs that supplementing one’s diet with the ingredient we’ve developed prevents weight gain in overweight people. You need to eat it regularly to have an effect. We’re exploring what kinds of foods it could be added to, but something like bread or fruit smoothies might work well.”

The average adult gains an average of one-to-two-pounds a year, but there’s one crux in that statistic. Those who are already gain weight tend to gain a lot more than the average. Onestudy found overweight people will gain at least five pounds during the holiday season. Imagine how helpful it would be to bake some IPE into the dinner rolls served at an overweight family’s holiday feast?

 

Source: Frost G, Morrison D, Caulcott C, and Chambers ES, et al. Effects of targeted delivery of propionate to the human colon on appetite regulation, body weight maintenance and adiposity in overweight adults. Gut. 2014.

Flash memory breaches nanoscales


In what is considered a breakthrough in computing hardware, a team of scientists from Glasgow has proposed a way to harvest molecules and construct nano-sized non-volatile (permanent) storage devices, also known as flash memory devices. In a letter published in Naturetoday (November 20), Christoph Busche of WestCHEM School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow, and 12 others have written about their efforts to engineer molecular flash memory using nanoscale polyoxometalate clusters instead of the conventional metal-oxide semiconductor (MOS) devices.

The challenge

It is a great challenge to reduce the size of conventional MOS flash memories to sizes below ten nanometres. This poses a problem when one tries to build small flash memory devices. Hence other options have been pursued for quite some time, including those using proteins and other molecules. However, using these molecular memories involved integrating them with the MOS technologies, which was proving to be difficult and several candidates had been tried and found wanting in this attempt. The Glasgow group, headed by Leroy Cronin, has found a suitable candidate in the polyxometalate molecules.

OVEL APPROACH: A route to building molecular
flash memory devices has been suggested.

When such a molecule is doped with the selenium derivative [(Se(IV)O3)2]2- a new type of oxidisation state (5+) is observed for the selenium. This new oxidation state can be observed at the device level, and this can be used as a memory.

Device simulation

The authors demonstrate this using a device simulation. Their work suggests a route to building molecular flash memory devices.

Flash memory is in everyday usage now. It is used in digital cameras, USBs and various other places. Unlike a computer’s RAM, which is volatile — meaning that the memory stored in it will dissipate once power supply is broken — a flash memory can retain what is written on it even when power supply is discontinued. For that reason it is called a non-volatile memory. So long, flash memories have been constituted using MOS technologies. This paper now suggests a new way of going beyond its nanoscale limitations.

 

 

Eye Reflections in Photos Could Help Solve Crimes


Eyes are supposed to be windows to the soul — but they make even better mirrors. And what they reflect will astonish you.

Researchers studying the incredible level of detail in modern digital photographs were able to pick out the tiny reflections of faces hidden in the eyes of the subject. By zooming in on the subject’s eyes in high-resolution, passport-style photographs, they were able to pick out the faces and accurately identify them.

“The pupil of the eye is like a black mirror,” said Rob Jenkins, of the Department of Psychology at the University of York. “To enhance the image, you have to zoom in and adjust the contrast. A face image that is recovered from a reflection in the subject’s eye is about 30,000 times smaller than the subject’s face.”

Working with Christie Kerr, of the School of Psychology, University of Glasgow, Jenkins recovered the images of bystanders that were as small as 27 pixels across (1 megapixel is about a million pixels). Yet when presented to panelists in a face-matching task, observers were able to match the diminutive faces 71 percent of the time. When the faces were familiar ones, people recognized identity correctly 84 percent of the time.

“Our findings thus highlight the remarkable robustness of human face recognition, as well as the untapped potential of high-resolution photography,” Jenkins said.

The pictures were taken with a high-end, 39-megapixel Hasselblad camera, snapped while the onlookers were close to the subject and the room well lit. But with smartphones that pack increasingly better digital sensors, even ordinary photos may soon capture a similar level of detail.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel camera, for example; AT&T sells the phone for just $199.99.

The researchers say that in crimes in which the victims are photographed, such as hostage taking or child sex abuse, reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators.

Images of people retrieved from cameras seized as evidence during criminal investigations may be used to piece together networks of associates or to link individuals to particular locations.

Researchers Find Early Success in New Treatment for Stroke Recovery – News Center – The University of Texas at Dallas


Navid Khodparast

Dr. Navid Khodaparast was the lead author of the study.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have taken a step toward developing a new treatment to aid the recovery of limb function after strokes.

In a study published online in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, researchers report the full recovery of forelimb strength in animals receiving vagus nerve stimulation.

“Stroke is a leading cause of disability worldwide,” said Dr. Navid Khodaparast, a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and lead author of the study. “Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. Our results mark a major step in the development of a possible treatment.”

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an FDA-approved method for treating various illnesses, such as depression and epilepsy. It involves sending a mild electric pulse through the vagus nerve, which relays information about the state of the body to the brain.

Khodaparast and his colleagues used vagus nerve stimulation precisely timed to coincide with rehabilitative movements in rats. Each of the animals had previously experienced a stroke that impaired their ability to pull a handle.

Dr. Michael Kilgard

Dr. Michael Kilgard, professor of neuroscience and senior author of the study, first demonstrated the ability of vagus nerve stimulation to enhance brain adaptability in 2011.

Stimulation of the vagus nerve causes the release of chemicals in the brain known to enhance learning and memory called neurotransmitters, specifically acetylcholine and norepinephrine. Pairing this stimulation with rehabilitative training allowed Khodaparast and colleagues to improve recovery.

Many rehabilitative interventions try to enhance neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change) in conjunction with physical rehabilitation to drive the recovery of lost functions, according to Khodaparast. Unfortunately, up to 70 percent of stroke patients still display long-term impairment in arm function after traditional rehabilitation.

“For years, the majority of stroke patients have received treatment with various drugs and/or physical rehabilitation,” Khodaparast said. “Medications can have widespread effects in the brain and the effects can last for long periods of time. In some cases the side effects outweigh the benefits. Through the use of VNS, we are able to use the brain’s natural way of changing its neural circuitry and provide specific and long lasting effects.”

“Through the use of VNS, we are able to use the brain’s natural way of changing its neural circuitry and provide specific and long lasting effects.”

Dr. Navid Khodaparast, a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Khodaparast acknowledged the study has some limitations. For example, the animals were young and lacked some of the other illnesses that accompany an aged human population, such as diabetes or hypertension. But Khodaparast and his colleagues said they are optimistic about vagus nerve stimulation as a future tool. They will continue testing in chronically impaired animals with the hopes of translating the technique for stroke patients. Working with MicroTransponder Inc., a partner company in the current study, researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have begun a small-scale trial in humans.

“There is strong evidence that VNS can be used safely in stroke patients because of its extensive use in the treatment of other neurological conditions,” said Dr. Michael Kilgard, professor in neuroscience at UT Dallas and senior author of the study.

Kilgard is also conducting clinical trials using vagus nerve stimulation to treat tinnitus, the medical condition of unexplained ringing in the ears. Kilgard’s lab first demonstrated the ability of vagus nerve stimulation to enhance brain adaptability in a 2011 Nature paper.

Other UT Dallas researchers involved in the study are: postdoctoral fellows Dr. Seth Hays and Dr. Andrew Sloan; graduate student Daniel Hulsey; undergraduate students Andi Ruiz and Maritza Pantoja; and Dr. Robert Rennaker II, associate professor in neuroscience, director of the Texas Biomedical Device Center and head of the Department of Bioengineering.

Treatable cancer subtype found.


Australian researchers have identified a potentially treatable subtype of pancreatic cancer, which accounts for about 2% of new cases. This subtype expresses high levels of the HER2 gene. HER2-amplified breast and gastric cancers are currently treated with Herceptin.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in Western societies, with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%. It is a molecularly diverse disease, meaning that each tumour will respond only to specific treatments that target its unique molecular make-up.

Sebastian_Kaulitzki_PancreaticCancer_shutterstock

A new study, published in Genome Medicine, used a combination of modern genetics and traditional pathology to estimate the prevalence of HER2-amplified pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic surgeon Professor Andrew Biankin, from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, worked with pathologist Dr Angela Chou and bioinformatician Dr Mark Cowley from Garvan, as well as cancer genomics specialist Dr Nicola Waddell from the Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics at the University of Queensland.

Using data sourced from the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative1 (APGI), the team identified a patient with high-level HER2 amplification. Using whole genome DNA sequencing of the tumour, Dr Nicola Waddell pinpointed the specific region of the genome that contains HER2.

Dr Angela Chou then performed detailed histopathological characterisation of HER2 protein in tissue samples taken in the past from 469 pancreatic cancer patients. This produced a set of standardised laboratory testing guidelines for testing HER2 in pancreatic cancer, and showed the frequency of HER2 amplified pancreatic cancer of 2.1%. 

Dr Chou also found that – like HER2-amplified breast cancer patients – the cancers of those with HER2-amplification in the pancreas tended to spread to the brain and lung, rather than the norm, which is the liver.

Dr Mark Cowley analysed all the data generated by the project and compared it to other sequences from many cancer types produced by the International Cancer Genome Consortium and The Cancer Genome Atlas project. “HER2 amplification was prevalent at just over 2% frequency in 11 different cancers,” he observed.

“We make the case that if HER2 is such a strong molecular feature of several cancers, then perhaps recruiting patients to clinical trials on the basis of the molecular features rather than the anatomical region of their cancer could have a significant impact on patient outcomes, and still make economic sense for pharmaceutical companies.”

“Such ‘Basket trials’ as they are sometimes called, may advance treatment options for those with less common cancer types.”

In Australia, 2,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and so 40 are likely to have the HER2 amplified form. 

While Herceptin is available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for treating breast and gastric cancer, it is not available for treating HER2-amplified pancreatic cancer as no clinical trial has yet been conducted to determine the drug’s efficacy in that case.

The Garvan Institute in collaboration with the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group, is recruiting pancreatic cancer patients through the APGI for a pilot clinical trial, known as ‘IMPaCT’2, to test personalised medicine strategies. 

Potential patients will be screened for specific genetic characteristics, including high levels of HER2, based on their biological material sequenced as part of the APGI study. Once these characteristics are confirmed, patients will be randomised to receive standard therapy or a personalised therapy based on their unique genetic make-up.

 

New study to give insight into public health risks of ESBL E. coli..


 

New project investigates public health risks of ESBL E.Coli to develop intervention plans to reduce infections caused by these bacteria.

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A new study by Public Health England (PHE) and funded by the Department of Health will, for the first time, establish the most significant reservoirs of a strain of antibiotic resistant bacteria known as ESBL-positive E. coli that cause human illness in the UK.

Its findings will help to develop intervention strategies in efforts to reduce the numbers of infections such as urinary tract infections or blood poisoning, caused by these bacteria.

The research is being led by PHE with key collaborators from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, The University of Cardiff, The University of East Anglia, The University of Glasgow, Queen Mary University of London, and Health Protection Scotland.

The study will look at sewage, farm slurry and raw meat to determine whether there are any potential risks to human health in a number of different reservoirs of these bacteria. It will also look at stool samples from patients who have no symptoms of illness (asymptomatic carriage) to see whether the bacteria is in their gut (colonisation).

E. coli is a bacterium that lives in the guts of humans and many other animals. Colonisation of the gut by E. coli is perfectly normal and is harmless, although some other types cause diarrhoea. However, E. coli is also the commonest cause of urinary tract and bloodstream infections, which usually require antibiotic treatment.

Not all types of ESBL-positive E. coli bacteria cause human disease, and the contribution to human disease made by resistant strains from animals, meat and environmental sources is not well understood.

Resistant strains of E. coli are an increasing problem, reducing the number of antibiotics that a doctor can use for treatment. Many of the resistant strains produce enzymes called ESBLs (Extended-Spectrum Beta-Lactamases), which make them resistant to most penicillin-like antibiotics. E. coli with ESBLs can also be found in food animals, raw retail meat, sewage and river water, but whether these reservoirs pose any public health risk is poorly understood.

Professor Neil Woodford, Head of the Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections Reference Unit at PHE, said:

The risks posed to human health by resistant E. coli from non-human reservoirs are not fully understood. This study will help to disentangle this complex interrelationship.

Treatment of infections caused by resistant E. coli can be difficult, which is why we need to understand the risks better. Having said that, we want to reassure the public that presence of these bacteria in the gut does not require antibiotic treatment and is usually temporary. Most colonized people never develop an infection caused by the resistant strain.

This study is very important because its results will help to shape future intervention strategies to reduce the spread of these antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and to reduce the numbers of infections that they cause.

Notes to editors

  1. The amount of the funding from the Department of Health is £500,000 and the study is spread over three years. The study will cover different elements.
  2. The first piece of research will look for ESBL-positive E. coli in 20-25,000 stool samples collected in five different geographical areas (London, East Anglia, North West, Scotland and Wales), which will determine rates of harmless gut carriage.
  3. Secondly, sewage samples will be collected from various sites throughout each of the five regions and numbers of ESBL-positive E. coli will be measured in each sample.
  4. Our third study will seek ESBL-positive E. coli in samples of farm slurry and from retail raw meats collected in each geographical region.
  5. In the final part of the study, the ESBL-positive E. coli collected from the different sample types and in each region will be compared with those isolated from bloodstream infections to determine whether there are any genetic similarities between the resistant strains from sewage, animals, retail raw meat, and those isolated from human faeces and blood.
  6. E. coli are bacteria that are commonly found in the gut of both people and animals where they live harmlessly. Some other strains can cause illness, including food poisoning, urinary tract infections and bloodstream infections.
  7. ESBL enzymes were first described in the 1980s and during the 1990s were mainly seen in Klebsiella species found in hospitals mostly in intensive care units. Since early 2000s, they have become a global problem in E. coli.
  8. The cycle of antibiotic resistance is complex with interlinking elements between antibiotic use and people, livestock, pets, sewage and the environment.

 

Source: www.gov.uk

 

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