Computational creativity and the future of AI

Implant

The Micra TPS (bottom right) as compared to a conventional pacemaker (Image: Medtronic)

Two years ago we heard about the Nanostim, a pacemaker that's less than 10 percent the size of a regular model. While it's pretty darn small, Medtronic's just-announced Micra TPS (Transcatheter Pacing System) is reportedly even tinier. Billed as the world's smallest pacemaker, it's described as being the size of a large vitamin capsule – and it can be implanted using a catheter.  Read More

The relative sizes of a standard pacemaker and the new fetus-sized model (Image: CHLA)

In the near future, it's entirely possible that babies with heart defects will be born with complete pacemakers already installed. That's because scientists at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and the University of Southern California have developed the world's first fully-implantable pacemaker for fetuses.  Read More

Bacterial biofilm formation on the right side of medical tubing is visible after being sta...

Whenever foreign objects such as catheters, implants or other devices are placed within the human body, there's a danger that bacterial colonies known as biofilms could collect on them, leading to infections. Now, however, scientists at Harvard University's Wyss Institute have created a material that's too slippery for those biofilms to cling onto. It works by continuously releasing oil.  Read More

Each tag is about the length of two grains of rice (Photo: PNNL)

In order to study how young fish such as salmon are affected by swimming through hydroelectric dams, scientists have traditionally equipped them with surgically-implanted acoustic tracking tags. Unfortunately, the implantation procedure can harm the fish, plus the weight of the device can affect their behavior. Now, however, a team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Washington state has developed a much lighter acoustic tag, that can be injected into fish using a needle.  Read More

EnteroMedics VBLOC vagal blocking therapy is delivered via a pacemaker-like device called ...

EnteroMedics' Maestro System has become the first obesity device to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in ten years. The device, which the company compares to a pacemaker, is designed to block signals in the nervous system to reduce feelings of hunger.  Read More

EPFL's soft-and-stretchy e-Dura implant (Photo: EPFL/Alain Herzog)

Three years ago, scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) reported success in getting rats with severed spinal cords to walk again. They did so by suspending the animals in a harness, then using implants to electrically stimulate neurons in their lower spinal cord. Although this ultimately resulted in the rats being able to run on their previously-paralyzed hind legs, the technology still wasn't practical for long-term use in humans. Thanks to new research conducted at EPFL, however, that may no longer be the case.  Read More

3D printing technology has enabled some truly life-changing surgeries in the past year

Though printing items like chocolate and pizza might be satisfying enough for some, 3D printing still holds a lot of unfulfilled potential. Talk abounds of disrupting manufacturing, changing the face of construction and even building metal components in space. While it is hard not to get a little bit excited by these potentially world-changing advances, there is one domain where 3D printing is already having a real-life impact. Its capacity to produce customized implants and medical devices tailored specifically to a patient's anatomy has seen it open up all kinds of possibilities in the field of medicine, with the year 2014 having turned up one world-first surgery after another. Let's cast our eye over some of the significant, life-changing procedures to emerge in the past year made possible by 3D printing technology.  Read More

A diagram illustrating the makeup of the implants

Imagine if there were a remote-control electronic device that could be implanted at an infection site, where it would treat the infection by heating or medicating the affected tissue. While it might be very effective, subsequent infections could result if surgeons went in to remove it, or even if they just left it in place. That's why scientists from Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana have developed infection-treating implants that simply dissolve into the body once they've served their purpose.  Read More

The prototype implant, with its near-infrared LED

Wouldn't it be great if there were implants that detected the brainwaves associated with conditions such as chronic headaches or epilepsy, and then responded by triggering genes in the patient's body to produce a protein that treated the condition? Well, scientists at the ETH Zurich research institute are on their way to making it happen. They've developed an implant that causes genetically-modified cells to express a specific protein, and the device is indeed activated by brain waves.  Read More

A 3D printed titanium implant has replaced the heel bone of a 71-year-old cancer  (Photo: ...

Slowly but surely, 3D printing is working its way through the human anatomy, replacing infected jaws, cancerous vertebrae and deformed hips in a procession of world-first medical treatments. The latest body part to be ticked off the list is the heel, putting a 71-year-old cancer patient who was facing an amputation below the knee back on his feet.  Read More

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