Highlights from the 2015 Geneva Motor Show

Muscle

The Mollii garment helps keep muscle spasms and tension under control

The painful and crippling muscle spasms caused by brain injuries or neurological disorders are typically controlled using medication or even surgery. Soon, however, it may be possible for sufferers to get their muscles under control just by wearing what looks like a high-tech union suit. Known as the Mollii garment, it reportedly produces no side effects, and doesn't have to be worn all the time.  Read More

Robots with artificial muscles would have superhuman strength (Image: Shutterstock)

It's a classic science fiction scene: an android is injured and its human-like exterior is laid bare to reveal the metallic gears and cables of its true mechanical nature. The future is, unsurprisingly, not likely to match this scenario as our ability to mimic biology with innovations like artificial muscles improves. The latest breakthrough in this field comes from the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Engineering where researchers have developed a “robotic” muscle that extends like real muscle tissue to five times its original length, has the potential to lift 80 times its own weight and holds out the promise of smaller, stronger robots capable of more refined movements.  Read More

The Scripps Research Institute has developed a drug that duplicates the benefits of exerci...

A drug known as SR9009, which is currently under development at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), increases the level of metabolic activity in skeletal muscles of mice. Treated mice become lean, develop larger muscles and can run much longer distances simply by taking SR9009, which mimics the effects of aerobic exercise. If similar effects can be obtained in people, the reversal of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and perhaps Type-II diabetes might be the very welcome result.  Read More

The lab-grown burger was served with the usual trappings for presentation purposes

If Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University ever opens a burger bar, you might want to take a close look at the prices before you order. On Monday, at a press conference in London, a burger made by Post and his team was served that cost a cool €250,000 (about US$330,000). The reason? The beef that went into making it never saw a pasture and the people in the white coats who handed it to the chef weren't butchers, but bioengineers.  Read More

The AMES device, which has just received FDA approval

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration granted clearance to a new device that could be of considerable aid to stroke victims or people with partial spinal cord injuries. Created by Dr. Paul Cordo of the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in collaboration with OHSU spinoff company AMES, the "AMES device" reportedly helps the brain get paralyzed muscles moving again.  Read More

Artist’s concept of a flat interface nerve electrode (FINE)

Artificial limbs have come a long way in recent years with the development of prostheses that can be controlled directly by the patient’s nerves. The problem is, links between living nerves and the prostheses break down over time, which makes permanent attachment and practical control difficult. To understand why this happens and to help give patients more control over their prostheses, DARPA has instituted a number of programs aimed at improving neural interfaces and allowing amputees to have better control of advanced prostheses in the near term.  Read More

Crumpled graphene layered on a flexible polymer (Photo: Duke University)

Despite its numerous wondrous properties, a propensity to stick together and be difficult to flatten out once crumpled can make working with graphene difficult and limit its applications. Engineers at Duke University have now found that by attaching graphene to a stretchy polymer film, they are able to crumple and then unfold the material, resulting in a properties that lend it to a broader range of applications, including artificial muscles.  Read More

Individual nanotubes can be 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, yet 10...

An international team of scientists based at the University of Texas, Dallas (UTD), has developed a new type of artificial muscle created from carbon “nanotubes” – tiny hollow cylinders constructed from the same graphite layers found in the core of a standard pencil. Despite measuring 10,000 times less than the diameter of a human hair, the new muscles can lift more than 100,000 times their own weight, which amounts to approximately 85 times the power of a natural muscle of equivalent size.  Read More

Ghost is a prototype vibrating armband, designed to help athletes with muscle memory

“Muscle memory” is the process in which a certain motor task is repeated to such an extent that it can eventually be performed without conscious effort. It comes in handy for all sorts of activities, but is particularly important to athletes – a tennis player can hardly concentrate on the game, for instance, if they’re constantly thinking about how to move their arm every time they return the ball. Now, engineers from Imperial College London have created an armband device known as Ghost, designed to assist athletes in forming optimum muscle memories.  Read More

Muscle cell undergoing light activation (Image: MIT)

In Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama, the explorers of a seemingly deserted alien spaceship passing through our Solar System encounter a strange three-legged creature that turns out to be an organic robot. In the ‘70s, this seemed so incredible that it could only be the product of an alien civilization thousands of years ahead of us. In 2012, scientists at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania are proving otherwise by starting work on organic robots here on Earth. Using genetically engineered muscle tissue that responds to light, they are blurring the line between animal and machine at the cellular level.  Read More

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