Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Nanomedicine

Prototype of Purdue's new rap music-powered implantable pressure sensor

We've been following the evolution of patient-embedded medical sensors for some time - miniature devices that run on batteries, transcutaneous (through-the-skin) induced current, even sugar and provide constant monitoring of various metabolic parameters. Now, a team from Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center has developed a prototype pressure sensor which promises to address the shortcomings of previous designs and utilizes a novel power supply: the acoustic energy from bass-heavy riffs of rap music.  Read More

Optical microscope picture of an antenna structure with nano-antennas built into its cente...

We recently looked at one of the potential contenders in the US$10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE, which as the name suggests, was inspired by the medical tricorder of Star Trek fame. Now scientists have developed a new way of creating Terahertz (THz) or T-rays, which they say could help make handheld devices with tricorder-like capabilities a reality.  Read More

Each nanochannel electroporation device incorporates two reservoirs joined by a nanoscale ...

One of the key processes in gene therapy involves taking cells from the patient, injecting a therapeutic genetic material into them, then reintroducing them to the patient’s body and letting them go to work. Unfortunately, getting that material into the cells can be tricky. While larger cells can actually be punctured with a fine needle, most human cells are too small for that approach to be possible. There are also methods of inserting random amounts of material into bulk quantities of cells, but these are inexact. Now, however, scientists at Ohio State University are reporting success with a process known as “nanochannel electroporation” (NEP), in which therapeutic biomolecules are electrically shot into cells.  Read More

A scanning electron microscope image of the nanowire-alginate composite scaffolds, showing...

Around the world, scientists have been working on ways of replacing the heart tissue that dies when a heart attack occurs. These efforts have resulted in heart "patches" that are made from actual cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells), or that encourage surrounding heart cells to grow into them. One problem with some such patches, however, lies in the fact that that they consist of cardiomyocytes set within a scaffolding of poorly-conductive materials. This means that they are insulated from the electrical signals sent out by the heart, so they don't expand and contract as the heart beats. Scientists at MIT, however, may be on the way to a solution.  Read More

The miniature device (right) that fits inside a tube (left) and can then be inserted into ...

Some cancers, such as pancreatic and cervical cancers, are notoriously hypoxic, which means they contain low oxygen levels. Because radiation therapy needs oxygen to be effective, hypoxic areas of a tumor can be difficult to kill. To combat this, researchers at Purdue University have developed and tested a miniature electronic device that is designed to be implanted into solid tumors to generate oxygen and boost the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  Read More

A new tool for researching neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's takes its inspir...

In order to detect the presence of nearby females, the male silk moth utilizes an oily coating on his antennae. Any female pheromone molecules that are in the air will stick to that coating, which then guides them through nanotunnels in the insect's exoskeleton, and ultimately to nerve cells that alert Mr. Moth to the fact that there are ladies in the area. It's a clever enough system that scientists from the University of Michigan have copied it, in hopes of better understanding neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.  Read More

Project lead researcher Dr. Stefan Bon

One of the promising areas in the field of nanomedicine is the development of vesicles – microscopic polymer sacs, designed to deliver a payload of medication to specific sites in the body. Unfortunately, the body’s immune system often sees these vesicles as intruders, sending antibodies to thwart them in their mission. Now, drawing inspiration from plankton and bacteria, chemists from the University of Warwick are developing armor coatings that should help vesicles to withstand or avoid those attacks.  Read More

Researchers have developed a nanoneedle that releases quantum dots directly into the nucle...

We recently saw the potential for nanoneedles and quantum dots to treat skin cancer, however researchers at the University of Illinois have gone one step further. They have created a nanoneedle (an incredibly small needle) that allows them to peak into the nucleus of a cell. When subjected to an electrical charge, the needle injects quantum dots into the nucleus of a living cell. These quantum dots (nanoscale crystals with unique properties in terms of light emission) can be used to monitor microscopic processes and cellular conditions, aid the diagnosis of disease, and track genetic information from within the nucleus.  Read More

Hollow microneedles open the door to new techniques for diagnosing and treating a variety ...

A research team at North Carolina State University has created incredibly small microneedles to be used in the treatment of medical conditions by inserting nanoscale dyes called quantum dots into the skin. This new procedure could advance a doctor’s ability to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, including skin cancer.  Read More

What technologies that will change the World (Photo: Stephan Uhlmann, CC license)

Here we are in the Information Age. Never before has the flow of ideas, innovation and new technologies been so strong, so much so that it's hard to imagine what the world will be like in 10, 20 or 50 years time. So which of today's fledgling technologies will have a fundamental impact on the way we live our lives in the future? MIT’s Technology Review has turned its attention to this question with the release of its annual list of 10 emerging technologies and it makes thought provoking reading.  Read More

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