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Printing Skin

Posted: November 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

From Singularity Hub: “Wake Forest’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) have developed a skin printer that can deposit cells directly onto a wound to help it heal faster. They recently presented the results of their latest experiments at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress (ACSCC) in Washington DC. Mice given topical wounds were able to heal in just three weeks when a new skin was printed onto the damaged area (compared to 5-6 with control groups). WFIRM and AFIRM also stated that the skin printer had been tested to see if it could print human cells, but that the next step forward would be experiments on pigs. If ultimately successful, skin printers could revolutionize the way we treat injuries – making serious wounds less fatal and rapidly speeding the healing of other injuries. … the recent conference [gives] some valuable insights into how the skin printer actually works. Two different printing heads are used – one with skin cells, a coagulant, and collagen; the other with a different kind of coagulant. Keeping these substances separate allows them to be deposited easily (like ink) but then quickly bond together and form a solid skin covering with fibrin.”

Link: http://singularityhub.com/2010/11/04/wake-forest-could-print-you-some-new-skin/

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko

An Update on Early Artificial Sight

Posted: November 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

I posted not so long ago on the topic of foundational work in artificial sight:

The present mainstream approach involves building a grid of electrodes in place of the retinal cells lost to forms of degenerative blindness; images captured by a worn camera are analyzed and the electrodes stimulated appropriately. … Progress in this model is at present a matter of making implantation safer and more reliable, greatly increasing the density of electrodes, and improving the ability to translate a camera’s view into a helpful picture – a combination of medicine, electrical engineering, and computer vision research. The end result of this form of technology will never produce anything more than a detailed, glowing sketch of dots and lines for the patient: it is not true vision as experienced by those of us fortune enough to retain our sight. Nonetheless it works – already providing a great improvement for patients over being blind – and it will serve as a foundation for later forms of artificial sight technology.

Today, let me point your attention to a refinement of this technology under development by a German company:

researchers based in Germany have developed a retinal implant that has allowed three blind people to see shapes and objects within days of the implant being installed. … The device – known as a subretinal implant – sits underneath the retina, directly replacing light receptors lost in retinal degeneration. As such, it uses the eyes’ natural image processing capabilities beyond the light detection stage to produce a visual perception in the patient that is stable and follows their eye movements. Other types of retinal implants – known as epiretinal implants – sit outside the retina and because they bypass the intact light-sensitive structures in the eyes they require the user to wear an external camera and processor unit.

“The present study…presents proof-of-concept that such devices can restore useful vision in blind human subjects, even though the ultimate goal of broad clinical application will take time to develop.”

This seems like a natural evolution if it can be made to work in a practical fashion – cut out the aspects of the system that were awkward to manage in favor of an implant that can stand alone. The obvious path for incremental improvement is still to increase the number and density of electrodes, and thus the resolution of the glowing grids and images seen by the patient. Work on that area will likely benefit numerous similar lines of development in the artificial sight community.

There remains a big difference between “vision” and “useful vision” – but I imagine that the gap will close as this technology evolves further. An implant that replaces one part of an eye is an invitation to build a second implant that attaches to it and replaces a neighboring feature…and so forth. This research and development community will give the tissue engineers a run for their money.

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko

Improving Repair After a Stroke

Posted: November 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

Some of what the body does in response to injury, especially in the nerves and brain, is in fact counterproductive in the long term: “Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability, due to the brain’s limited capacity for recovery. … Researchers interested in how the brain repairs itself already know that when the brain suffers a stroke, it becomes excitable, firing off an excessive amount of brain cells, which die off. The UCLA researchers found that a rise in a chemical system known as ‘tonic inhibition’ immediately after a stroke causes a reduction in this level of excitability. But while this ‘damping down’ initially helps limit the spread of stroke damage, the increased tonic inhibition level and reduced brain excitability persists for weeks, eventually becoming detrimental to the brain’s recovery. … It was surprising to find that the level of tonic inhibition was increased for so long after stroke and that there was an inflection point where the increased level eventually hindered the brain from recovering. It was also surprising that we could easily manipulate tonic inhibition in the brain after stroke to restore it back to a normal, ‘non-stroke’ level and, in doing this, enhance behavioral recovery. … They found that by applying specific blockers of this inhibitory brain chemical, they could then ‘turn off the switch.’ The resulting enhanced brain excitability immediately improved behavioral recovery after stroke.”

Link: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-11/uoc–srw110110.php

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko

Longevity Meme Newsletter, November 1st 2010

Posted: November 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko

Exercise in Adolescence May Cut Risk of Deadly Brain Tumor

Posted: November 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

(HealthDay News) — Exercising during adolescence may help guard against a deadly form of brain tumor in adulthood, new research suggests.

The study also found that avoiding obesity during the teen years was associated with a lower risk of developing the cancerous brain tumors called gliomas, while being tall increased the chances of such malignancies.

The study appears in the Nov. 1 issue of Cancer Research.

Gliomas are the most common type of brain and central nervous system cancers, accounting for 80 percent of cases, according to background information in the study. Gliomas cause 13,000 deaths in the United States each year.

Though little is known about why people develop the tumors or who is at risk, previous research has hinted that “early life exposures” may increase the risk of developing the cancer in adulthood, said study author Steven C. Moore, a research fellow in the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch of the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Studies have shown that people who are left-handed, for example, are at higher risk of the disease. Read more…

Memory concentration, loss of memory, short term memory loss

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko

Carla wants to know

Posted: November 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

In response to a question posed by one of my oldest and most perceptive friends, I posted what follows to my Facebook profile.

Her question was posed after watching this video http://vimeo.com/15979195

“Rocky, am I really ignorant and paranoid?

It seems like this technology holds they key to either really, really good stuff for us as a species, or it has the potential for really really bad stuff.

I trust the science and the scientists. I don’t trust the Money that controls what’s done with the science.

Einstein was a really nice guy. He had no idea his science would be used for war. I don’t think any of the Manhattan Project scientists went into it knowing what they were unleashing on the world.”

~ Carla Conrad

My answer: A most perspicacious observation, and right on the mark. Occam’s Razor, 21st century style, meaning that you have hit upon the simplest explanation for the potential outcome; like every technological innovation in the past, nanoscale technologies have both the potential for tremendous good and/or tremendous bad. And don’t let my seemingly cavalier use of “tremendous” lull you into a false sense of security; I mean “tremendous” as in “things that have the potential to change everything we think we know about ourselves, while enabling each of us with the power to effect and experience our surroundings in ways heretofore only imagined.”

I have been actively and intensely following nanoscale technologies since the early ‘90’s. At the end of the day, my most prescient observation would be that these technologies will have an impact on our global society many times greater than ALL past technological revolutions. Let me put it another way: nanoscale technologies – and the products thereof – will enable far greater change than our discovery, development and use of fire, bronze, iron, steel, electrical power, cars, planes and space travel put together.

Any person, institution or government entity that says “Oh yeah, nanotechnology, we got that handled” is lying their ass off. Equally, any person, institution or government entity that says “Oh yeah, nanotechnology, it’s gonna kill us all in one or more horrible ways” is also lying their ass off. Anyone that fervent usually has a hidden agenda, and one which serves a higher master. You’ll notice I said “usually” – many of my colleagues in the nanospace are humanitarians in the best sense and are talking about and planning for ways in which the good things can be emphasized and the bad minimized or eliminated.

My philosophy is summed up thus:

Nanotechnology will certainly play a pivotal role in our future; now, with the introduction of lighter/stronger materials in the auto, space, and military industries, and later, with the introduction of molecular manufacturing (making items per your specifications, in your own home, for pennies on the dollar of current prices – think “replicator” and you will not be too far off).

Expect to see revolutionary changes in solar, fuel cell and hydrogen storage technologies within the next few years. And expect to see a great deal of interest in and subsequent higher funding of nanotech-enabled sensor technologies for military, homeland security and civilian applications within the next few years. Put another (albeit obvious) way: expect to see cultural tsunamis of a magnitude that rival anything we have thus far experienced.

No informed person doubts that developments at the nanoscale will be significant. We debate the time frame, the magnitude and the possibilities, but not the likelihood for large-scale change. The least-speculative views suggest that we’re in for changes of an order that justifies – if not demands – our undivided attention. Will we be ready? (BTW: not kidding, not even the weensiest amount)

OK, off my high horse and back to your previously programmed station…

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko


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