A 'Big' original article from Brian describing why hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will one day supplant today's combustion automobiles.
The IEA released a report recommending 4 steps for immediately reducing CO2e emissions. Note that worldwide CO2 emissions are actually increasing.
Scientists in Germany derived a method for adding beneficial omega-3 fatty acids to foods. More foods could come fortified with the omega-3's if this technique turns out to be commercially feasible.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the covering of nerve cells (the "myelin sheath"). Clinicians alleviated the symptoms of MS by attaching proteins found in myelin to white blood cells (researchers believe this helped to stimulate tolerance to myelin among immune cells).
.Catalysts for fuel cells have traditionally been made from (expensive & not always durable) platinum. Scientists are increasingly investigating alternative catalysts. What are fuel cells? Read this week's article "Back to the future..." and Rush: Science and Technology... to learn more
As discussed in Rush, one of the more devastating injuries encountered in war are mid-limb injuries requiring amputation of a limb. Rush discusses current initiatives to help preserve (and possibly even re-grow limbs). DARPA's "RE-NET" program ("Reliable Neural Interface Technology") helps restore movement and even sensations to damaged limbs. The article includes videos demonstrating these technologies. Another very impressive initiative from DARPA with obvious civilian applications as well.
This artificial heart is sorrounded by a "sac" (likely the pericardial sac) from a cow in order to make it more "biocompatible." This artificial heart is one of several being tested throughout the world. All of these artificial hearts, if feasible, will likely serve to sustain a patient until a heart transplant can be undertaken. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this story is the remarkable (and nearly impossible to duplicate) efficiency of the human heart!
Eating a health diet (ie Mediterranean diet), exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and (most importantly) not smoking all help significantly reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.
Immuntherapies, or drugs that help "unleash the power of the immune system on cancers" will likely become much more profitable in the upcoming years due to several factors: 1) These drugs appear more widely effective than initially anticipated, 2) They are often incredibly expensive, 3) Many patients will be required to take them for years.
Tesla, maker of high-performance battery-electric vehicles (such as the Roadster discussed in Rush) turned its first ever profit this past week (and subsequently repaid a government loan). The article also notes that Consumer Reports recently called Tesla's Model S the best car they've ever tested. (Not too shabby.)
Computer and data-analyzing programs used to screen thousands of applicants. Will we soon be teaching students how to "impress" computer recruiters?
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A MIT professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management argues that the reason the GDP continues to grow but jobs do not is because of technology.
Researchers ingeniously developed a system that could re-purpose existing wifi signals to allow people to control electronics and appliances (ie turn lights on and off) with hand gestures. In general, anticipate more devices controlled by gesturing in the near future.
.Scientists at Penn State (in conjunction with researchers at Cal Tech) derived nanoparticles capable of creating hydrogen gas from water. (You can read more about nanotechnology and hydrogen fuel cells in Rush).
Excellent essay discussing problems plaguing science (and society).
Currently it takes several days to culture and determine the precise strain of bacteria causing an infection and even longer before clinicians learn which antibiotic will most effectively treat the bacteria. Researchers at the University of Toronto report developing a microchip that can rapidly ID the bacteria type and assess it's vulnerability to specific antibiotics. This would be an important breakthrough if it became widely feasible.
Accenture (a private consulting firm) released a report on how the number of medical clinics found in retail pharmacy chain stores may double in the next several years as the Affordable Care Act allows more people to access medical care. Growth of retail clinics has actually slowed in recent years so it'll be interesting to see if the ACA does stimulate their proliferation.
A recent study suggests that fasting may increase expression of the compound "SIRT1" protecting against neurodegeneration. To learn more about why fasting may promote longevity, consider reading our article "Cellular housekeeping..." (Dec 27, 2012).
Compounds believed to modulate "NMDA" receptors in the brain may help alleviate depression in a fairly rapid manner. Many of these agents are still undergoing early clinical trials (ie "GLYX-13" is undergoing Phase 2 out of 3 clinical trials) so will not be commercially available in the immediate future. Memantine, used to treat Alzheimer's, is an example of a NMDA-receptor modulator.
Prior to this, HbA1c was commonly used to measure long-term blood sugar levels once diabetes was diagnosed. But this HbA1c test will actually be used to make the initial diagnosis of diabetes. (Image courtesy of Alan Levine)
Antibodies are the "heat-seeking missles" of the immune system- they target specific molecules on pathogens and cancer cells to help neutralize these. Scientists frequently create antibodies to use in therapies for a myriad of conditions (including cancer), and researchers at the Scripps Institute recently derived a clever method for creating antibodies. The Scripps article is a bit confusing. If you want to learn more about antibodies and how they're being employed in medicine, read chapter 8 in Rush.
.The Supreme Court ruled as anticipated shooting down patents on human genes but upholding "artificial patents" (ie cDNA). See the comments section for updates on the Supreme Court case ruling.
.Famed Jeopardy winner- Watson the computer- has been mentioned several times on Big In Science, most notably in the article Why your next doctor may be a computer
An impressive "global alliance," modeled after the internet and Human Genome Project, could help accelerate insights into the human genome.
Breast cancer, and genes contributing to its onset (ie the BRCA genes) have been widely discussed recently given the Supreme Court's ruling against gene patenting and Angelina Jolie's decision to undergo prophylactic masectomy. Jolie possessed a BRCA mutation increasing her risk for later developing breast cancer. Some women who have harmful mutation may take tamoxifen (an estrogen blocker) to prevent breast cancer, and a recent study helped pinpoint mutations in another gene that predicted whether this strategy would help reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. This insight is not only immediately applicable to many women; but also a foreshadowing of the incoming era of personalized medicine (in which genetic analysis helps guide medical prevention and treatment).
.One of IBM supercomputer "Watson's" first commercial applications will be functioning as a customer service agent.
Perhaps the most notable innovation incorporated in this technique is the utilization of "magnetic nanoparticles" to deliver therapeutic genes (ie gene therapy). Traditional gene therapies (such as the "first commercial gene therapy" we wrote about in April of 2012) use viruses as vectors for inserting genes into cells. It will be interesting to note if additional studies incorporate this novel "magnetic nanoparticles" to deliver therapeutic genes to cells.
Excellent article from Reuters on MRSA, and attempts at a vaccine against MRSA.
A recent study finds that individuals with Type II diabetes have significantly altered levels of certain gut bacteria. 'Big' has been reporting on "gut bacteria" and their association with greater health for almost a year now. Click "microbes" in the tag cloud to access several articles on this topic. Right now the "million dollar question" is which comes first: altered health or changes to gut bacteria? (in other words, can gut bacteria contribute to the development of diabetes or does diabetes change gut bacteria?)
Researchers "printed" a windpipe and transplanted it into an infant suffering a collapsed windpipe. Rush discusses 3D printing as it applies to regenerative medicine (and actually discusses another instance of 3D printing & transplanting a windpipe).
One day soon we may re-grow our own tissues which can then be implanted to replace damaged tissues (this is the vision laid out in Rush chapter 21). The article notes how researchers could soon use "gene therapies" to better grow specific types of tissues. Note that Rush also discusses gene therapy in-depth (chapter 18)
Google and NASA will utilize a basic quantum computer to perform actions more inclined to quantum computers (vs powerful conventional computers). If you're still a little confused about what a quantum computer is, chapter 11 of Rush should help clarify.
Innovation in science, health & medicine, and technology.
Rush: Science and Technology in Our Acceleration Age
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Copyright 2013 Brian Gabriel (founder of Big In Science)