Self-Condensation Cell Culture: The Future of Diabetes Cure

Researchers have successfully cured sudden-onset type 1 diabetes on transplanted mice with the help of newly found biomedical engineering procedure called “self-condensation cell culture.” The discovery takes the medical field a step closer into generating a person’s organ tissues from their own cells as part of the regenerative process.

Led by physician-scientist from Cincinnati Children’s Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine, Dr. Takanori Takebe, they discovered that the tissue-engineered pancreatic islets swiftly generated vascular network after graft into type 1 diabetic mice subject. It also functioned effectively under endocrine system, releasing insulin which efficiently helped stabilize glycemic levels on the mice.

Stem cell therapy through tissue engineering faces a future with lot of therapeutic miracles. But the process of solving the challenge how to sustain transplanted tissue with blood to help nourish its survival still has a long road ahead.

Though the team has already created mini-liver organoid, the possibility of generating pancreatic islets that successfully vascularize with the whole system from organ tissue fragments was an impossible dream, until the study proved it is reachable.



Organioids: Advancing Drug Discovery and Medical Research

The Division of Nephrology at UW School of Medicine has recently developed a robotic system that produces mini human organs out of stem cells. Organoids are massively produced as a tool for drug breakthroughs and researches. Programmed to observe the organoids they developed, these robots are one of world’s assets against diseases.

Traditionally, stem cells are cultured as a simple 2D sheet. Years of research has led to development of 3D cultured stem cells that resembles and functions like the human organs, the organoids, a perfect baseline not just for drug discovery, but even for the possibility of human organs being artificially produced.

Through cell RNA sequencing, the robots are trained to analyze various types of cell in the organoid and identify if there are cells in the organ that do not originally belong to it. From the observations, the researchers can improve and develop the system to create a close to realistic organ.


Turning Bad Fat into Good Fat

Obese people could be holding the solution to their problem if a new project by Brian Gillette, Columbia University’s bioengineer and founder of Ardent Cell Technologies, pulls through. Gillette’s idea is to build a bioreactor which converts bad fat into good brown fat. A simple procedure would be carried out on an overweight person, where a piece of white fat is removed from his/her belly. It is then put into an automated bioreactor which carries out various chemical reactions to transform the fat. The process would take about three weeks, and on coming back, the patient would have the new brown fat reinserted into his/her belly.

Brown fat burns calories to keep the body warm and according to Gillette, the procedure could work well to help cut weight. His vision is that at first, patients’ tissues will have to be transported to Ardent Cell Technologies headquarters, where the bioreactor will be stationed. With time, he hopes to do away with the transportation process. Speaking to IEEE Spectrum, Gillette’s team is working on building an automated device that can be used at a clinic. The team has already carried out tests on mice and say that the process does not need any genetic engineering. In addition, the transformed tissue is able to maintain its modified state, without converting back to white fat.

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Reading A Pilot’s Mind While He Flies

Last month, a female pilot executed a safe emergency landing after one of the Boeing 737 engines blew into pieces at 32,000 feet in the air. This heroic action got her a lot of attention. According to expert in flight safety and ISAE-SUPAERO’s professor Frederic Dehais, the pilot was most likely experiencing cognitive overload. This occurs when one is bombarded with a lot of pressure to make the right decision. For example, in her scenario, she probably wondered about where to land, at what speed, how to maintain the right altitude and how she would aid any injured passengers. Human-machine systems are usually designed to enhance safety. They are, however, dependent on the human operator’s situational awareness and cognitive workload.

Such interfaces have in the past subjected operators to heavy workloads, reducing their attention and leading to dangerous consequences. Ideal systems read operator minds and are able to determine their real-time conditions. Hasan Ayaz and Frederic Dehais are members of a team of researchers who recently managed to measure a pilot’s functional activity utilizing functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The team developed a device which can be worn on the head like a headband. It allows for pilots to carry out their normal activities while monitoring brain activity. It measures various responses of the prefrontal cortex while the test subject carries out judgement, problem solving, impulse control and memory. The research was published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal.

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Smart Gel That Can Walk Underwater

Engineers from Rutgers University-New Brunswick have developed a smart gel, which is 3D-printed and can walk, move as well as grab objects underwater. This creates great potential for the creation of soft robots that act like sea animals. This gel-like substance can move without damaging items. With further research, this new discovery could lead to the development of artificial body parts such as the heart, muscles and stomach. In addition, it could improve the diagnosis of diseases and delivery of drugs into vital parts of the body. Soft material devices are cheaper and easier to create when compared to hard objects. They are also easier to design and control.

According to the senior author of the study, Howon Lee, the 3D smart gel holds a lot of promise for biomedical engineering as it resembles human body tissues that hold a lot of water and are soft. Also, it can be used to manufacture underwater devices used to study aquatic life. The study was published in the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces online journal. In the report, a 3D-printel hydrogel was addressed. Hydrogels can change shape once activated by electricity. They are made up of more than 70% water and are used to make contact lenses, Jell-O, diapers and other things.

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Improving Melanoma Detection Using Virtual Biopsies

Melanoma is a severe skin diseases that ranks fifth among the deadliest cancers in the United States. To improve its detection and imaging, Jesse Wilson, a researcher from Colorado State University is working to make its early detection cheaper and faster. Wilson, who is an associate professor in School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME)’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has been selected to be part of a group of 15 researchers for Melanoma Research Alliance’s Young Investigator Award. This award will enable Wilson’s team to carry out further study without needing a biopsy.

It also provides an opportunity for the group to partner with Biomedical Sciences and CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine to test novel imaging software on patients. Wilson is working on a virtual biopsy tool which could allow specialists to look into the skin’s cellular structure. Most skin diseases affect cells that make up the skin pigment. For diagnosis and study, scientists often use invasive methods that involve cutting away of tissue. Wilson’s idea could provide non-invasive imaging of the skin pigment. Most of the devices available today are not reliable. They produce low-resolution images that have little to no resemblance with conventional biopsy. Researchers from the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering will provide mentorship throughout the project.

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MRI Helmet Promises Brain-Machine Interphase

Brain ultrasound technology has been anticipated by scientists for years. Until now, it was not possible. This technology holds the potential of providing real-time images during surgical procedures, giving doctors, scientists and researchers a better idea of which parts of the brain are stimulated when humans experienced certain feelings and actions. This could then be incorporated into robotics, allowing people to control machines by just thinking about it. According to Brett Byram, previous efforts only showed bouncing ultrasound beams within the skull, yielding no useful images. With a grant of $550,000 from the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development, Byram plans to develop machine learning technology that accounts for distortion, and produces workable images.

In addition to this, he wishes to incorporate electroencephalogram technology so that doctors can see how blood flows as one changes thought. This accompanied with the ability to view brain perfusion and stimulation of parts due to related emotion and movement could yield extraordinary results. According to Byram, the goal is to build a brain-machine interface using EEG and an ultrasound helmet. When scientists were working on this decades ago, they did not have access to today’s technology. Machine learning and deep neural networks have been widely recognized and Byram’s group is among the first to showcase its application in ultrasound beamforming. The applications, however, are endless.

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