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.

Research source link:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/du-rtm052118.php

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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.

Research source link:

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20180518/New-3D-printed-smart-gel-that-walks-underwater-has-great-potential-in-biomedical-engineering.aspx

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.

Research source link:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/csu-uvb051818.php

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.

Research source link:

https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2018/05/08/ultrasound-helmet-would-make-live-images-brain-machine-interface-possible/

Heart Recovery Without Cell Implants

Myocardial infarction, commonly known as heart disease, affects close to a million people in the United States every year. Unfortunately, there is still no effective treatment. Unlike the liver, a human heart cannot recover after injury. The death of cardiomyocytes, also known as cardiac muscle cells, causes irreversible heart weakness that limits its functions. Researchers are now turning to stem cell transplants to tackle this problem. However, previous studies have shown that such transplants struggle to repair damaged muscle tissue. When differentiated before transplantation, stem cells function well but have a major problem: they cannot contract rhythmically with the heart muscles. This could lead to lethal abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).

In a recent study published in the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal, a new team of researchers have developed a new way of treating heart disease without stem cell implantation. The study shows that extracellular vesicles obtained from cardiomyocytes have powerful potential to provide effective and safe treatments for heart disease. These micro vesicles are easy to confine and can be frozen to allow long-term storage. They have three advantages: they do not lead to Arrhythmia, they can be used immediately unlike other cells which require time to grow, and lastly, their procedure for clinical application is much easier for cell-based therapy. The research team was led by Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Columbia University’s biomedical engineering professor.

Research source link:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/cuso-nct042318.php

Mouth Sensor That Provides Real-Time Sodium Intake Data

There are approximately 36 million people in the United States suffering from hypertension. Often, patients are advised to reduce their sodium intake. The biggest challenge, however, is that sodium is part of every modern diet. It’s the key component of table salt and is found in restaurant meals, beverages and even snack foods. To tackle this issue, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology recently invented an electronic mouth sensor that is flexible enough to fit in a patient’s dental retainer. Its purpose is to provide real-time information on sodium intake. The information is sent to your phone, telling you if you’re going against your doctor’s advice.

This could assist you make changes to your diet. The study was published in the PNAS journal. The team of researchers was led by assistant professor for nano and micro engineering, W. Hong Yeo. The sensor can be embedded on an individual’s tongue or roof of the mouth. It can also be laminated onto a tooth. The soft retainer used allows for cleaning and easy handling. According to Yeo, the biggest challenge was making the device flexible, soft and comfortable for use. They decided to use stretchable circuits attached to an extremely thin porous membrane. There is an Android app already in place and the device uses Bluetooth to transmit information.

Research source link:

https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/diagnostics/mouth-sensor-can-measure-the-salt-in-every-potato-chip-you-eat

CRISPR Use Could Lead to “Organic” Gene Therapies for Blood Disorders

Australian scientists, led by University of New South Wales (UNSW) professor Merlin Crossley, Ph.D., have identified the gene-control mechanism that allows some individuals with blood disorders such as sickle sell anemia or β-thalassemia to produce a fetal form of human hemoglobin that can naturally compensate for the lack of adult hemoglobin in their body, reducing the severity of the disease. The researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing (!) to mutate cultured blood cells and observed a boost in production of fetal hemoglobin.
Dr. Crossley, UNSW deputy vice-chancellor academic, called the new approach a “forerunner to ‘organic gene therapy’ for a range of common inherited blood disorders including β-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.” No new DNA is introduced into the cells; CRISPR Cas9 engineers in naturally occurring, benign mutations and should therefore be a safe and effective therapy for patients.
References: https://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/crispr-use-could-lead-to-organic-gene-therapies-for-blood-disorders/81255649