Last year, researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland announced plans to outfit a male patient with an artificial hand connected directly to the patient’s nervous system, enabling him to not only control the artificial hand, but to feel via touch signals embedded in the skin of the prosthetic.
Around the world, advancements in prosthetics are accelerating. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new artificial retina technology known as the Argus II that can restore partial sight to people suffering from a specific type of blindness known as retinitis pigmentosa.
Scientists at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles believe they are close to being able to restore a person’s memory capabilities with microchips inserted in the brain, while a San Diego-based company expects to be able to create a human liver via 3D printing technologies sometime in 2014.
(Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)
The University of Oregon has a remarkable specimen in its paleontology department: a rare fossil of a fish. In this case, Onchorynchus rasters, the distant ancestor of the salmon you might enjoy draped on sushi rice or served over wilted spinach. The fossil is five million years old. It is seven feet long. It is saber-toothed. And while these features must have made the proto-salmon quite terrifying in life, in death its remains are incredibly fragile. So much so that it’s hard for researchers to examine the specimen without damaging it. As for anyone else interacting with it? Out of the question.
Enter 3D printing.
[Image: University of Oregon]
Scientists discover enormous alien planetNBC News: Scientists have discovered a massive alien planet in the most distant orbit ever seen.The planet, which is 11 times larger than Jupiter, is fascinating scientists that study theories of planet formation. The most commonly accepted theory suggests planets orbiting close to their parent star begin as small bodies. Because this planet orbits its star at approximately 650 times the distance between the earth and sun, the theory does not explain its formation.The planet was found using a thermal infrared camera on the Magellan telescope in Chile.Follow more space news: http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/space/Photo: An artist’s conception of a young planet in a distant orbit around its host star. The star still harbors a debris disk, remnant material from star and planet formation, interior to the planet’s orbit. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)
Scientists have reached farther back than ever into the ancestry of humans to recover and analyze DNA, using a bone found in Spain that’s estimated to be 400,000 years old. So far, the achievement has provided more questions than answers about our ancient forerunners.
The feat surpasses the previous age record of about 100,000 years for genetic material recovered from members of the human evolutionary line. Older DNA has been mapped from animals.
Experts said the work shows that new techniques for working with ancient DNA may lead to more discoveries about human origins.
Photo: AP Photo/Madrid Scientific Films, Javier Trueba
The discovery marks the first time scientists have measured and compared profiles of water in atmospheres in detail across multiple alien worlds.
Earlier this year Zora Ball was your average 1st grader until she decided to create and develop a mobile video game app, making her the youngest person to ever do so. At just 7-years old Zora managed to learn a programming language called “Bootstrap” that is normally used to teach kids ages 12 through 16 the different concepts of Algebra by using video games. Her teachers and family were astonished by her accomplishment.She was invited to an expo at the University of Penn where she was put on the spot and asked to reconfigure the app in front of everyone to prove that it was her that developed the mobile app in the first place and not her older brother who is a scholar student. Zora successfully did so and got rid of any doubt that anyone had.Zora Ball is now referred to a young prodigy with an extremely bright future in technology and computer science. Young Zora is an example of Black Excellence not having an age requirement.Written By: @Champion_Us
Amputee Igor Spetic says the device can even produce the sensation of touching different textures, such as smooth metal, fluffy cotton balls, rough sandpaper, and soft hair.
Most neutrinos detected on Earth originate in Earth’s atmosphere or the sun making the discovery of an ‘alien’ neutrino very exciting.
People who went blind as a result of certain diseases or injuries may have renewed hope of seeing again thanks to a retinal implant developed with the help of Florida International University’s W. Kinzy Jones, a professor and researcher in the College of Engineering and Computing.
A tiny video camera mounted on special glasses captures the scene in the patient’s environment, and a pocket controller relays the captured video signal to the implant. Inspired by cochlear implants that can restore hearing to some deaf people, the retinal implant works by electrically stimulating nerve cells that normally carry visual input from the retina to the brain, and bypassing the lost retinal cells.
The Boston Retinal Implant Project, a highly-specialized, academically-based team of 30 researchers including Jones, was responsible for bringing the implant to light. The group is comprised of biologists and engineers from Harvard, Cornell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and others who are developing new technologies for the blind.
“Jones’ work was one the most important technological developments needed to make the device possible,” said Douglas Shire, engineering manager for the Boston Retinal Implant Project. “As a result, users of the retinal implant will be able to adjust the implant according to their needs.”
Jones has been working for years to advance the airtight sealed titanium housing and feed-through component that transfers the signals from the implanted microchip to the electrodes. His improvements in the density of that feed-through will greatly improve the quality of the image the person wearing the device will see.
The retinal implant was designed for people who lost vision due to injury to the eyes; progressive vision loss caused by eye disorders (also known as retinitis pigmentosa); or age-related macular degeneration, when the center of the retina that is responsible for central vision deteriorates. According to the National Institutes of Health, age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years old and older.
“The impact of this technology, which increases the available pixels that can be stimulated, will bring enhanced visual acuity to people with debilitating eye loss,” Jones said. “My mother had macular degeneration and I saw the quality of her life degrade as the disease progressed. Hopefully, when these devices are available for FDA approved use, total loss of eye sight from macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa will be a thing of the past within 10 to 15 years.”
Recently, a similar device that features 60 electrodes was approved for use in patients and has proven successful in allowing people who were blind to read words on a screen.
Shire explained that the device that the Boston Group is building with Jones’ help has more than 256 electrodes and therefore allows for images with a larger number of pixels, which is expected to give patients a meaningful visual experience.
UT Dallas researchers have demonstrated that treating tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, using vagus nerve stimulation-tone therapy is safe and brought significant improvement to some of the participants in a small clinical trial.
Drs. Sven Vanneste and Michael Kilgard of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences used a new method pairing vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) with auditory tones to alleviate the symptoms of chronic tinnitus. Their results were published on Nov. 20 in the journal Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface.
VNS is an FDA-approved method for treating various illnesses, including depression and epilepsy. It involves sending a mild electric pulse through the vagus nerve, which relays information about the state of the body to the brain.
“The primary goal of the study was to evaluate safety of VNS-tone therapy in tinnitus patients,” Vanneste said. “VNS-tone therapy was expected to be safe because it requires less than 1 percent of the VNS approved by the FDA for the treatment of intractable epilepsy and depression. There were no significant adverse events in our study.”
According to Vanneste, more than 12 million Americans have tinnitus severe enough to seek medical attention, of which 2 million are so disabled that they cannot function normally. He said there has been no consistently effective treatment.
The study, which took place in Antwerp, Belgium, involved implanting 10 tinnitus sufferers with a stimulation electrode directly on the vagus nerve. They received 2 ½ hours of daily treatment for 20 days. The participants had lived with tinnitus for at least a year prior to participating in the study, and showed no benefit from previous audiological, drug or neuromodulation treatments. Electrical pulses were generated from an external device for this study, but future work could involve using internal generators, eliminating the need for clinical visits.
Half of the participants demonstrated large decreases in their tinnitus symptoms, with three of them showing a 44-percent reduction in the impact of tinnitus on their daily lives. Four people demonstrated clinically meaningful reductions in the perceived loudness of their tinnitus by 26 decibels.
Five participants, all of whom were on medications for other problems, did not show significant changes. However, the four participants who benefited from the therapy were not using any medications. The report attributes drug interactions as blocking the effects of the VNS-tone therapy.
“In all, four of the 10 patients showed relevant decreases on tinnitus questionnaires and audiological measures,” Vanneste said. “The observation that these improvements were stable for more than two months after the end of the one month therapy is encouraging.”
New dinosaur discovered in Utah, scientists say
Scientists from Chicago’s Field Museum have discovered a new “top predator” dinosaur in a region of 100-million-year-old rock in Utah.
The 4-ton, 30-foot animal is a significant precursor to Tyrannosaurus rex and an important part of an emerging fossil record for the continent, the museum says.
DNA study suggests dogs originated in Europe
This large DNA study aligns with the earliest known doglike fossils, which also came from Europe. Other DNA studies have suggested that dogs originated in east Asia and the Middle East.
Scientists agree that dogs became the first domesticated animals after emerging from wolves.
Photo: This photo provided by the Center for American Archaeology on Nov. 12, 2013 shows canine bones buried at the Koster site in Greene County, Ill.(AP Photo/Center for American Archaeology, Del Baston)
Harry Potter is still the most invisible of all, though.
More than two decades ago, Ryan Vincent had open brain surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor, resulting in a lengthy hospital stay and weeks of recovery at home. Recently, neurosurgeons at Houston Methodist Hospital removed a different lesion from Vincent’s brain through a tube inserted into a hole smaller than a dime and he went home the next day.
Gavin Britz, MBBCh, MPH, FAANS, chairman of neurosurgery at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute, used a minimally-invasive technique to remove a vascular lesion from deep within the 44-year-old patient’s brain, the first to use this technique in the region. Traditionally, vascular lesions or brain tumors that are located deep within the brain can cause damage just by surgical removal.
“With this new approach, we can navigate through millions of important brain fibers and tracts to access deep areas of the brain where these benign tumors or hemorrhages are located with minimal injury to normal brain,” said Britz. “Ryan’s surgery took less than an hour.”
Houston Methodist neurosurgeons Britz and David Baskin, M.D., director of the Kenneth R. Peak Brain & Pituitary Tumor Center, are using this “six-pillar approach” that encompasses the latest technology in minimally-invasive surgeries — mapping of the brain; navigating the brain like a GPS system; safely accessing the brain and tumor/lesion; using high-end optics for visualization; successfully removing the tumor without disrupting tissues around it; and directed therapy using tissue collected for evaluation that can then be used for personalized treatments.
The new surgical technique is used to remove cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, lesions and cysts deep inside the brain. This approach reduces risks of damage to speech, memory, muscle strength, balance, vision, coordination and other function areas of the brain.