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Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Kindhearted Techies 3D Print Prosthetics for Ducks With Disabilities

Thanks to a few thoughtful individuals and a 3D printer, Dudley the duck has a new lease on life. Still a duckling, Dudley and his siblings were placed in a cage at an animal shelter with some aggressive chickens. In a fight that left his siblings dead, Dudley’s leg was seriously injured and had to be amputated. The shelter’s owner, Brandon Schweitser, coaches jiu jitsu on the side. One of his students, Terence Loring, runs a 3D design company called 3D Pillar. Schweitser asked Loring whether he might design a new leg for Dudley.

Simple Method for Creating Stem Cells Promises Cheaper, Faster Therapies

New research has found a way to develop the malleable stem cells using a much simpler method than the one that earned the 2012 Nobel Prize. In a paper published in Nature, researchers from Harvard University and Japan’s RIKEN Center show that by simply giving an adult cell an acid bath, they can convert it into a stem cell.

Google’s AI Acquisition Blurs Lines Between Futuristic Visions and Business-as-Usual

Google continued a spree of recent acquisitions earlier this week with its £400-million acquisition of the London-based artificial intelligence company, DeepMind. There’s no doubt about it: Google is expanding its view of software’s role in the world, venturing into self-driving cars, humanoid robots and health care. But its DeepMind acquisition is, in many ways, just more business as usual.

New Inexpensive Skin Test in Development to Diagnose Malaria in an Instant

Efforts to devise better, cheaper tests are nothing new, but Rice University researcher Dmitri Lapotko has developed the first bloodless, instant test for the disease. According to a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lapotko's test is accurate enough to detect a single infected red blood cell in 800 with no false positives.

uArm, A Mini Robotic Arm You Can Assemble and Control

The world has long had robots. Lots of them. Robotic arms live in factories, tirelessly assembling heavy things, cutting through metal (like butter)—and generally doing some pretty dangerous and crucial work. Robotic arms are pretty amazing. And now you can assemble and mount your very own robotic arm on your desk, nightstand, or kitchen counter for a Kickstarter pledge of $185.

DNA Origami to Nanomachines: Building Tiny Robots for the Body and Beyond

In 2008, Paul Rothemund gave a TED talk on a field he called DNA origami, or the creation of microscopic shapes and forms from DNA. As it turns out, Rothemund said, DNA is an ideal nanoscale building material. Life’s operating system codes for self-replicating, computing machines called cells. If we want to build our own molecular machines—why reinvent the wheel? Today’s researchers attach short strands of DNA to key points along a longer strand. Base pairs of the shorter strands adhere like pieces of tape at various points along the long strand, thus bending the long strand into shape. These include nanoscale tiles, spheres, polyhedrons, even smiley faces.

Gene Therapy Improves Sight in UK Patients

In a recent Oxford trial reported in The Lancet, doctors restored sight to patients with choroideremia, a rare inherited cause of blindness that affects about 1 in 50,000 people, with a surgery that involved temporarily detaching the retina to inject mutation-free genes behind it. Of nine patients who underwent the experimental procedure, the two with the most impaired vision could read 2 – 4 additional lines on an eye chart six months later. Four patients whose eyesight was initially only marginally impaired had their night vision improve after treatment.

Wireless Brain Implant Aims To Give Paralyzed Power Over Their Limbs

BrainGate, a program that pools research from several universities, is moving ever closer to giving paralyzed patients use of their limbs by using technology developed to drive computerized prosthetics to drive the paralyzed limbs. The team is developing a system in which a patient’s mental signal to move an arm is recorded, filtered through a computer and sent as a command to an electric stimulation device that activates the patient’s muscles.

Gene Therapy Helps Parkinson’s Patients, But Is It Simply A Placebo?

Even with promising results in humans paired with dramatic results in earlier tests in primates, a gene therapy treating Parkinson's disease, first developed in 1997, is heading back to the drawing board. Here's why.

MIT’s Tangible Media Group Gives Digital Bits Physical Form

MIT’s Daniel Leithinger sits in front of a screen displaying video of a red ball on a table. Leithinger raises up his hands and a field of columns erupts from the table, forming a pixellated physical model of his hands in real time. Leithinger’s hands have been digitally transported from one room to another and physically re-manifested using a “tangible user interface.” He can pass the ball from one hand to the other or manipulate objects without being physically present.

Amid a Debate That’s Hot As Ever, General Mills Says No GMOs in Its Cold Cheerios

General Mills recently announced they’ll make one their most recognizable breakfast cereals, Cheerios, free of genetically modified ingredients. The controversy surrounding GMOs is, of course, closely related to many of the technologies we cover at Singularity Hub. Fear of genetically modified crops may only be the tip of the iceberg, as biotech moves into the more fraught territory of genetic engineering and therapies in animals and eventually humans.

Sight, Sound Out of Sync in Kids With Autism Says Study

A recent Vanderbilt University offers neurological findings that can help account for autism's seemingly disparate symptoms. The study found that children with autism have a broader window of time than normal children during which their brains process two distinct sensory stimuli as aspects of the same event. The window exists to allow the brain to connect stimuli, for example the sound of the sight of the same action, arriving at slightly different times. In autistic children, that window is much longer, leaving room for confusion.

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