Monthly Archives: August 2018

Nanospheres Dissolve Clots In A Few Minutes

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a drug-delivery system that allows rapid response to heart attacks without surgical intervention. In laboratory and animal testing, the system proved to be effective at dissolving clots, limiting long-term scarring to heart tissue and preserving more of the heart’s normal function.

Our approach would allow health-care providers to begin treating heart attacks before a patient reaches a surgical suite, hopefully improving patient outcomes,” says Ashley Brown, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor in the Joint Biomedical Engineering Program (BME) at NC State and UNC. “And because we are able to target the blockage, we are able to use powerful drugs that may pose threats to other parts of the body; the targeting reduces the risk of unintended harms.”

Heart attacks, or myocardial infarctions, occur when a thrombus – or clotblocks a blood vessel in the heart. In order to treat heart attacks, doctors often perform surgery to introduce a catheter to the blood vessel, allowing them to physically break up or remove the thrombus. But not all patients have quick access to surgical care. And more damage can occur even after the blockage has been removed. That’s because the return of fresh blood to tissues that had been blocked off can cause damage of its own, called reperfusion injury. Reperfusion injury can cause scarring, stiffening cardiac tissue and limiting the heart’s normal functionality.

To address these problems, researchers have developed a solution that relies on porous nanogel spheres, about 250 nanometers in diameter, which target a thrombus and deliver a cocktail of two drugs: tPA and Y-27632.

In in vitro testing, the researchers found that the targeted tPA/Y-27632 cocktail dissolved clots in a matter of minutes. While this has yet to be tested in trials, it may work more quickly than surgical interventions, which require time to prep the patient and get the catheter in place. In tests using laboratory rats, the researchers also found that their technique limited scarring and preserved heart function after heart attack better than targeted tPA or Y-27632 by themselves – and far better than a control group in which animals received neither drug.

The paper was recently published in the journal ACS Nano. Trials on larger animals are now being planned.

Source: https://news.ncsu.edu/

Nanoparticles Destroy Dental Plaque, Prevent Tooth Decay

Combine a diet high in sugar with poor oral hygiene habits and dental cavities, or caries, will likely result. The sugar triggers the formation of an acidic biofilm, known as plaque, on the teeth, eroding the surface. Early childhood caries is a severe form of tooth decay that affects one in every four children in the United States and hundreds of millions more globally. It’s a particularly severe problem in underprivileged populations.

Treatment with a nanoparticle and hydrogen peroxide (right panel) left little in the way of bacteria (in blue) or the sticky biofilm matrix (in red), making the combination a potent force against dental plaque

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers led by Hyun (Michel) Koo of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in collaboration with David Cormode of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science used FDA-approved nanoparticles to effectively disrupt biofilms and prevent tooth decay in both an experimental human-plaque-like biofilm and in an animal model that mimics early-childhood caries. The nanoparticles break apart dental plaque through a unique pH-activated antibiofilm mechanism.

It displays an intriguing enzyme-like property whereby the catalytic activity is dramatically enhanced at acidic pH but is ‘switched off’ at neutral pH conditions,” says Koo, professor in Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Orthodontics. “The nanoparticles act as a peroxidase, activating hydrogen peroxide, a commonly used antiseptic, to generate free radicals that potently dismantle and kill biofilms in pathological acidic conditions but not at physiological pH, thus providing a targeted effect.”

Because the caries-causing plaque is highly acidic, the new therapy is able to precisely target areas of the teeth harboring pathogenic biofilms without harming the surrounding oral tissues or microbiota. The particular iron-containing nanoparticle used in the experiments, ferumoxytol, is already FDA-approved to treat iron-deficiency, a promising indication that a topical application of the same nanoparticle, used at several-hundred-fold lower concentration, would also be safe for human use.

Source: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/

Electronic Skin To Restore Sense Of Pain

Amputees often experience the sensation of a “phantom limb”—a feeling that a missing body part is still there. That sensory illusion is closer to becoming a reality thanks to a team of engineers at the Johns Hopkins University that has created an electronic skin. When layered on top of prosthetic hands, this e-dermis brings back a real sense of touch through the fingertips.

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After many years, I felt my hand, as if a hollow shell got filled with life again,” says the anonymous amputee who served as the team’s principal volunteer tester.

Made of fabric and rubber laced with sensors to mimic nerve endings, e-dermis recreates a sense of touch as well as pain by sensing stimuli and relaying the impulses back to the peripheral nerves.

We’ve made a sensor that goes over the fingertips of a prosthetic hand and acts like your own skin would,” explains Luke Osborn, a graduate student in biomedical engineering. “It’s inspired by what is happening in human biology, with receptors for both touch and pain“This is interesting and new,” Osborn adds, “because now we can have a prosthetic hand that is already on the market and fit it with an e-dermis that can tell the wearer whether he or she is picking up something that is round or whether it has sharp points.”

The work in the journal Science Robotics – shows it is possible to restore a range of natural, touch-based feelings to amputees who use prosthetic limbs. The ability to detect pain could be useful, for instance, not only in prosthetic hands but also in lower limb prostheses, alerting the user to potential damage to the device.

Human skin contains a complex network of receptors that relay a variety of sensations to the brain. This network provided a biological template for the research team, which includes members from the Johns Hopkins departments of Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Neurology, and from the Singapore Institute of Neurotechnology.

Bringing a more human touch to modern prosthetic designs is critical, especially when it comes to incorporating the ability to feel pain, Osborn states. “Pain is, of course, unpleasant, but it’s also an essential, protective sense of touch that is lacking in the prostheses that are currently available to amputees,” he says. “Advances in prosthesis designs and control mechanisms can aid an amputee’s ability to regain lost function, but they often lack meaningful, tactile feedback or perception.

Source: http://releases.jhu.edu/

Solar Powered Car

The Sion is the first electric car capable of recharging its batteries from the sun. From now on, you’ll have to worry about range a little less. For only 16.000 € excluding the battery (4000 euros or to rent). With the dynamic integration of solar cells in the body work, we set new measures on the road while convincing with an exceptional design concept. The full efficiency of the Sion is guaranteed by the lightweight design. The exterior is mainly made up of rust-proof polycarbonate. It further is scratch-resistant. The most unique feature in the body work are the solar cells, which are located on the roof, on both sides as on the hood and the rear.

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The cockpit  uses a very simple design, showing you how fast you are going and the charging level of your battery. On the left side you can see the number of kilometers generated through the viSono System. After 24 hours, these kilometers will be transferred to the right side, where they are added to the total range left. The Sion copes with the requirements of your daily life: A range of 250km, high power rapid charging, and a sophisticated interior concept with an optional trailer hitch.
The Sion is equipped with 330 integrated solar cells, which recharge the battery through the power of the sun. To protect them from harmful environmental influences the solar cells are covered with polycarbonate. It is shatterproof, light and particularly weather resistant. Under proper conditions the solar cells generate enough energy, to cover 30 kilometers per day with the Sion. This system is called  viSono. Thanks to the technology of bidirectional charging the Sion can not only generate but also provide energy. This feature turns the car into a mobile power station. Using a household plug, all common electronic devices with up to 2,7kW can be powered by the Sion. You can plug in your electronic devices and power them with the Sions battery. Over a type 2 plug the Sion can provide even more power with up to 7,6 kW.
For air filtering  a  special moss is integrated into the dashboard. It filters up to twenty percent of the fine dust particles and has a regulating effect on the humidity inside the Sion. No worries, you do not have to water it. It requires no special care at all.

3D-Printed Mars Habitat Competition

The lander seals to the ground to provide a protected, pressurised environment for the structure to be printed. Once complete, the lander would lift its legs to reveal the structure and move on to the next location to build another, creating a small series of rooms.

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AI spacefactory came in second place, presenting an egg-shaped structure, designed with a double shell to combat the aggressive thermal effects of mars. Like the zopherus habitat, the team envisions the marsha design to use materials sourced from mars including basalt fibre, extracted from martian rock, and renewable bioplastic (polylactic acid) derived from plants that could be grown on the planet.

Source: https://www.designboom.com/

Colorful 3D Printing

People are exploring the use of 3D printing for wide-ranging applications, including manufacturing, medical devices, fashion and even food. But one of the most efficient forms of 3D printing suffers from a major drawback: It can only print objects that are gray or black in color. Now, researchers have tweaked the method so it can print in all of the colors of the rainbow.

THIS BRIGHTLY COLORED DRAGON WAS PRODUCED BY 3D PRINTING, USING GOLD NANORODS AS PHOTOSENSITIZERS.

Selective laser sintering (SLS) printers use a laser to heat specific regions of a powdered material, typically nylon or polyamide, so that the powder melts or sinters to form a solid mass. The printer adds then selectively sinters new powdered material layer by layer until the desired 3D structure is obtained. To reduce the energy requirements of the process, researchers have added compounds called photosensitizers to the polymer powders. These materials, such as carbon nanotubes, carbon black and graphene, absorb light much more strongly than the polymers and transfer heat to them, enabling the use of cheaper, lower-power lasers. However, the carbon-based photosensitizers can only produce printed objects that are gray or black. Gerasimos Konstantatos, Romain Quidant and their coworkers at The Institute of Photonic Sciences (IFCO) wanted to find a photosensitizer that would enable color printing by the SLS method.

The researchers designed gold nanorods to strongly absorb in the near-infrared region of the spectrum while being almost transparent to visible light. They coated them with silica and then mixed them with polyamide powders to print 3D objects. They found that the gold nanorods were much better at converting light from the laser to heat than carbon black, the industry standard. Also, the new photosensitizers could produce much whiter and — when mixed with dyes — brightly colored 3D objects. Importantly, the materials are cost-effective for large-scale production. The researchers have filed several patent applications related to the new technology.

The findings are reported in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

Source: https://www.acs.org/

Electric Car Made Of Flax And Sugar

Noah is an electric city car with two comfortable seats and a spacious trunk, a top speed of 110 kilometers per hour and a range of 240 kilometers. The expected consumption in urban traffic is approximately equal to 300 kilometers to 1 liter of petrol. This is partly due to the low weight. Without batteries Noah weighs 360 kg, which is less than half that of comparable production cars. The car only needs 60 kilos of batteries, whereas regular electric cars need several hundreds kilos. The low total weight of 420 kg enables particularly good road holding. The prototype will soon be certified for use on public roads.

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TU/ecomotive is a student team of TU Eindhoven (Netherlands) that devises and builds a new sustainable car every year. The aim of this year was to show that it is possible to make a car that has a low environmental impact over its entire life cycle, without being Spartan.

A special aspect of Noah is the use of a bioplastic which can be made from sugar. The chassis and the interior are made of particularly strong sandwich panels, made of this bioplastic and flax fiber. The body is made of flax mats that are injected with a bio-based resin. These biological and particularly light materials require up to six times less energy to produce than the usual lightweight car materials such as aluminum or carbon. Still, the students claim that they have the necessary strength, and it is also possible to create a crumple-zone-like structure. Flax is a widely used intermediate crop that is essential to soil enrichment, so its cultivation does not compete with food production.

During the summer months, the team is visiting European car manufacturers, suppliers and universities, among others. The students have no plans to bring the car to market. “It’s about awareness,” says team member Cas Verstappen, a student of Automotive Technology at TU/e. “We want to show that a circular economy is already possible in complex products such as cars.” He does not expect similar cars to come onto the market immediately, but he sees the use of bioplastic panels in the structural parts and the interior as a real option. Not only because of their durability, but also because they are strong and light.

Source: https://www.tue.nl/

Red-Blood-Cell “Hitchhikers” Transport Drugs to Specific Targets

A new drug-delivery technology which uses red blood cells (RBCs) to shuttle nano-scale drug carriers, called RBC-hitchhiking (RH), has been found in animal models to dramatically increase the concentration of drugs ferried precisely to selected organs, according to a study published in Nature Communications this month by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. This proof-of-principle study points to ways to improve drug delivery for some of the nation’s biggest killers, such as acute lung disease, stroke, and heart attack.

The vast majority of drugs fail because they spread throughout the body, landing in nearby organs where they can cause intolerable side effects, as opposed to directly targeting the areas that are really in need,” said first author Jake Brenner, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care and of Pharmacology. “By massively increasing the drug concentrations that are hitting specific tissues, the RBC hitchhikers should decrease potential side effects and improve the efficacy of drugs delivered to target organs.”

The team showed that RH can safely transport nano-scale carriers of drugs to chosen organs by targeted placement of intravascular catheters, in mice, pigs, and in ex vivo human lungs, without causing RBC or organ toxicities.

Red blood cells are a particularly attractive carrier due to their biocompatibility and known safety in transfusions,” said senior author Vladimir Muzykantov, MD, PhD, a professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics. “In just a few short years since we began this work, we are now on the brink of mapping out ways to test it in clinical trials.”

The researchers found that RH drug carriers injected intravenously increased drug uptake by about 40-fold in the lungs compared to absorption of freely circulating drug carriers in blood. In addition, injecting the RH drug carriers into the carotid artery (a major blood vessel in the neck that delivers blood to the brain, neck, and face) delivers 10 percent of the injected dose to the brain, which is about 10 times higher than what is achieved through older methods such using antibodies to guide drugs to their intended targets. Such impressive drug delivery to the brain could be used to treat acute strokes, the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Development of RH technology has also revealed a potentially fundamental process that hold enormous clinical promise. “The body’s largest surface area of cell-to-cell interaction is observed between red blood cells and blood vessel linings, so it is intriguing to think that our RH technology has uncovered a phenomenon in which RBCs naturally transport cargo on their surfaces,” said Muzykantov.

Source: https://www.pennmedicine.org/

Breakthrough In The Fight Against Alzheimer’s

Eisai Co.,  a company located in Tokyo, and Biogen Inc. in Cambridge, United States, announced positive topline results from the Phase II study with BAN2401, an anti-amyloid beta protofibril antibody, in 856 patients with early Alzheimer’s disease. The study achieved statistical significance on key predefined endpoints evaluating efficacy at 18 months on slowing progression in Alzheimer’s Disease Composite Score (ADCOMS) and on reduction of amyloid accumulated in the brain as measured using amyloid-PET (positron emission tomography).

Study 201  is a placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel-group, randomized study in 856 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or mild Alzheimer’s dementia (collectively known as early Alzheimer’s disease) with confirmed amyloid pathology in the brain. Efficacy was evaluated at 18 months by predefined conventional statistics on ADCOMS, which combines items from the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scalecognitive subscale (ADAS-Cog), the Clinical Dementia Rating Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB) scale and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) to enable sensitive detection of changes in early AD symptoms. Patients were randomized to five dose regimens, 2.5 mg/kg biweekly, 5 mg/kg monthly, 5 mg/kg biweekly, 10 mg/kg monthly and 10 mg/kg biweekly, or placebo.

Topline results of the final analysis of the study demonstrated a statistically significant slowing of disease progression on the key clinical endpoint (ADCOMS) after 18 months of treatment in patients receiving the highest treatment dose (10 mg/kg biweekly) as compared to placebo. Results of amyloid PET analyses at 18 months, including reduction in amyloid PET standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR) and amyloid PET image visual read of subjects converting from positive to negative for amyloid in the brain, were also statistically significant at this dose. Dose-dependent changes from baseline were observed across the PET results and the clinical endpoints. Further, the highest treatment dose of BAN2401 began to show statistically significant clinical benefit as measured by ADCOMS as early as 6 months including at 12 months.

Source: https://www.eisai.com/

Electric Car: How To Make Super-Fast Charging Batteries

Researchers have identified a group of materials that could be used to make even higher power batteries. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, used materials with a complex crystalline structure and found that lithium ions move through them at rates that far exceed those of typical electrode materials, which equates to a much faster-charging battery. Although these materials, known as niobium tungsten oxides, do not result in higher energy densities when used under typical cycling rates, they come into their own for fast charging applications. Additionally, their physical structure and chemical behaviour give researchers a valuable insight into how a safe, super-fast charging battery could be constructed, and suggest that the solution to next-generation batteries may come from unconventional materials.

Many of the technologies we use every day have been getting smaller, faster and cheaper each year – with the notable exception of batteries. Apart from the possibility of a smartphone which could be fully charged in minutes, the challenges associated with making a better battery are holding back the widespread adoption of two major clean technologies: electric cars and grid-scale storage for solar power.

We’re always looking for materials with high-rate battery performance, which would result in a much faster charge and could also deliver high power output,” said Dr Kent Griffith, a postdoctoral researcher in Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry and the paper’s first author.

In their simplest form, batteries are made of three components: a positive electrode, a negative electrode and an electrolyte. When a battery is charging, lithium ions are extracted from the positive electrode and move through the crystal structure and electrolyte to the negative electrode, where they are stored. The faster this process occurs, the faster the battery can be charged. In the search for new electrode materials, researchers normally try to make the particles smaller. “The idea is that if you make the distance the lithium ions have to travel shorter, it should give you higher rate performance,” said Griffith. “But it’s difficult to make a practical battery with nanoparticles: you get a lot more unwanted chemical reactions with the electrolyte, so the battery doesn’t last as long, plus it’s expensive to make.

Nanoparticles can be tricky to make, which is why we’re searching for materials that inherently have the properties we’re looking for even when they are used as comparatively large micron-sized particles. This means that you don’t have to go through a complicated process to make them, which keeps costs low,” explained Professor Clare Grey, also from the Department of Chemistry and the paper’s senior author. “Nanoparticles are also challenging to work with on a practical level, as they tend to be quite ‘fluffy’, so it’s difficult to pack them tightly together, which is key for a battery’s volumetric energy density.”

The results are reported in the journal Nature.

Source: https://www.cam.ac.uk/