Articles from October 2021



Alice, First All Electric Airplane with 9 Passengers On Board

Two years after unveiling, to much fanfare, a prototype for the first known all-electric airplane at the Paris Air Show in 2019, Israeli-American company Eviation Aircraft is preparing for the plane’s first test flight to usher in a “new age of aviation,” according to founder and CEO Omer Bar-Yohay.

The test flight for the aircraft, dubbed the Alice, was expected “before the end of the year” with the plane — now in its fifth iteration — in final assembly at Eviation headquarters in Arlington, Washington, just north of Seattle.

With nine passengers, Eviation says the Alice will have a top speed of 253 miles per hour (407 km/h) and a range of 440 nautical miles, which works out to about 506 miles (815 km). That means the plane should be able to easily make the trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco on a single charge. Anyone paying attention to electric vehicle announcements is probably used to outlandish power and range claims, but Alice’s numbers should actually be attainable. That’s because its high-density battery system uses currently available cells.  “Alice” can be flown by a single pilot and carry over 1,200 kgs (2,600 pounds) of cargo. The charging time per flight hour is approximately 30 minutes.

https://www.eviation.co/

New AI Algorithm Can Spot Unseen Heart Attack Symptoms

Researchers at Mount Sinai have created a new artificial intelligence algorithm that can identify slight changes within the heart and accurately predict an incoming heart attack symptoms or heart failure. The AI algorithm could learn how to identify subtle changes in electrocardiograms (also known as ECGs or EKGs) to predict whether a patient was experiencing heart failure.

Researchers implemented natural language processing programs to help the computer extract data from the written reports and enabling it to read over 700,000 electrocardiograms and echocardiogram reports obtained from 150,000 Mount Sinai Health System patients from 2003 to 2020. Data from four hospitals was used to train the computer, whereas data from a fifth one was used to test how the algorithm would perform in a different experimental setting.

“We showed that deep-learning algorithms can recognize blood pumping problems on both sides of the heart from ECG waveform data,” said Benjamin S. Glicksberg, PhD, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, a member of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Health at Mount Sinai, and a senior author of the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging. “Ordinarily, diagnosing these type of heart conditions requires expensive and time-consuming procedures. We hope that this algorithm will enable quicker diagnosis of heart failure.”

“However, recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence suggest that electrocardiograms—a widely used electrical recording device—could be a fast and readily available alternative in these cases. For instance, many studies have shown how a “deep-learning” algorithm can detect weakness in the heart’s left ventricle, which pushes freshly oxygenated blood out to the rest of the body. In this study, the researchers described the development of an algorithm that not only assessed the strength of the left ventricle but also the right ventricle, which takes deoxygenated blood streaming in from the body and pumps it to the lungs.”

Although appealing, traditionally it has been challenging for physicians to use ECGs to diagnose heart failure. This is partly because there is no established diagnostic criteria for these assessments and because some changes in ECG readouts are simply too subtle for the human eye to detect,” said Dr. Nadkarni. “This study represents an exciting step forward in finding information hidden within the ECG data which can lead to better screening and treatment paradigms using a relatively simple and widely available test.”

Source: https://www.mountsinai.org/

Apple Glasses Project a Screen Straight onto your Eyeballs

Why use a screen when you can project a signal into your eyesApple Glasses (quantglasses) rumor suggests the upcoming smart headset, or its successor, could project a screen directly onto your eyeballs, skipping traditional displays entirely.

That’s according to a new patent, which calls the tech a ‘direct retinal projector’ – like AppleInsider (who first noticed the patent), we’ll take the high road and avoid the obvious ‘retina display’ jokes.

The ‘direct retinal projector’ also tracks where you’re looking so that it can use mirrors to accurately reflect a light field – aka the content that would be displayed on a traditional screen – right into the wearer’s pupils. Yes, this sounds as intense to us as it does to you. The tech as described in the patent sounds like a complex arrangement of controllers, scanning mirrors, an ellipsoid mirror, and a projector, though the patent details plenty of configurations that could include other elements of the eventual design. Most importantly: these potential systems are for AR and/or VR, suggesting Apple is keeping both possibilities open for future Apple Glasses.

Perhaps the most important rumor we heard in 2021 is that noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts the Apple Glasses may arrive in the first half of 2022, finally ending our extended speculation on Apple’s biggest new product since the Apple Watch.

Source: https://www.techradar.com/

Nanoparticles Now Can Communicate With Cancer Cells

A multi-institutional research team has designed nanoparticles that can communicate with and slow the development of cancer cells. The work — detailed in a newly published paper in Advanced Materials — has uncovered a novel framework for the potential development of drug-free cancer therapies.

Led by scientists at the Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center, CUNY (CUNY ASRC), the research team was able to design nanoparticles that are activated to self-assemble when they encounter cancer cells and send messages to instruct the cells to slow their growth. Because the nanoparticles communicate only with the cancer cells, the surrounding healthy cells aren’t impacted.

Gold nanoparticle aggregates (red) are observed inside triple negative breast cancer cells after an enzyme-activated assembly and internalization process

Cancer cells take up materials from their environment, and they also secrete factors that help them degrade surrounding tissue in order to spread and metastasize,” said Richard Huang, lead author of the paper, a Ph.D. student at the Graduate Center, CUNY (GC CUNY), and a researcher with the CUNY ASRC Nanoscience Initiative and the Center for Discovery and Innovation at CUNY’s City College of New York (CCNY). “We made particles that respond to both of these characteristics by aggregating into clusters that are actively taken up by cancer cells. Once inside, they appear to be able to reduce the cancer cells’ metabolic activity and consequently reduce their growth.”

One reason the progression of cancer is difficult to control is that the cells secrete an abnormally large amount of the matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) enzyme, which breaks down the collagen that holds together healthy tissue. The research team was able to use this feature against the cancer cells. This is achieved by designing nanoparticles that when triggered by MMP-9, begin assembling to large aggregates in the cells’ vicinity. The cells engulf these aggregates, and their size causes physical distress to the cancer cells and reduces their ability to proliferate and survive.

One highlight of the study is that the researchers were able to use confocal reflection microscopy to visualize the nanoparticle aggregates inside the cancer cells in real-time. “This label-free, live imaging technique allowed us to have a closer look at when and where the aggregates were formed, and how the cancer cells respond to the particles at the sub-cellular level,” said Ye He, director of the Live Imaging and Bioenergetics Facility in the CUNY ASRC Neuroscience Initiative.

Through this research, we wanted to determine whether it’s possible to make use of relatively simple peptide design to create nanoparticles that could produce robust self-assembly in biological media and have an impact on cancer cells,” said Rein Ulijn, director of the CUNY ASRC Nanoscience Initiative and the study’s principal investigator. “While this is early-stage research, the findings provide exciting possibilities for a drug-free therapeutic treatment that could be extremely useful for cancer patients who have developed drug resistance and for extending the lives of people with metastatic cancer.”

Source: https://asrc.gc.cuny.edu/

How to Reset the Heart’s Electrical Activity in Seconds

Suffering with a dangerous, irregular heartbeat could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a grape-sized balloon that resets the organ’s electrical activity in seconds. The operation is set to be introduced in heart clinics across the country following widespread approval by NHS health chiefs, with specialists describing it as the ‘next frontier’ of heart treatment.

Roughly 1.4 million Britons suffer with an irregular heartbeat – or atrial fibrillation, as it is medically known – which happens when the nerves in the heart misfire. Over time it can lead to blood pooling and clotting inside the heart, which can trigger a life-threatening stroke, or cause debilitating palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness.

During the new treatment, called radiofrequency balloon ablation, a balloon fitted with ten electrodes is inserted through an artery in the groin and threaded up to the pulmonary veins – which carry oxygenated blood to the heart and where damaged nerves are usually found.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

How to Fires Up our Synapses

Processing of sensory impressions and information depends very much on how the synapses in our brain work. A team around chemist Robert Ahrends from the University of Vienna and neuroscientist Michael R. Kreutz from Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg now showed how lipid and protein regulation impact brain’s processing of a beautiful and stimulating environment. The lipids located in the membranes of the synapses are central to signal transmission, the researchers report in “Cell Reports“.

“We usually enjoy a beautiful environment, socializing, a cosy apartment, good restaurants, a park – all this inspires us,” says Robert Ahrends from the Institute of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Vienna and former group leader at ISAS in Dortmund. Previous studies have already shown that such an enriched environment can sometimes have a positive effect on child development or even on the human ability to regenerate, e.g. after a stroke, however the reason for these observations “was not yet clarified at the molecular level“.

Stimulating sensory perceptions are ultimately formed via the activity or regulation of synapses, i.e. those connecting units between our neurons that transfer information from one nerve cell to another. To clarify the underlying molecular principles, the researchers offered the rodents, their model organisms, an enriched environment based on plenty of room to move, a running wheel and other toys.

With the help of post-genomic analysis strategies (multiomics) and using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry and microscopy as well as bioinformatics for data analysis, they investigated the regulation of synapses in the hippocampus of the rodents, more precisely the interaction of the proteins and especially lipids (fats) located in the synaptic membranes.

80 percent of the brain cells are only supporting cells. We have therefore focused on the synapses as central sites of signal transmission and isolated them,” says neuroscientist Michael Kreutz. The team gathered quantitative and qualitative information about the network of molecules regulated at synapses and examined their lipid metabolism, also under the influence of an enriched environment.
The analyses revealed that 178 proteins and 20 lipids were significantly regulated depending on whether the rodents had spent time in an enriched environment or an uncomfortable one.

Source: https://chemie.univie.ac.at/

Machine-learning Accelerates Discovery of Materials for 3D Printing

The growing popularity of 3D printing for manufacturing all sorts of items, from customized medical devices to affordable homes, has created more demand for new 3D printing materials designed for very specific uses. To cut down on the time it takes to discover these new materials, researchers at MIT have developed a data-driven process that uses machine learning to optimize new 3D printing materials with multiple characteristics, like toughness and compression strength.

By streamlining materials development, the system lowers costs and lessens the environmental impact by reducing the amount of chemical waste. The machine learning algorithm could also spur innovation by suggesting unique chemical formulations that human intuition might miss.

Materials development is still very much a manual process. A chemist goes into a lab, mixes ingredients by hand, makes samples, tests them, and comes to a final formulation. But rather than having a chemist who can only do a couple of iterations over a span of days, our system can do hundreds of iterations over the same time span,” says Mike Foshey, a and project manager in the Computational Design and Fabrication Group (CDFG) of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and co-lead author of the paper.

Additional authors include co-lead author Timothy Erps, a technical associate in CDFG; Mina Konaković Luković, a CSAIL postdoc; Wan Shou, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas; senior author Wojciech Matusik, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT; and Hanns Hagen Geotzke, Herve Dietsch, and Klaus Stoll of BASF. The research was published today in Science Advances.

Source: https://phys.org/

How to Program DNA Robots

Scientists have worked out how to best get DNA to communicate with membranes in our body, paving the way for the creation of ‘mini biological computers’ in droplets that have potential uses in biosensing and mRNA vaccinesUNSW’s Dr Matthew Baker and the University of Sydney’s Dr Shelley Wickham co-led the study, published recently in Nucleic Acids Research.

It discovered the best way to design and build DNA ‘nanostructures’ to effectively manipulate synthetic liposomes tiny bubbles which have traditionally been used to deliver drugs for cancer and other diseases. By modifying the shape, porosity and reactivity of liposomes, there are far greater applications, such as building small molecular systems that sense their environment and respond to a signal to release a cargo, such as a drug molecule when it nears its target.

Lead author Dr Matt Baker from UNSW’s School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences says the study discovered how to buildlittle blocks” out of DNA and worked out how best to label these blocks with cholesterol to get them to stick to lipids, the main constituents of plant and animal cells.

The study discovered the best way to design and build DNA ‘nanostructures’ to effectively manipulate synthetic liposomes (pictured) – tiny bubbles which have traditionally been used to deliver drugs for cancer and other diseases

One major application of our study is biosensing: you could stick some droplets in a person or patient, as it moves through the body it records local environment, processes this and delivers a result so you can ‘read out’ the local environment,” Dr Baker says.

Liposome nanotechnology has shot into prominence with the use of liposomes alongside RNA vaccines such as the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. “This work shows new ways to corral liposomes into place and then pop them open at just the right time,” Dr Baker says. “What is better is because they are built from the bottom-up out of individual parts we design, we can easily bolt in and out different components to change the way they work.”

Source: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/

COVID: Valneva Reports Positive Results for their Phase3 Vaccine

French-Austrian laboratory Valneva announced their Covid candidate vaccine – currently completing phase 3 of clinical trial – showed “positive ropline results“.

The trial met its co-primary endpoints“, the press release reads while specifying the vaccine “demonstrated superiority against AZD1222 (AstraZeneca), in terms of geometric mean titer for neutralization antibodies, as well as non-inferiority in terms of seroconversion rates (SCR above 95% in both treatment groups) at two weeks after the second vaccination (i.e. Day 43) in adults aged 30 years and older.

The phase 3 of the trial has been performed in 4,012 people aged 18+ and the vaccine has been “generally well tolerated“: “The tolerability profile of VLA2001 was significantly more favorable compared to the active comparator vaccine.”

For the record, the vaccine relies on the inactivated virus” technology, the standard form of vaccines so far, like products developed by Sinovac and Sinopharm. “This is a much more traditional approach to vaccine manufacture than the vaccines so far deployed in the UK, Europe and North America and these results suggest this vaccine candidate is on track to play an important role in overcoming the pandemicAdam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol, Trial Chief Investigator, said.

This new vaccine could be licensuredas quickly as possible” to “propose an alternative vaccine solution for people who have not yet been vaccinated“, Thomas Lingelbach, Chief Executive Officer of Valneva, said. Furthermore, the laboratory announced they have “commenced rolling submission for initial approval with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency” as well as “preparing to commence rolling submission for conditional approval with the European Medicines Agency“.

Source: https://valneva.com/

China Has Made Astounding Progress on Hypersonic Weapons

China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise. Five people familiar with the test said the Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target.

The missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles, according to three people briefed on the intelligence. But two said the test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realised. The test has raised new questions about why the US often underestimated China’s military modernisation.

We have no idea how they did this,” said a fourth person.

The US, Russia and China are all developing hypersonic weapons, including glide vehicles that are launched into space on a rocket but orbit the earth under their own momentum. They fly at five times the speed of sound, slower than a ballistic missile. But they do not follow the fixed parabolic trajectory of a ballistic missile and are manoeuvrable, making them harder to track.

Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy who was unaware of the test, said a hypersonic glide vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead could help China “negateUS missile defence systems which are designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles. “Hypersonic glide vehicles . . . fly at lower trajectories and can manoeuvre in flight, which makes them hard to track and destroy,” said Fravel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

https://www.ft.com/