Google Launches a Dermatology AI App in EU

Billions of times each year, people turn to Google’s web search box for help figuring out what’s wrong with their skin. Now, Google is preparing to launch an app that uses image recognition algorithms to provide more expert and personalized help. A brief demo at the company’s developer conference last month showed the service suggesting several possible skin conditions based on uploaded photos.

Machines have matched or outperformed expert dermatologists in studies in which algorithms and doctors scrutinize images from past patients. But there’s little evidence from clinical trials deploying such technology, and no AI image analysis tools are approved for dermatologists to use in the US, says Roxana Daneshjou, a Stanford dermatologist and researcher in machine learning and health.

Many don’t pan out in the real world setting,” she says.

Google’s new app isn’t clinically validated yet either, but the company’s AI prowess and recent buildup of its health care division make its AI dermatology app notable. Still, the skin service will start small—and far from its home turf and largest market in the US. The service is not likely to analyze American skin blemishes any time soon.

At the developer conference, Google’s chief health officer, Karen DeSalvo, said the company aims to launch what it calls a dermatology assist tool in the European Union as soon as the end of this year. A video of the app suggesting that a mark on someone’s arm could be a mole featured a caption saying it was an approved medical device in the EU. The same note added a caveat: “Not available in the US.”

Google says its skin app has been approved “CE marked as a Class I medical device in the EU,” meaning it can be sold in the bloc and other countries recognizing that standard. The company would have faced relatively few hurdles to secure that clearance, says Hugh Harvey, managing director at Hardian Health, a digital health consultancy in the UK. “You essentially fill in a form and self-certify,” he says. Google’s conference last month took place a week before tighter EU rules took effect that Harvey says require many health apps, likely including Google’s, to show that an app is effective, among other things. Preexisting apps have until 2025 to comply with the new rules.

Source: https://www.wired.com/

Skin and Bones Repaired by Bioprinting

Fixing traumatic injuries to the skin and bones of the face and skull is difficult because of the many layers of different types of tissues involved, but now, researchers have repaired such defects in a rat model using bioprinting during surgery, and their work may lead to faster and better methods of healing skin and bones.

Schematic of the skin and bone bioprinting process. After scanning, the bone and then skin layers are bioprinted creating a layered repair with bone, a barrier layer, and dermis and epidermis

This work is clinically significant,” said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery, Penn State. “Dealing with composite defects, fixing hard and soft tissues at once, is difficult. And for the craniofacial area, the results have to be esthetically pleasing.

Currently, fixing a hole in the skull involving both bone and soft tissue requires  using bone from another part of the patient’s body or a cadaver. The bone must be covered by soft tissue with blood flow, also harvested from somewhere else, or the bone will die. Then surgeons need to repair the soft tissue and skin. Ozbolat and his team used extrusion bioprinting and droplet bioprinting of mixtures of cells and carrier materials to print both bone and soft tissueThere is no surgical method for repairing soft and hard tissue at once,” said Ozbolat. “This is why we aimed to demonstrate a technology where we can reconstruct the whole defect — bone to epidermis — at once.”

The researchers attacked the problem of bone replacement first, beginning in the laboratory and moving to an animal model. They needed something that was printable and nontoxic and could repair a 5-millimeter hole in the skull. The “hard tissue ink” consisted of collagen, chitosan, nano-hydroxyapatite and other compounds and mesenchymal stem cells — multipotent cells found in bone marrow that create bone, cartilage and bone marrow fat. The hard tissue ink extrudes at room temperature but heats up to body temperature when applied. This creates physical cross-linkage of the collagen and other portions of the ink without any chemical changes or the necessity of a crosslinker additive.

The researchers used droplet printing to create the soft tissue with thinner layers than the bone. They used collagen and fibrinogen in alternating layers with crosslinking and growth enhancing compounds. Each layer of skin including the epidermis and dermis differs, so the bioprinted soft tissue layers differed in composition. Experiments repairing 6 mm holes in full thickness skin proved successful. Once the team understood skin and bone separately, they moved on to repairing both during the same surgical procedure. “This approach was an extremely challenging process and we actually spent a lot of time finding the right material for bone, skin and the right bioprinting techniques,” said Ozbolat.

The scientists have reported their results in Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: https://news.psu.edu/

How To Reverse Diabetes

Using induced pluripotent stem cells produced from the skin of a patient with a rare, genetic form of insulin-dependent diabetes called Wolfram syndrome, researchers transformed the human stem cells into insulin-producing cells and used the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to correct a genetic defect that had caused the syndrome. They then implanted the cells into lab mice and cured the unrelenting diabetes in those mice.

The findings, from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, suggest the CRISPR-Cas9 technique may hold promise as a treatment for diabetes, particularly the forms caused by a single gene mutation, and it also may be useful one day in some patients with the more common forms of diabetes, such as type 1 and type 2.

Wolfram syndrome is caused by mutations to a single gene, providing the researchers an opportunity to determine whether combining stem cell technology with CRISPR to correct the genetic error also might correct the diabetes caused by the mutation. Patients with Wolfram syndrome develop diabetes during childhood or adolescence and quickly require insulin-replacement therapy, requiring insulin injections multiple times each day. Most go on to develop problems with vision and balance, as well as other issues, and in many patients, the syndrome contributes to an early death.

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Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have transformed stem cells into insulin-producing cells. They used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to correct a defect that caused a form of diabetes, and implanted the cells into mice to reverse diabetes in the animals. Shown is a microscopic image of insulin-secreting beta cells (insulin is green) that were made from stem cells produced from the skin of a patient with Wolfram syndrome.

This is the first time CRISPR has been used to fix a patient’s diabetes-causing genetic defect and successfully reverse diabetes,” said co-senior investigator Jeffrey R. Millman, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine and of biomedical engineering at Washington University. “For this study, we used cells from a patient with Wolfram syndrome because, conceptually, we knew it would be easier to correct a defect caused by a single gene. But we see this as a stepping stone toward applying gene therapy to a broader population of patients with diabetes.

The study is published online in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: https://medicine.wustl.edu/

Electrified Tattoos and Personalized Biosensors

Electrical engineers at Duke University have devised a fully print-in-place technique for electronics that is gentle enough to work on delicate surfaces including paper and human skin. The advance could enable technologies such as high-adhesion, embedded electronic tattoos and bandages tricked out with patient-specific biosensors.

Two electronically active leads directly printed along the underside of Duke graduate student Nick Williams’s pinky successfully light up an LED when a voltage is applied

When people hear the term ‘printed electronics,’ the expectation is that a person loads a substrate and the designs for an electronic circuit into a printer and, some reasonable time later, removes a fully functional electronic circuit,” said Aaron Franklin, Associate Professor at Duke.

“Over the years there have been a slew of research papers promising these kinds of ‘fully printed electronics,’ but the reality is that the process actually involves taking the sample out multiple times to bake it, wash it or spin-coat materials onto it,” Franklin said. “Ours is the first where the reality matches the public perception.

The concept of so-called electronic tattoos were first developed in the late 2000s at the University of Illinois by John A. Rogers, who is now Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. Rather than a true tattoo that is injected permanently into the skin, Rogers’s electronic tattoos are thin, flexible patches of rubber that contain equally flexible electrical components.

The thin film sticks to skin much like a temporary tattoo, and early versions of the flexible electronics were made to contain heart and brain activity monitors and muscle stimulators. While these types of devices are on their way to commercialization and large-scale manufacturing, there are some arenas in which they’re not well suited, such as when direct modification of a surface by adding custom electronics is needed. “For direct or additive printing to ever really be useful, you’re going to need to be able to print the entirety of whatever you’re printing in one step,” said Franklin. “Some of the more exotic applications include intimately connected electronic tattoos that could be used for biological tagging or unique detection mechanisms, rapid prototyping for on-the-fly custom electronics, and paper-based diagnostics that could be integrated readily into customized bandages.”

The techniques are described in a series of papers published in the journal Nanoscale and in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: https://pratt.duke.edu/

Mimicking Polar Bear To Design An Heat Insulator

For polar bears, the insulation provided by their fat, skin, and fur is a matter of survival in the frigid Arctic. For engineers, polar bear hair is a dream template for synthetic materials that might lock in heat just as well as the natural version. Now, materials scientists in China have developed such an insulator, reproducing the structure of individual polar bear hairs while scaling toward a material composed of many hairs for real-world applications in the architecture and aerospace sectors.

Polar bear hair has been evolutionarily optimized to help prevent heat loss in cold and humid conditions, which makes it an excellent model for a synthetic heat insulator,” says co-senior author Shu-Hong Yu, a professor of chemistry at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). “By making tube aerogel out of carbon tubes, we can design an analogous elastic and lightweight material that traps heat without degrading noticeably over its lifetime.”

Unlike the hairs of humans or other mammals, polar bear hairs are hollow. Zoomed in under a microscope, each one has a long, cylindrical core punched straight through its center. The shapes and spacing of these cavities have long been known to be responsible for their distinctive white coats. But they also are the source of remarkable heat-holding capacity, water resistance, and stretchiness, all desirable properties to imitate in a thermal insulator.

The hollow centers limit the movement of heat and also make the individual hairs lightweight, which is one of the most outstanding advantages in materials science,” says Jian-Wei Liu, an associate professor at USTC. To emulate this structure and scale it to a practical size, the research team—additionally co-led by Yong Ni, a mechanical engineering professor at USTCmanufactured millions of hollowed-out carbon tubes, each equivalent to a single strand of hair, and wound them into a spaghetti-like aerogel block.

The findings appeared in the journal Chem.

Source: https://en.ustc.edu.cn/

Optical Circuits Up To 100 Times Faster Than Electronic Circuits

Optical circuits are set to revolutionize the performance of many devices. Not only are they 10 to 100 times faster than electronic circuits, but they also consume a lot less power. Within these circuits, light waves are controlled by extremely thin surfaces called metasurfaces that concentrate the waves and guide them as needed. The metasurfaces contain regularly spaced nanoparticles that can modulate electromagnetic waves over sub-micrometer wavelength scales.

Metasurfaces could enable engineers to make flexible and ultra-thin optics for a host of applications, ranging from flexible tablet computers to solar panels with enhanced light-absorption characteristics. They could also be used to create flexible sensors for direct placement on a patient’s skin, for example, in order to measure things like pulse and blood pressure or to detect specific chemical compounds.

The catch is that creating metasurfaces using the conventional method, lithography, is a fastidious process that takes several hours and must be done in a cleanroom. But EPFL engineers from the Laboratory of Photonic Materials and Fiber Devices (FIMAP) in Switzerland have now developed a simple method for making them in just a few minutes at low temperatures—or sometimes even at room temperature—with no need for a cleanroom. The EPFL‘s School of Engineering method produces dielectric glass metasurfaces that can be either rigid or flexible. The results of their research appear in Nature Nanotechnology.

The new method employs a natural process already used in : dewetting. This occurs when a thin film of material is deposited on a substrate and then heated. The heat causes the film to retract and break apart into tiny nanoparticles.

Dewetting is seen as a problem in manufacturing—but we decided to use it to our advantage,” says Fabien Sorin, the study’s lead author and the head of FIMAP.

With their method, the engineers were able to create dielectric glass metasurfaces, rather than metallic metasurfaces, for the first time. The advantage of dielectric metasurfaces is that they absorb very little light and have a high refractive index, making it possible to modulate the light that propagates through them.

Source: https://phys.org/

A Wearable Device For Regrowing Hair

Although some people embrace the saying “bald is beautiful,” for others, alopecia, or excessive hair loss, can cause stress and anxiety. Some studies have shown that stimulating the skin with lasers can help regrow hair, but the equipment is often large, consumes lots of energy and is difficult to use in daily life. Now, researchers have developed a flexible, wearable photostimulator that speeds up hair growth in mice. 

Affecting millions of men and women worldwide, alopecia has several known causes, including heredity, stress, aging and elevated male hormones. Common treatments include medications, such as minoxidil, corticosteroid injections and hair transplant surgery. In addition, irradiating the bald area with a red laser can stimulate hair follicles, causing cells to proliferate. However, this treatment is often impractical for home use. So, Keon Jae Lee and colleagues wanted to develop a flexible, durable photostimulator that could be worn on human skin.

Shaved mice with flexible vertical LEDs (f-VLEDs) regrows hair faster than no treatment (Con) or minoxidil injections (MNX)

The team fabricated an ultrathin array of flexible vertical micro-light-emitting diodes (mLEDs). The array consisted of 900 red mLEDs on a chip slightly smaller than a postage stamp and only 20 mm thick. The device used almost 1,000 times less power per unit area than a conventional phototherapeutic laser, and it did not heat up enough to cause thermal damage to human skin. The array was sturdy and flexible, enduring up to 10,000 cycles of bending and unbending. The researchers tested the device’s ability to regrow hair on mice with shaved backs. Compared with untreated mice or those receiving minoxidil injections, the mice treated with the mLED patch for 15 minutes a day for 20 days showed significantly faster hair growth, a wider regrowth area and longer hairs.

The findings are reported in ACS Nano.

Source: https://www.acs.org/