Stem Cell Breakthrough Puts Type 1 Diabetes Cure In Reach

By Carl Engelking | October 10, 2014 1:35 pm

diabetes

Harvard scientists have announced a breakthrough that could eventually allow millions of diabetics to shed the yoke of daily insulin injections.

It took over 15 years of trial and error, but researcher Douglas Melton and his team have discovered a method to transform human embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells which can then be injected into the pancreas. The discovery has generated a new wave of momentum in the field, with research labs across the country already working to replicate and build upon Melton’s results. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

This Machine Gun Folds and Shoots Paper Airplanes

By Carl Engelking | October 9, 2014 3:54 pm

The art of disrupting social studies class just went high-tech.

A man in Germany has invented the world’s (unofficial) first paper airplane machine gun. This shotgun-sized apparatus is every study hall supervisor’s nightmare. The gun self-folds each sheet of paper and launches the resultant paper airplanes into the air with assembly line efficiency.

paper-airplane

(Screenshot from YouTube)

The man’s wordless airplane-shooting demonstration in this video makes sure all the attention is devoted to the beauty of his invention. According to the video’s description, the gun was assembled using 3-D printed parts and is powered by a cordless drill.

If this paper airplane gun ever goes on sale, we preemptively offer our sympathies to the substitute teachers out there.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: gadgets

Bionic Eye Restores Partial Vision to Blind Man

By Carl Engelking | October 9, 2014 3:07 pm
bionic eye duke

Larry Hester and Paul Hahn, MD, prepare for the first test run with the new bionic eye. (Photo Credit: Shawn Rocco at Duke Medicine)

People diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease are seeing a new future thanks to bionic eye technology.

For decades, Larry Hester adjusted to life without vision after retinitis pigmentosa caused the photoreceptor cells in his eyes to gradually die off. But this week, Hester’s sight was partially restored following surgery that transformed his eye into a bionic eye. He’s now the seventh person to undergo this FDA-approved procedure.

Hester received the device in September, but he tested his bionic eye for the first time yesterday — as captured in the video below:

Bionic Vision

The device Hester uses to see is called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis system, which the FDA approved for use in patients with advanced retinitis pigmentosa last year. The disease affects about 100,000 people in the United States, and roughly 10,000 individuals’ vision has deteriorated to a level that makes them eligible for the procedure.

The device uses a camera that’s mounted on a pair of Rec-Spec-like glasses, which feeds visual data to a processor clipped on a belt. The processor converts visual data into a signal that’s wirelessly beamed to electrodes embedded in the eye. The electrodes bypass damaged retinal cells and activate healthy photoreceptor cells in the eye, which finally send visual feedback along the optical nerve and into the brain.

The device isn’t meant to restore 20/20 vision. Rather, wearers can interpret the intensity of light, and see shapes like curbs and crosswalk lines. The operation, including rehabilitation, costs roughly $200,000.

Saving the Senses

The bionic eye is just one of several ways technology is augmenting our senses. In February, scientists announced they had built a prosthetic hand that restored the sense of touch to its wearer. New gadgets are also allowing people to “see” with their ears, hands and tongue through sensory substitution. Gene therapy is also increasing the effectiveness of cochlear implants for the deaf.

Taken together, these efforts are proof that the “bionic human” is no longer a thing of the future. Rather, scientists are now asking, how can we make the bionic person better?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Baby Born From Transplanted Uterus Is World’s First

By Carl Engelking | October 8, 2014 1:07 pm

transplant

A uterus transplant isn’t a life-saving procedure like, say, a heart transplant, but now doctors have proven it can certainly be life-giving.

Last week, a 36-year-old woman in Sweden successfully gave birth to a baby boy less than two years after receiving a uterus transplant. It’s the world’s first baby born from a transplanted uterus, an advance which could break down barriers for many couples hoping to start a family.   Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: sex & reproduction

Prehistoric Cave Art Discovered in the Tropics

By Bethany Hubbard | October 8, 2014 12:00 pm
hand stencil cave art

Hand stencils. Credit: Kinez Riza

Humans are intrinsically artists. Cave paintings and hand-carved figurines found in France, Spain and Italy suggest that Homo sapiens were crafting 35-40 thousand years ago. But, up to now scientists have been puzzled by the lack of equally old art in South Asia and the Far East, where humans dwelled at the same time as their artistic European counterparts.

Now the mystery has been put to rest. Archaeologists have recently determined that a series of stencils and paintings in prehistoric caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are some of the oldest in the world, dating back nearly 40,000 years.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: human origins

Genetics Explains Why You Drink So Much Coffee

By Carl Engelking | October 7, 2014 1:19 pm

coffee-drinker

If your favorite order at Starbucks is the “red-eye,” you can thank genetics for your ability to slog down all that caffeine without the shakes.

In a new study, scientists identified eight genetic variants that could partly explain why some people drink coffee by the pot, while others avoid the stimulating beverage altogether. By outlining the genetic foundation for coffee consumption, scientists believe they can find firmer evidence to support the positive — and negative — health effects of the popular beverage.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: genes & health

Meet Madagascar’s Newly Discovered Huge Rhombus Frog

By Brad Balukjian | October 7, 2014 11:57 am
Rhombophryne vaventy. Image courtesy Frank Glaw

Rhombophryne vaventy. Image courtesy Frank Glaw

Forget Six Flags — Madagascar’s Marojejy Massif is the planet’s real Magic Mountain. Located in one of the country’s poorest economic regions but among the richest in biodiversity, 2,000 species of flowering plants and nearly 300 species of frogs call the mountain’s steep rainforest terrain home.

And now, thanks to a recent discovery, it is also home to a frog that’s brand new to science: Rhombophryne vaventy, or the huge rhombus frog.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

Up For Adoption: 145 Yellowstone Bison

By Carl Engelking | October 6, 2014 3:28 pm

bison

Shaggy, hunchbacked bison are the quintessential symbol of the Great Plains, and now Yellowstone National Park is looking to give away 145 of these uniquely American buffaloes under a plan released last week.

This small group of bison is a success story in wildlife managers’ efforts to control the spread of brucellosis, a bacterial disease carried by roughly 50 percent of Yellowstone’s bison. The 145 animals are the fruits of an experiment started a decade ago to quarantine a handful of the thundering beasts in order to build small, disease-free herds. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

Fly Babies Inherit Traits From Semen of Mom’s Past Lovers

By Carl Engelking | October 2, 2014 1:48 pm
nerelid fly

Nerelid fly exes have effects on the next generation. Credit: Russell Bonduriansky

For flies at least, a sexual fling in their youth can come back to haunt them, even if they’ve found a new mate.

It turns out, ex-lovers have a lasting impact in the world of nerelid flies: A female fly’s offspring can physically resemble a previous mate that is not their genetic father. Scientists believe this represents a new form of non-genetic inheritance. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: insects, reproduction

In Older Adults, Poor Sense of Smell Could Signal Sooner Death

By Ben Thomas | October 1, 2014 1:02 pm

smell
We all know the prototypical signs of aging: slower reaction times, loss of flexibility, balance problems. But, according to a new study, an unlikely signal may be more reliable than any of those in predicting how close we are to the end of our lives: a diminished sense of smell.

Researchers found that older people’s ability to discern common scents reliably predicted whether they’d be alive five years later – serving as a “canary in the coal mine” for underlying health issues.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: aging, Senses
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