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November 2006

3-D Ultrasound Scanner Could Guide Robotic Surgeries

3-D Ultrasound Scanner Could Guide Robotic Surgeries

Developed by Pratt School engineers, the new scanner could find application in various medical settings, including aboard space stations

Monday, October 30, 2006

Durham, NC -- Duke University engineers have shown that a three-dimensional ultrasound scanner they developed can successfully guide a surgical robot.

The scanner could find application in various medical settings, according to the researchers. They said the scanner ultimately might enable surgeries to be performed without surgeons, a capability that could prove valuable in space stations or other remote locations.

"It's the first time, to our knowledge, that anyone has used the information in a 3-D ultrasound scan to actually guide a robot," said Stephen Smith, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

Smith and Eric Pua, a Pratt graduate student who participated in the research, reported the findings in the cover article of the November 2006 issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control. A copy of the article is available here.

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

In their demonstration, the researchers used 3-D ultrasound images to pinpoint in real time the exact location of targets in a simulated surgical procedure. That spatial information then guided a robotically controlled surgical instrument right to its mark.

Full story.


British scientists grow human liver in a laboratory

British scientists grow human liver in a laboratory
By FIONA MacRAE, Science Reporter

Last updated at 12:32pm on 31st October 2006

British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant.

The technique that created the 'mini-liver', currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver.

Described as a 'Eureka moment' by the Newcastle University researchers, the tissue was created from blood taken from babies' umbilical cords just a few minutes after birth.

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UWM brain research supports drug development from jellyfish protein

UWM brain research supports drug development from jellyfish protein
Testing of aequorin yields promising results

With the research support from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Wisconsin biotech company has found that a compound from a protein found in jellyfish is neuro-protective and may be effective in treating neurodegenerative diseases.

Testing of aequorin has yielded promising results, said Mark Y. Underwood of Quincy Bioscience located in Madison. Researcher James Moyer, Jr., an assistant professor at UW-Milwaukee, subjected brain cells to the "lab" equivalent of a stroke, and more than half treated with aequorin survived without residual toxicity.

Continue reading "UWM brain research supports drug development from jellyfish protein" »


UWM research helps industry make stronger, lighter and cheaper alloys

UWM research helps industry make stronger, lighter and cheaper alloys

High performance metals could revive foundries
Car engines that consume less energy and can keep running on low oil, lead-free plumbing fixtures, and tanks that are light enough to be airlifted, but are just as rugged as the much heavier varieties.

They sound futuristic, but these products are already realities thanks to materials that stretch the limits of performance. Called cast metal matrix composites (MMCs), they are cheaper, lighter and stronger than their original alloys. In fact, an aluminum-based MMC developed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) can replace iron-based alloys.

"These composites have many applications in the transportation, small engines, aerospace and computer industries," says Pradeep Rohatgi, a Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of Engineering who pioneered cost-effective methods of manufacturing these composites.

Continue reading "UWM research helps industry make stronger, lighter and cheaper alloys" »


Catholics must vote, U.S. bishops agree in pre-election messages

Catholics must vote, U.S. bishops agree in pre-election messages
By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
10/27/2006
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) – As the midterm elections near, some Catholic bishops are not finding any pressing moral issues to comment on in their dioceses, while others are jumping into the fray – especially about the moral content of referendum issues facing voters in 37 states.

. . .

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis said Missouri is facing "an unimaginably severe moral crisis" as it prepares to vote on an initiative that could make embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning a constitutional right.

"The passage of Amendment 2 would be a moral disaster for our state" and the nation, Archbishop Burke wrote in a column for his archdiocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Review. "If Amendment 2 succeeds in the state of Missouri, which has the reputation of being pro-life, then the proponents of human cloning and the destruction of embryonic human life will surely be emboldened to undertake the same deadly initiative in other states of our union."


Full story.


MIT's pint-sized engine promises high efficiency, low cost

MIT's pint-sized engine promises high efficiency, low cost
Ethanol empowers the little engine that could

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- MIT researchers are developing a half-sized gasoline engine that performs like its full-sized cousin but offers fuel efficiency approaching that of today's hybrid engine system--at a far lower cost. The key? Carefully controlled injection of ethanol, an increasingly common biofuel, directly into the engine's cylinders when there's a hill to be climbed or a car to be passed.

These small engines could be on the market within five years, and consumers should find them appealing: By spending about an extra $1,000 and adding a couple of gallons of ethanol every few months, they will have an engine that can go as much as 30 percent farther on a gallon of fuel than an ordinary engine. Moreover, the little engine provides high performance without the use of high-octane gasoline.

Given the short fuel-savings payback time--three to four years at present U.S. gasoline prices--the researchers believe that their "ethanol-boosted" turbo engine has real potential for widespread adoption. The impact on U.S. oil consumption could be substantial. For example, if all of today's cars had the new engine, current U.S. gasoline consumption of 140 billion gallons per year would drop by more than 30 billion gallons.

"There's a tremendous need to find low-cost, practical ways to make engines more efficient and clean and to find cost-effective ways to use more biofuels in place of oil," said Daniel R. Cohn, senior research scientist in the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment and the Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC).

Full story.


STEM CELLS FROM FAT BEING STUDIED AS OPTION FOR BREAST RECONSTRUCTION

STEM CELLS FROM FAT BEING STUDIED AS OPTION FOR BREAST RECONSTRUCTION

NIH funds University of Pittsburgh studies to explore unique stem cell and tissue engineering approach

PITTSBURGH, October 26, 2006 — Breast cancer survivors might one day avoid the prospect of invasive breast reconstruction surgery, opting instead for an approach that would involve using stem cells derived from their own fat, suggest University of Pittsburgh researchers who are studying the potential these cells may have for regenerating new breast tissue.

In animal models, the researchers hope to prove that an injection of fat-derived stem cells that are seeded onto microscopic scaffold structures will enable the production of a durable, replacement soft tissue. The team, led by J. Peter Rubin, M.D., assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, recently received a three-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to further explore this unique approach.

“The surgical options for breast reconstruction involve either the use of implants or a procedure whereby fat tissue taken from another part of the body is shaped into the form of a breast. Neither is ideal nor without risk. The use of adipose- or fat-derived stem cells may represent a better solution for soft tissue reconstruction in breast cancer patients,” said Dr. Rubin, who also is co-director of the Aesthetic Surgery Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The use of stem cells to treat disease or regenerate tissue is believed to hold promise because of their potential to develop into different specialized cell types. Indeed, when exposed to specific conditions in the laboratory, fat-derived stem cells have been shown to differentiate into cells characteristic of those from tissues such as fat, bone, cartilage, nerve, muscle and blood vessels.


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The first 3 Teslas magnetic resonance imager for research

The first 3 Teslas magnetic resonance imager for research

The University Hospital at the University of Navarra and the Applied Medicine Research Centre (CIMA) of the University has recently acquired a 3 Teslas magnetic resonance imager for joint use, the first for research applications in Spain. The 3 Teslas is the magnetic resonance imaging unit with the highest strength currently permitted by international medical bodies for the morphological study of the human body.

Enhanced precision

The University Hospital at the University of Navarra currently has two other magnetic resonance units. The first of these has a strength of 0.2 Teslas (unit of magnetic field) with a C-shape or “open” structure. Apart from this, the hospital also has a 1.5 Teslas unit of a cylindrical shape.

The fundamental difference between the resonance units is marked by the intensity of the main magnetic field. There currently exist imaging units that have strengths from 0.2 Teslas and others that are currently in an experimental phase and reach a strength of 7 Teslas.

The most notable advantage of the 3 Teslas unit is its high precision given that it enables the recording of an enhanced image quality in less exploration time. Moreover, the imaging unit will be used to continue lines of research in close collaboration with CIMA, the most important of which involve the study of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s.

Full story.


Scientists discover exotic relatives of protons and neutrons

Scientists of the CDF collaboration at the Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory announced today (October 23, 2006) the discovery of two rare types of particles, exotic relatives of the much more common proton and neutron.

"These particles, named Sigma-sub-b [Σb], are like rare jewels that we mined out of our data," said Jacobo Konigsberg, University of Florida, a spokesperson for the CDF collaboration. "Piece by piece, we are developing a better picture of how matter is built out of quarks. We learn more about the subatomic forces that hold quarks together and tear them apart. Our discovery helps complete the 'periodic table of baryons.'"

Baryons (derived from the Greek word "barys", meaning "heavy") are particles that contain three quarks, the most fundamental building blocks of matter. The CDF collaboration discovered two types of Sigma-sub-b particles, each one about six times heavier than a proton.

Full story.


State facilities part of effort to get results of research to patients faster

State facilities part of effort to get results of research to patients faster
By KAWANZA NEWSON
knewson@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Oct. 22, 2006

When Marshfield Clinic officials broke ground on a $40 million medical research institute last month, they positioned themselves as a powerful partner in a national movement to increase the speed at which research moves from the laboratory to the patient.

The 112,300-square-foot Laird Center for Medical Research, to be completed in early 2008, will house 200 physicians and scientific investigators looking at everything from genetics and personalized medicine to emerging infectious disease and biomedical informatics.

Marshfield researchers also will work closely with scientists and physicians at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"This will be a very substantial change both administratively and in terms of how we train clinical investigators and conduct clinical research," said Theodore A. Kotchen, a professor of medicine and epidemiology and associate dean of clinical research at the Medical College.

Increasingly, institutions are gearing up to conduct more efficient clinical and translational research studies - scientific jargon for moving research discoveries from "the bench" of basic research to the patient's "bedside" for clinical treatment. Clinical and translational research refers to all the steps needed to do this safely and quickly.

Full story.