Posts tagged with "science"

Are We Living Too Clean?

By Jessica ter Haar, Ph.D., scientific director of the International Probiotics Association

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that proper hygiene is vital to keeping ourselves and the members of our communities safe and healthy. We are constantly reminded of the need to disinfect our hands, avoid touching our faces, keep our distance and take COVID-19 safety measures seriously.
But could all the hand washing, antibacterial cleansing and social distancing cause another health problem?

It may seem counterintuitive, but the extreme clean living our society has adopted could in fact make our body’s innate immune system weaker. Many people have entered into a sort of “microbe-phobia” to avoid the coronavirus, but it is important to remember that not all microbes are bad. In fact, many are essential for good health.
Sterilizing everything can have the unintended negative consequence of eradicating the good germs that we would normally be exposed to in our daily lives. In doing so, we are weakening our body’s own natural defenses to everyday threats.

Microbes—including bacteria, fungi, and viruses—are invisible to the naked eye, and our bodies host trillions of these microorganisms inside and out. Scientifically, this population is known as the microbiome. The gut microbiome, for example, is a concept that has been around for centuries but has only been commonly used in conversation since the early 2000s.

Some microbes are harmful and can make us sick, but many keep us healthy and should not be feared but appreciated. Understanding the role of the human microbiome has been complicated further by the confusion surrounding terminology – a big one being the differences between bacteria, fungi and viruses. It’s important to know more about them and how they differ when considering good versus bad microbes.

Bacteria are single-cell organisms, and most are not dangerous to humans. In fact, less than 1% of all bacteria are responsible for disease. Many bacteria live in our bodies and help us stay healthy. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, which kill the bacteria or at least stop the bad bacteria from multiplying.

Fungi are single-celled or multi-celled organisms that are similar to bacteria in that they live in different environments and cause disease. Fungal infections can become life-threatening if the immune system is weak, but certain fungi also have many beneficial qualities. The discovery of penicillin, a type of fungus, was due to a variety of mold which is now used to produce this antibiotic.

Viruses, including the coronavirus, are more challenging. They have no cells of their own and instead rely on host cells to multiply and replicate. Many viruses peacefully co-exist with humans, but some can cause diseases, including the relatively harmless common cold, while others can be deadly and bring about serious diseases like AIDS, measles and COVID-19. It is difficult to fight a virus with medication, which is why vaccinations are often used to support the immune system to better prepare the body to fight the virus.

As we begin practicing good hygiene and social distancing recommendations, life is feeling far from normal. But similar to the emotional effects of our isolation, by not living life, we are failing to be exposed to the good natural microbes needed to support our immune system’s defenses, metabolism, digestion and the brain’s ability to modulate mood and focus.

The question is, how can we continue hygiene measures to prevent COVID-19 without weakening our immune systems?

This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics can be the hero in our current germophobic environment to help counter the lack of microbe exposure and stimulate our body’s own bacterial population in the gut microbiome and cells. Probiotics can literally wake up sleepy bacteria and cells and assist in protecting our health.
If you are unfamiliar, probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host. Experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and WHO created this definition of probiotics, and to date, probiotics have more than 8,000 different scientific research studies indexed by PubMed.

Something as simple as a probiotic supplement can help compensate for our ultra-clean lifestyles and add beneficial microorganisms to our daily health arsenal. Probiotics add to the functional diversity of healthy microbes within our microbiome that bolster our immune system and overall health resilience. Probiotics have quickly risen in popularity and took center stage in the past decade, primarily because of how probiotics make people feel and how they work.

According to research, people report feeling better when they are taking a probiotic, which makes perfect sense because when the gut is happy, the rest of the body seems to be in synchronicity. But let’s not forget that probiotics can also work beyond the gut. There is a lot of probiotic science that continues to evolve, and everything seems to point to positive health outcomes.

Many of the microorganisms in probiotic supplements, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are similar to those naturally found in the body. Different types of probiotics have many different effects on the body like helping to maintain balance of good bacteria; producing certain vitamins and other substances; impacting our mood; and regulating weight.

Interestingly, studies of probiotics have shown beneficial immune impacts. While no probiotic has been found to treat COVID-19, research studies are currently assessing their impact. To date, more than 1,600 human clinical trials have been published about probiotics on ClinicalTrials.gov and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform of WHO databases. The International Probiotics Association is another great resource for updates on studies and new findings with probiotics.

As we wait for life to return to normal, taking something as simple as a probiotic supplement can help our immune systems compensate for an ultra-clean lifestyle and put our minds at ease as we take steps forward to boost our health during these uncertain and challenging times. In learning more about microbes, we can embrace the power of these organisms, take the fear out of equation and develop a plan to keep our immunities strong in the face of any health crisis.

About Jessica ter Haar, Ph.D.,

Jessica ter Haar is director of scientific affairs for the International Probiotics Association (IPA) and is a microbiology expert and probiotic educator focused on digestive and women’s health. She holds a doctorate from the University of Groningen in medical microbiology and probiotics for vaginal infections, and a master’s degree in nutrition and nutraceutical sciences from the University of Guelph. Ter Haar is also the founder and chairwoman of “Women and their Microbes,” a scientific conference directed at scientists, clinicians and industry professionals focused on helping women achieve their best possible microbial health during every stage of life. In her professional work with probiotics, she uses her thorough knowledge base to underscore the importance of probiotics, make scientific knowledge accessible, and address unmet medical and research needs. Additionally, ter Haar consults with a variety of companies in the probiotic, pharmaceutical and food industries on strategies to clearly communicate, valorize and leverage scientific benefits and best practices.

Brain Cancer illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

Cancer Discovery Reveals Key Process in Tumor Formation

A discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine may open the door to an entirely new approach to treating cancer: by disrupting a vital condensation process inside cancer cells.

Researchers led by Hao Jiang, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, discovered that cancer cells are exceptionally dependent on the proper condensation of a particular protein, AKAP95, during tumor formation. Blocking this process halted the cancer cells in their tracks.

“It is now clear that biomolecular condensation is a fundamental mechanism that underlies numerous biological processes in normal physiology and also in human disease including cancer,” said Jiang, of UVA’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and the UVA Cancer Center. “Our work reveals a new level of regulation – how liquid-like the condensates are can affect their activity in cancer control.”

Cancer and Condensation

The process of “biomolecular condensation” inside our cells is an area of great interest for scientists. In essence, our cells use condensation to create little compartments for important biological processes. You might think of these compartments as virtual mixing bowls that cells manufacture as needed.

It has been largely unclear if this condensation process is important in cancer. Jiang and his team showed that both the formation of the condensates and their material properties are important for cancer, and their work suggests that disrupting condensation or changing the condensate properties may offer a new treatment strategy.

The researchers’ lab experiments show that the AKAP95 protein gets condensed in cells, and cancer cells become heavily reliant on it. For that to happen, the condensed proteins, which are liquid-like, must be just the right consistency. Hardening them, for example, significantly impaired tumor formation, Jiang and his team discovered. Disrupting the condensation process halted cancer formation entirely.

A treatment based on the discovery might take a similar approach. Disrupting the condensation of AKAP95, the research suggests, could prevent cancer from hijacking our cells.

While much more work needs to be done to determine the possibility of developing a treatment based on the discovery, Jiang is happy to have shed light on tumor formation and to have provided cancer researchers a new avenue to explore.

“I was completely enthralled by this mechanism, as I had never learned or thought of such a seemingly simple principle of molecular organization in textbooks, previous classes or training, but it actually makes great sense and has such a profound impact on almost all basic cellular activities. My lab is thus very interested in how biomolecular condensation regulates gene expression on various levels, especially in the context of cancer,” Jiang said. “Further studies in this field will likely provide us unconventional strategies in cancer treatment.”

Findings Published

The researchers have published their findings in the scientific journal Nature Cell Biology. The research team consisted of Wei Li, Jing Hu, Bi Shi, Francesco Palomba, Michelle A. Digman, Enrico Gratton and Jiang.

The research was supported by startup funds from UVA and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, along with Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award BC190343. The work used the confocal microscopy system at UVA’s Keck Center that was supported by National Institutes of Health grant OD016446.

Jiang was supported by the American Society of Hematology Scholar Award, the American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award (RSG-15-166-01-DMC) and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Scholar Award (1354-19). Palomba and Digman were supported in part by National Science Foundation grant MCB-1615701. Digman and Gratton were supported by NIH grant P41-GM103540.

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AI brain chip illustration by UMD featured in 360 MAGAZINE.

UMD iSchool to Investigate AI Tech for Intelligence Analysts

University of Maryland College of Information Studies (UMD iSchool) researchers, led by principal investigator Dr. Susannah Paletz, have been awarded a three-year $616,700 grant funded by the Army Research Office (ARO). ARO Program Manager Dr. Edward Palazzolo overseas it. This project examines how teams of intelligence analysts can work together and with artificial intelligence (AI). AI has the potential to support intelligence analysts in reviewing potentially hundreds of thousands of source documents, pulling out key findings, and assembling them into actionable intelligence. AI can also aid in the flow of information and projects among members of the intelligence team, improving the efficiency and accuracy of their work.

“AI-driven technology has sometimes been touted as a replacement for human intelligence,” said Dr. Adam Porter, the project’s co-principal investigator, professor at the UMD Department of Computer Science, and Executive and Scientific Director of the Fraunhofer USA Center for Experimental Software Engineering (CESE). “In practice, however, AI doesn’t always work, or gives limited or biased answers. Human oversight is still required, and it’s therefore critical that we deeply understand how humans and AI can work best together.”

The Human-Agent Teaming on Intelligence Tasks project coordinated through the iSchool will focus on two particular research areas; 1.) how interactive AI agents, such as chatbots, have the ability to mitigate or exacerbate the communication and coordination problems that can occur with shift handovers of intelligence work, such as inaccuracy blindness and overlooking potentially relevant information, and 2.) examining how humans could potentially deal with these blind spots, biases, or inaccuracies.

The Experiment

The research team plans to develop an experimental infrastructure to help test team cognition challenges within the work completed by intelligence analysts consisting of task-relevant input materials, such as mission descriptions and source documents, activity recording tools, experimental monitoring capabilities, and different AI supports for human analysts, such as chatbots offering advice on a particular task.

“We want to develop a task that can raise the problems with asynchronous team cognition in intelligence tasks, but is simple enough to be used by research participants with minimal training,” said Dr. Susannah B.F. Paletz, research professor at the UMD iSchool, and affiliate at the UMD Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS).

This task will substantially increase insight into the strengths and weaknesses of AI technology to support intelligence task. In addition, it will help shed light on how and when human analysts can safely place their trust in AI technology. Also, how they can proactively identify problems in AI-generated input. It will also aid teams of humans, including asynchronous teams, working together in situations that include AI-generated input.

“This basic research is an important step in the early process of learning how humans and agents can collaboratively become a single team with considerably greater capacity and productivity than human only teams,” Palazzolo said. “Moreover, this research has broad implications into the work of many teams focused on knowledge work and information management such as medical teams involved in shift work, collaborative software development teams, and research teams.”

Collaborators

In addition to Porter, the Fraunhofer USA team also includes Dr. Madeline Diep, Senior Scientist, and Jeronimo Cox, Software Developer, at Fraunhofer USA CESE. The Fraunhofer USA team will lead the effort to create configurable AI agents used in the experimental tasks. Also, it will create a data collection and analysis infrastructure for capturing and understanding participant behaviors.

The UMD iSchool team includes graduate students Tammie Nelson, a fourth year PhD student, Melissa Carraway, incoming first year PhD student, and Sarah Valhkamp, incoming first year PhD, in Information Science.

The grant proposal team includes UMD Office of Research Administration Contract Manager, Stephanie Swann; iSchool Business Manager, Jacqueline Armstrong. Also, former iSchool Business Manager, Lisa Geraghty.

Outside of UMD, Dr. Aimee Kane, the Harry W. Witt Faculty Fellow and an Associate Professor of Management in the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business at Duquesne University, will be a consultant and an intellectual contributor on this project.

ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s (CCDC) Army Research Laboratory. The Human-Agent Teaming on Intelligence Tasks project (grant no. W911NF-20-1-0214) runs through June 30, 2023.

About the University of Maryland College of Information Studies

Founded in 1965 and located just outside of Washington, D.C., the University of Maryland College of Information Studies (UMD iSchool) is top-ten ranked research and teaching college in the field of information science. UMD iSchool faculty, staff, and students are expanding the frontiers of how people access and use information and technology in an evolving world – in government, education, business, social media, and more. The UMD iSchool is committed to using information and technology to empower individuals and communities, create opportunities, ensure equity and justice, and champion diversity.

For more information click here.

The Avalanches × The International Space Orchestra

Today, The Avalanches and The International Space Orchestra (ISO) come together to share their collaborative music video for the Australian alt-rock/electronica pioneers’ new track, “Wherever You Go” ft. Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO. The video, filmed live during lockdown, is a meteorite shower of space science, planet-poking and harp-playing spacecraft operators coming together with The Avalanches’ Robbie Chater and Tony DiBlasi in the most cosmic collaboration imaginable. The clip, which marks the first time The Avalanches have appeared in a music video, can be viewed here.

Robbie Chater and Tony DiBlasi of The Avalanches say “We are forever grateful to Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian and The International Space Orchestra for a truly magical, inspiring and connective experience. During a hard lockdown, it has renewed our faith in music, humanity and the power of connection, science and love.”

“We have so much respect for all those at NASA and SETI Institute and the work they do pushing the boundaries of human exploration, in trying to find the answers to the universe, and who and what lay beyond our neighborhood.”

As part of a musical collaboration, The Avalanches also worked on developing a sonification of the Arecibo message created by SETI Institute co-founder Frank Drake, who shared the original message with the band.

“We would also like to thank Dr. Frank Marchis and Dr. Frank Drake for all their help in deciphering the Arecibo message for inclusion on our upcoming project. It’s the first time this message has been translated into music,” added Chater and DiBlasi.

Created in 2012, ISO is directed by SETI Institute Designer of Experiences Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian along with musical director Evan Price. Under Ben Hayoun-Stépanian’s leadership, ISO has performed sold-out shows on some of California’s most prestigious stages, including San Francisco Symphony Hall, The Fillmore and the Hollywood Bowl with world-renowned, Grammy award-winning artists such as Bobby Womack, Damon Albarn, Beck, Sigur Rós, Maywa Denki and Savages.

Of the collaboration, Ben Hayoun-Stépanian says, “The Avalanches have been working on a space inspired album for a few years now. Researching sounds coming from space, they came across the brilliant work developed by our scientists at the SETI Institute and by the International Space Orchestra. Very quickly, it became apparent that our musical collaboration should focus on further inspiring new perspectives and desires to understand the universe. In the current context we could not make our performance happen in real life, but we decided to make it happen regardless and this performance is the result of our online meetups. We hope that our performance will allow for further curiosity and interest to research further galaxies and extraterrestrial intelligence and life. Working with The Avalanches has been our greatest honour, one of the most cosmic experiences we have encountered. Robbie and Tony are truly inspiring, kind, caring and just too brilliantly talented. Thank you to them for having us at the International Space Orchestra and the SETI Institute a part of their outer-space musical journey.”

Released in July 2020 by Astralwerks, “Wherever You Go” ft. Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO is an epic track that begins with greetings from planet Earth, sampled from The Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated copper disk launched into space by Voyager 1 and 2 in 1977. The New York Times said,  “The track moves from buzzy, beeping, tinkling abstraction to a thumping dance floor,” while PASTE Magazine hailed “Wherever You Go” as one of the “Best Songs Of The Week.”

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Heart Attack Damage Reduced by Shielded Stem Cells

Bioengineers and surgeons from Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) have shown that shielding stem cells with a novel biomaterial improves the cells’ ability to heal heart injuries caused by heart attacks.

In a study using rodents, a team led by Rice’s Omid Veiseh and Baylor’s Ravi Ghanta showed it could make capsules of wound-healing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and implant them next to wounded hearts using minimally invasive techniques. Within four weeks, heart healing was 2.5 times greater in animals treated with shielded stem cells than those treated with nonshielded stem cells.

The study is available online in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Biomaterials Science.

Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds in the United States. In each case, an artery that supplies blood to the heart becomes blocked and heart muscle tissue dies due to lack of blood. Hearts damaged by heart attacks pump less efficiently, and scar tissue from heart attack wounds can further reduce heart function.

“What we’re trying to do is produce enough wound-healing chemicals called reparative factors at these sites so that damaged tissue is repaired and restored, as healthy tissue, and dead tissue scars don’t form,” said Veiseh, an assistant professor of bioengineering and CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research at Rice.

Ghanta, associate professor of surgery at Baylor, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Harris Health’s Ben Taub Hospital and co-lead author of the study, said prior studies have shown that MSCs, a type of adult stem cell produced in blood marrow, can promote tissue repair after a heart attack. But in clinical trials of MSCs, “cell viability has been a consistent challenge,” Ghanta said.

“Many of the cells die after transplantation,” he said. “Initially, researchers had hoped that stem cells would become heart cells, but that has not appeared to be the case. Rather, the cells release healing factors that enable repair and reduce the extent of the injury. By utilizing this shielded therapy approach, we aimed to improve this benefit by keeping them alive longer and in greater numbers.”

A few MSC lines have been approved for human use, but Veiseh said transplant rejection has contributed to their lack of viability in trials.

“They’re allogenic, meaning that they’re not from the same recipient,” he said. “The immune system perceives them as foreign. And so very rapidly, the immune system starts chewing at them and clearing them out.”

Veiseh has spent years developing encapsulation technologies that are specifically designed not to activate the body’s immune system. He co-founded Sigilon Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company that is developing encapsulated cell therapeutics for chronic diseases. Trials of Sigilon’s treatment for hemophilia A are expected to enter the clinic later this year.

“The immune system doesn’t recognize our hydrogels as foreign, and doesn’t initiate a reaction against the hydrogel,” Veiseh said. “So we can load MSCs within these hydrogels, and the MSCs live well in the hydrogels. They also secrete the same reparative factors that they normally do, and because the hydrogels are porous, the wound-healing factors just diffuse out.”

In previous studies, Veiseh and colleagues have shown that similar capsules can keep insulin-producing islet cells alive and thriving in rodents for more than six months. In the heart study, study co-lead author Samira Aghlara-Fotovat, a Rice bioengineering graduate student in Veiseh’s lab, created 1.5-millimeter capsules that each contained about 30,000 MSCs. Several of the capsules were placed alongside wounded sections of heart muscle in animals that had experienced a heart attack. The study compared rates of heart healing in animals treated with shielded and unshielded stem cells, as well as an untreated control group.

“We can deliver the capsules through a catheter port system, and that’s how we imagine they would be administered in a human patient,” Veiseh said. “You could insert a catheter to the area outside of the heart and inject through the catheter using minimally invasive, image-guided techniques.”

Veiseh said capsules in the study were held in place by the pericardium, a membrane that sheaths the heart. Tests at two weeks showed that MSCs were alive and thriving inside the implanted spheres.

More than 800,000 Americans have hearts attacks each year, and Ghanta is hopeful that encapsulated MSCs can one day be used to treat some of them.

“With further development, this combination of biomaterials and stem cells could be useful in delivering reparative therapy to heart attack patients,” he said.

“The pathway to regulatory approval could be streamlined as well,” said Veiseh.

“Clinical grade, allogenic MSCs are commercially available and are actively being used in patients for a range of applications,” he said.

Veiseh credited Aghlara-Fotovat with doing much of the work on the project.

“She basically executed the vision,” he said. “She developed the hydrogel formulation, the concept of how to package the MSCs within the hydrogel, and she did all the in vitro validation work to show that MSCs remained viable in the capsules.”

Aghlara-Fotovat is co-mentored by Ghanta and worked in his lab at Baylor alongside research assistant Aarthi Pugazenthi, including assisting in rodent surgeries and experiments.

“What attracted me to the project was the unmet clinical need in (heart attack) recovery,” Aghlara-Fotovat said. “Using hydrogels to deliver therapeutics was an exciting approach that aimed to overcome many challenges in the field of drug delivery. I also saw a clear path to translation into the clinic, which is the ultimate goal of my Ph.D.”

“I think one of the things that attracts students to my lab in particular is the opportunity to do translational work,” Veiseh said. “We work closely with physicians like Dr. Ghanta to address relevant problems to human health.”

Authors

Study co-authors include Maria Jarvis, Sudip Mukherjee and Andrea Hernandez, all of Rice; and Pugazenthi, Christopher Ryan, Vivek Singh and Megumi Mathison, all of Baylor. The research was supported by an American Association of Thoracic Surgery Research Award, the Baylor College of Medicine Cardiovascular Research Institute, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (RR160047), the National Institutes of Health (1R01DK120459), a Rice University Academy Fellowship, the Emerson Collective and the National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Research Training Program in Cardiovascular Surgery (T32 HL139430).

 

The DOI of the Biomaterials Science paper is: 10.1039/D0BM00855A

A copy of the paper is available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/D0BM00855A

 

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Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

New COVID-19 Strain In Southeast Asia

By Eamonn Burke

A mutation of the COVID-19 virus called D614G has been discovered in Southeast Asia, mostly in Malaysia and the Philippines but also in China. The outbreak can be traced back to a man who did not quarantine after his trip from India, causing a 45-case outbreak in Malaysia. The man has since been fined and sentenced to five months in prison. D614G is the leading strain in the United States and Europe, after being discovered in Chicago in June. Now the mutation is quickly spreading across Asia and the entire world.

The mutation is estimated to be up to 10 times more infectious, but “We still don’t have enough solid evidence to say that that will happen,” says Phillipines’ Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Verviers. A study from Johns Hopkins points to evidence showing that the new virus is not more deadly than the previous strain. Benjamin Cowling of University of Hong Kong agreed: “(D614G) might be a little bit more contagious. We haven’t yet got enough evidence to evaluate that.” A Cell Press paper also corroborates this, saying that the strain will most likely not impact vaccine development. However, Malaysia’s Director-General of Health, Noor Hisham, warns that this may mean that vaccine studies may be incomplete without accounting for the new strain.

A mutating virus is far from an exceptional thing, because it is how they can continue to spread. In fact, the genome of the coronavirus changes about 2 times a month, according to Science Magazine. Some of them help the virus reproduce, others damage it, and some are neutral. These changes can be just a single letter in the genetic code, but it can make the virus much more transmissible. Dr Thushan de Silva, at the University of Sheffield, says that there is not enough evidence to say whether the D614G mutation helps or harms the virus, but he knows that it is not neutral.

This comes as the FDA has just granted emergency authorization for COVID-19 spit tests, which will make testing much easier and much wider spread. The SalivaDirect test, developed at Yale University, will expedite testing by eliminating a time consuming step in the process.

Meanwhile, the United States passes 170,000 deaths from the virus, with infections of children rising as they return to school. New information from the CDC says that rates of COVID-19 in children are increasing. While they make up only 7% of cases in the country, they are responsible for over 20% of them. In addition to this, and in contrast to previous beliefs, “Recent evidence suggests that children likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults and that children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings.”

Data to reinforce this claim can be found in the rising cases among children at schools that have already reopened, including 7,000 in Alabama. Many schools have debated or committed to reversing course and going online. These rising cases correlating with schools reopening “may explain the low incidence in children compared with adults,” says the CDC, suggesting that children’s perceived resistance to transmitting the virus may have been partly a result of simply staying inside – a sobering reminder of the ever changing narrative of COVID-19.

New approach to airborne disinfection uses food-coloring dyes

Purdue – Airborne Disinfection

By Chris Adam

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the needs for improved disinfection methods, both for individuals and facilities.

Purdue University innovators have developed an airborne disinfection method – using food-coloring dyes – to be applied to the entire body and rooms for sterilization purposes and lowering the risk of infection.

The Purdue team’s disinfection method uses edible materials. The Purdue team presented the technology in July during a COVID-19 virtual conference sponsored by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer.

“Most of the antiviral and antibacterial sprays used for airborne antiviral and antibacterial disinfectants, such as aerosolized hydrogen peroxide, ozone, and deep ultraviolet illumination, are a biohazard risk to humans,” said Young Kim, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue. “Additionally, disinfectants containing titanium dioxide and noble metal nanoparticles pose carcinogenic and cytotoxicity risks.”

Kim also said new methods are needed since transmission of pathogens (viruses and bacteria) often occurs in the air and infection with pathogens is transmitted by an airborne route. The Purdue method might also help in medical settings, where healthcare workers typically are exposed to the disease-causing agents when they take off their personal protective equipment.

The Purdue airborne antiviral phototherapy technique uses small aerosols FDA-approved food coloring dyes to mitigate the risks of airborne transmissions of pathogens. This is referred to as Photodynamic Airborne Cleaner (PAC).

“We have demonstrated with our novel solution how visible light activation of several FDA-approved food coloring dyes generate singlet oxygen, which can be used to kill airborne pathogens,” Kim said. “In the medical community, it is well known that singlet oxygen is effective to inactivate viruses. We are developing a scalable aerosol generation system for the dyes, allowing uniform fog-like dispersion lingering in the air to minimize wetting and surface staining. In addition, as health care workers are often infected when removing PPE, this technology can be installed in a confined chamber for health care professionals to change PPE in hospital settings.”

The novel photoreactive arrangement can be used in rooms where many people are present at risk of airborne pathogen exposure.

The innovators are working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to license this patented technology.

The researchers are looking for partners to continue developing their technology. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact D.H.R. Sarma of OTC at DHRSarma@prf.org and mention track code 2020-KIM-69064.

Kim also is receiving support from Purdue’s Trask Innovation Fund, which helps labs commercialize their innovations.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2020, the office reported 148 deals finalized with 225 technologies signed, 408 disclosures received and 180 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact otcip@prf.org for more information.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Covid and health illustration

Oxford Vaccine Shows Promising Signs

By Eamonn Burke

A vaccine developed by The University of Oxford in the UK and major pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has shown early signs of being a potential success. According to data posted today in The Lancet medical journal, a strong immune response was invoked by early testing of the vaccine in a large human trial of over 1,000 participants.

The vaccine, named ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, produced higher levels of antibodies and T-cells that fight the virus, according to the data. In other words, “We’re stimulating both arms of the immune system,” says Oxford’s head of the Jenner Institute Adrian Hill.

By no means does this data guarantee an effective vaccine, but human testing is a major step in the right direction, especially one with positive results. Another good sign is the lack of serious side effects, with most volunteers only reporting fatigue, headache, and soreness at the injection site. Big questions that remain, however, are how the body will react once infected, and if someone can get infected again.

AstraZenaca has received support from the U.S., pledging $1.2 billion dollars to vaccine work, and from the U.K., who has made a deal for 90 million doses of it. It is one of over 100 being developed globally, with 23 in the human trial phase. One of them is Moderna’s, which also showed promising signs in data last week and is set to start a Phase 3 of development on July 27.

IVORY ROWEN, AUTO, AUTOMOTIVE TRENDS, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS, 360 MAGAZINE, illustrations

Merilee Kern on Q-Reel Tech

By Merilee A. Kern, MBA

Recent reports indicate there are over 5.6 million electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide, representing a full 64 percent increase from the same time period in 2018—and the second consecutive record growth year in the zero-emissions transport market. With this progression comes commensurate concern over inadequate public EV charging infrastructure. So, it’s not surprising that the Department of Energy (DOE) indicates drivers do more than 80 percent of their EV automobile charging at home. However, even amid the extreme conveniences of doing so at-home, a multitude of safety, technological and affordability problems persist.

As one case in point, the DOE underscores a problem for Level 1 or 2 EVSE home charging, advising that consumers “should store the charging cord securely so it is not damaged,” indicating possible scenarios that may put charging cables and cords at risk of suffering abuse like “being run over by a car.” Other more ominous reports indicate that drivers charging vehicles at home are taking dangerous risks relating to electrocution and fire like “‘daisy-chaining’—using multiple extension leads plugged into one another—to reach their car.”

That report also highlights a survey among electric vehicle owners—including both all-electric and hybrids—finding that the vast majority (a whopping 74 percent) of respondents admit to using “domestic multi-socket extension leads, not suitable for outdoor use, to charge from the mains in their home. This is despite almost nine out of 10 respondents admitting they were aware these should not be used outdoors.” It goes on to reveal that “over half of electric vehicle users who charge using an extension lead, meanwhile, said they had left cables running to their vehicle in the rain.” 

Explosion and the leakage of electrolyte chemicals from batteries are among other reported EV charging perils beyond electrocution and fire. Further exacerbating fears, GreenCarReports.com published eye-opening revelations that “not every home charging station on sale in the U.S. has received third-party safety certification,” and that “many charging stations sold on Amazon are not safety tested,” according to a recent investigation by Charged EVs.

These and other serious consumer hazards, coupled with a desire to generally maximize the convenience and efficacy around home EV charging, have inspired extreme innovation from Q-Reel—a smart-charging company that’s developed the world’s first semi-automatic AC charging station for EVs. Q-Reel is poised to offer global consumers intuitive and effortless charging at home with a first-of-its-kind automated ejection system ensuring a hassle-free, hands-free charging experience. This in conjunction with the associated user-friendly smartphone app and built-in camera function, allowing users to monitor their EV inside and out with a simple swipe of a button.

Helmed by a team of Dutch entrepreneurs and engineers, the soon-to-launch Q-Reel solution presents an array of key features and benefits that will result in extreme lifestyle enhancements for EV owners. Highlights include:

    • Enhanced Safety & Equipment Integrity: Retractable cables best ensure that they will not suffer damage or abuse when not in use, while also protecting these parts from rain, humidity and other external elements. Q-Reel also reduces risk of electrocution and fire, thus upholding homeowner and property safety, since the fully third-party safety tested and certified system serves as an appropriate power source. It eliminates any cause to use the main home electricity source with or without extension cords/leads (or a daisy chain thereof)—especially those wires not suited for outside environments. Additionally, the flat cable inside the Q-Reel has enough cooling surface to prevent it from overheating and comes with a thermometer to regulate its temperature.    
    • Power-Assisted Operation: Q-Reel takes care of the ‘heavy lifting’ with regards to cable weight with its innovative automated ejection system that disconnects the plug from the car inlet and automatically retracts the cable directly back to the charging station to ensure hassle-free operation.
    • Effortless Charging: Simply grab the plug and connect it to the vehicle charging port and Q-Reel will take care of the rest. Thanks to a proprietary, leading-edge automatic ejection technology, it’s ready to go when you need it.
    • App-Based Monitoring and Control: Q-Reel works with an intuitive mobile app (iOS and Android) that lets users personalize charging time preferences at the swipe of a button. In addition to optimizing the charge process, users can also use the app interface to view live footage from Q-Reel’s built-in camera right from a smartphone.
    • Customizable Display: Q-Reel features a customizable display that offers various personalization options. This makes it possible to add a house number, corporate logo or any other design, if desired.

“In pioneering a superior EV experience from the consumer’s perspective, Q-Reel intends to markedly stimulate widespread EV ownership and adaptation worldwide by easing and enhancing key home charger marketplace concerns relating to safety, usability and affordability,” said Astrid Peters, CEO of Q-Reel. “In removing distinct obstacles around the often complicated and time-consuming traditional charging processes, we aim to help EV drivers everywhere charge their automobiles at their own home, without effort. Doing so will help lower the barrier-to-entry threshold, prompting more people to actually start driving electric.”

Founded in 2020 by a team of Dutch entrepreneurs and engineers, Q-Reel designs, develops and manufactures intelligent charging solutions for electric vehicles for both domestic and business use. With its at-home semi-automatic AC charging station, the company is on track to revolutionize the global EV charging landscape.

Sources:

https://thedriven.io/2019/02/13/there-are-now-5-6-million-electric-cars-on-the-road-up-64-from-last-year/

https://www.energy.gov/eere/electricvehicles/charging-home

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/may/30/electric-vehicle-drivers-at-risk-by-charging-from-home-mains-supply

https://www.electrocuted.com/2016/11/28/electrocution-hazards-electric-cars/

https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1108817_electric-car-charging-station-safety-what-you-need-to-know 

https://chargedevs.com/features/amazon-evse-safety/ 

About Merilee Kern

Forbes Business Council Member Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally-regarded brand analyst, strategist and futurist who reports on noteworthy industry change makers, movers, shakers and innovators across all B2B and B2C categories. This includes field experts and thought leaders, brands, products, services, destinations and events. Merilee is Founder, Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List” as well as Host of the nationally-syndicated “Savvy Living TV show. As a prolific business and consumer trends, lifestyle and leisure industry voice of authority and tastemaker, she keeps her finger on the pulse of the marketplace in search of new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points, from the affordable to the extreme—also delving into the minds behind the brands. Her work reaches multi-millions worldwide via broadcast TV (her own shows and copious others on which she appears) as well as a myriad of print and online publications. 

Follow Merilee Kern: www.TheLuxeList.comwww.SavvyLiving.tv | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIN.

 

360 Magazine, Rice University, 4D Printing

Lab Improves 4D Printing

Rice advances manufacture of complex shapeshifters for soft robots, biomedical implants. Soft robots and biomedical implants that reconfigure themselves upon demand are closer to reality with a new way to print shape-shifting materials.

Rafael Verduzco and graduate student Morgan Barnes of Rice’s Brown School of Engineering developed a method to print objects that can be manipulated to take on alternate forms when exposed to changes in temperature, electric current, or stress. The researchers think of this as reactive 4D printing. Their work appears in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

They first reported their ability to make morphing structures in a mold in 2018. But using the same chemistry for 3D printing limited structures to shapes that sat in the same plane. That meant no bumps or other complex curvatures could be programmed as the alternate shape.

Overcoming that limitation to decouple the printing process from shaping is a significant step toward more useful materials, Verduzco said.

“These materials, once fabricated, will change shape autonomously,” Verduzco said. “We needed a method to control and define this shape change. Our simple idea was to use multiple reactions in sequence to print the material and then dictate how it would change shape. Rather than trying to do this all in one step, our approach gives more flexibility in controlling the initial and final shapes and also allows us to print complex structures.”

The lab’s challenge was to create a liquid crystal polymer “ink” that incorporates mutually exclusive sets of chemical links between molecules. One establishes the original printed shape, and the other can be set by physically manipulating the printed-and-dried material. Curing the alternate form under ultraviolet light locks in those links.

Once the two programmed forms are set, the material can then morph back and forth when, for instance, it’s heated or cooled.

The researchers had to find a polymer mix that could be printed in a catalyst bath and still hold its original programmed shape.

“There were a lot of parameters we had to optimize — from the solvents and catalyst used, to degree of swelling, and ink formula — to allow the ink to solidify rapidly enough to print while not inhibiting the desired final shape actuation,” Barnes said.

One remaining limitation of the process is the ability to print unsupported structures, like columns. To do so would require a solution that gels just enough to support itself during printing, she said. Gaining that ability will allow researchers to print far more complex combinations of shapes.

“Future work will further optimize the printing formula and use scaffold-assisted printing techniques to create actuators that transition between two different complex shapes,” Barnes said. “This opens the door to printing soft robotics that could swim like a jellyfish, jump like a cricket or transport liquids like the heart.”

Co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate student Seyed Sajadi; Shaan Parekh, a student at John Foster Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas; Rice research scientist Muhammad Rahman; and Pulickel Ajayan, chair of Rice’s Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering and a professor of chemistry. Verduzco is an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering.

The Welch Foundation for Chemical Research and the Army Research Office Chemical Sciences Division supported the research.

About Rice University

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.