Archive for July, 2014

Can I Print You a Bone?

3D printed anatomy is fast replacing the real thing in medical colleges across the world. The ‘3D Printed Anatomy Series’, developed by experts from Monash University is the first commercially available kit. The has no real human tissue or bone but has all the major parts of the body needed to teach students the anatomical layout of the limbs, chest, abdomen, head and neck.

Professor Paul McMenamin, Director of the University’s Centre for Human Anatomy Education, called it cost effective. He felt that it would dramatically improve trainee doctors’ and other health professionals’ knowledge and could even contribute to the development of new surgical treatments.

It is a great way to overcome the shortage of cadavers that most medical schools face today. The handling and storage of cadavers also have a great number of restrictions and regulations that can be financially prohibitive for smaller institutes. Not to mention the smell which can affect the students adversely. Using this 3D kit which is soon going to be commercially available in the market may be a good solution.

The 3D printed series can be produced quickly and easily, and unlike cadavers they won’t deteriorate. Without the ability to look inside the body and see the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, it’s incredibly hard for students to understand human anatomy. The manufactirers believe that their version, which looks just like the real thing, will make a huge difference to students of human anatomy.

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Gyrochronology Tells You About Sun-like Stars

The technique of gyrochronology includes telling the age of a star using its spin. What the astronomers do to determine the spin of a star is to look for changes in its brightness caused by dark spots known as starspots across the star’s surface. Observation of these starspots allows the astronomers to pinpoint the spin of the star.

Its like watching a a dot on a ball and spinning it. When you see the dot appear you calculate the time it took for the ball to spin around once. That gives you the spin time. Now that the astronomers know the spin of the star they use that data to predict the age of the star. In cases of Sun – like stars the spin in starspots takes about 21 days on average.

The speed of the spin of the also allows the astronomers to know the age of the star. A young star is likely to spin around much faster than an older star whose momentum may not be that much. Think of how a young boy can run around all day without getting tired but an older man will make the same journey at a much slower and sedate pace.

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has a number of star related science projects where the researchers have already found 22 stars like our sun, based on the fact that they have roughly the same spin speed. What more will they discover? Only time can tell.

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Water Plus Hydrophobic Surface Equals Electricity

Generating electric current using water is not a new concept.  It has been in use for decades with traditional power generation methods. Hydro power is electricity generated by rushing water. However researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with another way to generate electric power using water.

The scientific community was amazed when it was discovered last year that water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation. During this process they can gain electric charge. The team of MIT researchers who made this discovery last year has now come up with a means of converting this electric charge into electricity capable of powering small gadgets.

Imagine charging your phone with nothing more than the humidity in the air! While this concept is brilliant, it is still a long way from becoming a reality. In initial testing, the amount of power produced was vanishingly small however the team is working on increasing this. Needless to say if they can convert enough charge into electricity they will be able to work a small electronic device on that electricity.

As of now that seems a long way away in this science project. However it will be interesting to see how the researchers progress from here. The primary restriction is that condensation must occur and so this method is only going to work in areas high in humidity. So don’t think you will be able to charge that cell phone in the desert yet!

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How Would You Like Your Robot?

Soft and squishy or hard as nails? If you thought that a robot was built only with metals that gave it definite shape and strength, think again. Scientific experimentation over the last couple of decades has led to the manufacture of a number of new materials that can be used for robotic construction.

The latest is a phase changing material that was built from wax and foam which can go from soft to hard states. Robots made from this material will be able to use this characteristic beautifully. The material was developed at MIT by Anette Hosoi and Nadia Cheng along with help from researchers at Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and Stony Brook University.

The first application they are looking at is to make a deformable surgical robot that can move through the body without damaging any organs along the way. Another kind of robot built from this material will be able to move through rubble while looking for survivors. Its unique construction material allowing it to squeeze into areas other robots can not.

The foam structure coated in wax may be still in experimental stages but the applications of such a material are boundless. A large number of scientific projects could be undertaken just to list out the different kinds of uses that the material could be put to.

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Nanodrugs Could Be Toxic

Researchers in the medical field have been experimenting with nanodrug particles which can be shot into the body to target a specific organ or problem. It was discovered that with manipulation of properties such as charge, composition, and attached surface molecules, researchers can design nanoparticles to deliver medicine to specific body regions and cell types.

The overall positive response of patients to the science projects worldwide have led to personalized nano drugs being touted as the next big thing in medicine.However at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, toxicologist Kristina Bram Knudsen and her team have come up with astounding information as they were testing two types of micelles.

A micelle is a nano particle designed to ferry drugs inside the body.  The two kinds tested on lab rats were charged positively and negatively. While the rats injected with the negatively charged micelles or a saline control solution did not suffer any observable harm from the injections, those injected with positively charged micelles developed brain lesions.

The finds are interesting, but the study is very limited in its scope and can not predict that all positively charged micelles will react in the same manner. Further research and science projects are necessary to see if these nano particles should really be avoided in the treatment of humans.


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