Tag: biotech

  1. Hearing loss restored through gene therapy, app-controlled hearing aids, and synthetic biology takes off.

    12 May 2014

    Once upon a time, prosthetic augmentation of a failing sense of hearing took the form of devices the size of a paperback book hung around one's neck and smallish headphones pumping amplified sound into the wearer's ears. As technology progressed and the sizes of components shrank to sub-surface mount form factors (for illustration please note the sizes of the 603 and 402 components) hearing aids shrank in size until they could be custom molded to fit snugly into one's ear canal. All of the benefit with very little of the mass or weight. Hand in hand with the miniaturization …

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  2. Regeneration of living tissue in situ and a surprising observation in antisenescence.

    07 May 2014

    Ordinarily if something happens that causes a chunk of your body to be removed (like, say, a shark bite) there isn't a whole lot that can be done to fill it back in. Scar tissue will form over the wound and skin will eventually cover over it, but that doesn't cause lost muscle and bone to come back. It's kind of scary, when you think about it - what's lost is lost. But that may not be the caes for much longer. A research team active in the field of regenerative medicine at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the …

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  3. Glueing wounds back together, human cloning, and using bio-nano to infiltrate synthetic DNA.

    02 May 2014

    If you've ever been injured enough to need stitches, you know that it's no picnic. Administration of local anesthetic aside (which usually involves multiple shallow injections directly into the wound site), flesh is touchy stuff to suture back together. Get the suture too close to the edge of the wound and it might rip through and pop open again. There may not be enough usable skin far enough away from wound site to stick a needle through (such as on particularly skinny fingers or the backs of some ankles). Some parts of the body just don't take well to being …

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  4. Mass producing custom stem cells and advances in desktop testing.

    19 April 2014

    Let's cut through some FUD: Human stem cells are pretty easy to come by. Embryos have not been involved in the process for well over ten years that I can recall off the top of my head, and probably closer to twenty. Every human body has stockpiles of them that can be extracted with minor surgical procedures. The procedures in question usually involves scarily long needles that reach deeply enough inside the body to extract them, which might be why research into re-embryonization of other kinds of cells has proceeded at a good clip. To summarize, medical science has been …

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  5. There's wearable computing, and then there's wearable computing.

    03 April 2014

    Just last year around this time the company MC10 figured out how to fabricate small networks of sensors built out of flexible circuitry that stick to the skin of the wearer and collect biotelemetry. By sticking a single square of wavy, flexible circuitry someplace on your person you could keep a medical team appraised of certain aspects of your health. The tech curve, as always, moves like a roller coaster gone out of control... in the journal Nature Nanotechnology a research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology improved upon the design and created flexible circuitry tattoos that can …

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  6. Electrical relief of migraines, advances in bioprinting, and prosthetic exoskeletons.

    16 March 2014

    If you've never had one before migraine headaches are no picnic. Between the feeling like somebody's testing a sawmill with part of your skull, profound nausea brought about by something as innocuous as sunlight or the sound of a diesel engine, and vertigo that makes walking to the bathroom to retch a challenge, they're something that many of us would probably not wish on our worst enemies (I know I don't). There are few things that can arrest or lessen the severity of migraines once they start. Mostly, all you can do is get someplace dark and quiet and ride …

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  7. Sweeping advances in precision technologies.

    21 February 2014

    When we think of 3D printing, we usually think of stuff on the macroscale, like automobile engines or replacement parts of some kind. Unless it's in another context, however, we rarely stop to consider the applications of this technology on a finer scale. A couple of weeks back a research team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany announced a breakthrough: The Nanoscribe, a 3D printer which uses laser light to selectively harden liquid plastic in a successive deposition process. The Nanoscribe can fabricate objects the width of a human hair with amazing precision and a fair amount of …

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  8. Organic mass production.

    17 January 2014

    Some days one wakes up and it feels as if the world has inexorably become a little more strange - a little more surreal, as if Philip K. Dick took an apprentice who runs the tabletop game that we call our lives and they're starting to try things on their own. And it's delightfully fifteen degrees off dead center.

    In China there is an industrial farm that not only raises pigs as food but clones them to keep certain germlines around. The company is called BGI and they've gotten the process of cloning refined to the point where it's methodical, repeatable …

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  9. Practical matter compilation one step closer: Custom pharmaceuticals.

    09 December 2012

    For many years, the development of pharmaceutical drugs has been kind of hit or miss. New and interesting bioactive compounds are discovered and tested in different laboratory animals until someone figures out what a particular compound might be good for. It isn't terribly common that a pharmaceutical company comes up with an idea for an effect and then works backward until they find a compound that will do what they hope to accomplish.

    That shows signs of changing.

    A company called Parabon Nanolabs in Reston, Virginia has announced the development of a new drug which is effective in treating one …

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  10. Post-biological proof of concept lab experiments and genetic anomalies.

    09 September 2012

    Yesterday afternoon I posted an article about synthetic nucleic acids and processing of arbitrary information from the field of synthetic biology. To recap briefly, by adding synthetic components to bioengineered bacteria researchers have been able to represent and manipulate information with XNA, a variant of DNA which involves synthetic compounds in addition to the four naturally found in DNA. One of the commenters on that post is working somewhere in that field and mentioned a few of the things that can be done with those custom-designed nucleic acids. This reminded me of another article I've had in my to-write queue …

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