Archive for August 31st, 2012

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Smart Catheters Detect and Fight Infection

Smart Catheters Detect and Fight Infection

Smart Catheters Detect and Fight Infection

Newswise — PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 23, 2012 — A new “smart catheter” that senses the start of an infection, and automatically releases an anti-bacterial substance, is being developed to combat the problem of catheter-related blood and urinary tract infections, scientists reported here today at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

The meeting of the world’s largest scientific society, which continues here through Thursday, includes almost 8,600 reports on new discoveries in science and other topics. Almost 14,000 scientists and others are expected for the sessions, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center and downtown hotels.

Dipankar Koley, Ph.D., who delivered the report, said the “smart catheter” technology is being developed for both catheters inserted into blood vessels and the urinary tract.

“About 1.5 million healthcare-associated infections are reported in the United States alone each year, resulting in 99,000 deaths and up to $45 billion in extra health care costs,” said Koley.

“Urinary tract infections, as one example, are the most common source of institutionally acquired infections in both acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities,” said Koley, whose report focused on early developmental work on the technology. “Our smart catheter is being developed in response to that need.”

Koley, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Mark Meyerhoff, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, said the research team (including Chuanwu Xi, Ph.D., and Jianfeng Wu, Ph.D., in the School of Public Health at U of M) calls the new device an “electromodulated smart catheter.” He explained that bacterial infections can start on the surface of catheters, soft, flexible tubes inserted into blood vessels to deliver medication and for other purposes, and into the urinary tract of patients to drain urine. Some of the 30 million urinary catheters inserted each year, for instance, remain in place briefly, such as during surgical procedures. Other patients require long-term catheterization, such as patients undergoing kidney dialysis, and people in intensive care units and long-term care facilities. Many already are in frail health or are critically ill. Thus, major efforts are underway in health care settings to prevent catheter-related infections.

Infection-fighting catheters already are available, and work by releasing antibiotic substances, Koley said. These are “unintelligent catheters,” however, releasing the substances continuously, and thus soon become depleted and lose their antibiotic effect. The new smart catheter senses the start of an infection, and only then releases its antibiotic substance, which is nitric oxide (NO). In lab experiments lasting 7 days, test catheters have continued to release NO, and Koley and colleagues believe that can be extended to weeks.

The smart catheter works by chemically sensing changes in the pH, or acid-base environment, around the catheter. Certain changes signal the critical point when bacteria have formed a sticky film on the catheter, and their numbers have increased to the point where a health-jeopardizing infection begins. At that point, the catheter “turns on” and releases NO, which disrupts the bacterial films and stops an infection. It then switches “off”, preserving its reserves of NO-generating material.

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 164,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society contact newsroom@acs.org.

Abstract

Nitric oxide is known to have several important physiological functions such as a vasodilator, a platelet adsorption and activation inhibitor as well as mediator in antimicrobial activities. In this presentation, we will present a novel technique that uses a pulsed electrochemical method to generate and modulate the release of nitric oxide (NO), a highly potent and natural bactericidal agent, at physiologically relevant levels from inorganic sodium nitrite salt. The NO is electrochemically generated by the reduction of nitrite ions by Cu(I) ions generated anodically at the surface of a copper electrode and subsequent cleaning of the rapidly passivated electrode surface by applying a cathodic voltage pulse. The nitrite solution and the electrodes (working Cuo and reference) are separated from the external test solution by the wall of a narrow bore silicone rubber tube, that keeps the internal solution inside while allowing the NO gas to permeate. The NO releasing catheter tubing will be shown to have antibiofilm formation properties over a period of 2 to 7 days. Recent progress in controlling the amount of NO flux released from the bacterial sensing ‘smart’ catheter via the electromodulation voltages and frequency will also be presented.

Indwelling catheters create a conduit from the outside world into your dark, warm, moist body. In most cases, it’s only a matter of time before an infection develops, right?

Now a “smart catheter” is being developed that releases an anti-bacterial agent in response to an infection. The device could be used to fight both blood and urinary tract infections and extend the operational life of the devices. The catheters can chemically detect changes in pH to “sense” bacterial growth. At that point, it deploys just enough nitric oxide to disperse the bacteria and switches off to conserve its payload of the chemical. This research breakthrough was announced at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.

Speaking at the event, Dipankar Koley, PhD explained that approximately 1.5-million infections are reported in the United States annually. This leads to 99,000 deaths and costs up to $45 billion, according to Koley. In addition, the technology is effective against all bacterial strains, whether Gram-positive or Gram-negative.

“Urinary tract infections, as one example, are the most common source of institutionally acquired infections in both acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities,” Koley said. “Our smart catheter is being developed in response to that need.”

It may be a while before such smart catheters hit the market, however, as Koley describes the technology as being in a “very early stage of development.”

From the press release:

Koley, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Mark Meyerhoff, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, said the research team (including Chuanwu Xi, Ph.D., and Jianfeng Wu, Ph.D., in the School of Public Health at U of M) calls the new device an “electromodulated smart catheter.” He explained that bacterial infections can start on the surface of catheters, soft, flexible tubes inserted into blood vessels to deliver medication and for other purposes, and into the urinary tract of patients to drain urine. Some of the 30 million urinary catheters inserted each year, for instance, remain in place briefly, such as during surgical procedures. Other patients require long-term catheterization, such as patients undergoing kidney dialysis, and people in intensive care units and long-term care facilities. Many already are in frail health or are critically ill. Thus, major efforts are underway in health care settings to prevent catheter-related infections.

Infection-fighting catheters already are available, and work by releasing antibiotic substances, Koley said. These are “unintelligent catheters,” however, releasing the substances continuously, and thus soon become depleted and lose their antibiotic effect. The new smart catheter senses the start of an infection, and only then releases its antibiotic substance, which is nitric oxide (NO). In lab experiments lasting 7 days, test catheters have continued to release NO, and Koley and colleagues believe that can be extended to weeks.

Source : http://newswise.com/articles/smart-catheters-for-the-major-problem-of-catheter-related-infections?ret=/articles/

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NY-Poly Detector Sets Record for Smallest Virus Identified without Electon Microscopy

NY-Poly Detector Sets Record for Smallest Virus Identified without Electon Microscopy

NY-Poly Detector Sets Record for Smallest Virus Identified without Electon Microscopy

Researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) have created an ultra-sensitive biosensor capable of identifying the smallest single virus particles in solution, an advance that may revolutionize early disease detection in a point-of-care setting and shrink test result wait times from weeks to minutes.

Stephen Arnold, university professor of applied physics and member of the Othmer-Jacobs Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and researchers of NYU-Poly’s MicroParticle PhotoPhysics Laboratory for BioPhotonics (MP3L) reported their findings in the most recent issue of Applied Physics Letters, published by the American Institute of Physics.

Their technique is a major advance in a series of experiments to devise a diagnostic method sensitive enough to detect and size a single virus particle in a doctor’s office or field clinic, without the need for special assay preparations or conditions. Normally, such assessment requires the virus to be measured in the vacuum environment of an electron microscope, which adds time, complexity and considerable cost.

Instead, the researchers were able to detect the smallest RNA virus particle MS2, with a mass of only 6 attograms, by amplifying the sensitivity of a biosensor. Within it, light from a tunable laser is guided down a fiber optic cable, where its intensity is measured by a detector on the far end. A small glass sphere is brought into contact with the fiber, diverting the light’s path and causing it to orbit within the sphere. This change is recorded as a resonant dip in the transmission through the fiber. When a viral particle makes contact with the sphere, it changes the sphere’s properties, resulting in a detectable shift in resonance frequency.

The smaller the particle, the harder it is to record these changes. Viruses such as influenza are fairly large and have been successfully detected with similar sensors in the past. But many viruses such as Polio are far smaller, as are antibody proteins, and these require increased sensitivity.

Arnold and his co-researchers achieved this by attaching gold nano-receptors to the resonant microsphere. These receptors are plasmonic, and thus enhance the electric field nearby, making even small disturbances easier to detect. Each gold “hot spot” is treated with specific molecules to which proteins or viruses are attracted and bind.

Arnold explained that the inspiration for this breakthrough technique came to him during a concert by violinist Itzhak Perlman: “I was watching Perlman play, and suddenly I wondered what would happen if a particle of dust landed on one of the strings. The frequency would change slightly, but the shift would be imperceptible. Then I wondered what if something sticky was on the string that would only respond to certain kinds of dust?”

In experiments, the researchers successfully detected the smallest RNA virus in solution, and they are now training their sights on detecting single proteins, which would represent a major step toward early disease detection.

“When the body encounters a foreign agent, it responds by producing massive quantities of antibody proteins, which outnumber the virus. If we can identify and detect these single proteins, we can diagnose the presence of a virus far earlier, speeding treatment,” Arnold said. “This also opens up a new realm of possibilities in proteomics,” he said, referring to the study of proteins. “All cancers generate markers, and if we have a test that can detect a single marker at the protein level, it doesn’t get more sensitive than that.”

This patent-pending technology, co authored with postdoctoral fellow Siyka Shopova and graduate student Raaj Rajmangal, is ultimately designed for a point-of-care device capable of detecting viruses or disease markers in blood, saliva or urine. Testing for commercial applications is already under way.

The sensor itself, called a Whispering Gallery-Mode Biosensor, is unique to Arnold’s work. Its name derives from the famous Whispering Gallery in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Much the way its unique acoustics allow a whisper to be heard anywhere within the circular gallery, light traveling within the glass sphere of the biosensor orbits many times, ensuring nothing on the surface is missed.

The technique was pioneered by NYU-Poly MP3L post-doctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, along with Stephen Holler, NYU-Poly alum and now an assistant professor of physics at Fordham University. A technology entrepreneur, Holler founded NovaWave Technologies, a chemical sensor company, at one of NYU-Poly’s business incubators. Thermo Fisher Scientific, one of the world’s leading providers of scientific and laboratory equipment, acquired NovaWave in 2010. Other authors of the paper are Venkata Dantham, NYU-Poly postdoctoral fellow; Vasily Kolchenko, now professor at New York City College of Technology’s Department of Biological Sciences; and Zhenmao Wan, currently a graduate student in the Department of Physics at Hunter College of CUNY.

This research was originally supported by provost seed funds from the New York University (NYU) School of Arts and Sciences, in a grant jointly awarded to Arnold and NYU Professor of Physics David Grier. The National Science Foundation provided additional funding.

We report the label-free detection and sizing by a microcavity of the smallest individual RNA virus, MS2, with a mass only ?1% of InfluenzaA (6 vs. 512 ag). Although detection of such a small bio-nano-particle has been beyond the reach of a bare spherical microcavity, it was accomplished with ease (S/N = 8, Q = 4 × 105) using a single dipole stimulated plasmonic-nanoshell as a microcavity wavelength shift enhancer, providing an enhancement of ?70×, in agreement with theory. Unique wavelength shift statistics are recorded consistent with an ultra-uniform genetically programmed substance that is drawn to the plasmonic hot spots by light-forces.

Viruses are tiny little things, but the tiniest of them are so small that only an electron microscope can measure them effectively. This is a major problem because electron microscopy can be a time consuming process, not to mention the expense.

Scientists at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) have developed a new method that has been used to set a record for the smallest virus detected in solution, the bacteriophage MS2 weighing in at only 6 attograms (6.0 × 10-18 grams). The team hopes that this technology will find its way into clinical point-of-care devices that could be used to rapidly detect just about any infectious disease.

More about the technology and what inspired it:

[L]ight from a tunable laser is guided down a fiber optic cable, where its intensity is measured by a detector on the far end. A small glass sphere is brought into contact with the fiber, diverting the light’s path and causing it to orbit within the sphere. This change is recorded as a resonant dip in the transmission through the fiber. When a viral particle makes contact with the sphere, it changes the sphere’s properties, resulting in a detectable shift in resonance frequency.

Arnold and his co-researchers achieved this by attaching gold nano-receptors to the resonant microsphere. These receptors are plasmonic, and thus enhance the electric field nearby, making even small disturbances easier to detect. Each gold “hot spot” is treated with specific molecules to which proteins or viruses are attracted and bind.

Arnold explained that the inspiration for this breakthrough technique came to him during a concert by violinist Itzhak Perlman: “I was watching Perlman play, and suddenly I wondered what would happen if a particle of dust landed on one of the strings. The frequency would change slightly, but the shift would be imperceptible. Then I wondered what if something sticky was on the string that would only respond to certain kinds of dust?”

The sensor itself, called a Whispering Gallery-Mode Biosensor, is unique to Arnold’s work. Its name derives from the famous Whispering Gallery in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Much the way its unique acoustics allow a whisper to be heard anywhere within the circular gallery, light traveling within the glass sphere of the biosensor orbits many times, ensuring nothing on the surface is missed.

Source : http://www.poly.edu/press-release/2012/08/28/nyu-poly-researchers-set-record-detecting-smallest-virus-opening-new-possib

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First Successfull Implantation of Bionic Eye

First Successfull Implantation of Bionic Eye

First Successfull Implantation of Bionic Eye

A collaboration of Australian institutions has unveiled a prototype of a bionic eye that may soon enter clinical trials. The news was ushered in with the help of Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia, who is taking a victory lap for issuing around $40 million to the project only a few months ago. Bionic Vision Australia, the consortium that developed the eye, isn’t providing much detail about the new prototype, but we do know that a camera built into a pair of eye glasses transmits what it’s seeing to an implanted electrode that stimulates the optic nerve.

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“All of a sudden I could see a little flash of light. It was amazing.”

“All of a sudden I could see a little flash of light. It was amazing.”

August 30, 2012

“All of a sudden I could see a little flash of light. It was amazing.”

In a major development, Bionic Vision Australia researchers have successfully performed the first implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes.

Dianne Ashworth, 54, was the first patient fitted with the device in surgery at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in May.

Dianne has profound vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition. She has now received what she calls a ‘pre-bionic eye’ implant that enables her to experience some vision. A passionate technology fan, Diane was motivated to make a contribution to the bionic eye research program.

After years of hard work and planning, Diane’s implant was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute, while researchers held their breaths in the next room, observing via video link.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash…it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye,” Diane said.

The Eye and Ear is a clinical partner of the bionic eye project and as the home of the bionic ear, has a proud history in bionics.

Dr Penny Allen, a specialist surgeon, led the surgical team to implant the prototype at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

“This is a world first – we implanted a device in this position behind the retina, demonstrating the viability of our approach. Every stage of the procedure was planned and tested, so I felt very confident going into theatre,” Dr Allen said.

The implant is only switched on and stimulated after the eye has recovered fully from the effects of surgery. The next phase of this work involves testing various levels of electrical stimulation with Diane.

Professor Anthony Burkitt, Director of Bionic Vision Australia said: “This outcome is a strong example of what a multi-disciplinary research team can achieve. Funding from the Australian Government was critical in reaching this important milestone. The Bionics Institute and the surgeons at the Centre for Eye Research Australia played a critical role in reaching this point.”

The Eye and Ear is home to the Centre for Eye Research Australia, also part of the bionic eye consortium. By housing specialists and researchers under one roof, we are able to translate research into clinical care quickly. Sharing our knowledge and expertise throughout the community, the Eye and Ear helps make world quality eye and ear health care available to all. Working with Bionic Vision Australia and members of the consortium, we will continue to have an impact on the future of eye health in Australia and internationally.

At Bionic Vision Australia, a consortium of researchers working on an eye prosthesis, the implantation of a bionic eye with 24 electrodes has turned out to be a success. A 54 year old female patient with vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa had received the retinal implant earlier this year in May. Last month the implant was switched on. With the implant she can now see flashes of light every time the implant is stimulated. With this major successful development, the researchers at Bionic Vision Australia can now proceed with the next steps in their mission to restore vision.

The implant is positioned behind the retina, after which the eye first needs to recover from the operation. The implant consists of 24 electrodes and it can be stimulated externally via an electric wire, which runs from the back of the eye towards the ear. The goal of this early model is to develop a vision processor using feedback from the patient. Other implants with more electrodes on it are being developed and will be planned for patient testing as well. And ultimately the bionic eye system will feature an external camera built into a pair of glasses that will supply the visual input for the implant.

We will now patiently, but curiously, wait until the day comes that in the world of the blind, the bionic eyed man is king.

Source : http://www.eyeandear.org.au/page/News_and_Events/Latest_News/

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WElkins EMT/ICU Body Cooling System Hypoxic-Ischemic Injury Management

WElkins EMT/ICU Body Cooling System Hypoxic-Ischemic Injury Management

WElkins EMT/ICU Body Cooling System Hypoxic-Ischemic Injury Management

ROSEVILLE, CA, August 23, 2012 — WElkins, LLC today announced that it received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its EMT/ICU Temperature Management System. The EMT/ICU System provides hospitals and emergency care givers a means of reducing and controlling patient temperature in a safe, non-invasive, and effective way across the continuum of care—from the critical minutes after an injury thru to the ICU and recovery. Therapeutic cooling is among the most potent interventions for hypoxic-ischemic injury, limiting tissue damage by reducing oxygen metabolism and inflammation, while maintaining cell membrane integrity. The System includes a lightweight, portable cooling unit for pre-hospital induction of therapeutic cooling, i.e. immediately after return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), which can be crucial to patient survival and recovery.

WElkins plans to launch the EMT/ICU System in the U.S. immediately and will expand to global markets early next year.

“We are very pleased to receive market clearance for the EMT/ICU System, which is the first in a series of new microenvironment cooling products WElkins will be introducing over the next year to our civilian and military clients,” said Christopher Blodgett, Chief Operating Officer of WElkins. “With these devices, WElkins is introducing a new standard in patient temperature management—one that extends active cooling technology to the pre-hospital setting for those critical moments after an injury, in the field and during transit, all the way through to the ICU and recovery. Therapeutic hypothermia has the potential to save lives and limit long-lasting neurological damage, so we are eager to see the EMT/ICU System to market and fulfill WElkins’ mission to transform human survival and quality life.”

About the EMT/ICU Temperature Management System

The EMT/ICU Temperature Management System is a family of non-invasive, liquid-cooled, thermoregulatory devices that control patient temperature within a range of 30°C (86°F) to 37°C (98.6°F), wherein the therapeutic effects of cooling have the potential to minimize damage to the brain, heart and other vital organs from hypoxia, ischemia and other injurious conditions. The System comprises both a field (EMT) and hospital (ICU) Conditioning Unit. The EMT Conditioning Unit is a lightweight, rugged, battery-powered device originally developed for the U.S. Department of Defense for battlefield cooling; it is the first active cooling device to extend patient temperature management to the pre-hospital setting, enabling ultra-early induction of therapeutic hypothermia in the field, at the point of injury. The ICU Conditioning Unit is an enhanced version of the EMT Conditioning Unit, designed for use in the hospital setting; it features a touchscreen graphical user interface, microprocessor-driven automatic temperature control, and patient temperature monitoring. Both Conditioning Units utilize the same Cooling Headliner (patent pending), an innovative head-neck pad with pneumatic over-pressure to improve patient contact and enhance cooling rate. The Headliner is integrated with a universal cervical collar for streamlined deployment in the field and during emergency medical transport.

About Patient Temperature Management / Therapeutic Cooling

Temperature management is an essential component in modern healthcare, affecting a plethora of physiological factors from metabolic activity to glucose level. In use for centuries, temperature management is widely recognized as a key contributor to the maintenance of normal physiology and impact on recovery after an illness. In the case of hypoxic-ischemic brain injuries—a broad constellation of conditions ranging from cardiac and respiratory arrest to carbon monoxide and other poisonous gas exposure—induced mild hypothermia appears to limit tissue damage by reducing oxygen metabolism and inflammation, while maintaining cell membrane integrity. For heart attack survivors, hypothermia after cardiac arrest (HACA) is a cost-effective way to improve long-term quality of life; even at extreme estimates for costs, the cost-effectiveness of hypothermia treatment is less than the standard benchmark $100,000 per quality-adjusted life year, according to a report from the American Heart Association. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the HACA Study Group found that therapeutic hypothermia increases patients’ chances of survival by 31% and quality of survival by 41%. Today, major medical societies in the U.S. and E.U. recommend temperature management as the standard of care therapy for many critically ill or surgical patients.

About WElkins

WElkins, LLC is dedicated to transforming human survival, quality of life, and performance in life threatening and extreme conditions across the spectrum of human activity. Founded by Bill Elkins, a father of the modern spacesuit and pioneer in microenvironment temperature regulation, WElkins fields a diverse family of liquid cooling systems with myriad applications across medical, military, industrial, and athletic markets.

Temperature management is an essential component in modern healthcare, affecting a plethora of physiological factors from metabolic activity to glucose level. In use for centuries, patient temperature management is widely recognized as a key contributor to the maintenance of normal physiology and impact on recovery after an illness.

WElkins’ EMT/ICU Temperature Management System provides hospitals and emergency care givers a means of controlling patient temperature in a safe, non-invasive, and effective way across the continuum of care—from the critical minutes after an injury thru to the ICU and recovery.

WElkins’ EMT/ICU Temperature Management System provides hospitals and emergency care givers a means of controlling patient temperature in a safe, non-invasive, and effective way across the continuum of care—from the critical minutes after an injury thru to the ICU and recovery:

The Cooling Headliner integrates with a universal, adjustable cervical collar for streamlined deployment (stabilization of the head and neck is typically one of the first steps in emergency medical response), and features quick-release connectors that enable rapid patient transfer from EMT to ICU without removing the pad. Stabilization of the head-neck and deployment of cooling is now possible in under 60 seconds.

The EMT System is lightweight, portable and self-contained, ideal for ultra-early cooling in the field and during transit to the hospital.

The ICU System is microprocessor controlled for longer-term, automated patient temperature management in the hospital and during recovery.

Source : http://welkinsmed.com/?p=12954

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Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer Detects Disease Thanks to Nanowires

Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer Detects Disease Thanks to Nanowires

Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer Detects Disease Thanks to Nanowires

One exhale and new device could screen for everything from diabetes to lung cancer

This invention could give new meaning to the term “bad breath!” It’s the Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer, and when you blow into it, you get tested for a biomarker—a sign of disease. As amazing as that sounds, the process is actually very simple thanks to ceramics nanotechnology. All it takes is a single exhale.

You blow into a small valve attached to a box that is about half the size of your typical shoebox and weighs less than one pound. Once you blow into it, the lights on top of the box will give you an instant readout. A green light means you pass (and your bad breath is not indicative of an underlying disease; perhaps it’s just a result of the raw onions you ingested recently); however, a red light means you might need to take a trip to the doctor’s office to check if something more serious is an issue.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Professor Perena Gouma and her team at Stony Brook University in New York developed a sensor chip that you might say is the “brain” of the breathalyzer. It’s coated with tiny nanowires that look like microscopic spaghetti and are able to detect minute amounts of chemical compounds in the breath. “These nanowires enable the sensor to detect just a few molecules of the disease marker gas in a ‘sea’ of billions of molecules of other compounds that the breath consists of,” Gouma explains. This is what nanotechnology is all about.

You can’t buy this in the stores just yet–individual tests such as an acetone-detecting breathalyzer for monitoring diabetes and an ammonia-detecting breathalyzer to determine when to end a home-based hemodialysis treatment–are still being evaluated clinically. However, researchers envision developing the technology such that a number of these tests can be performed with a single device. Within a couple of years, you might be able to self-detect a whole range of diseases and disorders, including lung cancer, by just exhaling into a handheld breathalyzer.

Handheld breath tests to estimate blood alcohol content and nitric oxide detectors used in hospitals to monitor pulmonary infections have been around for a while, but there is no consumer-based technology like this currently available. The research team envisions the cost of the final product being under $20, just one of many reasons Gouma thinks the Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer has the potential to empower individuals to take care of their own health like never before. “People can get something over the counter and it’s going to be a first response or first detection type of device. This is really a nanomedicine application that is affordable because it is based on inexpensive ceramic materials that can be mass produced at low cost,” she notes.

The manufacturing process that creates the single crystal nanowires is called “electrospinning.” It starts with a liquid compound being shot from a syringe into an electrical field. The electric field crystallizes the inserted liquid into a tiny thread or “wire” that collects onto an aluminum backing. Gouma says enough nanowire can be produced in one syringe to stretch from her lab in Stony Brook, N.Y. to the moon and still be a single grain (monocrystal).

“There can be different types of nanowires, each with a tailored arrangement of metal and oxygen atoms along their configuration, so as to capture a particular compound,” explains Gouma. “For example, some nanowires might be able to capture ammonia molecules, while others capture just acetone and others just the nitric oxide. Each of these biomarkers signal a specific disease or metabolic malfunction so a distinct diagnostic breathalyzer can be designed.”

“This concept could not have been realized without a fundamental understanding of the material used to create the miniaturized gas detectors,” said Janice Hicks, a deputy division director in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at NSF. “The research transcends traditional scientific and engineering disciplines and may lead to new applications or diagnostics.”

Gouma also says the nanowires can be rigged to detect infectious viruses and microbes like Salmonella, E. coli or even anthrax. “There will be so many other applications we haven’t envisioned. It’s very exciting; it’s a whole new world,” she says.

Gouma is also one of the first researchers selected to participate in NSF’s new Innovation Corps (I-Corps). Spanning a broad range of target products, geographic locales and research fields, I-Corps researchers receive guidance from private- and public-sector experts, participate in a specially designed training curriculum and receive $50,000 to begin assessing the commercial readiness of their technology concepts.

The award process was intense, yet swift, with less than 30 days passing between the acceptance of the proposals and the issuing of each award by NSF’s Division of Grants and Agreements. Gouma’s I-Corps research involves the use of electrospun ceramic nanofiber-based photocatalytic grids for cleaning up water contaminated by petroleum-based hydrocarbons. “I-Corps has been a unique learning experience, and as a scientist who creates new knowledge, I want to use my discoveries to find solutions to current problems in the world,” says Gouma.

“I-Corps has generated tremendous excitement,” says I-Corps program officer Errol Arkilic. “Our first round of awards emerged from a wide array of fields and strong fundamental research efforts. All show promise as potential innovations that could yield additional direct benefits to society.”

Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have developed a breath analyzing device that can quickly identify a number of disease marker gases that could be signs of an underlying problem. The technology utilizes single crystal nanowires that are created by electrospinning. The configuration of metal and oxygen atoms in the nanowires defines which molecules are captured by the chip.

Source : http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/breathprinting.jsp

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Verizon to Offer Text-to-911 Emergency SMS Messaging

Verizon to Offer Text-to-911 Emergency SMS Messaging

Verizon to Offer Text-to-911 Emergency SMS Messaging

BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Demonstrating its continued commitment to advancing public safety, Verizon Wireless is taking steps toward offering many of its customers a new way to communicate with 911 call centers run by public safety officials. The company announced today that it has selected TeleCommunication Systems Inc., of Annapolis, Md., to participate in an initiative that will enable customers to send 911 SMS (Short Message Service) texts to the call centers, which are known as public-service answering points, or PSAPs.

While consumers should always first try to contact a 911 center by making a voice call, this enhanced SMS service, when deployed, will offer an alternative for customers on the Verizon Wireless network who are deaf or hard of hearing and cannot make voice calls or who could be placed in additional danger by speaking.

“Verizon is at the forefront of 911 public-safety innovations, and today’s announcement is another step in making SMS-to-911 service available to those who cannot make a voice call to 911,” said Marjorie Hsu, Verizon Wireless vice president of technology. “Our company is continuing its long-standing commitment to address the needs of public safety and our customers by offering another way to get help in an emergency by using wireless technology.”

The company is working on plans to make the new capabilities available to select PSAPs by early 2013. Verizon plans to use its existing CDMA SMS network for 911 text notifications. The new service will be offered to Verizon Wireless customers who have a text-capable phone and a service plan that includes text messaging.

“TeleCommunication Systems has worked closely with the FCC over the past two years to develop its innovative technology for SMS to 911,” said Maurice B. Tosé, president and CEO of TCS. “As the preeminent U.S. supplier of SMS and pioneer in wireless E911, TCS is well positioned to enable Verizon in advancing its public safety commitment.”

Verizon is working with others in the communications industry, PSAPs, the Federal Communications Commission and other federal and state agencies in the eventual deployment of this new service aimed at giving consumers new ways to communicate with designated public safety agencies.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to consumer, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 93 million retail customers nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers in more than 150 countries, including all of the Fortune 500. A Dow 30 company with $111 billion in 2011 revenues, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of nearly 192,000. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.

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Verizon has announced that it plans to launch the nation’s first text-to-911 service, designed to allow those who are deaf or hard of hearing to contact the emergency services via SMS.

As well as providing a huge benefit for those who are unable to hear, it’s thought that the text-to-911 function will be useful in situations where people are unable to speak over the phone—for fear of further endangerment, say. Verizon aims to roll out the initiative by the end of 2013, in conjunction with the company TeleCommunication Systems.

The announcement comes nine months after the FCC tentatively announced plans to modernize the 911 service—which should, in the future, mean that people are able to send photos and video from their mobile phones to emergency call centers. Whether these new services will be used purely for good, of course, it’s hard to tell. [The Hill]

Verizon announced that it is partnering with TeleCommunication Systems Inc., of Annapolis, MD., to introduce an emergency text-to-911 service for its customers. The system is specifically designed for use by people with a hearing impairment that normally have a difficult time contacting public-service answering points, or PSAPs.

The service could potentially help those that can’t talk during situations like bank robberies and hostage takings.

The company is working on plans to make the new capabilities available to select PSAPs by early 2013. Verizon plans to use its existing CDMA SMS network for 911 text notifications. The new service will be offered to Verizon Wireless customers who have a text-capable phone and a service plan that includes text messaging.

“TeleCommunication Systems has worked closely with the FCC over the past two years to develop its innovative technology for SMS to 911,” said Maurice B. Tosé, president and CEO of TCS. “As the preeminent U.S. supplier of SMS and pioneer in wireless E911, TCS is well positioned to enable Verizon in advancing its public safety commitment.”

Verizon is working with others in the communications industry, PSAPs, the Federal Communications Commission and other federal and state agencies in the eventual deployment of this new service aimed at giving consumers new ways to communicate with designated public safety agencies.

Source : http://news.verizonwireless.com/news/2012/05/pr2012-05-03i.html

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Nanoparticles Deliver High Dose Antibiotics to Sites of Bacterial Infection

Nanoparticles Deliver High Dose Antibiotics to Sites of Bacterial Infection

Nanoparticles Deliver High Dose Antibiotics to Sites of Bacterial Infection

Over the past several decades, scientists have faced challenges in developing new antibiotics even as bacteria have become increasingly resistant to existing drugs. One strategy that might combat such resistance would be to overwhelm bacterial defenses by using highly targeted nanoparticles to deliver large doses of existing antibiotics.

In a step toward that goal, researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a nanoparticle designed to evade the immune system and home in on infection sites, then unleash a focused antibiotic attack.

This approach would mitigate the side effects of some antibiotics and protect the beneficial bacteria that normally live inside our bodies, says Aleks Radovic-Moreno, an MIT graduate student and lead author of a paper describing the particles in the journal ACS Nano.

Institute Professor Robert Langer of MIT and Omid Farokzhad, director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, are senior authors of the paper. Timothy Lu, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and MIT undergraduates Vlad Puscasu and Christopher Yoon also contributed to the research.

Rules of attraction

The team created the new nanoparticles from a polymer capped with polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is commonly used for drug delivery because it is nontoxic and can help nanoparticles travel through the bloodstream by evading detection by the immune system.

Their next step was to induce the particles to specifically target bacteria. Researchers have previously tried to target particles to bacteria by giving them a positive charge, which attracts them to bacteria’s negatively charged cell walls. However, the immune system tends to clear positively charged nanoparticles from the body before they can encounter bacteria.

To overcome this, the researchers designed antibiotic-carrying nanoparticles that can switch their charge depending on their environment. While they circulate in the bloodstream, the particles have a slight negative charge. However, when they encounter an infection site, the particles gain a positive charge, allowing them to tightly bind to bacteria and release their drug payload.

This switch is provoked by the slightly acidic environment surrounding bacteria. Infection sites can be slightly more acidic than normal body tissue if disease-causing bacteria are reproducing rapidly, depleting oxygen. Lack of oxygen triggers a change in bacterial metabolism, leading them to produce organic acids. The body’s immune cells also contribute: Cells called neutrophils produce acids as they try to consume the bacteria.

Just below the outer PEG layer, the nanoparticles contain a pH-sensitive layer made of long chains of the amino acid histidine. As pH drops from 7 to 6 — representing an increase in acidity — the polyhistidine molecule tends to gain protons, giving the molecule a positive charge.

Overwhelming force

Once the nanoparticles bind to bacteria, they begin releasing their drug payload, which is embedded in the core of the particle. In this study, the researchers designed the particles to deliver vancomycin, used to treat drug-resistant infections, but the particles could be modified to deliver other antibiotics or combinations of drugs.

Many antibiotics lose their effectiveness as acidity increases, but the researchers found that antibiotics carried by nanoparticles retained their potency better than traditional antibiotics in an acidic environment.

The current version of the nanoparticles releases its drug payload over one to two days. “You don’t want just a short burst of drug, because bacteria can recover once the drug is gone. You want an extended release of drug so that bacteria are constantly being hit with high quantities of drug until they’ve been eradicated,” Radovic-Moreno says.

Young Jik Kwon, associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of California at Irvine, says the new nanoparticles are well designed and could have great potential impact in treating infectious diseases, particularly in developing countries. “Most nanotechnology has been targeted to cancer drug delivery or imaging; not many people have shown interest in using a nanotechnology approach for infectious disease,” says Kwon, who was not part of the research team.

Although further development is needed, the researchers hope the high doses delivered by their particles could eventually help overcome bacterial resistance. “When bacteria are drug resistant, it doesn’t mean they stop responding, it means they respond but only at higher concentrations. And the reason you can’t achieve these clinically is because antibiotics are sometimes toxic, or they don’t stay at that site of infection long enough,” Radovic-Moreno says.

One possible challenge: There are also negatively charged tissue cells and proteins at infection sites that can compete with bacteria in binding to nanoparticles and potentially block them from binding to bacteria. The researchers are studying how much this might limit the effectiveness of their nanoparticle delivery. They are also conducting studies in animals to determine whether the particles will remain pH-sensitive in the body and circulate for long enough to reach their targets.

Bacteria have shown a remarkable ability to overcome drug therapy if there is a failure to achieve sustained bactericidal concentration or if there is a reduction in activity in situ. The latter can be caused by localized acidity, a phenomenon that can occur as a result of the combined actions of bacterial metabolism and the host immune response. Nanoparticles (NP) have shown promise in treating bacterial infections, but a significant challenge has been to develop antibacterial NPs that may be suitable for systemic administration. Herein we develop drug-encapsulated, pH-responsive, surface charge-switching poly(d,l-lactic-co-glycolic acid)-b-poly(l-histidine)-b-poly(ethylene glycol) (PLGA-PLH-PEG) nanoparticles for treating bacterial infections. These NP drug carriers are designed to shield nontarget interactions at pH 7.4 but bind avidly to bacteria in acidity, delivering drugs and mitigating in part the loss of drug activity with declining pH. The mechanism involves pH-sensitive NP surface charge switching, which is achieved by selective protonation of the imidazole groups of PLH at low pH. NP binding studies demonstrate pH-sensitive NP binding to bacteria with a 3.5 ± 0.2- to 5.8 ± 0.1-fold increase in binding to bacteria at pH 6.0 compared to 7.4. Further, PLGA-PLH-PEG-encapsulated vancomycin demonstrates reduced loss of efficacy at low pH, with an increase in minimum inhibitory concentration of 1.3-fold as compared to 2.0-fold and 2.3-fold for free and PLGA-PEG-encapsulated vancomycin, respectively. The PLGA-PLH-PEG NPs described herein are a first step toward developing systemically administered drug carriers that can target and potentially treat Gram-positive, Gram-negative, or polymicrobial infections associated with acidity.

Bacteria have remarkable capacities to develop resistance to antibiotics. However, much higher doses than usual of these antibiotics can still be effective, but it is normally not feasible to administer such high doses to patients due to the side-effects these drugs have. To overcome this limitation, researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a nanoparticle that can deliver large doses of antibiotics right to the site of bacterial infection.

The nanoparticles are made out of a polymer capped with polyethylene glycol, an often used material which is nontoxic and helps in evading the immune system as long as the nanoparticles have not reached their target. The ingenious part is how the particles target bacteria: at first they have a slight negative charge, another mechanism to avoid being cleared by the immune system. At the site of infection, the environment is a bit more acidic than elsewhere, and this acidity causes the nanoparticles to switch their charge from negative to positive. Bacteria have negatively charged cell walls and thus the nanoparticles form a strong connection with the bacteria’s cell wall.

Next the nanoparticles start releasing their payload, in this study vancomycin, but other antibiotics or combinations of drugs will also be possible. Besides the ability to deliver high dose antibiotics directly to the target site, this approach also has the advantage that it partly mitigates the negative effect of the acidic environment on the effectivity of antibiotics.The drug payload is released over a period of one to two days in order to completely eradicate the bacteria. The research is still in an early stage with the first animal studies being conducted right now, but the mechanisms and early results sound promising. The current study was published last month in ACS Nano.

Source : http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/antibiotic-nanoparticle-0504.html

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Navalyst Embarc Microcatheter for Narrow Vasculature

Navalyst Embarc Microcatheter for Narrow Vasculature

Navalyst Embarc Microcatheter for Narrow Vasculature

Experience the new standard.

We’ve designed a catheter with total performance in mind. From tip to hub, enhancements have been made to every element along the catheter.

Multiple-Layer Braided Construction

Engineered tapered transition offers proximal advancement with distal flexibility for superselective access in tortuous anatomy

Platinum/Iridium and stainless steel braided shaft for enhanced visibility, kink resistance and optimal catheter stability in embolic delivery and power injection

Extruded PTFE liner for smooth guidewire and embolic interface

1000 psi injection pressure

GLYCE™ Hydrophilic Coating

Ultra-durable hydrophilic coated outer surface increases trackability and enhances vessel navigation

Strain Relief and Overmolded Clear Hub

Inner coiled strain relief for improved kink resistance

Unique hub design with contoured wing for precise catheter control

Hub facilitates smooth delivery and confirmation of embolic material and chemotherapeutic agents

Radiopaque Lumen and RO Marker

Platinum Iridium provides high visibility under fluoroscopy

Swaged RO marker for dimensional control and navigation

Atraumatic Distal Tip

Formed distal tip designed for improved trackability and vessel selection

Navilyst Medical out of Marlborough, MA, which is expected to become part of AngioDynamics by the end of May, has launched in the U.S. its Embarc Microcatheter with Glyce hydrophilic coating, a catheter made for diagnostic and interventional use in peripheral vessels.

The device has a kink resistant shaft, a special coating for smooth delivery, and a number of other features to make it easier to operate in difficult anatomy.

Features from the product page:

Multiple-Layer Braided Construction

Engineered tapered transition offers proximal advancement with distal flexibility for superselective access in tortuous anatomy

Platinum/Iridium and stainless steel braided shaft for enhanced visibility, kink resistance and optimal catheter stability in embolic delivery and power injection

Extruded PTFE liner for smooth guidewire and embolic interface

1000 psi injection pressure

GLYCE™ Hydrophilic Coating

Ultra-durable hydrophilic coated outer surface increases trackability and enhances vessel navigation

Strain Relief and Overmolded Clear Hub

Inner coiled strain relief for improved kink resistance

Unique hub design with contoured wing for precise catheter control

Hub facilitates smooth delivery and confirmation of embolic material and chemotherapeutic agents

Radiopaque Lumen and RO Marker

Platinum Iridium provides high visibility under fluoroscopy

Swaged RO marker for dimensional control and navigation

Atraumatic Distal Tip

Formed distal tip designed for improved trackability and vessel selection

Source : http://www.navilystmedical.com/Products/index.cfm/37

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How To Design a Safer, Longer-Lasting Artificial Hip

How To Design a Safer, Longer-Lasting Artificial Hip

How To Design a Safer, Longer-Lasting Artificial Hip

Hip replacement is one of the most frequent operations carried out in Germany. Each year, doctors implant some 200,000 artificial hip joints. Often the artificial hips need to be replaced just ten years later. In the future, a new implant currently being developed using high technology materials could help prevent premature revision surgeries.

Link: Download picture

Thanks to artificial hips, people with irreparable damage to the joint have been able to lead active, pain-free lives for the past 50 years. Still, some hip replacements do not function completely as intended, and metal-on-metal implants in particular, demand accurate positioning in surgery and implants positioned non optimally are often susceptible to premature failure notably in small female patients. Physicians are even calling for a prohibition on the use of artificial joints made of cobalt-chromium alloys in which the joint‘s metal ball rubs against its metal socket whenever the wearer walks. Poorly designed or positioned metal on metal implants can lead to higher wear rates and this releases elevated cobalt-chromium ion levels that spread out through the blood and lymph, potentially damaging organs and triggering inflammation. Metal ions are also suspected carcinogens. Because these hip replacements are so robust, however, to date they have often been implanted in young, active patients.

A metal-free composite

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, partnering in an international team on an EC-funded project entitled “ENDURE” (Enhanced Durability Resurfacing Endoprosthesis), have now developed a new kind of hip implant that, unlike the conventional counterpart implants on the market today, provide a metal-free solution and bone-like elasticity. This is the result of a metal-free, high-tech composite: The hip socket is made of carbon fibre-reinforced PEEK – a high-strength, wear resistant, biocompatible polymer composite. For the femoral head, ceramic was used. In addition to this, a hydroxylapatite coating at the interface to the bone helps ensure that the bone tissue will fuse thoroughly with the surface structure of the implant. “The cobalt-chromium implants in use to date are very rigid, and the load transfer to the bone is non-optimal leading to potential adverse bone adaptation. Thanks to the new combination of materials, the transmission of force through the PEEK hip socket to the pelvic bone is modeled on natural conditions. And there are no metal ions released,“ notes IPA engineer Jasmin Hipp. The researcher and her team were able to confirm the good wear resistance in initial tests of the new hip replacement using a robot that simulated various series of movements such as walking or climbing and descending stairs. The experiments used a prototype of the implant.

Tiny pins protect bone tissue

The ENDURE implants follow the bone-preserving principle of hip resurfacing: they are thin-walled shells which replace the bearing surface of the joint articulation alone, instead of employing large metal stems for support, which require a substantial volume of bone to be removed. Researchers have also redesigned the way the prosthesis is mechanically attached to the bone. Without cement, and using a press-fit and an integral scaffold-type structure on the surfaces of the implant that contact the bone, the hemispherical ball and socket are tapped onto the prepared femoral head and into the acetabulum – the natural, concave surface of the pelvis – and anchored in place.

A team of physicians at the University of Newcastle have demonstrated in operations performed on cadavers, the new hip can be set in place and, if necessary, removed without any difficulties. Meanwhile, the preclinical studies have been completed, and final development work is being planned to allow clinical studies to commence. Partners in the EU-funded project are Aurora Medical, Medicoat, Hunt Developments, Ala Ortho, CeramTec, Invibio, Biomatech and the Universities of Gothenburg and Southampton.

Hip replacement is one of the most frequent operations carried out in Germany. Each year, doctors implant some 200,000 artificial hip joints. Often the artificial hips need to be replaced just ten years later. In the future, a new implant currently being developed using high technology materials could help prevent premature revision surgeries.

Link: Download picture

Thanks to artificial hips, people with irreparable damage to the joint have been able to lead active, pain-free lives for the past 50 years. Still, some hip replacements do not function completely as intended, and metal-on-metal implants in particular, demand accurate positioning in surgery and implants positioned non optimally are often susceptible to premature failure notably in small female patients. Physicians are even calling for a prohibition on the use of artificial joints made of cobalt-chromium alloys in which the joint‘s metal ball rubs against its metal socket whenever the wearer walks. Poorly designed or positioned metal on metal implants can lead to higher wear rates and this releases elevated cobalt-chromium ion levels that spread out through the blood and lymph, potentially damaging organs and triggering inflammation. Metal ions are also suspected carcinogens. Because these hip replacements are so robust, however, to date they have often been implanted in young, active patients.

A metal-free composite

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, partnering in an international team on an EC-funded project entitled “ENDURE” (Enhanced Durability Resurfacing Endoprosthesis), have now developed a new kind of hip implant that, unlike the conventional counterpart implants on the market today, provide a metal-free solution and bone-like elasticity. This is the result of a metal-free, high-tech composite: The hip socket is made of carbon fibre-reinforced PEEK – a high-strength, wear resistant, biocompatible polymer composite. For the femoral head, ceramic was used. In addition to this, a hydroxylapatite coating at the interface to the bone helps ensure that the bone tissue will fuse thoroughly with the surface structure of the implant. “The cobalt-chromium implants in use to date are very rigid, and the load transfer to the bone is non-optimal leading to potential adverse bone adaptation. Thanks to the new combination of materials, the transmission of force through the PEEK hip socket to the pelvic bone is modeled on natural conditions. And there are no metal ions released,“ notes IPA engineer Jasmin Hipp. The researcher and her team were able to confirm the good wear resistance in initial tests of the new hip replacement using a robot that simulated various series of movements such as walking or climbing and descending stairs. The experiments used a prototype of the implant.

Tiny pins protect bone tissue

The ENDURE implants follow the bone-preserving principle of hip resurfacing: they are thin-walled shells which replace the bearing surface of the joint articulation alone, instead of employing large metal stems for support, which require a substantial volume of bone to be removed. Researchers have also redesigned the way the prosthesis is mechanically attached to the bone. Without cement, and using a press-fit and an integral scaffold-type structure on the surfaces of the implant that contact the bone, the hemispherical ball and socket are tapped onto the prepared femoral head and into the acetabulum – the natural, concave surface of the pelvis – and anchored in place.

A team of physicians at the University of Newcastle have demonstrated in operations performed on cadavers, the new hip can be set in place and, if necessary, removed without any difficulties. Meanwhile, the preclinical studies have been completed, and final development work is being planned to allow clinical studies to commence. Partners in the EU-funded project are Aurora Medical, Medicoat, Hunt Developments, Ala Ortho, CeramTec, Invibio, Biomatech and the Universities of Gothenburg and Southampton.

Source :http://www.fraunhofer.de/en/press/research-news/2012/may/hip-implant-for-long-term-use.html

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Middle Ear Microphone Opens Possibilities For a Smaller, More Discreet Hearing Aid

Middle Ear Microphone Opens Possibilities For a Smaller, More Discreet Hearing Aid

Middle Ear Microphone Opens Possibilities For a Smaller, More Discreet Hearing Aid

The design, implementation and characterization of a MEMS capacitive accelerometer-based middle ear microphone is presented in this paper. The microphone is intended for middle ear hearing aids as well as future fully implantable cochlear prosthesis. Human temporal bones acoustic response characterization results are used to derive the accelerometer design requirements. The prototype accelerometer is fabricated in a commercial SOI-MEMS process. The sensor occupies a sensing area of 1 mm x 1 mm with a chip area of 2 mm x 2.4 mm and is interfaced with a custom-designed low noise electronic IC chip over a flexible substrate. The packaged sensor unit occupies an area of 2.5 mm x 6.2 mm with a weight of 25 milligrams. The sensor unit attached to umbo can detect a sound pressure level (SPL) of 60 dB at 500 Hz, 35 dB at 2 kHz and 57 dB at 8 kHz. An improved sound detection limit of 34 dB SPL at 150 Hz and 24 dB SPL at 500 Hz can be expected by employing start-of-the-art MEMS fabrication technology, which results in an articulation index of approximately 0.76. Further micro/nano fabrication technology advancement is needed to enhance the microphone sensitivity for improved understanding of normal conversational speech.

April 30, 2012 – Cochlear implants have restored basic hearing to some 220,000 deaf people, yet a microphone and related electronics must be worn outside the head, raising reliability issues, preventing patients from swimming and creating social stigma.

Now, a University of Utah engineer and colleagues in Ohio have developed a tiny prototype microphone that can be implanted in the middle ear to avoid such problems.

The proof-of-concept device has been successfully tested in the ear canals of four cadavers, the researchers report in a study just published online in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers journal Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

The prototype – about the size of an eraser on a pencil – must be reduced in size and improved in its ability to detect quieter, low-pitched sounds, so tests in people are about three years away, says the study’s senior author, Darrin J. Young, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Utah and USTAR, the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative.

The study showed incoming sound is transmitted most efficiently to the microphone if surgeons first remove the incus or anvil – one of three, small, middle-ear bones. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval would be needed for an implant requiring such surgery.

The current prototype of the packaged, middle-ear microphone measures 2.5-by-6.2 millimeters (roughly one-tenth by one-quarter inch) and weighs 25 milligrams, or less than a thousandth of an ounce. Young wants to reduce the package to 2-by-2 millimeters.

Young, who moved the Utah in 2009, conducted the study with Mark Zurcher and Wen Ko, who are his former electrical engineering colleagues at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and with ear-nose-throat physicians Maroun Semaan and Cliff Megerian of University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH-DC-006850).

Problems with External Parts on Cochlear Implants

The National Institutes of Health says almost 220,000 people worldwide with profound deafness or severe hearing impairment have received cochlear implants, about one-third of them in the United States, where two-fifths of the recipients are children.

In conventional cochlear implant, there are three main parts that are worn externally on the head behind the ear: a microphone to pick up sound, a speech processor and a radio transmitter coil. Implanted under the skin behind the ear are a receiver and stimulator to convert the sound signals into electric impulses, which then go through a cable to between four and 16 electrodes that wind through the cochlea of the inner ear and stimulate auditory nerves so the patient can hear.

“It’s a disadvantage having all these things attached to the outside” of the head, Young says. “Imagine a child wearing a microphone behind the ear. It causes problems for a lot of activities. Swimming is the main issue. And it’s not convenient to wear these things if they have to wear a helmet.”

Young adds that “for adults, it’s social perception. Wearing this thing indicates you are somewhat handicapped and that actually prevents quite a percentage of candidates from getting the implant. They worry about the negative image.”

As for reliability, “if you have wires connected from the microphone to the coil, those wires can break,” he says.

How Sound Moves in Normal Ears, Cochlear Implants and the New Device

Sound normally moves into the ear canal and makes the eardrum vibrate. At what is known as the umbo, the eardrum connects to a chain of three tiny bones: the malleus, incus and stapes, also known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The bones vibrate. The stapes or stirrup touches the cochlea, the inner ear’s fluid-filled chamber. Hair cells (not really hair) on the cochlea’s inner membrane move, triggering the release of a neurotransmitter chemical that carries the sound signals to the brain.

In profoundly deaf people who are candidates for cochlear implants, the hair cells don’t work for a variety of reasons, including birth defects, side effects of drugs, exposure to excessively loud sounds or infection by certain viruses.

In a cochlear implant, the microphone, signal processor and transmitter coil worn outside the head send signals to the internal receiver-stimulator, which is implanted in bone under the skin and sends the signals to the electrodes implanted in the cochlea to stimulate auditory nerves. The ear canal, eardrum and hearing bones are bypassed.

The system developed by Young implants all the external components. Sound moves through the ear canal to the eardrum, which vibrates as it does normally. But at the umbo, a sensor known as an accelerometer is attached to detect the vibration. The sensor also is attached to a chip, and together they serve as a microphone that picks up the sound vibrations and converts them into electrical signals sent to the electrodes in the cochlea.

The device still would require patients to wear a charger behind the ear while sleeping at night to recharge an implanted battery. Young says he expects the battery would last one to several days between charging.

Young says the microphone also might be part of an implanted hearing aid that could replace conventional hearing aids for a certain class of patients who have degraded hearing bones unable to adequately convey sounds from conventional hearing aids.

Testing the Microphone in Cadavers

Conventional microphones include a membrane or diaphragm that moves and generates an electrical signal change in response to sound. But they require a hole through which sound must enter – a hole that would get clogged by growing tissue if implanted. So Young’s middle-ear microphone instead uses an accelerometer – a 2.5-microgram mass attached to a spring – that would be placed in a sealed package with a low-power silicon chip to convert sound vibrations to outgoing electrical signals.

The package is glued to the umbo so the accelerometer vibrates in response to eardrum vibrations. The moving mass generates an electrical signal that is amplified by the chip, which then connects to the conventional parts of a cochlear implant: a speech processor and stimulator wired to the electrodes in the cochlea.

“Everything is the same as a conventional cochlear implant, except we use an implantable microphone that uses the vibration of the bone,” Young says.

To test the new microphone, the researchers used the temporal bones – bones at the side of the skull – and related ear canal, eardrum and hearing bones from four cadaver donors.

The researchers inserted tubing with a small loudspeaker into the ear canal and generated tones of various frequencies and loudness. As the sounds were picked up by the implanted microphone, the researchers used a laser device to measure the vibrations of the tiny ear bones. They found the umbo – where the eardrum connects to the hammer or malleus – produced the greatest sound vibration, particularly if the incus or anvil bone first was removed surgically.

The experiments showed that when the prototype microphone unit was attached to the umbo, it could pick up medium pitches at conversational volumes, but had trouble detecting quieter, low-frequency sounds. Young plans to improve the microphone to pick up quieter, deeper, very low pitches.

In the tests, the output of the microphone went to speakers; in a real person, it would send sound to the implanted speech processor. To demonstrate the microphone, Young also used it to record the start of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony while implanted in a cadaver ear. It is easily recognizable, even if somewhat fuzzy and muffled.

We can’t argue that cochlear implants have transformed the lives of thousands of people affected by deafness. However, like many medical devices at some point in their existence, the limitations of current technology don’t put cochlear implants at the top of the list in terms of convenience. The primary issues stem from the fact that a good deal of the implant’s circuitry, such as the microphone, processor, and transmitter, are external.

For kids, it makes things inconvenient when doing physical activities, such as swimming (although this fortunately is changing). For adults, having wires coming out of their head isn’t in style (yet), and the implant can give off the perception of being handicapped. On the engineering end of things, the delicate wires that connect the microphone to the transmitter coil are not always designed to withstand the rigors that our heads endure.

Middle Ear Microphone schematic Middle Ear Microphone Opens Possibilities For a Smaller, More Discreet Hearing AidResearchers from the University of Utah have succeeded in designing a key component of the cochlear implant that they hope will someday make them more durable and kid-friendly (and fashionable too). The component of interest is the microphone, which picks up sound waves. Cochlear implants need to have the microphone behind the ear or somewhere on the side of the head where there’s a clear path for sound to travel, as sound waves physically vibrate a membrane or diaphragm to generate an electrical signal. The U of U device places the microphone in the middle ear and uses accelerometer technology instead of a membrane to detect sound. Specifically, the device is attached to the umbo (eardrum) and detects its vibrations, which are converted to electrical signals and sent directly to electrodes in the cochlea. In this system, everything formerly external is now implanted into a package currently the size of a pencil eraser; the only visible evidence of a cochlear implant will be the wireless battery charger worn while sleeping.

It’s no small feat, and researchers want to further reduce the size of the device by a third. However, they’re facing challenges in improving the sound quality, as the current output sounds something akin to an AM radio.

Source : http://unews.utah.edu/news_releases/a-middle-ear-microphone/

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