en español: El Innovador de Texas
Seeing through blindness
A new machine might help some people with blindness see images. A senior fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Elizabeth Goldring, is working with vision researchers and engineers to create a desktop-sized device based on a bulky machine called a scanning laser opthamaloscope, or SLO. An SLO enables a user with vision loss to see images the machine projects directly onto the user’s retina.
A clinical trial of the new, miniature “seeing machine” included 10 clinically blind participants. Six of the 10 participants correctly interpreted images displayed to them using the machine. Images in the pilot trial were black and white “word images,” a combination of letters and graphics that Goldring developed to help make projections easier to see and read.
Goldring said researchers are working on an updated version of the seeing machine, which will show more complex images in color, for a large-scale clinical trial. Goldring hopes the device will literally help open doors for visually challenged people by allowing them to see the floor plan of a building before visiting it and navigating it sightlessly.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Goldring,
Special forces troops may soon strap on stealth wings along with their parachutes, according to German manufacturer ESG.
What seems like a high-flying Hollywood stunt is actually a new technology that could keep more military missions under the radar. The wings, which should be available for use as early as the end of 2006, allow jumpers to glide through the air at speeds of up to 124 miles per hour, meaning transport aircraft could keep a safe distance from enemy territory.
Equipped with oxygen and navigation aids, the carbon fiber wings can reduce the descent time from about 45 minutes to about 15 minutes.
Special forces currently use a variety of parachute techniques, but they come with limitations. Steerable square parachutes can be opened at a high altitude like the wing-assisted ‘chutes, but jumpers often run into trouble maneuvering their devices due to high winds and extreme cold.
For more information, contact Jöerg Riedle,
New research shows that drinking several cups of lemonade a day could keep kidney stones at bay.
Researchers examined the medical records of 100 patients who were prescribed lemonade therapy to treat calcium oxalate kidney stones, the most common type of kidney stone, said Kristina Penniston, an assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Kidney stones develop when minerals crystallize and build up inside of the kidney. Lemonade is recommended because it is high in citric acid, which inhibits stone growth, Penniston said.
Two-thirds of the patients drank four ounces of pure lemon juice diluted in water or 32 ounces of low-sugar prepared lemonade daily, Penniston said. The remaining patients took a combination of lemonade therapy and potassium citrate,
a medication that increases urinary citrate, which prevents the formation of kidney stones.
After an average treatment time of 40 months, urinary citrate and volume increased in both groups. The volume increase was significant only in the group using lemonade therapy without medication. For patients prone to kidney stones, drinking lots of fluids, especially lemonade, may help prevent future stone formation, Penniston said.
For more information, contact Kristina Penniston,
A multinational team of European scientists invented a “robo-roach,” a tiny robot that can infiltrate roach clans and influence their behavior.
The device, called Insbot, doesn’t resemble the real thing—it looks more like a matchbox on wheels—but its programmed behavior and some roach pheromones are enough to convince the real insects of its credentials. The team that created Insbot gave it a camera and proximity sensors to guide its movements and based its “personality” on mathematical modeling of roach behavior.
The researchers have found that the robot can not only pass for a roach but influence its behavior by taking advantage of its natural inclination to follow one another. Insbot has managed to lure roaches into lighted areas, despite their natural preference for the dark.
Despite its usefulness as a robotic Pied Piper for household bugs, pest control isn’t the main purpose of the Insbot experiment; the scientific team is studying “collective intelligence,” the complex behaviors that result from the simple interactions of living things, such as ants, bees and other insects.
For more information, contact Jean-Louis Deneubourg,
Free University of Brussels, email@example.com
Vibes grow teeth
Researchers developed a new gadget that aims to give people missing teeth healthy new smiles.
Dr. Tarak El-Bialy and Dr. Jie Chen with the University of Alberta in Canada built a miniature device that fits inside a patient’s mouth and uses ultrasound to stimulate jaw growth and dental tissue healing. The system can be mounted on an orthodontic or “braces” bracket or a plastic removable crown.
“If the root is broken, it can now be fixed,” said El-Bialy. “And because we can regrow the tooth root, a patient could have his own tooth rather than foreign objects in his mouth.”
The device could help people who have had their teeth broken while playing high impact sports such as ice hockey and rugby, researchers said.
The system also could help those suffering from dental root resorption, a common effect of injury to dental tissue caused by disease or from wearing orthodontic braces. The device works to counteract the resorptive process, allowing users to continue wearing corrective braces.
The researchers are working on turning their prototype into a market-ready model and expect the device to be ready for public use by 2008.
For more information, contact Phoebe Dey,
Sniffing out the flu
Children under age 5 may get a boost in protection by sniffing a flu vaccine instead of injecting it.
A new study funded by MedImmune, which manufactures the nasal spray flu vaccine, FluMist, found that the nasal spray vaccine was 55 percent more effective than traditional flu shots at preventing influenza in children 6 months to 5 years old.
In the largest study of its kind, researchers inoculated 8,475 children in 16 countries with either the nasal spray vaccine or the flu shot during the 2004-05 flu season, according to MedImmune, based in Gaithersburg, Md. Flu shot participants developed influenza at a rate of 8.6 percent, while 3.9 percent of nasal spray participants developed influenza, according to MedImmune.
Some younger participants, between 6 months and 2 years old, temporarily developed asthma-like wheezing in the weeks following the dose at a slightly higher rate than participants receiving the flu shot, according to MedImmune.
For more information, contact Clarencia Stephen,
Cutting the rough
For golfers, few things are more aggravating than a lost ball. Not a ball hit into the water, which is aggravating in its own way, but rather a ball that trickles out of the fairway and then goes missing, having rolled into tall grass or beneath some leaves.
RadarGolf hopes to ease those headaches, according to Chris Savarese, who founded RadarGolf in 2002.
“We think we’ve solved a problem that a lot of golfers deal with,” Savarese said. “We’re all about speeding the pace of play and relieving frustrations.”
At the core of RadarGolf’s solution is a microchip embedded within the ball that reflects a radio signal—called BPS technology—from a handheld transmitter and returns the signal to the device, helping the wayward golfer find his or her ball. The tiny chip does not affect the performance of the ball, Savarese said.
“The punishment a golf ball takes is pretty significant and our microchip withstands those forces,” he said.
RadarGolf is available through its Web site, <www.radargolf.com>, and at Sharper Image outlets and some golf outlet stores sell it as well. The RadarGolf ball conforms to all United States Golf Association standards, according to RadarGolf.
For more information, contact Chris Savarese, 925-314-1861
The U.S. Army’s new bandage is made of a material that’s more common in an appetizer. Oregon-based HemCon Inc. worked with the U.S. Army to develop a bandage made of thin layers of chitosan, a material that comes from shrimp shells.
When the chitosan is ground into a powder and treated with chemicals, it forms a pliable, sterile dressing designed to control severe bleeding from traumatic injuries, according to Staci McAdams, vice president of marketing for HemCon.
The bandages stick to tissue surfaces when they come into contact with blood or moisture. The U.S. Army is using them in Iraq.
“To date there have been over 100 successful field uses of the HemCon bandage,” McAdams said. “Published reports from the military show that over 60 lives have been saved as a direct result of using the HemCon bandage. Because of this success, the Army is now in the process of issuing at least one HemCon bandage to each soldier deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
McAdams said the bandages are also available to EMS, fire and rescue units, and hospitals. They are also available by prescription. The bandages should be available without a prescription by 2007, McAdams said.
For more information, contact Staci McAdams,
Playing video games helps surgeons work faster and make fewer mistakes in surgical drills, according to a study by New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center. After playing for 20 minutes before completing a “cobra rope drill,” a laparoscopic training exercise, participants’ speed increased by an average of 11 seconds and participants made fewer errors than by those who did not play. More than 300 surgeons participated in the trials.
For more information, contact Dr. James Rosser,
Swedish researchers developed a new vaccine they say could provide a longer lasting treatment for cancer. The DNA-based vaccine prevents cancer growth by tricking the body into producing antibodies, which stop new blood vessels from attaching themselves to a tumor. In tests on mice with cancer, vaccinated mice produced antibodies that stopped tumor growth for more than five months.
For more information, Lars Holmgren,
Karolinksa Institute, Department of Oncology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shooting out of the water, the “robo-dolphin” propels two passengers through the air, performing barrel rolls and gliding through water just like the real creatures. Designed by Redding, Calif.-based Innespace Productions, this human-holding, pseudo-mammal will join its aquatic ancestor on tour in 2007.
For more information, contact Ron Innes,
Editor: Angela Freeman
Contributing to this issue: Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Karen Hudgins, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Bruce Wright and Laura Zvonek