en español: El Innovador de Texas
Scanning out cancer
Detecting cancer just got easier. Instead of invasive poking and prodding, doctors can conduct an optical scan to find diseased cells, thanks to the doctors and researchers of the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, MD Anderson Cancer Center and British Columbia Cancer Agency.
“This state-of-the-art technology could prove to be one of the most exciting breakthroughs in cancer detection to date,” said Hugh Hyde, the chief executive for Houston-based Remicalm LLC, a privately held medical diagnostic and imaging company that bought the license to conduct the optical imaging tests.
“Optical detection can be used by health care providers to deliver quick, painless non-invasive testing,” Hyde said.
The method detects cancerous and precancerous cells in human tissue through the use of optical fluorescence and reflectance, which allows doctors to read and compare the metabolic and physiologic differences in diseased and healthy tissue.
Remicalm licensed 19 patents and has an additional five pending relating to detecting cancerous and precancerous cells.
For more information, contact Jerry Trzeciak,
Scientists using existing global positioning system (GPS) software may soon accurately detect within minutes whether an earthquake will produce a tsunami.
Current rapid detection techniques tend to underestimate the size of earthquakes larger than 8.5 on the Richter scale, according to Geoffrey Blewitt of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno. Researchers initially categorized the Sumatra earthquake of 2004 as an 8.0, eventually upgrading it to a 9.2 to 9.3.
Blewitt’s team measured GPS displacement, or how far ground stations shifted because of the earthquake, by calculating the time radio signals from GPS satellites arrived at ground stations located within a few thousand miles of the earthquake, Blewitt said.
The team discovered that the Sumatra earthquake shifted the ground as far as 1,200 miles away, Blewitt said.
“With signals like that, an earthquake this huge can’t hide,” Blewitt said. “We hypothesized that if GPS data could be analyzed rapidly and accurately, they would quickly indicate the earthquake’s true size and tsunami potential.”
Using GPS software to quickly evaluate earthquake data could help warning centers issue rapid alerts, Blewitt said.
For more information, contact Geoffrey Blewitt,
Building better bones
A team of scientists from the University of Tennessee (UT) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee developed a gel-like substance that could improve bone grafts. The material uses a natural polymer, bacterial cellulose, which mimics the way bones grow in human bodies.
Grafts from real bone require two operations because the bone grafts are first taken from somewhere else in the body, according to Stacy Hutchins, a graduate researcher with UT and ORNL. Current synthetic bone grafts are brittle and may migrate to and damage surrounding tissues, she said.
The new material would require only one operation. It would work well for craniofacial defects, dental implants and to anchor other implants, such as hips or knees, Hutchins said.
“The estimated worldwide bone graft market is $800 million annually, with the U.S. accounting for approximately half the market,” Hutchins said. “Due to an aging population, sports injuries in younger people and an increase in dental implementation procedures, this market is set to grow in the future.”
For more information, contact Ron Walli,
Cranberry juice, the tart drink long touted as a treatment for urinary tract infections, also can take a bite out of tooth decay.
A team led by oral biologist Hyun Koo, at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, found that cranberry juice protects teeth against Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for dental cavities. Streptococcus mutans create most cavities by eating sugars and then excreting acids that cause dental decay.
The researchers found that cranberry juice disrupts the formation of plaque’s building block, known as a glucan. Bacteria use enzymes to build dental plaque, which covers teeth and gives bacteria a haven to thrive and produce acid. Cranberry juice inhibits those enzymes and stops additional bacteria from sticking to the tooth, thus preventing bacteria from forming plaque.
“Something in the cranberry juice disarms the pathogens that cause tooth decay,” Koo said.
Rather than advocate mass consumption of cranberry juice to prevent tooth decay, Koo is working with researchers at Rutgers University to isolate the compounds within the juice that pack an anti-cavity punch.
For more information, contact Tom Rickey,
Rewind the roses
Warm muffins, fresh chocolate cookies and sun-kissed lemons bring to mind satisfying smells that may never have to fade away. Engineers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan are developing an odor recorder device that can determine a certain smell and then reproduce it using an array of non-toxic chemicals, said creator Takamichi Nakamoto.
Funded by the Japanese government, the research could someday allow online shoppers to smell before they buy.
The latest version of the odor recorder can blend up to 96 odor components in the liquid phase, capturing common fruit flavors such as apple, peach and banana, according to Nakamoto‘s lab research.
“It might one day be small enough to be included in a digital camera, so that the smell of a scene could be captured along with its image,” said Stephen Brewster, a professor of human computer interaction at the University of Glasgow. “This could then be played back when you view the photo to enhance the memories of the event.”
For more information, contact Takamichi Nakamoto,
Zap away migraines
An experimental device could help zap away migraine headaches before they become full blown, according to a team of scientists based at the Ohio State University Medical Center.
Patients place the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) device at the back of their heads, and the machine emits a magnetic pulse that researchers say interrupts the aura phase of the migraine. Auras are neural disturbances that can signal the onset of migraine headaches for some sufferers. Auras can take several forms, such as patients seeing showers of shooting stars or flashing lights or experiencing vision loss or tingling.
Studies in the 1990s suggested that migraines are a neural phenomenon, like an electrical storm in the brain, rather than a vascular constriction as previously thought. The TMS machine operates on the neural premise by using electrical impulses to create a magnetic field that interrupts the aura before it triggers a throbbing headache, nausea and sensitivity to noise and light.
Participants in a study for the TMS device reported a significant reduction in nausea and in noise and light sensitivity when they used the machine and suffered no side effects from the treatment, according to Yousef Mohammad, the principal investigator of the study.
Researchers plan to conduct a larger study that will test a portable version of the stimulator.
For more information, contact Michael Nkrumah,
Ohio State University, 614-329-1374
Today, people who lose a limb have to use an artificial replacement that must be strapped on. Researchers at the University College London (UCL), however, have developed a way to attach artificial limbs directly to human bone, in a move they say may pave the way for “bionic” limb replacements that can be controlled by the nervous system.
The new technique, called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthesis (ITAP), involves attaching a titanium rod directly to the bone. The rod protrudes through the skin, where an artificial limb can be connected to it. The passage through the skin is the tricky part, since such an opening could allow infections into the body. The UCL procedure avoids this risk because the skin forms a flexible mesh around the rod, sealing the aperture.
The UCL team made the breakthrough by examining the way deer antlers grow; these, too, pierce the skin without causing infection. Early trials on patients who lost fingers and thumbs have been encouraging and will continue for two years. The team estimates that ITAP could be used for thumb and finger replacements within the next few years, with limb replacements following within five years.
For more information, contact Gordon Blunn,
Centre for Biomedical Engineering, University College London,
Building a better burger
The Solae Company, based in St. Louis, Mo., hopes that meat lovers will give their latest innovation a second bite.
Solae unvelied SoleCina to food scientists and technologists in Orlando, Fla., in June 2006. The innovation converts a blend of vegetable and meat protein into a product that food manufacturers can use to offer as an alternative to meat. The look, feel and taste of SoleCina products will have the same “mouth feel” as the real thing, but that isn’t the only benefit of the new process, according to Andrew Shea, a spokesman for Solae.
“[SoleCina] combines vegetable protein and meat protein together to create a nutritious product that in many cases has fewer calories, less fat and less cholesterol,” Shea said.
SoleCina, which has been in development for years, contains soy, and products will carry that label for those with rare soy allergies, Shea said. The Solae Company hopes SoleCina products will be in stores by summer 2007.
For more information, contact Andrew Shea,
Antibacterial extended-wear contact lenses may soon hit the market, according to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia. Biotechnology company Biosignal and the Institute for Eye Research received ethics approval for the first human clinical trial of the new lenses, which could banish adverse reactions caused by microbial contamination of contact lenses, according to UNSW Professor Mark Willcox, who will supervise the trial.
“This trial is the first step towards overcoming this significant problem,” Willcox said.
For more information, contact Mark Willcox,
Engineers in Great Britain have developed a system that could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent by eliminating energy loss. The Turbo-generator Integrated Gas Energy Recovery System uses the energy created as car exhaust passes through the exhaust system to spin a generator, producing up to 600 volts, or enough to operate an average car’s heating, lighting, air-conditioning and entertainment systems.
For more information, contact Foresight Vehicle,
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee say a single, wider tire is better than two thin ones for heavy tractor-trailer trucks. Wider tires increased gas mileage by nearly 3 percent in tests. The tires also allow a wider frame, meaning more stability on the road.
For more information, contact Fred Strohl,
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