Health tech

'Smart tags' can sense when food or medicine go bad

What if you never had to do a smell test for spoiled milk again? Instead of having to take a whiff of the sour liquid, you could just check the color of a small tag placed on the container.

This is exactly what researchers at Peking University in Beijing, China, are working on: color-coded "smart tags."

These corn kernel-sized tags can be stuck to containers of food or medicine and have the capabilities of determining whether the food has gone bad or if the medications are still active. What's more, these tags will reportedly cost less than one penny each. … Read more

A beating patch of cells could mend broken hearts

When the human heart is seriously physically damaged, modern medicine's solution can seem a bit brutal: rip it out and put another one in.

Harvard researchers may have just come up with a more elegant approach. They've created a layer of heart cells that actually beats on its own and could one day be used as a patch to repair major heart defects.… Read more

Blood testing coming to a touch screen near you

People with hemophilia, or those taking anticoagulants to help prevent dangerous outcomes such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or ischemic stroke, are unfortunately at a higher risk of bleeding easily. To better monitor these patients, health care professionals typically take blood coagulation tests in hospitals and clinics -- which can be a real burden both financially and logistically.

But soon, thanks to startup Qloudlab, based in the microengineering lab in Switzerland's EPFL tech university, these patients may be able to use the touch screens on their phones or other devices to test their blood coagulation, all in the comfort of their own homes -- or wherever.… Read more

3D-printed medical device rescues baby's breath

Garrett Peterson is only 18 months old, but he has been hooked to a ventilator just to stay alive. He suffers from a serious form of tracheobronchomalacia, which causes his breathing airways to collapse. Even slight movements can trigger the problem, so he has been unable to go home with his parents, Natalie and Jake Peterson. That's about to change thanks to the use of a 3D-printed trachael splint.

"Nothing would stop him from turning blue," said Natalie Peterson in a release from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, where Garrett underwent surgery in January. "Just lifting his legs for diaper change would collapse his airways and that was it. There was nothing we could do to help him."… Read more

10,000 free folding microscopes traded for inspiring ideas

The Foldscope -- a low-cost microscope that can be constructed like origami out of a sheet of paper with components embedded -- has the potential to revolutionize health care in developing countries -- but it has the potential to do something else, too.

Creator Manu Prakash of Stanford University's Prakash Lab wants to inspire a new generation of up-and-coming young scientists. To this end, he has created the Ten Thousand Microscope Project. Prakash will be giving away 10,000 Foldscopes to "people who would like to test the microscopes in a variety of settings and help us generate an open-source biology/microscopy field manual written by people from all walks of life." … Read more

Water-to-wine Miracle Machine actually a publicity stunt

It sounded like a dream come true. The Miracle Machine was a gadget that would turn water -- along with grape concentrate and yeast -- into wine in your very home in as little as three days. A lot of people got excited, imagining becoming home winemakers without all the bother of growing grapes, aging in barrels, or knowing anything about how to make wine.

There was just one catch, and it was a big one. The Miracle Machine is a made-up product. The Miracle Machine founders promised a Kickstarter launch, but that debut never materialized. It was just a hook to get people to sign up for more information. Today, those people got an e-mail leading them to a video about Wine to Water, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supplying clean drinking water to people in need around the globe.… Read more

High-tech electronic headband may help prevent migraines

If you're among the roughly 10 percent of people who suffer from migraines, there's a new device on the market that could help prevent those debilitating headaches in the first place.

Made by Cefaly Technology in Belgium, the device, simply called Cefaly, is an electronic headband that sits over the ears and across the forehead, just above the eyes. A self-adhesive electrode sends an electric current to the skin and the tissue just beneath it to stimulate a nerve (the trigeminal) that Cefaly says has been associated with migraines.

Though the Food and Drug Administration just approved the device today, … Read more

Spy on your own thoughts with Glass Brain

What do you get when you combine a neuroscientist with the guy who helped invent the virtual world Second Life? A way to virtually fly around the brain with a gamepad watching thoughts in real time.

That's what attendees at Austin's South By Southwest were recently treated to when Philip Rosedale, creator of Second Life, and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Francisco, unveiled their Glass Brain project. Onlookers were able to be neuro-voyeurs as they peeked in on the mind workings of Rosedale's wife Yvette, and watched the storm of activity taking place there. … Read more

Robotic arm gives amputee drummer better beats

When drummer Jason Barnes lost his lower right arm to electrocution two years ago, his future as a musician didn't look too promising. But thanks to a new robotic arm invented by Professor Gil Weinberg, founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, he may soon be the envy of the drumming world.

That's because the new mechanical arm effectively gives Barnes the ability to use three different drumsticks while playing his kit. He holds the first in his left hand, as always. The other two are held by the robotic arm attached to Barnes' right bicep. One of those sticks is controlled by the up-and-down motion of Barnes' arm, as well as electrical impulses from his body measured by electromyography muscle sensors.

The other stick however, analyzes the rhythm being played and uses a built-in motor to improvise on its own, adding a dimension to drumming that's heretofore not seen on any stage we know of. … Read more

New breakthrough: Engineered immune cells may block HIV

Scientists claim they have safely introduced engineered immune cells in 12 people with HIV that have the ability to resist the virus.

Researchers are lauding it as a step toward paving the way to curing the disease. Typically, patients must stay on HIV treatments the rest of their lives.

"This reinforces our belief that modified T cells are the key that could eliminate the need for lifelong (antiretroviral drug therapy) and potentially lead to functionally curative approaches for HIV/AIDS," Dr. Carl H. June, Richard W. Vague Professor in immunotherapy in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, said in a statement.… Read more