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Innovation

Brain implants let paralyzed woman move robot arm

Jan Scheuermann can't use her limbs to feed herself, but she's pretty good at grabbing a chocolate bar with her robot arm.

She's become the first to demonstrate that people with a long history of quadriplegia can successfully manipulate a mind-controlled robot arm with seven axes of movement. Earlier experiments had shown that robot arms work with brain implants.

Scheuerman was struck by spinocerebellar degeneration in 1996. A study on the brain-computer interface (BCI) linking Scheuermann to her prosthetic was published online in this month's issue of medical journal The Lancet.

Training on the BCI allowed her to move an arm and manipulate objects for the first time in nine years, surprising researchers.

It took her less than a year to be able to seize a chocolate bar with the arm, after which she declared, "One small nibble for a woman, one giant bite for BCI." Check it out in the video below. … Read more

Hair clip inspires device that clamps down traumatic bleeding

After three tours in Afghanistan as a trauma surgeon for the Canadian Navy, Dr. Dennis Filips was inspired -- by a simple hair clip -- to design a medical clamp that can stop traumatic wound bleeding in a matter of seconds.

Now the device, due to hit the market in multiple countries later this year, has earned Filips the top innovator award at last week's Life Science and Health Care Ventures Summit in New York.

The ITClamp will "level the playing field for everybody," Filips recently told the Edmonton Journal. (His firm, Innovative Trauma Care, is based … Read more

Early-warning software could reduce false alarms of seizures

Of the 50 million people worldwide estimated to have epilepsy, almost a third do not respond to treatment. Those patients must rely on implantable anti-seizure devices that detect pre-seizure electrical activity and shoot small electrical impulses to the brain to interrupt the seizures.

The downside is that the tech, still early in development, also produces false positives, causing devices to send currents to the brain when a seizure is not actually occurring. One new approach, developed by a biomedical and electrical engineer at Johns Hopkins University, appears to reduce those false alarms.

Tested on real-time recordings of brain activity in … Read more

Microfluidic chip to quickly diagnose the flu

During the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009, which spread across more than 200 countries and killed more than 18,000 people, it became clear that flu diagnosis was often taking too long and resulting in frequent false negatives.

Today, researchers from Boston University, Harvard, and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are reporting in the journal PLoS ONE that they have built a microfluidic chip that rivals in accuracy the gold-standard diagnostic test known as RT-PCR but is faster, cheaper, and disposable.

For their four-year study, which involved 146 patients with flu-like symptoms and was funded by the National Institutes … Read more

Living 'gut-on-a-chip' to help study intestinal disorders

After describing a living, breathing "lung-on-a-chip" in Science back in the summer of 2010, Harvard researchers are now reporting in the journal Lab on a Chip on their latest endeavor: a human gut-on-a-chip.

These bio-inspired micro devices that mimic the structures, behaviors, and environments of human organs could help scientists better understand the inner workings of a variety of diseases and disorders -- in this case intestinal ones such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis -- without resorting to often less reliable animal testing.

The latest so-called "gut-on-a-chip" is a silicon polymer device whose central … Read more

MIT study: Light alone can activate specific memories

In a famous surgery in the early 1900s, Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, trying to treat epilepsy, found that stimulating specific neurons while patients were under local anesthesia caused them to vividly recall complex events. The mind, then, is based on matter, Penfield concluded.

Now researchers at MIT say they put this observation to the test in a rigorous study showing that the direct reactivation of specific hippocampus neurons can lead to very specific memory recall. And to do this, all they used was light.

"We demonstrate that behavior based on high-level cognition, such as the expression of a specific … Read more

Can IBM's Watson help cancer patients?

Patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center may receive cancer diagnoses and treatment with the help of IBM's Watson supercomputer by the end of 2013.

Watson would make diagnoses and suggest treatment approaches that take into account individual patient concerns, the Associated Press reported today.

Using its natural-language processing powers, the artificial intelligence system will study textbooks, oncology studies, and medical records if patients give permission. An advisory panel will test its assessments of increasingly complicated cancer cases. … Read more

Litmus-like sensor could detect chemical weapons

Researchers at the University of Michigan say they have developed a simple litmus-like test for nerve gas that could clue military personnel into when they might actually need to use those heavy masks and protective gear. (Nerve gases, the most toxic of chemical warfare agents, and are colorless, odorless, and tasteless.)

"To detect these agents now, we rely on huge, expensive machines that are hard to carry and hard to operate," Jinsang Kim, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. "We wanted to develop an equipment-free, motion-free, … Read more

Parkinson's patients test video games as therapy (video)

An estimated 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson's disease, which causes slowness of movement, tremors, and loss of balance. Physical therapy can ease symptoms and may delay progression of the disease. Now, cutting-edge tech is transforming everyday therapy into entertaining exercises.

Parkinson's patients recently took part in a University of California at San Francisco study to see if special video games could replace their regular exercises. Scientific researchers and game developers came together to create the therapeutic games. Check out this SmartPlanet video that explores the technology.

This video originally appeared on SmartPlanet with the headline "Video games replace physical therapy for Parkinson's patients.&… Read more

Wireless asthma inhaler teaches proper use

Many of us have never been properly trained on how to do or use certain things we really should be good at. Putting on condoms and installing infant car seats are just two skills that come to mind; when we get them wrong, the health consequences can be grave.

The same can be said for improper asthma inhaler use--a serious and expensive problem considering some 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to and 11 people die from asthma every day, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Let's face it: some devices could use training wheels.

Enter the T-Haler, a digital asthma inhaler training device developed by researchers at Cambridge Consultants. Patients can use the inhaler and, via interactive software linked to the wireless device, get real-time visual feedback on the areas that need improving.… Read more