AI Can Now Detect Alzheimer’s 10 Years Before Symptoms Appear

 Artificial intelligence can identify the signs of Alzheimer’s in scans a decade before symptoms show, researchers say.

Doctors have developed an algorithm that analyses MRI scans to identify structural changes to the brain caused by the disease, with accuracy of more than 80 per cent. Experts believe that AI could be used by the NHS to predict Alzheimer’s and other diseases within ten years.

AI diagnosis is expected to be available sooner privately for those worried about mild memory loss, often the first sign of dementia, or a worrying family history. Having a close relative with the disease is thought to raise slightly the risk of developing it.

Routine Drone Deliveries Begin In Switzerland

 Logistics company Matternet has announced a permanent autonomous drone network in Switzerland that will see lab samples such as blood tests and other diagnostics flown between hospital facilities, clinics, and labs.

The first delivery network will be operational from this month, with several more to be introduced later in the year. Matternet says medical items can be delivered to hospitals within 30 minutes.

Matternet, based in Menlo Park, California, was granted authorization to operate its drones over densely populated areas in Switzerland in March and says that approval was a world first. Today, the company unveiled a Matternet Station; a kind of white, futuristic looking postbox with a footprint measuring about two square meters, that can be installed on rooftops or on the ground to send and receive packages by drone.

Amazon To Launch Alexa Smart Glasses

 Amazon is working on its first wearable device: a pair of “smart glasses” that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to be summoned anytime, anywhere.

The device, which would tether wirelessly to a smartphone, is designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles so that it could be worn comfortably and unobtrusively, the people said. A bone-conduction audio system would allow the wearer to hear Alexa without having to insert headphones into their ears.

The glasses are not Amazon’s only upcoming Alexa product launch. The Seattle-based group is also said to be expanding its “smart home” hardware line-up with a new home security camera system. The internet-connected camera would tie into its Echo products, for instance allowing people to view the video feed on Echo Show’s screen, and letting Amazon customers see when their orders from the site have been delivered to their doorstep.

Future Concept: The Smart Vision EQ ForTwo

Daimler has been showing off its all-new Smart Vision EQ ForTwo. Not only does the two-seater follow in the all-electric footsteps of the Mercedes Generation EQ, it features a full suite of technologies purpose-designed for autonomous car-sharing. The colourful little bubble car lets you know it’s your ride, then whisks you away to your desired destination.

Unlike Mini, the Smart brand has had an electric car for years and currently offers an electric option for all its vehicles. So, Smart is now taking the next step into the future, exploring the fully autonomous electric ForTwo developed specifically for urban car sharing.

The Vision EQ ForTwo fleet that Daimler envisions would use “swarm intelligence” to concentrate in areas of high demand, helping to shorten pick-up times and improve overall system convenience. There would always be available cars out roaming the roads based on this intelligent mapping, helping to foster higher utilization numbers and cut reliance on privately owned vehicles.

Brain Inflammation May Trigger Depression

A growing body of research suggests that brain inflammation could be responsible for some major depressive episodes. A new study from a team at the University of Manchester has now made an even more specific contention – linking brain inflammation to suicidal thoughts.

A major study published in 2015 found a strong correlation between a person undergoing a major depressive episode and enhanced neuroinflammation, as measured by increased microglial activity in parts of the brain. Microglia are a specific type of immune cell active in the brain and spinal cord that serve as the main form of active immune defence in the central nervous system.

Following on from that earlier study, Dr Peter Talbot from the University of Manchester set out to explore whether this increased microglial activity could be more specifically linked to suicidal thoughts.

Fourteen patients with moderate to severe depression (and reported suicidal thoughts) took part in the study alongside thirteen healthy control subjects. Using a PET scan identifying a marker that signals activated microglial activity, the results indicated a positive correlation between those patients with suicidal thoughts and increased neuroinflammation.

The biggest increases in microglial activity were identified in the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain known for mood regulation and one that some suggest could be a strong target as a biological origin of depression. Notably, there was no elevated microglial activity in those brain areas in the healthy control group

Just What The (Green) World Needs!  An All-Electric Hummer

Battery company Kreisel Electric recently hosted Arnold Schwarzenegger to launch an all-electric Hummer H1 at the company’s new headquarters in Austria.

This isn’t the first time Schwarzenegger and Kreisel Electric have joined forces. In fact, the actor and politician has become something of an ambassador for the electric motor company, acting as a spokesman at the unveiling of an electrified Mercedes-Benz G-Class in January of this year, and working alongside Kreisel’s engineers in California on its ongoing testing and development.

This time around, Kreisel Electric has tackled an even larger vehicle in the Hummer H1. It says the standard version of this iconic off-roader drinks up to 24 liters of fuel per 100 km (9.8 mpg) and emits up to 470 g of C02 per km.

Kreisel Electric says the conversion took around two months, in which time they fitted the H1 with batteries with 100 kWh of capacity, along with a pair of electric motors for an output of 360 kW (483 hp). The finished product weighs 3,300 kg (7,275 lb), has a top speed of 120 km/h (74 mph) and a range of around 300 km (186 mi).


Robot Carries Out First Dental Procedure On Human Patient

A robot has carried out a dental operation on a human without help from dentists for the first time, carrying out implant surgery on a patient in China.

Although medical staff were present during the one-hour surgery in Xian, Shaanxi province, they did not play an active role. Two new teeth, created by 3D printing, were successfully implanted into a female patient’s mouth.

The robot was developed by Beihang University in Beijing and the Fourth Military Medical University’s Stomatological Hospital.

Dr Zhao Yimin told reporters that the robot was designed to carry out dental procedures and avoid mistakes made by human error.   It followed a set of pre-programmed commands to fit the implants into the patient’s mouth, but was able to make adjustments as the woman moved.

The robot was built to help deal with China’s shortage of qualified dentists. Hong Kong and Singapore are also facing a severe shortage of dentists.

Communication System To Power The Internet of Things

 University of Washington researchers have developed a low-cost, long-range data-communication system that could make it possible for medical sensors or billions of low-cost “internet of things” objects to connect via radio signals at long distances (up to 2.8 kilometers) and with 1000 times lower required power (9.25 microwatts in an experiment) compared to existing technologies.

“People have been talking about embedding connectivity into everyday objects for years, but the problem is the cost and power consumption,” said Vamsi Talla, chief technology officer of Jeeva Wireless, which plans to market the system within six months. “This is the first wireless system that can inject connectivity into any device with very minimal cost.”

The new system uses “backscatter,” which uses energy from ambient transmissions (from WiFi, for example) to power a passive sensor that encodes and scatter-reflects the signal. (This article explains how ambient backscatter, developed by UW, works.)

Backscatter systems, used with RFID chips, are very low cost, but are limited in distance. So the researchers combined backscatter with a “chirp spread spectrum” technique, used in LoRa (long-range) wireless data-communication systems.

 FitBit Data Has Driven 457 Medical Studies

 A growing number of medical researchers are flocking to Fitbit data for use in clinical studies of everything from arthritis to sleep apnea to cancer.

Since 2012, scientists have published 457 studies using Fitbit device data, nearly half of them in 2017 alone. According to a recent analysis in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, that puts the company well ahead of its competition. In clinical trials that used consumer activity monitors, a full 83 percent outfitted trial participants with a Fitbit. For NIH-funded research, that number rose to 95 percent.

Some researchers, like Sheri Hartman, a psychologist at the University of California San Diego, gravitate toward Fitbit devices because they deliver information without being burdensome for her patients—breast cancer survivors struggling with brain fogginess and other cognitive declines following treatment. They just have to keep it charged and wear it, that’s it. Fitbit, and its data-crunching research facilitation partner, Fitabase, do the rest.

Fitabase, if you haven’t heard of it, is like Fitbit’s personal digital plumber. The company has built a connection to Fitbit’s API that allows it to pipe out user data to scientists. Since it launched in 2012, Fitabase has collected over 3.5 billion minutes of Fitbit data on behalf of research customers at places like John Hopkins, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

World Pay Takeover Marks “Coming Of Age” for Fintech

 U.S. credit-card processor Vantiv has struck a deal to buy British payments processing rival Worldpay for £9.3bn after weeks of negotiations to create the world’s biggest industry player by the number of transactions handled.

The combined group, which is valued at £22.2bn, will retain the name Worldpay and have its international headquarters in London.

The terms of the deal were improved after pressure from investors following an announcement of the original offer last month — and rival interest from US bank JPMorgan. Vantiv’s swoop to create the market leading payments processor is a sign of how ecommerce is transforming the sector from a sleepy backwater of finance to an exciting source of growth amid the shift from cheques and cash to cards and digital payments. Analysts expect further mergers as smaller rivals battle for scale.

Exciting New Gene Therapy Prevents/Reverses MS In Rodents

Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a new gene therapy that shows promise in fighting multiple sclerosis (MS). Testing the technique in mice, the team found that the treatment was effective in preventing animals from developing the mouse equivalent of the disease, and almost completely reversed the symptoms in those that were already suffering from it.

MS is a debilitating immunological disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, the tissue that surrounds and protects nerves. Once damaged, the exposed nerves can effectively short-circuit, resulting in issues with muscles, vision, speech and motor control.

Potential treatments being studied include training the body to better tolerate myelin, drugs that target the immune system’s B cells, blocking proteins that cause inflammation in the body, or even “rebooting” the entire immune system.

This new treatment works by reigning in the overreacting T cells that are attacking the myelin. The researchers deliver a specific gene, which hitches a ride on a harmless virus, into the livers of mice, and once in the liver that gene codes for a protein called myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein. Since the liver plays a key role in inducing immune tolerance, that protein increases the production of regulatory T cells, suppressing the immune system’s attack on the body.

New Battery Claimed To Be “Instantly Rechargeable”

A technology developed by Purdue University researchers could provide an “instantly rechargeable” method that is safe, affordable and environmentally friendly for recharging electric and hybrid vehicle batteries through a quick and easy process similar to refueling a car at a petrol station.

The innovation could expedite the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles by eliminating the time needed to stop and recharge a conventional electric car’s battery and dramatically reducing the need for new infrastructure to support re-charging stations.

John Cushman, Purdue University distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary science and a professor of mathematics, presented the research findings “Redox reactions in immiscible-fluids in porous media – membraneless battery applications” at the recent International Society for Porous Media 9th International Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Cushman has co-founded Ifbattery LLC (IF-battery) to further develop and commercialize the technology.

“Electric and hybrid vehicle sales are growing worldwide and the popularity of companies like Tesla is incredible, but there continues to be strong challenges for industry and consumers of electric or hybrid cars,” said Cushman, who led the research team that developed the technology. “The biggest challenge for industry is to extend the life of a battery’s charge and the infrastructure needed to actually charge the vehicle. The greatest hurdle for drivers is the time commitment to keeping their cars fully charged.”

Wireless Charging Becomes Possible Over Distance (With Data)

Researchers from North Carolina State University (NCSU) have developed a system that can wirelessly transmit both data and power simultaneously from a distance.

Wireless charging systems use coils to generate electromagnetic fields that can transfer power into another coil built into a phone or other device. Many major phones nowadays have the option for wireless charging, but it usually requires the phone to be placed on top of a pad.

Systems in development at institutions like Disney Research and Duke University are working towards extending that short charging range, but the NCSU project went one step further.

“Recent work by several researchers have extended wireless power to ‘mid-range’ which can supply power at inches to feet of separation,” says David Ricketts, senior author of the new study. “While encouraging, most of the wireless power systems have only focused on the power problem – not the data that needs to accompany any of our smart devices today. Addressing those data needs is what sets our work apart here.”

The team says that combining power and data transfer into a single system can reduce the cost, weight and complexity of a device. But there’s a bandwidth problem: to minimize the amount of power that’s lost in transit, the antennas need to transmit in a narrow bandwidth, which isn’t ideal for transmitting data.

To overcome that, the NCSU team developed a system that took advantage of both wide and narrow bandwidths. The antennas that transmit power do so at narrow bandwidths, but that doesn’t stop the rest of the system making use of a wider band to beam data to a device at the same time. To bolster the data transfer rates and signal quality, the team adapted some common data-rate enhancement techniques including channel equalization.



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