Artificial Meat Will Soon Taste More Like Real Meat
Although lab-grown meat could be a more ethical, eco-friendly alternative to the “real” thing, its texture still leaves something to be desired. That may be about to change, though, thanks to the use of edible gelatin scaffolds.
The meat that people currently eat mostly consists of slaughtered animals’ skeletal muscle, which takes the form of long, thin fibres. And while it’s possible to grow the muscle cells in the lab, they don’t form into such fibres, resulting in a meat texture that is off-puttingly unnatural.
With that in mind, scientists at Harvard University’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences utilised a process known as rotary jet-spinning, to create nanofibers made of a food-safe gelatin. The researchers proceeded to produce three-dimensional assemblages of the fibres, which mimicked the extracellular matrix which serves as the structural scaffold within natural muscle tissue.
Sunglasses That Tell You When You’ve Had Too Much Sun
Although we’ve seen devices such as wrist bands that warn of excessive ultraviolet light exposure, users still have to, you know … look at the things. Glatus sunglasses instead verbally notify you, plus they’ll reportedly let you know if you’re too drowsy to drive.
Offered by Seoul-based start-up Innocean Worldwide, the glasses feature UV sensors in each arm, which transmit data to an iOS/Android app on a Bluetooth-linked smartphone.
That app continuously monitors the wearer’s cumulative UV exposure, prompting a speaker in one arm of the glasses to provide spoken warnings at five different levels of exposure. Those warnings range from things like “Your sun exposure is high, be careful” up to “Your sun exposure is extreme, seek shade.”
Users can also check their exposure level between warnings, simply by looking at the app screen. Additionally, if enabled through the app, infrared sensors at the edge of each lens will detect how often the wearer blinks while they’re driving. If their blink rate increases to the point that drowsiness is indicated, they’ll be warned via a verbal message.
This Photo-Drone Knows Which Is Your “Best Side”
Although camera drones already automatically perform functions such as circling or following a subject, they don’t know what sort of shots actually “look good” artistically. That could be about to change, though, as scientists are working on a system that turns drones into self-directed aerial cinematographers.
Being developed by a team at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, the system has been trained via a technique known as deep reinforcement learning. This involved having human volunteers view computer-generated photo-realistic scenes, in which moving subjects had been “filmed” from the front, back, left and right sides, and from a variety of distances. The subjects were also placed within different parts of the overall shot.
Based on scores that the participants gave to each perspective, the system learned which ones – and which combinations of them – were most preferable. Among other things, it was found that the commonly-used follow-behind shot (in which the drone trails a subject such as a car) soon gets boring, and that while frequent changes in angle helped to keep viewers’ interest, it was distracting if those angles changed too often.
Additionally, the system has been optimised to avoid occlusions that block the view of actors’ faces, it can anticipate their trajectories as they move through the frame, and it can map their surroundings using LiDAR. It doesn’t require prior knowledge of the scripted action that will be taking place in a scene, nor does it require GPS tags of obstacles or landmarks within the shot.
Electric Cap Reverses Male Baldness
An electric patch makes hairless mice grow fur and may reverse balding in men when fitted inside a specially designed baseball cap.
At the moment, men who don’t want to go bald can treat hair loss using minoxidil lotion, finasteride pills or hair transplant surgery. But minoxidil doesn’t work for everyone, finasteride can reduce sex drive and fertility, and surgery is painful and expensive.
Stimulating the scalp with electric pulses has also been shown to restore hair growth. However, it isn’t a very practical treatment because it involves being hooked up to a machine or battery pack for several hours a day.
To overcome this hurdle, Xudong Wang at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have developed a wireless patch that sticks to the scalp and generates electric pulses by harnessing energy from random body movements.
CRISPR Gene-Editing Improved By New Version
The CRISPR gene-editing system is one of the most important developments in medicine in recent years. By making cut-and-paste edits to DNA, scientists can correct a whole range of health problems – but the tool has its own issues, too. Now, Harvard and MIT scientists have created a new approach called prime editing, which could correct almost 90 percent of disease-causing genes.
The first CRISPR system made to edit the human genome worked using an enzyme called Cas9. After guide RNAs directed the tool to the desired section of the genome, Cas9 would then cut both strands of DNA in two places, removing a section of DNA and replacing it with something else. The idea was that troublesome genes – such as those that cause certain genetic diseases – could be completely cut out and replaced with more benign or beneficial bits of DNA.
As powerful as that system is, it isn’t without its risks. Completely cutting sections of DNA and then introducing new ones can create some mistakes, with some studies suggesting that it could increase a patient’s chances of cancer. On top of that, the tool may sometimes miss the right spot, instead making “off-target” edits that can cause all sorts of problems. A study saying just that was criticized and later retracted, but concerns remain.
Enter prime editing. This new version of the tool is designed to be gentler and more precise, coupling the Cas9 enzyme to two new components – a reverse transcriptase (RT) protein and a prime editing guide RNA (pegRNA). It was developed by scientists at MIT’s Broad Institute and Harvard.
Smart Loos Will Soon Detect Cancers
A revolution in cancer screening could use nasal swabs, breathalysers, smart lavatories and hi-tech imaging to spot tumours before they form, according to the first international alliance of experts assembled to focus on early detection.
A £55 million British and American collaboration was announced last month. Most cancer research and funding focuses on treating later-stage cancer because this is the point at which most patients present with symptoms, experts said.
Survival rates fall for those whose cancers are not caught early. Less than 10 per cent of people with a stage four cancer diagnosis will survive their disease compared with 90 per cent with stage one cancers.
Successful screening exists for bowel, breast and cervical cancer but Cancer Research UK, which is committing £40 million to the alliance’s budget, warned that “for many cancer types no screening tools exist and new technologies for detecting cancer have been slow to emerge”. The charity added that early detection was like “looking for a needle in a haystack”.
Is It Becoming Possible To Reverse Human Ageing?
You can’t do anything about your chronological age, but it might be possible to turn back the clock on “biological age,” a small new study suggests.
The study found that a drug regimen appeared to reverse biological age, as measured by changes to DNA that accumulate as we get older.
In the study, nine healthy volunteers — all white men between 51 and 65 years old — took a cocktail of growth hormone, a diabetes medication, and a hormone supplement as part of a drug trial funded by the biomedical firm Intervene Immune in Los Angeles. Each volunteer self-administered the mixture a few times a week for a year, after which scientists took a look at their DNA. Distinctive marks adorning the DNA suggested that participants had shed 2.5 years off their biological ages, on average.
In other words, if the researchers had frozen time to perform the study, the volunteers would have emerged 2.5 years “younger” than they entered. In reality, a full year had passed, so the men gained back about 1.5 years of their lives, so to speak. “It has never been shown before that predicted biological age…can be reversed over time in the same individuals, and especially so after an intervention of this kind,” said Sara Hägg, a molecular epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Solna, Sweden.
Amazon Launches Smart Glasses
Amazon has stepped into the world of connected eyewear with its first ever pair of smart glasses. Not quite as ambitious as some designs to have come and gone before them, the company’s Echo Frames keep things relatively simple in hopes of making its Alexa voice assistant a key part of a user’s everyday life.
It might seem a little unexpected for a huge tech company to launch a pair of smart glasses in 2019 that feature neither a display nor any type of camera, but it appears Amazon is looking to not bite off more than it chew.
Its Echo Frames are designed for everyday use, with owners able to take them to their optometrist to have their required lenses installed, and Amazon claiming they will accommodate most prescriptions.
Built into the frames is a set of four tiny speakers along with a pair of two beam-forming microphones. This setup allows wearers to engage with Alexa when they’re out and about, whether that be asking for some news or directions, turning on a smart light with their voice, setting reminders, or scheduling appointments in their calendar.