David Kirkpatrick

September 23, 2008

Carbon nanotube coated electrodes increase efficiency

Good news for neurological devices. Coating electrodes with carbon nanotubes makes them much more efficient, longer lasting and less prone to side effects.

From the link:

Researchers led by Edward Keefer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center developed a simple method for coating electrodes with carbon nanotubes. The coated electrodes were better at recording neural activity than were bare electrodes when implanted in mice and in a monkey. Importantly, the coated electrodes provided less-noisy recordings than bare ones did. They also required less power to operate.

And the nanotubes enhanced the electrodes’ ability to both record and stimulate neural activity more than any other coating previously reported. Today’s neural prosthetics are good at sending electrical signals but not at receiving them, says Ravi Bellamkonda, director of the Neurological Biomaterials and Therapeutics group at Georgia Tech. Thus, the batteries in deep-brain stimulators–implanted devices used to treat Parkinson’s–last only three years because the devices are constantly on. “You want to seeif the neuron is quiet,” says Bellamkonda. A feedback-enabled device that powered off when not needed could potentially use the same battery for a few more years.

In these scanning electron microscope images, electrodes coated with carbon nanotubes, like the one on the right, are more conductive and better at interfacing with nervous tissue. The electrode on the left is bare.

Neural nanotubes: In these scanning electron microscope images, electrodes coated with carbon nanotubes, like the one on the right, are more conductive and better at interfacing with nervous tissue. The electrode on the left is bare.

September 1, 2008

Earwax blogging!

Filed under: et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:54 pm

Why? Just because …

The release:

UT Southwestern specialist leads effort to craft first professional guidelines for regarding earwax

DALLAS – Aug. 29, 2008 – The age-old advice to routinely clean out earwax is discouraged under the first published guidelines from health care professionals about removing wax from the ear.

“Unfortunately, many people feel the need to manually remove earwax, called cerumen, which serves an important protective function for the ear,” said the guidelines’ lead author, Dr. Peter Roland, chairman of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Cotton swabs and some other home remedies can push cerumen further into the canal, potentially foiling the natural removal process and instead cause build-up, known as impaction.”

The guidelines recommend professionals use wax-dissolving agents, irrigation or ear syringing, or manually remove it with a suction device or other specialty instrument under supervised care to avoid damaging the ear or further impaction. The guidelines warn against using cotton-tipped swabs, and the home use of oral jet irrigators.

In addition, people with hearing aids should be checked for impaction during regular check-ups because cerumen can cause feedback, reduced sound intensity or damage the hearing aid, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines were created with input from family practitioners, pediatricians, internists, nurses, audiologists and emergency room doctors and have been endorsed by the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

There are no proven methods for avoiding impaction, according to the analysis, so when should you seek out a professional?

“When cerumen builds to the point of causing symptoms such as pain, ringing, itching or hearing problems, it’s a sign you should see a physician,” said Dr. Roland, who also serves as chief of pediatric otology at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

The problem affects one in 10 children, one in 20 adults, and greater than one-third of the elderly and cognitively impaired, according to the academy. About 12 million people annually seek treatment for impacted or excessive cerumen, resulting in nearly 8 million cerumen removal procedures by health care professionals.

“Earwax” is not actually wax, but a water-soluble mixture of secretions produced in the outer third of the ear canal, along with hair and dead skin.

The mixture serves a critical protective function for the ear and shouldn’t be removed unless it’s causing symptoms or interfering with assessments of the ear, said Dr. Roland, who heads to Clinical Center for Auditory, Vestibular and Facial Nerve Disorders at UT Southwestern.

“The complications from cerumen impaction can be painful and include infections and hearing loss,” Dr. Roland said. “It is hoped that these guidelines will give clinicians the tools they need to spot an issue early and avoid serious outcomes.”

The guidelines appear in a supplement to the September issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. They will also be presented at the academy’s September meeting in Chicago.

The new guidelines are based on extensive reviews of scientific studies for a wide range of health care professionals from family doctors and pediatricians, to ear, nose and throat specialists (otolaryngologists).

Other conclusions and recommendations include:

  • Individuals at high risk for cerumen impaction, such as those who wear hearing aids, should consider seeing a clinician every six to 12 months for routine cleaning;
  • Wax dissolving agents are effective, but evidence is lacking regarding the superiority of any particular agent;
  • Irrigation or ear syringing is most effective when a wax-dissolving agent is instilled 15 to 30 minutes before treatment;
  • Ear candling, an alternative to traditional methods of ear wax removal, doesn’t work, is potentially dangerous and is condemned by the Food and Drug Administration; and
  • Manual removal with special instruments under medical supervision is a final option and is preferred for patients with narrow ear canals, eardrum perforation or tube, or immune deficiency.

 

 

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Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/earnosethroat to learn more about clinical services in otolaryngology at UT Southwestern.

This news release is available on our World Wide Web home page at http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/home/news/index.html

To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via e-mail, subscribe at http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/receivenews

Dr. Peter Roland — http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/findfac/professional/0,2356,16205,00.html

April 16, 2008

Molecular movie stars, stem cells and quantum computing

Nice roundup from KurzweilAI.net today.

First up is nngews on a more accurate method for creating movies of molecular and biological processes

Keeping with the biology theme is a breakthrough for treating heart damage with stem cells.

Finishing the group is a bit about progress toward a quantum computer.

Movies of biological and chemical molecules made for first time
KurzweilAI.net, April 16, 2008Argonne National Laboratory scientists have developed accurate techniques for making movies of actual biological and chemical molecules for the first time.


X-ray movie reveals movement of DNA molecule

Biological and organic molecules in solution are far more complex than the standard crystalline structures of salt or metals since they are constantly moving and changing over time.

Using the high-intensity X-rays at the Advanced Photon Source, the scientists have measured images that are blurred by these motions and used computer processing algorithms to create more accurate movies of the molecular motions.

Source: Argonne scientists develop techniques for creating molecular movies

 

Molecule prompts blood stem cells to help repair heart damage in animal model
PhysOrg.com, April 15, 2008University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers used drug-treated blood stem cells to repair heart damage in an animal model.

They screened about 147,000 molecules to find one that could transform human blood stem cells into a form resembling immature heart cells. When they implanted blood stem cells activated by this compound into injured rodent hearts, the human cells took root and improved the animals’ heart function.

 
Read Original Article>>

 

Toward a Quantum Internet
Technology Review, April 15, 2008Northwestern University researchers have build a quantum logic gate–a fundamental component of a quantum computer–within an optical fiber, using entangled photon pairs.

The gate could be part of a circuit that relays information securely, over hundreds of kilometers of fiber, from one quantum computer to another. It could also be used on its own to find solutions to complicated mathematical problems.

 
Read Original Article>>