Making the Body Produce its Own Medicine

Injections and infusions are a part of life for many hemophiliacs, diabetics and people with kidney failure.

Short of curing their diseases, a better approach to treatment would be making their bodies produce the medication that saves their lives.

A team of researchers at University of Pennsylvania has shown that this could be possible by inserting genes into their lungs. By adding a gene to mice lungs that encodes for a protein missing from some hemophiliacs’ blood — factor IX — the researchers have caused the mice lungs to churn out the protein in therapeutic amounts.

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Artificial Muscles, Smart Skin Possible with New Material

By developing a new organic composite that changes shape with minimal electrical input, researchers at Penn State have overcome a barrier to artificial muscles and provided a candidate material for everything from smart skins to miniscule drug pumps.

“Electroactive polymers have been around for a long time, but the energy input required for them to do enough work to be of value was very high,” says Dr. Qiming Zhang, a professor of electrical engineering at Penn State. “With this new composite we have reduced the voltage to one tenth that previously needed.”

Electroactive polymers are simply polymers that can undergo controlled changes in such things as charge distribution and shape. This makes the materials ideally suited to form such things as actuators, sensors and flexible displays.
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Microsoft Office of the Future

Microsoft unveils their new office of the near future in a swanky center in Redmond. Inside this article you will find clear evidence of institutional navel gazing like never before and a staggering ignorance of current technology (much of this seems retreaded) not to mention actual business needs or wants.

Want proof? How about: ‘”Surround sound is going to be increasingly important in future offices,” says group marketing manager Tom Gruver in leading a tour of the new facility.’ Right. More chestnuts inside.
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Weird ‘Heat Shrinking’ Material Discovered

One of zirconium’s several compounds has amazed scientists with its weird behavior and sheer variety of potential commercial uses. Its name is zirconium tungstate and it could make many everyday annoyances a thing of the past.

Wild temperature swings can crack a plate as easily as dropping it on a hard kitchen floor, for example. A ceramic dish taken from the freezer and thrust into a hot oven splits apart because some parts heat up and expand faster than others.

But all that may change with non-toxic zirconium tungstate, a blend of zirconium, tungsten and oxygen. And several U.S. patent applications have already been lodged to exploit its main feature: a tendency to shrink, uniformly, when heat is applied.

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Coffee Can Kill Pain… but Only in Women

Coffee can kill pain, but only in women, a British newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The London Times said researchers in London had asked a sample of men and women to plunge their arms into buckets of freezing cold water and keep them there as long as they could.

They then gave the volunteers coffee in the expectation that it would ease the pain. Caffeine increases blood pressure which usually, according to the paper, leads to a lowering in the perception of pain.

The study found that while the caffeine did little for the men it had “a strong impact” on the women.

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Study Faults Media Focus on Copyright Piracy

Media companies must put less emphasis on protecting digital content and instead find ways to make money from digital music and movies if they hope to beat back copyright pirates who threaten their businesses, according to a study released on Wednesday from KPMG.

The KPMG study said the responsibility for finding new digital business models lies with the boards of directors and not just with mid-level managers. With an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion in lost revenues annually, the issue should be a corporate governance matter.

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Study Finds Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Mild problems like anxiety, agitation and irritability may be precursors of the dementia that marks Alzheimer’s disease, a finding that could open the door to earlier treatment, researchers said on Tuesday.

The researchers found that of the 682 people with either condition, 43 percent of the patients with mild cognitive impairment and 75 percent of the dementia patients had exhibited such symptoms. More here.

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Report: Health Care Spending Up 10 Percent in 2001

Expensive medical technologies and steep hospital fees helped fuel a 10 percent jump in health care spending in 2001, according to a report in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Spending by consumers and insurance companies on outpatient hospital care outpaced expenditures for prescription drugs for the first time in a decade in 2001, according to the report issued on Wednesday.

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Gene Therapy Keeps Blood Flowing

Gene therapy given after treatment to unblock clogged-up arteries could help them stay clear, according to research.

Narrowing of blood vessels can increase the chance of heart attack or stroke, and one treatment is to insert and inflate a balloon in the affected section, then put in a metal tube to stop it closing again.

However, the insertion of the tube, called a stent, can actually trigger a reaction in some patients which leads to rapid re-blocking of the blood vessel.

Researchers at the University of Kuoppio in Finland believe they understand why the stent causes this process.

They also think they can halt this reaction by introducing an extra gene into the blood vessel.

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Ultrasound Blood Purifier Reduces Fat Problem

A new ultrasonic device that removes tiny fat droplets from blood should help prevent brain damage after heart surgery.

Two thirds of patients undergoing major heart operations suffer some form of mental impairment afterwards, such as a reduced ability to perform mental arithmetic or remember phone numbers. In half of these patients the problems are permanent.

The cause is still controversial, but most researchers think that minute fat droplets lodging in the blood vessels of the brain are responsible. It is thought these block the supply of oxygen to tiny clusters of nerve cells.

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Science’s 10 Most Beautiful Experiments

Robert P. Crease, a member of the philosophy department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory, recently asked physicists to nominate the most beautiful experiment of all time.

1.) Young’s double-slit experiment applied to the interference of single electrons
2.) Galileo’s experiment on falling objects

3.) Millikan’s oil-drop experiment
4.) Newton’s decomposition of sunlight with a prism
5.) Young’s light-interference experiment

6.) Cavendish’s torsion-bar experiment
7.) Eratosthenes’ measurement of the Earth’s circumference
8.) Galileo’s experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes
9.) Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus
10.) Foucault’s pendulum

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UN Seeks Anti-Cloning Treaty

A worldwide treaty to ban human reproductive cloning is a step closer after the United Nations sets up a working party to draft an agreement.

The UN General Assembly’s legal committee, meeting on Monday, has created the group to begin wording the treaty.

However, the process is expected to take years, with all 190 member nations given the opportunity to have their say on the issue.

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