Friday, May 31, 2013

When Will Smartglasses and Other Wearable Computers Hit the Mainstream?

When Will Smartglasses and Other Wearable Computers Hit the Mainstream?: Scientific American
Scientific American

Google has stoked our collective imagination via relentless promotion of its Google Glass wearable computer in recent months. Thanks to a campaign of Web videos, trade show appearances and blog posts, the search giant has positioned its smartglasses as a hands-free augmented reality gadget that will allow us to share our personal experiences in real time, whether we are skydiving, skiing or handling snakes.

Not surprisingly, a number of competitors have emerged, promising many of the same capabilities. Before augmented-reality eyewear can move into the mainstream, however, Google and its ilk must address some fundamental shortcomings in smartglass technology, including bulky designs, high prices and a dearth of software that would enable them to be more than head-mounted camera phones.

Google should aim for a headset with see-through lenses that allows the wearer to look straight ahead rather than at a small screen off to the side. So says Justin Rattner, a man who, along with his colleagues at chipmaker Intel, spends a lot of time engineering the future of computing technology. Rattner, an Intel Senior Fellow, serves as director of Intel Labs and as the company’s chief technology officer.

Scientific American spoke with him about why smartglasses are getting so much attention, how they should be improved and why Star Trek’s tricorders were a misguided interpretation of the future.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

Wearable computers have been around for decades, including ring scanners that factory workers wear on their fingers to read barcodes and even prototype head-mounted units that enable augmented reality. Why is the technology getting so much attention now? The sensor technology, the communications technology and the computer technology have all reached a point where in some sense for the first time the potential for high-volume consumer wearables is real. That’s what’s new. Today you can put essentially everything that’s in a smartphone into a set of eyeglasses, although they would be a bit heavy. That potentially becomes an interesting platform for communications.

Why do you say “potentially”?
We think there is a grand challenge when it comes to eyewear. No one’s been able to demonstrate a high-performance see-through display. This side-view display that you see in Google Glass and in the Oakley Airwave snow goggles is, in some sense, a recognition of the fact that no one has solved the transparent display problem, even though there are any number of people working on it. [Such a high-performance see-through display would have] an optical engine for the left and right eyes that would project images into the lenses. The display would be constructed in such a way that it keeps the virtual images in front of you, regardless of where you turn your head or your gaze. It would be a perfect overlay, and you would see right through the projected images. So if you’re doing augmented reality and walking in New York, you will see, “Empire State Building” or “Statue of Liberty” hovering over those physical objects.

There’ve been a handful of companies, such as Lumus, that have had these kinds of technologies for a long time, but typically they’ve either been strictly in development or sold for research in augmented reality. Generally speaking, see-through displays have been too bulky, too heavy and too dim to bring to market. They’re fine indoors, but you walk outside and the virtual image is completely washed out.

Lumus’s see-through, wearable displays resemble a larger-than-normal pair of sunglasses and project augmented-reality images onto the sides of the lenses. As the images travel to the center of the lenses, they are reflected into the eyes, giving the wearer the impression of seeing the images on a large screen in front of them. Why can’t these see-through augmented-reality glasses be made more like a regular pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses?
It really requires a very high level of optical engineering to do it right. You have what Lumus has done. In addition to projections systems, others were going to take compact lasers and project the image directly onto the retina. The people working on these technologies have mostly been small, underfunded start-ups or people who are interested only in the optics and not in actually building a complete [smartglasses] product.

What must Google and other companies building these head-mounted, wearable computers do for their devices to become mainstream?
They need to offer an interface that works the way people naturally move and interact. The use of side screens, like what you’re seeing with Google Glass, is basically the admission that they don’t know how to provide a truly augmented Terminator-like view—where the person wearing the headset can see annotated objects or streaming data while seeing through to the physical world. That’s where everybody wants to be as soon as possible.
The way they’re designed, Google Glass is not at all interesting for gaming or for watching movies. But if you could actually project a high-quality image or game or video in your normal field of view and have it respond instantly to changes in your head position, then telepresence becomes really amazing because to your brain you’re essentially in that space.

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Location:Georgetown TX,United States

Friday, May 24, 2013

Common Childhood Asthma Not Rooted in Allergens

Common Childhood Asthma Not Rooted in Allergens, Inflammation
Discovery of Origins of a Unique Form of Asthma May Lead to a Precision Medicine Approach to Treatment

May 23, 2013
Posted in: Cell Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Pediatrics

NEW YORK — Little is known about why asthma develops, how it constricts the airway or why response to treatments varies between patients. Now, a team of researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University Medical Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center has revealed the roots of a common type of childhood asthma, showing that it is very different from other asthma cases.

Their report, in Science Translational Medicine, reveals that an over-active gene linked in 20 to 30 percent of patients with childhood asthma interrupts the synthesis of lipid molecules (known as sphingolipids) that are part of cell membranes found all over the body.

Although the researchers do not yet understand why asthma results from reduced production of sphingolipids, their experiments clearly show a link between loss of these lipids and bronchial hyperreactivity, a key feature of asthma.

What makes this pathway unique, investigators say, is that it is not related to allergens and, the investigators discovered, has nothing to do with inflammation.

“Usually asthma is thought to be an inflammatory disease or a reaction to an allergen. Our model shows that asthma can result from having too little of a type of sphingolipids. This is a completely new pathway for asthma pathogenesis,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Stefan Worgall, chief of the Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy and Immunology Division at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

This is very good news, he adds. “Our findings are not only valuable in understanding the pathogenesis of this complex disease, but provide a basis to develop novel therapies, especially asthma agents based on a patient’s genotype,” says Dr. Worgall, who is also a distinguished professor of pediatric pulmonology, professor of pediatrics and associate professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Precision Medicine for Asthma

Asthma is a significant health problem affecting about 7 million children in the United States. Nearly 10 percent of American children 0–17 years of age have asthma, making it the most common serious respiratory childhood disease. Its prevalence is even higher among inner-city children, says Dr. Worgall. Besides causing suffering, disability and alarm, the economic toll is significant, he says: In 2009, asthma caused 640,000 emergency room visits and 157,000 hospitalizations, plus 10.5 million missed school days.

“Yet while it has become increasingly evident that asthma takes several forms, treatment of the disorder is uniform,” he says. “Most therapies are designed to reduce inflammation, but they do not help all sufferers.”

The notion that asthma has different forms gained ground after several genome-wide association studies (GWAS) found variation in a gene, later identified as ORMDL3, in to up to 30 percent of asthma cases. In 2007, over-production of the gene’s protein was connected to childhood asthma, and this gene has been the most consistent genetic factor identified so far for asthma.

In 2010, a study in yeast found that ORMDL3 protein inhibits sphingolipid de-novo synthesis.

This finding prompted the researchers to investigate whether sphingolipid production is connected to asthma. Their study shows that this is indeed true in mouse models of the disease. Using mouse models, the researchers found that inhibition of an enzyme, serine palmitoyl-CoA transferase (SPT), which is critical to sphingolipid synthesis, produced asthma in mice and in human airways, as it did in mice that had a genetic defect in SPT.

The airway hyperactivity seen in the mice was not linked to increased inflammation, and the scientists saw a decreased response of the lung and airways to magnesium — which is often used in emergency rooms to relieve chest tightness of patients with asthma attacks.

“In our mouse models, we found that magnesium was not effective at inducing airway relaxation, suggesting the same would be true for humans whose asthma is linked to ORMDL3,” says the study’s first author, Dr. Tilla S. Worgall, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology and a member of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center. “The association of decreased de novo sphingolipid synthesis with alterations in cellular magnesium homeostasis provides a clue into the mechanism of asthma. Therefore, therapies that circumvent the effect of the ORMDL3 genotype may be effective treatments for asthma sufferers. We are now working towards developing these new therapies.”

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Location:Pueblo,CO,United States

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Scientists Make Human Bone From Skin Cells

HEALTH INDUSTRYMay 6, 2013, 3:02 p.m. ET
Scientists Make Human Bone From Skin Cells


Researchers have made bits of human bone in a laboratory dish and successfully transplanted them into mice, an early step in the quest to grow replacement bones for patients.

Doctors have tried for years to repair bone injuries or defects with synthetic materials or bone taken from other parts of the body. But those methods have limitations.

A more ambitious approach is to build new bones from stem cells, a method that already has been used to make basic human parts including arteries and windpipes.

As populations around the world get older, "more and more people will need treatment to fix bone defects" related to aging and injuries, said Giuseppe Maria de Peppo, a tissue engineer at the New York Stem Cell Foundation and a researcher involved in the study.

The experiment was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. de Peppo and his colleagues used a method known as reprogramming to transform human skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells, which then can become all other cells in the body.

When certain chemicals were added, the stem cells became cells that can go on to form bone. The bone cells were placed on a scaffold, a sort of frame where they could grow and achieve a three-dimensional structure. The scaffold had been made by washing a cow's bones in chemicals, which left behind a collagen-based structure.

After the scaffold was seeded with the bone cells, it was put in a bioreactor, a tabletop device that provides nutrients and removes waste. As a result, bits of bone, each about 16 square millimeters (0.63 inches) in size, grew on the scaffold.

As a test, a piece of the lab-made bone was surgically placed under the skin of a mouse that lacked an immune system, which could have rejected the bone. Soon, blood vessels began to migrate from the animal's body to inside the bone.

"The [mouse] body recognized the bone as part of the body and started integrating it," said Dr. de Peppo.

The researchers hope to make other pieces of bone in the lab, complete with blood vessels, and see if they can repair injuries in animals. If the method works, it may be tried in people, though that remains several years away.

Write to Gautam Naik at

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Location:Georgetown TX,United States

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Smart Phone As a Medical Device

The Georgetown Advocate
Webster Russell

In a recent Wall Street Journal article Rolfe Winkler wrote that the iPhone "...really isn't so much a handset as it is a computer with software that makes calls and plays music, offers games, gives directions, takes photos, and provides web access..." The one thing he left out is it can also serve as a medical device.

To prove my point let me go back into the weeds for a moment. As of March of this year there was 106 million smart phone users in the US. Of that number approximately 684,000 smartphone users were physicians and more than 255,000 physicians carry tablets for their medical practice. Those kind of numbers incentivize software developers to the make the smart phone another part of medicine's arsenal.

There isn't enough space for me to outline every use I have found so I will mention just a few.

Rural hospitals, through an adapter created by UCLA, can turn a smart phone into a microscope for an off site pathologist to evaluate tissue and blood slides.

Then there is the blood glucose meter that attaches to iPhones or iPods for diabetes monitoring. The app acquires and displays the data for patient or physician use.

Using the iPhone's microphone or camera flash, there's an app that calculates a users' average pulse, stores and displays it.

The iHealth Wireless Blood Pressure Wrist Monitor, expected on the market in soon, will measure and track your systolic/diastolic numbers, heart rate, pulse wave and measurement time. The data can be captured by the company's app, stored,displayed and available for sharing with your physician.

AliveCor Heart Monitor has developed an electrode-studded smartphone case that turns the iPhone 4 into an EKG device which users place on their chests to detect irregular heart rhythms. Combined with the app, the monitor can analyze, transmit and store an ECG reading for their doctor's evaluation.

San Francisco-based CellScope's is developing an otoscope which attaches to a smartphone's camera lens which enables parents to photograph their child's eardrum, then e-mail the images to their physician who can check them for an ear infection.

Then of course there are apps like Web MD, nutrition apps such as Live Strong or Tap Track, patient oriented medication apps such as Micromedex, and patient oriented education apps like TED and iTunes U.

These are but a very few of the many health related apps on the market, so if you have a smart phone check them out, many are free.

- Posted using from my iPad HD

Location:Georgetown TX,United States

Monday, May 6, 2013

A. New hope for Leukemia patients

Gene Therapy Spurs Leukemia Hope


Researchers reported fresh evidence Wednesday that using gene therapy to manipulate the immune system is emerging as a promising new strategy in the fight against cancer.

Five patients with a lethal leukemia achieved complete and rapid remissions after the treatment, in which cells from their own immune systems were genetically altered to specifically attack the disease.

While the study was small, researchers were impressed that the cancer was eradicated in all five patients. In one patient, all evidence of the cancer was gone eight days after treatment.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Five patients achieved rapid remission after their immune systems were manipulated. Study author Renier J. Brentjens with a patient.

"The results here are profound," said Renier J. Brentjens, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and lead author of the study. "It's a very promising step forward."

The findings were reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The patients, who ranged in age from 23 to 66, were diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, and had previously relapsed after standard chemotherapy. For such patients, a bone-marrow transplant is their only hope for a cure, and many don't survive long enough to get one.

"This has the potential to increase the number of people who would be cured," said Carl June, a cancer researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who wasn't involved in the study. His own work with a similar technique has shown promise in chronic lymphocytic leukemia and in ALL in children.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 6,000 new cases of ALL will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, one-third of them adults.

The treatment involves taking a patient's T-cells, the infection- and disease-fighting cells of the immune system, and genetically modifying them to target a protein called CD19, which is present on ALL cells. The engineered cells are then infused back into the patient, primed to hunt down the leukemia cells.

In the current study, complete remission occurred within a maximum of 59 days of treatment, researchers reported. Two patients with especially advanced ALL experienced what Dr. Brentjens termed a "shake and bake response"—significant fever and a drop in blood pressure that resulted in their admission to intensive care.

The intensity of the side effects reflected both the patients' level of disease as well as a dramatic response to the therapy, Dr. Brentjens said. They were effectively treated with steroids.

Researchers couldn't measure how long the benefit would be sustained because once remission was established, four patients received bone-marrow transplants.

The fifth patient, who wasn't a candidate for a transplant, relapsed after 90 days and eventually died, Dr. Brentjens said. One other patient died of a pulmonary embolism two months after a bone-marrow transplant.

More work is needed to determine how best to use the treatment in leukemia patients, Dr. Brentjens said. Meantime, his laboratory and others plan to test the strategy in a wide array of cancers.

Study sponsors included the National Cancer Institute and Sloan-Kettering. Dr. Brentjens and a co-author hold a patent on the engineered T-cell receptor.

A version of this article appeared March 21, 2013, on page A2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Gene Therapy Spurs Leukemia Hope.

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Location:Georgetown TX,United States