A New Way to Save Lives with a Breathalyzer
Breathalyzer tests can save lives by getting drunk drivers off the road. Researchers at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute in Haifa, Israel, have developed a new breath test that could also save lives. In this case, instead of checking to see whether you've had too much to drink, the test discovers whether or not you have lung cancer.
While breath tests for lung cancer currently exist, this one would be much simpler, current tests require additional steps to improve detection. Hossam Haick, the lead author of the paper reporting on the research, noted that their device, which is portable, could not only tell lung cancer patients from healthy controls, but also could identify different types of lung cancer. This information could help doctors when planning a course of treatment.
The test uses a sensor made from gold nanoparticles to measure levels of volatile organic compounds in a person's breath. Haick's test is fast and affordable, and he estimates that it could save millions of lives a year. Best of all, this could be just the beginning. "The potential exists for using the proposed technology to diagnose other conditions and diseases, which could mean additional cost reductions and enhanced possibilities to save lives," Haick says.
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Welcome Our Human-Neuron-Controlled Robot Overlords
The same researchers who brought us the robot controlled by rat brain cells are aiming their sites a little higher. Kevin Warwick and Ben Whalley at the University of Reading, UK, grew 300,000 rat neurons in a nutrient broth and used them to steer a small wheeled robot. Now they're looking at doing the same thing with human brain cells instead.
Before you start worrying about an army of robots commanded by a mad scientist through brain waves, the team notes that their setup could be used to study the effects of neurological diseases such as epilepsy. They note that the way groups of neurons sometimes behave giving out electrical bursts in unison may bear some resemblance to what happens during an epileptic seizure. If so, finding ways to change this behavior in culture could lead the way to therapies for this disease.
The researchers plan to start the project once they complete their work with rat cells, and note that this will be the first time that human cells are used to control a robot. Initially, they plan to study the differences, if any, in the way robots controlled by rat and human neurons behave. In particular, We'll be trying to find out if the learning aspects and memory appear to be similar, noted Warwick.
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