Petri-Dish Spreaders Sterilized by Electrical Heating

Sterilization is faster, easier, and less expensive than it is for conventional glass spreaders. An improved method of sterilizing petri-dish spreaders and a spreader design to implement the method have been developed. In comparison with the conventional methods of sterilizing petri-dish spreaders, the improved method is expected to prove easier, safer, less time-consuming, and less costly, and to require less laboratory space. This improved method could be used in microbiological investigations in microgravity (e.g., aboard the International Space Station) or in normal Earth gravity (e.g., in government and clinical laboratories and research institutions). Particularly, when used in spaceflight, the improved method will prove safer than the traditional flame sterilization method.

Posted in: Bio-Medical, Medical, Briefs

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Quantifying Microbial Diversity Through Dilution/Extinction

A method of relatively easily, rapidly, and inexpensively quantifying the structural diversity of a multiple-species community of micro-organisms is based on the rate of extinction of phenotypic traits across a dilution gradient of a sample of the community. In this context, the concept of structural diversity encompasses the number (richness) and distribution (evenness) of separate or interacting biological entities responsible for given functions within the overall set of functions performed by the community. It is assumed that the rate of loss of character (as measured through testing for a given function) from the community upon dilution/ extinction is proportional to the diversity of biological entities in the community. This assumption should be true as long as the average metabolic versatility of individuals (the width of a nutritional niche) does not increase with structural diversity. Inasmuch as most experimental evidence suggests that the widths of nutritional niches decrease with increasing diversity, the assumption appears valid. In experiments performed to evaluate the method, the nonlinear relationship between the number of positive tests and the density of cells across a dilution series was successfully fit to a rectangular hyperbola, yielding regression variables related to the structural diversity of the samples.

Posted in: Bio-Medical, Medical, Briefs

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X-Ray Measurement of Kinematics in Muscles and Limbs

Positions and velocities of hundreds of implanted targets could be measured simultaneously. An x-ray photogrammetric technique for minimally invasive measurement of displacements in muscles, limbs, and organs is undergoing development. This technique could be alternative or complementary to the use of strain sensors. Measurements obtained by this technique could also be compared directly with both absolute and differential measurements of muscle and skeleton kinematics obtained by exoskeletal devices or from video images of external motion.

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Advanced System for Growing Plants in Microgravity

Plants can be observed during growth under controlled conditions. The figure depicts the Biomass Production System (BPS), which is an advanced system that provides controlled conditions for growing, manipulating, sampling, and harvesting plants in microgravity for both commercial purposes and scientific research. The design of the BPS incorporates lessons learned from the operation of prior plantgrowth systems aboard spacecraft in flight. Examples of uses for the BPS include (1) metabolic experiments that can include photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration; (2) biotechnological plant investigations; and (3) side-by-side comparison of multiple plant-growth techniques and conditions. Plant biomass is easily accessible during all phases of operation.

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Wearable Sensor Patches for Physiological Monitoring

Noninvasive sensors resembling adhesive bandages would be interrogated by nearby hand-held units. Wearable sensor patches — miniature biotelemetric units — have been proposed for use in measuring temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and possibly other physiological parameters. The sensor patches would be small and could be mass-produced inexpensively by use of state-of-the-art techniques for batch fabrication of integrated circuits and microelectromechanical systems.

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