Medical

Cell-Detection Technique for Automated Patch Clamping

Candidate cells are identified automatically within one second. A unique and customizable machine-vision and image-data-processing technique has been developed for use in automated identification of cells that are optimal for patch clamping. [Patch clamping (in which patch electrodes are pressed against cell membranes) is an electrophysiological technique widely applied for the study of ion channels, and of membrane proteins that regulate the flow of ions across the membranes. Patch clamping is used in many biological research fields such as neurobiology, pharmacology, and molecular biology.] While there exist several hardware techniques for automated patch clamping of cells, very few of those techniques incorporate machine vision for locating cells that are ideal subjects for patch clamping. In contrast, the present technique is embodied in a machine-vision algorithm that, in practical application, enables the user to identify “good” and “bad” cells for patch clamping in an image captured by a charge-coupled-device (CCD) camera attached to a microscope, within a processing time of one second. Hence, the present technique can save time, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing cost.

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Progress in Development of Improved Ion-Channel Biosensors

Improvements in design and fabrication have been made since a previous report. Further improvements have recently been made in the development of the devices described in “Improved Ion-Channel Biosensors” (NPO-30710), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 10 (October 2004), page 30. As discussed in more detail in that article, these sensors offer advantages of greater stability, greater lifetime, and individual electrical addressability, relative to prior ion-channel biosensors.

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Activating STAT3 Alpha for Promoting Healing of Neurons

Natural anti-apoptotic, pro-axogenic mechanisms are stimulated artificially. A method of promoting healing of injured or diseased neurons involves pharmacological activation of the STAT3 alpha protein. Usually, injured or diseased neurons heal incompletely or not at all for two reasons: (1) they are susceptible to apoptosis (cell death); and (2) they fail to engage in axogenesis — that is, they fail to re-extend their axons to their original targets (e.g., muscles or other neurons) because of insufficiency of compounds, denoted neurotrophic factors, needed to stimulate such extension. The present method (see figure) of treatment takes advantage of prior research findings to the effect that the STAT3 alpha protein has anti-apoptotic and pro-axogenic properties.

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Hydrocyclone/Filter for Concentrating Biomarkers From Soil

This apparatus could detect biomarkers or chemical waste in soil. The hydrocyclone- filtration extractor (HFE), now undergoing development, is a simple, robust apparatus for processing large amounts of soil to extract trace amounts of microorganisms, soluble organic compounds, and other biomarkers from soil and to concentrate the extracts in amounts sufficient to enable such traditional assays as cell culturing, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis, and isotope analysis. Originally intended for incorporation into a suite of instruments for detecting signs of life on Mars, the HFE could also be used on Earth for similar purposes, including detecting trace amounts of biomarkers or chemical wastes in soils.

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Carbon-Nanotube-Based Electrodes for Biomedical Applications

Stimuli and responses could be localized to within nanometers. A nanotube array based on vertically aligned nanotubes or carbon nanofibers has been invented for use in localized electrical stimulation and recording of electrical responses in selected regions of an animal body, especially including the brain. There are numerous established, emerging, and potential applications for localized electrical stimulation and/or recording, including treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, and chronic pain, and research on electrochemical effects involved in neurotransmission.

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Using Hyperspectral Imagery To Identify Turfgrass Stresses

Stress maps could enable more-efficient management of large turfgrass fields. The use of a form of remote sensing to aid in the management of large turfgrass fields (e.g. golf courses) has been proposed. A turfgrass field of interest would be surveyed in sunlight by use of an airborne hyperspectral imaging system, then the raw observational data would be preprocessed into hyperspectral reflectance image data. These data would be further processed to identify turfgrass stresses, to determine the spatial distributions of those stresses, and to generate maps showing the spatial distributions.

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Compact Directional Microwave Antenna for Localized Heating

Heating is concentrated on one side. A directional, catheter-sized cylindrical antenna has been developed for localized delivery of microwave radiation for heating (and thus killing) diseased tissue without excessively heating nearby healthy tissue. By “localized” is meant that the antenna radiates much more in a selected azimuthal direction than in the opposite radial direction, so that it heats tissue much more on one side than it does on the opposite side. This antenna can be inserted using either a catheter or a syringe. A 2.4-mm prototype was tested, although smaller antennas are possible.

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