Medical

Semiselective Optoelectronic Sensors for Monitoring Microbes

These real-time sensors distinguish among classes (not individual species) of microbes. Sensor systems are under development for use in real-time detection and quantitation of microbes in water without need for sampling. These systems include arrays of optical sensors; miniature, portable electronic data-acquisition circuits; and optoelectronic interfaces between the sensor arrays and data-acquisition circuits. These systems are intended for original use in long-term, in-line monitoring of waterborne micro-organisms in water-reclamation systems aboard future spacecraft. They could also be adapted to similar terrestrial uses with respect to municipal water supplies, stored drinking water, and swimming water; for detecting low-level biological contamination in biotechnological, semiconductor, and pharmaceutical process streams; and in verifying the safety of foods and beverages. In addition, they could be adapted to monitoring of airborne microbes and of surfaces (e.g., to detect and/or quantitate biofilms).

Posted in: Medical, Briefs

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Externally Triggered Microcapsules Release Drugs In Situ

Drugs can be released, at designated times, within tumors or other targets. In an advanced method of administering drugs to target sites in human bodies, the drugs in liquid form are contained in microcapsules that are injected, and then, by exposing the target sites to externally generated electromagnetic fields, the microcapsules are lysed to release the drugs. Such externally triggered microcapsules are intended primarily for use in combined-modality therapies of cancer. In a given application, the external electromagnetic field can be applied to cause the release of the encapsulated drug(s) at a prescribed time or when the microcapsules are confirmed to be located in a specific tissue.

Posted in: Bio-Medical, Medical, Briefs, TSP

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Combinatorial Drug Design Augmented by Information Theory

It may be possible to suppress drug-resistant viruses. A proposed method of designing antiviral drugs provides for the utilization of combinatorial-chemistry techniques that have been used previously for this purpose, in conjunction with applicable principles of information theory. In its information-theoretic aspect, the method can be characterized as one of maximizing the mutual information between (1) ensembles of drugs and (2) ensembles of viruses that one seeks to combat by use of the drugs (denoted in the art as targets). The method would entail increases in the time and cost of development of drugs, but these disadvantages could be offset by reduction or prevention of the emergence of drug-resistant viral populations.

Posted in: Bio-Medical, Medical, Briefs, TSP

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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.

Posted in: Bio-Medical, Medical, Briefs, TSP

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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.

Posted in: Bio-Medical, Medical, Briefs

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