March 25, 2010

New Electronics to Fight Off Arrhythmia

A collaboration of universities in the United States has recently produced a new type of silicon-based, biocompatible devices that could in the near future combat the effects of arrhythmia. This is a condition of the heart that makes the organ skip a beat from time to time, or simply move irregularly. The new instrument the researchers developed, which is based on flexible electronics, is implanted via a minimally-invasive surgical procedure, and is capable of regulating heart beats, potentially saving many lives in the process.

The innovation was developed by a team of investigators led by scientists at the University of Illinois. The group also included scientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Northwestern University, in Evanston. With the development of this technology, the advent of surgical electronics may not be far off, the group says. Details of how the system works appeared in the March 24 issue of the respected publication Science Translational Medicine, as a cover story.

At this point, there are two main methods of treating this condition, in addition to other, less-used ones. The first revolves around implanting pacemakers into the heart of patients. These instruments regulate the beat of the heart, but relay on internal power to operate. The other method is called cardiac ablation therapy, and it basically works as follows: surgeons identify and mark clusters of cells that appear to be beating to their own tune, and then they ablate, or remove, them from the heart. But some of the challenges facing these methods include the fact that electrodes to sense and stimulate the heart cannot be readily attached to the smooth, round surfaces that the muscle contains.

John Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Chair in Engineering Innovation at UI, and also a professor of materials science and engineering, led a team that created flexible electronics for this particular use. The bendable sensor array can be wrapped around the heart all at once, mapping large surfaces for electrical impulses. More than 2,016 silicon nanomembrane transistors are included in the array, each of which is perfectly capable of monitoring the flow of electricity that races through the human heart with every beat. The result is a high-resolution, real-time display of the heart's pulsing cardiac tissues.

“We believe that this technology may herald a new generation of devices for localizing and treating abnormal heart rhythms,” explains UP expert and co-senior author of the work, Brian Litt. “This allows us to apply the full power of silicon electronics directly to the tissue. […] these approaches might have the potential to redefine design strategies for advanced surgical devices, implants, prosthetics and more,” Rogers says. The innovation “sets out a new design paradigm for interfacing electronics to the human body, with a multitude of possible applications in human health,” he concludes.
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March 11, 2010

Space Agency Leaders Meet to Discuss the ISS

Today, March 11, the leaders of all five major space agencies involved in the International Space Station (ISS) project met in the Japanese capital Tokyo, to discuss about the future of the orbital laboratory. Representatives from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RosCosmos), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) discussed about the opportunities that the nearly-completed laboratory now has to offer scientists, after more than 10 years of construction efforts.

The station is, at this point, about 98 percent complete and is fully capable of sustaining a permanent six-member crew. It can house multiple scientific experiments at the same time, and resupply missions such as the ones conducted on the American shuttles (4 flights remaining) and the Russian Soyuz space capsules, and can easily take more up and return others too. The potential of in-orbit research, which comes with the unique possibility of conducting experiments in microgravity, should be promoted more intensely, the officials agreed at the meeting.

“The Heads of Agency reaffirmed the importance of full exploitation of the Station’s scientific, engineering, utilization, and education potential. They noted that there are no identified technical constraints to continuing ISS operations beyond the current planning horizon of 2015 to at least 2020 and that the Partnership is currently working to certify on-orbit elements through 2028. The Heads of Agency expressed their strong mutual interest in continuing operations and utilization for as long as the benefits of ISS exploitation are demonstrated,” experts at ESA write in a press release on their official website.

All of the top representatives agreed to persuade their respective governments to continue backing up the ISS project until its limits are fully realized. The officials believe that the ISS should remain operational for at least another ten years, given the amount of money, effort and sacrifice that went into constructing it. “This research will deliver benefits to humanity on Earth while preparing the way for future exploration activities beyond low-Earth orbit. The ISS will also allow the partnership to experiment with more integrated international operations and research, paving the way for enhanced collaboration on future international missions,” the ESA statement reads.
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Evernote for Android Comes on T-Mobile's Samsung Phones

Evernote for Android Comes on T-Mobile's Samsung Phones

T-Mobile customers who are also fond of Google's Android operating system can now get more from their handsets by purchasing a Samsung mobile phone that runs under the mobile platform. Evernote announced that they had inked a deal through which all Android-based devices from Samsung going on sale via T-Mobile would have their application pre-loaded.

The Samsung Behold II is one of these handsets and, all of those users who will purchase a new such handset will enjoy the Evernote app already available on their phone. Moreover, it seems that those who already purchased such a handset will be able to enjoy the solution too, via an update that, if not sent to them already, will come in the near future.

“The new Samsung phones come with Evernote for Android, the newest and fastest growing member of the Evernote family. Evernote for Android lets you create text notes, snap photos and record audio memos. You can also upload files, such as PDFs. If you’re a Premium user, then you can attach any type of file, including the videos you shoot with your phone,” the company notes on its website.

Evernote comes with a wide range of features, enabling users not only to create new stuff, but also offering them the possibility to find all the notes they made on their handset, on a desktop PC or on the web. Not to mention that they are also able to search for notes that have been created near their current location. Android phone users can download and install the application for free from the Android Market, as well.

“Evernote is making a major investment in Android this year, and now that so many people will get to see us on Samsung phones, we’re even more motivated than ever to make the Evernote for Android experience as great as possible. Expect lots of new features and improvements in the months ahead,” the company also notes.
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