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Uppsala University does the impossible

Appropriately and affectionately names Upsalite, it’s a magnesium carbonate material that could reduce the amount of energy needed to control environmental moisture in the electronics and pharmaceutical industries as well as in diverse applications from ice-hockey rink surfaces to warehousing. Potentially it could have applications in toxic waste disposal, chemicals or oil spills and in chemical delivery systems, for odor control and sanitation after fire.

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Researchers at the Swedish Uppsala University have created something special; a material with record breaking surface area and water absorption abilities. Affectionately christened Upsalite, it’s is a magnesium carbonate material with applications across a host industries from electronics to pharmaceutical as well as novel applications like ice-hockey rink surfaces. Potentially though, it could revolutionise the response to oil and chemical spills and help reduce the health and environmental threats from toxic waste disposal.

The Upsala research has debunked accepted thinking of the last 100 years. In 1908, German researchers claimed that the material could not be made in the same way as other disordered carbonates and subsequent studies in 1926 and 1961 came to the same conclusion. However, an oversight one weekend in the lab has led the team at Sweden’s oldest University to create something extraordinary.

[blockquote size=”full” align=”left” byline=”Johan Goméz de la Torre, Uppsala University”]A Thursday afternoon in 2011, we slightly changed the synthesis parameters of the earlier employed unsuccessful attempts, and by mistake left the material in the reaction chamber over the weekend. Back at work on Monday morning we discovered that a rigid gel had formed and after drying this gel we started to get excited, says [/blockquote]

A year of analysis and fine tuning followed with one of the team getting an opportunity to refresh his Russian language skills given some of the technical detail regarding the reaction mechanism was only available in an old Russian PhD thesis.

“After having gone through a number of state of the art materials characterization techniques it became clear that we had indeed synthesized the material that previously had been claimed impossible to make.” said Prof. Maria Strømme, Head of the nanotech and functional materials division. The most striking discovery was, however, not that they had produced a new material but it was instead the striking properties they found that this novel material possessed. It turned out that Upsalite had an incredible surface area of 800 square meters per gram.

The discovery will be marketed and commercialised through the University’s campus company Disruptive Materials,  www.Disruptivematerials.com, that’s a venture between the researchers and the Uppsala University.

External links & references

  1. Uppsala University : Sweden
  2. Plos One : Peer Reviewed Open Access Journal
  3. Campus Company : Disruptive Materials
  4. Upsalite : Wikipedia

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Science

HIV positive infant cured at John Hopkins

In the most inspiring science story for some time, John Hopkins Children’s Center are reporting that an infant, now aged two, who has not been medicated for twelve months has been cured of the HIV virus. A HIV patient known as ‘the Berlin patient’ had been cured of the HIV virus but the circumstances were somewhat different. The patient, Timothy Brown had received a bone marrow transplant to treat acute myeloid leukemia from a bone marrow donor was not only HIV-negative, but had an unusual genetic condition that made them HIV resistant.

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In the most inspiring science story for some time, John Hopkins Children’s Center are reporting that an infant, now aged two, who has not been medicated for twelve months has been cured of the HIV virus.

A HIV patient known as ‘the Berlin patient’ had been cured of the HIV virus but the circumstances were somewhat different. The patient, Timothy Brown had received a bone marrow transplant to treat acute myeloid leukemia from a bone marrow donor was not only HIV-negative, but had an unusual genetic condition that made them HIV resistant.

“The baby, born in rural Mississippi, was treated aggressively with antiretroviral drugs starting around 30 hours after birth, something that is not usually done. If further study shows this works in other babies, it will almost certainly be recommended globally. The United Nations estimates that 330,000 babies were newly infected in 2011, the most recent year for which there is data, and that more than three million children globally are living with H.I.V.”

— New York Times

The case of the infant from Mississippi though is known a a ‘functional cure’; medication has ceased and the patient tests negative, although it is likely that tiny traces of HIV remain in the patients system. That said, doctors believe the infant’s life-expectancy to be normal and they are unlikely to pass the infection to another person.

Medical staff started treatment within 48 hours of the baby’s birth using three anti-retroviral drugs, delivered in liquid form, differing from the established single drug treatment – this more aggressive treatmement taken as the mother had not been treated with any anti-retrovirals during her pregnancy.

External links & references

  1. Paper #48LB: Functional HIV Cure after Very Early ART of an Infected Infant
  2. Dr Hannah Gay : University of Mississippi Medical Center 
  3. Deborah Persaud: Clinician first, scientist second
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Health

We need some balance in mHealth – and I don’t mean pilates.

Just over a week into the new year, one day in to CES and already I’m feeling guilty. I need to get mHealthed up. Shed some Christmad punds. Reform myself, detox, work harder, exercise more. Ohh, if only there were some technology innovations, some brilliant new gadgets that would monitor my activity, analyse me, poke and guide me.

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Just over a week into the new year, one day in to CES and already I’m feeling guilty. I need to get mHealthed up. Shed some Christmad punds. Reform myself, detox, work harder, exercise more. Ohh, if only there were some technology innovations, some brilliant new gadgets that would monitor my activity, analyse me, poke and guide me. Beacuase if there was, I’d be as fit as a thoroughbred race-horse in no time. Obviously though, I can’t be expected to do any of this on my own. I need guidance and motivation, and therein lies the premise for the mHealth industry. Not dissimilar to the the diet industry, for decades as consumers we’ve being coyly willing, to believe that there is a silver bullet that will cure all (inactivity) ills. Alas, not, who would have thought that it comes down to commitment and effort to get fit and stay as healthy as you can. This compliant delusion does give us a glipmse into how our world is adapting its frailty, fallibility and delusion to take advantage of tech as a new crutch.

We will certainly start to see more and more people using mHealth devices. The big winner I think will be the mid-prixed devices for $80 to $100. Products like the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit. Why mid-price? There’s a few reasons. The first reason: economics – consumers are more likely to get involved with mHealth at a moderate purchase price. Spend a weeks pay on a watch that you may not use? No. Buy a cheap pedometer? Unlikely. But $100 purchase that is neatly integrated with your PC, Mac or Smartphone. I think so. Secondly, there’s an element of the fitness mentality creeping in to the buying of one of these gadgets. A little pain – let’s not do a marathon on the first day – so a moderate purchase can be lived with, and also might motivate us to actually get out and run. In time, if we like the gadget, if we stick with the New Year program we might upgrade to a bells and whistles device, but for a start, wearable devices, wrist bands, shoe sensors, they are winner in this burgeoning market.

mHealth (mobile health) is a term used for the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile devices. The term is most commonly used in reference to using mobile communication devices, such as smartphones, sensor and tablets for health services and information, but also to affect emotional states.

So you’re all kitted out with new sensor shoes, new wistband, smart phone app, a whole bunch of Facebook friends willing, possibly even chanting for your shrinkage to perfection- it’s almost spiritual at this point. Add a wifi scales, a toaster with wifi that it shouts “Oi, Fatty!” so the neighbours can hear if you aren’t using wholegrain.

“You could add clever cutlery in the form of fork that essentially says stop, by vibrating if you’re eating too quickly. Useful to prevent the hiccups, as your fellow diners back away from you with a look of fear and disgust, as you have a table setting resembling the aftermath of a Roman feast laid for peckish centurions back from the Iberian peninsula. If all that isn’t a hint, Mr Clever Fork is just what you need, you slob.”

Maybe install a fridge that reads RFID tags on your food, and rats you out to your spouse/doctor/health insurer. You cannot fail to reach Magnificent on the fitness god & goddess scale. Incredible. We have now, or are about to, fix the entire obesity problem. Governments will cut taxes, health services globally will close hospitals and there will be just one nutritionist student in college, on the entire planet, next year. Technology has yet again, saved the world. And you were there, looking lean and slightly smug in Lycra, to see it.

Time for some balance I think, and not the pilates type. wifi scales from companies likeFrench maker Withings, pro appeal watches from Garmin, apps and websites from the Facebook of fitness, RunKeeper. It all connects, potentially, neatly together. More sophisticated oxygen, vital sign and health monitors are the really interesting element of this industry. Patients at risk from manageble illness or ailments should be the focus. Conencting home based monitors and networks to medical centres and medical staff is the real key. If we can improve the quality of life for those who would have previously been home-bound, then, technology can really make a differenc in health. Hype aside, the internet of everything is coming; we will be more connected, more informed and hopefully more aware, Awareness of our own health, and cognisance of those who battle illness everyday is important. With growing awareness comes responsibility and when we accept that responsibility as a society, we can use this new technology to improve not just world fitness, but world health.

External links & references

  1. What is mHealth? @ Wikipedia
  2. BBC report from 2010
  3. 10 key stats on mHealth: Axial
  4. Clinical mobility
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