Infection? Your Smartphone Will See You Now

When Mr. Spock beams down to a planet, he’s carrying a tricorder, a communicator, and a phaser. We just have our cell phones. The University of California Santa Barbara published a paper showing how an inexpensive kit can allow your cell phone to identify pathogens in about an hour. That’s quite a feat compared to the 18-28 hours required by traditional methods. The kit can be produced for under $100, according to the University.

Identifying bacteria type is crucial to prescribing the right antibiotic, although your family doctor probably just guesses because of the amount of time it takes to get an identification through a culture. The system works by taking some — ahem — body fluid and breaking it down using some simple chemicals. Another batch of chemicals known as a LAMP reaction mixture multiplies DNA and will cause fluorescence in the case of a positive result.

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MRI to 3D Print Gets Much Faster

A surprising use of 3D printing has been in creating life-like models of human body parts using MRI or CT scans. Surgeons and other medical professionals can use models to plan procedures or assist in research. However, there has been a problem. The body is a messy complex thing and there is a lot of data that comes out of a typical scan. Historically, someone had to manually identify structures on each slice — a very time-consuming process — or set a threshold value and hope for the best. A recent paper by a number of researchers around the globe shows how dithering scans can vastly improve results while also allowing for much faster processing times.

As an example, a traditional workflow to create a 3D printed foot model from scan data took over 30 hours to complete including a great deal of manual intervention. The new method produced a great model in less than an hour.

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Mae Jemison and the Final Frontier

From the time Mae Jemison was a little girl, she was convinced that she would go to space. No one could tell her otherwise. She was sure that space travel would be as common as air travel by the time she was an adult. That prediction didn’t pan out, but that confidence combined with her intellect, curiosity, and the above-average encouragement of her parents drove Mae to do everything she wanted, including space travel.

Some people might become a doctor or a researcher, a dancer or an astronaut. But Mae became all of these things. Not everyone supported her non-traditional path—many people just pick a career and stick with it. Her path is impressive and through it all she gained a really interesting perspective on how education is approached, and what effects that approach has on society. After practicing medicine, joining a shuttle mission, appearing in Star Trek, and retiring from NASA, she became a voice for minority students and an advocate for integrating the arts and sciences in the standard curriculum.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Stroke Rehabilitation Through Biofeedback

Students at Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering created ExoMIND, an Arduino-powered glove that helps a stroke victim recover by tracking the range of motion the patient experiences.

A set of 7 accelerometers in the fingers, wrist, and forearm track the range of movements the patient is experiencing with that hand. An accelerometer on the back of the hand serving as a reference. Meanwhile, an EMG sensor working with a conductive fabric sleeve to measure muscle activity. The user follows a series of instructions dished out by an interactive software program, allowing the system to test out the patient’s range of motion at the beginning of the regime as well as to record whether any improvement was noted at the end. The data is used by a physical therapist to personalize the treatment plan. The interactive program also raises the possibility of patients self-directing their exercises with the ExoMIND telling them how to adjust their motion to get the most out of the experience.

Produced as part of the university’s MIND Biomedical Engineering Club, the ExoMIND prototype was designed by three interdisciplinary teams focusing on electronics, materials, and programming, respectively.

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