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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

When I used to ride the soul-crushing trains in New York City I would often have the same recurring thought: what if we could harness the power of people pushing their way through the subway turnstiles to create an electrical charge?

Similar to the way that water can generate electricity at a hydroelectric plant when it moves through a turbine, the act of people physically pushing their way past the turnstile could do the same.  With enough people commuting perhaps we could generate enough power to cover the cost of electricity in Penn Station or across a few nearby city blocks.  And if there’s one thing that New York has an abundance of it’s people commuting.

Sadly, my dream never came to fruition but that’s okay because a group of Chinese researchers are about to do me one better for they are on the verge of creating a new bloodstream based power source.  One that would essentially place tiny hydroelectric plants inside of our bodies to harness the flow of our blood through our veins as a power supply.

As Futurism puts it:

“The team from Fudan University in China has developed a lightweight power generator that can convert flowing blood in vessels into power. This is made possible by a fiber made of carbon nanotubes, which are electroactive. In tests, this thread of fibers, called a ‘fiber-shaped fluidic nanogenerator’ (FFNG), is attached to electrodes and immersed in a solution to imitate the bloodstream. According to the researchers, ‘The electricity was derived from the relative movement between the FFNG and the solution.’”

With this technology in hand, or rather, in us, we might one day be able to generate enough electricity to power implants such as pacemakers or even our mobile devices.  It could even be a key component of future wearable devices or allow us to further embed electronics into the fabric of our clothing.

Now if only we could do something about those subway turnstiles…

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Is blood vessel power the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,168 – Fat Eliminating Patch

If you need or want to lose weight what do you do? Start going to the gym more often? Eat healthier? Take up cross fit? Start a no carb diet?  No matter how you slice there’s no easy answer.  No quick fix.  Until now that is.

Thanks to an incredible new breakthrough from researchers at Columbia and the University of North Carolina we may soon have a skin patch capable of eliminating body fat wherever it is applied.

As Futurism puts it, “A skin patch that effectively melts excess body fat wherever you decide to apply it sounds too good to be true, but this thing actually exists, thanks to new research.  The medicated patch uses an array of skin-piercing microneedles to deliver nanoparticles of drugs to the body, and while it hasn’t yet been tested on humans, trials with mice show it reduces fat by as much as 20 percent in treated areas.”

The targeted delivery of these nanoparticles directly to the desired areas is the true innovation here.  Other weight loss drugs, whether they be pills or injections, usually affect the entire body and lead to side effects.  This new approach gets around all that by applying “browning chemicals” directly to the cells stored underneath the skin, enabling our energy storing white fat cells to be converted into energy burning brown fat cells.

Hopefully this research will continue to advance and these weight loss patches will pass human trials on their way to becoming a commercial product.  Because like most people my age I’m finding that it’s getting harder and harder to lose weight as I get older.  At this point, a fat loss patch would be an absolute God send.

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Is a fat loss patch the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Wearable devices haven’t really caught on yet, either due to social stigmas, fashion faux pas, or the simple fact that they don’t address an immediate need, but all that may be about to change thanks to a new keychain accessory capable of detecting allergens in your food.

As Digital Trends puts it, “Anyone who suffers from a serious food allergy — or has a friend, partner, or family member who does — knows just how fraught a simple restaurant outing can be. Even if a particular allergen isn’t readily apparent in a meal, there’s always the possibility that it is stealthily hiding below the surface, due to cross-contamination. That’s where the product of some research by investigators at Harvard Medical School comes into play. They’ve developed a portable allergen-detection system, including a keychain analyzer, that could be not just a game changer, but a life saver, too.”

So how does this amazing new technology work!?!

“The $40 system comprises three parts. One is a tiny single-use slide that’s used for collecting potential allergens. This is then plugged into the keychain analyzer which identifies said allergens, before an associated smartphone app wirelessly displays the necessary readings.”

Even though it only appeals to a niche user group, I’d still expect this device to catch on given how critically important it is.  Although researchers are inching closer to developing a cure for some allergies, including the infamous peanut one that afflicts so many children, that cure may still take years to develop and only applies to one potential allergen anyway.  This device on the other hand could prove to be invaluable in the interim.

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Is a food allergen detector the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,162 – Tooth Decay Vaccine

It should come as no surprise that I hate going to the dentist.  Everyone does.  That’s why I was so excited last year to learn about the potential for using stem cells to regrow damaged teeth.  And it’s why I’m even more excited today to learn about a potential vaccine for tooth decay.

Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, this latest scientific breakthrough isn’t the first time that research has been conducted to explore the idea of a tooth decay vaccine.  What’s surprising is that the first time it occurred, in the 1970’s, the research was carried out by the sugar industry in an attempt it would seem, to tie a health-benefit to eating sugar so that people would naturally want to consume more of it.

According to NPR, “Another goal of the research was to develop an application — perhaps a powder — that people could mix into or take with sugary foods. In theory, the application would render a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans (which is commonly found in our mouths) ‘less destructive to teeth after sugar was consumed’…”

The current research, currently being developed by Chinese researchers aims to achieve the same effect, albeit with far more altruistic motivations.  And for good reason.

As Futurism reports, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dental carries remains a major health problem in most industrialized countries despite recent advances in oral healthcare. Some 60 to 90 percent of schoolchildren, as well as adults, are known to suffer from dental caries, so clearly, a huge number of people could benefit from a vaccine that prevents their formation.”

To be clear, such as vaccine wouldn’t replace the need to brush your teeth.  You’d still need to maintain a healthy routine and continue to go to the dental for regular checkups.  But considering how widespread of an issue tooth decay is, a vaccine designed to combat it, could become an important weapon in our arsenal in the on-going fight against the bacteria in our mouths that is constantly seeking to do us harm.

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Is a tooth decay vaccine the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,145 – POPiN

I hate going to the gym.  All the stares.  All the judgment.  All the meatheads.  I’d much rather exercise outside.  Riding my bike, playing basketball, going hiking.  Unfortunately, during the summer time in Phoenix none of those are viable options.  If you go outdoors you’re liable to melt.  So for a few months out of the year you pretty much have no choice but to go to the gym if you want to stay in shape.  But I can’t just join any gym.  Deadlifting dumbbells isn’t my idea of fun.  No, if I’m going to work out I need to be entertained.  I need to be doing something.  Anything.  Racquetball.  Swimming.  Basketball.  Whatever.

The problem is that nice gyms, fitness centers, and sports clubs, the kinds of places that I actually wouldn’t mind working out in, are usually extremely pricey.  They envision themselves as lifestyle clubs, not mere gyms.  As Global Gyms not as Average Joes Gymnasiums.  So what happens if you want in to one of these exclusive exercise havens but can’t afford the pricey membership?  Well, if you’re an enterprising individual you go anyway, at a steep discount to boot, thanks to a new service that lets you go to expensive gyms on an a la carte, pay as you go program.

As The Next Web puts it, “If you’re broke, you know that gym memberships are a problem. 46-percent of former gym members cite expenses as the number one reason why they stopped using their membership, and almost everyone is too busy to work out every day. If that sounds like you, POPiN could be the solution to your fitness needs.”

Here’s how it works.  Instead, of committing to a pricey monthly membership that would cost say $150 for a month, you would instead pay as you go, paying let’s say $7 for thirty minutes of access.

If you’re the kind of person who works out multiple times a day, this isn’t the plan for you.  You’d go broke in no time at all.  But if you’re someone like me?  Who works out sporadically in short bursts when the inspiration strikes and is likely to want to leave as soon as the grunting begins?  Well, then this plan is perfect for you.

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Is POPiN the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’m a man of science, not a man of faith so I’ve always been skeptical of those stories of people who could be healed by a single touch.  Bill Maher in Religulous and Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat perfectly captured just how ridiculous a congregation full of people appear to be when they’re crazily chanting while a supposed miracle worker works their magic, helping a cripple to walk again, or pulling off whatever other bullshit they’re peddling on that given Sunday.   But maybe it wasn’t all bullshit.

According to USA Today:

“A new device developed at The Ohio State University can start healing organs in a ‘fraction of a second,’ researchers say.

The technology, known as Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), has the potential to save the lives of car crash victims and even deployed soldiers injured on site. It’s a dime-sized silicone chip that ‘injects genetic code into skin cells, turning those skin cells into other types of cells required for treating diseased conditions,’ according to a release.

In lab tests, one touch of TNT completely repaired injured legs of mice over three weeks by turning skin cells into vascular cells.”

This incredible new treatment takes less than one second and best of all, there are no known side effects.  What’s most remarkable about this breakthrough is what it represents, as it’s the first time that human cells have been reprogrammed inside of a live body.  That’s the kind of breakthrough that definitely gets your attention.

So maybe all those miracle workers weren’t actually angels sent back to the Earth to do God’s work but rather were time travelers from the future, sent back to change the course of human history by saving the lives of key people.  Maybe instead of working miracles, all they were doing was applying TNT, the seemingly miraculous new medical breakthrough with the ability to save lives with just one touch.

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Is the ability to heal with one touch the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Slugs are nasty, slimy creatures that come out after it rains.  If you want to get rid of one you can put out some common table salt but you might want to think twice before you do.   For slugs could soon lead to an incredible new medical breakthrough.

According to the Metro in the U.K.:

“Scientists are developing a medical super-glue that they claim can seal wounds in damaged organs and is as strong as natural cartilage.

Bizarrely, the material is based on the properties of a mucus secreted by a species of European slug, the Dusky Arion.

Professor Donald Ingber, founding director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in the US, said: ‘Nature has frequently already found elegant solutions to common problems; it’s a matter of knowing where to look and recognizing a good idea when you see one.’”

Even if that means looking towards the humble slug.

The Smithsonian summed it up best:

“Even with modern medicine’s advances, doctors still seal wounds with techniques seemingly more appropriate for craft circles than the operating room: staples, sewing kits and glue. Thanks to a new invention, the science of medical adhesives may get a modern revamp. Researchers literally turned over stones to devise a new super-strong glue from an unlikely source—slugs.”

As Professor Ingber alluded to, it’s innovations like this that go to show just how innovative nature can be and how much we can benefit from drawing inspiration from our surroundings.  Which begs the question: what other natural innovations are still lurking out there, just waiting for us to discover them?

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Kind of gives the phrase, “feeling sluggish”, a whole new meaning doesn’t it?

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