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An artificial intelligence tool that can help detect melanoma

Using wide-field images and deep learning, researchers developed an analysis system of suspicious pigmented skin lesions for more effective and efficient skin cancer detection. Image courtesy of the researchers.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Melanoma is a type of malignant tumor responsible for more than 70 percent of all skin cancer-related deaths worldwide. For years, physicians have relied on visual inspection to identify suspicious pigmented lesions (SPLs), which can be an indication of skin cancer. Such early-stage identification of SPLs in primary care settings can improve melanoma prognosis and significantly reduce treatment cost. The challenge is that quickly finding and prioritizing SPLs is difficult, due to the high volume of pigmented lesions that often need to be evaluated for potential biopsies. Now, researchers from MIT and elsewhere have devised a new artificial intelligence pipeline, using deep convolutional neural networks (DCNNs) and applying them to analyzing SPLs through the use of wide-field photography common in most smartphones and personal cameras. DCNNs are neural networks that can be ... More

Almost one in seven suffers long Covid, UK study finds   Fooling coronavirus with new decoy protein renders it impotent   Laser lights the way

A man wearing an FFP2 face mask pushes his suitcase past a sign indicating that wearing FFP2 face masks is compulsory in Vienna, Austria, on April 2, 2021. Helmut Fohringer / APA / AFP.

LONDON (AFP).- Nearly one in seven Britons who tested positive for Covid-19 continued to have symptoms for at least 12 weeks, according to a UK study released Thursday. The Office for National Statistics said the study of over 20,000 people who had tested positive from April last year to March this year found 13.7 percent had symptoms that lasted for at least 12 weeks. This was based on people's self-reported symptoms of so-called "long Covid". The list of 13 symptoms included fatigue, muscle pain and difficulty concentrating as well as loss of taste and smell. Women were more more likely (14.7 percent) to report such long-lasting symptoms than men (12.7 percent). Those aged 35-49 were most likely to report symptoms at five weeks (25.6 percent). The study of UK patients was based on a random sample of 21,622 participants who tested positive from swabs and were asked about their symptoms monthly. A control group who were unlikely to have been infected was also set up. It found they were eight times le ... More

Treatment reduces lung damage and results in mild symptoms in a preclinical study. Image: Pixabay.

EVANSTON, IL.- A novel protein designed by Northwestern Medicine scientists significantly reduced lung damage and resulted in only mild symptoms in mice infected with SARS-Cov-2 while untreated animals in this model all succumbed to the infection. “We envision this soluble ACE2 protein will attenuate the entry of coronavirus into cells in the body mainly in the respiratory system and, consequently, the serious symptoms seen in severe COVID 19,” said lead investigator Dr. Daniel Batlle, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician. “We have converted a lethal disease to a milder lung disease that is fully reversible. The protein could be complimentary to other potential treatments or effective alone.” The protein is a variant of ACE2 (angiotensin converting enzyme-2), the receptor the coronavirus uses to enter and infect human cells. The modified prote ... More

The relationship between these measurements is then determined so that hole depth can be calculated based solely on the fluence. Image courtesy: 2021 Sakurai et al.

TOKYO.- Despite the enormous amount of research over the decades into lasers and their applications, there have been few ways to accurately, efficiently, and directly observe fine details of their interactions with materials. For the first time, researchers have found a way to acquire such data from a production laser using low-cost equipment that could vastly improve the accuracy of items cut or etched with lasers. Given the ubiquity of lasers, this could have wide-ranging implications in laboratory, commercial and industrial applications. Lasers are used in an extraordinarily wide range of applications in the modern world. One area in particular that is increasingly important is in manufacture, the reason being the level of precision at which a laser can operate is far greater than that of the equivalent physical tool. However, this level of precision could be even higher in theory, leading to a new generation of yet unimagined technologies. There are some hurdles to overcome, though. One si ... More

High vitamin D levels may protect against COVID-19 for Black people, study suggests   Temperature sensor could help safeguard mRNA vaccines   'Sweat sticker' diagnoses cystic fibrosis on the skin in real time

The authors of the study found that Black individuals with higher levels of vitamin D were less likely to test positive for COVID-19 when compared to those with "sufficient" levels.

CHICAGO, IL.- A new research study at the University of Chicago Medicine has found that when it comes to COVID-19, having vitamin D levels above those traditionally considered sufficient may lower the risk of infection for Black people. The study, published March 19 in JAMA Open Network, retrospectively examined the relationship between vitamin D levels and likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19. The authors found that Black individuals who had higher levels of vitamin D were significantly less likely to test positive for COVID-19, compared to those people who had merely “sufficient” levels of vitamin D. They did not find a statistically significant association of vitamin D levels with COVID-19 risk in white people. The research team is now recruiting participants for two separate clinical trials testing the efficacy of vitamin D supplements for preventing COVID-19. This research is an expansion of an earlier study showin ... More

When the temperature of a glass vial containing simulated vaccine rises above -60 C for longer than 2 minutes, a blue dye in an adjacent tube diffuses into a white absorbent, leaving an irreversible color trace.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Scientists have developed vaccines for COVID-19 with record speed. The first two vaccines widely distributed in the U.S. are mRNA-based and require ultracold storage (-70 C for one and -20 C for the other). Now, researchers reporting in ACS Omega have developed a tamper-proof temperature indicator that can alert health care workers when a vial of vaccine reaches an unsafe temperature for a certain period, which could help ensure distribution of effective mRNA vaccines. The two COVID mRNA vaccines contain instructions for building harmless pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Once the vaccine is injected into the body, human cells use the mRNA instructions to make the spike protein, which they temporarily display on their surface, triggering an immune response. But mRNA is highly unstable, requiring ultracold storage and transport conditions for the vaccines to remain effective. Sung Yeon Hwang, Dongyeop Oh, Jeyoun ... More

Device representing sweat with low (light color), medium and high (dark color) levels of chloride. Image courtesy: Tyler Ray/University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

EVANSTON, IL.- A Northwestern University-led research team has developed a novel skin-mounted sticker that absorbs sweat and then changes color to provide an accurate, easy-to-read diagnosis of cystic fibrosis within minutes. While measuring chloride levels in sweat to diagnose cystic fibrosis is standard, the soft, flexible, skin-like “sweat sticker” offers a stark contrast to current diagnostic technologies, which require a rigid, bulky, wrist-strapped device to collect sweat. After developing the sweat sticker at Northwestern, the researchers validated it in clinical pilot studies involving cystic fibrosis patients and healthy volunteers at the Cystic Fibrosis Center at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The sticker showed enhanced performance in collected sweat volume and equivalent accuracy to traditional platforms. The research and study findings were published March 31 as the cover feature article ... More

Revealing meat and fish fraud with a handheld 'MasSpec Pen' in seconds   Polarized photovoltaic properties emerge   Graphene foam 'doubles longevity' of new running shoe

The MasSpec Pen can authenticate the type and purity of meat samples in as little as 15 seconds. Image courtesy: Adapted from Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.0c07830.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Meat and fish fraud are global problems, costing consumers billions of dollars every year. On top of that, mislabeling products can cause problems for people with allergies, religious or cultural restrictions. Current methods to detect this fraud, while accurate, are slower than inspectors would like. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have optimized their handheld MasSpec Pen to identify common types of meat and fish within 15 seconds. News stories of food fraud, such as beef being replaced with horse meat, and cheaper fish being branded as premium fillets, have led people to question if what is on the label is actually in the package. To combat food adulteration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts regular, random inspections of these products. Although current molecular techniques, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), are highly accurate, these analys ... More

Tungsten selenide (WSe2) and black phosphorus (BP) do not exhibit polarized electronic behavior until combined such that their structures overlap. Image courtesy: 2021 Ideue et al.

TOKYO.- For the first time, researchers have discovered a way to obtain polarity and photovoltaic behavior from certain nonphotovoltaic, atomically flat (2D) materials. The key lies in the special way in which the materials are arranged. The resulting effect is different from, and potentially superior to, the photovoltaic effect commonly found in solar cells. Solar power is considered a key technology in the move away from fossil fuels. Researchers continually innovate more efficient means to generate solar energy. And many of these innovations come from the world of materials research. Research Associate Toshiya Ideue from the University of Tokyo’s Department of Applied Physics and his team are interested in the photovoltaic properties of 2D materials and their interfaces where these materials meet. “Quite often, interfaces of multiple 2D materials exhibit different properties to the individual crystals alone, ... More

Sports footwear firm inov-8 has unveiled the world’s first running shoe to use a graphene-enhanced foam in the sole, bucking the widespread trend for carbon-plate technology and doubling the industry standard for longevity.

MANCHESTER.- Sports footwear firm inov-8 has unveiled the world’s first running shoe to use a graphene-enhanced foam in the sole, bucking the widespread trend for carbon-plate technology and doubling the industry standard for longevity. Developed in collaboration with graphene experts at The University of Manchester, the cushioned foam, called G-FLY™, features as part of inov-8’s new trail shoe, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX™, designed for ultramarathon and long-distance runners. Tests have shown the foam delivers 25% greater energy return than standard EVA foams and is far more resistant to compressive wear. It therefore maintains optimum levels of underfoot bounce and comfort for much longer. This helps runners maintain a faster speed over greater distances, aid their feet in feeling fresher for longer, and prolong the life of their footwear. Michael Price, COO of Lake District-based inov-8, said: “In an industry ... More

Five things to know about the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine   Rapid genetic testing can help women choose breast cancer treatment: U of T study   Insulin 100: How the road to a diabetes cure is yielding better treatments

A pharmacist prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine with a syringe in a pharmacy, in Savenay, western France, on April 2, 2021. Loic Venance / AFP.

LONDON (AFP).- Cheap and easy to store, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has boosted the global fight against coronavirus but fears over cases of rare blood clots and production delays have marred its rollout. Here are five facts about the vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine costs about 2.50 ($3.40, 2.75 euros) per dose and can be kept at refrigerator temperatures, making it ideal for large-scale vaccination programmes. The vaccine has been authorised for use in more than 70 countries, AstraZeneca says. More than 9.2 million jabs have been administered in the European Economic Area, including the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Cases of rare blood clots in vaccinated people have prompted numerous countries to halt or limit rollout. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on March 31 that there had been 62 cases worldwide of a rare clotting condition, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, 44 of them in the European Economic Area. Thirty cases of rare blood clotting conditions have been recorded in Bri ... More

A U of T study suggests women diagnosed with breast cancer who are offered rapid genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations prior to selecting treatment are more likely to choose potentially life-saving double mastectomies.

TORONTO.- Women with breast cancer who are offered rapid genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations – and who are able to receive their genetic test results prior to selecting treatment – were more likely to choose to have a bilateral (double) mastectomy, a University of Toronto study has found. For those with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, the removal of both breasts can reduce their risk of dying of breast cancer by more than half. For those without the mutation, current guidelines recommend against bilateral mastectomy due to surgical complications and other risk factors. The problem is that most women don’t know if they have a BRCA mutation at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis, making it difficult for them to make informed decisions about their treatment. “We know that treatment for breast cancers resulting from mutations should be different,” says Kelly Metcalfe, a professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg F ... More

Gary Lewis, an endocrinologist at Toronto General Hospital and director of the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine. Image courtesy: University of Toronto.

TORONTO.- “The pancreas,” says Gary Lewis, an endocrinologist at Toronto General Hospital and director of the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, “is like an exquisitely sensitive and perfectly networked computer.” Second by second, he notes, the pancreas secretes just the right amount of insulin or glucagon to lower or raise blood sugar into the portal vein that leads directly to the liver, the site of key metabolic processes. Insuling is then distributed to every tissue in the body via general circulation. “Insulin injections are life-saving, but administered under the skin and nowhere near as precise,” says Lewis, who is also a scientist and professor in the department of physiology and department of medicine at U of T. “It’s extraordinarily difficult to mimic the function of a healthy pancreas.” That’s one reason a cure for ... More

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Researchers at U of T and LG develop 'explainable' artificial intelligence algorithm
TORONTO.- Researchers from the University of Toronto and LG AI Research have developed an “explainable” artificial intelligence (XAI) algorithm that can help identify and eliminate defects in display screens. The new algorithm, which outperformed comparable approaches on industry benchmarks, was developed through an ongoing AI research collaboration between LG and U of T that was expanded in 2019 with a focus on AI applications for businesses. Researchers say the XAI algorithm could potentially be applied in other fields that require a window into how machine learning makes its decisions, including the interpretation of data from medical scans. “Explainability and interpretability are about meeting the quality standards we set for ourselves as engineers and are demanded by the end user,” says Kostas Plataniotis, a professor in the Edward S. Rogers Sr. department of electrical and computer engineering in the Faculty of App ... More

Copper foam as a highly efficient, durable filter for reusable masks and air cleaners
WASHINGTON, DC.- During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have grown accustomed to wearing facemasks, but many coverings are fragile and not easily disinfected. Metal foams are durable, and their small pores and large surface areas suggest they could effectively filter out microbes. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Nano Letters have transformed copper nanowires into metal foams that could be used in facemasks and air filtration systems. The foams filter efficiently, decontaminate easily for reuse and are recyclable. When a person with a respiratory infection, such as SARS-CoV-2, coughs or sneezes, they release small droplets and aerosolized particles into the air. Particles smaller than 0.3 m can stay airborne for hours, so materials that can trap these tiny particles are ideal for use in facemasks and air filters. But some existing filter materials have drawbacks. For example, fiberglass, carbon nanotubes and polypropylene fiber ... More

Whisker simulation gives insight into mammals' sense of touch
EVANSTON, IL.- We know your cat’s whiskers are handsome — but you can’t even see the cool part. The base of the whisker, which is responsible for sending touch signals to the brain, is hidden inside the follicle, a deep pocket that embeds the whisker within the skin. Because this section of the whisker is obscured, understanding precisely how whiskers communicate touch to the brain has been a longstanding mystery. In a new study, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Northwestern University has developed the first mechanical simulation of the whisker inside the follicle. By combining their new model with new anatomical observations, the researchers discovered that when whiskers touch an object, they form an “S”-shaped bend within the follicle. By bending into this “S” shape, the whisker pushes or pulls on sensor cells, which then send touch signals to the brain. The research was published on April 1, ... More

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Self-healing composites extend a product's lifespan

On a day like today, French astronomer Joseph-Nicolas Delisle was born
April 04, 1688. Joseph-Nicolas Delisle (4 April 1688 - 11 September 1768) was a French astronomer and cartographer. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1725 and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1749. In 1760 he proposed that the international scientific community co-ordinate observations of the 1761 Transit of Venus to determine the absolute distance of the Earth from the Sun. He developed a map showing where on Earth this transit would be visible and thus where various observing stations should be located. Actual implementation of these observational efforts were hindered by the Seven Years' War. In 1763 he retired to the Abbey of St Genevieve, dying in Paris sometime in 1768.


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