Israeli Team Announces First 3D-Printed Heart Using Human Cells

The world’s first complete 3D printer-generated heart, made using the patient’s own cells and materials, has been created in a lab.

Until now, success has been limited to printing only simple tissues without blood vessels.

“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” said team leader Tal Dvir.

The printer-generated heart is only about a third the size of an actual human heart — and it doesn’t actually work. But it’s a groundbreaking step toward engineering customized organs that can be transplanted with less risk of rejection.

“This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials,” said Dvir, a researcher at the Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University in Israel. “In our process these materials serve as the bio-inks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models.”

Dvir noted that scientists have managed to print a 3D structure of a heart before, but not with cells or blood vessels. “Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future,” he said in a university news release.

The research was published online in the journal Advanced Science.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. A transplant is the only treatment available to patients with end-stage heart failure, but there is a severe shortage of heart donors.

That means there’s an urgent need to develop new ways to regenerate a diseased heart, according to the researchers.

The use of biological materials from a patient is key to successful engineering of tissues and organs, Dvir explained. The compatibility of engineered materials is key to eliminating rejection risk.

“Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient’s own tissues,” Dvir noted. “Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient.”

While the 3D-printed heart is about the size of a rabbit’s heart, the same technology can be used to print a normal-sized one, he said.

The next step is culturing printed hearts in the lab and “teaching them to behave” like hearts, Dvir added. Then, researchers plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart into lab animals.

“We need to develop the printed heart further,” Dvir said. “The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together. Our hope is that we will succeed and prove our method’s efficacy and usefulness.”

Dvir looks to the future with optimism.

“Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” he said.

Source: HealthDay


Ireland First With New DNA Food Scanning Tool

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) revealed that it now has a new DNA scanning tool to identify the entire DNA content of a food. The new analytical tool can proactively identify all the ingredients and their biological sources in a food, which will aid regulators in protecting consumers in relation to potential food fraud and/or misleading labelling. The FSAI worked with a commercial laboratory (Identigen) over the past two years in adapting a relatively new DNA sequencing technology known as “next generation sequencing”, so that it could be used as a DNA scanning tool in food. The idea is to compare the actual ingredients in a food, identified by their DNA profile, with those declared on the label. Up to this, DNA testing of food required analysts to know what they wanted to look for specifically and then test for it – such target information is no longer a pre-requisite.

According to Dr Pat O’Mahony, Chief Specialist, Food Science and Technology, FSAI this applied use of next generation sequencing is unique in a regulatory context and will be a significant new asset for regulators to identify exactly what is contained in a food and if that matches what is stated on the product’s labelling. It is now possible to scan the entire DNA content of a food without any prior knowledge or suspicion of what may or may not be present in that food.

“Even with the restriction of having to target the DNA of certain plant or animal species in previous studies, the FSAI has been able to detect food allergens and GMOs, and demonstrate the mislabelling of fish products. Of course targeted DNA analysis was also the method used by the FSAI in discovering horsemeat in beef products, which ultimately brought the global awareness of food fraud to a new level.”

The restrictions imposed by the need to target only specific species and ingredients in products led the FSAI to look for new innovative ‘non-targeted’ screening methods. Next Generation DNA Sequencing (NGS) is the basis of the new DNA food scanning tool and has been applied successfully by the FSAI to screen 45 plant-based foods and food supplements from Irish health food shops and supermarkets. It looked for the presence of all plant species in the selected products and identified 14 food products of interest that may contain undeclared plant species.

Of the 14 products selected for further investigation, one was confirmed to contain undeclared mustard at significant levels. Mustard is one of the 14 food allergenic ingredients that must be declared in all foods under EU and Irish food law. Another product (oregano) was found to contain DNA from two undeclared plant species, one at significant levels. A third product was found to have no DNA from the plant species declared on the label, but instead rice DNA was identified. All three products are under further investigation.

“Our two year project has proved that next generation sequencing has the capacity to screen a variety of plant-based foods for the presence of undeclared plant species. It is important to understand that any results of the initial scan will always need to be corroborated by more established analytical techniques. Being able to scan the entire DNA content of a food means that it will be difficult to substitute or hide an ingredient of biological origin without it being detected. The plan is that in the future, the FSAI will apply the same technology for the screening of meat, poultry and fish products,” concluded Dr O’Mahony.

Source: Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Farmworker vs Robot

Danielle Paquette wrote . . . . . . . . .

Both human and machine have 10 seconds per plant. They must find the ripe strawberries in the leaves, gently twist them off the stems and tuck them into a plastic clamshell. Repeat, repeat, repeat, before the fruit spoils.

One February afternoon, they work about an acre apart on a farm the size of 454 football fields: dozens of pickers collecting produce the way people have for centuries — and a robot that engineers say could replace most of them as soon as next year.

The future of agricultural work has arrived here in Florida, promising to ease labor shortages and reduce the cost of food, or so says the team behind Harv, a nickname for the latest model from automation company Harvest CROO Robotics.

Harv is on the leading edge of a national push to automate the way we gather goods that bruise and squish, a challenge that has long flummoxed engineers.

Designing a robot with a gentle touch is among the biggest technical obstacles to automating the American farm. Reasonably priced fruits and vegetables are at risk without it, growers say, because of a dwindling pool of workers.

“The labor force keeps shrinking,” said Gary Wishnatzki, a third-generation strawberry farmer. “If we don’t solve this with automation, fresh fruits and veggies won’t be affordable or even available to the average person.”

The problem is so pressing that competitors are banding together to fund Harv, which has raised approximately $9 million from corporate behemoths like Driscoll’s and Naturipe Farms, as well as local farmers.

Wishnatzki, who created Harv with former Intel engineer Bob Pitzer, one of the minds behind the television hit “BattleBots,” has invested $3 million of his own money.

The electronic picker is still pretty clumsy.

During a test run last year, Harv gathered just 20 percent of strawberries on every plant without mishap. This year’s goal: Harvest half of the fruit without crushing or dropping any. The human success rate is closer to 80 percent, making Harv the underdog in this competition.

But Harv doesn’t need a visa or sleep or sick days. The machine looks like a horizontally rolling semi-truck.

Peek underneath and see 16 smaller steel robots scooping up strawberries with spinning, claw-like fingers, guided by camera eyes and flashing lights.

Growers say it is getting harder to hire enough people to harvest crops before they rot.

Fewer seasonal laborers are coming from Mexico, the biggest supplier of U.S. farmworkers. Fewer Americans want to bend over all day in a field, farmers say, even when offered higher wages, free housing and recruitment bonuses.

The number of agricultural employees in the United States is expected to stay flat over the next seven years, according to the latest projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As “productivity-enhancing technologies” mature in the realm of mechanization, farms will require fewer people, even as demand for crops grow, the government researchers wrote.

Manufacturing underwent a similar evolution. U.S. factories have increased output over the past two decades with a smaller workforce, thanks to machines that improve efficiency.

One Harv is programmed to do the work of 30 people. The machine hovers over a dozen rows of plants at the same time, picking five strawberries every second and covering eight acres a day.

That potential is increasingly attractive to growers, who say the Trump administration’s tighter immigration policies are squeezing off the supply of seasonal workers, as well as undocumented labor.

Approximately half of the country’s 850,000 farmworkers are not in the United States legally, according to 2016 data from the Department of Labor, the most recent available.

Agricultural analysts say the labor shortage is already forcing up wages.

From 2014 to 2018, the average pay for farmworkers rose faster than employees in the broader economy, jumping from $11.29 to $13.25, according to numbers from the Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture economists at Arizona State University last year estimated that if farmers lost their undocumented workforce entirely, wages would have to rise by 50 percent to replace them — and that would crank up produce prices by another 40 percent.

Starting in 2025, all farms in California — the nation’s largest fresh-food producer — must pay their employees overtime after eight hours a day instead of 10.

“Automation is the long-term solution, given the reluctance of domestic workers to do these jobs,” said Tim Richards, the Morrison chair of agribusiness in the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU.

Wishnatzki said he lost around $1 million due to spoilage last year. He said he pays experienced pickers about $25 an hour.

Harv would diminish the need for field labor, Wishnatzki said, but it would create new jobs, too. Wish Farms, his family business, would train pickers to become technicians.

“We need people to clean, sanitize and repair the machines,” he said.

Some workers view that plan with anxiety and skepticism.

“I see the robot and think, ‘Maybe we’re not going to have jobs anymore,’ ” said Antonio Vengas, 48, one of the about 600 employees on the farm with Harv.

Vengas moved to Florida 15 years ago from the Mexican state of Oaxaca and makes about $25 an hour. About 75 percent of his co-workers are Mexicans on seasonal work visas.

They all make good money, he said. They’re motivated.

“People can pick strawberries without hurting them,” he said. “They know which ones are too little or rotten. Machines can’t do that.”

“A machine cannot harvest delicate table grapes, strawberries or tree fruit without destroying the perfect presentation demanded by consumers and the retail food industry,” said Giev Kashkooli, political and legislative director for the United Farm Workers of America, which represents about 20,000 farmworkers across the country.

Unions don’t oppose technological advances though, Kashkooli added.

“Robotics can play a role in making the job less backbreaking and play a role in helping people earn more money,” he said.

Out West, engineers at Washington State University are working with local farmers to test an apple-picking machine with 12 mechanical arms.

It drives down orchard rows, snapping pictures of trees. A computer brain scans the images and finds the fruit. The arms grab and lower apples onto a conveyor belt.

Expect to see this technology on the market in the next three years, said Manoj Karkee, associate professor at the school’s Center for Precision & Automated Agricultural Systems.

Farmers who struggle to make hires wanted it “yesterday,” he said.

“We all know we need to go in this direction,” Karkee said. “The last advancement in apple picking was the invention of the ladder.”

The robot rarely hurts the produce. But as of today, one robotic apple-picker costs at least $300,000 — too much for most budgets.

On the day Harv is put to the test, farmers and researchers arrive in three buses to Wishnatzki’s farm. They’ve come from Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and across the United States. Curiosity hangs in the air like the hawks circling overhead.

Blaine Staples, a strawberry grower from Alberta, steps through the dirt toward the machine, which hisses as it claws up fruit. Dozens of people around him crouch to the ground. The machine’s arms go to work amid exclamations of awe and disbelief from onlookers.

“This is pretty much the new industrial revolution,” Staples said.

His Canadian farm is tiny compared to Wishnatzki’s 600 acres. But he could see himself renting Harv for a season — as long as it’s comparable to his current labor costs.

Under Harv’s proposed business model, farmers would pay only for the fruit the machine picks at the same rate they pay seasonal work crews.

A few strawberry rows over, Doug Carrigan, a North Carolina farmer, stands in the group with his eyes locked on Harv.

“It doesn’t care if it’s a Sunday or a holiday,” Carrigan said. “The machine will work regardless.”

He pays his workers between $10 and $14 hourly. They’re mostly local folks.

“A lot of Americans have become lazy,” Carrigan said. “They want a paycheck. They don’t want a job.”

Any time you can automate work without sacrificing quality, “that’s a win,” he said.

Behind the crowd of farmers, a team of engineers watch the spectacle on a flat-screen TV inside a white trailer, their makeshift command center. Cameras inside Harv give them a close-up.

“The best view in the house,” said Alex Figueroa, 24, director of machine vision.

Everything looks to be running smoothly. Nobody’s stress-eating the oatmeal raisin cookies they ordered from Panera Bread.

“No errors!” Figueroa pleads aloud.

“Knock on wood,” another engineer replies.

In another section of the field, far from the commotion, the pickers work like they have always worked.

It’s 80 degrees outside, but they wear long sleeves, pants and scarves below their eyes to block the sun. They bend over, pluck the strawberries and slip them into plastic cases.

Then they sprint through the plant rows to a supervisor, who scans in each package. They are paid by the package. Slowing down means losing money.

Parked nearby is an old school bus, which shuttles them free to work. Most of the pickers live in housing Wishnatzki provides.

Santiago Velasco, 65, has worked here for 35 years and has done practically every job: picking, digging, irrigating.

Harv is a newcomer that doesn’t concern him.

“I don’t think it’ll work because the people know how to pick,” he said, “and they go faster.”

His prediction held up on demo day.

The robot found more than half the strawberries on each plant, but the fruit this season was bigger than anticipated. A bunch tumbled from Harv’s claws — red and juicy and now gone.

Engineers aren’t sure how many — they’ve got to review hours of video. They can’t be sure Harv hit this year’s target. But they’re confident the machine can get it right next year.

Source: The Washington Post

Flavour and Food Products Developed with AI technology

McCormick, a global leader in flavor, and IBM today publicly announced their ongoing research collaboration to pioneer the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for flavor and food product development.

Using IBM Research AI for Product Composition, McCormick is ushering in a new era of flavor innovation and changing the course of the industry. Product developers across McCormick’s global workforce will be able to explore flavor territories more quickly and efficiently using AI to learn and predict new flavor combinations from hundreds of millions of data points across the areas of sensory science, consumer preference and flavor palettes. This proprietary, cutting-edge technology sets McCormick apart in its ability to develop more creative, better tasting products and new flavor experiences across both its Consumer and Flavor Solutions business units.

McCormick expects to launch its first AI-enabled product platform, “ONE,” by mid-2019, with a set of initial one-dish Recipe Mix flavors including Tuscan Chicken, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin and New Orleans Sausage. The company’s flavor developers created this product platform by combining IBM’s expertise in AI and machine learning with McCormick’s 40+ years of proprietary sensory science and taste data, which includes decades of past product formulas and millions of data points related to consumer taste preferences and palettes. AI has enabled McCormick’s product developers access to an expanded portfolio of flavor profiles that enhances their creativity. The new ONE platform was specifically developed to deliver family-favorite flavors with the ability to season both the protein and vegetable. The new seasoning blends expect to be on U.S. retail shelves by late spring.

“McCormick’s use of artificial intelligence highlights our commitment to insight-driven innovation and the application of the most forward-looking technologies to continually enhance our products and bring new flavors to market,” said McCormick Chairman, President and CEO Lawrence Kurzius. “This is one of several projects in our pipeline where we’ve embraced new and emerging technologies.”

As a world leader in artificial intelligence software, services and technology for business, IBM is focused on working with clients and enterprises across many industry sectors to help advance data-driven technologies that push markets forward.

“IBM Research’s collaboration with McCormick illustrates our commitment to helping our clients and partners drive innovation across industries,” said Kathryn Guarini, VP, Industry Research, IBM. “By combining McCormick’s deep data and expertise in science and taste, with IBM’s AI capabilities, we are working together to unlock the bounds of creativity and transform the food and flavor development process.”

Pairing McCormick’s global expertise, particularly that of its research and product development teams, with leading AI research helped McCormick accelerate the speed of flavor innovation by up to three times and deliver highly effective, consumer-preferred formulas. Through the ONE platform as well as several other projects in the pipeline, McCormick’s product developers are now using AI to unlock creativity, access new insights and share data with their peers around the world. The company plans to scale this technology globally by 2021.

Source: IBM

Food Company Leverages Artificial Intelligence to Make Healthy Gummies

Catherine Lamb wrote . . . . . . . . .

One of the hard parts of being an adult — and there are many — is that gummies are no longer considered an acceptable afternoon snack. But today Journey Foods is unveiling a sort of reimagination of the fruit snack; one which is packed with nutrients and also promotes biodiversity.

The Chicago-based startup launched about 18 months ago, though the inspiration goes back much further. Founder and CEO Riana Lynn, who had previously started a food traceability company and served as an entrepreneur in residence at Google, got the idea for Journey Foods after she spent a stint traveling around the world. Inspired by the widespread biodiversity she saw (and tasted), Lynn decided to bring some of her most nutrient-rich findings — like baobab and seaweed — back to the U.S. and transform them into healthy snacks.

The first product is the aforementioned fruit snacks, which Lynn calls “Micro-Foods.” Not only does that sound more legit than “gummy candy,” the name also communicates the caliber of nutrition research and technology that goes into Journey Foods’ products. “We are more of a hybrid biotech/CPG company,” Lynn told me over the phone. “I guess you could just call it food tech.”

Tech indeed. The company has three patents pending on the nutrition biotech that powers their products. They’re also testing out different sugar technologies, so people with dietary restrictions can still eat the Micro Foods.

The fruit chews, which come in Strawberry Chia Seed and Mango and Cayenne Spice, cost less than $1.50 per single-serve pack, which is slightly more expensive than many natural fruit snacks — but not much. “We’re really focused on accessibility,” Lynn told me. Journey Foods will make the bulk of their money from B2B sales and custom product creation for big CPG companies.

As of now, the Micro-Foods are available on Amazon and the Journey Foods website, and are being tested in 80 retail locations around the country. They’re also in a variety of corporate offices, and Lynn told me they’ll debut the Micro-Foods in select hospitals later this year.

Journey Foods also has a B2B product development tool called JourneyAI. It’s essentially an AI-powered database that helps the startup identify and catalog ingredients which could be used to make nutrient-dense foods, speeding up the trial and error of product R&D with their third-party CPG partners.

Journey Foods’ chews take advantage of a few food trends in one fell swoop. First of all, they’re capitalizing off of growing consumer demand for healthier foods, specifically snack foods. The global healthy snacks market was valued at more than $23 billion in 2018, according to Grand View Research, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Consumers are also getting more adventurous in their snacking, looking for new, exotic flavors. Finally, adding the buzzword “biodiversity” to their marketing, legit as it is, could help Journey Foods capture more ethically-motived consumers.

The decision to target B2B partners is also a smart play, specifically in hospitals and tech company offices. At the former, the Micro-Foods could help patients, specifically kids, get the nutrients they need. And at tech offices, which are renowned for their gigantic snack walls, Journey Foods can offer a healthier alternative to, say, gummy bears.

Lynn told me that next, Journey Foods will add new flavors to its lineup of Micro Foods products, incorporating ingredients like marine greens, probiotics, and vegetables. Down the road, the company will launch new nutrient-dense products outside the gummy realm. Journey Foods is currently in the midst of a fundraising round, with participation from Backstage Capital and other VC firms. The startup was also the first chosen to join the Soylent Innovation Lab earlier this month and was awarded a $15,000 grant and office space in L.A. Hopefully that translates into a lot more gummy chews that we don’t have to feel guilty about.

Source: The Spoon