New Digital Tools Help People with High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol Make Meaningful Behavior Change

About 22% of people with heart disease struggle with depression and according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, depression alone costs the U.S. economy an estimated $210 billion per year, with more than 60% of the cost related to treating comorbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. To help people with heart disease make meaningful behavior change so they can live life more fully, the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, and Happify Health have worked together to incorporate the Association’s science-based health content into Happify Heart and Mind, a new mental health program offered through the Happify Health Solutions platform to employers and health plans.

Happify Heart and Mind teaches people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol strategies to reduce stress, incorporate more heart-healthy foods into their diet, and integrate more movement into their days. A variety of activities are available, including guided meditations, healthy meal prep strategies, psychoeducational content and goal-setting exercises. Happify Heart and Mind features a total of 10 content tracks, including the exclusive track developed by the Association, “Defeat Stress and Live a Heart-Healthy Life,” as well as many of Happify’s specially curated tracks for a healthy lifestyle, such as “Get Motivated to Get Fit,” and “Your Anxiety Antidote: Mindfulness Meditation.” Also incorporated in the program are heart-healthy physical activities, including short videos that feature stretching, core exercises, resistance training, and mindful yoga flows.

“We are honored to be working with the American Heart Association to help meet the mental health needs of those living with cardiovascular disease–needs that have become more complicated during this global pandemic,” said Ofer Leidner, president and co-founder at Happify Health, “We’re proud to offer Heart and Mind as a healthy resource that can be used anywhere and at any time, to help people with heart disease and stroke survivors better cope with their symptoms while at home, now, and in the future.”

Multiple studies recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions reinforced the link between mental health and cardiovascular health. The correlation is also a focus of the Association’s 40-plus member CEO Roundtable leadership collaborative, which produced a roadmap for employers to tackle growing challenges for addressing mental health issues. The CEO Roundtable has also launched a nationwide public awareness campaign that aims to normalize the conversation around mental health, reduce stigma, and help employees engage with company-provided resources to address this prevalent health issue.

“With our increased focus on the links between mental health and cardiovascular disease and stroke, this collaboration with Happify is a natural extension of the Association’s increased focus on the links between mental health and cardiovascular disease,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association. “As we work toward a world of longer, healthier lives, it’s important for us to address all of the risk factors that impact people’s health, from Life’s Simple 7 to mental health.”

Following the Association’s Life’s Simple 7, the seven risk factors that people can improve through lifestyle changes to help achieve ideal cardiovascular health, can greatly increase physical and mental wellness and decrease deaths by 76%. However, according to an AHA Journals published study, just 1% of people do all seven, and 91% do just one. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that up to 40% of cardiac patients meet the criteria for major depressive disorder or experience an elevation in depressive symptoms.

The efficacy of Happify’s therapy has been proven through two randomized controlled trials and three published studies in peer-reviewed publications. One published randomized controlled trial found a 25% reduction in both the symptoms of anxiety and depression for those using Happify, when compared with an active comparison condition, psychoeducation, used as directed by this study. More information about Happify’s scientific testing and research science can be found on the Happify Labs page.

Source: American Heart Association

Today’s Comic

Electrified Fabric Could Zap the Coronavirus on Masks and Clothing

Rachel Crowell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Wearing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) can slow the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone wear some kind of face covering in public places, especially where social distancing is difficult to maintain. And health workers are donning additional coverings, such as gowns. Yet all such protective gear shares one significant problem: people still risk becoming infected with the novel coronavirus if they accidentally touch areas of the fabric that are contaminated with viral particles. So researchers are working to develop cloth that could inactivate or repel coronaviruses—ideally including the one that causes COVID-19—and other pathogens.

People can transfer infectious particles to their hands if they touch the front of a mask during use or when they remove gowns or other PPE, according to Chandan Sen, director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at Indiana University. He and his colleagues have been developing a way to render those particles and other infectious agents harmless. The team researches “electroceutical” materials that wirelessly “generate electric fields across the surface of the fabric,” Sen says. Those fields can disrupt the behavior of bacteria or viruses on the cloth.

“The beauty of this [technology] is the inherently simple design,” he says. The polyester material is printed with alternating spots of silver and zinc resembling polka dots. They are one to two millimeters wide and spaced one millimeter apart. When the electroceutical material is dry, it functions as an ordinary fabric. But if it gets dampened—say, with saliva, vapor from a coughed up droplet or other bodily fluids—ions in the liquid trigger an electrochemical reaction. The silver and zinc then generate a weak electric field that zaps pathogens on the surface.

The researchers co-developed the material with the biotechnology company Vomaris Innovations in 2012. Last year they showed that the technology could be used to treat bacterial biofilms in wounds. A clinical trial is underway to further evaluate the fabric’s effectiveness as a Food and Drug Administration–cleared dressing for wound care, Sen says.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen’s team tested its existing material on a different coronavirus strain that causes a respiratory illness in pigs and on an unrelated type of pathogen called a lentivirus. “We wanted to know how broadly this principle could be applicable,” he says. In a study posted on the preprint server ChemRxiv in May, Sen’s team reported that its electroceutical fabric destabilized both viruses, leaving them unable to infect cells. The researchers plan to submit the results to a peer-reviewed journal as well.

To study the fabric’s action, they placed a liquid solution containing viral particles onto the electroceutical fabric and a polyester control fabric without the metal dots. After the droplets were fully absorbed, and the samples had rested for one to five minutes, the researchers recovered viral particles from both fabrics and tested whether they could still infect the types of cells they typically target.

“The data presented here show that, of the total virus that was recovered, a significant percentage was inactivated,” says Jeff Karp, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and co-leader of an N95 respirator working group at the Massachusetts General Brigham Center for COVID Innovation. Karp, who was not involved with the study, adds that the researchers did not test all of the virus that they had placed on the cloth. “In fact, the majority of virus was not recovered from the textiles examined in this study,” he says. Sen responds that his team focused on sampling only enough viral particles to show that the fabric had rendered them unable to infect cells. The researchers recovered roughly 44 percent of the particles from the electroceutical fabric samples that had rested for one minute. And they retrieved 24 percent of them from the samples that had rested for five minutes.

The material’s virus-fighting abilities have not been tested specifically on SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The researchers’ findings with the two viruses they studied, however, gave them “hope that this could apply more widely,” Sen says. He adds that large-scale manufacturing of the electroceutical fabric is already possible and that the costs of producing it are relatively low. The metal dots could be printed directly onto the front surfaces of masks, he suggests. Or an electroceutical fabric could be inserted between the front of a mask and the wearer’s face.

If a virus-stopping PPE material were widely available, it could limit the novel coronavirus’s ability to spread. “There is a huge unmet need to better understand modes of viral transfer that lead to virus transmission,” Karp says. “As we develop a better understanding of this, there is a huge immediate need to develop and quickly apply solutions that can reduce transmission.”

Metal dots are not the only potential approach. Paul Leu, director of an advanced materials laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, and his colleagues are developing a textile coating that repels bodily fluids, proteins and bacteria. It also repels one strain of adenovirus that causes respiratory illness and another that causes conjunctivitis, as reported in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces in April. Leu’s team has also not tested the material with the novel coronavirus itself, however. “The main thing with testing [the coating on] SARS-CoV-2 is the biosafety level you need to test it, because it’s very hazardous,” he says. Still, his team plans to see how well textiles with this coating repel a different coronavirus.

Leu says the coating, which remains repellent even after ultrasonic washing and scraping with a razor blade, could make PPE safer for wearers to take off. It could also be used on hospital bed linens, drapes and waiting room chairs, the researchers note in the study. But Leu points out that the coating is intended for use with medical textiles that are already considered reusable. His team has not tested it on single-use masks or N95s, but he thinks it could potentially damage them. Still, he says, the coating could work well for cloth masks such as those now being worn by many among the general public.

By developing materials that kill or repel viruses, researchers hope to make masks and other protective gear safer to remove and more effective against all viruses. “If the common person were to have PPE that wouldn’t spread infection,” Sen says, “I think that’s a big, big deal.”

Source: Scientific American

The World’s First-ever Robot Restaurant Complex in Guangdong, China

On June 22, the first robot restaurant complex built by Qianxi Robot Catering Group (Qianxi Group), a subsidiary of Country Garden, opened in Shunde, a city in China’s Guangdong province. Powered by the latest in advanced technologies, the restaurant has separate sections for Chinese food, hot pot and fast food and features a wide selection of dishes, each one of which is delivered to the waiting diner within seconds.

In the 2,000 square meters of modern restaurant space, more than 20 in-house developed robots for different restaurant styles (Chinese cuisine, clay-pot rice, noodle shops) are on hand to assume their assigned role in terms of food preparation and cooking. The dining space, imbued in pink as the background color while replete with the sense of metallic technology, can serve nearly 600 diners at one time. The restaurant’s 200 menu items can each be served up in as little as 20 seconds.

Under the epidemic, robot-run restaurants reduce human-to-human contact across the board. This new style of dining is seen to be in line with the current situation and the trend in the future.

“The Qianxi robot restaurant has innovatively achieved both software-hardware integration and man-machine cooperation. It helps to better run a smooth operation through the practical application of robots,” said Zhao Chunsheng, mechanical engineering specialist and academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Qianxi has the most advanced technology with a vast product lineup. It fills the market gap and will have a significant impact on benchmarking in adding value to industry development as well.”

Country Garden assistant executive officer and Qianxi Group general manager Qiu Mi explained that Qianxi Group has built a complete industry chain encompassing back-end supply production (the centralized kitchens) and robotic cooking alongside the operation of restaurants and the management of robots. During 2020, the group plans to build more centralized kitchens to further expand in the cities of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, while achieving mass production of robots with an expected output of some 5,000 units per year.

China officially released the technical specification for robot safety certification in the food sector on June 22. The technical specification, jointly formulated by the National Robot Testing and Accreditation Center (NRTAC) and Qianxi Group’s technology subsidiary Zhiyuan, is the first of its kind in the country. Qianxi Group’s lineup of second-generation robots, including some trained to cook clay pot rice and others trained to make mini-ice creams, have taken the lead in receiving China Robot (CR) certifications from the NRTAC.

Moreover, Qianxi Group and Beijing Beichen Industrial Group Co., Ltd. (Beijing Beichen) jointly announced a comprehensive strategic cooperation, whereby smart dining services will be provided at Beijing Beichen’s convention centers. In January 2022, phase two of the China National Convention Center, a venue developed and operated by Beijing Beichen, will be put into operation, and Qianxi Group’s robots will be on duty at the site providing 7×24 smart dining services, giving a glimpse of how world-leading smart technologies integrate with Chinese cuisine culture.

On the same day as the opening of the restaurant, Qianxi Group also inked a strategic cooperation agreement with Siemens (China) whereby both parties entered into a long-term strategic partnership to boost the digital development of the smart dining segment, including joint development of the industry’s first innovative smart dining IoT platform. Bai Liping, vice president of digital industries at Siemens (China), said that the company will join hands with Qianxi Group to accelerate the growth of the segment.

Source : Yahoo!

Paper-based Technology Advances Earlier Cancer Detection

Tina Hilding wrote . . . . . . . . .

Washington State University researchers have developed a technology that is more than 30 times more sensitive than current lab-based tests in finding early stage cancer biomarkers in blood.

The technology uses an electric field to concentrate and separate cancer biomarkers onto a paper strip. It could someday become a kind of liquid biopsy and could lead to earlier detection of and faster treatments for cancer, a disease that causes more than 9.6 million deaths a year around the world.

Led by Wenji Dong, associate professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, and graduate student Shuang Guo, the researchers were able to detect miniscule levels of the cancer markers in tiny extracellular bubbles called exosomes in as little as 10 minutes. Reporting on their work in the journal, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, the researchers call the work a “significant step” in developing rapid testing and early cancer detection.

Researchers have long sought ways to detect cancer earlier to save more lives. While lab tests to detect tumor biomarkers in blood have been developed, they often can’t find early-stage cancer because the cancer markers are at levels too low to detect. Instead, people most often find out they have cancer through invasive biopsies once tumors are established.In recent years, researchers have discovered that one of the ways cancer cells spread and communicate with other parts of the body is by way of tiny exosome vesicles in blood or other fluids. Ranging in size from 40 to 120 nanometers, or about 1000 times smaller in width than a strand of hair, the exosomes are thought to shuttle molecules from parent cancer cells through the body, entering and then re-programming friendly cells to become cancerous. Cancer cells also secrete more exosome bubbles than regular cells.

“Exosomes provide a unique opportunity as a cancer marker,” Dong said.

A paper-based isotachophoresis (ITP) device that isolates, enriches, and detects exosomes
Image of the paper-based isotachophoresis (ITP) device that isolates, enriches, and detects exosomes from a prostate cancer cell line.
However, finding the cancer-filled exosomes in blood testing is challenging. They look the same as normal cell exosomes and other extracellular bubbles, and they are at very low levels in the blood in early cancer.

The WSU team for the first time applied a technology that uses an electric field to rapidly isolate, enrich and detect the exosomes taken from a prostate cancer cell line. The technology was able to concentrate and then separate the cancer-cell exosomes from those from normal cells by way of immune-binding. That is, the researchers captured the target exosomes by using an antibody that is specific to a protein marker on the exosome surface. The researchers were also able to separate out and analyze cancer protein markers within the exosomes. The technology was 33 times more sensitive than conventional methods that are used in research labs to detect and analyze exosomes.

“This has the potential to become a technique capable of concentrating samples by orders of magnitude in minutes,” Dong said.

The researchers demonstrated their technology successfully with a test serum. They are now working to improve it using a greater amount of human blood which, with a confusing mix of hormones, lipids, and other elements floating around, can create a challenging environment for successful testing. The researchers are also working to adjust the power requirements of the technology, so that it can be used portably and more easily in a medical setting.

Source: Washington State University

Robot Learns to Cook Your Perfect Omelet

Evan Ackerman wrote . . . . . . . . .

Cooking robots have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. We’re not yet at the point where we’ve got robot arms dangling from the ceiling that do all the work for us, but there are a bunch of robots out there with reasonable cookie-making skills. However, we’ve mostly seen cooking robots that are programmed to follow a specific recipe, rather than cooking robots that are programmed to cook you exactly what you want. Sometimes these are the same thing, but often cooking is (I’m told) much more about adapting a recipe to your individual taste.

For personal cooking robots to make us food that we love, they’re going to need to be able to listen to our feedback, understand what that feedback means, and then take actions to adapt their recipe or technique to achieve the desired outcome. This is more complicated than, say, adding less salt next time because it was too salty this time—the robots will have to work with less easily definable things like appearance and texture, and the totally subjective nature of human taste.

At ICRA 2020 this week, roboticists from the University of Cambridge, in England, presented a paper on OmeletteBot, a fully autonomous end-to-end omelet-cooking robot. What’s new here is that the robot is able to optimize its omelet making for different people based on how they react to a few sample omelets. Your perfect omelet is now within reach.

The goal here is for the quality of the omelet to be optimized for an individual human across a few different metrics, all of which are subjective. In this case, the omelet is being evaluated on three metrics: flavor, appearance, and texture, each on a 1 to 10 scale. Meanwhile, the robot has a variety of different parameters it can adjust, including shakes of salt, shakes of pepper, whisking time, in-pan mixing time, and time on heat.

The ideal way to approach this problem would be to have a human sample every possible combination of parameters to find their ideal omelet, but this is obviously impractical. And making everything more difficult is that humans get full quickly, our memory is short, and we change our minds often. Maybe the first omelet you taste is pretty great, so you give it an 8/10 on flavor, but your next omelet tastes twice as good—then what do you do?

The researchers employed a solution to this problem called batch Bayesian optimization. The more traditional sequential Bayesian optimization would take a human’s score of each omelet and use it to modify the cooking process for the next omelet, but this approach doesn’t work well because the human feedback is, as the researchers tell us, “often ambiguous and relative.” By running the optimization process only after all scores have been collected, the robot is able to explore many more combinations of variables, yielding a substantially better end result. Instead of the omelets gradually getting better as you go, you’ll instead be tasting them randomly, but you’ll end up with a much tastier omelet.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Watch video at You Tube (2:32 minutes) . . . . .