Video: TED Talks – How China Is Changing the Future of Shopping

China is a huge laboratory of innovation, says retail expert Angela Wang, and in this lab, everything takes place on people’s phones. Five hundred million Chinese consumers — the equivalent of the combined populations of the US, UK and Germany — regularly make purchases via mobile platforms, even in brick-and-mortar stores. What will this transformation mean for the future of shopping? Learn more about the new business-as-usual, where everything is ultra-convenient, ultra-flexible and ultra-social.

Watch video at You Tube (13:38 minutes) . . . .


Someday You May Check Your Blood Pressure with Your Smart Phone

Someday soon, a simple touch of a finger to a smartphone case might be enough to provide instant, accurate blood pressure readings.

That’s the promise of new technology detailed by developers in the journal of Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers say they’ve invented a special phone case, using high-tech 3-D printing, that contains an embedded optical sensor on top of a “force” sensor.

When the user presses a finger onto the sensor embedded in the case, “it provides measurable pressure on an artery in the finger in the same way that a blood pressure cuff squeezes an artery in the arm,” according to a journal news release.

That information is then fed to a smartphone app that converts the data to a real-time blood pressure reading, displayed on the phone, says a team led by Ramakrishna Mukkamala of Michigan State University.

The researchers tested the usability of the device on 30 people, and found that about 90 percent could position their finger correctly and get consistent readings after only one or two attempts.

Two heart specialists said the device might one day be a game-changer.

“An accurate blood pressure measurement technique is critical for making helpful decisions in the management of hypertension,” said Dr. Joseph Diamond. He directs nuclear cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

He stressed, however, that more rigorous testing must be done before any new blood pressure measuring technology becomes standard.

Dr. Rachel Bond helps direct women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She noted that recent changes to the American Heart Association’s blood pressure guidelines — lowering the threshold for high blood pressure to 130/80 mmHg — means “more people will likely need access to blood pressure monitoring devices that are simple to use outside of the doctor’s office.”

Still, “with the use of any [portable] device, I strongly encourage the patient bring them in to the office to test for accuracy and allow for validation,” Bond said.

Source: HealthDay

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Researchers Invent New Technology for Cancer Immunotherapy

Johns Hopkins researchers have invented a new class of cancer immunotherapy drugs that are more effective at harnessing the power of the immune system to fight cancer. This new approach, which was reported in Nature Communications, results in a significant decrease of tumor growth, even against cancers that do not respond to existing immunotherapy.

“The immune system is naturally able to detect and eliminate tumor cells. However, virtually all cancers — including the most common cancers, from lung, breast and colon cancers to melanomas and lymphomas — evolve to counteract and defeat such immune surveillance by co-opting and amplifying natural mechanisms of immune suppression,” says Atul Bedi, M.D., M.B.A., an associate professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Bloomberg~Kimmel Cancer Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, and senior author of the study.

A major way tumors evade the immune system is via regulatory T cells (Tregs), a subset of immune cells that turn off the immune system’s ability to attack tumor cells. Tumors are frequently infiltrated by Tregs, and this is strongly correlated with poor outcome in multiple cancer types.

Many tumors produce high levels of a protein that promotes the development of Tregs. Bedi’s team reasoned that since Tregs in the tumor shut down immune responses against tumor cells, turning off Tregs may help immunotherapy work better.

“This is especially challenging because Tregs are not only induced by the TGFbeta (transforming growth factor-beta) protein made by tumor cells, but make their own TGFbeta to maintain their identity and function in the tumor,” says Bedi. Tregs also make cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4 (CTLA-4), which prevents anti-tumor immune cells from acting.

To address this problem, the researchers invented a new class of immunotherapy drugs they called Y-traps. Each Y-trap molecule is an antibody shaped like a Y and fused to a molecular “trap” that captures other molecules nearby, rendering them useless.

The researchers first designed a Y-trap that targets CTLA-4 and traps TGFbeta. This Y-trap disables both CTLA-4 and TGFbeta, which allows anti-tumor immune cells to fight the tumor and turns down Treg cells.

To test the Y-traps, the team transplanted human cancer cells into mice engineered to have human immune cells. The researchers found that their Y-trap eliminated Treg cells in tumors and slowed the growth of tumors that failed to respond to ipilimumab, a current immunotherapy drug that targets the CTLA-4 protein.

“Tregs have long been a thorn in the side of cancer immunotherapy,” says Bedi. “We’ve finally found a way to overcome this hurdle with this CTLA-4-targeted Y-trap.”

Antibodies to another immune checkpoint protein, PD-1, or its ligand (PD-L1), are a central focus of current cancer immunotherapy. While they work in some patients, they don’t work in the vast majority of patients.

The research team designed a Y-trap targeting PD-L1 and trapping TGFbeta. Tested against the same engineered mice, they found that their Y-trap works better than just PD-L1-targeting drugs atezolizumab and avelumab. Again, this Y-trap slowed the growth of tumors that previously had not responded to drugs.

“These first-in-class Y-traps are just the beginning. We have already invented a whole family of these multifunctional molecules based on the Y-trap technology. Since mechanisms of immune dysfunction are shared across many types of cancer, this approach could have broad impact for improving cancer immunotherapy,” says Bedi. “Y-traps could also provide a therapeutic strategy against tumors that resist current immune checkpoint inhibitors.”

“This approach appears to be an innovative strategy, and an exciting technical accomplishment to target multiple suppressive mechanisms in the tumor microenvironment,” says Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and director of the Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Ferris was not connected with the study. “I look forward to seeing its translation into the clinic.”

Bedi envisions using Y-traps not only for treatment of advanced, metastatic cancers, but also as a neoadjuvant therapy to create a “vaccine” effect — that is, giving them to patients before surgery to prevent recurrence of the disease.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

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Video: The Future Of Grocery Shopping Is Now in Beijing, China

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New Graphene Laser Technique Opens Door for Edible Electronics

Electronics, the lifeblood of the modern world, could soon be part of our daily diet. In a study appearing in ACS Nano, scientists report that they have developed a way to write graphene patterns onto virtually any surface including food. They say the new technique could lay the groundwork for the edible electronics capable of tracing the progression of foods from farm to table, as well as detecting harmful organisms that can cause gastric distress.

Graphene is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. It is stronger than steel, thinner than a human hair and more conductive than copper, making an ideal building block for the next generation of compact, smart electronics. Several years ago, James M. Tour and colleagues heated the surface of an inexpensive plastic with a laser in air to create something called laser-induced graphene (LIG). LIG is a foam made out of tiny cross-linked graphene flakes. The process can embed or burn patterns that could be used as supercapacitors, radio frequency identification (RFID) antennas or biological sensors. Based on these results, the researchers theorized that any substance with a reasonable amount of carbon can be turned into graphene. To test this theory, Tour’s team sought to burn LIG into food, cardboard and several other everyday, carbon-based materials.

The researchers used a single laser pulse to convert the surface layer of the target substance into a disorganized jumble of atoms called amorphous carbon, more commonly known as black soot. Then, they conducted multiple laser passes with a defocused beam to convert the soot into graphene. By defocusing the laser beam, the researchers could speed up the conversion process. And unlike previous LIG processes, the graphene conversions conducted in these experiments were done at room temperature without the need for a controlled atmosphere box. Overall, the process demonstrated that LIG can be burned into paper, cardboard, cloth, coal, potatoes, coconuts, toasted bread and other foods. The researchers say these results suggests that food items could eventually be tagged with RFID antennas made from LIG that could help track where a food originated, how long it’s been stored and how it got to the dining table. In addition, they suggest that LIG sensors could be used to uncover E. coli and other harmful organisms lurking in salads, meats and other foods.

Source: American Chemical Society