Cardiac Arrest? Someday, Drones May Come to Save You

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

A good Samaritan can save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if a portable defibrillator is nearby. Now, a pilot study suggests a new way to get the devices into bystanders’ hands: drones.

The study, done in Sweden, found that drone delivery was a feasible way to get automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to the scene of a cardiac arrest. In fact, the drones typically beat ambulances by a couple of minutes.

Since those minutes can mean the difference between life and death, the early findings are encouraging, researchers said.

However, drone-delivered AEDs are far from prime time.

“This points to a non-traditional route for addressing a problem we’ve had for a long time,” said Dr. Jennifer Silva, a member of the American College of Cardiology’s Health Care Innovation Council.

“In general, I love the concept of using technological advances to improve the way we practice medicine,” said Silva, who was not involved in the study.

In this case, she said, the findings suggest it’s possible to deliver AEDs by drone. But the big question, Silva stressed, is whether that can ultimately make a difference in cardiac arrest victims’ outcomes.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart’s normal rhythm stops suddenly, making the muscle incapable of delivering blood and oxygen to the body. It causes unconsciousness within seconds and is fatal within minutes — unless a bystander performs chest compressions or uses an AED until paramedics arrive.

AEDs are portable versions of the defibrillators doctors use to “shock” the heart back into a normal rhythm. The devices automatically analyze a person’s heart rhythm to gauge whether a cardiac arrest is in progress.

“They are incredibly user-friendly,” Silva explained. “They literally talk you through the steps, and tell you when a shock should be delivered.”

AEDs are often available in public places, she noted, including schools, airports, sports venues, retail stores and office buildings.

But most cardiac arrests happen at home, where AEDs are rarely available, said Dr. Sofia Schierbeck, of Karolinska University Hospital, in Stockholm, Sweden.

That’s a particular dilemma if an ambulance cannot arrive quickly.

So Schierbeck and her colleagues wondered whether drones could step in.

In a pilot study, they had three AED-equipped drones integrated into a regional medical system covering about 80,000 people. When a suspected cardiac arrest was reported to emergency services, both an ambulance and, if possible, a drone were dispatched.

Over three months, 53 possible cardiac arrests were called in. A drone was dispatched to 12. In the other cases, drones couldn’t be sent because of weather or darkness or because the emergency struck in a “no-fly zone” — near high-rise buildings, for instance.

When a drone could be sent, the study found, it beat the ambulance 64% of the time, typically by 2 minutes.

The findings were published Aug. 27 in the European Heart Journal and presented virtually at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting.

In a news release from the meeting, Schierbeck acknowledged that weather and other logistics limited the drones’ use.

But, she said, “by 2022 we should have drones capable of flying in darkness and in moderate rain. Longer battery life could increase the flight range and the number of inhabitants covered by one drone.”

An editorial published with the study points out another issue: None of the AEDs delivered by the drones were actually used by bystanders.

“We also need to work on educating bystanders regarding AED use,” wrote Dr. Nicole Karam and colleagues at the University of Paris, in France.

Silva agreed that the study leaves open the crucial issue of what happens after the AED arrives. The “chain of survival,” she said, has to include lay people ready and willing to use the device.

“Drones can deliver an AED, which is all well and good,” Silva said. “But we need to know how it impacts patient care.”

According to Karam’s team, one possible solution is to have emergency dispatchers stay on the phone with bystanders as the AED arrives. Another, they say, is to take advantage of existing smartphone apps that alert people who are trained in CPR of a nearby cardiac arrest. Those alerts could also tell users that an AED is being delivered to the scene.

For now, Silva said people can learn more about responding to cardiac arrest through the American Heart Association’s website and others like it, or through classes (often free) at a local hospital.

Source: HealthDay

Researchers Develop Wearable Sensor for Detecting Atrial Fibrillation

Advanced devices developed by a mechanical engineering team at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has proven to be useful for detecting potential stroke patients and helping machines mimic human brain functions.

In a collaboration with Nanjing University, Dr Paddy K.L. Chan, Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, developed a novel wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor by integrating flexible, ultra-thin organic semiconductors into a flexible polyimide substrate. Powered by button battery, the sensor has outstanding signal amplification properties with a gain larger than 10,000, which allows it to detect electrophysiological signal, or f-wave with a frequency of 357 beats per minute (BPM), which indicates atrial fibrillation.

Conventional portable ECG sensors cannot easily detect the f-wave due to its weak amplitude. Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia associated with the increased risk of stroke or heart failure. The high signal detection capability stems from the ultralow subthreshold swing (SS) in the organic field effect transistors (OFETs).

Dr Chan’s study showed the ECG sensor managed to pick up unusual signals from patients with atrial fibrillation, while conventional electrodes could not.

“People wearing the new sensors can also enjoy freedom of movement, run around or even take a shower if they want, not being attached to a machine. We have seen a breakthrough in application with the use of a new device structure,” he said. The finding has been published in Nature Communications, in the article entitled “Sub-thermionic, ultra-high-gain organic transistors and circuits.”

Dr Chan’s previous breakthrough in developing the staggered structure monolayer OFETs, the material used in the latest experiment, was published in Advanced Materials. A US patent was also filed for the innovation. In the latest work, his team has advanced the application of the monolayer OFETs to flexible substrate for wearable electronic applications.

“The subthreshold swing is an important parameter in transistor or inverter operation as it implies how much voltage change is needed to turn the device from “off” state to “on” state. Our devices provide a record low subthreshold swing device which ensures low operating power and high sensitivity,” Dr Chan said.

His team also succeeded in adding ‘memory’ or collected signal, information to an organic transistor, which paves the way for advanced machine learning to mimic human brain functions.

The work has been published in Nature Communications, in another article entitled “Mimicking associative learning using an ion-trapping non-volatile synaptic organic electrochemical transistor”.

“Our paper explains the physics behind how information can be stored in a device,” said Dr Chan. “It sets the stage for the next generation of computer learning through the enhancement of the ‘learning function’ of a device. For example, we can integrate the memory transistors with optical sensors for image processing and computation at the same time. The memory transistors are building blocks for the artificial neural network that can perform signal recognition or learn like a human brain.”

Dr Chan’s team successfully added the “ion retainer” polytetrahydrofuran (PTHF) into a conductive organic polymer PEDOT:TOS. The PTHF can significantly slow down the move in-and-out of the ions in the PEDOT:TOS channel layer and maintain them at the desired conductance state. Multi-conductance levels, which can be considered as “memory levels”, were achieved. The experiment was held jointly with Northwestern University.

There is vast room for research in this area of human-machine interface, with unthinkable benefits for mankind. “There are unlimited possibilities when it comes to the applications of such interface,” added Dr Chan. In the meantime, however, he said that his focus would be on developing sophisticated circuit using advanced materials.

Source: HKU

Dutch Company Received Funding to Scale Up Cell Cultured Leather

Biotech company Qorium has raised €2.6 million in a funding round led by Brightlands Venture Partners. The funding will allow it to scale up its technology for producing cell cultured leather.

Founded in 2014, Qorium recently succeeded in developing proof of concept of its product. The cell cultured leather takes 99% less water and 66% less energy to produce than conventional leather.

It also eliminates the need for the first two phases of the tanning process, which are notoriously polluting. And since only a few bovine skin cells are required to produce the leather, the methane emissions produced by livestock could be vastly reduced.

“We look forward to providing real high-quality leather made in a dramatically more sustainable way than conventional leather,” said Stef Kranendijk, co-CEO and co-founder at Qorium. “This will be a game-changing, revolutionary transformation of the current leather market.”

Demand for leather alternatives is growing rapidly, with companies seeking to replace conventional leather in everything from car interiors to watch straps. By 2025, it’s estimated that the market will be worth $89.6 billion. But to date, most alt-leather companies have focused on plant-derived materials such as pineapple leaves and cactus skins.

“More and more users of leather, particularly the premium high-end brands in the leather fashion, footwear and automotive industry, want all the properties of real leather without the tremendously high negative impact on the environment that comes with livestock rearing,” said Rutger Ploem, co-CEO and co-founder at Qorium. “Qorium provides exactly that.”

Source: Vegconomist

Read also at Material District:


Graphene Can be Used to Detect COVID-19 Quickly, Accurately

Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have successfully used graphene — one of the strongest, thinnest known materials — to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in laboratory experiments. The researchers say the discovery could be a breakthrough in coronavirus detection, with potential applications in the fight against COVID-19 and its variants.

In experiments, researchers combined sheets of graphene, which are more than 1,000 times thinner than a postage stamp, with an antibody designed to target the infamous spike protein on the coronavirus. They then measured the atomic-level vibrations of these graphene sheets when exposed to COVID-positive and COVID-negative samples in artificial saliva. These sheets were also tested in the presence of other coronaviruses, like Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS-CoV.

The UIC researchers found that the vibrations of the antibody-coupled graphene sheet changed when treated with a COVID-positive sample, but not when treated with a COVID-negative sample or with other coronaviruses. Vibrational changes, measured with a device called a Raman spectrometer, were evident in under five minutes.

Their findings are published in the journal ACS Nano.

“We have been developing graphene sensors for many years. In the past, we have built detectors for cancer cells and ALS. It is hard to imagine a more pressing application than to help stem the spread of the current pandemic,” said Vikas Berry, professor and head of chemical engineering at the UIC College of Engineering and senior author of the paper. “There is a clear need in society for better ways to quickly and accurately detect COVID and its variants, and this research has the potential to make a real difference. The modified sensor is highly sensitive and selective for COVID, and it is fast and inexpensive.”

“This project has been an amazingly novel response to the need and demand for detection of viruses, quickly and accurately,” said study co-author Garrett Lindemann, a researcher with Carbon Advanced Materials and Products, or CAMP. “The development of this technology as a clinical testing device has many advantages over the currently deployed and used tests.”

Berry says that graphene — which has been called a “wonder material” — has unique properties that make it highly versatile, making this type of sensor possible.

Graphene is a single-atom-thick material made up of carbon. Carbon atoms are bound by chemical bonds whose elasticity and movement can produce resonant vibrations, also known as phonons, which can be very accurately measured. When a molecule like a SARS-CoV-2 molecule interacts with graphene, it changes these resonant vibrations in a very specific and quantifiable way.

“Graphene is just one atom thick, so a molecule on its surface is relatively enormous and can produce a specific change in its electronic energy,” Berry said. “In this experiment, we modified graphene with an antibody and, in essence, calibrated it to react only with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Using this method, graphene could similarly be used to detect COVID-19 variants.”

The researchers say the potential applications for a graphene atomic-level sensor — from detecting COVID to ALS to cancer — continue to expand.

A provisional patent has been submitted based on this work.

Source: University of Illinois Chicago

Researchers Created the Vegan Spider Silk, a High-performance Film that Can be Used to Replace Single-used Plastics

Nicole Axworthy wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers from the University of Cambridge may have found a viable solution to single-use plastics: vegan spider silk. The new material is a synthetic polymer film that mimics the properties of spider silk, which is one of the strongest materials in nature. Because of its strength, the material could replace plastic in many common household products.

The vegan spider silk was created using a new approach for assembling plant proteins into materials that mimic silk on a molecular level. The energy-efficient method uses sustainable ingredients and results in a plastic-like, free-standing film, which can be made at an industrial scale. The material is also compostable, unlike other types of bioplastics which require industrial composting facilities to degrade.

A surprise finding

The researchers developed the material while studying something entirely different: proteins and Alzheimer’s disease. Tuomas Knowles, a University of Cambridge chemistry professor and lead researcher, was analyzing proteins to understand why, in some instances, proteins become malformed, leading to diseases and health problems in humans.

“We normally investigate how functional protein interactions allow us to stay healthy and how irregular interactions are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease,” Knowles said. “It was a surprise to find our research could also address a big problem in sustainability: that of plastic pollution.”

As part of their research, Knowles and his team became interested in why materials like spider silk are so strong when they have such weak molecular bonds, and they found that one of the key features that gives spider silk its strength is the hydrogen bonds, which are arranged regularly in space and at a very high density. The team also looked at how to replicate this feature in other plant proteins. They successfully replicated the structures found on spider silk by using soy protein isolate, a protein with a completely different composition. VegNews.SpiderWeb2

“Because all proteins are made of polypeptide chains, under the right conditions we can cause plant proteins to self-assemble just like spider silk,” Knowles said. “In a spider, the silk protein is dissolved in an aqueous solution, which then assembles into an immensely strong fibre through a spinning process which requires very little energy.” The researchers used soy protein isolate as their test plant protein, since it is readily available as a byproduct of soybean oil production.

A high-performance material

The new material can perform similar to high-performance engineering plastics such as low-density polyethylene. Its benefit is that it does not require chemical cross-linking, which is frequently used to improve the performance and resistance of biopolymer films. The most commonly used cross-linking agents are non-sustainable and can even be toxic.

“This is the culmination of something we’ve been working on for over 10 years, which is understanding how nature generates materials from proteins,” Knowles said. “We didn’t set out to solve a sustainability challenge—we were motivated by curiosity as to how to create strong materials from weak interactions.”VegNews.SpiderSilk

The new product will be commercialized by Xampla, a University of Cambridge spin-out company developing replacements for single-use plastic and microplastics. Later this year, the company will introduce a range of single-use sachets and capsules, which can replace the plastic used in everyday products like dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent capsules.

Source: Veg News