Body-Machine: The interface between us and technology.
We are learning to listen to and interact with our body’s systems to ameliorate disease and trauma.
- At the Wyss Center, a Swiss research institute, researchers applied functional near-infrared spectroscopy to create a brain-computer interface that enables patients with locked-in syndrome to communicate. The system is based on metabolic changes and was piloted on four patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Boston University developed an EEG-based system to enable a user to direct the activity of robots. This level of ‘mind control’ is an important advance in capability.
- Engineers at the University of California San Diego and La Jolla-based startup Nanovision Biosciences Inc. have developed a retinal prosthesis using nanotechnology and wireless electronics that is intended to enable neurons in the retina to respond to light. The research has been tested on rat retina with a prototype of the device in vitro.
- In an unrelated study in a rat model, Italian researchers reporting in Nature Materials developed an organic photovoltaic material annealed to the retina on a substrate of silk to convert light into current that is directly adapted by the brain to accept the signal.
- Researchers at Stanford University have developed stretchable conductive electrodes to enable a flexible interface with brain implants and muscle stimulators. The technology has not yet been tested in animal models.
Diabetes: Wide-ranging advances in the study and treatment of diabetes are driven by huge clinical and economic need.
The body-machine of diabetes is the ‘artificial pancreas’, already FDA approved and available, which mechanically compensates for T1 diabetic symptoms, while the future nears for cellular and non-device interventions aspiring to reverse or cure.
- In a mouse model study of multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research modified disease-specific antigens in red blood cells designed to desensitize the body’s immune system.
- In work published in Frontiers in Immunology, City of Hope researchers using autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation demonstrated increased C-peptide levels and induced insulin independence in patients with Type I diabetes.
- In a study of Type 2 diabetes, Joslin Diabetes Center have identified the mechanism that prevents successful proliferation of beta cells in response to insulin resistance. The mechanism blocks the body’s own attempt to correct insulin resistance.
- Researchers at Sweden’s Umeå Centre for Molecular Medicine have used optical projection tomography to produce 3D visualization of the pancreas that maps the three-dimensional distribution and volume of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The data generated will enhance diabetes research, as in “planning of stereological analyses, in the development of non-invasive imaging techniques or various types of computational modelling and statistical analyses”.