7 Top Futurists Make Some Pretty Surprising Predictions About What The Next Decade Will Bring

May 26, 2015

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From smartphone apps that can do seemingly everything to driverless cars and eerily humanlike robots, the past decade has seen dramatic advances in science and technology. What amazing advances are we likely to see in the next 10 years?

To find out, HuffPost Science reached out to seven top futurists — and they gave us some pretty surprising predictions. Keep reading to learn more.

Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York and author of “The Future of the Mind:”

“In the next 10 years, we will see the gradual transition from an Internet to a brain-net, in which thoughts, emotions, feelings, and memories might be transmitted instantly across the planet.

Scientists can now hook the brain to a computer and begin to decode some of our memories and thoughts. This might eventually revolutionize communication and even entertainment. The movies of the future will be able to convey emotions and feelings, not just images on a silver screen. (Teenagers will go crazy on social media, sending memories and sensations from their senior prom, their first date, etc.). Historians and writers will be able to record events not just digitally, but also emotionally as well.

Perhaps even tensions between people will diminish, as people begin to feel and experience the pain of others.”

Dr. Ray Kurzweil, inventor, pioneering computer scientist, and director of engineering at Google:

“By 2025, 3D printers will print clothing at very low cost. There will be many free open source designs, but people will still spend money to download clothing files from the latest hot designer just as people spend money today for eBooks, music and movies despite all of the free material available. 3D printers will print human organs using modified stem cells with the patient’s own DNA providing an inexhaustible supply of organs and no rejection issues. We will be also able to repair damaged organs with reprogrammed stem cells, for example a heart damaged from a heart attack. 3D printers will print inexpensive modules to snap together a house or an office building, lego style.

We will spend considerable time in virtual and augmented realities allowing us to visit with each other even if hundreds of miles apart. We’ll even be able to touch each other. Some of the ‘people’ we visit with in these new realities will be avatars. They will be compelling but not quite human level by 2025 — that will take to the 2030s. We will be able to reprogram human biology away from many diseases and aging processes, for example deactivating cancer stem cells that are the true source of cancer, or retard the progression of atherosclerosis, the cause of heart disease.

We will be able to create avatars of people who have passed away from all of the information they have left behind (their emails and other documents, images, videos, interviews with people who remember them). These will be compelling but not fully realistic, not until the mid 2030s, so some people will find this ‘replicant’ technology to be in the ‘uncanny valley,’ that is, disconcerting.”

Dr. Anne Lise Kjaer, founder of London-based trend forecasting agency Kjaer Global:

“The World Health Organization predicts that chronic diseases will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths worldwide by 2020, so the evolution of M-Health (mobile diagnostics, bio-feedback and personal monitoring) is set to revolutionize treatment of conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Apps designed by medical professionals will provide efficient real-time feedback, tackle chronic conditions at a much earlier stage, and help to improve the lifestyles and life outcomes of communities in the developed and developing world.

This improvement to our physical well-being is exciting, but what excites me even more is the parallel development of apps that meet our under-served mental health needs.”

Dr. James Canton, CEO of the San Francisco-based Institute for Global Futures and author of “Future Smart: Managing the Game-Changing Trends that will Transform Your World:”

“Wearable mobile devices will blanket the world. By 2025, there will be a massive Internet of everyone and everything linking every nation, community, company and person to all of the world’s knowledge. This will accelerate real-time access to education, health care, jobs, entertainment and commerce…

Artificial intelligence becomes both as smart as and smarter than humans. AI will be embedded in autos, robots, homes and hospitals will create the AI economy. Humans and robots merge, digitally and physically, to treat patients who may be around the world. Robo-surgeons will operate remotely on patients. RoboDocs will deliver babies and treat you over the cellphone.

Predictive medicine transforms health care. Early diagnosis of disease with medical devices that sniff our breath, and free DNA sequencing that predicts our future health will be common. Personalized genetic medicine will prevent disease, saving lives and billions in lost productivity… The next generation Bitcoin will replace traditional hard money, creating a new paradigm for digital commerce and business that will create a legitimate new economy.”

Jason Silva, host of National Geographic Channel’s “Brain Games:”

“The on-demand revolution will become the on-demand world, where biological software upgrades, personalized medicine, artificially intelligent assistants will increasingly transform healthcare and well-being. Additionally, increased automation will continue to make our day-to-day lives infinitely richer. Self-driving cars will be ubiquitous, transportation itself will be automatic, clean, and cheap. We will move into a world in which access trumps ownership and the world is at our fingertips.”

Dr. Amy Zalman, CEO & president of the World Future Society:

“Researchers now have at their disposal increasingly acute ways of looking into our brains and bodies to understand our attitudes and behavior. A few years ago, Harvard researchers showed that leaders actually have less stress, not more, than non-leaders… At Ben-Gurion University, a study of judges showed that they handed out stricter judgements before lunch — when they were hungriest.

I find the potential application of these kinds of insights awe-inspiring. A more accurate understanding of how we humans function — how we trust, cooperate and learn but also fight and hate — is a tool that public policy-makers and we citizens can use to build better governance and better futures.”

Mark Stevenson, author of “An Optimist’s Tour of the Future:”

“The technologies aren’t the most important bit — although they are super cool. It’s what society does with them, and right now it’s institutional change that’s the sticking point…. What you really want to look at, in my opinion, is new ways of organizing ourselves. So, my next book covers, for instance, the renewables revolution in a small Austrian town, open source drug discovery in India, patient networks like PatientsLikeMe and schools that are throwing out the curriculum in order to get on with some actual learning.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/12/futurists-next-10-years_n_7241210.html

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Humans ‘will become God-like cyborgs within 200 years’

May 26, 2015

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The amalgamation of man and machine will be the ‘biggest evolution in biology’ claims Professor Yuval Noah Harari

Wealthy humans are likely become cyborgs within 200 years as they gradually merge with technology like computers and smart phones, a historian has claimed.

Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the amalgamation of man and machine will be the ‘biggest evolution in biology’ since the emergence of life four billion years ago.

Prof Harari, who has written a landmark book charting the history of humanity, said mankind would evolve to become like gods with the power over death, and be as different from humans of today as we are from chimpanzees.

He argued that humans as a race were driven by dissatisfaction and that we would not be able to resist the temptation to ‘upgrade’ ourselves, whether by genetic engineering or technology.

“We are programmed to be dissatisfied, “ said Prof Harari. “Even when humans gain pleasure and achievements it is not enough. They want more and more.

“I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.

“It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life. Nothing really has changed in four billion years biologically speaking. But we will be as different from today’s humans as chimps are now from us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yuval Noah Harari holds a homo sapiens skull

However he warned that the ‘cyborg’ technology would be restricted to the wealthiest in society, widening the gap between rich and poor in society. In the future the rich may be able to live forever while the poor would die out.

Prof Harari said humans had become such a dominant species because of our ability to invent ‘fictions’ which held society together, such as religion, money and the idea of fundamental human rights, which have no basis in nature.

“God is extremely important because without religious myth you can’t create society . Religion is the most important invention of humans. As long as humans believed they relied more and more on these gods they were controllable.

“But what we see in the last few centuries is humans becoming more powerful and they no longer need the crutches of the Gods. Now we are saying we do not need God just technology.

“The most interesting place in the world from a religious perspective is not the Middle East, it’s Silicon Valley where they are developing a techno-religion. They believe even death is just a technological problem to be solved.

“What enables humans to cooperate flexibly, and exist in large societies is our imagination. With religion it’s easy to understand. You can’t convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana with the promise it will get 20 more bananas in chimpanzee heaven. It won’t do it. But humans will.

“Most legal systems are based on human rights but it is all in our imagination. Money is the most successful story ever. You have the master storytellers, the bankers, the finance ministers telling you that money is worth something. It isn’t. Try giving money to a chimp. It’s worthless.”

Prof Harari most recent book is entitled Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind which was originally published in Hebrew under the title A Brief History of Mankind, has been translated in to more than 30 languages.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/11627386/Humans-will-become-God-like-cyborgs-within-200-years.html

Ray Kurzweil: How the World Will Change

 May 26, 2015
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2017: Self-driving cars
Google self-driving cars have gone half a million miles without human drivers on highways and city streets, with no incidents. Within ten years they will be ubiquitous. Humans have a fairly narrow field of view, these cars have sensors, both visual and laser, and artificial intelligence to be able to assess what’s going on in their environment. Ultimately these cars will communicate with each other and co-ordinate their movements. You also won’t need to own a car, there’ll be a pool of them circulating, and you’ll just call one from your phone when you need it.

2018: Personal assistant search engines
Right now, search is based mostly on looking for key words. What I’m working on is creating a search engine that understands the meaning of these billion of documents. It will be more like a human assistant that you can talk things over with, that you can express complicated, even personal concerns to. If you’re wearing something like Google Glass, it could annotate reality; it could even listen in to a conversation, giving helpful hints. It might suggest an anecdote that would fit into your conversation in real time.

2020: Switch off our fat cells
It was in our interest a thousand years ago to store every calorie. There were no refrigerators, so you stored them in the fat cells of your body, which now means we have an epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Thanks to the Human Genome Project, medicine is now information technology, and we’re learning how to reprogram this outdated software of our bodies exponentially. In animals with diabetes, scientists have now successfully turned off the fat insulin receptor gene. So these animals ate ravenously, remained slim, didn’t get diabetes, and lived 20 per cent longer. I would say that this will be a human intervention in five to ten years, and we will have the means of really controlling our weight independent of our eating.

2020: Click and print designer clothes at home
Currently there is a lot of overenthusiasm about 3-D printing. Typically where people are prematurely very excited it leads to disillusionment and a bust, like the dot.com crash. I think we’re about five years away from the really important applications. By the early 2020s we’ll be replacing a significant part of manufacturing with 3-D printing. We’ll be able to print out clothing and there’ll be an open source market of free designs. There will be personal 3-D printers, but also shared ones in your local Starbucks, for example.

2023: Full-immersion virtual realities
Computer games have pioneered virtual reality, and within ten years — but probably more like five — these will be totally convincing, full-immersion virtual realities, at least for the visual and auditory senses, and there will be some simulation of the tactile sense. To fully master the tactile sense we have to actually tap into the nervous system. That will be a scenario within 20 years. We’ll be able to send little devices, nanobots, into the brain and capillaries, and they’ll provide additional sensory signals, as if they were coming from your real senses. You could for example get together with a friend, even though you were hundreds of thousands of miles apart, and take a virtual walk on a virtual Mediterranean beach and hold their hand and feel the warm spray of the moist air in your face.

2030: Vertical meat and vegetable farms
There will be a new vertical agriculture revolution, because right now we use up a third of the usable land of the world to produce food, which is very inefficient. Instead we will grow food in a computerised vertical factory building (which is a more efficient use of real estate) controlled by artificial intelligence, which recycles all of the nutrients so there’s no environmental impact at all. This would include hydroponic plants, fruits and vegetables, and in vitro cloning of meat. This could also be very healthy — we could have meat with Omega-3 fats instead of saturated fats, this sort of thing.

2033: 100 per cent of our energy from solar
We are applying new nanotechnologies to the design of solar panels, and the costs are coming down dramatically. A recent report by Deutsche Bank said that ‘the cost of unsubsidised solar power is about the same as the cost of electricity from the grid in India and Italy. By 2014 even more countries will achieve solar grid parity’. So I do believe that within 20 years we could get all our energy from solar energy. I presented this not so long ago to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was actually my classmate at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and he said: “Ray, do we have enough sunlight to do this with?” and I said: “Yes, we’ve got 10,000 times more than we need.

2040: Stay young for ever
Twenty years from now, we will be adding more time than is going by to your remaining life expectancy. We’ve quadrupled life expectancy in the past 1,000 years and doubled it in the past 200 years. We’re now able to reprogram health and medicine as software, and so that pace is only going to continue to accelerate. There are three bridges to life extension. Bridge 1 is taking aggressive steps to stay healthy today, with today’s knowledge. The goal is to get to bridge 2: the biotechnology revolution, where we can reprogram biology away from disease. Bridge 3 is the nanotechnology revolution. The quintessential application of that is nanobots — little robots in the bloodstream that augment your immune system. We can create an immune system that recognises all disease, and could be reprogrammed to deal with new pathogens.

http://genius.com/Ray-kurzweil-how-the-world-will-change-annotated

The ultimate comeback: Bringing the dead back to life

May 23, 2015

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“When you are at 10C, with no brain activity, no heartbeat, no blood – everyone would agree that you’re dead,” says Peter Rhee at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “But we can still bring you back.”

Rhee isn’t exaggerating. With Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland, College Park, he has shown that it’s possible to keep bodies in ‘suspended animation’ for hours at a time. The procedure, so far tested on animals, is about as radical as any medical procedure comes: it involves draining the body of its blood and cooling it more than 20C below normal body temperature.

Once the injury is fixed, blood is pumped once again through the veins, and the body is slowly warmed back up. “As the blood is pumped in, the body turns pink right away,” says Rhee. At a certain temperature, the heart flickers into life of its own accord. “It’s quite curious, at 30C the heart will beat once, as if out of nowhere, then again – then as it gets even warmer it picks up all by itself.” Astonishingly, the animals in their experiments show very few ill-effects once they’ve woken up. “They’d be groggy for a little bit but back to normal the day after,” says Tisherman.

Tisherman created headlines around the world earlier this year, when he announced that they were ready to begin human trials of the technique on gunshot victims in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first patients will have been so badly wounded that their hearts have stopped beating, meaning that this is their last hope. “Cheating death with ‘suspended animation’” is how CNN put it; “Killing a patient to save his life” was the New York Times’ take.

Hyped up

The news coverage has sometimes offended Tisherman’s cautious sensibility. During our conversation, he comes across as a thoughtful, measured man, who is careful not to oversell his research. He is particularly wary of using the term ‘suspended animation’. “My concern isn’t that it’s inaccurate – it’s that when people think of the term, they think about space travellers being frozen and woken up on Jupiter, or Han Solo in Star Wars,” he says. “That doesn’t help, because it’s important for the public to know it’s not science fiction – it’s based on experimental work and is being studied in a disciplined manner, before we use it to stop people dying.” Rhee, who came to global attention after treating congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after a shooting in 2011, tends to be bolder: he says he wouldn’t rule out longer-term suspended animation, in the distant future. “What we’re doing is beginning part of that experiment.”

Tisherman’s quest to bring people back from the brink of death began at medical school, where he studied under Peter Safar. It is an inspiring dynasty: in the 1960s Safar had pioneered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the now familiar procedure of applying pressure to the chest cavity to try to massage the heart back to life.

Safar’s work began to change our perceptions of death – blurring the point that is meant to mark the end of our lives. “We’ve all been brought up to think death is an absolute moment – when you die you can’t come back,” says Sam Parnia, at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. “It used to be correct, but now with the basic discovery of CPR we’ve come to understand that the cells inside your body don’t become irreversibly ‘dead’ for hours after you’ve ‘died’… Even after you’ve become a cadaver, you’re still retrievable.”

Blurred line

Tisherman now thinks of death as the (admittedly subjective) point at which doctors give up resuscitation as a lost cause – but even then, some people can still make a remarkable comeback. Last December, a paper in the journal Resuscitation caused a stir by suggesting that 50% of surveyed emergency doctors have witnessed ‘Lazarus phenomena’, in which a patient’s heart has begun beating again by itself, after doctors had given up hope.

Kick-starting the heart is only one half of the doctor’s battle, however; the lack of oxygen after a cardiac arrest can cause serious damage to the body’s vital organs, particularly the brain. “Every minute that there’s no oxygen to those organs, they start dying,” says Tisherman. His former mentor, Safar, came up with a solution to this problem too, with ‘therapeutic hypothermia’, a procedure that involves cooling the body, typically to around 33C by placing ice packs around the body, for instance. At lower temperatures, cells begin to work in slow motion, reducing their metabolism and the damage that could be caused by oxygen starvation.

Combined with machines that can take over circulation and pump oxygen into the blood stream while the heart is being revived, this has helped open the window between cardiac arrest and brain death. One hospital in Texas recently reported that an 40-year-old man had survived, with his mind intact, after three-and-a-half hours of CPR. His treatment involved a constant rotation of medical students, nurses and doctors taking it in turns to perform the chest compressions.  “Anybody in the room who had two arms was asked to jump in,” says one of the attending doctors, Scott Taylor Bassett. Such cases are rare, however: Bassett, points out that they were only motivated to continue because the patient regained consciousness during the CPR, despite the fact that his heart was still not functioning. “During the chest compressions he would speak to us, showing he was neurologically intact,” says Bassett. “I’ve never seen it before or since – it was the defining moment of the entire decision making.”

Buying time

Such long-term resuscitation is currently impossible for people whose cardiac arrest is accompanied by injury from trauma – such as gunshot wounds or automobile accidents.  At the moment, the surgeon’s best option is to clamp the arteries leading to the lower body, before opening the chest and massaging the heart, which pushes a little blood flow to the brain while surgeons try to stitch up the wounds. Unfortunately, the survival rate is less than one in 10.

It is for this reason that Tisherman wants to plunge the body to around 10-15C, potentially giving the doctors a window of two or more hours to operate. Although this level of deep hypothermia is sometimes applied during heart surgery, Tisherman’s project is the first time that it will have been be used to revive someone who had already ‘died’ before entering the hospital. Perhaps most astonishing of all, the team drain the blood from the body and replace it with chilled saline solution. Because the body’s metabolism has stopped, the blood is not required to keep cells alive, and saline solution is the quickest way to cool the patient, explains Tisherman.

With Rhee and others, Tisherman has spent two decades building a substantial portfolio of evidence to prove that the procedure is safe, and effective. Many of the experiments involved pigs inflicted with near-fatal injuries. Mid-operation, there was no doubt that animals were about as far beyond the realms of the living as it is possible to go and then return. “The pig is as white as you can get,” says Rhee. “It’s just pale, refrigerator meat.” If the animals had been cooled quickly enough, however – at around 2C a minute – nearly 90% recovered when their blood was returned to their bodies, after having lain in limbo for more than an hour. “It’s the most amazing thing to witness – when the heartbeat comes back,” says Rhee.

Once the animals had returned back to more regular activity, the team then performed several tests to check that their brains hadn’t been damaged. For instance, before the procedure, the researchers trained some of the pigs to open a container of a certain colour, where an apple was hidden inside. After they had been revived, most of the animals remembered where to fetch their treat. Other pigs that hadn’t been trained before the operation, were instead taught the procedure soon after their recovery. They managed to learn just as quickly as the others – again suggesting that there had been no effect on their memories.

Needless to say, gaining approval for human trials has been a struggle. Earlier this year, Tisherman was finally allowed to set up a pilot trial in Pittsburgh to treat patients suffering from gunshot wounds. The hospital sees about one or two such patients a month, meaning that some have already been treated with the technique since the trial began – although it is too early for Tisherman to speak about the results yet. He is also setting up a trial in Baltimore, Maryland, and all being well, Rhee will later be able to begin work at Tuscon’s trauma centre.

As with any medical research, there will be some challenges in the transition from the animal experiments to the human trials. The animals received their own blood at the end of the operation, for instance – whereas the patients in this trial will need transfusions that have been sitting in blood banks for weeks. And while the animals were under anaesthesia at the time of injury, the patients won’t have been, which could change the way their body reacts to the injury. Tisherman remains optimistic, however. “We generally think that dogs and pigs respond to bleeding in a similar way to humans.”

Other doctors are watching with interest. “It’s very brave,” says Parnia. “Many of us feel that in order to preserve the brain, we have to cool the body a lot more than we’ve done traditionally. But people have been afraid.”

If the trials go according to plan, Tisherman would like to extend the approach to other kinds of trauma. Gunshot victims were chosen for the initial trial because it is easier to localise the source of blood loss, but he hopes eventually to treat internal bleeding from an automobile accident, for instance. It may even, one day, be used to treat people suffering from heart attacks and other kinds of illness.

Success could also pave the way for investigations into other forms of suspended animation. Some scientists are looking into whether a cocktail of drugs added to the saline solution pumped into body could further reduce the body’s metabolism and prevent injury. One promising candidate was hydrogen sulphide – the chemical that gives rotten eggs their smell – but although it has been found to reduce the metabolism of some animals, there is little evidence that it improves their chances of survival after a cardiac arrest. Tisherman instead thinks it will be better to find some potent anti-oxidants that can mop up the harmful chemicals that cause injury.

For Rhee, the need for better treatment is all too urgent. He points out the fate of a patient he saw at the hospital only the day before we spoke. “He was shot in the epigastrium, right under the chest in the middle of the belly,” he says. The hospital staff tried everything they could, but he still died. “It’s exactly the kind of patient we hope we could repair if we’d been able to work in a less rushed fashion.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140704-i-bring-the-dead-back-to-life

Forget Self-Driving Cars: Here’s How Google Plans to Change How We Live Forever

May 23, 2015

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Let’s say you’ve had a searing headache for the past few days. You become nervous and, like many people, you resort to Google.  You start your search with  “headache for a few days” and a flood of answers fills your screen. “When a headache won’t go away.” “Experiencing lasting headaches? Here’s what it could be.” “Uh oh, your headache could be more than just a headache.” Your mind begins to race and you either head to the emergency room or frantically call your doctor to get an appointment. Google has infiltrated our world for sure, but when it comes to our health, it’s can be both a blessing and a curse.

One in 20 Google searches are related to health and according to a 2012 Pew Research Center Survey, 35% of Americans Google their symptoms. It seems as if everyone is about three websites away from deciding they have cancer or another condition. Even as far as we’ve come with improving health information out there, the problem with Google still remains. Now, as a doctor, I would say it is a dangerous game to attempt diagnosing yourself. It can lead to unnecessary stress, false information and a compulsive hypochondriac habit that that certainly won’t bring you a real diagnosis.

But Googling your symptoms is only the beginning. No one can argue that Google increasingly plays a huge role in our health. Taking it even beyond that, Google is working to change every aspect of healthcare using the arsenal of information they’ve gathered about you and me since its inception. Some argue on the side of privacy violations, some experts believe it’s helping to spread education and promote prevention. Nevertheless, one cannot argue that these innovations have incredible potential, that is, if they actually work.

Here are ten of the innovations that could dramatically change, and arguably improve, health care.

  1. A Computer System That Operates Similar to the Brain: In January 2014, Google acquired deep learning start-up, DeepMind. The plans around this partnership were quite secretive for some time, until recently, when they unveiled the Neural Turing Machine—a computer system that mimics the short-term memory of a human brain. Understanding the inner-workings of the brain continues to be one of the greatest challenges in neuroscience. The system learns as it stores memories and can later retrieve it for performing logical tasks. This neural network is based around the idea of creating a computer that simulates what happens in the human brain but making it more efficient.
  2. Smart Contact Lens for Diabetic Patients Google is partnering with global pharmaceutical company, Novartis and its Alcon eyewear division, to help diabetic patients manage their disease. The lens contains a low power microchip and hair-thin electronic circuit that measures blood sugar levels directly from tear fluid on the surface of the eyeball and transmits the data to a mobile device. Google’s 3D mobile technology is threaded throughout and they’re aiming to improve the quality of life for those suffering from diabetes.
  3. Unlocking the Secrets of Aging: Google recently created California-based company called Calico to focus on aging and age-related diseases. In September 2014, Calico announced $1.5 billion partnership with pharmaceutical company AbbVie to accelerate discovery, development and commercialization of age-related conditions such as neuro-degeneration (dementia, Alzheimer’s) and cancer.
  4. Cancer and Heart Attack Detecting Pill: Google researchers are currently working to develop a nanoparticle pill that could identify certain types of cancers, heart attack and potentially other diseases earlier. Magnetic nanoparticles (less than one-thousandth the width of a red blood cell) would circulate through the blood to detect and report signs of cancer or an imminent heart attack. Taking it a step further, Google is also making synthetic skin, similar to human skin, to test the pill.
  5. Genome Storage in the Cloud: We’re all familiar with Google’s online storage services such as Google Drive. Well now, the company is extending this service to storing genomes in a quest to help hospitals and university laboratories store their client’ genomes in the cloud. They’re calling this Google Genomics and charging $25 per year. Google will keep a copy of any genome in the cloud to eventually allow open access to millions of genomes and run efficient analyses.
  6. Robotic Surgery Platform: As a surgeon who uses rotor technology, I am intrigued by Google’s plans to partner with Johnson & Johnson to create the next advanced robotic-assisted surgery platform. In the hands of Google’s semi-secret research team, Google X, this next platform could seek to expand real-time image analysis that would give surgeons better vision around the edges of nerves or tumors. With Google involved, this system will benefit from the significant amount of data they’ve gathered from extensive research and development in robotics. From self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and strong vision technologies stemmed from Google Glass, this system could prove to be quite revolutionary.
  7. Google Glass for Doctors: Even though many believe Google Glass failed as a consumer product, it still may have many uses for healthcare providers. For those who don’t know, Google Glass is a wearable device with an optical head-mounted display that shows information in a smartphone-like hands free way. I believe Google Glass has the potential to perform many operational tasks in healthcare in order to streamline complex processes such as gathering and updating patient data in real time. For example, Augmedix was an app developed for Google Glass and it automatically takes notes for doctors, allowing them to concentrate solely on the patient. It also could prove to aid in surgery and become a potential useful tool for surgeons, and other surgery team members in the operating room. For now, Google has temporarily tabled Glass, but who knows, the next time you visit your doctor, maybe he or she will have a new pair of specs.
  8. Relevant Medical Facts in Search Results: Google most all health conditions like Type I Diabetes and you will be served a menu of information related to the condition through Google’s Knowledge Graph Panel found on the right side of search results. Everything from how many people per year are diagnosed to treatment options. Some even use graphics to display symptoms and treatments visually. The intention is to bring basic information related to your search that may lead to an easier search around the web or help you know which questions to ask your doctor. They disclose that this information is not intended to be medical advice but they did work with a team of medical doctors to carefully compile, curate and review the information. The hope is to empower the patient regarding their health decisions and educate around more common conditions.
  9. Google Fit: Head on over to fit.google.com, sign in with your Gmail or Google account and you’ll join Google’s latest health service. Google Fit plans to collect and aggregate data from popular fitness trackers and health mobile apps, directly competing with Apple’s new Health Kit. Google intends to integrate this with a wearable device that measures data like steps or heart rate. Along with the Apple Watch, and other wearable technology, creating these types of health platforms for the masses has raised concerns over privacy and how best to process sensitive health data while also providing valuable feedback.
  10. Making medical records shareable: At the TED2014 conference in Vancouver, Google co-founder Larry Page eluded to Google’s interest in making medical records public. Information sharing is threaded throughout tech in many different ways, but the idea of it being integrated into healthcare is a bit daunting, especially when we look at HIPPA violations. He commented on the records being available anonymously to research doctors and scientists “We’d save 100,000 lives this year. We’re not really thinking about the tremendous good which can come from people sharing information with the right people in the right ways,” said Page. Obviously, this comes with many privacy concerns, however the potential data scientists could have access to, is quite astonishing and could potentially lead to better clinical studies around diseases that affect millions like heart disease, cancer and others.

Dr. David B. Samadi is the chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for AM-970 in New York City. Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at SamadiMD.com

http://observer.com/2015/05/these-ten-google-medial-innovations-may-dramatically-improve-your-health/

One step closer to artificial intelligence: Scientists create cells replicating human brain processes

May 23, 2015

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Australian scientists have for the first time developed an electronic long-term memory cell that mimics the work of a human brain. Researchers say the discovery is a step towards creating a bionic brain.

Researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have created the world’s first electronic multi-state memory cell which mirrors the brain’s ability to simultaneously process and store multiple strands of information, according to the university’s press-release.

The groundbreaking discovery was recently published in the materials science journal Advanced Functional Materials.

The device which is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair is a “vital step towards creating a bionic brain,” the scientists said.

“This is the closest we have come to creating a brain-like system with memory that learns and stores analog information and is quick at retrieving this stored information,” said project leader and co-leader of the RMIT Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, Dr Sharath Sriram.

The lead author of the study Dr Hussein Nili, said that the device is major step in recreating the human brain.

“This new discovery is significant as it allows the multi-state cell to store and process information in the very same way that the brain does,” he said.

Think of an old camera which could only take pictures in black and white. The same analogy applies here, rather than just black and white memories we now have memories in full color with shade, light and texture, it is a major step.”

He explained that current devices store data only in binary sequences, however the new nano cell can store information in multiple states because its analogue.

While these new devices are able to store much more information than conventional digital memories (which store just 0s and 1s), it is their brain-like ability to remember and retain previous information that is exciting,” he said.

The mechanism of the new device is based on a previous discovery made by RMIT researchers last year where they created a nanometer-thin stacked memory structure using a thin film from a functional oxide material.

“We have now introduced controlled faults or defects in the oxide material along with the addition of metallic atoms, which unleashes the full potential of the ‘memristive’ effect – where the memory element’s behavior is dependent on its past experiences,” Dr Nili said.

He said that eventually the creation of a bionic brain will allow scientists to help find cures for various neurological diseases.

If you can replicate a brain structure outside a human body, you can get more insights into the functionality of a mammalian or human brain in terms of the kind of disorders that human brains develop, like Parkinson or Alzheimer’s disease,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Tuesday.

The new electronic cell could also help to create artificial intelligence, said co-author Dr Sumeet Walia.

“Once we are capable of storing and remembering and recalling the past events, from there we can actually start working on developing it as a storage component for full area of artificial intelligence networks. For example robots, or even computers that behave like a human brain,” Walia told ABC.

 http://rt.com/news/257993-artificial-intelligence-scientists-brain/

How babies’ lives were saved by 3-D printing

May 3, 2015

 

Three babies all had the same life-threatening condition: a terminal form of tracheobronchomalacia, which causes the windpipe to periodically collapse and prevents normal breathing. There was no cure and life-expectancies were grim.

The three boys became the first in the world to benefit from groundbreaking 3D printed devices that helped keep their airways open, restored their breathing and saved their lives at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Researchers have closely followed their cases to see how well the bioresorable splints implanted in all three patients have worked, publishing the promising results in today’s issue of Science Translational Medicine.

“These cases broke new ground for us because we were able to use 3D printing to design a device that successfully restored patients’ breathing through a procedure that had never been done before,” says senior author Glenn Green, M.D., associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“Before this procedure, babies with severe tracheobronchomalacia had little chance of surviving. Today, our first patient Kaiba is an active, healthy 3-year-old in preschool with a bright future. The device worked better than we could have ever imagined. We have been able to successfully replicate this procedure and have been watching patients closely to see whether the device is doing what it was intended to do. We found that this treatment continues to prove to be a promising option for children facing this life-threatening condition that has no cure.”

The findings reported today suggest that early treatment of tracheobronchomalacia may prevent complications of conventional treatment such as a tracheostomy, prolonged hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, cardiac and respiratory arrest, food malabsorption and discomfort. None of the devices, which were implanted in then 3-month-old Kaiba, 5-month-old Ian and 16-month-old Garrett have caused any complications.

The findings also show that the patients were able to come off of ventilators and no longer needed paralytics, narcotics and sedation. Researchers noted improvements in multiple organ systems. Patients were relieved of immunodeficiency-causing proteins that prevented them from absorbing food so that they no longer needed intravenous therapy.

Kaiba Gionfriddo made national headlines after he became the first patient to benefit from the procedure in 2012, and the procedure was repeated with Garrett Peterson and Ian Orbich. Using 3D printing, Green and his colleague Scott Hollister, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and associate professor of surgery at U-M, were able to create and implant customized tracheal splints for each patient. The device was created directly from CT scans of their tracheas, integrating an image-based computer model with laser-based 3D printing to produce the splint.

The specially- designed splints were placed in the three patients at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The splint was sewn around their airways to expand the trachea and bronchus and give it a skeleton to aid proper growth. The splint is designed to be reabsorbed by the body over time. The growth of the airways were followed with CT and MRI scans, and the device was shown to open up to allow airway growth for all three patients.

Doctors received emergency clearance from the FDA to do the procedures.

“We were pleased to find that all of our cases so far have proven to improve these patients’ lives,” Green says. “The potential of 3D-printed medical devices to improve outcomes for patients is clear, but we need more data to implement this procedure in medical practice.”

Authors say the recent report was not designed for device safety and that rare potential complications of the therapy may not yet be evident. However, Richard G. Ohye, M.D., head of pediatric cardiovascular surgery at C.S. Mott who performed the surgeries, says the cases provide the groundwork to potentially explore a clinical trial that could help other children with less-severe forms of tracheobronchomalacia in the future.

Kaiba, now a curious, active 3-year-old who loves playing with his siblings and who recently saw his favorite character Mickey Mouse at Disney World thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, was back at Mott in April for a follow-up appointment.

The splint is dissolving just how it’s supposed to and doctors expect that eventually, his trachea will reflect that of his peers with no signs of the tracheobronchomalacia that nearly killed him as a newborn.

“The first time he was hospitalized, doctors told us he may not make it out,” Kaiba’s mom April Gionfriddo remembers. “It was scary knowing he was the first child to ever have this procedure, but it was our only choice and it saved his life.”

Now an energetic 2-and-a-half-year-old with a contagious laugh, Garrett is able to breathe on his own and spend his days ventilator-free. Ian, now 17 months old, is known for his huge grins, enthusiastic high fives and love for playing with his big brother, Owen. Ian had the splint procedure done at Mott exactly one year ago this month.

“We were honestly terrified, just hoping that we were making the right decision,” his mother Meghan Orbich remembers. “I am thankful every single day that this splint was developed. It has meant our son’s life. I am certain that if we hadn’t had the opportunity to bring Ian to Mott, he would not be here with us today.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Artificial photosynthesis could help make fuels, plastics, and medicine

May 3, 2015

A team of scientists has invented a new artificial photosynthetic system that could one day reduce industry’s dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy by powering it with solar energy and bacteria.

In the ACS journal Nano Letters, they describe a novel system that converts light and carbon dioxide into building blocks for plastics, pharmaceuticals and fuels — all without electricity.

Plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to make their own fuel in the form of carbohydrates. Globally, this natural process harvests 130 Terawatts of solar energy to generate up to 115 billion metric tons of biomass annually. If scientists could figure out how to harness just a fraction of that amount to make fuels and power industrial processes, they could dramatically cut our reliance on fossil fuels.

However, such an approach has not been fully realized owing to a host of unmet basic scientific challenges, say the scientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute, and University of California, Berkeley.

The groups developed a stand-alone solar-energy conversion process that combines the strengths of semiconductor nanodevices and bacterium-based biocatalysts. A nanowire array captures light, and with the help of bacteria, converts carbon dioxide into acetate. The bacteria directly interact with light-absorbing materials, which the researchers say is the first example of “microbial photoelectrosynthesis.”

Another kind of bacteria then transforms the acetate into chemical precursors that can be used to make a wide range of everyday products from antibiotics to paints, replacing fossil fuels and electrical power.

The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryHoward Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.


Abstract of Nanowire–Bacteria Hybrids for Unassisted Solar Carbon Dioxide Fixation to Value-Added Chemicals

Direct solar-powered production of value-added chemicals from CO2 and H2O, a process that mimics natural photosynthesis, is of fundamental and practical interest. In natural photosynthesis, CO2 is first reduced to common biochemical building blocks using solar energy, which are subsequently used for the synthesis of the complex mixture of molecular products that form biomass. Here we report an artificial photosynthetic scheme that functions via a similar two-step process by developing a biocompatible light-capturing nanowire array that enables a direct interface with microbial systems. As a proof of principle, we demonstrate that a hybrid semiconductor nanowire–bacteria system can reduce CO2 at neutral pH to a wide array of chemical targets, such as fuels, polymers, and complex pharmaceutical precursors, using only solar energy input. The high-surface-area silicon nanowire array harvests light energy to provide reducing equivalents to the anaerobic bacterium, Sporomusa ovata, for the photoelectrochemical production of acetic acid under aerobic conditions (21% O2) with low overpotential (η < 200 mV), high Faradaic efficiency (up to 90%), and long-term stability (up to 200 h). The resulting acetate (∼6 g/L) can be activated to acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) by genetically engineered Escherichia coli and used as a building block for a variety of value-added chemicals, such as n-butanol, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) polymer, and three different isoprenoid natural products. As such, interfacing biocompatible solid-state nanodevices with living systems provides a starting point for developing a programmable system of chemical synthesis entirely powered by sunlight.

Scientists discover key driver of human aging: May lead to slowing or reversing aging process

May 02, 2015

In the study, scientists at the Salk Institute and the Chinese Academy of Science found that the genetic mutations underlying Werner syndrome, a disorder that leads to premature aging and death, resulted in the deterioration of bundles of DNA known as heterochromatin.

The discovery, made possible through a combination of cutting-edge stem cell and gene-editing technologies, could lead to ways of countering age-related physiological declines by preventing or reversing damage to heterochromatin.

“Our findings show that the gene mutation that causes Werner syndrome results in the disorganization of heterochromatin, and that this disruption of normal DNA packaging is a key driver of aging,” says Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a senior author on the paper. “This has implications beyond Werner syndrome, as it identifies a central mechanism of aging–heterochromatin disorganization–which has been shown to be reversible.”

Werner syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes people to age more rapidly than normal. It affects around one in every 200,000 people in the United States. People with the disorder suffer age-related diseases early in life, including cataracts, type 2 diabetes, hardening of the arteries, osteoporosis and cancer, and most die in their late 40s or early 50s.

The disease is caused by a mutation to the Werner syndrome RecQ helicase-like gene, known as the WRN gene for short, which generates the WRN protein. Previous studies showed that the normal form of the protein is an enzyme that maintains the structure and integrity of a person’s DNA. When the protein is mutated in Werner syndrome it disrupts the replication and repair of DNA and the expression of genes, which was thought to cause premature aging. However, it was unclear exactly how the mutated WRN protein disrupted these critical cellular processes.

In their study, the Salk scientists sought to determine precisely how the mutated WRN protein causes so much cellular mayhem. To do this, they created a cellular model of Werner syndrome by using a cutting-edge gene-editing technology to delete WRN gene in human stem cells. This stem cell model of the disease gave the scientists the unprecedented ability to study rapidly aging cells in the laboratory. The resulting cells mimicked the genetic mutation seen in actual Werner syndrome patients, so the cells began to age more rapidly than normal. On closer examination, the scientists found that the deletion of the WRN gene also led to disruptions to the structure of heterochromatin, the tightly packed DNA found in a cell’s nucleus.

This bundling of DNA acts as a switchboard for controlling genes’ activity and directs a cell’s complex molecular machinery. On the outside of the heterochromatin bundles are chemical markers, known as epigenetic tags, which control the structure of the heterochromatin. For instance, alterations to these chemical switches can change the architecture of the heterochromatin, causing genes to be expressed or silenced.

The Salk researchers discovered that deletion of the WRN gene leads to heterochromatin disorganization, pointing to an important role for the WRN protein in maintaining heterochromatin. And, indeed, in further experiments, they showed that the protein interacts directly with molecular structures known to stabilize heterochromatin–revealing a kind of smoking gun that, for the first time, directly links mutated WRN protein to heterochromatin destabilization.

“Our study connects the dots between Werner syndrome and heterochromatin disorganization, outlining a molecular mechanism by which a genetic mutation leads to a general disruption of cellular processes by disrupting epigenetic regulation,” says Izpisua Belmonte. “More broadly, it suggests that accumulated alterations in the structure of heterochromatin may be a major underlying cause of cellular aging. This begs the question of whether we can reverse these alterations–like remodeling an old house or car–to prevent, or even reverse, age-related declines and diseases.”

Izpisua Belmonte added that more extensive studies will be needed to fully understand the role of heterochromatin disorganization in aging, including how it interacts with other cellular processes implicated in aging, such as shortening of the end of chromosomes, known as telomeres. In addition, the Izpisua Belmonte team is developing epigenetic editing technologies to reverse epigenetic alterations with a role in human aging and disease.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Weiqi Zhang, Jingyi Li, Keiichiro Suzuki, Jing Qu, Ping Wang, Junzhi Zhou, Xiaomeng Liu, Ruotong Ren, Xiuling Xu, Alejandro Ocampo, Tingting Yuan, Jiping Yang, Ying Li, Liang Shi, Dee Guan, Huize Pan, Shunlei Duan, Zhichao Ding, Mo Li, Fei Yi, Ruijun Bai, Yayu Wang, Chang Chen, Fuquan Yang, Xiaoyu Li, Zimei Wang, Emi Aizawa, April Goebl, Rupa Devi Soligalla, Pradeep Reddy, Concepcion Rodriguez Esteban, Fuchou Tang, Guang-Hui Liu, and Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte. A Werner syndrome stem cell model unveils heterochromatin alterations as a driver of human aging. Science, 30 April 2015 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1356