Science and IT news

Rewritable Paper that uses light and no ink

Developing efficient photoreversible color switching systems for constructing rewritable paper is of significant practical interest owing to the potential environmental benefits including forest conservation, pollution reduction, and resource sustainability. Here we report that the color change associated with the redox chemistry of nanoparticles of Prussian blue and its analogues could be integrated with the photocatalytic activity of TiO2 nanoparticles to construct a class of new photoreversible color switching systems, which can be conveniently utilized for fabricating ink-free, light printable rewritable paper with various working colors. The current system also addresses the phase separation issue of the previous organic dye-based color switching system so that it can be conveniently applied to the surface of conventional paper to produce an ink-free light printable rewritable paper that has the same feel and appearance as the conventional paper. With its additional advantages such as excellent scalability and outstanding rewriting performance (reversibility over 80 times, legible time over 5 days, and resolution over 5 μm), this novel system can serve as an eco-friendly alternative to regular paper in meeting the increasing global needs for environment protection and resource sustainability. Currently, paper production and disposal have a large negative impact on the environment: paper production is a leading source of industrial pollution, discarded paper is a major component (approximately 40%) of landfills, and even recycling paper contributes to pollution due to the process of ink removal. There is also the issue of deforestation: in the US, about one-third of all harvested trees are used for paper and cardboard production. Working to address these problems, researchers have been investigating alternatives to disposable paper. One possibility is to take advantage of the color-switching ability of certain chemicals when exposed to light, although in the past this approach has faced challenges in terms of stability, limited reversibility, high cost, toxicity, and difficulty in applying the coating to ordinary porous paper. nextbigfuture.com

Medical first, children had cancer cured with genetically engineered T-cells from another person

Doctors in London say they have cured two babies of leukemia in the world’s first attempt to treat cancer with genetically engineered immune cells from a donor. Experiments, which took place at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, raise the possibility of off-the-shelf cellular therapy using inexpensive supplies of universal cells that could be dripped into patients' veins on a moment’s notice. The ready-made approach could pose a challenge to companies including Juno Therapeutics and Novartis, each of which has spent tens of millions of dollars pioneering treatments that require collecting a patient’s own blood cells, engineering them, and then re-infusing them. Both methods rely on engineering T cells—the hungry predator cells of the immune system—so they attack leukemic cells. The British infants, ages 11 and 16 months, each had leukemia and had undergone previous treatments that failed, according to a description of their cases published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. Waseem Qasim, a physician and gene-therapy expert who led the tests, reported that both children remain in remission. Although the cases drew wide media attention in Britain, some researchers said that because the London team also gave the children standard chemotherapy, they failed to show the cell treatment actually cured the kids. “There is a hint of efficacy but no proof,” says Stephan Grupp, director of cancer immunotherapy at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who collaborates with Novartis. “It would be great if it works, but that just hasn’t been shown yet.” Rights to the London treatment were sold to the biotech company Cellectis, and the treatment is now being further developed by the drug companies Servier and Pfizer. Treatments using engineered T-cells, commonly known as CAR-T, are new and not yet sold commercially. But they have shown stunning success against blood cancers. In studies so far by Novartis and Juno, about half of patients are permanently cured after receiving altered versions of their own blood cells. But commercializing such personalized treatments raises unprecedented logistical headaches. Grupp says Novartis has outfitted a manufacturing center in New Jersey and that patient cells have been flown in from 25 hospitals in 11 countries, modified, then quickly shipped back. Novartis has said it will seek U.S. approval to sell its T-cell treatment for children this year. The promise of immunotherapy has drawn huge investments, yet many newer entrants are betting instead on the off-the-shelf approach. Among them are biotech giant Regeneron, Kite Therapeutics, Fate Therapeutics, and Cell Medica. “The patient could be treated immediately, as opposed to taking cells from a patient and manufacturing them,” says Julianne Smith, vice president of CAR-T development for Cellectis, which specializes in supplying universal cells. In the off-the-shelf approach, blood is collected from a donor and then turned into “hundreds” of doses that can then be stored frozen, says Smith. “We estimate the cost to manufacture a dose would be about $4,000,” she says. That’s compared to a cost of around $50,000 to alter a patient’s cells and return them. Either type of treatment is likely to cost insurers half a million dollars or more if they reach the market. Robert Nelsen, a venture capitalist and a founder of Juno Therapeutics, which raised hundreds of millions for the custom approach, says he’s not worried about companies developing universal alternatives. “What they can do in the future is what we can do today,” Nelsen said in an interview last year. “And I guarantee you even if things were equal, which they are not, you would want your own stuff, not someone else’s cells.” The London treatment is notable for involving the most extensively engineered cells ever given to a patient, with a total of four genetic changes, two of them introduced by gene editing using a method called TALENs. One alteration was to strip the donor cells of their propensity to attack the body of another person. Another directs them to attack cancer cells. In the U.S. and China, scientists are also racing to apply gene editing to make improved treatments for cancer and other diseases. MIT Technology review

A leap in affordability and power to weight ratio with Fabric Pneumatic Exoskeleton Technology

Roam Robotics wants to create light and affordable exoskeletons that will be usable by a lot of people for everyday use. They are developing a new generation of robotic orthotics that are constructed entirely out of fabric. These devices omit the rigid materials used in traditional exoskeleton designs for inflatable structures using high-strength fabrics to greatly reduce part count and costs without sacrificing performance. The resulting orthotics systems provide power to weight ratios that are unmatched by existing exoskeleton systems at a fraction of the cost. {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ku-TavNuwwc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} Otherlab, Roam Robotics

Lightweight Car production with disruptive 3D print process

Engineers at The University of Nottingham are developing lightweight automotive components using new additive manufacturing processes to boost vehicle fuel efficiency, while cutting noise and CO2 emissions. The components will be constructed using selective laser melting (SLM). SLM uses a 3-Dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) model to digitally reproduce the object in a number of layers. Each layer is sequentially recreated by melting sections of a bed of aluminium alloy powder using a laser beam. Layer by layer, the melted particles fuse and solidify to form novel structures that can be made up from complex lattices to provide a light-weight component. SLM is a highly disruptive AM technology, helping to increase functionality and lower the number of separate components in production. This significant mass saving cuts component costs and increases overall vehicle efficiency. The Functional Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project aims to achieve significant weight reductions in mass (40-80 per cent) and optimised thermo-mechanical performance in new vehicle components. The use of advanced lightweight materials in the project will serve to minimise wastage. Only the required material is incorporated into the built component, reducing costs, increasing the ability to manipulate the material to achieve the required performance and efficiency. Environmental advantages include the inherent recyclability of the aluminium powder waste, reduced transportation and the elimination of special tooling and hazardous cutting fluids to produce the SLM parts. The three-year FLAC project also will demonstrate the viability and cost analysis of the industrialisation of SLM, along with possible manufacturing routes and supply chain models. FLAC project lead, Professor Chris Tuck, from the Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Research Group, said: “FLAC will benefit UK automotive companies, increasing their competitiveness by allowing them to adopt innovative routes for the design and manufacture of lightweight on-vehicle componentry, with shorter lead times and lower costs than are presently available." The FLAC project, which has secured £368,286 from Innovate UK, will investigate components such as brake calipers, heat sinks for LED headlights and power train sub-systems. The short-term market opportunity for these components - which will also deliver a decrease in CO2 emissions by 16.97g/km - lies in the luxury car and motorsport markets. Professor Tuck said: “The automotive sector is one of the UK’s leading export sectors by value, representing around 6.3 per cent of all UK exports. Successful delivery of FLAC’s portfolio will enhance the R&D leadership in the key automotive technologies, and strengthen the UK automotive supply chain, resulting in increased revenues to the UK economy and government.” University of Nottingham