Google Glass Might One Day Diagnose And Track Diseases Like HIV
Feb28

Google Glass Might One Day Diagnose And Track Diseases Like HIV

When Google began releasing its new head-mounted computer to beta testers last year, technology enthusiasts were pumped. After all, the futuristic device, called Glass, might one day enable people to answer email hands-free or view driving directions projected onto the road in front of them. Others, though, have complained that Google Glass is a cool piece of tech that hasn’t yet justified its existence. (Still others have complained that Glass is creepy, but that’s a story for another day.) Slowly but surely, though, beta testers in Google’s Explorers program have been making a case for the sophisticated eyewear by demonstrating its unique—sometimes scientific--capabilities. Physics teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel famously shared his visit to the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, with his students via Glass. Ohio surgeon Christopher Kaeding gave medical students a live, bird’s eye view of a knee operation he conducted while wearing the device. And now, a research team led by Aydogan Ozcan of the University of California, Los Angeles, is using Google Glass to help diagnose and track disease. The engineers designed an app for the wearable computer that images and reads rapid diagnostic tests such as pregnancy pee sticks. It also links the results to a scannable QR code, stores them, and tags them geographically. “The new technology could enhance the tracking of dangerous diseases and improve response time in disaster-relief areas or quarantine zones where conventional medical tools are not available or feasible,” Ozcan says. Among the first to be selected by Google as Explorers, Ozcan and his team demonstrated the capabilities of their new app by using it to read a few types of home HIV and prostate cancer tests—ones that require an oral swab or a drop of blood to work. They recently published their efforts in ACS Nano (2014, DOI: 10.1021/nn500614k). True, it doesn’t take much to read one of these tests—either lines appear or they don’t in the case of the HIV tests. But the app could save time for clinicians who routinely have to read a multitude of different types of sticks and remember which symbols and lines signify a positive or negative result, Ozcan points out. After a single calibration run, the online tool recognizes a particular test stick and can even assign a biomarker concentration to the lines that appear. These rapid diagnostic tests typically use nanoparticles to create these lines (which is why Ozcan’s study appears in ACS Nano). Coated with an antibody, the particles recognize a specific biomarker in blood, urine, or saliva samples and bind to it. As the particle-biomarker complex flows down the test stick, rows of a different type of antibody already...

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Mayan Art Meets Nanotechnology
Sep16

Mayan Art Meets Nanotechnology

Sometime before 600 BC, Mayan artists painted one of the few frescoes--still in existence--that displays the domestic life of normal people in this ancient civilization (other Mayan frescoes display the lives of deities and rulers). The frescoes were found in a pyramid at the Calakmul archaeology site in Mexico. Calakmul is one of the biggest Mayan sites around, but it hasn’t been excavated to the same extent as say, Tikal, which had a cameo  in "Return of the Jedi" as the Ewok planet and is also host to a constant throng of tourists. As they work, archaeologists at Calakmul have tried to protect the wall frescoes from the subtropical climate of Mexico, but a mixture of light, temperature, humidity and sulfate-based pollution was starting to hurt the precious frescoes. That’s where Piero Baglioni comes in. He’s a physical chemist at the University of Florence, who has earned a certain amount of fame for his development of nanoparticles that can clean up frescoes harmed by pollution or by other restoration attempts. In particular, the nanoparticles can deal with the salts that lead to pigment deterioration and flaking of the frescoes. (Baglioni’s nanoparticles can also help reverse ill-thought-out attempts to protect frescoes by covering them with vinyl or acrylic polymers, a problematic restoration technique that can cause complete powdering of a painting. As recently as a decade ago, polymers were widely applied to give frescoes some water repellency but they’ve caused havoc at other Mesoamerican sites, including Tehotihuacan and Mayapan, Baglioni says.) In the case of Calakmul, the frescoes were suffering from sulfate salts, but six months after application of a “humble” calcium and barium hydroxide nanoparticle solution, flaking of the frescos was reduced (Chem. Eur. J. 2010, 16, 9374). See the before (left panels) and after (right panels) below.        ...

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