117. Ultrasound + Lasers = Bye Heart Disease, Mapping The Immune System, 3D-Printed  Hypercar

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Show Notes:

Groundbreaking heart disease treatment uses ultrasound-assisted lasers | Brighter Side News (01:21)

  • Atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque, can lead to heart disease, artery disease, and chronic kidney disease and is traditionally treated by inserting and inflating a balloon to expand the artery.

  • Rohit Singh, of the University of Kansas, and other researchers developed a method that combines a low-power laser with ultrasound to remove arterial plaque safely and efficiently.

  • High-power laser treatments direct thermal energy to vaporize water in the artery and create a vapor bubble, which expands and collapses to break the plaque.

    • The addition of irradiation from ultrasound causes the microbubbles to expand, collapse, and disrupt the plaque.

  • Singh talks about the combo of laser treatment with ultrasounds:

    • “In conventional laser angioplasty, a high laser power is required for the entire cavitation process, whereas in our technology, a lower laser power is only required for initiating the cavitation process … Overall, the combination of ultrasound and laser reduces the need for laser power and improves the efficiency of atherosclerotic plaque removal."

  • Because it destroys rather than compresses the plaque, the combination technique will have a lower restenosis rate, or re-narrowing of the artery, compared to balloon angioplasty or stenting.

    • Restenosis occurs when an artery that was opened with a stent or angioplasty becomes narrowed again.

  • Singh and collaborators are also using the methodology for photo-mediated ultrasound therapy and ultrasound-assisted endovascular laser thrombolysis.

    • Former can be used to remove abnormal microvessels in the eye to prevent blindness

    • The latter can dissolve blood clots in veins.

Locusts can 'smell' human cancer cells | Futurity (05:54)

  • Researchers, at Michigan State University, have shown that locusts can not only “smell” the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells, but they can also distinguish between different cancer cell lines.

    • This work could provide the basis for devices that use insect sensory neurons to enable the early detection of cancer using only a patient’s breath.
  • The success of engineered devices can make it easy to overlook the performance of our natural tools, especially the sense organ right in front of our eyes.

    • Why we trust dogs and their super-sniffers to detect telltale smells of drugs, and explosives
  • Scientists are working on technology that can mimic the sense of smell, but nothing they’ve engineered can yet compete with the speed, sensitivity and specificity of old-fashioned biological olfaction.

    • Olfaction: The sense of smell.
  • Why not start with the solutions biology has already built after eons of evolution, and engineer from there?

    • The research team is essentially “hacking” the insect brain to use it for disease diagnosis.
    • Easily attach electrodes to locust brains
  • The scientists then recorded the insects’ responses to gas samples produced by healthy cells and cancer cells, and then used those signals to create chemical profiles of the different cells.

  • How well could the locusts differentiate healthy cells from cancer cells using three different oral cancer cell lines?

    • According to Christopher Contag, the director of IQ, “We expected that the cancer cells would appear different than the normal cells … But when the bugs could distinguish three different cancers from each other, that was amazing.”
  • Although the team’s results focused on cancers of the mouth, the researchers believe their system would work with any cancer that introduces volatile metabolites into breath, which is likely most cancer types.

    • In biochemistry, a metabolite is an intermediate or end product of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually used for small molecules.
  • Let’s end it off with a quote from Contag about early detection:

    • “Early detection is so important, and we should use every possible tool to get there, whether it’s engineered or provided to us by millions of years of natural selection … If we’re successful, cancer will be a treatable disease.”

Scientists create first full map of human immune system connectivity | New Atlas (11:15)

  • By using advanced screening methods to tune into the communications taking place between individual cells, scientists have produced the first full connectivity map of the human immune system.

    • Will help researchers better understand the way different disease such as cancer progress, and work towards next-generation treatments
  • Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and ETH Zurich have been working to establish a more comprehensive diagram of the immune system throughout the body.

  • The breakthrough stems from new understanding of the signaling that takes place between different immune cells.

    • Some of these patrol the body looking for signs of injury or disease, and then send messages to other immune cells to join the fight.
    • Communication takes place through proteins on the surface of immune cells, which bind to receptor proteins on the surfaces of other cells.
  • Mapping involved a technique called high-throughput surface receptor screening, which allowed them to map immune cell protein interactions on an unprecedented scale.

  • This wiring diagram details how immune cells connect and communicate throughout the body and includes previously unknown interactions.

    • Valuable insights into the way the body organizes its immune defenses,
    • May help efforts to develop treatments that increase their ability to fight disease, with immunotherapy for cancer a prime example.
    • Additionally, it could offer a blueprint for the prevention and treatment of autoimmune diseases
  • Let’s end it off with a quote from Professor Gavin Wright, senior author, discussing the research:

    • “Immunotherapies work with the body’s immune system to combat diseases such as cancer and autoimmunity… They can be incredibly effective in certain groups of people, but not all, leaving some people without treatment. Our research, a culmination of over two decades of work, could hold the key to understanding why these treatments are more effective in some groups, and how they could be adapted to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from them.”

Flying car 'Switchblade' with foldable wings and a retractable tail gets FAA approval | Interesting Engineering (15:46)

  • A flying sports car named Switchblade recently passed the safety tests of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and now it is ready for market launch.

    • Oregon-based company Samson Sky claims it took 14 years to develop this innovative vehicle.
    • Can be easily parked inside a residential garage, and it is suitable for both roadside driving and flying.
  • Not the first to receive approval from the FAA, but it might become the first flying car available to the public in the US.

    • Already started taking online reservations for Switchblade, and over 1,600 people have already shown interest in buying the car.
    • The estimated starting price for Switchblade would be $150,000.
  • The features of the Switchblade:

    • Three-wheeler sports car that comes with foldable wings and a retractable tail
    • Within three minutes, these flexible components can turn this roadside vehicle into a small aircraft
    • Capable of flying at 16,000 feet (4.8 km)
    • The top speed of this two-seater flying machine ranges between 125 mph (201 km/h) (on-road) and 200 mph (321 km/h) (during flight).
    • Runs on 91 octane gasoline
  • The official website of Samson Sky mentions that the car comes equipped with a hybrid electric drive and fly system, a climate-controlled cabin, front and rear crumple zones, and a parachute that covers the whole vehicle to ensure complete comfort and safety of its users.

  • For instance, the vehicle has been approved by the FAA, but that only means that Samson Sky can sell this vehicle.

    • Buyers might still need to get permission from local authorities before they drive or fly Switchblade for the first time since it is not an ordinary vehicle.
  • Another difficulty, the Switchblade is a flying vehicle, and there is no company in the US that offers flying car insurance.

    • Insurance laws in most American states require drivers to carry active vehicle insurance with them.
    • Switchblade buyers might need to buy both car and aircraft insurance.
  • What’s interesting about this is that Switchblade isn’t the only flying car that is ready to launch.

    • There are companies working on this, and it would be fascinating to see which of them we see first on the road.

    • List by Interesting Engineering of 14 other flying cars being developed:

Czinger’s 3D-Printed 21C Hypercar Could Spark an Automaking Revolution | Robb Report (22:00)

  • The $2 million, carbon-fiber-bodied, tandem-seat Czinger 21C astounds with specs—1,250 hp, zero to 62 mph in 1.9 seconds, a claimed top speed of 253 mph

  • However, more impressive is the hybrid’s build process: The main structural components are designed by Czinger’s proprietary AI software and then 3-D-printed.

    • Co-founder Kevin Czinger, stated: “These structures cannot be made more perfect for the requirements inputted … You could have 1,000 engineers and they would never get to this solution.”
  • Figuring out how to put these “perfect Lego blocks” together was tasked to Lukas Czinger, Kevin’s son, who invented a fixtureless assembly system

    • No part-specific fixture or tooling required to hold pieces in place during the robotic build.
  • Additionally, the polymer team created an adhesive that bonded in under two seconds.

    • The result is a 22-robot cell that doesn’t have to be retooled from one application to another, meaning the same hardware can transition from creating a rear frame to a full chassis with only a software change—a potentially revolutionary new approach to manufacturing.

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