Mosquito-tech Improves Public Health
Mosquitoes are receiving a lot of press this year as Zika continues to spread and warmer months approach. The problem is causing researchers to get creative in an effort to slow the mosquito population, a New Scientist article reports.
One method involves sterilizing males with radiation and releasing them to mate with females — any embryo fertilized with the damaged sperm will die. And a newer, but more difficult method involves coating adults with larvae-killing viruses or pesticides that they then bring to breeding sites.
The French research organization CIRAD combined both methods. In a lab test, the team found that coating mosquitos with pyriproxyfen, a chemical that kills larvae but doesn’t harm mosquitos, does in fact reduce mosquito numbers. The combined method will move to field trials and, if it works there, it may be used to mass-produce sterile male mosquitoes and combat disease carried by the pest.
3-D Printed Pills and Pharmacogenetics
Pharmaceutical companies may be making headlines unrelated to drug pricing if 3-D printed pills deliver on their promise to further personalize medicine. Researchers at Wake Forest University designed a computer algorithm to design and calculate dosages based on patient biological and clinical needs as opposed to predetermined dosages, according to a www.3ders.org article.
The method, termed “pharmacogenetics,” uses DNA info to match patients to drugs; the Wake Forest study showed that 3-D printed pills increased effectiveness and reduced unwanted side effects.
“It [3-D printed pills] will change how medicine is practiced and taught and how health care is delivered. It will change the way research and development is regulated,” said Min Pu, M.D., leader of the Wake Forest research team.
Stabilizing Seniors to the Sole
As we age, many of us experience a decline in our sense of touch and balance. But a study has found that tiny vibrations placed in shoe soles can improve balance for seniors, according to an IEEE Spectrum article.
The technology (photo at right) creates artificial “noise” — imperceptible to the wearer — that pushes nerve signals from the foot to create a stronger signal to interact with the brain and body. While the tech has been around, it only recently was packaged and placed into wearable insoles.
A recent study turned to 12 healthy volunteers older than 65 to test the vibrating insoles, and results showed reduced postural sway and an improved steadiness during walking. A similar shoe-centric approach utilizing GPS-enabled shoes proved effective at tracking elderly persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Battling Germs with Xenon
Can you picture a machine that is wheeled into a room and emits pulses of ultraviolet light and disinfects everything within range? (photo at left) That's the idea behind the Xenex Germ-Zapping Robot.
“When you go to the beach, would you use sunscreen that protects against a single ray of light, or would you protect against rays across the entire spectrum?” asked Morris Miller, CEO of Xenex.
The machine is programmed to meet the specific needs of each room. It's wheeled in and utilizes xenon bulbs to produce UV pulses of light to disinfect the room. Other technologies use bulbs that contain mercury, which is toxic and may require special handling if a bulb were to break, according to Xenex. And many rooms are simply disinfected using hired staff and bleach.
In a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, an estimated 58 infections were prevented and $730,000 saved at Orlando Health's South Seminole Hospital after having used the Xenex technology. This solution is used in more than 300 hospitals and will, with luck, one day clean my shower.