A Prosthetic That Can Touch and Feel

MM_ProstheticIn place of Igor Spetic’s right hand is a plastic and metal prosthetic — he lost the hand in an industrial accident — but when Spetic uses the haptic system (left) developed at the Functional Neural Interface Lab at Case Western University, he experiences something many take for granted — the sensation of touch, an IEEE Spectrum article reports.  

Electrodes implanted in Spetic’s forearm make contact with three nerves at 20 locations, allowing him to experience realistic sensations he perceives as coming from his missing hand. Amazingly, he can even pluck the stem off a cherry without damaging the fruit, “It is in my hand,” said Spetic in the report, as the stimulation in his prosthetic was turned on.

For now, the system can only be used in the lab, wires stick out of Spetic’s arm, connected to a computer, but the team hopes to be ready for clinical trials in five years.

The End of Left-Brained, Right-Brained?

The age-old question may be meaningless thanks to a University of California, Berkeley study that found that the meanings of words are processed across the entire outer layer of the brain, not just on a single side, NPR reports.

Placing seven subjects in magnetic resonance imaging scanners, researcher Jack Gallant played two hours of stories from "The Moth Radio Hour" to participants while looking at pea-sized areas of the brain to determine how areas responded to words. Interestingly, words with similar meanings lit up similar parts of the brain.

For example, the word “top” lit up regions associated with clothing and appearances, but also stimulated regions associated with words tied to numbers and measurements.

And those regions that lit up were similar across multiple people in the study. Although the study size was small, the findings contradicted two beliefs nonscientists commonly have about the brain: that only the left hemisphere handles language and that the brain has localized regions that handle specific tasks. “These maps are remarkably consistent from person to person,” said Gallant, who led the study — a little on the eerie side if you ask me.

New Hope for Treatment-Resistant Breast Cancers

There’s new evidence that a targeted therapy may be effective in treating triple-negative breast cancer — the most aggressive form of the disease, according to a Vanderbilt University news release.

Currently, TNBC is the only form of breast cancer without approved targeted therapies. The study, led by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, found the JAK2 gene to potentially play a key role in the cancer’s drug resistance.

The JAK-STAT gene-signaling pathway is critical to cell growth and survival, but also aids tumor growth. After studying tumor samples from 111 patients in Lima, Peru, findings suggest a JAK-2 inhibitor could be effective in fighting triple-negative breast cancers.

Will You Create the Next Medical Marvel?

The race is on to find a universally accepted patient ID system. The CHIME Healthcare Innovation Trust’s National Patient ID Challenge launched in January and has seen 345 registered innovators, 113 of which entered the Concept Blitz round to receive feedback from the expert panel before moving on to the next round, according to a CHIME news release.

CHIME will name three winners on June 1, each receiving a $30,000 prize. The grand prize winner will be announced in February 2017, and will receive a $1 million prize. That should be plenty to create the next-gen tech phenomenon.