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HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Materials science is just one area in which the network of tech-
nology centers is assisting the health and wellness sector. Gaiker,
located in the nor th of Spain, employs g enomics, proteomics, and
metabolomics to investigate the ways in which cells respond to
chemicals, dr ugs and natural compounds. Gaiker is working on a
number of EU projects to identify and develop in vitro tests that
can replace animal tests for cosmetic and phar maceutical safety.
“These tools allow you to see the reaction of the individual
cells, and of course an animal is a pool of cells,’ says Oscar Salas,
Gaiker’s international projects coordinator. “This can re present
the future behavior of any kind of substance in human beings.”
These international projects are intended to aid cosmetic compa-
nies in re placing animal tests, since the EU has announced these
must cease by 2013.
Gaiker scientists have also patented a biomarker for colorec-
tal cancer and are partnering with research institutions across
Europe to develop new nanoparticles for diagnostics and thera-
pies for different kinds of cancers. This field of research has
also led them into work on a lab-on-a -chip, which could be set
on devices like intelligent phones to evaluate biomarkers, then
send infor mation to doctors.
Creating sensors like these may be aided by manufacturing
developments at Tekniker, which is developing nanof luidic
devices that measure various parameters of blood. Tekniker has
created a device with channels less than 100 nanometers wide that
will allow DNA samples to be stretched over the length of the
channel; measuring the length of the DNA sample will allow for
its characterization. The process by which they’ve for mulated the
nanochannels, known as nano-imprinting, can, Tekniker research-
ers say, be easily reproduced for high-throughput manufacturing,
and could be used for disease diagnostics and for deter mining
After many gr ueling hours of brain surgery, it’s finally time
for a surg eon to close up the skull. This is no simple matter. The
metal products today on the market require surgeons either to
position a clamp carefully and exert pressure on it without dam-
aging the brain, or manipulate tiny screws into a metal plate. Both
methods present challenges: a clamp’s rough edges can injure the
brain, while tiny screws may test the patience of a surg eon finally
reaching the end of a long process. And the metal in either prod-
uct may interfere with future tumor diagnostics and treatments.
In response, a team of neurosurgeons, materials scientists, and
manufacturing engineers have teamed up to create new close-up
products, and formed a new spinoff company—Neos Surg ery—
from two research centers, Ascamm and Inasmet.
Neos Surgery’s first product is a device to clamp two pieces
of a skull back together, using a shape-changing nickel-titanium
alloy that responds to heat–in this case, body heat. The device is
kept cold in a refrigerator. When the surgeon is ready to close, she
can position the clamp at the section of the skull to be attached.
Immediately the coil begins to tighten, the clamp to close.
The success of this first product led to the development of a
second, the Cranial Loop, made entirely of polymers. Two pieces
of skull are fastened together by inserting the tiny device and
applying the necessar y pressure until the fit is snug; no plates,
screws, or other instruments necessary.
“Instead of pushing on the skull, you just cut off the edges
[of the Loop],” says Lluis Chico, Neos’ g eneral manag er, and the
Ascamm’s robot (above) can take a 3-D image and create a
model of it. While such a model can be used to sculpt virtually
any object, obviating the need for single-use molds, Ascamm,
in partnership with the Orthopedic Technical Institute in
Barcelona, has also developed a robot-assisted process for
building a prosthesis. First the patient’s leg is scanned, then
that image is transformed into a 3-D model using CAD. The
CAD model is passed to the robot, which then builds a
completely custom-designed prosthesis.
Many research centers are working on robots and the parts
they need, such as sensors for artificial vision. Tekniker has
created a robot complete with x-rays and artificial vision to
evaluate defects in seat belts. And AIN is taking part in a
project to develop the mechanics and flight controls for
unmanned helicopters to monitor power lines; this requires
building a system that can overcome and cancel out
interference from electrical fields.
4/7/2010 9:30:17 AM
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