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  • richardmitnick 5:16 am on July 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, CSIRO blogs,   

    From CSIRO blog: “Legged robots walk the walk” 

    CSIRO bloc

    CSIRO blog

    19th July 2017
    Eliza Keck

    1
    In an emergency, first responders often have to make a very tough call: can I enter the area safely or is it too dangerous? It’s the most extreme risk vs reward analysis anyone could ever face, and the call is often made in mere moments and with very little information. In the future, this decision will hopefully be much easier with the help of some six legged robots: hexapods. Creating robots that can go into an unpredictable, unstable environment and help people escape it would be a literal life-saver.

    You know how people are always talking about how robots are going to steal our jobs and take over the world? Well this is one job we wouldn’t mind them taking.

    Wheel what have we here?

    There are some pretty amazing robots on wheels. Case in point: NASA’s Curiosity.

    NASA/Mars Curiosity Rover

    Wheels are great for moving fast, they’re stable and they are easy to build. So why the obsession with legs? Well, wheels have their drawbacks: they can’t go side to side (well, most of them can’t!), they can’t cross over gaps, can’t climb over obstacles and they’re basically turtles; flip them on their back and they’re useless. Legs are the answer. So why haven’t we done it already? Because legs are significantly complicated.

    Balancing act

    Humans have been trying to create humanoid robots for centuries. But being able to walk on two legs is a significant achievement that took us millions of years to perfect. To simply balance, many complex body systems work together (and even compensate for each other when required). There’s our vestibulo-ocular reflex (our eyes and inner-ear working together), our nervous system and the body’s sense of where it is in space: proprioception. We also have baroreceptors, sensors in our blood vessels that sense blood pressure (like a barometer and air pressure), that tell our heart to pump blood faster when we stand so we don’t faint.

    When designing a robot, scientists have to decide what kind of stability it will use: dynamic or static. As its name suggests, a statically stable robot will be stable when standing still. Basically – any robot with three legs or more can do this without trying. Dynamically stable robots are stable when moving (think about how much easier it is to hop on one leg than standing still on one leg). Obviously, a dynamically stable robot is much harder to control and significantly more complex however they are more energy efficient and faster. Most scientists are working to create something that is the best of both worlds. For us, we’re doing this with hexapods.

    2
    Model of a humanoid robot based on drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Erik Möller.

    The invention of sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes have helped scientists take the next *step* forwards in balance and stability, but that’s only the start of the many complex problems scientists have to solve before our robot dreams can turn into reality.

    Casing the joint

    Do you enjoy scrambling around rock pools at the beach? Ever notice how you moved when climbing? It wasn’t the same as if you were walking on the footpath was it? You slow down, use your hands for stability and test the movement of each rock before committing all your weight on it. Your joints play a vital role in stability in rough terrain. Toes, ankles, knees, hips and your back all make minute and major adjustments to keep you stable.

    Having flexible legs with multiple joints improves stability on rough terrain. Our first hexapod models had three ‘joints’ per leg. They were fantastic at walking on a flat surface, but as soon as they encountered a steep hill they lost their grip.

    Our latest hexapod models have two extra ‘joints’ per leg and can now tackle up to 50 per cent inclines. This is because they can widen their stance, creating a larger support polygon and shifting their centre of gravity to be within this polygon.

    3
    How useful are diagrams when trying to understand support polygons!? Credit: Stability During Arboreal Locomotion; Andrew Lammers, and Ulrich Zurcher, Cleveland State University, USA.

    Walk this way

    The gait (walking style) of the robot plays a big role in how fast and efficient it will be. When deciding which gait a robot uses you’ve got two options: fast, efficient but unstable or slow, stable, but inefficient. Neither option would work in real-life. So what’s the solution? The robot needs to be able to change how it moves depending on the situation. This is called ‘dynamic movement.’ Our hexapods constantly test the surface and will automatically change their gait and speed to stay stable and energy efficient.

    Our legged robots have got all the right moves, click here to learn more about them.

    Getting around is no easy feat, unless you have six of them

    When disaster strikes, who’s first on the scene?

    Emergency response teams often need to enter dangerous or confined spaces. But accessing unknown or unstable areas involves risk.

    Our legged robots are designed to go where no other robot or human can easily access – for example, a collapsed building. These nifty bots are able to safely explore and assess dangerous areas, such as when looking for survivors before sending in rescue teams.

    Introducing the legged robots

    Our hexapods are modelled off insects with the same number and configuration of legs, like ants and cockroaches. The hexapods are programmed with different gaits inspired by their natural counterparts.

    Our hexapods are modelled off insects with the same number and configuration of legs, like ants and cockroaches. The hexapods are programmed with different gaits inspired by their natural counterparts.

    4

    One of the most popular gaits, inspired by running ants and cockroaches, is called the “alternating tripod gait”. The “waive gait”, closer to a caterpillar’s pattern, is slower but more stable. It’s much more useful when navigating sloped or slippery terrain.

    One of our hexapods, Weaver, has five joints on each of its six legs, enabling it to move freely and negotiate uneven terrain easily.

    It is also fitted with a pair of stereo cameras, allowing it to create a digital elevation map of an area, and detect any physical obstacles in its path. Thanks to sensors in each of its leg joints, this nifty insect-like bot can measure the forces felt at its foot tips. When each foot touches the ground, it feeds this information on the ground conditions back through a sequence of algorithms.

    In combination with its elevation map, the hexapod can interpret the stability of the surface and then adjust the stiffness of its legs as it travels. This allows the legged robot to avoid getting stuck or losing balance, by adjusting the flexibility of its leg joints depending on the roughness of the terrain.

    Getting into those hard to reach spaces

    6
    Hexapods: Legged Robots

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

    The CSIRO blog is designed to entertain, inform and inspire by generally digging around in the work being done by our terrific scientists, and leaving the techie speak and jargon for the experts.

    We aim to bring you stories from across the vast breadth and depth of our organisation: from the wild sea voyages of our Research Vessel Investigator to the mind-blowing astronomy of our Space teams, right through all the different ways our scientists solve national challenges in areas as diverse as Health, Farming, Tech, Manufacturing, Energy, Oceans, and our Environment.

    If you have any questions about anything you find on our blog, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at socialmedia@csiro.au.

    And if you’d like to find out more about us, our science, or how to work with us, head over to CSIRO.au

     
  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on June 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, Future Science Platform (FSP), , Probing Biosystems   

    From CSIRO: “A cybernetic future for health: precision nanomedicine, implants, and telling biomarkers” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    28th June 2017
    Ali Green

    1
    What if you only had to send your non-invasive health diagnostics to the cloud to be notified of any abnormalities? No image credit.

    When was the last time you had your gut health assessed? With colorectal cancer now the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, and incidence of coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease also on the rise, quick action on gut health is more important than ever.

    What if you had a safety net that detected abnormalities between required traditional tests? Wouldn’t it be great to have a non-invasive way of identifying your individual gut health issues early, a way to test the impacts of various interventions to maintain a healthy gut and avoid these diseases? How about using saliva as a non-invasive way to self-test for biomarkers that might indicate early signs of age-related conditions like cancer, cardiovascular or degenerative diseases? Or a system to rapidly and accurately measure and identify biomarkers for metastatic diseases like tumours using non-invasive and automated nanoneedle technology?

    Research is on a constant path towards overcoming the human body’s frailties. It’s an endeavour that’s seen global life expectancy more than double from an average of 31-years-old in 1900 to 71-years-old in 2015. And technologies like those referred to above, technologies that marry greater life expectancy with better life quality will not only revolutionise life as we know it, but will also be a major economic driver of the future.

    And at the forefront of this exciting revolution is Probing Biosystems, a Future Science Platform (FSP) representing the future of healthcare in the 21st century.

    Probing Biosystems is one of six Future Science Platforms. Its vision is to develop wearable or embedded biological sensors that can continuously extract meaningful information about our health, allowing more timely intervention.

    Imagine a device that painlessly and autonomously probes interstitial fluids (those fluids found between cells) for specific cancer biomarkers to ensure early detection of cancer and metastatic disease. Or a biosensor-laden cranial implant that measures, in real time, the temperature, cranial pressure and brain activity of patients recovering from traumatic brain injury, to better monitor their physiological recovery so doctors can target precise drug delivery.

    Not only will the Probing Biosystems team develop devices that capitalise on our enormous appetite for health information (as demonstrated by FitBits), but they will go a step further by creating technologies that track information about animals, plants, and even cells. The possibilities are endless and will revolutionise healthcare and biosecurity around the world.

    Novel research within the Probing Bioscience platform will investigate breakthrough solutions in the areas of:

    Health Surveillance — looking at wearable nanoneedle biosensors, and developing neurocybernetics for patients with head injuries;
    In Vitro Diagnostics — ‘cybertongue’ sensors that diagnose cancers and other diseases, early asthma detection, saliva biomarkers of ageing, and health and monitoring of brain cell death in brain injury;
    Model Systems — lethal virus detection, faster response to pandemics, gastrointestinal screening for better gut health, the next generation of virus biosensors, brain organoid on a chip and infection and inflammation 3D tissue models; and
    Precision Nanomedicine — improved delivery of therapy for brain cancer.

    Sounds exciting, huh? If you want to partner with us to make this incredible science become a reality, get in touch! To find out more head to our Probing Biosystems launch page.

    Probing Biosystems is a multi-year investment between CSIRO and our partners to improve biosecurity and healthcare. We are developing innovative platforms that enable real-time interrogation of living biological systems in order to extract meaningful and actionable information about their health and well-being. CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms are turning Australia’s future challenges into opportunities and creating a better life for us all.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:09 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , CSIRO, Data visualisation isn’t just for communication it’s also a research tool, Managing large data sets, , Minardo, , Sequencing, Visualising networks that change over time, VIZBI - an international visualisation community   

    From CSIRO: “Data visualisation isn’t just for communication, it’s also a research tool” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    27th June 2017
    Seán I. O’Donoghue
    James B. Procter

    1
    A collage of biological data visualisations. Image from C. Stolte, B.F. Baldi, S.I. O’Donoghue, C. Hammang, D.K.G. Ma, and G.T. Johnson, CC BY.

    At the heart of the scientific method lies the ability to make sense from data.

    However, this is a challenge in the fast-moving field of biotechnology, where new experimental methods are creating huge amounts of complex data. These data promise to revolutionise healthcare, food and agriculture, but it can be difficult to extract answers to specific research questions from these sets of numbers.

    Data visualisation can help. Our eyes deliver information very rapidly to our brains, and then sophisticated pattern recognition abilities take over. Well-designed visualisation tools can reveal discoveries that would otherwise remain buried.

    Below we highlight three data visualisation tools we have developed to help life scientists find relevant and useful information among the noise. The visualisation principles used in these tools are general and help in many complex data challenges.

    Managing large data sets

    Proteins and other molecules in our bodies exist as complex 3D structures that constantly change shape and interact with each other. Mapping out the many possible ways that proteins can be structured helps scientists understand how biological processes work, and may inform drug development and treating diseases such as cancer.

    Thanks to decades of research worldwide, we now have reliable, evidence-based 3D structures for tens of thousands of proteins, plus more than 100 million models of protein structures.

    These models are useful for learning about life’s molecular processes – such as how RNA and proteins are made – however, the large number of models can make it difficult for scientists to pin down which specific models can help answer a particular research question.

    To address this difficulty, one of us (Seán O’Donoghue) and colleagues developed Aquaria, a tool using the visualisation principle of “overview first, details on demand”. By using a technique called “clustering”, Aquaria creates a concise visual overview of all structural models available for any specific protein.

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    An overview of all 3D structural models available for p53, a protein that protects against cancer. Image created using Aquaria. S.I. O’Donoghue and C. Stolte, Author provided.

    The image above shows this overview for p53, a protein that protects against cancer. Each cluster of related 3D models can be interactively expanded and explored (bottom of the image), helping scientists find the most useful models suited to address a specific research question.

    Once a suitable model is found it is shown (top of the image), with dark colouring used to indicate regions where the structure of the model is less certain. In addition, yellow, blue and green are used to highlight different shapes within the structure, which helps scientists understand how the protein is arranged in three dimensions.

    Viewing connections between different datasets

    Sometimes, we need to look at data from multiple viewpoints. This is particularly true for a field of research known as sequencing. Sequencing involves determining the precise order of the chemical building blocks that make up DNA, RNA and protein. Knowing these sequences and comparing how they vary between individuals can tell us about mutations that cause disease and reveal how we evolved.

    One of the most widely used tools for visualising sequences is Jalview, co-developed by one of us (James Procter), which brings together the huge amounts of data that are created through sequencing.

    Jalview employs two principles – “linking and brushing” and “multiple coordinated views” – to bring together different types of information. Jalview also allows other tools to be connected, enabling scientists to navigate through complex, interrelated datasets.

    The example below shows a family of proteins known as Aquaporins, which are molecular channels important for water balance and nutrient transport in cells. Aligning these protein’s sequences (close up on right) allows them to be clustered into a tree (shown top-left, with birds-eye view of the protein alignment next door). DNA mutations are mapped onto the protein alignment (shown in red), and these colours also locate the mutations in protein structure (bottom left).

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    Linked brushing and multiple data visualisations allow potential disease mutations to be identified at the core of Aquaporin, a protein important for water balance and nutrient transport. Image created using Jalview linked with UCSF Chimera. J.B. Procter, Author provided.

    Visualising networks that change over time

    Scientists are aiming to unravel diseases – such as obesity – by studying small changes that take place within our cells.

    For example, food that we eat triggers the release of insulin into our blood stream, which then tells fat cells to store rather than release energy. This process ultimately influences our body weight.

    Cells are tiny, but they are hives of activity. Thanks to recent advances in techniques such as mass spectrometry, we can now map the tens of thousands of events that are happening within each of our cells in response to hormones such as insulin.

    The difficulty for scientists is to try to view this huge amount of information in an accurate and simple way, and one that reflects the chain of events in a cell that matter to our overall health.

    One of us (Seán O’Donoghue) and colleagues developed Minardo, an approach that creates a sort of timeline of events that happen inside a cell. Minardo uses the principle that position on a viewing screen is the most effective visualisation strategy. The resulting visualisation helps scientists identify exactly what is going on inside a healthy cell, and what might be different in a diseased cell.

    The image here shows (beginning top left, then clockwise) the sequence of events that take place after insulin (in pink) binds to the surface of a fat cell. The consequences of insulin binding include switching off the release of energy stores from the cell (around 1 minute after insulin binds), and switching on energy storage (around 5 minutes after insulin binds).

    5
    The sequence of key events within a human fat cell following insulin binding to its receptor (top left, pink). Image created using Minardo. D.K.G. Ma, C. Stolte, J.R. Krycer, D.E. James, and S.I. O’Donoghue, Author provided.

    VIZBI, an international visualisation community

    In building these tools, we aim to visualise data as clearly as possible, so the viewer can focus on the science.

    Aquaria, Jalview and Minardo are freely accessible and used by tens of thousands of scientists and students worldwide – an accomplishment that we are proud of.

    However, our tools address only three specific research questions – biology has thousands more. Tailored visualisations of this kind need an interdisciplinary team, take months to prototype and require years to develop into robust and usable tools.

    Realising this, in 2010, we created an international initiative called VIZBI to connect tool-builders and raise the standard of data visualisation in biology. In June 2017, VIZBI and associated events came to the Asia-Pacific region for the first time.

    The overwhelming complexity of biological data, substantial time and effort is required to create effective visualisation tools not just for communication but also for research itself.

    Seán I. O’Donoghue, Senior Faculty Member at the Garvan Institute, Conjoint Professor at UNSW, and Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO and James B. Procter, Jalview Coordinator, Bioinformatician and Open Source Software Developer, University of Dundee

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:01 am on June 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, Diamond coated carbon fibre electrodes, Diamond coated electrodes are forever,   

    From CSIRO: “Diamond coated electrodes are forever” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    20th June 2017
    Ali Green

    1
    Diamonds are helping us to advance bioelectronic medicine, brain-machine interfacing, sensors and basic neuroscience. No image credit.

    “Diamonds are forever” sang Shirley Bassey in the iconic 1971 Bond movie.

    “They are all I need to please me, they can stimulate and tease me…”.

    Well we’ve discovered another pretty cool way for diamonds to stimulate, and it’s not one you might easily guess!

    Together with Deakin University, Melbourne University, the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication and the Fraunhofer Institute, we’re developing diamond coated carbon fibre electrodes. These little gems are presenting an exciting opportunity for bioelectronic medicine, brain-machine interfacing, sensors and basic neuroscience.

    In order for our body to control and regulate itself it relies on a complex network of neural circuitry. For people with debilitating conditions like epilepsy, auto-immune diseases, migraines, and Parkinson’s disease, this network can be a bit off kilter, requiring bioelectric medical intervention to help it function normally. Bioelectronic medicine uses electrical impulses to target specific neural pathways in order to alter the commands sent to either the brain or organs without the need for drugs and their often unwanted side-effects.

    To work, bioelectronic medicine relies on tiny electrodes to interface, ideally, with single nerves. These electrodes also need to be biocompatible with our soft insides.

    The electrodes currently used in these techniques are fabricated from metals or silicon and protected from corrosion by polymer (plastic) coatings. But these coatings can cause toxic immune responses in patients which can limit their long term effectiveness. A way around this is to use smaller bio-inert electrodes (those that won’t react with the host) that are mechanically compliant and have brain tissue-like density. Shining brightly as a potential solution is the diamond coated carbon fibre electrode.

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    A micro electrode: The black carbon fibre core is coated in an insulating diamond sheath. The waves represent electrical impulses. No image credit.

    A diamond’s properties include extreme hardness, biocompatibility, chemical inertness, anti-fouling, and electrical insulation. Combined with the excellent strength-to-weight ratio, small diameter, flexibility and conductivity of carbon fibre, diamond coated carbon fibre electrodes positively sparkle as an exciting, novel and previously unexplored class of electrodes for neuroscience.

    This work builds upon our patented method for coating carbon nanotube yarns with diamond which was developed using Fraunhofer’s diamond deposition facilities and expertise in Germany. The team of Victorian researchers now has the opportunity to explore the extension of this methodology to carbon fibres and biomedical/sensor applications through collaboration with the nearby Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, part of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), and the use of their new suite of diamond deposition systems.

    It is hoped the development of these improved biocompatible micro-electrodes will advance the area of bioelectronics medicine and neuroscience and help a growing number of sufferers with debilitating conditions live fuller, more functional lives and shine bright like a diamond.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:55 am on June 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CSIRO, Developers need to consider how a person with autism could react to their technology, , Technology in the form of augmented communication aids has helped to give them a voice   

    From CSIRO: “Research in autism-friendly technology needs to improve to make a real difference for people” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    9th June 2017
    David Ireland
    Dana Bradford
    David Silvera-Tawil

    1
    Developers need to consider how a person with autism could react to their technology. Shutterstock/Dubova

    People on the autism spectrum can face challenges in dealing with a world they perceive differently to other people, no matter the severity of their condition.

    Some people with autism gravitate towards technology for learning, play and communication. For many, technology in the form of augmented communication aids has helped to give them a voice.

    We focus on the role technology plays in the lives of autistic people and their families. In particular, what are the benefits and problems, and where can we head in the future to get things right?

    As part of that ongoing work, we collected user feedback by pulling data from millions of autism-related comments in public reviews of apps. We found many of the comments showed there were some clear benefits to people with autism, but there were also problems that could have been easily avoided.

    A hole in the evidence base

    Carly Fleischmann was once considered a non-verbal, low-functioning autistic person. Now, with the aid of a digitally synthesised voice, she interviews celebrities such as Channing Tatum and has her own online talk show.


    Introducing Carly Fleischmann.

    But there is little evidence of the long-term benefits and complications of using computers and mobile devices to assist, educate and entertain autistic learners.

    This is despite positive responses to computer-based therapy first being published more than four decades ago. In part, a dearth of evidence is due to research being expensive and impeded by ethical issues when working with people who are considered vulnerable.

    Moreover, many families are becoming increasingly disillusioned with autism research. Many feel that research outcomes have become distanced from practical strategies that help families manage the challenges that come with autism.

    This is important, because 1 in 100 children is being diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. Of the participants on the National Disability Insurance Scheme 29% are autistic, the second-largest disability group in the scheme.

    From an economic perspective, there is an increasing annual cost estimated to be A$5.8 billion that is borne by families, communities and government.

    If technology can help people on the autism spectrum then we need to get it right to help with their learning and communication, and to help their families and carers.

    The current role of mobile technology

    Before we look to the future it is prudent to understand the present role of app-based technology.

    We scoured the Android Play and Apple App stores using a webcrawler that scanned as many apps and their associated reviews as could be found.

    The webcrawler applied an algorithm that kept reviews related to autism and discarded those that weren’t relevant, for example when autism was used as a derogatory term.

    In the end, 56 million reviews were analysed from more than 2-million apps. About one in 7,500 reviews from Apple and one in 50,000 from Android were found to have useful information that told a story. Here’s a typical example, about the My First Tangrams puzzle app:

    “This is a great app it has helped my son who has autism learn motor skills, matching shape recognition, motor planning, independence and makes him think by turning off the magnet.”

    From the extracted reviews, more than 85% referred to an app that was neither designed nor advertised for autistic people. We only found 57 apps specifically designed for autistic people that claimed to be evidence-based, but this was not verified.
    The most reported benefits

    The first question we looked at was: what were the main reported benefits?

    Common problems in autism include language, education, behaviour, imagination, sleep, motor skills, attention, sensory, social, diary, hygiene, emotions, food and eye contact. So we counted how many times these themes appeared in the reviews.

    2

    We found that language and education had the highest frequency of matches. Apple reviews were more prolific and reported benefits in all areas examined, whereas Android returned a smaller number of reviews across fewer areas.

    Although anecdotal, this does give some credence that autistic people and their families are using technology for other than entertainment.

    Tailored for younger users

    It was common for the reviewers to report a particular age. Here’s an example from the Relax+ Jr. with Andrew Johnson meditation app:

    “My 7 year old son is autistic and has major sleep problems however since using the original app his sleep has improved dramatically.”

    Age consistency was apparent between reviews from the Apple and Android stores, with the largest age groups targeted being between three and five year-olds. The reported ages ranged from one to 18, as shown in the figure below.

    3

    The average age of autism diagnosis is typically about three years old and therapy usually starts as soon as possible. It is not surprising that there is a demand for technology suitable for an age group that coincides with the commencement of intensive interventions.

    Are app developers autism friendly?

    We found a recurring theme of developers changing and updating features of the app that often caused distress to young people with autism, such as this example on the Tiny Firefighters: Police & Firefighters for Kids app:

    “This was my son’s favorite game. My son is autistic. A seemingly small change like this is life-altering drama for him. Please change the icon, at least, so he thinks it’s a different game.”

    Here’s another example on the Disney Junior Appisodes of when things go wrong from an app behaving unexpectedly:

    “Bought this app for my 5 yr old with autism. He loves Disney. App always crashes so now all he does is scream in frustration when it repeatedly doesn’t work.”

    As we said earlier, the majority of the apps we found being used by people were not specifically developed for people with autism.

    But had these apps been developed with help from people involved with autism research, then the developers could be better advised on how to avoid causing any distress.

    Perhaps we need a set of guidelines for all software developers to help them develop autism friendly apps?

    Autism diagnoses are increasing and showing no signs of curtailing, and the causes are still debated.

    Research shows people on the autism spectrum tend to spend significantly more screen time than the typical person. As such, they have the potential to rapidly develop skills and learning experiences from technology.

    The use of any mobile technology must provide a positive role for people with autism. But there are still some serious unanswered questions as to how best technology should be designed and developed to mitigate overuse, or harm from poor design or deployment.

    Are the skills and experiences that are obtained from using a particular app being transferred to the real world? Are people with autism becoming dependent on the virtual world while elements of interpersonal interaction are sacrificed? What are the negative effects of overuse and poor design of apps?

    We believe technologies that offer safe, interactive and therapeutic environments will only come about from a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, software developers, people on the autism spectrum and their families.

    Nevertheless, the future does look brighter for a person diagnosed with autism and their families as one reviewer remarked on the Tinycards memory education app:

    “The last two days I’ve finally been having good interactions with my four year old daughter.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:03 pm on June 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cancer Therapeutics CRC (or CTx), CSIRO, Foetal form of haemoglobin, Haemoglobin, , One step closer to understanding and treating blood cancer, PRMT5 enzyme, Sickle cell anaemia and b-thalassemia   

    From CSIRO: “One step closer to understanding and treating blood cancer” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    9th June 2017
    Rachael Vorwerk

    1
    Did someone say party? Think again, this confetti-lookalike structure is the PRMT5 enzyme, and if we can find a way to stop it working, then we’ll be one step closer to understanding blood cancers and sickle cell anaemia.

    We’d like to introduce you to an enzyme called PRMT5. Enzymes are the things that make chemical reactions occur and this one is a big deal in cancer (oncology) and blood diseases.

    Like anything, too much of a good thing can turn bad.

    Too much of PRMT5 is often found in many cancers. PRMT5 inactivates another protein called p53, or the ‘guardian of the genome’ as it’s affectionately known. And it’s not called the guardian of the genome for nothing – it forms an integral part of the human body’s surveillance system.

    2

    How does PRMT5 relate to cancer?

    If we could block PRMT5 with a drug (small molecule inhibitor), it would lead to the activation of p53 resulting in the death of the cancer cells.

    For cancer, p53 is especially important because when it is active, many cancers don’t develop. Often when p53 is inactive or mutated in different cancers, (especially blood cancers), it helps cancer develop.

    Put simply:

    3

    PRMT5 and other diseases

    Another important function of PRMT5 is its role in regulating the type of haemoglobin – the protein in our blood that carries oxygen – we make in our red blood cells before and after we are born.

    PRMT5 is a very important enzyme because it’s involved in switching off the foetal form of haemoglobin, which is replaced by adult haemoglobin after we are born.

    Unfortunately, there are diseases such as sickle cell anaemia and b-thalassemia where the adult haemoglobins are mutated.

    However, by using a drug that blocks the activity of PRMT5, it may be possible for patients with sickle cell anaemia and b-thalassemia to remake enough foetal haemoglobin in their bodies to allow them to lead normal lives.

    Where are we up to with this research?

    Cancer Therapeutics CRC (or CTx) has been working on some ground-breaking work in cancer research in this area. They’ve been researching the discovery and development of novel oncology drugs that target PRMT5 for the treatment of solid tumours and blood cancer.

    CTx has just been recognised for their work on the PRMT5 program, with the Australian CRC Association’s (CRCA) Award for Excellence in Innovation. The PRMT5 program that CTx developed was licensed to the global pharmaceutical firm MSD (known as Merck in the US and Canada) in January 2016, in one of the largest ever pre-clinical licensing deals originating from Australian research. We’re proud to say we helped CTx with protein production and the great news is that MSD are continuing to work with us.

    Hopefully soon we’ll be another step closer to figuring out how to stop PRMT5 from working, being that one step closer to understanding common solid tumours and blood cancer.

    Cooperative Research Centres – what they are and why you should know about them

    If you haven’t heard of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme, you’re missing out on some innovative work happening around all of Australia. It’s an Australian Government Initiative giving opportunities left, right and centre to businesses with outcome-focused collaborative partnerships. It’s a pretty big deal and opportunity for industry, researchers and the community.

    Want to know more about the great stuff our Cooperative Research Centres are working on? Find out more here!

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:17 pm on June 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, , G20 summit on marine pollution, Oak Family Foundation, Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, Seas of East Asia Network, World Ocean Day which in 2017 is focused on plastic pollution, Worlds largest marine pollution project   

    From CSIRO: “Worlds largest marine pollution project” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    08 Jun 2017

    Asaesja Young
    +61 7 3833 5727
    Asaesja.Young@csiro.au

    CSIRO is undertaking the world’s largest marine pollution survey, working with countries across the globe to help them assess and reduce the amount of litter entering the oceans.

    1
    Ocean pollution choking parts of Port Moresby. ©Sustainable Coastlines

    Some of the world’s top 20 polluters will take part in the project including China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United States, plus other countries including Australia, South Korea and Taiwan.

    CSIRO senior scientist Dr Denise Hardesty said the project would provide hard numbers on the amount of litter entering the ocean by using real data collected on coastlines and cities across the globe.

    “Up until now we’ve been relying on estimates from 2010 World Bank data, so this will be the first time anyone has brought together a group of countries to look at exactly how much litter is entering the oceans,” Dr Hardesty said.

    “We will be able to see where the hotspots lie by looking at how people, wind, the shape of the land and storm water moves rubbish into the ocean and then give advice on how to improve this based on science-based interventions.”

    Representatives from five partner countries will meet next week in Korea for the project’s first training workshop.

    Our Seas of East Asia Network’s Dr Sunwook Hong will lead South Korea’s involvement in the project and said taking a global approach was essential to tackle the problem.

    “By coordinating our approach we will be able to achieve some quick wins and know where to set our sights for more long-term goals,” Dr Hong said.

    The project was announced two months after Dr Hardesty presented to the world’s first G20 summit on marine pollution, and on World Ocean Day which in 2017 is focused on plastic pollution.

    “We know that almost all litter starts off in someone’s hand, and from there it finds it ways from land to the ocean, where it breaks up into smaller pieces,” Dr Hardesty said.

    “This means if we can stop the rubbish from entering the ocean, we can make real headway in resolving the problem.

    “Along with causing marine and environmental problems, things like plastic bags can also cause storm water drains to become blocked, leading to significant localised flooding and serious health risks for local people.”

    The project follows years of marine debris research led by Dr Hardesty and her team which has published significant findings including quantifying the amount of litter on the entire Australian coastline and reporting on the number of seabirds and other wildlife eating plastic.

    The project is a collaboration between CSIRO, the Oak Family Foundation and Schmidt Marine Technology Partners.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:03 am on June 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, Ultrabattery   

    From CSIRO: “UltraBattery” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    24 May 2017
    No writer credit

    The UltraBattery has turned the conventional lead-acid battery — a 150 year-old energy-storage system — into a dynamic technology for storing electricity and powering vehicles.

    The challenge

    Cost

    Finding cost effective and efficient ways to store and deliver energy, when it is needed, is the holy grail of energy.

    Our response

    Investing in new battery technologies

    As part of a global partnership, the battery system was developed by CSIRO in Australia, built by the Furukawa Battery Company of Japan and tested in the United Kingdom through the American-based Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium.

    1
    Dr Lan Lam, the primary inventor of the UltraBattery, an economical, super fast-charging battery with long-life power. ©CSIRO, Nick Pitsas

    The unique design combines two everyday energy-storage devices: the lead-acid battery (battery found in cars) and a supercapacitor (device that powers camera flashes). The result is an economical, super fast-charging battery with long-life power.

    The UltraBattery can be made using existing manufacturing facilities. With a wealth of applications possible, the UltraBattery is ideally suited for hybrid-electric and conventional vehicles, renewable energy storage, remote area power supply, emergency power backup and forklift trucks.

    The results

    The UltraBattery

    The UltraBattery can store renewable energy providing reliability, stability and load levelling. It has been commercialised by energy storage solution company ecoult and is being used by Honda in its new Odyssey hybrid model.

    In comparison to alternate renewable energy battery options, the UltraBattery is low cost, durable, has faster discharge/charge rates and has a life cycle two to three times longer than a regular lead-acid battery. By using the UltraBattery, intermittent electricity from renewable sources being fed into the grid can be ‘smoothed’, improving power quality and stability and allowing a greater percentage of our energy supply to be generated by a renewable source.

    Commercialisation in India

    The UltraBattery is being tested in rural India by the Institute of Transformative Technologies and battery manufacturer Exide Industries. It has the potential to improve energy security in the world’s second largest country by population and reduce reliance on diesel generators. If successful, Australian research and development could play a vital role in providing renewable energy solutions for India.
    Electric vehicles

    The UltraBattery has been tested both in Australia and internationally and has been proven to offer a number of advantages over the existing nickel-metal hydride batteries, including the fact that it is approximately 70 per cent less expensive with comparable performance in terms of fuel consumption.
    Renewable energy storage

    Energy from renewable sources such as the sun and wind offers the potential for a low emission, sustainable future. However, electricity from renewable sources is intermittent and variable only producing energy when the sun shines or wind blows. By using the UltraBattery, intermittent electricity from renewable sources being fed into the grid can be ‘smoothed’, improving power quality and stability and allowing a greater percentage of our energy supply to be generated by a renewable source. As well as providing a stable supply, the UltraBattery can store energy for use during peak demand times, thereby assisting the grid to balance supply and demand and avoid local stressed on the grid.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:12 am on May 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CSIRO, , Where there’s smoke there’s fire: early cancer detection through fine-print mapping of blood vessel growth   

    From CSIRO: “Where there’s smoke there’s fire: early cancer detection through fine-print mapping of blood vessel growth” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    31st May 2017
    Jesse Hawley

    1
    (Top left) The hepatic vein of a rat; (top right) The skeleton generated by the ITK 3D thinning method; (bottom left) End points of the terminal vascular branches; (bottom right) The skeleton generated by our method. No image credit.

    To grow, cancerous cells feed on a constant supply of nutrients from blood vessels. Like piping infrastructure preceding a new development, the growth of new blood vessels can be mapped to locate early-stage cancers quickly — and with our new algorithm, those maps are finer and more accurate than ever before.

    The cells that cling together in tubes and globes, bones and noses to form the cellular mass that is you — they’re each a little bit like a fire. Give them a feed of fuel and oxygen, and they release heat and grow. Remove that feed, either fuel or oxygen, and they die away. This is true for normal and abnormal cells alike.

    Tumours are abnormal cells unable to control their own growth, are out of control, ‘rogue’, and can manifest into malignant tumours, cancer, which can grow and split, circulating around the body to create ‘spot fire’ metastases.

    The good news is, tumours, like regular cells, need a constant supply of blood, which carries the nutrients and oxygen needed for the tumour to thrive and divide. If tumours receive no blood supply, they remain a harmless cluster of cells incapable of growing larger than 1 or 2 mm3, or, the size of a sprinkle.

    So how do tumours go from innocuous flesh sprinkles to life-threatening growths?

    Angiogenesis.

    Angiogenesis is the creation of new blood vessels that deliver nutrients and oxygen to the growing tumour, and remove its waste products — the piping infrastructure. Angiogenesis occurs all the time, but tumour growths can kick-start this process around them to fuel their fire. Like screeching baby birds, tumours release various ‘signal proteins’, which tell the body to produce new vessels and blood to shroud the growth in a nutrient feed, helping the cells to grow.

    By understanding angiogenesis, and modelling blood vessel growth accurately, researchers can detect nascent tumour growth and stamp it out. In a ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ scenario, where there are newly growing blood vessels, angiogenesis, there may be tumours.

    Currently, high-resolution images are taken of the area’s blood vessel structure, but — due to technical limitations — these images have some of their most vital details stripped away: the fine detail of the blood vessel tips, how many of these terminal vessels there are, and emphasising vessel volume at the cost of actual geometry.

    To ratchet up the quality of this imaging, our researchers paired up with the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences to gather micrometre-scale images of various cancer stages in the brains and livers of mice. Studying these images, the team were able to develop an algorithm that overcame the resolution drawbacks of previous techniques.

    2
    Left to right: 1) MicroCT scan, 2) binary image, 3) vessel skeletons, 4) branching statistics, 5) tree visualisation.

    The algorithm, when applied to the blood vessel images, works to thin down the structure and — unlike previous methods — retain information on blood vessel length, branching patterns, and terminal points.

    Like the workings of Precogs from The Minority Report, the revealed intricate tips of new blood vessels portend tumourous growths that can be apprehended before they manifest, increasing the survival outcomes of patients.

    “Our robust algorithms for the early detection and quantification of angiogenesis could potentially be a great step forward in the detection and treatment of cancer,” said lead researcher Dr Dadong Wang.

    Though the algorithm helps to better define blood vessel patterns, there are still obstacles that lie between these imaging techniques and their application with human patients.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:09 pm on May 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, Golden eye: treating age-related macular degeneration with gold,   

    From CSIRO: “Golden eye: treating age-related macular degeneration with gold” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    5.31.17
    No writer credit found

    How we’re using gold nanoparticles to help treat age-related macular degeneration.

    The challenge

    A less invasive treatment for age-related macular degeneration

    Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Australia and affects around one in seven Australians over 50.

    There are a number of effective biomacromolecule therapeutics available to treat patients with AMD, but due to their susceptibility to biodegradation these drugs are required to be administered at regular intervals via monthly intravitreal injections targeting the jelly-like substance inside the eye. This invasive procedure can be unpleasant for the patient, and lead to detrimental side effects.

    1
    As light hits the hydrogel, the gold nanoparticles absorb the light and turn it into heat which softens the hydrogel matrix and accelerates the release of pre-loaded therapeutics. The released therapeutics have been shown to retain their biological activity.

    Our response

    Using gold nanoparticles to solve the problem.

    Our scientists, together with researchers from Beijing University of Chemical Technology and Wenzhou Medical University, have developed a drug depot that can control the release of drugs by exposing them to light. The method can potentially reduce the number of intravitreal injections required by shining a light into the patient’s eye, triggering the release of a small dose of the drug from the depot.

    Gold is the magic ingredient for making this work.

    The team discovered that hydrogel infused with gold nanoparticles could, when exposed to light, release pre-loaded therapeutics. This is because gold absorbs light at specific wavelengths before releasing it as heat, enabling the polymer matrix encapsulating a pre-loaded drug to soften and accelerate the drug diffusion. The process is reversible, so when the light is turned off, the polymer cools down and hardens, effectively turning off the drug release.

    Importantly the drug doesn’t need to be modified in any way and it retains very high biological activity after release.

    The results

    Exciting applications

    This unique drug delivery system is highly versatile and can deliver a variety of drugs ranging from small molecules to proteins and antibodies. The gold nanoparticles can also be customised to different light wavelengths so the method can be used for applications other than treating retinas. Infrared light, for instance, could release drugs used in deep tissue solid tumour therapy.

    This novel method could potentially play a role in fighting cancer, while possible personal care and agricultural applications are also being investigated.

    The scientists’ research has been published in the international edition of Angewandte Chemie .

    CSIRO Manufacturing is looking for investment partners to help take this promising research to the next stage.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
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