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Courtesy of Northwestern Medicine
Courtesy of Northwestern Medicine

Scientists Create Miniature "Menstrual Cycle in a Dish"

Courtesy of Northwestern Medicine
Courtesy of Northwestern Medicine

Medical scientists and engineers have developed a palm-sized model of the female reproductive system—a step toward a future in which doctors can see how their patients’ bodies would respond to drugs before they even write a prescription. The researchers described their progress today in the journal Nature Communications.

This “’menstrual cycle in a dish” is the latest in a series of “tissue on a chip” projects being developed around the world. The “chip” in question is a small vessel, like a computer chip, on which researchers construct tiny working models of human organs and tissue using real biological materials. A well-built organ on a chip functions like the real thing, reacting to drugs, pathogens, and other stimuli—like a lab mouse, but better, and less ethically complicated.

The new technology, called EVATAR, is a little tray containing miniature 3D models of the uterus, ovaries, vagina, fallopian tubes, cervix, and liver, all connected by fine tubes filled with a blood-like fluid. The organ models secrete hormones and interact with one another just like organs in a real body.

Lead researcher Teresa Woodruff of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine called EVATAR “nothing short of a revolutionary technology.”

In a statement she explained how future cubes and other chips could be customized for each patient. "If I had your stem cells and created a heart, liver, lung and an ovary, I could test 10 different drugs at 10 different doses on you and say, 'Here's the drug that will help your Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or diabetes,'" Woodruff said. "It's the ultimate personalized medicine."

Research on the female body has long lagged behind that of males, in part because female organisms of all kinds have been underrepresented in laboratory and clinical research. Only recently has the imbalance begun to be corrected, as major funding bodies like the National Institutes of Health pass rules requiring experiments to consider equal numbers of male and female subjects.

To have an entire complex female reproductive system in the tissue-on-a-chip mix is, therefore, no small accomplishment, but it is an important one.

Coauthor Joanna Burdette of the University of Illinois at Chicago says EVATAR will be useful for studying illnesses like endometriosis, fibroids, and cervical cancer.

"All of these diseases are hormonally driven, and we really don't know how to treat them except for surgery," she said. "This system will enable us to study what causes these diseases and how to treat them."

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The North Face
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Design
The North Face's New Geodesic Dome Tent Will Protect You in 60 mph Wind
The North Face
The North Face

You can find camping tents designed for easy set-up, large crowds, and sustainability, but when it comes to strength, there’s only so much abuse a foldable structure can take. Now, The North Face is pushing the limits of tent durability with a reimagined design. According to inhabitat, the Geodome 4 relies on its distinctive geodesic shape to survive wind gusts approaching hurricane strength.

Instead of the classic arching tent structure, the Geodome balloons outward like a globe. It owes its unique design to the five main poles and one equator pole that hold it in place. Packed up, the gear weighs just over 24 pounds, making it a practical option for car campers and four-season adventurers. When it’s erected, campers have floor space measuring roughly 7 feet by 7.5 feet, enough to sleep four people, and 6 feet and 9 inches of space from ground to ceiling if they want to stand. Hooks attached to the top create a system for gear storage.

While it works in mild conditions, the tent should really appeal to campers who like to trek through harsher weather. Geodesic domes are formed from interlocking triangles. A triangle’s fixed angles make it one of the strongest shapes in engineering, and when used in domes, triangles lend this strength to the overall structure. In the case of the tent, this means that the dome will maintain its form in winds reaching speeds of 60 mph. Meanwhile, the double-layered, water-resistant exterior keeps campers dry as they wait out the storm.

The Geodome 4 is set to sell for $1635 when it goes on sale in Japan this March. In the meantime, outdoorsy types in the U.S. will just have to wait until the innovative product expands to international markets.

[h/t inhabitat]

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Jonathan How, MIT
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technology
New MIT Technology to Help Drones Dodge Obstacles May Make Deliveries Easier
Jonathan How, MIT
Jonathan How, MIT

New technology developed by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) may help drones dodge collisions as they fly, making things like drone pizza delivery a whole lot more plausible on a large scale.

Whether you’re a human or a drone, moving through a city always involves a certain amount of uncertainty. Will that light turn green as you approach? Will a pedestrian bump into you? Will a pigeon fly in your face? Will there be a sudden road closure for a parade, or a newly installed crane at a construction site? And if there’s one thing that machines tend to be bad at, it’s dealing with uncertainty. For a fast-flying drone, navigating with a static map just won’t cut it in the real world.

So CSAIL researchers created NanoMap, a new system that can model uncertainty, taking into account that, as a drone flies, the conditions around it might change. The technology helps the drone plan for the fact that it probably doesn’t know precisely where it is in relation to everything else in the world. It spends less time calculating the perfect route around an obstacle, relying instead on a more general idea of where things are and how to avoid them, allowing it to process and avoid potential collisions more quickly.

It features depth sensors that constantly measure the distance between the drone and the objects around it, creating a kind of image for the machine of where it has been and where it is going. “It’s kind of like saving all of the images you’ve seen of the world as a big tape in your head,” MIT researcher Pete Florence explains in a press release. “For the drone to plan motions, it essentially goes back into time to think individually of all the different places that it was in.”

In testing, the NanoMap system allowed small drones to fly through forests and warehouses at 20 miles per hour while avoiding potential collisions with trees and other obstacles.

The project was funded in part by the Department of Defense’s DARPA, so it could be used as part of military missions, but it would also be helpful for any kind of drone-based delivery—whether it’s ferrying relief supplies to combat zones or your latest Amazon Prime package.

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