KevinAmbrose

A 3D-printed patch could help you recover from a heart attack

Scientists have dreamed of easily patching up heart tissue in the wake of heart attacks, but there are always gotchas: for example, it’s no mean feat to replicate the complex structures of real tissue. However, there may be a solution in sight. Researchers have produced a 3D-printed cell patch that can heal scarred heart tissue. The team used laser-based bioprinting to fit stem cells (based on adult human heart cells) to a matrix developed around a 3D scan of heart tissue’s native proteins. When those cells grew, the matrix not only replicated the structures of regular heart tissue (down to 1 micron) but started beating in sync. And the early results are very promising.

After the team tested its patch on a mouse, the rodent’s heart saw a “significant increase” in functional capacity in the space of 4 weeks. Moreover, it eventually absorbed into the heart — the team didn’t have to perform follow-up operations to make sure it was a good fit.

Naturally, a mouse heart is easier to fix than a much larger human heart. The researchers see this as just a matter of time, though. They believe that human-scale patches should be viable “within the next several years.” If so, recovering from a heart attack may just be a matter of implanting some custom-printed tissue and waiting for your health to improve.

For Years College Students Provide the Homeless With Free Health Care

Stephanie Oh knows what it’s like to live below the poverty line.

After graduating college with a degree in bioengineering, she volunteered for AmeriCorps and subsisted on food stamps. But today, Oh gives pays it forward by using her medical education to provide free healthcare to homeless populations.

Oh is the student director of the Promise Clinic, an initiative that provides primary health care for lower-income residents of New Brunswick, New Jersey. The clinic, founded in 2005, is one project under the Rutgers University’s Homeless and Indigent Population Health Outreach Project (HIPHOP), which fosters relationships between medical students and the local community by providing free care to the poor. Up to 600 students volunteer annually in the university’s programs.

“When health care students become knowledgeable about the people they serve, they are better able to practice patient-centered medicine,” says Susan Giordano, HIPHOP program coordinator. “Our goal is for student leaders to promote and advocate for the community by instilling humanism in medicine.”

As of the 2010 census, approximately 34% of New Brunswick residents lived in poverty. Each summer, Giordano runs an internship for HIPHOP’s incoming student leaders that introduces them to partner organizations and takes them on a community tour to teach about the logistical challenges for residents with no cars on tight budgets—eating healthy, accessing medical care and obtaining support.

“The tour is eye-opening,” says Gloria Chen, CHI student director and second-year medical student. “It makes us aware of how difficult it is for our patients to have healthy lifestyles. There are a lot of services they can’t access since they don’t have transportation.”

As the clinical arm of HIPHOP, the student-run Promise Clinic provides free primary care services at Rutgers Eric B. Chandler Health Center to the uninsured adult clients of Elijah’s Promise community soup kitchen. Over the past two years, the students have raised more than $30,000 to help cover medical expenses.

Each year, approximately 45 teams of four to five medical students see patients under the supervision of faculty advisers. The teams – composed of first- through fourth-year medical students – care for the same one to two individuals throughout their medical school experience. In addition, patients also see students from the interdisciplinary practices as their care warrants. Since its inception, the Promise Clinic has seen about 600 patients, who visit once every few months.

“By providing a continuum of care to the same patient over four years, students gain a strong knowledge of the patient’s condition and form a bond,” Oh says. “It’s a rare opportunity for students to care for a specific patient in a very personal way. I have seen student doctors spend hours arguing with pharmacological companies to lower the cost of medicine or advocate for patients with charity care.”

As a result of their experience, many students remain in primary or family care, Oh says.

Spotify lets thousands of indie labels limit free streaming

With an IPO looming, streaming music leader Spotify has been inking a number of new deals with record labels to ensure it has the content it needs to keep growing. The latest deal comes with Merlin, an agency that represents a swath of various independent record label around the world. In a press release today, Spotify noted that this new multi-year deal would keep ensure that Merlin’s music stayed available on Spotify, something it’ll certainly need going forward. All told, Merlin is the fourth-biggest music provider that Spotify works with, behind the three massive major labels.

But the biggest news from this new deal is that Merlin will also get to restrict new releases from Spotify’s free tier for up to two weeks. Spotify has historically fought long and hard against splitting up its catalog between free and paid users, but it finally relented when signing a new deal with Universal Music a few weeks ago. (Some would say it didn’t have a real choice in the matter anymore.) Now, it seems that two-week window is going to become the standard when new music hits Spotify.

With new deals set for Universal and Merlin, it’s likely we’ll see Sony Music and Warner Music Group also ink new contracts in the coming months. Given that Merlin is able to take advantage of what Spotify sneakily calls its “flexible release policy,” it’s likely that Sony and Warner will also get on board here — which means that basically all notable new releases won’t be immediately available to free users.

Labels represented by Merlin include electronic-focused Armada, Beggars Group (whose sub-labels feature notable artists like Adele, Alabama Shakes, The National, Pavement, Beck, The Strokes and many more), the legendary Seattle-based Sub Pop and the punk-focused Epitaph. If you’re a fan of those labels but aren’t paying for Spotify, be aware you’ll now have to be patient when looking for new releases

Europe may harmonize how internet companies fight hate speech

Internet companies are already taking action against hate speech, but it’s no secret that they don’t always tackle it in the same way. One may delete the hostile material immediately, while the other might spend days reviewing it before taking action. That wildly inconsistent approach might not fly in European Union countries before long. Reuters says it has obtained a draft European Commission document proposing that the EU implement measures that harmonize how online firms remove hate speech, child porn and other illegal content. Just how they’d take material down isn’t clear, but Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have already agreed to an EU code of conduct that requires takedowns within 24 hours — this would dictate how they pull the offensive content.

The draft is quick to acknowledge that a common rule set wouldn’t be easy. There are “justified” differences depending on the type of content, for instance. However, it believes that consistent takedown guidelines would lead to a “more transparent and predictable environment” where internet companies would be more willing to curb hate speech.

A paper like this doesn’t guarantee action. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see the tech industry being uneasy with mandates. What if the rules are too rigid and don’t account for differences between sites and services? What are the chances of inadvertently pulling innocuous material? And would a harmonized process be quick enough that 24 hours is a realistic time frame for the vast majority of removals? If the idea goes forward, the EU will have to be careful to set realistic rules that are acceptable for both companies and the public.

Sony made a gigantic PS4 controller no one can use

Sony has eSports-tailored PlayStation 4 controllers, but aside from that, the gaming juggernaut hasn’t made any major changes to the gamepad that shipped with the PS4. But as a Japanese promo for the recent Parappa the Rapper re-issue, the company made a gigantic version of its best controller in years. We’re talking perfect-for-Wun-Weg-the-giant from Game of Throne.

As Japanese publication Gigazine notes, not all of the buttons are functional. Only the D-pad and square, triangle, circle, cross and shoulder buttons L1 and R1 work. Analog sticks and the L2 and R2 triggers are for show only, and we’d suspect the touchpad is as well.

If you think the bigger controller would make playing Parappa easier, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Gigazine said that pressing the oversized face buttons in rhythm with the action actually amps up the difficulty versus using a standard DualShock 4. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to test that theory out for ourselves at E3 — similar to how we played catch with a life-sized Trico at the 2015 Tokyo Game Show.

The size might be a problem for you and me, sure, but if Wun Weg can pound trees (and White Walkers) into the ground with a single fist, he’d probably own the competition with this controller. It’s too bad then that the 7-foot 7-inch tall Neil Fingleton who played the giant passed back in February. Standing him next to this giant piece of plastic would’ve probably given a better idea of its scale than the mere mortals in the video below.

Sure Sony isn’t the first here, as we’ve seen coffee-table-sized NES controllers a number of times previously, but that doesn’t make the gargantuan gamepad any less cool.

Apple has hired two people with intriguing backgrounds in the field of satellite technology: John Fenwick, the former head of Google’s spacecraft business, and Michael Trela, the ex-lead of Google’s satellite engineering group. Bloomberg reports the hires, citing people familiar with the matter.

Fenwick and Trela are apparently joining a team led by Dropcam founder Greg Duffy, though there’s no concrete information about their assignments at Apple. However, there’s precedent for a nascent satellite program: Technology industry giants including Facebook, SpaceX and Google are designing drones and satellites to deliver internet to rural regions of the world.

It wouldn’t be surprising for Apple to dive into this industry, too. After all, more internet users means more potential consumers. Of course, satellite technology can also be used in imaging, another area of interest for Apple as it expands its Maps service and starts dabbling with autonomous cars.

China proves its first resupply spacecraft can reach orbit

China’s space program just hit a milestone: according to Reuters, its first cargo probe has successfully proven that it can ferry supplies to orbit. Tianzhou-1 took off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the mainland on April 20th. In the early hours of April 22nd, Eastern time, it performed an automated docking maneuver to attach itself to the country’s orbiting lab, the Tiangong-2. You can think of Tiangong 2 (or “Heavenly Space Lab”) as China’s experimental space station, which housed two astronauts for a month in October 2016. The country is using it to test new technologies for the larger manned space station that it hopes to establish in orbit by 2022.

Based on state media reports, China considers the event a huge accomplishment, since Chinese President Xi Jinping has decided to make its space program a priority to strengthen national security. It also provides an “important technological basis” for the construction of the country’s permanent orbiting lab. In its current form, it can reportedly fly autonomously for up to three months while carrying up to 6 tons of goods and 2 tons of cargo.

While Tianzhou-1’s success is a cause for celebration for China, some United States officials might see it as a cause for concern instead. In a 2015 annual report it prepared for Congress, the US Department of Defense claims China has been heavily investing in space capabilities “designed to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers.”

Britain has its first day of coal-free power in 135 years

Coal power has been a fixture of British culture ever since the country’s first plant went live in 1882. It shaped the Industrial Revolution (and the air pollution that followed), was involved in major labor disputes and even led to a famous album cover. However, the country is now backing away from coal — and it just achieved an important milestone in weaning itself off of this dirty energy source. The National Grid has confirmed that, on April 21st, Britain went without coal-generated power for its first full day in 135 years. There had been relatively long stretches in recent times (19 hours in May 2016, for instance), but none as long as this.

As you might guess, the achievement comes down to an increasingly diverse range of energy options. Observers at Gridwatch estimate that about half of British energy on the 21st came from natural gas, while the rest was divided between nuclear, renewable and imported energy sources. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Britain went green for 24 hours, then, but there was enough eco-friendly energy that coal wasn’t as necessary as it might have been in the past.

You can expect more of this in the future. The UK expects to shut down the last of its remaining coal power plants no later than 2025, and that means longer and longer stretches where coal is absent. Still, the celebration around this achievement sits in stark contrast to the US, where the current government is determined to prop up coal in spite of economic and environmental realities.

Avatar’s long-delayed sequels will begin hitting theaters in 2020

After years of delays, James Cameron’s ever-growing series of sequels to 2009’s science fiction film Avatar finally have release dates. This morning, the franchise’s official Facebook page announced that the first film will arrive in theaters in 2020, with the rest being released between 2021 and 2025.

The first untitled sequel will hit theaters on December 18th, 2020, while the rest will be released on December 17th, 2021, December 20th, 2024, and December 19th, 2025. With the post (appropriately timed for Earth Day), 20th Century Fox also announced that production on the four films is officially underway, with Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang returning to reprise their roles.

While Avatar became the world’s highest-grossing film when it was released in 2009, Cameron originally anticipated its sequels would begin to hit theaters in 2015. However, two sequels ballooned into four, and he noted earlier this year that the series was an “epic undertaking”, and noted that the release dates for the sequels had not been officially released. Disney recently provided its first look at its Pandora: The World of Avatar theme park in Orlando, Florida, which is slated to open at the end of May.

Most habitable planets may be completely covered in water

When you imagine what a rocky, habitable planet looks like, it’s easy to picture an alternate Earth where land and oceans exist in an ideal balance. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily how it will pan out in real life… in fact, you might be surprised if there’s land at all. University of Barcelona researcher Fergus Simpson has published a study suggesting that most planets with any significant amount of water are likely to be completely (or almost completely) submerged in it. He ran computer simulations accounting for numerous factors in a planet (such as the deep water cycle and erosion), and most with substantial water levels had an above-water land mass of less than 10 percent — well below Earth’s 29 percent.

Those planets that had less water tended to have much less, to the point where deserts dominated the landscape. Also, size plays a role. Larger habitable planets (including Earth) are more likely to be water worlds thanks to deeper oceans and stronger gravity, according to the calculations, while smaller ones are drier.

If reasonably accurate, the data points to Earth hitting a rare sweet spot, possibly due to unusually deep water basins. And that makes sense at first glance. Despite what Earth looks like, water only occupies a tiny amount of volume compared to the rest of the planet. It wouldn’t take much more to inundate the land, or much less to make it barren. You can see for yourself in the video below.

There is reason to be skeptical. Astrophysicist Sean Raymond warnsGizmodo that there are still a number of unknowns that may play an important role in water levels, and recent models suggest that water delivery to planets is relatively “reliable” with fewer surges or shortfalls. However, Simpson is quick to add that his theory should be testable soon. Future instruments (likely including the James Webb Space Telescope) will have enough power to measure the atmospheric compositions of alien planets, giving a clue as to how much water there is on the surface. If nothing else, the study is a reminder that we shouldn’t assume a planet is human-friendly just because there’s plenty of H2O.