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Bionic Pancreas

Artificial organ could improve control over diabetes

3 min read

When Pantelis Georgiou and his fellow biomedical engineers at Imperial College London decided to design an intelligent insulin pump for diabetes patients, they started at the source. "We asked ourselves, what does a pancreas do to control blood glucose?" Georgiou recalls.

The answer is pretty well known: The organ relies primarily on two populations of cells—beta cells, to secrete insulin when blood glucose is high, and alpha cells, which release a hormone called glucagon when glucose levels are low. "We simulated them both in microchip form," Georgiou says. This biomimetic approach diverges from today's dominant method of delivering only insulin using a relatively simple control system.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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