Vest Helps Keep Balance-Disorder Patients From Wobbling

The touch-based system could reduce falls and improve the quality of life for patients with brain injuries

3 min read
Vest Helps Keep Balance-Disorder Patients From Wobbling

5 April 2010—If you lose your sense of balance to injury or disease, you have to learn how to walk all over again. Rehab is a slow and cumbersome process, conducted on treadmills and parallel bars, and when you go home, you’re still liable to fall. Researchers at UCLA’s Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) are developing a vest that could improve the rehabilitation process while you’re at the clinic and then go home with you afterward. They presented their initial findings at last month’s 2010 Haptics Symposium, in Waltham, Mass.

Their vest measures how the upper body rotates and tilts as a person walks. If the torso wobbles, accelerometers on the shoulders detect those movements. Then a control system inflates various silicone balloons, which are 25 millimeters in diameter on the outer edge. One pair is attached above the rib cage, against the chest; another pair is on the back between the shoulder blades; and two more pairs, one each on the left and right midshoulders, rest over the trapezius muscles. By inflating with various pressures and on different sides of the body, the balloons give the wearer a physical cue that he is listing to port or starboard.

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This CAD Program Can Design New Organisms

Genetic engineers have a powerful new tool to write and edit DNA code

11 min read
A photo showing machinery in a lab

Foundries such as the Edinburgh Genome Foundry assemble fragments of synthetic DNA and send them to labs for testing in cells.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry, University of Edinburgh

In the next decade, medical science may finally advance cures for some of the most complex diseases that plague humanity. Many diseases are caused by mutations in the human genome, which can either be inherited from our parents (such as in cystic fibrosis), or acquired during life, such as most types of cancer. For some of these conditions, medical researchers have identified the exact mutations that lead to disease; but in many more, they're still seeking answers. And without understanding the cause of a problem, it's pretty tough to find a cure.

We believe that a key enabling technology in this quest is a computer-aided design (CAD) program for genome editing, which our organization is launching this week at the Genome Project-write (GP-write) conference.

With this CAD program, medical researchers will be able to quickly design hundreds of different genomes with any combination of mutations and send the genetic code to a company that manufactures strings of DNA. Those fragments of synthesized DNA can then be sent to a foundry for assembly, and finally to a lab where the designed genomes can be tested in cells. Based on how the cells grow, researchers can use the CAD program to iterate with a new batch of redesigned genomes, sharing data for collaborative efforts. Enabling fast redesign of thousands of variants can only be achieved through automation; at that scale, researchers just might identify the combinations of mutations that are causing genetic diseases. This is the first critical R&D step toward finding cures.

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