'Smart skin' mimics the sense of touch
A team of scientists from the United States and China may have taken a big step forward in mimicking the sense of touch. They’ve created a “smart skin” that can sense pressure in the same range as a human fingertip.
The “skin” uses bundles of vertical zinc oxide nanowires, consisting of about 8,000 touch-sensitive transistors. Each of the transistors can independently produce an electrical signal when placed under pressure, comparable to the human sense of touch.
According to the researchers, this is a fundamentally new technology that could be used in a broad range of areas, including the development of artificial skin capable of “feeling” activity on the surface and the ability to provide robots with a more adaptive sense of touch.
Coffee may prevent breast cancer recurrence
A new study from Lund University in Sweden has found that drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence among patients taking the hormone therapy, Tamoxifen, which is often given to women after breast cancer surgery. Scientists suspect that coffee may “activate” Tamoxifen and makes it more efficient.
This study followed over 600 breast cancer patients from southern Sweden for a period of five years, approximately 300 of whom took the widely-prescribed drug Tamoxifen. The medication is known to reduce the risk of new tumors by blocking estrogen receptors. In this case, patients who took the pills and drank two or more cups of coffee a day reported less than half the rate of cancer recurrence than those who took the pill and had one cup or fewer daily.
Researchers have previously linked coffee consumption to decreased risk of developing certain types of breast cancer, while caffeine has also been demonstrated to hamper the growth of cancer cells.
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Brain implant could help fight obesity
Not surprisingly, scientists trying the curb the obesity epidemic are focusing on the brain. After all, it’s what triggers your hunger and can be what controls the urge to overeat. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine are taking a new approach—they’ve found that a stimulation device implanted in the brains of mice can reduce their binge eating.
The study involves implanting the device that sends targeted electrical impulses to different parts of the brain. The researchers fired the electrical stimuli into the nuclear accumbens, a small part of the brain linked to addictive behaviors, including binge eating. It’s part of the brain’s reward system, which could explain a person’s drive to overeat.
The stimulation was used to activate the dopamine type-2 receptor in this part of the brain. Binge eating and obesity-related behavior have been linked to deficits in dopamine.
If the studies on the brain implant continue to progress, this could eventually be seen as an alternative to bariatric surgery, as it carries a much lower risk of complications.