Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology


A New Font, Sans Forgetica, Helps You Remember What You Read

WIRED

Remember all those classics you devoured in comp-lit class? Research shows that we retain an embarrassingly small sliver of what we read. In an effort to help college students boost that percentage, a team made up of a designer, a psychologist, and a behavioral economist at Australia's RMIT University recently introduced a new typeface, Sans Forgetica, that uses clever tricks to lodge information in your brain. The font-makers drew on the psychological theory of "desirable difficulty"--that is, we learn better when we actively overcome an obstruction. Sans Forgetica is purposefully hard to decipher, forcing the reader to focus.


Crispr Babies, IVF, and the Ethics of Genetic Class Warfare

WIRED

Last month, Chinese national He Jiankui flouted a vigorous scientific debate when he told a room full of scientists that he had manipulated the embryos of Chinese twins, using Crispr to make one resistant to their father's HIV. He revealed to the group that the twins of the experiment had already been born. The big reveal was ethically dubious at best. He never went through proper channels to get his experiment approved. The scientist is being condemned by his contemporaries for ignoring universally respected protocol and forgoing peer research.


Medication Assisted Treatment Virtual Reality: MATVR.

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The Future Of Opioid Addiction Treatment Medication Assisted Treatment Virtual Reality will be a part of the future of addiction treatment. In fact, it is already, in the form of telemedicine, in use today. Patients are getting medical help to recover from opiate and opioid addiction without having to leave their homes. MATVR will someday advance opioid therapy to the point that remote treatment may be superior to regular in-office visits. What must we do to make MATVR a reality?


Neuron-specific signatures in the chromosomal connectome associated with schizophrenia risk

Science

Chromosomal conformations, topologically associated chromatin domains (TADs) assembling in nested fashion across hundreds of kilobases, and other "three-dimensional genome" (3DG) structures bypass the linear genome on a kilo- or megabase scale and play an important role in transcriptional regulation. Most of the genetic variants associated with risk for schizophrenia (SZ) are common and could be located in enhancers, repressors, and other regulatory elements that influence gene expression; however, the role of the brain's 3DG for SZ genetic risk architecture, including developmental and cell type–specific regulation, remains poorly understood. We monitored changes in 3DG after isogenic differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cell–derived neural progenitor cells (NPCs) into neurons or astrocyte-like glial cells on a genome-wide scale using Hi-C. With this in vitro model of brain development, we mapped cell type–specific chromosomal conformations associated with SZ risk loci and defined a risk-associated expanded genome space. Neural differentiation was associated with genome-wide 3DG remodeling, including pruning and de novo formations of chromosomal loopings. The NPC-to-neuron transition was defined by the pruning of loops involving regulators of cell proliferation, morphogenesis, and neurogenesis, which is consistent with a departure from a precursor stage toward postmitotic neuronal identity. Loops lost during NPC-to-glia transition included many genes associated with neuron-specific functions, which is consistent with non-neuronal lineage commitment. However, neurons together with NPCs, as compared with glia, harbored a much larger number of chromosomal interactions anchored in common variant sequences associated with SZ risk. Because spatial 3DG proximity of genes is an indicator for potential coregulation, we tested whether the neural cell type–specific SZ-related "chromosomal connectome" showed evidence of coordinated transcriptional regulation and proteomic interaction of the participating genes. To this end, we generated lists of genes anchored in cell type–specific SZ risk-associated interactions. Thus, for the NPC-specific interactions, we counted 386 genes, including 146 within the risk loci and another 240 genes positioned elsewhere in the linear genome but connected via intrachromosomal contacts to risk locus sequences.


Human brain samples yield a genomic trove

Science

More than 2000 human brains stored in tissue banks are giving up their genetic secrets. Genome scans have already revealed hundreds of locations where DNA tends to differ between people with and without a particular psychiatric disease. But those studies don't pin down specific culprit genes or what they do in the brain. "There was kind of a missing link," says Daniel Geschwind, a neurogeneticist at the University of California (UC), Los Angeles. He and others in the 3-year-old PsychENCODE Consortium, fueled by roughly $50 million from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, have tried to bridge that gap by tracking which genes are expressed, and where.


Team invents method to shrink objects to the nanoscale

MIT News

MIT researchers have invented a way to fabricate nanoscale 3-D objects of nearly any shape. "It's a way of putting nearly any kind of material into a 3-D pattern with nanoscale precision," says Edward Boyden, the Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology and an associate professor of biological engineering and of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. Using the new technique, the researchers can create any shape and structure they want by patterning a polymer scaffold with a laser. After attaching other useful materials to the scaffold, they shrink it, generating structures one thousandth the volume of the original. These tiny structures could have applications in many fields, from optics to medicine to robotics, the researchers say.


Artificial Intelligence Technology Has Improved Healthcare

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Computer controlled robots, otherwise known as Intelligent Machine Systems and powered by Artificial Intelligence technology, are built to process thoughts and perform tasks much like humans, but potentially quicker and better. They can even reason and learn from past experiences, and some scientists estimate that in the future these machines could replace certain functions that human beings currently do (i.e. The legendary Stephen Hawking once said, "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, can't compete with AI-aided machines and will be superseded." Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have both publicly shared similar opinions. With that, Artificial intelligence technology is still evolving and the chances of it taking over our jobs in the near future is low.


What To Know About How Artificial Intelligence Is Shaping Healthcare

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There isn't any question that artificial intelligence is a transformative technology that will continue to completely change the way every human being operates in the modern world. One of the major industries where artificial intelligence has influence in healthcare. You can debate on how and where you want your healthcare delivered, but artificial intelligence will make healthcare much more efficient and accessible for us all. In fact, artificial intelligence may be able to find congenital heart defects in children before they are born. Just think of all the lives that can be saved using this exact technology.


Scientists Begin Work on Reverse-Engineering the Brain

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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have a new project: Reverse-engineer the brain. Ultimately, their goal is to "make computers think more like humans." Now, their five-year research effort has been funded by the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) for $12 million. The research effort, through IARPA's Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) research program, is part of the U.S. BRAIN Initiative to revolutionize the understanding of the human brain. It's being led by Tai Sing Lee, a professor in the Computer Science Department and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC).


Blending medicine and mechanical engineering

MIT News

Ellen Roche is used to bridging two worlds. Originally from Galway, she has spent the past 14 years moving back and forth between the United States and her native Ireland. She has also spent time in both industry and academia. As an assistant professor at MIT, she holds a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. Then there is Roche's work, which lies at the intersection of biomedicine and mechanical engineering.