May 19, 2016

Polio Soon To Be Eradicated and Other Good News

By Chelsea German
 Artificial Spider Silk: the Next Big Robotics Breakthrough?

Spider silk is famous for being incredibly strong and flexible, despite its fineness. Researchers at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France, may have just created an artificial material that mimics these qualities. Like spider silk, the breakthrough material is a hybrid of a liquid, glue, and a solid filament. “It opens appealing prospects in the areas of soft robotics, micro-fabrication, and more generally material science,” according to one of the researchers involved.

Origami Robot Could Save Children’s Lives

Approximately every three hours an American child swallows a battery, and the resulting complications are sometimes lethal. A new origami-inspired robot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may soon come to the rescue. The tiny robot would be swallowed as a pill, and would then unfold, like a piece of origami viewed “in reverse,” once inside the body. Doctors would control the robot using an external magnetic field, guiding it to remove batteries or other swallowed objects from human stomach lining. The robot is completely safe to digest, made from a material found in sausage casing.

Polio on Its Way to Being Officially Eradicated by 2020

According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2014 there were 359 cases of “wild” polio across nine countries. (Please note that scientists distinguish between wild and vaccine-derived polio—in rare cases, the weakened version of the virus found in vaccines can mutate and cause full-blown polio). Just a year later, in 2015, the number of reported new cases fell to 74, across just two countries. That represents a nearly 80 percent reduction. So far in 2016 there have only been 15 reported cases—12 wild; 3 vaccine-derived. If 2017 turns out to be the first year with no new cases of either wild or vaccine-derived polio, then after a required three-year waiting period, polio will be officially declared “eradicated” by 2020.

“No More Dead Dogs”? Man’s Best Friend Tests Anti-Aging Drug

A drug called rapamycin generated a lot of hype when it was shown to delay aging in mice, lengthening their lives by 25 percent on average if they began taking the drug in their youth and by up to 12 percent if they began taking it when older. It has also extended the lives of yeast, flies and worms by about 25 percent. Now the New York Times reports that the drug has moved on to a new testing phase: dogs. Over 1,500 dog owners applied for their pets to be included in the trial. “I wish she could live forever,” said one owner whose dog was chosen. Preliminary results suggest that the drug has similar effects in dogs as it does in mice. Eventually, researchers hope to test the drug in humans.