tech science health medicine diabetes laser magnet glucose exercise electronics

Laser And Magnet Make No Touch Glucose Monitor

by Michael Keller

An international team of researchers report they have successfully analyzed glucose in the bloodstream using an off-angle laser, a magnet and a camera. Their prototype, which also demonstrated a basic ability to detect dehydration, could mean a no-contact smartwatch that constantly monitors diabetics for signs of trouble or offers alerts during exercise to drink water and refuel.

The device applies a magnetic field that triggers something called the Faraday effect in glucose molecules suspended in the blood. This phenomenon causes a detectable change in the polarization of light that is reflected off the molecules. A weak green laser next to the magnet then illuminates a patch of skin on the wrist, and this change in polarization is picked up by a camera. 

Their instrument, which still needs to overcome several technological hurdles, used a similar technique to gauge muscle weakness, a telltale symptom of mild to moderate dehydration. Monitoring the change in strength of the laser’s pulse through the tissue, the device could tell qualitatively whether the wearer was dehydrated.

“Glucose is the holy grail of the world of biomedical diagnostics, and dehydration is a very useful parameter in the field of wellness, which is one of our main commercial aims,” bioengineer Zeev Zalevsky of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University told The Optical Society, which recently published the results of their work.

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Something To Smile About: Laser Replaces Dental Drill

by Peter Gwynne, Inside Science

Many patients regard the dental office as a house of pain – a place to be endured, with literally a stiff upper lip, when they can’t avoid it. But a few dentists have started to soften that image by using a laser rather than the fearsome drill for such procedures as removing tooth decay and filling cavities.

Cleared for dentistry use last year by the Food and Drug Administration and reaching the market in December, the carbon dioxide laser produces rapid pulses of infrared light at a wavelength that the teeth absorb particularly well.

Early adopters have applauded it. “It’s quite remarkable,” said Boston-based dentist Mark Mizner, who has used it to treat 100 to 150 patients by his estimate. “It cuts cleanly, and it cuts decay as easily as it cuts through the healthy tooth. It also cuts soft tissue like nothing I’ve ever used before.”

Added University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry dean John Featherstone, whose research laid the foundations of the laser’s dental capabilities: “It’s a quantum leap forward in terms of dentistry.”

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tech science malaria public_health medical_devices laser magnet medicine diagnostic
Laser And Magnets Make Mobile Malaria Detector

by Marsha Lewis, Inside Science TV

It starts with a mosquito bite and can end in severe sickness and even death. Malaria claims the lives of more than one million people worldwide each year.

Spotting the disease is the first step toward treating it, but the current way to detect malaria is costly, time consuming and not very accurate.

“The people [who] were examining samples for malaria were having such a hard time getting the right answer. They were only right about half the time,” said Brian Grimberg, a biologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

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tech science optics laser lightning building weather empire_state_building detection
Could Lasers Divert Lightning From Buildings?

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by Michael Keller

The standard advice authorities offer when lightning starts crackling across the sky is for people to take shelter inside buildings. Substantial structures offer protection through lightning rods affixed to the roof, electrical wiring and plumbing that can direct the electricity away from occupants and into the ground.

But what is there to protect the buildings themselves from more than 5 billion Joules of energy in a typical lightning strike, which is enough juice to toast 100,000 bread slices? The problem is no small one—the Empire State Building (above) in New York City gets hit by lightning an average of 25 times a year. And Underwriters Laboratories reports that lightning accounts for more than $1 billion in building damage in the U.S. every year. 

Many buildings install lightning protection systems to direct lightning’s energy into the ground, which the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says are highly effective at preventing fires and destructive electrical surges after a strike.

Now researchers say there might be a next-generation protective system that prevents lightning from hitting a building at all. Their secret weapon? High-intensity lasers.

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