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.
This week on Txchnologist, we looked at innovation offering perspectives from the cosmic scale all the way down to strands of DNA. First, NASA unveiled a 360-degree view of the Milky Way, the galaxy we call home. The interactive 20-gigapixel map is the result of 10 years of telescope imaging and work.
Next, looked at an interesting entrant into the ranks of digital currencies—this one looking to stoke investmentment in solar energy production. The project, inspired by BitCoin, pays one SolarCoin for every megawatt-hour of electricity your solar panels produce.
Researchers in Germany have created a material that is less dense than water and stronger than steel. The polymer and alumina structure was inspired by wood, bone and honeycombs.
A breakthrough in cancer research could be around the corner thanks to more than 239,000 computers from around the world that are working together. The virtual supercomputer has uncovered the folding steps that activate a protein key to disease progression. Meanwhile, researchers are working on stimulating parts of the brain with electricity to boost learning and brain activity.
Scientists have sequenced Loblolly Pine DNA, making it the largest genome decoded and analyzed to date. A research team from 12 institutions banded together and used cutting-edge techniques to read and assemble the DNA code.
Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.
In 2010, Ethel Cesarman, a pathologist at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medical Center, was working with scientists running clinical trials on Kaposi sarcoma (KS), a cancer of the connective tissue characterized by bluish-red or purple bumps on the skin.
In the Western world, KS affects mostly older men of Mediterranean heritage. In Africa, though, it’s common in young adults and children, and has a high mortality rate in people under 40. It also often occurs as a side effect of AIDS. “In Africa it’s a big problem,” says Cesarman, who had been a part of the team that in the mid-1990s discovered that KS, originally identified by dermatologist Moritz Kaposi over a century ago, is caused by a human herpesvirus. “For some reason, KS is endemic in Africa.”
With early diagnosis and treatment, the cancer’s progress can be significantly slowed. The technique used to detect viruses responsible for the cancer in biopsy samples employs a thermal process called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which is expensive and requires complex equipment.
But in Africa, medical centers don’t have the necessary machinery to diagnose the disease. So Cesarman decided the test was due for a redesign, and sought help from cornelluniversity engineers to create something cheap and easy to use. “I realized it’s very hard to diagnose KS in Africa because they don’t have the right tools and resources,” Cesarman recalls. “So I contacted Dr. Erickson, who had all sorts of fascinating new technologies in his lab.”