Urban planning researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus found more than 1,500 pedestrians using mobile phones were treated in emergency rooms in 2010, with the number of inuries rising sharply since 2004. Jack Nasar, a professor in Ohio State’s architecture school, and former graduate student Derek Troyer published their findings in the August 2013 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention (paid subscription required).
Nasar and Troyer reviewed data for their analysis from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That system samples hospitals in the U.S. and collects data on emergency room visits related to various consumer products. From the sample, researchers can estimate total numbers of injuries requiring treatment in a hospital, related to specific products.
The authors took data from 2004 to 2010, looking specifically at injuries related to cell phone use by pedestrians in public areas, which excludes injuries received while at home. The results show the number of injuries by pedestrian mobile phone users rose from 559 in 2004 to 1,506 in 2010. In comparison, emergency room visits by pedestrians for any reason dropped during that some period, from about 97,000 in 2004 to 41,000 in 2010.
Nasar and Troyer found the increase in emergency room visits for pedestrians using cell phones parallels the rise in phone-related injuries for drivers. Some seven in 10 (69%) of the cases reported involved talking on the phones while one in 10 (9%) cases were texting. Nasar believes texting isn’t any safer than talking, just fewer people text than talk when walking.
Younger pedestrians were more likely to be hurt when using a mobile phone, with more than 1,000 emergency room visits during the study period for people age 21 to 25, and nearly as many (985) for people age 16 to 20. Injured pedestrians using mobile phones were also more likely to be male than female.
The number of injuries reported in the emergency room statistics, Nasar notes, likely undercount the total number of pedestrian injuries received while using a mobile phone. The data for their study, says Nasar, exclude people who treat their own injuries or visit storefront urgent care centers rather than emergency rooms. Uninsured pedestrians suffering injuries while using their phones are also less likely to get treatment.
Nasar believes changing norms of behavior for pedestrians to be more careful when using their mobile phones begins with parents. “Parents already teach their children to look both ways when crossing the street,” says Nasar. “They should also teach them to put away their cell phone when walking, particularly when crossing a street.”
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<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ktoine/4645303109/” title=”Tracksuit Style by Ktoine, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4003/4645303109_b8e1b68fd2_m.jpg” width=”219″ height=”240″ alt=”Tracksuit Style”></a>
(James. J. Caras, National Science Foundation)
The biotechnology company bluebird bio in Cambridge, Massachusetts developing therapies for genetic disorders raised $101 million through its initial public offering (IPO) of 5.9 million shares priced at $17.00 a share. The company’s stock, trading on the NASDAQ under the code BLUE was priced at $26.00 a share at 11:00 am ET today.
bluebird bio develops treatments for severe genetic and rare diseases with a technology based in part on the work of co-founder Philippe Leboulch, a researcher and lecturer at Paris University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, MIT, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Leboulch serves as a scientific advisor to bluebird bio. The company’s technology takes a patient’s own hematopoietic (bone marrow) stem cells and cultures them outside the body to create healthy replacement genes for the mutated stem cells causing the disease.
The lead product for bluebird bio is Lenti-D, a one-time treatment to stabilize and stop the progression of childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare inherited disorder that results in the breakdown of the myelin sheath protecting nerve cells in the brain. The disease affects mainly males and causes the loss of motor coordination, visual and hearing disturbances, reduced cognitive function dementia, seizures, and adrenal dysfunction. The only current treatment for the disease — which was the subject in the 1992 feature film Lorenzo’s Oil — is a transplant of healthy hematopoietic stem cells from siblings or non-sibling donors, but non-siblings with acceptable stem cells are available for less than 30 percent of patients.
Lenti-D received an orphan drug designation from the FDA and European Medicines Agency. The therapy has undergone early stage (phase 1 and 2) clinical tests and the company is preparing intermediate and later stage clinical trials for later this year.
Another product under development is LentiGlobin to treat beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Beta-thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that results from an abnormal beta-globin gene causing reduced beta chains of hemoglobin leading to defective red blood cells. Sickle cell disease is also an inherited blood disease caused by a mutated beta-globin gene, resulting in abnormal red blood cell function and chronic anemia.
LentiGlobin therapy inserts functioning human beta-globin genes into the patient’s own hematopoietic stem cells. Early proof-of-concept tests in 2010 on a single patient in France showed positive results. bluebird bio plans to expand that study and start an early-stage clinical trial in the U.S. in 2013.
The company is collaborating with Celgene Corporation to develop gene therapies to treat cancer, taking a patient’s blood and extracting immune-system T-cells. Those T-cells are then genetically modified and reintroduced into the patient to recognize and attack cancer cells. bluebird will be responsible for development of the technology through early-stage clincial trials, with Celgene having the option to license products from the collaboration. Celgene and bluebird bio also plan to collaborate with Baylor College of Medicine to evaluate the technology with blood-related and solid tumor cancers.
Hat tip: Fortune/Term Sheet
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Researchers from pharmaceutical companies and academic labs are partnering on finding therapies for eight types of diseases from drugs tested to treat other disorders. The $12.7 million pilot program, led by National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of National Institutes of Health, funds nine separate projects combining industry and university scientists for up to three years.
A key objective of the program, called Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules, is reduce the long period of time now needed to develop new treatments, that can take as long as 13 years from discovery of a new drug target to final regulatory approval. The program also aims to mine the collection of compounds that may have been found safe to use, but not shown to be effective against their initial targets.
Last year, NCATS recruited eight pharmaceutical companies to take part in the initiative, who offered existing compounds and biologics from their portfolios, particularly those that are safety tested and approved to treat specific diseases, as candidates to test for further applications. In a crowd-sourcing exercise, NCATS then asked academic scientists to propose new ways of using these drugs, with the new nine collaborations resulting from those proposals.
The diseases addressed in this initiative are alcohol dependence, Alzheimer’s disease, calcific aortic valve stenosis — hardening of the heart valve that makes it difficult to pump blood out of the heart — nicotine dependence, peripheral artery disease, schizophrenia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and lymphangioleiomyomatosis, a progressive lung disease. Duchenne muscular dystrophy and lymphangioleiomyomatosis are considered rare diseases.
The nine projects in the pilot program include researchers from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Sanofi, Janssen Research & Development — a division of Johson & Johnson — and AbbVie, a spin-off company from Abbot Laboratories. They and their academic partners will conduct pre-clinical validation and safety tests as required, followed by clinical feasibility or proof-of-concept studies that show potential effectiveness.
Universities and research institutes taking part are Indiana University in Indianapolis, Yale University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rhode Island, Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, University of Washington, University of Virginia, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Yale University scientists are taking part in studies in two types of disease — schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from National Institute of Drug Abuse are also participating in the research on alcoholism.
An additional feature to be tested in the pilot projects are new procedures to streamline the often time-consuming process of setting up industry-university collaborations. These template agreements, as NCATS calls them, have a standard format for memorandums of understanding between the companies and institutes, as well as a catalog of the companies’ confidential disclosure statements and standard collaborative research agreements.
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Nacre from the interior of an abalone shell (Mauro Cateb, Wikimedia Commons)
Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and the 3-D printing company Stratasys Ltd. in Billerica, Massachusetts developed a process that translates complex computer-designed models into bone and related organic composite materials with 3-D printing. The team led by MIT engineering professor Markus Buehler published its findings online yesterday in the journal Advanced Functional Materials (paid subscription required).
Bone is composed of materials that make it both rigid and flexible, to provide strength and resiliency to the human skeleton. These properties in bone are a result of the combination of stiffness in the calcium-based material hydroxyapatite, combined with the flexibility of the fibrous protein collagen. The same materials make up nacre, the material in the interior of abalone shells, also known as mother-of-pearl (pictured left).
The configuration of these materials in nature, however, use complex and hierarchical designs to optimize their properties. In bone, for example, the design helps absorb stress and avoid fracture by dissipating the force over a larger area, rather than concentrating the energy in a single spot. Buehler and colleagues used computer models to design three configurations of stiff and flexible polymers to exhibit these properties:
- A brick-and-mortar pattern modeled on natural bone and nacre
- A design patterned after the mineral calcite, with stiff material in cells enclosed in soft, flexible polymers
- A diamond pattern, resembling the design of snake skin, confingured to improve on the ability of natural bone to spread the force of a sharp blow over a larger area
A continuing challenge in biomaterials design is translating those designs into actual samples, given the difficulty of emulating in the lab the natural electrochemical reactions in the self-assembly process. In their paper, Buehler’s team says they adapted 3-D printing to overcome this obstacle, simultaneously printing two polymers at once to produce five by seven inch samples, one-eighth of an inch thick, of each of the three designs.
Tests of the samples showed the synthetic composite materials perform as predicted by the computer models, including one sample 22 times more fracture-resistant than the strongest original materials in the composite. Buehler notes that the process of designing and producing materials to meet performance specifications is as important or even more important than the new materials themselves.
The implications of a design and production process to develop new materials that perform as needed goes beyond biological applications. Buehler believes the lab process reported in the paper can be scaled up for many other kinds of materials made of two or more ingredients, and configured to exhibit desired properties. On a large scale, says Buehler, the concept can be extended even to entire buidlings, built by printing materials incorporating functions such as plumbing, electrical circuits, and energy harvesting.
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We’ll be traveling for a few days and not able to post stories on Science Business. Regular posting of science news for business people and business news for scientists will resume on Tuesday 18 June.
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Toshiba America Medical Systems in California is partnering with USRowing, the governing body for competitive rowing in the U.S., and medical centers in Ohio and Mississippi to help determine if sudden cardiac death can be prevented with a heart screening. The Athlete Heart Research Study will initially screen high-school age rowers taking part in USRowing’s national youth championships, 7-9 June in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Sudden cardiac death is a condition where the heart ceases to function, usually due to a failure in the heart’s electrical system, resulting in death within minutes. While considered a rare disorder overall, high school athletes are believed to be 2 to 3 times at greater risk than the population as a whole. Santosh Menon, a cardiologist with The Christ Hospital Health Network in Cincinnati, one of the health care providers taking part in the study, says current recommendations call for a physical exam by a physician, which may miss a majority of the underlying and undetected heart conditions.
The study is focusing first on scholastic rowers since these athletes typically participate in only one sport per year, and are about the same size and fitness level. Rowing also involves a high degree of aerobic and resistance training.
Toshiba America Medical Systems is providing its Aplio 500 ultrasound systems for the study to provide echocardiogram screenings. The system says Toshiba, offers highly detailed visualization and quantitative measurements of the functioning of the heart wall.
The study will first screen volunteer participants in USRowing’s Youth Nationals Race. Participants in the study will receive electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram screenings. All screenings will be registered for follow-up comparisons of athletic versus pathological hearts, for up to three years. The study is expected to be the largest registry of high school rowers in the country and will help indicate changes considered normal for athletic hearts, compared to real heart problems, which may be the cause of sudden cardiac death.
The other medical centers taking part in the study are the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
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GE90-115B engine (ge.ecomagination.com)
General Electric Company is holding two challenges that seek ideas and solutions from the science and engineering communities on three-dimensional printing applied to manufacturing. The company unveiled the competitions yesterday at the 2013 RAPID conference on additive manufacturing — a generic name for industrial 3-D printing — in Pittsburgh. Both challenges have an initial deadline of 26 July.
The 3-D Printing Production Quest challenge asks contestants to offer ideas for applying 3-D printing to produce complex parts with a high degree of precision, the type of items often found in medical imaging and other industries with demanding specifications. GE envisions the parts being made using high-density and refractory metals highly resistant to heat and wear, and having wall thicknesses down to 150 microns, with tolerances +/- 15 microns.
The specifications include consistent and parallel walls, with little or no warping, as well as positioned 1 millimeter apart, with tolerances of +/- 25 microns. The proposed parts must also be able to withstand conditions that exert acceleration forces as high as 80g.
The competition is being conducted by the online engineering community Nine Sights in two phases: capabilities and prototypes. The capabilities phase will select 10 finalists, with each finalist receiving $5,000 in prize money and support for producing the prototype in phase 2, according to supplied CADs, specifications, and fabrication materials. The deadline for capabilities phase submissions is 26 July.
Each of the 10 finalists, announced in October 2013, will compete for one of three $50,000 prizes, based on their submitted prototypes. Entries, prepared by January 2014, will be evaluated for geometric precision, as well as overall mass and volume. Winners, announced in March 2014, will also have an opportunity to collaborate further with GE.
The 3-D Printing Design Quest seeks additive manufacturing solutions for a specific part: the brackets used to load and unload jet engines on aircraft. While the brackets need to support the wieight of the engine during loading and unloading operations, they stay with the engine, even when mounted including in flight.
GE is seeking a solution using 3-D printing to meet the specific handling needs of the jet engine brackets. The company says today’s brackets, made with conventional technologies, are designed for compatibility with a number of different parts, and thus are not optimized for weight or performance. With additive manufacturing, GE hopes to design and produce lighter-weight parts that do not sacrifice performance.
The Design Quest challenge is being conducted by the engineering design community GrabCAD, and like the Production Quest challenge, has two phases: design and test. In the design phase, competitors will submit CAD design files by 26 July that propose parts fitting in the original part envelope requirements. The specifications cover materials, service temperature, minimum wall thickness, engine weight, interfaces, load conditions, and yield strength.
The top 10 entries in the design phase will each win $1,000, and have their designs 3-D printed and tested in the second phase of the challenge that runs from August to November 2013. The top eight entries that meet the test criteria with the lowest mass will divide a prize pool of $20,000, with individual prizes ranging from $7,000 to $1,000.
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Hepatocytes derived from stem cells (Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh)
Medical researchers at University of Edinburgh in Scotland created a process for inducing pluripotent stem cells to transform into liver cells with the same consistency and quality needed to test drugs for toxicity. A spin-off company from the university has also formed to take the research to market. The team led by Edinburgh’s David Hay published its findings online today in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine (paid subscription required).
Cells from human livers, known as hepatocytes, are used to test for drug toxicity, because of the liver’s key role in metabolizing compounds, with cultured heptocytes from liver tissue increasingly used for testing in the pharmaceutical industry. Cells derived from human liver tissue, however, are in short supply and often of varying quality because of different donors, which makes them an unreliable source for high-volume testing in commercial labs.
Hay’s team, which included colleagues from the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb in New Jersey, induced pluripotent stem cells — adult stem cells that can be genetically reprogrammed into an embryonic state — to transform into hepatocytes. The team discovered its process generated liver cells that remained stable in the lab for more than two weeks.
The researchers evaluated these stem cell-induced hepatocytes as test media for specific toxic compounds, and found the cells equal in sensitivity to these compounds as assays made with human liver cells found in today’s labs. The uniformity and consistency of the cells, would thus make them a reliable and predictable test culture for drug toxicity. Hay believes this method can also generate stem cells with different DNA, to reflect genetic variations in the way human livers metabolize compounds, and provide a way of predicting varying responses to certain drugs.
Hay is one of four founders of FibromEd Ltd., a biotechnology company spun-off from University of Edinburgh in 2011, developing hepatocytes and other human liver models. It’s first product is Hepatoinform, a stem-cell derived system for generating hepatocytes for human metabolite and toxicity screening.
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Patient enters a PET scanner (National Institute of Mental Health)
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston developed a technique to track moving images in 3-D with positron emission tomography (PET) scans combined with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The team led by Mass General researchers Chuan Huang presents its findings at this week’s annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging in Vancouver, Canada.
The methods developed by Huang and colleagues apply to combined PET/MRI scans where movements by the patient often create blurs or ghosts that impair the usefulness of the images. The combination of PET and MRI scans offer advantages of both techniques, providing the 3-D images of processes in PET scans with the soft-tissue detail of MRIs. PET/MRI scans lack, however, a technique for stabilizing the images in case of movements, which for example can happen in brain scans that can take an hour or more.
Huang’s team added radiofrequency (RF) solenoids, small metal coils placed on the patient that track movements during the scan. The coils, smaller than a dime and a few millimeters in diameter, are fixed on a structure placed on the patient, and emit a radio signal tracked during the scan. The signals, combined with the PET/MRI scans offer a 3-D field of motion that’s incorporated into the reconstructed image for clinicians. Huang says the approach is similar to capturing light rays from the moving object, then configuring it back to its original position.
In the conference paper, Huang and colleagues report on lab tests of the technology with phantom subjects, using a ventilator system to simulate motion. The RF coil was placed on the subject, and combined PET/MRI scans taken. The results showed a sharp reduction in blurs and ghosts caused by the subject’s movements compared to standard scans.
The researchers believe the new technique offers benefits for medical imaging compared to current clinical techniques that use a series of stills from the scan, which are then assembled to capture movement. While the method can show progression, it can also lose detail in the process occuring between the still images.
The technique still needs to be tested with real human patients. The engineers on the team are also developing wireless micro-coils to use with the technique, which they say are more patient friendly, easier to set up, and less expensive to manufacture.
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William Cohn (Texas Heart Institute)
TVA Medical Inc., a developer of devices in Austin, Texas to treat end-stage renal disease, secured $9.5 million in series B venture funds, the second round of financing after initial start-up. Austin-based S3 Ventures, an early-stage venture capital company, led the round with TriStar Technology Ventures and existing investor Santé Ventures.
End-stage renal disease occurs when the kidneys fail to to work properly and need help through dialysis treatments or are replaced with a kidney transplant. Most cases of end-stage renal disease result from high blood pressure or diabetes, or can progress from chronic kidney disease, where the kdneys are damaged but continue functioning. Statistics published by the United States Renal Data System indicate more than 594,000 end-stage renal disease patients received dialysis treatments or transplants in 2010.
TVA Medical’s lead product is a catheter system for creating an arteriovenous fistula, a structure that joins an artery to a vein, needed to improve the flow of blood during dialysis. Current methods require a surgical procedure to create an arteriovenous fistula, which adds risk and potential complications to the patient. The company says its catheter-based system is minimally invasive and can create an arteriovenous fistula without surgery, reducing risk to the patient and cost to the health care provider.
TVA Medical is a five year-old company founded by William Cohn, a cardiovascular surgeon and the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgical Technology at Texas Heart Institute in Houston. He also holds professorships in surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and bioengineering at University of Houston. Cohn holds 40 patents and is a serial entrepreneur, founding or co-founding several other medical device enterprises.
The company says the proceeds from the round will be devoted to continuing clinical studies of the catheter system, which are being conducted outside the U.S. Future approval by the FDA in the U.S. is also expected.
Hat tip: Fortune/Term Sheet
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