Soft robots grow like plants via synthetic material extrusion process

Matthew Hausladen working with a new soft robot technology that could have use as a medical device and in manufacturing. [Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota]

University of Minnesota scientists and engineers have taken a page from plant growth for new soft robot technology that might be able to navigate hard-to-reach places within the human body.

Some forms of soft robots — made of soft, pliable materials versus more traditional rigid materials — create new materials to grow and move, usually applying heat and/or pressure to solid material to grow themselves.

The University of Minnesota’s new extrusion process enables a soft robot to propel itself with newly grown material. It uses liquid resin and ultraviolet light to make and push synthetic material out of itself, the team said. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published their pa…

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Chronic pain researchers say sound and electrical stimulation has treatment potential

Chronic pain might be treatable using a combination of sound and electrical stimulation. [Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota]

University of Minnesota researchers are using sound and electrical stimulation to treat chronic pain and other sensory disorders without pharmaceutical drugs.

The combination of sound and stimulation activates the brain’s somatosensory cortex, according to a study on guinea pigs published in the Journal of Neural Engineering. Also known as the tactile cortex, the somatosensory cortex is the part of the brain responsible for touch and pain sensation.

“Chronic pain is a huge issue for a lot of people, and for most, it’s not sufficiently treatable,” lead author Cory Gloeckner said in a news release. “Right now, one of the ways that we try to treat pain is opioids, and we all know that doesn’t work out well for many people. This, on the other hand, is a no…

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Minnesota researchers awarded $3.7M grant for artificial, bioengineered blood vessel clinical trial

Image courtesy of Tranquillo Group, University of Minnesota.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities recently received a $3.7 million grant to prepare for a human clinical trial of artificial, bioengineered blood vessels.

The new funding is through the U.S. Dept. of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. It will go toward the preparation needed for a human clinical trial of artificial, bioengineered blood vessels that grow with a patient. If the trial is successful, the vessel grafts could be used to prevent repeated surgeries in children with congenital heart defects.

Patients who have heart defects at birth can often grow out of current vessel grafts and need to have larger vessels implanted several times while still growing, according to the researchers.

“This grant is a major step forward and will allow us to do everything that’s necessary …

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Engineers develop AI-based technology to allow amputees to move robotic arms using their mind

[Image courtesy of the Neuroelectronics Lab at the University of Minnesota]

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have developed a robotic arm system that allows amputees to move their arm using brain signals.

The small, implantable device attaches to the peripheral nerve in a person’s arm, according to the research team in the university’s department of biomedical engineering. When combined with an artificial intelligence computer and a robotic arm, the device is able to read and interpret brain signals to allow upper limb amputees to control their arms using thoughts.

“It’s a lot more intuitive than any commercial system out there,” said Jules Anh Tuan Nguyen, a postdoctoral researcher and University of Minnesota college of science and engineering alumnus. “With other commercial prosthetic systems, when amputees want to move a finger, they don’t actually think about moving …

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Deadline nears for gBETA Medtech startup accelerator

The gBETA program for medtech startups is seeking applicants from across the globe on or before March 14 for its spring session.

The seven-week gBETA Medtech virtual accelerator runs April 18 through June 14. gBETA is a program of startup accelerator Gener8tor and the University Enterprise Labs business incubator in St. Paul, Minnesota, with support from Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, Medical Alley Association and founding sponsor Boston Scientific.

Up to five startups will be selected for the medtech program, which covers medical devices, diagnostics, healthcare software, biotechnology, drug discovery and delivery and more. They’ll participate in webinars, regular meetings with the gBETA Medtech team, mentor and investor swarms — like speed dating sessions with founders, investors, serial entrepreneurs, technical professionals, board members and industry experts — and then a demo day and pitch night, followed by ongoing support after the progr…

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Minnesota researchers say they’ve created the first fully 3D-printed OLED display

The University of Minnesota team created a fully 3D-printed flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display prototype that was about 1.5 in. on each side. [Image courtesy of the McAlpine Group, University of Minnesota]

University of Minnesota Twin Cities researchers used a customized printer to fully 3D print a flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display.

The research team members — based at U of M mechanical engineering professor Michael McAlpine’s lab — think their work could result in relatively low-cost OLED displays. The advance could potentially aid the creation of medtech wearables and a host of other devices that rely on digital displays.

OLED display technology converts electricity into light using an organic material layer. They’re popular because they are lightweight, power-efficient, thin and flexible, with a wide viewing angle and high contrast ratio.

“OLED d…

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Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Abbott fund new University of Minnesota Center for Medical Device Cybersecurity

(Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota)

The University of Minnesota and medical device manufacturers have partnered to launch an organization for cybersecurity research, outreach and workforce training.

Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) , Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX), Abbott Laboratories  (NYSE:ABT) , Smiths Medical and UnitedHealth Group’s (NYSE: UNH) Optum contributed financial support as founding partners of the University of Minnesota Center for Medical Device Cybersecurity.

The Center for Medical Device Cybersecurity will be part of the College of Science and Engineering’s Technological Leadership Institute and also collaborate with the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center and the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research. The center will host roundtables, a hackathon, industry networking, training and offer summer internships and a medical device cybersecurity short cours…

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What is a medical ventilator and how does it work?

Image from Ventec Life Systems

The ventilator has come to the fore as a vital piece of equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Put simply, ventilators exist to help patients who can’t breathe, breathe. The novel coronavirus’ attack on the respiratory system brought ventilators into the spotlight, forcing the U.S. to turn to its strategic national stockpile as manufacturers scrambled to scale-up production in short order.

While some of the major manufacturers pump out machines and fulfill recently awarded government contracts, researchers at universities and laboratories have entered the ring with alternative ventilators falling under FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) guidelines. However, while useful in a time of need, the alternative machines that cover mechanical ventilation struggle to scratch the surface of capabilities attributable to the in-demand ICU ventilators.


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It may become easier to disinfect with UV-C LEDs

Transmission of 10-nm-thick freestanding films of SrNbO3 and SrVO3. The shaded region labeled UV indicates the spectral range the researchers used to calculate a figure of merit in transmitting UV.

UV radiation in the 200 to 300-nm range (dubbed the UV-C range) can destroy viruses, including the novel coronavirus. The problem is, doing so requires UV radiation sources putting out sufficiently high doses of UV light.

That typically means using a relatively expensive mercury gas discharge lamp. It’s possible to find sources employing LEDs that put out UV-C, but the light they put out is typically weak, too weak to do much good for disinfection purposes. One reason: Their light emission is complicated by the fact that their electrode material must also be transparent to UV-C.

Get the full story on our WTWH Media sister site Power Electronic Tips.

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