Breakthrough: Mind-controlled hand offers hope for paralyzed

Updated 18 December 2012
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Breakthrough: Mind-controlled hand offers hope for paralyzed

Scientists yesterday announced they had created a robot hand that was the most advanced brain-controlled prosthetic limb ever made.
The mind-powered prosthesis is a breakthrough, the team of neurologists and bio-engineers reported in The Lancet. With further development “individuals with long-term paralysis could recover the natural and intuitive command signals for hand placement, orientation and reaching, allowing them to perform activities of daily living,” they said.
Researchers have long been interested in the brain-machine interface, whereby implants pick up electrical signals in parts of the brain associated with movement. These signals are then transcribed into computer code, which orders the artificial limb to move.
The new work vastly improves the code, or algorithm, by which the first signal is transcribed into the second, the investigators said.
The team implanted two microelectrode arrays into the left motor cortex of a 52-year-old woman. She had been left paralyzed from the neck down, unable to move her arms and legs due to a condition called spinocerebellar degeneration.
Two weeks after the operation, the prosthesis was connected and the woman embarked on 14 weeks of training — but on only the second day, she was able to move the limb through mind power.
The training aimed at achieving skills in nine tasks, such as gripping and moving small objects, stacking cones and bumping a ball so that it rolled outside a loose coil of wire. At the end, the volunteer completed the tasks with a success rate of up to 91.6%, and more than 30 seconds faster than at the start of the trial.


Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

Updated 17 April 2018
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Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

  • Previous research has shown a new blood test has potential to detect eight different kinds of tumors before they spread
  • The research starts in April and will run until September

TOKYO: A Japanese firm is poised to carry out what it hailed as the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples, which would greatly facilitate screening for the deadly disease.
Engineering and IT conglomerate Hitachi developed the basic technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples two years ago.
It will now begin testing the method using some 250 urine samples, to see if samples at room temperature are suitable for analysis, Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira told AFP.
“If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organization for a blood test,” he said.
It is also intended to be used to detect paediatric cancers.
“That will be especially beneficial in testing for small children” who are often afraid of needles, added Odaira.
Research published earlier this year demonstrated that a new blood test has shown promise toward detecting eight different kinds of tumors before they spread elsewhere in the body.
Usual diagnostic methods for breast cancer consist of a mammogram followed by a biopsy if a risk is detected.
For colon cancer, screening is generally conducted via a stool test and a colonoscopy for patients at high risk.
The Hitachi technology centers around detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as a “biomarker” — a naturally occurring substance by which a particular disease can be identified, the company said in a statement.
The procedure aims to improve the early detection of cancer, saving lives and reducing the medical and social cost to the country, Odaira explained.
The experiment will start this month until through September in cooperation with Nagoya University in central Japan.
“We aim to put the technology in use in the 2020s, although this depends on various things such as getting approval from the authorities,” Odaira said.