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Notebook Technology

Remembering again?

(Frank Gunn The Canadian Press/AP)

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St. Pauli’s Community of Interest

Technology

Remembering again?

Researchers tout a potential breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatment

Ultrasound imaging technology has revolutionized prenatal medicine and has been a valuable tool in the fight for those at the earliest stages of life. Now, ultrasound technology may help those at the end of life struggling with the ravages of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia are claiming an effective, new, and noninvasive potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease using a form of ultrasound therapy.

The development and progression of Alzheimer’s is associated with the accumulation of a toxic protein—Amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide—in the brain. Current lines of research into removing this toxic substance involve invasive pharmaceutical interventions and are far from completely effective.

The University of Queensland researchers, on the other hand, using multiple iterations of scanning ultrasound, claim to have restored memory function in the brain of a mouse that had the Aβ plaque deposited on its brain and had displayed Alzheimer’s symptoms. The high-frequency ultrasound waves activate microglial cells (a main form of immune defense for the central nervous system) which then consume the Aβ plaques.

“This treatment restored memory function to the same level of normal healthy mice,” professor Jürgen Götz, founding director and researcher at the University of Queensland’s Brain Institute told the UQ News. “We’re also working on seeing whether this method clears toxic protein aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases other than Alzheimer’s and whether this also restores executive functions, including decision-making and motor control.”

The researchers plan to scale up the treatment therapy to larger animals with more complex brains, such as sheep, before beginning human trials which are expected to be at least two years away. “The word ‘breakthrough’ is often misused,” said professor Götz, “but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.”

Drone control

Commercial drone technology has matured to the point that companies such as Amazon, Google, and Alibaba are itching to launch their drone package delivery systems. What’s been holding them back are FAA regulations that require any unmanned aircraft to fly within sight of the operator.

But a new prototype drone tracking system under development by aerospace company Exelis and NASA may ease the safety fears that prompted the guidelines for commercial drone flight unveiled in February.

Exelis, which already provides the FAA with a data feed to track manned aircraft using 650 ground stations, says the new system would integrate this data with that of drones flying at lower altitudes—below 500 feet.

NASA will further develop the Exelis tracking system, integrating factors such as weather, terrain, collision avoidance, and “geofencing,” to protect restricted airspace, such as that above airports or government buildings. —M.C.

Return to sender

Public urination is a problem in most major cities of the world, but now one town is using technology to “pee back” the perpetrators, so to speak.

Authorities in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg, Germany, had the walls in this well-known red light district sprayed with a super-hydrophobic nano-coating which is so water repellent that, as tech website gizmag.com reports, “urinating on a treated surface becomes a shoe-wetting, trouser-soaking exercise.” —M.C.