Cyber-tissue successfully grown

This comes compliments of , a website I highly recommend. And people say the technology in my latest series of books (Code X by Harlequin Romantic Suspense) is implausible. Hah! I'm not even writing about what's really out there on the leading edge of medical research! Genetic engineering is kid stuff compared to this...

Cyborg tissue grown at Harvard.
What's a cyborg? A cybernetic organism, a blending of animal and machine. That's just what researchers at Harvard University have done: they've grown living tissue around an electronic structure.

Fear not; it's not going to jump up and attack us. What they did was to create a conventional collagen lattice of the type that we usually use to grow living tissue and replacement organs, but before seeding it with rat heart cells, they wove nanoscale wires and transistors through the lattice, creating a sensor network. Once the tissue grew into a functioning, beating heart, they were able to read data from it, such as the heart rate.

As a second step, they also grew a tiny half-inch section of human blood vessel in the same manner, creating an "active" blood vessel that's able to sense things like inflammation.

Applications are not clear, but the obvious direction is healthcare. A possible application is the growth and testing of experimental replacement organs without having to use human testing.

Drones in your Neighborhood?

This article shows where every drone launch site in the U.S. is and who's operating it. Some real surprises in the list. I sense a 'Big Brother is Watching You' plot coming on... 

Woman Assassin charged with 20 murders

This article is about a Mexican woman who lead a contract killing gang accused of at least 20 murders. Couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Of note are the other women pictured with her as members of her gang. Girl power gone terribly wrong...oh, man, I've got to do a gang of anti-Medusa, bad girl villains! I've been toying with the idea for a couple of years, but I can see it now!

May 6, 2012, taken from Huff Post on AOL...

WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, The Associated Press has learned.
The plot involved an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger's underwear, but this time al-Qaida developed a more refined detonation system, U.S. officials said.
The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it.
The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought his plane tickets when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It's not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.

....oh, man, I smell a book...what happened to the bomber? Who was he? Who did he REALLY work for? Yes, I'm totally a conspiracy theorist at heart. How else would I cook up crazy plot after crazy plot? <cue the maniacal laughter>

villain motivation

So here's an article about an ex-Marine sniper who went on a killing spree and was found on autopsy to have a brain tumor in the region of the brain that affects strong and negative emotions. Tragic in real life, great motivation for a bad guy to become a bad guy...

"Silence Gun" makes it impossible for target to talk

How cool is this? In brief, your target is recorded speaking and then on a .2 second delay, the target's words are played back to them. It so confuses the human brain that the target is rendered unable to dreate coherent speech. I have NO idea how I'll use it in a book, but I have faith I will!

North Korea forges U.S. money that's...real U.S. money

How cool is this? North Korea has the same printing presses, same paper supplier, same ink supplier, and same caliber of plate engravers that we do. They can literally print U.S. dollars that only the best government analysts can tell from the real stuff. And guess what? North Korea is printing $50's and $100's like candy.

Dollar warfare. Economic, I SO see a book in this one...;_ylt=AtNbkaeeyiFZMWDZQ5lCjaes0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNsOGhxZm5qBG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBGUARwa2cDMmI5ZDJlYTEtZWIyZS0zMjZlLTgyNzEtNWNiMTlkYTkxN2MxBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyA2UxNGQ1MWYwLTVlZTgtMTFlMS1hZGVlLTFmMGQ1ZTUzZTgwYw--;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

Nanomedicine Among Us

I've been reading about this stuff for a couple of years...ever since a close relative fought off cancer, and I had a vested interest in knowing what the options were if traditional medicine failed. It's from this stuff that my latest series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense was born. I can't help but read these sorts of articles and ask myself, how would the military use this technology?

The obvious answer was to enhance the capabilities of its soldiers.

Of course, the obvious deal breaker is the current controversy over certain types of medical research. Which brought me to the notion of a private company doing the research with the tacit approval of the Department of Defense. And voila, Code X was born.

Sorry for posting the whole article. It came to me in an e-mail without a link. Here's hoping a bunch of this stuff gets to patients sooner rather than later!

Feb 23, 2012

-- The Technology Investor

Today's Edition
The Promise of Nanomedicine
Bits & Bytes
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The Promise of Nanomedicine

By Chris Wood, Senior Analyst
Back in December of 1959, Richard Feynman gave his now-famous lecture titled There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, during which he essentially anticipated what we now call nanotechnology. Feynman never mentioned the word "nanotechnology" in his talk, and it wasn't until the 1980s that nanotech researchers began regularly citing his lecture, but what he did do was posit the amazing possibilities afforded by miniaturization.
While it's true that we don't yet have the capabilities Feynman envisioned - of building "a billion tiny factories, models of each other, which are manufacturing simultaneously" from the bottom up, atom by atom - nanotechnology (the science of things at the nanometer or molecular scale) is already a large part of our modern economy. As fabrication techniques become more cost effective and applications in more areas are discovered, the sky's the limit.
One of the biggest opportunities we see on the horizon is in nanomedicine, which is simply the application of nanotechnology to medicine; i.e., the diagnosis and treatment of disease. According to the recent study Nanomedicine(s) Under the Microscope by Ruth Duncan of Valencia, Spain's Polymer Therapeutics Lab and Rogerio Gaspar of Lisbon, Portugal's Nanomedicine & Drug Delivery Systems Group, nanomedicine "encompasses the three main nanotechnology areas being developed for healthcare applications:
  • "Diagnostics, sensors and surgical tools that are used outside the patient.
  • "Innovative imaging agents and monitoring technologies that can be used for diagnostic and sensing applications; from cells to patients.
  • "Innovative technologies and biomaterials (sometimes combined with cell therapy) that are used for drug delivery, for tissue engineering, and to promote tissue repair. Some applications require only ex vivo manipulations, but most require patient administration via any one of a number of different routes (e.g., topical, oral, parenteral, pulmonary, surgical implantation etc)."
The roots of modern nanomedicine can be traced back to at least the 19th century - but perhaps the most famous example is Paul Ehrlich, who coined the term "magic bullet" and championed the concept of cell-targeted therapies. And while more than 40 products have completed the journey from the lab to routine clinical use, the science is still really in its infancy. Thus, articles in the popular press often overhype it at both ends of the spectrum - either as a technological revolution already able to address countless unmet medical needs or a dangerous science that will end up wreaking havoc on our health. In the decades to come there's no telling how far nanomedicine will go (as optimists we're betting it will be something closer to the former than the latter), but the current state of the art lies between the two extremes.
Fears about the potential toxicity of nanomedicine, though often overblown, are not without merit. Nanoparticles are so small they have virtually unrestricted access to the human body and are able to evade detection by the body's immune system as well as pass through the blood-brain barrier. While such traits are what make nanoparticles so useful in medicine, it's also what makes them potentially harmful if they are not biodegradable and therefore able to accumulate in organs like the liver. Nevertheless, the benefits of nanomedicine seem to outweigh the risks in many if not most scientists' eyes, which has resulted in huge advances in the area over the past several years, particularly in drug delivery and diagnostic and imaging techniques.
Nanomedicines on the market today comprise first-generation technologies like liposomes (artificially prepared vesicles composed of the same material as a cell membrane that can be filled with drugs) and PEGylated pharmaceuticals (drugs that have been altered through the covalent attachment of polyethylene glycol polymer chains to mask the agent from the host's immune system). Meanwhile, technologies such as iron-oxide nanoparticles (which are well established magnetic-resonance imaging agents) and various nanocrystals are finding new indications in numerous late-stage clinical trials.
While these first-generation nanomedicines have shown great promise in imaging and treating disease, they are not without their drawbacks. For example, polymers like PEG are not biodegradable, which may cause harm due to accumulation within lysosomes (cellular organelles that contain enzymes to break down waste materials and cellular debris) after high doses or chronic administration.
Despite the potential drawbacks and challenges to overcome, the future of nanomedicine looks bright. Although moving from lab to patient is a long and trying process, the fact that labs around the world are announcing scientific breakthroughs on virtually a daily basis speaks to the opportunities that lie ahead.
One new technique that is currently in the development stage delivers anti-cancer drugs in packets or "bubbles" of nanoparticles to the tumor, where they accumulate. Ultrasound can then be directed at the target, popping the bubbles and releasing the drug within a well-defined area. Another unrelated line of research uses antibodies to deliver a packet of gold nanoparticles to the cancer cell. An intense, focused laser beam is then used to explode the nanobubble, bursting the cell. And yet another oncological effort is Kanzius RF Therapy, which aims to insert metallic nanoparticles in or around cancerous cells and then excite these particles using radio waves. The energy from the radio waves heats the metal, which burns the cancerous cell cluster.
Some more of the recent lab breakthroughs include:
  • Using polymer-coated gold nanoparticles to enhance detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and provide a means of detecting cancer earlier.
  • Using lipid-polymer nanoparticles to engineer a formulation of docetaxel (a well-established anti-mitotic chemotherapy drug) to improve the efficiency of chemoradiotherapy.
  • Using nanofibers of polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene oxide to encapsulate antibiotics, which gives them the ability to destroy even the most drug-resistant bacteria so completely that scientists described the remains as mere "ghosts."
  • Using modified gold nanoparticles to develop a leukemia-DNA biosensor capable of diagnosing the disease in less than 20 minutes.
  • Using carbon nanoparticles to encapsulate chemotherapeutic drugs for enhanced treatment of head and neck cancers.
Meanwhile, emerging materials like carbon nanotubes and quantum dots are also entering the fray. The unique geometry and electrochemical and thermal properties of carbon nanotubes make them potentially well-suited as drug carriers, imaging agents, or even gene delivery agents - although potential toxicity must still be considered, especially given the fact that their physical form draws comparison to carcinogenic asbestos fibers, according to Duncan and Gaspar. Quantum dots are also some of the most widely investigated new biomedical nanomaterials for use in tumor imaging and in theranostics (the merger of therapeutics and diagnostics).
The holy grail of nanomedicine is, of course, in vivo nanorobots that would have the ability to travel directly to problem cells and repair them on the fly at the cellular level without trauma, pain, or disfigurement. In other words, the end of disease as we know it. While we're still decades - if not centuries - away from such a scenario, researchers at Harvard have developed a nanorobotic device made from DNA that could seek out specific cell targets and deliver molecular instruction... like telling cancer cells to kill themselves.
From an investor's point of view, a lot of the interesting advancements in nanomedicine are coming from early-stage private companies or academic labs. For example, innovative nanomedicine leaders like Cerulean Pharma, Selecta Biosciences, and BIND Biosciences are all privately held, venture-backed companies. But the coming years should bring IPOs of numerous nanomedicine firms as they advance their science and therapeutics into clinical trials. In the meantime, one company that might be worth a look is Arrowhead Research Corporation (NASDAQ:ARWR), a clinical-stage nanomedicine company and majority owner of Calando Pharmaceuticals, which developed a breakthrough drug-delivery system called RONDEL (RNAi/oligonucleotide nanoparticle delivery) that extends the reach of RNAi therapy. While we're not formally recommending that you go out and buy shares of ARWR, it may be worth some research on your part if you are looking to get positioned in the burgeoning field of nanomedicine.< /p>
[Breakthroughs in biotechnology have opened up a new world of investment opportunities, particularly in companies revolutionizing cancer treatment. Learn which four firms are especially worthy of a close look.]

Bits & Bytes
Numerous sources are reporting that Google is developing Android-based heads-up display glasses that will be able to stream information to the wearer in real time. Anonymous Google employees familiar with the project said the glasses will go on sale to the public by the end of this year and will be priced anywhere from $250 to $600.
Cancer Breath Test (Technology Review)
A startup out of Mountain View, California claims its new breath test can spot lung cancer with 83% accuracy as well as distinguish between subtypes of the disease. This is important because existing tests for lung cancer result in many false positives. The breath test could help doctors make a more informed decision when a CT scan looks suspicious.
In September of last year, the OPERA Collaboration at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy reported observing neutrinos that were apparently traveling faster than the speed of light, an impossibility if Einstein's special theory of relativity is correct. But now it seems that Einstein and physicists the world over can rest easily, as a faulty cable connection may have resulted in a measurement error.
The Obama administration unveiled its consumer privacy "bill of rights" today. It aims to give web users more control over how their online personal information is collected and used. The blueprint includes seven principles to protect consumers' digital privacy, such as the right to opt out of having their personal data collected and the right to having easily understandable policies on company's privacy practices. Our only comment at the moment is that while we are pro-privacy, we don't understand why the executive branch wants to get involved in a matter that should be handled by the market between companies and their customers.

Green Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle

This is just cool. I'm not particularly into gear, but I could have some fun writing one of these puppies into a book. It'll go up a 60% grade and run silent for eight awesome is that? And I thought the SEALs' dune buggies were cool...

Russian Nuclear Sub fire

Here ya go. Straight out of the news, complete with pictures and all...the perfect opening premise for a book. I tell ya, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. The truth is so much more interesting sometimes!

The Russians said in December that this ship wasn't armed. Turns out that was propaganda and 16 nukes were on board. Lovely. But hear the deeper message...the Russian gov't. still engages in calculateed lying to the media to manipulate public beliefs and feelings. It's a technique called disinformation, and the USSR was the global master of it. Looks like Russia's returning more and more to its old, cold war ways. If I were to write that into a book today, I could expect the news in a year or two to reflect that.

definite food for thought

These are the sorts of scary little pieces I especially enjoy collecting. This is a description of the larger nuclear bomb ever exploded...a Russian nuclear weapon. The trick is this bomb was a prototype for a much larger doomsday version. This explosion gave on a 1.5 mega-ton yield, when teh real one would yield 51.5 mega-tons. Definite food for thought. And I happne to be cooking a plot that will actually use some of this information. Be afraid...very afraid...

a lesson in book inspirations

Okay, so I see an article like this on on AOL. It details an orbiting space plane the U.S. is flying that has been in space for months. Folks speculate it's being used to spy on a Chinese satellite that's the prototype for a manned Chinese Space station expected to be operational around 2020.

If a project like this is showing up in the mainstream media, then you can be sure it has been around a while longer than that. Which means, the Air Force has also had plenty of time to figure out cool things to do with it. And voila, we have a window for a fictional story. I can sit around my kitchen table and brainstorm a few ways to use a platform like this, and odds are good I won't be far from what's actually possible with the thing. People ask me frequently how it is I'm able to write books that seem to stay just ahead of the news, and this is it.

And that concludes my demonstration. :-)

Navy dolphins hunt for mines

Here's a link to an article that matter of factly talks about using dolphins, whales, and sea lions to hunt for and locate underwater mines. And people think I make this stuff up. Hah!

Now's here's food for thought...

A friend recommnded a website to me that sends daily affirmations to subscirbers. Occasionally, one particularly resonates with me. This one really hit home, because goodness knows, the publishing journey is a long and difficult one If I lived only for my end goals in writing, I'd have walked away from this business long before now. But thankfully, the journey is the thing. The key is to remember to have fun along the way and not lose the love of the writing process itself. Am glad this reminder came along as I approach a string of tight deadlines!

The most valuable part of pursuing my goal is the journey itself. I am in action and growing stronger each day and that deeply satisfies me.

typical research moment

So here's the type of article I read and tuck away in my gray matter for future books. It's not anything earth-shattering...just a description of where biometric scanners are headed in a few years. If I casually write about this in a book, by the time the book's published, I'll be about on track to reflect the technology that's just coming into public consumption. It's all about looking a few years ahead of where we are right now to make suspense books work.