SciTech Briefs

Blood­cleansing device transforms sepsis treatment

Sepsis, the leading cause of hospital deaths, is an infection that causes the body’s organs to swell up and subsequently fail. Sepsis is currently treated with intravenous fluids and antibiotics, but it still kills about 50 percent of affected individuals. Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have developed a new approach that reports a 99 percent pathogen reduction when tested on animals.

It uses FcMBL, a genetically engineered protein created by binding Mannose Binding Lectin (MBL) to the Fc region of the human immunoglobulin. MBL has the ability to bind to various pathogens and, together with Fc, it makes it easy for the body’s own immune system to eliminate the infection. The research team worked with the Food and Drug Administration to simplify the product and recently launched Opsonix Inc., a startup developed to prepare the treatment for clinical use as sepsis therapy.

Source: Huffington Post

Ebola virus persists in various “immune ­privileged” sites

Researchers from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research have confirmed that the Ebola virus (EBOV) can be transmitted sexually. The team reported that the body’s immune response against the virus did not extend to certain “immune ­privileged” sites, or areas of the body which tolerate antigens without stimulating an immune response, including the testes, central nervous system, pregnant uterus, and eyes.

A female patient who contracted the disease after no new Ebola cases had been reported for 30 days initially raised suspicion. The virus genomes from the female patient’s blood and those from her EBOV negative partner’s semen produced similar results to that of a direct transmission case. This led the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to modify their recommendations regarding sexual contact for convalescent patients until a definite “persistence” time can be found.

Source: Science Daily

MIT develops machine that replaces intuition

Max Kanter and Kalyan Veeramachaneni, research scientists at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), have developed a system that uses big­-data analysis to search for patterns and design a set of features to analyze. Traditionally, choosing features to analyze has relied on human intuition, as opposed to technology. Their prototype, which aims to remove humans from big-data analysis, outranked 615 teams out of the participating 906 in three recent data­-science competitions.

The “Data Science Machine” will be described in a paper that will be released next week at the IEEE International Conference on Data Science and Advanced Analytics. The machine works by first importing data from different tables, then executing operations to list possible features. It combines categorical data and the feature list to produce a reduced list derived from correlation. It then tests these values to optimize accuracy.

Source: SciTech Daily

Dell buys EMC for $67b in biggest tech deal ever

Dell, known to be falling in the consumer PC market, bought EMC, a computer storage company, which signals Dell’s transformation into an IT solutions provider. Dell agreed to buy EMC for $67 billion in what is the largest tech deal of all time. The deal is almost two times larger than the second largest merger between Broadcom and Avago.

Both companies have been struggling financially to stay afloat due to their inability to keep up with changing technology trends. EMC has been suffering largely due to the growing popularity of the cloud while Dell, the second-largest server maker, has had its shipments drop in the second quarter as companies handover their file storage to services such as Tech30, Amazon, and Google. This merger goes against the recent trend of companies becoming smaller, as shown by Hewlett-Packard, which is planning on splitting in two. One key factor here, however, is the private shareholder status of Dell, which it intends to maintain.

Source: CNN Money

Woolly mammoth extinction caused by excess hunting

It has long been unclear whether the extinction of woolly mammoths was due to climate change or excess hunting by humans. Recently, however, researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered compelling evidence suggesting that excess hunting was behind the extinction. The researchers looked at the chemical composition of mammoth tusks leading up to their extinction, specifically analyzing 14 tusks from mammoths aged three to 12. They noted that the tusks’ isotopic signatures, or ratios of various isotopes, dramatically changed in the years leading up to their extinction.

By analyzing these signatures, the researchers determined that the mammoth weaning age decreased by approximately three years before the animals went extinct. Since excess hunting is associated with forcing animals to mature faster, but climate change is not, this data suggests that excess hunting was to blame.

Source: Daily Mail

Apple loses lawsuit over patented microchip technology

The federal court in Madison, Wisconsin ruled that Apple was guilty of using the University’s patented microchip technology, which was developed by computer sciences professor Gurindar Sohi along with a team of researchers to improve the performance of computer processors, in its iPhone 5S, 6, and 6 Plus without permission. Initially, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation of the University of Wisconsin-­Madison, which handles patent licensing at the university, demanded $862 million.

However, the court concluded that the infringement was unintentional and therefore lowered the payable charges to $234 million. Apple said that it would appeal and refused to comment further. Another lawsuit making the same claim against Apple’s iPhone 6S and 6S Plus has also been filed. The University of Wisconsin also sued Intel over the same technology in 2008. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Source: BBC