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Accidental discovery may lead to new treatment for mouth dryness

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Although we may all get a dry mouth from time to time, for some people it can be an ongoing debilitating condition. There could be new hope for such folks, however, thanks to a recent accidental discovery.

Along with being generally uncomfortable, chronic mouth dryness can also negatively affect a person’s general health, the health of their teeth and gums, and their ability to taste, chew and swallow food. It can be caused by various medical conditions, treatment regimes and medications, or it may simply occur as part of the aging process.

Regardless of the cause, though, inflammation of the salivary glands is often a major contributing factor. Inflammation is also a problem in bacterial lung infections, which is why scientists at the University of South Alabama were recently looking at ways of reducing it. More specifically, they were using a drug known as roflumilast to inhibit the activity of inflammation-causing phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) enzymes in the infected lungs of mice.

Led by doctoral candidate Abigail Boyd, the researchers were surprised to discover that the medication caused increased salivation in the animals. Further analysis revealed that this was due to the inhibition of PDE4 in the salivary glands and in the autonomic nervous system, the latter of which regulates involuntary body processes.

Additional experiments showed that PDE4 inhibition also increased salivation in mice with cystic fibrosis, a disease in which inflammation not only affects patients’ ability to breath, but also frequently gives them a dry mouth. The team now hopes to conduct trials on humans.

“Saliva, while often taken for granted, is indispensable for oral health and overall well-being,” says Boyd. “New ways to treat dry mouth are needed since treatment options are currently limited.”

The research is being presented this week, as part of the online annual meeting of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Source: Experimental Biology via EurekAlert

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Source: https://newatlas.com/medical/pde4-inhibition-mouth-dryness/

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Assistive tech may let locked-in users communicate via “ear-clicks”

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Although there are systems that allow physically challenged users to communicate by twitching facial muscles, for some people even those muscle movements are impossible. A new setup offers a possible alternative, however, by going into the ear.

Known as “Earswitch,” the technology is being developed at Britain’s University of Bath, by a team led by Dr. Nick Gompertz. It’s designed first and foremost for users who are “locked-in,” meaning they’re paralyzed and unable to speak.

At the heart of the experimental system is a computer-connected silicone earpiece containing a tiny camera and light, which is temporarily inserted into the patient’s ear canal. The camera then monitors the middle ear’s tensor tympani muscle – it’s one of the smallest muscles in the body, and could thus conceivably still be tensed by people who have lost control over most other muscles.

Such people may include stroke victims, or those with late-stage Motor Neurone Disease.

A close-up view of the Earswitch earpiece
A close-up view of the Earswitch earpiece

University of Bath

The user views a virtual keyboard – displayed on a computer screen – on which the rows of keys are sequentially highlighted. When the row containing the desired letter is highlighted, the user selects it by tensing their tensor tympani muscle. The earpiece camera detects that movement, and triggers the computer to select that line of keys.

Next, the individual keys within that line are highlighted sequentially. Again, the user selects the desired key by tensing their ear muscle when that key is highlighted. In this way, they can gradually “type” out messages. In order to speed the process up, a predictive text system displays complete words that the user may be trying to type, which they can also select.

Gompertz and colleagues are now commercializing the Earswitch technology via a spinoff company, possibly even for use by non-paralyzed users who wish to perform everyday tasks hands-free. They are also conducting an online survey – open to members of the public both with and without neurological conditions – to determine what percentage of the population is able to voluntarily move their tensor tympani muscle.

Sources: University of Bath, Earswitch

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Source: https://newatlas.com/good-thinking/earswitch-paralyzed-communications/

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Brembo lights up 60th anniversary with New G Sessanta brake concept

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The Italian master of braking systems, Brembo, has unveiled its vision of the future in the shape of the New G Sessanta concept brake caliper. It’s equipped with customizable LEDs and potentially groundbreaking connectivity features.

Brembo SpA was founded in 1961 in Bergamo, Italy, starting off as a small workshop specializing in brake systems. During the course of the next six decades, it grew to become a global leader in motorcycle braking systems, as well as the dominant supplier of motorsport teams. Nowadays, all the factory teams in MotoGP run the same Brembo brakes.

In celebration of its 60th anniversary, Brembo has announced the New G Sessanta Concept – sessanta translates from Italian as 60. The design of this prototype emulates the shape of Brembo’s first-ever motorcycle brake caliper from 1972, but with a luminous addition.

Inspiration for the New G Sessanta Concept came from Brembo's first motorcycle product, this 1972 aluminum two-piston caliper
Inspiration for the New G Sessanta Concept came from Brembo’s first motorcycle product, this 1972 aluminum caliper

Brembo

The application of smartphone-connected LED technology is actually more than just a stylish statement, as it is described as “both an interface, and an aesthetic choice.” First of all is the obvious ability to customize intensity and colors via an app, although remotely activating the LEDs may also assist in locating where the bike is parked.

Once a data route between the caliper and the smartphone has been set up, it can also be used to transfer telemetry data on the condition of the caliper or the vehicle. Brembo doesn’t delve into any technical details, but it does suggest that the New G Sessanta can adapt to any type of caliper. Questions like the kind of sensors that can be employed, or the kit’s power source, will probably remain unanswered until the first commercial application comes around.

According to Brembo, the New G Sessanta Concept offers a look to the future of brake calipers
According to Brembo, the New G Sessanta Concept offers a look to the future of brake calipers

Brembo

The concept does tickle the imagination, though, at the possibilities it opens – especially if it can support remote adjustability. For instance, it could function as a disc brake lock by simply adding the option to remotely actuate both front and rear calipers through the app. Or, in a more elaborate scenario, integrating this system to the motorbike’s electronic arsenal could add braking performance to the parameters of every ride mode.

According to Brembo, the New G Sessanta Concept represents its vision of new features and solutions for brake calipers. For 60 years its technology evolved on a strictly mechanical foundation, but it seems that the time to take braking systems to the next, electronic level is approaching fast.

Watch Brembo’s pitch on the New G Sessanta Concept in the video below.

Source: Brembo

BREMBO “NEW G SESSANTA”: THE NEW BRAKE CALIPER CONCEPT SET TO SHAPE THE FUTURE OF MOBILITY

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Source: https://newatlas.com/motorcycles/brembo-new-g-sessanta-concept-brake-caliper/

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Reversible fabric heats on one side, cools on the other

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It can be frustrating, when the jacket that you initially put on to keep you warm starts making you too hot. Jackets made from an experimental new reversible fabric, however, could both heat and cool their wearer.

Developed by scientists from China’s Zhejiang University and Westlake University, the multi-layered “Janus textile” consists of a base of ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) polymer fibers. Other substances have been bonded to those fibers, giving the fabric one side that warms the user, and one that helps keep them cool.

When a garment made from the material is worn with the warming side facing outwards, zinc and copper nanoparticles on that side absorb solar energy and reduce the amount of body heat that escapes. Once the user turns the garment inside-out, a porous coating of PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) polymer on the now outward-facing cooling side reflects the sunlight and helps dissipate body heat.

In tests performed under natural sunlight, the heating side increased the temperature of underlying simulated skin by a total of 14 ºF more than black cotton. When the fabric was turned over, the cooling side reduced the skin temperature by 11 ºF more than white cotton. The cooling side had no effect when tested at night, although the warming side proved to be warmer than black cotton by a total of 5 ºF.

According to the scientists, the textile is easy and inexpensive to manufacture, and it offers a breathability similar to that of cotton. And as an added bonus, by wiring a thermoelectric generator up to the material, the researchers were able to produce a small amount of electricity by harnessing the temperature difference between the inner surface of the fabric and the skin.

It is hoped that once developed further, this feature could be used to power wearable electronic devices. Other institutions are working on fabrics with this same functionality.

A paper on the study, which is being led by Zhejiang University’s Qiang Li and Westlake University’s Min Qiu, was recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

Source: American Chemical Society

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Source: https://newatlas.com/materials/reversible-textile-heating-cooling/

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Citroën puts tiny electric pod to work with My Ami Cargo edition

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Back in early 2019, Citroën shared a vision for inner city micromobility with the very boxy Ami One electric concept. The tiny two-seater was launched in Europe last year and now it’s being joined by the My Ami Cargo, an electric microvan for small businesses.

“My Ami Cargo offers an ingenious solution to the new challenges of professionals who are expressing a need to carry goods in a vehicle that is clever, functional, electric and economical,” said Citroën’s Laurence Hansen. “It features a convenient and modular cargo volume, while offering an electric mobility solution that is agile, safe and unique. It’s a vehicle that provides a concrete solution for last-mile delivery, particularly of small packages, the volume of which has increased exponentially in recent months.”

The My Ami Cargo measures just 2.41 m (7.9 ft) long, 1.39 m (4.5 ft) wide and 1.52 m (4.9 ft) high, and like the original Ami it offers a turning circle of just 7.2 m (23.6 ft). But where that vehicle could squeeze two inside, the microvan variant seats the driver only.

The passenger space has been given over to a modular polypropylene box that’s reported capable of stowing away 260 liters (9.2 ft3) of cargo. A partition separates the driver area from the cargo area, with a hollowed out shape designed to allow for unobstructed operation of the handbrake.

The passenger space has been replaced by a modular storage compartment
The passenger space has been replaced by a modular storage compartment

Citroën

The top of the box sits below the “passenger” window so the driver can still benefit from 360° views around the vehicle, and to serve as a mobile desk of sorts with a rectangular cutout for holding documents, an order book or even a tablet. The flat floor on the cargo side can be adjusted to two levels, and there’s a closed storage box for secure items to the rear. All in, the My Ami Cargo has a usable volume of 400 liters (14 ft3) at up to 140 kg (308 lb).

That’s not going to be enough to tempt UPS or DHL couriers to jump aboard, but it could be just the ticket for a small business looking for a relatively cheap way to run a few packages to local customers.

Useful accessories are also going to be available, including a holding net for the cargo side (so packages don’t fall out onto the street when the door is opened), a smartphone clip and connectivity dongle, and dividers for creating storage compartments.

The My Ami Cargo is "fully electric, ultra-compact and designed to meet the new needs of professionals"
The My Ami Cargo is “fully electric, ultra-compact and designed to meet the new needs of professionals”

Citroën

Like the original Ami, the Cargo edition is not classed as an electric car but a light quadricycle. It can be driven by folks as young as 14 in France (with a basic road safety certificate under their belts) or 16 year olds (without a license) in the rest of the EU. It has a teeny 5.5-kWh Li-ion battery that can be juiced up in just three hours using a domestic (220-V) socket, and Citroën reckons that it should be good for up to 75 km (46.6 miles) per charge. Its 6-kW motor tops out at 45 km/h (28 mph).

Citroën is looking to start sales in early June, with the My Ami Cargo priced at €6,490. That’s about US$7,830 by direct conversion but this looks to be a France-only last-mile cargo-hauling solution for the moment – though given that car-sharing company Free2Move recently announced in a LinkedIn post that it was taking five of the original ultra-compact Ami EVs to Washington for pilot testing, maybe the My Ami Cargo could also find its way to the US in the future.

Source: Citroën

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Source: https://newatlas.com/urban-transport/citroen-my-ami-cargo/

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