Technology Tuesday: June 19th

Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: A robot that can operate on the human eye, gene therapy that can repair spinal cords, robotic blood drawing, brain based computer circuitry, and breathing on Mars.


A ROBOT JUST OPERATED ON THE HUMAN EYE FOR THE FIRST TIME

From prostate surgery to gallbladder procedures, robots are already mainstays in the operating room. Now, they’re coming for your eyes.

In 2016, researchers from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences kicked off a clinical trial to test the PRECEYES Surgical System, a robot designed to perform surgery on the retina, the surface at the back of the eyeball. On Monday, they published the results of their robot-assisted eye surgery trial in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

A surgeon uses a joystick to control the mobile arm of the PRECEYES system. Doctors can attach various instruments to the arm, and because the system is robotic, it doesn’t suffer from any of the slight tremors that plague even the most steady-handed of humans.

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A NEW GENE THERAPY TO REPAIR DAMAGED SPINAL CORDS

Here’s the thing about the spinal cord: you’ve only got one. And right now, if you injure it, doctors can’t fix that. All they can do is try to reduce further damage.

But a new, experimental gene therapy may change that. In new research published Thursday, rats paralyzed from spinal cord injuries were able to move their legs and paws again.

When a person’s (or rat’s) spinal cord gets damaged, they may lose some or all of the ability to control certain limbs or parts of their body, depending on where the injury occurred. Typically, a scar blocks the nerve cells on the spine from communicating with each other and with the muscles they control.

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A ROBOT DESIGNED TO DRAW YOUR BLOOD

Your blood is like the Cliffs Notes to your health. It can tell a doctor everything from how well your organs are working to whether you need to add more iron to your diet.

So it’s no surprise that blood tests are one of the most common diagnostic procedures in the world. And now, researchers from Rutgers University have created a robot that can both draw and test the blood. Automating the process makes it both faster and cheaper.They detail their new invention in a study published in the journal TECHNOLOGY.

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BRAIN BASED CIRCUITRY IS MAKING AI FASTER

We take the vast computing power of our brains for granted. But scientists are still trying to get computers to the brain’s level.

This is how we ended up with artificial intelligence algorithms that learn through virtual neurons — the neural net.

Now a team of engineers has taken another step closer to emulating the computers in our noggins: they’ve built a physical neural network, with circuits that even more closely resemble neurons. When they tested an AI algorithm on the new type of circuitry, they found that it performed as well as conventional neural nets already in use. But! the new integrated neural net system completed the task with 100 times less energy than a conventional AI algorithm.

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USING MICROBIOLOGY TO BREATH ON MARS

Forget constructing cool Martian habitats, growing food, or digging tunnels. If we can’t figure out a way to breathe on Mars, what’s the point of all of our colonization plans?

Now, we may have a new hope in the hunt for a steady supply of oxygen on the Red Planet: cyanobacteria. This family of bacteria sucks up carbon dioxide and discharges oxygen in some of Earth’s most inhospitable environments. On Friday, a team of researchers published a new study in the journal Science linking the tiny organisms to the possibility of human life on Mars.

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