Technology Tuesday: June 26th

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: Growing mini-neanderthal brains in a lab, the future of burger making, the FDA approves a marijuana derived drug, good news for CRISPR, and electronic skin that lets prosthetics “feel”.


LAB GROWN NEANDERTHAL MINI-BRAINS SHOW DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY WE COMMUNICATED

So, you might have heard: Scientists figured out how to grow miniature brains out of stem cells. Cool, right? Well, now they managed to grow Neanderthal brains, too. As a result, we have more of an idea of why our populations flourished, helping us become the dominant species on Earth, while theirs faltered.

The short version: it comes down to the way the brain structures itself as it develops. Though the research has not yet found its way into a peer-reviewed publication, a presentation on the work from earlier this month (and reported by Science Magazine) noted that some key differences suggest that Neanderthals couldn’t communicate quite as goodly as we can able to. Their brains simply weren’t wired to handle it.

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A NEW BURGER MACHINE CAN CRANK OUT 120 BURGERS AN HOUR

In the future, robots are going to be in charge of your food. Robot baristas will make you a latte, robot chefs will whip you up a pizza, and robot couriers will deliver you your lunch.

It’s starting now in earnest. Next Wednesday, Silicon Valley CEO Angelo Vardakostas and mechanical engineer Steven Frehn will open the doors of a classy burger joint called Creator in San Francisco in which a burger bot will prepare you a delicious burger for just $6 — likely one of the cheapest burgers you can find in the area.

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A MARIJUANA DERIVED MEDICATION IS NOW APPROVED FOR SALE IN THE U.S.

A BREAKTHROUGH DECISION. For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a medication derived from marijuana. It’s called Epidiolex. GW Pharmaceuticals developed the drug to treat two rare forms of epilepsy that manifest during childhood, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. In clinical trials, the medication reduced patient seizures by up to 40 percent.

TREATING THE UNTREATABLE. Children with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome typically experience multiple types of seizures, as well as learning problems and intellectual disabilities that often prevent them from ever living “normal” lives.

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ACCORDING TO NEW STUDY, CRISPR DOESN’T CAUSE UNINTENDED MUTATIONS

For all the excitement surrounding CRISPR, there’s an essential question that is still unanswered: will it do only what we want?

CRISPR is still new, and no one really knows its potential side effects. Does it cause cancer? How about unintended mutations? To get to the bottom of the issue, a team of researchers from China conducted a comprehensive assessment of CRISPR-modified monkeys, looking for any off-target mutations in the animals’ genomes.

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ELECTRONIC SKIN LETS AMPUTEES FEEL PAIN THROUGH THEIR PROSTHETICS

Up until the 20th century, wearing a prosthetic limb wasn’t all that great. They were often unwieldy wooden contraptions with both form and function that fell far short of their natural counterparts. Today, though, we have prosthetics that we can control with our minds, that predict movement, and that fit perfectly thanks to 3D printing.

Still, even the most advanced prosthetics have room for improvement. They still don’t give the wearer a ton of feedback about what they’re touching — no temperatures, no textures. That’s why researchers at Johns Hopkins University have created a new electronic dermis (e-dermis). When placed over a prosthetic device, this artificial skin lets an amputee feel pain and other sensations in their missing limb. The researchers published their study Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics.

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