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Developments to Watch
Implants for Growing Bones
Dr. Rainer Kotz, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Vienna, has found success by mimicking the body's processes. In the July 13 issue of Nature, Kotz and a team of researchers describe their latest creation: A novel leg implant for children who have lost bone from the knee following the removal of a tumor. As surrounding bones grow larger, this implant extends to provide more natural mobility.
Traditional bone implants, though effective in adults, are problematic in growing children. Because the size of the implant doesn't change, the child's uninjured leg is soon disproportionately longer than the injured one, impeding the child's normal body alignment and gait. In the past, doctors have developed extendible implants that could be manually lengthened during surgery. But that approach forces the children to undergo repeated, painful surgeries that cause extensive scarring.
Kotz says his device allows a greater range of motion than previous implants. And since the energy needed for elongation comes as patients walk, Kotz's device closely tracks normal leg growth.By Mary Ann SaadiReturn to top
Pop a Pill--and Kill the Urge to Smoke
Methoxsalen, a drug originally approved in 1999 to treat skin disorders, may be the Dexatrim of smoking. It seems to remove the urge to puff on a cigarette, just as the diet pill gets rid of the desire to nosh. If it works, say good-bye to unsightly skin patches and unpalatable chewing gum. All you will have to do is pop a pill.
Scientists have known for several years that an enzyme called CYP2A6 plays a critical role in metabolizing nicotine. They theorized that disabling the protein might be one way to help rid smokers of their physical addiction to nicotine. The idea: Keep higher levels of nicotine in the blood stream longer, so that the body doesn't go through nicotine withdrawal.
After testing dozens of compounds, Dr. Edward M. Sellers and a team of researchers at the University of Toronto discovered that methoxsalen inhibits CYP2A6. In one trial, 17 patients were given either methoxsalen or a placebo in combination with oral nicotine. After three hours, blood samples from the test subjects showed nicotine levels that were twice as high as those of the control subjects. Given the opportunity to smoke during that same period, test subjects also lit up fewer cigarettes and took fewer puffs per cigarette than counterparts taking the placebo.
Before methoxsalen can be marketed to help smokers quit, however, researchers have to conduct additional tests.By Mary Ann SaadiReturn to top
This Printer Balks at Counterfeiting
The prevalence of high-powered desktop computers and printers has taken some of the work out of making money--the counterfeit type, that is. The U.S. Secret Service estimates that there is more than $400 million in phony currency circulating in America today. Roughly 40% of it is minted from templates stored in personal computers, using affordable color ink-jet printers for output.
Now, Omron Electronics of Japan is thwarting the bad guys. It has come up with an image-recognition technology that prevents PCs and color printers from producing bogus bills from templates or high-resolution scans of real ones.
Omron's first anti-counterfeiting product, launched in 1963, was a fake bill detector used in bill-changing machines. Now, the company has embedded this technology in driver programs for PC printers. If the object to be printed conforms to a checklist of suspicious features--such as size, color, pattern, print quality--the software figures that the user is up to no good and cancels the print task.
This summer Omron started installing its software in printer drivers for PCs sold in Japan, whose counterfeiting woes are growing worse every year. It charges manufacturers about $1 per modified driver. If counterfeiters try to tinker with the driver, they'll disable the printer. Omron is also talking with various U.S. printer companies, hoping to market the technology as a worldwide standard.By Mary Ann SaadiReturn to top