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From HP, Skin-Jet Printing


Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) has come up with an unusual adaptation for its ink-jet printing technology--a skin patch for drug delivery. The patch is covered with an array of microneedles that just barely penetrate the skin, painlessly. Above the needles are a number of wells containing one or more drugs, and a miniature firing device to push the medicine through to the bloodstream. HP has licensed the patch to Crospon, an Irish medical device maker, for commercialization, and expects it to reach the market in three to four years.

Researchers testing a new technique for spotting adulterated coffee found twigs and cereals in several brands sold in Brazil. One sample turned out to be nearly 9% corn. Using high-performance liquid chromatography, a kind of chemical analysis, Gulab Jham and his colleagues at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., tested six varieties of ground Brazilian coffee Jham brought to the U.S. They found telltale quantities of vitamin E compounds called tocopherols, which are abundant in corn but not in coffee. NCAUR researchers say importers worried about adulteration could use the same simple test in their labs.

Satellites whizzing around the Earth typically last for 15 years. But even small fuel problems can send them drifting into useless orbits. This pulls the plug on the TV, weather, or military signals they relay and can cost owners $10 million a month in lost fees. Now, scientists at Purdue University and Lockheed Martin (LMT) have learned how to fix one of those problems.

Many commercial birds have four fuel tanks. If one empties before the rest, the craft is doomed. To make sure the tanks empty evenly and no fuel is wasted, scientists had to divine exactly how much fuel remained in each one--no easy feat in the zero-gravity of space, where temperatures swing by as much as 500F as the satellite moves from sun to shadow.

Using data on how fast the tanks warmed up when heated, the team developed an advanced computer model to estimate the fuel balance and how best to redistribute it while in flight. Already the trick has saved two broadcasters some $60 million by keeping two birds aloft months past their drift-off dates.

-- A new laser device could let doctors peer through the skin and into the veins of patients' wrists to spot cancer cells in the blood. The patients are injected with a fluorescent marker that causes tumor cells to glow when struck by the long-wavelength laser. The cells are then visible to a photo detector. Scientists at Purdue University who pioneered this noninvasive technique say it should allow doctors to screen larger volumes of a patient's blood than is possible by taking samples. The procedure can also be repeated more frequently to measure how well a patient is responding to treatment. Purdue is working with the Mayo Clinic to design a clinical trial for the laser, which is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

-- Lasers can also shatter the outer membranes of viruses, which suggests they can be used to purify donated blood. A father-son team of scientists--one a laser expert at the University of Arizona, and the other an immunology student at Johns Hopkins University--built one that emits pulses of light at a frequency that kills viruses without harming normal cells.


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