Chinese Doctors Build A New Nose…On A Man’s Forehead! Science, B*$€#.

BreakingBad

Hello Geeks and Happy Friday,

This week, two stand out events occurred that I wanted to share with you. The first being that the last episode of Breaking Bad was aired (sad times). I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to all the BB fans, I feel you. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this series and I am not a big TV person. If you have not been following it, especially if you are a science geek like myself, I urge you to watch it. I promise you will not be disappointed, the show is very well written, the development of the characters and scripting is outstanding and the filming is amazing. Top notch telly.

The second event was the sensationalised media storm that occurred around the man with the nose grown on his forehead. Usually, I try to stay away from sensationalised science journalism but I was asked about this enough times by both my adult friends and the kids at School to want to address it. The story goes that a surgeon in China says he has constructed an extra nose out of a man’s rib cartilage and implanted it under the skin of his forehead to prepare for a transplant in probably the first operation of its kind. Surgeon Guo Zhihui at Fujian Medical University Union Hospital in China’s south-eastern province of Fujian spent nine months cultivating the graft for a 22-year-old man whose nose was damaged (please note that when Doctors progress to Consultant Surgeons, they drop the Dr title and are referred to as Mr or Miss/Mrs again).

The striking images of the implant with the nostril section facing diagonally upward on the left side of the man’s forehead drew widespread publicity after they began to circulate in Chinese media last week. Guo plans to cut the nose from the forehead while leaving a section of skin still connected, and then rotate and graft it into position in a later operation. Although this seems like a new “Frankenstein” development in science, specifically plastic surgery, this type of operation is not completely new. Surgeons have previously used cartilage to help rebuild noses in their proper position and have been experimenting with growing new ones from stem cells on other parts of the body, such as a forearm (this technique is much “newer”). A nose graft grown from stem cells would also be prepared on another body part first, but this operation is using existing cartilage.

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The reason this story has been sensationalised lays with the fact that this is the first known case of building a nose on a forehead and the visual pictures, as seen above, are very striking to say the least. Guo is quoted as saying “We were just interested in helping the man and did not expect it would stir up this much attention,”. This I can believe as the Chinese are well known to push the frontiers of science and medicine. China has one of the worlds biggest scientific research communities and some of the biggest functioning research facilities in the world. They are more than capable. Alexander Seifalian, a professor of nanotechnology and regenerative medicine at University College London who has worked on transplants using stem cells, said implanting the nose graft in the forehead makes sense because the skin there has the same “structure and texture” as that of a nose. The rest of the scientific community is yet to see medical reports and data therefore they can only comment according to what has been said in the media.

The media reports that the patient lost part of his nose in an accident in August 2012 and did not immediately have any reconstruction surgery because he couldn’t afford it, Guo said. An infection later ate away much of his nose cartilage. Guo said his team examined what remained of the nose and concluded there would be little chance of viably grafting cartilage there, instead building the nose on the forehead. When the new nose is rotated into position and grafted, it will at first have its own blood supply from links to the forehead, before developing new blood vessels. Later surgery will smooth out all of the skin.The team first expanded skin on the man’s forehead for more than three months before using rib cartilage to build the nose bridge. Lastly, Guo’s team built the nostrils. “We sculpted the nose three-dimensionally, like carpenters,” he said.

BB_ScinceB%$£@

Click play on the video below and see the “carpenters” work, it is some kind of wonderful. Science rocks, they are about to give this man a new nose when all hope seemed lost post infection. Unbelievable.

Until next time, have a great weekend. Peace and blessings.

Eyman

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Organ Printing- Is 3D printing a game changer?

3Dorgans_1

Hello Geeks,

I’m back. Now, I know I promised to post something new every Friday and I am aware I failed you for two weeks but to be fair it was a bank holiday over here in England so it doesn’t count and I have a great excuse for the following week. The following week I was a bridesmaid at one of my girls wedding, it was a wonderfully beautiful affair. How’s that for a great excuse?

Last week I was flicking the pages of the Metro newspaper and came across this heading ‘3D printers ‘could be used to print off human organs’. Usually my first instinct when reading something “scientific” in the papers is to discount it, but I took a note of the research groups name to follow up on later. To be fair, the grabbing headline is approximately 10 years away from being a reality but a reality it may be and that reality is something that the thousands of people on the organ donation register and families dream about. According to Dr Sean Cheng, who is an expert in medical devices at Cambridge University, printing organs “would literally save hundreds of thousands of lives every year”, if all goes to plan.

Let us all just take a moment and let that statement sink in. The technology that is being developed as we speak can possibly print human organs!! WOW.

3Dorgans2Experts at Melbourn TTP have created a 3D printing device that could be used to make tailor-made transplant organs at the click of a button. TTP’s breakthrough involves a special print head nozzle that can dispense a wide range of different materials very accurately.  At present 3D printers can only print single materials or groups of materials.

The company’s managing director, Sam Hyde, said the medical possibilities were “very exciting” and he estimates organ-printing could be done in just five to 10 years’ time. The new nozzle has the ability to dispense the right kind of cells to the printer delicately and in the right position. The nozzle will be fed by cartridges of the required material, which could be anything from stem cells to metal powder. If the group can keep them in the right position and conditions without damaging the dispensed cells, the possibilities of this technology seem endless.

In the shorter term, the printers could make simpler structures, such as highly customised surgical implants, orthopaedic implants, or hip replacements with the possibility they can use “tailor-made designs” from an MRI scan. My mama recently underwent knee replacement surgery, she is doing amazingly well now but her only constant complaint is that it feels nothing like her “old” knee and she can “feel” the “new” metal one. Oh what a difference it would make to my ears and her if it was tailor made to be just like her “old” knee. I can almost taste the silence lol.

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This breakthrough in technology has the prospect of becoming a complete game changer in the fields of design, medicine, technology and most importantly could also change the face of manufacturing products worldwide. It will give companies the ability to print off complex products made of several materials, rather than sourcing them from abroad. We could be printing products as diverse as toys, medical devices, aircraft parts and even organs. The economical implications of this are immense. I am sure Sam Hyde, the managing director at Melbourn TTP is a VERY HAPPY man – economically that is.

As you know, I am a total TED videos geek, so I did a little bit off digging and came across a few talks about organ printing. I picked the one below becasue it does a very good job of relaying the history of this technology and they have a live 3D printer on stage printing a kidney.  We also get to meet Luke, who at the age of 10 was given a bio-engineered bladder that changed his life thanks to these scientific advances The talk is 16min long but you wont meet Luke until 13mins in but please be patient and watch the whole thing. I promise you wont regret it.

Until next time, stay blessed.

DJ decks made of paper. Yes, made of paper!

CoolDJdecks

Hello geeks,

Hope you have all had a blessed week so far and you are looking forwards to the weekend. I am sure you all know by now that I am a massive TEDx videos fan? If you didn’t, now you do. I recently came across this science technology video that gave me goose bumps whilst watching it for a number of reasons.

Reason one, Kate Stone herself is an inspirational figure and a wonderful example of how someone who is fearless in following her dreams, interests and vision despite not “fitting” in with or “following” conventional paths can still achieve success and greatness. Her complete journey and story is absolutely fascinating.

MusicPosterTwo, I don’t want to spoil the story for you but the fact that her parents sent her back to Australia had me laughing out loud,  I was sure only African parents did that!

Thirdly, the fact that science technology has advanced so much so that DJ decks can now be made out of paper completely blows my mind. I can still remember the days when DJ’s carried very heavy looking boxes of vinyl records into venues and was just getting used to the Ipads and computers being used. The rate of advancement in the science technology arena is crazy.

Click on  the video below and listen to Kate Stone’s story and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Can I live?

Can I liveSweater by my friend with skills on his label B-Side by Wale. For more click here.

Hello Geeks,

Firstly and most importantly I need to say a huge THANK YOU to you for all the lovely messages of support and appreciation I have received thus far. I do not have the words to convey to you how much it means to me to open my in-box after a few weeks and find so many encouraging messages. I know I have been very slack of late with my posts and so I wanted to take a moment to let you all in on what has unintentionally kept me away for so long.

This year has been exceptionally busy and I have learnt lots. I have definitely learnt that running your own consultancy business, writing a bog, teaching, caring for your parents and having a social life all at the same time totally messes with your time management scenario. However, you will be pleased to know that I think I have a handle on it all now and will be religiously aiming to put geeky science associated words to keyboard every Friday at the very least from this day on. Word to my mama (who is visiting from Sudan at the moment :-).

I wanted to give you a quick run down of some of the things I have been doing lately and let you in on what I’m working on next before moving onwards and upwards with the blog. I find it quite difficult to talk about myself in this context but I have been given strict advice by my mentor and good friends to start self promoting myself more, so here it goes. Of-course, I have “scientific” evidence to show for my lack of postings and self promotion in the form of stories and photographs you will be please to know.

I was asked to panel on the Africa Today show with Henry Bonsu to discuss the use of genetically modified foods in Africa. It was my first major TV experience and I was super nervous having only been asked to do it a few days before. I had a lot of fun and I am looking forwards to more experience in that area in the near future (watch this space).

TVA month or so later, I was invited to speak at Oxford University. I shared my experiences in science to date, my PhD research, my blog and what I thought the future of science education and research would be. It was an amazing experience, one that I will not forget and the food at the gala was immense.

Oxford1Oxford2I have also been busy giving lectures, talks and panelling at events in and around greater London, visiting schools, Universities as well as community groups. It has been humbling to meet so many varied people ranging from Essex to Lewisham to Eaton and I have learned so much in the process. The new generation of youngsters coming out of school are incredibly inspiring. I cant wait for the world to meet them.

SchoolThe most recent event I had the pleasure of being invited to panel on was hosted  at the Deutsche Bank head quarters in London for the STEMettes event aimed at presenting Women in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. I met some amazing women and will be sharing more of that with you soon.

STEMettesI also just came back from an amazing vacation in Brazil, Salvador Bahia. I was starting to burn out and I have always been a firm believer in the concept that if you want to achieve great things you need to give your body the energy and love it needs to keep taking you upwards and onwards. So I listened, and ignored all the millions of reasons for why I should not take a break and listened to my tired body, mind and spirit and spent three weeks relaxing in the sun, sea and sand. It was bliss.

BahiaBeachSunsetI am so thankful for the blessings that I have been given so far and I have returned from Bahia with so much renewed energy. I am very excited about what’s coming next and look forwards to sharing with you. I will be adding a new subsection to my blog and it is going to be called Real Geeks where I will be interviewing some of the many new and interesting people I am meeting who I feel are total geeks who can share with us all some amazing stories about what they do and/or what they are passionate about in the world of science, art, health and more. It is going to be so much fun, I cant wait to share the first interview with you. In the meantime, I am going to share with you some new music that I love. If you do not have the new Omar album titled The Man, please do yourself a favour and buy it now. Click play below for a taster.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading my story and I’m looking forwards to writing and posting my next FIG post. Oh, I am also in the middle of designing a new logo for the blog that I will reveal soon, good times :-).  Have a great weekend all.

E

Google Glass

GoogleGlass2

Hello Geeks,

I was surprised that when I mentioned Google Glass to my friends and colleagues in-order to find out what they thought about it, not all of them knew what I was talking about. Secretly, I think I also want to be a tech nerd because I get really excited about new technology, inventions and gadgets. I am super-excited about Google Glass, it feels like “The Future” that I imagined as a kid has finally arrived…well, almost.

On the 20th of February, Google finally released Google Glass to the public. However, the people at Google are very clever and have come up with a brilliant marketing strategy. You cannot go and simply buy Glass just yet, no that would be too easy and Apple have upped the game when it comes to creating hype around a product.

google glass

In-order to get your hands on one of these bad boys you have to enter an essay contest of sorts and apply to The Google Glass Explorers Programme (you can Google that if you want to know more or get involved). Once you have been selected as worthy by the Glass team, you also have to pay $1,500 dollars and they are yours to do as you please with; EXCEPT you are legally bound from re-selling it to anyone or Google will de-activate the product (I knew they always had control over our gadgetsl!). Don’t worry, if you do not want to be an explorer or write 50 words or less followed by the #ifihadglass, Google aims to bring Glass to the market early next year for all.

Click on the video below and get hyped.

Oh and please humour me and click on this video, too funny.

E

Genetically Modified Foods Can Make or Break Africa? The Debate.

GMO1

Hey All,

I did promise more on the Science Theories section so here it is. Roughly, three weeks ago I was invited to debate the topic of this post on the Africa Today show for Press TV by Henry Bonsu. It was a great experience and brought back to light an subject that was very much in the public eye over 10 years ago but has since slipped under the radar.

The reason for this re-interest in the subject was Kenya’s recent decision to ban the import of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). I want to take a moment to explain the science behind GMO’s before getting into the debate.

The general feeling behind genetically modified foods or organisms in Europe and the UK is an instant flurry of negatives emotions. I know this, because I get to hear the general public express those emotions at a geneticists quite often. This is by far not the public’s fault, however, it is exactly what the media has lead you to feel and think. I am about to tell you why, but first the hardcore science explanation.

I simplify genetically modified organisms as super-speed Mendelian genetics. Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) spent many years cross pollinating different strains of plants, mainly peas, in-order to create the best/strongest/weakest/largest/smallest version of the plant/pea. He noticed that some species had certain traits that he deemed worthy and others he deemed unworthy, for want of another word. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits followed particular patterns, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. One of the most significant discoveries in Science. Absolutely brilliant stuff for that time.

After completing his work with peas, Mendel turned to experimenting with honeybees to extend his work to animals. He produced a hybrid strain so vicious they were destroyed, but failed to generate a clear picture of their heredity because of the difficulties in controlling mating behaviours of queen bees. He also described novel plant species. What is important to note here is that this process is seen as “natural” by the media as it didn’t happen in a laboratory. However, it is not “natural” as it was forced by a series of events created by a person, in this case Mendel. For it to happen naturally it would mean Mendel had to live three life-times for us to gain the same results.

Now fast-forward to today’s modern day science, following the “genetic revolution” and this same process is no longer “natural” but “un-natural” because it happens much faster in a laboratory and we are more precise about which traits we deem as worthy. Instead of waiting for each new plant to produce a new hybrid, we can now insert the desired DNA or genetic information that produces the hybrid we want, more precisely and dare I say it, more safely. Why? because we have the technology and means to do it, we can read whole DNA sequences now. It is all very simple and very routine and has been in action for approximately many years now. Furthermore, no absolute health issues have been associated with GM foods which have been in our food chain for over 20 years now, whether you knew that or not is another matter.

Here is a simplified scientific diagram of how it works;

GMO-making

I ask you this, why have we not been asked to go back to a slower internet speeds becasue of the probable health risk which has been associated with technological radiation and its increased connectivity in the future? This also has not been absolutely proven. Maybe the media hasn’t told you to do so yet? I wonder why….could it be financial death for Western Industries?..who knows…but I am just saying..it is worth mulling over..

GMO_Int

Now to the debate. Globally, GM research is led by six large multinational companies in industrial countries, the USA being the largest. These corporate and capitalist companies drive to sell the GMO’s they produced and patented to Africa and not Europe.

Although human development, food security & environmental health issues are often the focus of marketing strategies for companies it is unlikely that such altruistic concerns are driving their investment! The developing agricultural state of Africa is a potential market as a consumer especially as Europe is not receptive to GM products (much aided by the media).

In developing countries, Brazil, Argentina, China & India are leading in independently producing GM products.  In Africa the countries which have GM capacity include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Egypt & Uganda but very minimally. Others are only recently starting to engage in research & field trials.

As a scientist, I do not have a problem with GM crops, food or research. In-fact I would go as far as supporting it. Economic world analysis predict a major food crisis in the near future. A food crisis that I believe Africa could avoid if it was to invest in it’s own GMO research and development.

The issue is the private sector dominance has meant the focus is on developed country concerns e.g. improved crop quality instead of drought tolerance or yield enhancement, saving labour costs associated to herbicides and insecticides. Insect resistant crops are particularly important for Africa due to infestation losses leading to approximately 15% of losses. In some cases, such as with the African cassava mosaic virus total loss of harvests has been reported. Genetically modified cassava could save African farmers large economic losses. So far the only way to stop it is intensive use of insecticides, which is expensive & also known to lead to biosafety issues later down the line such as those reported by the use of DDT (currently banned insecticide which was commonly used in the 90’s world-wide).

So what is the major problem here and why has Kenya taken such a strong stance? It is not without reason especially when you take a closer look at the industry and the politics or policies that control it.

Much like the pharmaceutical and music industries, the agricultural industry is also under the control of Intellectual Property (IP) patents and policies which are being monopolised by corporate capitalist companies mainly from the US and “west”.

GMO_Patent

Importantly, developing country considerations for balancing incentives to producers are very different from the US context. Multinationals based in the US and elsewhere who are investing large sums in biotechnology and plant breeding would need large markets for their products and strong patent protection on genes as well as on tools and varieties to protect their investments.
In other words,  strong IP recognising plants and gene patents favours corporate investment, and arguably monopolistic tendencies while discouraging small enterprises and diversity of supply which is needed in Africa. Moreover, strong IP leads to higher prices for longer periods of time. China would appear to have no IP protection for its GM and the question being asked is if weak intellectual property protection becomes a constraint to innovation?  This has now become a major challenge that policy makers face in China.
So it seems Africa is stuck between a rock and a hard-place. Do we say no and risk being the reason for Africa’s food crisis in the future? or do we fall prey to the corporate companies using our land for their own prospects. I always try to be optimistic and in my optimistic and perfect world a mid-way solution is possible. Developing countries in Africa have not developed research facilities and as such are years behind in-terms of biotechnology and innovation strategies. We need to catch up, invest and make it one of the most pressing policies for Africa’s development as a continent. Africa should rightly be the leading agricultural super-power of the world, we have been blessed with the most suitable land.
Currently, developing countries can license these transgenic biotechnologies and in some cases collaborate successfully with the west, for example Burkina Faso and the cotton industry. Another example to support my optimistic world exemplifies why research cooperation between developing countries and institutions or companies based in the developed world has been important in promoting transgenic research in Africa. 
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (SFIT) in Zurich plans to collaborate with researchers in Nigeria, the UK and the USA on the African cassava mosaic virus (Sawahel 2005). This virus is transmitted to cassava by white flies when they feed on the plant. In parts of Eastern and Central Africa, epidemics of the disease can lead to total loss of harvests. Researchers at SFIT have used genes from a virus that periodically devastates cassava crops to create cassava plants that can resist the virus. Cassava is an important food crop in many parts of Africa and is strongly affected by genetic erosion, pest infestation and plant disease (Aerni,2005). Genetically modified cassava could save African farmers large economic losses. So far, the only way to curb the virus is by intensive use of insecticide to kill white flies. But this can be prohibitively expensive for subsistence farmers and can threaten their health and that of surrounding plants and animals (Sawahel 2005). This is when you have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of scientific innovations.
But the question still begs, can revenues from patent licenses finance research and development for small markets of developing country research? As we know from the pharmaceutical sector, strong patents can be an incentive to develop high price products for high income consumers, but can do little to encourage investment in high need products for low income consumers (as good example of this are retroviral drugs for the HIV/Aids epidemic). In the pharmaceuticals sector, this has led to large investments in diseases of the wealthy and neglect of diseases of the poor – or ‘orphan diseases’. Naylor et al (2004) have argued that a similar process could be at work with private investments in agriculture. Here is where the danger lies in my opinion.
I would like to conclude by saying no technology or human activity is completely risk free, people accept new technologies or sciences because they can see the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks. Public mistrust of governments & private sectors is validated in recent times. Policy makers need to be aware of this and better scientific information needs to be given to farmers and people in general. A key challenge in Africa is dealing with the information Gap. Kenya has 17 biotechnology research facilities and currently only one of them is investing in transgenic technology research for agriculture. I hope that they increase the research in this area and develop solutions for Africa by Africa.
The debate here is not black and white and I have so much more to say, although I could go on for much longer dissecting this issue, I would like to leave you with two very interesting chapters to read if you are interested. Click on this link and this link to really get stuck in.
Let me know what you think? Yay or Nay? Thank you for reading and I look forwards to your opinions and comments on this important topic.
Until next time, stay blessed.
Ex

The 3D Printing Craze- Anyone for a 3D printed foetus?

3Dbaby1

Happy Friday Everyone,

The weekend is here but before we all get into the swing of things I wanted to share with you a debate I have been having with myself, in my own head, as you do, so please indulge me :-). You may or may not have come across technology’s newest advancement in printers, the 3D printer. These printers literally mean you can design something and print a 3D model either in miniature or to scale (if the design fits within the parameters of the printers settings of-course, some things do not change!). All sorts of things are being printed, tea-cups, mini-architectural designs, spoons, key rings and well you get the idea right?

Or, if you live in Japan, you can get a 3D printed foetus. Yep, that’s right, a 3D foetus. A Japanese clinic is offering parents-to-be the chance to hold their baby months before the child leaves the womb. The technology offered by Fasotec and Hiroo Ladies Clinic in Tokyo, Japan, creates a 3D model of the mother’s fetus and womb using a “Bio-Texture” process and MRI scans. The service is interestingly named “Shape of an Angel” and can be yours for a mere £764 or about $1,276 not including the cost of the MRI.  You get a small, plastic, anatomically accurate (if low on resolution) model of your son or daughter, encased, if you wish, in a see-through reproduction of the mothers midriff.

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For the above price, the company will squeeze you or your partner into a MRI machine – a noisy, uncomfortable-for-the-patient piece of medical equipment capable of generating a 3D picture of the body’s interior – for an hour or so. I know you are thinking, that doesn’t sound nice but according to the Fasotec representative Tomohiro Kinoshita, the Japanese women loved it.

“We actually got three expectant mothers to try this out. They said it felt great to see how their babies looked before birth, and to be able to actually hold the inside of their own body,”  He goes on to say “They also enjoyed looking at the model after giving birth, thinking, ‘This is how my baby looked inside me’ and recalling how it felt to be pregnant.”

I am making light of it here but the technology is actually quite amazing. The service is in truth something of a PR stunt designed to promote Fasotec’s “bio-texture modelling” business, for which it has high hopes of making big money by connecting medical imaging technology to 3D printing. Fasotec also sees roles for the technology in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and in dentistry. My younger brother is an orthopaedic surgeon (aka the bone gods) and he thinks this will be the way medical students will learn to become surgeons in the future. Click on the video below to see for yourself. Pretty impressive stuff.

Although I have much respect for the technology and its promise of medical advancement, I just do not know how I feel about having a 3D print out of my foetus, when did a picture of your baby become a thing of the past? and why does this not excite me? Do they charge extra for twins, I wonder? the debate goes on….3D printed shoes however, I’ll take that.

3D_Shoes13Dshoes2

I love this song and all the shoes in this video, it has been the background song to my internal dialogues this week. Click play and enjoy while you ponder on the possibility of allowing a 3D print out foetus in your life.

Have a great weekend

Eyman