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     Volume 4 Issue 75 | December 16, 2005 |

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Hybrid Motorcycles
Japanese motorcycle giant Yamaha unveiled the concept model of a high-performance hybrid motorcycle, the "Gen-Ryu", equipped with a 600cc engine and electric motor hybrid system which can achieve over 1,000cc class machine performance at the press preview of the 39th Tokyo Motor Show in Makuhari, suburban Tokyo. Asia's largest motor show took place here in October 2005.

No Phone No Drive
British company Richmond Design & Marketing has developed a system that prevents driving a car if the owner's cell phone is not nearby. The Auto-txt system looks for a Bluetooth phone or else it won't start, and if someone else tries to start it, the driver is automatically alerted. The company can disable the vehicle through a remote wireless connection if the car has been reported stolen. This is an interesting idea, but with several limitations. So now you really have to carry your phone with you, and what happens when you lose your phone? Also, what if your car is stolen with the phone inside? A better solution would be to include a receiver so that you can text message your vehicle with a special code to disable it every time you leave the vehicle. If the car has a GPS system, why not be able to ping it for its location without alerting the thief?

Printing Organs on Demand
Need a skin graft? A new trachea? A heart patch? Turn on your printer and let it spit one out. A group of researchers hope printers' whirs and buzzes will soon be saving lives. Led by University of Missouri-Columbia biological physics professor Gabor Forgacs and aided by a $5 million National Science Foundation grant, researchers at three universities have developed bio-ink and bio-paper that could make so-called organ printing a reality. So far, they've made tubes similar to human blood vessels and sheets of heart muscle cells, printed in three dimensions on a special printer. "I think this is going to be a biggie," said Glenn D. Prestwich, the University of Utah professor who developed the bio-paper. "A lot of things are going to be a pain in the butt to print but I think we can do livers and kidneys as well." Prestwich guessed initial human organ printing may be five or 10 years away. Here's how it works: A customised milling machine prints a small sheet of bio-paper. This "paper" is a variable gel composed of modified gelatin and hyaluronan, a sugar-rich material. Bio-ink blots -- each a little ball of cellular material a few hundred microns in diameter -- are then printed onto the paper. The process is repeated as many times as needed, the sheets stacked on top of each other. Once the stack is the right size -- maybe two centimetres' worth of sheets, each containing a ring of blots, for a tube resembling a blood vessel -- printing stops. The stack is incubated in a bioreactor, where cells fuse with their neighbours in all directions. The bio-paper works as a scaffold to support and nurture cells, and should be eaten away by them or naturally degrade, researchers said. Though it can take less than two minutes to print a sheet of bio-paper with bio-ink, it can take about a week for such a tube to fuse, Forgacs said.

Mobiles For Children
Japan's electronics giant NTT DoCoMo unveils the new child-friendly 3G mobile handset "FOMA SA 800i with GPS device to keep children safe during a press preview in Tokyo. The handset has a loud alarm in case of an emergency. If the child activates the alarm, the handset will call up to three registered numbers and sends e-mails of the child's location automatically.

Designer babies
The idea of "designer babies" is one of those concepts that is fun to discuss, but the practical reality is sobering. Designer babies have already been born. Well over 1,000 children have been screened as embryos by preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. In PGD, a cell taken from an embryo is analysed to see if the chromosomes or genes are normal. Families use PGD to weed out genetic diseases and to make a baby who will be immunologically compatible with an existing sibling in need of a blood or bone-marrow donation. More controversially, it can be, and has been, used to select the sex of babies. But the term "designer baby" could become more literal. A year back, a team led by Ralph Brinster at the University of Pennsylvania managed to grow mouse "spermatagonial stem cells" in a dish. Also known as SSCs, they are the type of stem cells that eventually become sperm. Because these are sex cells, any changes scientists might introduce to their genes will be carried from generation to generation. This is called a "germ line" change, and it's a line that the majority of bioethicists agree should not be crossed, because it raises the spectre of DNA eugenics. So in theory, this technology could lead to a way to make sperm for infertile men, which most people would agree would be a great outcome. But scientists would also have the ability to alter the sperm genes so every succeeding generation would carry the change.

Car Stereo Jack's into PCs
In February Sony will start selling a car stereo that simplifies extending your music collection to your car. The $350 Xplod MEX-1GP has a removable faceplate that functions as an external hard drive when connected to a PC. Sony was smart in using a standard USB connector to make it dead simple for the widest variety of users. The faceplate has one gigabyte of flash memory, so you can shuffle between about 50 CDs worth of tunes during your drive, which should get people through even the toughest commute with a smile. The Xplod's CD drive accepts CD-R/RW discs, and it will play both MP3s and Windows Media Audio files. People who buy the Xplod will have to be extra careful to prevent theft as being able to make off with a mini music library is a nice bonus.


Source: AFP, Wired and Webindia123


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