The ankle bone’s connected to the … 3D-printed titanium implant

3D printed titanium heel implant

The 3D-printed titanium heel implant

Surgery has come a long way since the days when it consisted of either cutting things out or cutting them off. But there are still conditions where amputation is the only alternative.

One of them, until recently, was bone cancer.

Len Chandler was facing the prospect of having his leg off below the knee when he was diagnosed with cancer of the calcaneus (heel bone). Until his surgeon, Professor Peter Choong from Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital, had an idea.

He knew about CSIRO’s work in titanium 3D, after reading about our work on producing an orthotic horseshoe in 2013. He got in touch with John Barnes, our titanium and 3D printing expert, asking whether his vision – a metallic implant which would support a human body’s weight – could become a reality.

3D printed heel implant

3D printed heel implant. Note the rough surface for flesh to adhere to

At the time, CSIRO was working with the Victorian-based biotech company Anatomics on metallic implant technology. John brought Anatomics into the discussion, to draw on their experience as a certified custom medical device manufacturer.

Our Manufacturing Flagship worked with Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital and Victorian biotech company Anatomics on a world-first surgery, developing a heel bone implant printed in titanium on CSIRO’s state-of-the-art Arcam 3D printer.

Working from Anatomics’ schematics for the heel bone, teams at Anatomics and CSIRO developed the design requirements with Choong’s surgical team. These included smooth surfaces where the bone contacts other bone, holes for suture locations, and rough surfaces that would allow tissue to adhere to the implant. In the days before the surgery Anatomics and CSIRO produced three implant prototypes.

The entire process, from first phone call to surgery, took two weeks. Three months after the surgery, Mr Chandler has had his most recent check-up. He’s recovering well, and is able to place some weight on his implant.

3D heel 3As CSIRO’s Robert Wilson, part of the heel printing team, points out, ‘The customisation of 3D printing is good in emergency situations such as these’.

It’s also a local manufacturing process: Australian companies producing implants for our own doctors and patients. That means we don’t have to rely on imported parts, and the design can be truly personalised to the patient.

We’re working with a number of major companies and SMEs across Australia to build capacity in biotech and manufacturing.

The plan, says John Barnes, is that, ‘At some point in the future we expect that local for-profit businesses will have the capacity to work on projects like this, and until that momentum is built up in local industry, CSIRO is here to help local industries gain that momentum’.


Next-gen technologies get down to Robo-business

It doesn't need to be a case of 'us vs them' - robots actually help humans perform better. Image - Franz Steiner www.webneel.com

It doesn’t need to be a case of ‘us vs them’ – robots actually help humans perform better. Image – Franz Steiner http://www.webneel.com

By Emily Lehmann 

A world in which robots and humans live side-by-side is no longer just stuff dreamed up in fantastical sci-fi movies (thank you very much James Cameron). ‘Cos if we’re talking about industry, the smart machine era is already here.

Next-gen technologies like self-driving vehicles, remote augmented reality and fully-autonomous robots are now being used to help companies work better, from underground mines to the factory floor.

The latest and greatest in the ‘bots biz was all the talk last week at RoboBusiness 2014, where we took the opportunity to share our vision for the world of intelligent industry.

We want to create an environment where man and machine can work safely and productively side-by-side. To help us achieve this, we’ve developed Guardian technologies: a suite of intelligent, lightweight assistive robots that will increase the productivity and global competitiveness of manufacturing firms.

The robots include Guardian angel, mentor, helper and worker technologies, which all play their own important and unique role in assisting – but not replacing – people in the workplace.

For instance, Guardians can be used to hold or move heavy, awkward items, or be deployed in places not considered safe for humans to perform tasks – all while a person controls them remotely. Check out this video to see how they work:

We have some exciting news around one of our clever Guardian technologies, Zebedee, which is about to be enhanced with new features and improvements.

Zebedee is our leading handheld 3D laser mapping technology and the next generation version will allow manufacturers to create faster and more accurate 3D simulations of their factory production lines.

We’re also about to start a $2 million research and development partnership with UK-based start-up GeoSLAM on the developments to make this happen. You can read more about this on the IT Wire.

 


We need your help! The Total Wellbeing Diet online trial

You new guide to living healthy. Image ©iStock.com/anouchka

You new guide to living healthy. Image ©iStock.com/anouchka

We’re looking for 5,000 Australians (from ages 18 to 74) to participate in a trial of a new online diet program based on our award-winning and bestselling Total Wellbeing Diet.

It’s easy as – by following a simple, customised eating plan and weighing in on the website once a week over a 12 week period, you can improve your diet and wellbeing. And to top it off, we will refund the $99 registration fee when you finish – but only if you’re quick enough to sign up first!

The good news is, we already know that the diet works – over half a million Aussies have already lost an average of 6.1kgs on the diet – so the online program is just making it easier for everyone out there with a smart phone, tablet or computer. We’re running this trial now to fine-tune the system before a wider public release next year.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad - one of the delicious dishes that will be at your fingertips.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad – one of the delicious dishes that will be at your fingertips.

So what’s the deal?

Our new Total Wellbeing Diet online diary is easy to follow and can be customised to suit your tastes, dietary preferences and lifestyle. Food journals are essential for successful weight management, but most journals only count calories. This diary instantly tallies your food groups and shows you where you’re going right and wrong with your eating plan.

The program will also include practical, realistic exercise programs to help maximise weight loss and wellness benefits. And best of all, you can do it all from your own smart phone.

The findings from this three month trial will be used to develop more engaging online dietary programs that can reach many more people, and will also help us assess how we can inspire healthy eating and provide more support to those that need to lose weight – a major goal of the Total Wellbeing Diet project.

We want to make this program as best as it can be… but we need your help.

If you want to get involved, registration starts from 19 October, and the trial starts on 3 November. Remember, you will need to check in each week with your weight to have the $99 fee refunded.

To register for the trial visit: www.totalwellbeingdiet.com

CSIRO has licensed Total Wellbeing Diet to SP Health for the development and management of an online next generation Total Wellbeing Diet program, in collaboration with the Glycemic Index Foundation.

 


Tell me s’more: Five alternate ways to charge your mobile phone

In 1973 when Motorola engineer Martin Cooper created the first mobile phone prototype it weighed around 1.1 kilos (iPhone 6 weighs 129 grams) and had enough power for 20 minutes of talk time before requiring a ten-hour recharge. But back in the day that wasn’t an issue because most people weren’t strong enough to keep the brick-like handset hoisted to their ear for much longer.

Today, the problem we face is not developing forearms of steel to handle our phones, but how to keep them powered up with so many apps ticking away in the background. It turns out it is easier than you think. Forgotten your charger? Never fear. Chuck on a t-shirt, fire up the camp stove or grab your suitcase.

Roast some marshmallows
Ahhh, there’s nothing quite like the great outdoors. The hours of serenity provide the perfect time for quiet reflection as you feel yourself become at one with nature. But wouldn’t it be better if you’re phone wasn’t dead and you could share your favourite s’more recipes on Facebook? Now you can, thanks to a camping stove that converts heat from the flames into electricity.

Turn up the volume
A few years ago music lovers at the Glastonbury festival in the UK got to try out a new t-shirt that powered up their mobile phones while they pulled their moves. Made of a special material called piezoelectric film, the t-shirt turns vibrations from the music into an electrical charge.

Tee off like Tiger
Finally, golfers can be rewarded for playing poorly. Fitted to the handgrip of the club, the smart device harnesses the kinetic energy generated by the golfer repeatedly swinging the club. Depending on how good your game is, you could generate up to two hours of charge.

Run like Forrest
Keeping on the kinetic energy theme, so-called green gyms are using the energy burnt off by gym users to generate electricity. One gym in Berlin has installed special plug-ins to the machines that allow people to charge their phones with the energy they produce while working out.

Pack your suitcase
Designer Jung Inyoung has come up with the concept of a rolling suitcase that provides power to devices using kinetic energy. There are two gears on the bag’s wheels that collect energy as you stroll around the airport. You can plug your phone into the suitcase to charge it.

We have been working on new battery technologies for a number of years, including flexible batteries which can be integrated into fabrics and clothing. Read more about our wearable electronics work.


Bat’s immunity may hold key to preventing future Ebola outbreaks

By Michelle Baker, CSIRO

Bats can harbour viruses such as Ebola and don’t display clinical signs of disease. Image - Janelle Lugge

Bats can harbour viruses such as Ebola and don’t display clinical signs of disease. Image – Janelle Lugge

Bats are the natural host species for Ebola and a variety of viruses, many of which can be fatal when transmitted to humans. More than 100 viruses have been identified in bats and this number is rising each year.

African fruit bats first transmitted Ebola virus to primates and other species through contact with bat droppings, half-eaten fruit or bodily fluids of diseased bats. People are thought to have contracted the virus through contact with infected bats and primates. Subsequent person–to-person transmission occurs through direct contact with infected body fluids: blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine or faeces.

Interestingly, bats have the ability to harbour viruses such as Ebola and don’t display clinical signs of disease. Yet once the virus infects other species, it has the potential to cause widespread death and disease. How is it that bats are resistant to a disease that kills up to 90% of people it infects?

Ebola virus infection

The impact of Ebola virus in people is largely the result of the activation of the immune system, rather than the virus itself. During the initial stages of infection, Ebola shuts off the immune response to the virus, resulting in rapid viral replication and a delay in the production of antibodies.

The immune system is initiated only once the virus is out of control and then results in over-activation of the immune response. Although the role of the immune system is to eliminate the virus, when it is activated at extreme levels it becomes damaging to the host – in this case, an infected patient.

Like all haemorrhagic fevers, this results in widespread tissue damage, leading to internal and external bleeding, decreased kidney and liver function and ultimately, in many cases, death.

Therapies

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever recorded and is continuing to accelerate. Researchers and drug companies are racing to develop treatments and vaccines targeting the Zaire ebolavirus, the strain that is causing the current outbreak.

6x6cy28c-1413419361

The Ebola vaccine trial results will be assessed next month. Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

The first human trial to establish the safety of the vaccine and assess the immune responses of volunteers is underway. The researchers hope that by November there will be enough data to make an informed decision about whether to deploy the vaccine in Western Africa.

So far, studies in monkeys have demonstrated that the vaccine provides protective immunity for up to ten months.

Unlocking the bat immune system

Studying how bats control viral replication may unlock alternative mechanisms for tackling Ebola as well as other new and emerging infectious diseases. Increasing antimicrobial resistance of viruses, bacteria and fungi, for instance, is becoming a global concern and we need to think creatively to find solutions.

Bats and viruses have achieved an equilibrium that allows them to co-exist. Clues from studies of bat genomes have revealed differences in genes associated with the very early immune response that could help bats respond to infections. These genes appear to be evolving at a faster rate in bats compared with other species, providing evidence that they are likely co-evolving with the viruses that bats carry.

Functional differences in the immune system may also play a role. Unlike humans and mice, which activate their immune systems only in response to an infection, bats appear to have certain components of their immune system constantly switched on. This may allow bats to control viral replication much more efficiently compared with other species.

If we can redirect the immune responses of other species to behave in a similar manner to that of bats, the high death rate associated with diseases such as Ebola could be a thing of the past.

It’s tempting to look to culling as the answer to deal with bats as the natural hosts of Ebola. This suggestion was made during the spillover of Hendra virus from bats to horses in Australia. But it is not the answer; bats are an extremely successful group of mammals, making up 20% of all mammalian diversity. They are critical to ecosystems, with roles in insect control and pollination.

Rather than persecuting bats, we need to unravel the secrets of the success of this group of mammals. Understanding how bats control viral replication would not only assist in developing future therapeutics but may also help predict transmission events from bats into human and animal populations.

Michelle Baker receives funding from The Australian Research Council

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


A Nickel for your vote

Last week we brought you bees with backpacks… but this week we’re bringing nickel back.

Please, don’t be scared – we’re not talking about that band. Instead, another of our awesome research collaborations – the Direct Nickel process – has been nominated for an award in The Australian’s Innovation Challenge. The project, which has the potential to unlock 70 per cent of the world’s nickel supply and provide an enormous boost to the Australian economy, is up for a gong in the Challenge’s Energy and Minerals category.

And again, we’re asking you to #voteCSIRO

So why do we think this deserves your vote? Well, ask any metallurgist and they will tell you: nickel is a versatile and important metal, famous for giving stainless steel its strength. In fact, nickel is used in hundreds of thousands of products: from nuts and bolts, to cutlery and cooking pots, through to industrial equipment and jet engines.

Fiona McCarthy of Direct Nickel working at our pilot plant in Perth.

Fiona McCarthy of Direct Nickel working at our pilot plant in Perth. Image – Chad Taylor

A new processing method for extracting this in-demand resource, developed by Sydney-based company Direct Nickel, is being tested at our brand-new, $3.5 million pilot plant in Perth.

It uses recyclable nitric acid as a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective way of extracting nickel from untapped laterite reserves, which are estimated to hold more than 70 per cent of the world’s total nickel supplies. And it just so happens that we have an abundance of nickel laterites in Australia, while other sources of nickel around the world are running low.

If all goes to plan, this processing method could be ready to roll out to industry in two years’ time – and it’s predicted that it could realise a $30 billion per year Australian nickel industry.

We reckon that’s worth a vote.


Plants absorb more CO2 than we thought, but …

Plants doing the photosynthesis thing

A new study shows plants may absorb more carbon than we thought. Jason Samfield/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

By Pep Canadell, CSIRO

Through burning fossil fuels, humans are rapidly driving up levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn is raising global temperatures.

But not all the CO2 released from burning coal, oil and gas stays in the air. Currently, about 25% of the carbon emissions produced by human activity are absorbed by plants, and another similar amount ends up in the ocean.

To know how much more fossils fuels we can burn while avoiding dangerous levels of climate change, we need to know how these “carbon sinks” might change in the future. A new study led by Dr. Sun and colleagues published today in PNAS shows the land could take up slightly more carbon than we thought.

But it doesn’t change in any significant way how quickly we must decrease carbon emissions to avoid dangerous climate change.

Models overestimate CO2

The new study estimates that over the past 110 years some climate models over-predicted the amount of CO2 that remains in the atmosphere, by about 16%.

Models are not designed to tell us what the atmosphere is doing: that’s what observations are for, and they tell us that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are currently over 396 parts per million, or about 118 parts per million over pre-industrial times. These atmospheric observations are in fact the most accurate measurements of the carbon cycle.

But models, which are used to understand the causes of change and explore the future, often don’t match perfectly the observations. In this new study, the authors may have come up with a reason that explains why some models overestimate CO2 in the atmosphere.

Looking to the leaves

Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air, combine it with water and light, and make carbohydrates — the process known as photosynthesis.

It is well established that as CO2 in the atmosphere increases, the rate of photosynthesis increases. This is known as the CO2 fertilisation effect.

But the new study shows that models may not have quite right the way they simulate photosynthesis. The reasons comes down to how CO2 moves around inside a plant’s leaf.

Models use the CO2 concentration inside a plant’s leaf cells, in the so called sub-stomatal cavity, to drive the sensitivity of photosynthesis to increasing amounts of CO2. But this isn’t quite correct.

The new study shows that CO2 concentrations are actually lower inside a plant’s chloroplasts — the tiny chambers of a plant cell where photosynthesis actually happens. This is because the CO2 has to go through an extra series of membranes to get into the chloroplasts.

This means that photosynthesis takes place at lower CO2 than models assume. But counterintuitively, because photosynthesis is more responsive to increasing levels of CO2 at lower concentrations, plants are removing more CO2 in response to increasing emissions than models show.

Photosynthesis increases as CO2 concentrations increase but only up until a point. At some point more CO2 has no effect on photosynthesis, which stays the same. It becomes saturated.

But if concentrations inside a leaf are lower, this saturation point is delayed, and growth in photosynthesis is higher, which means more CO2 is absorbed by the plant.

The new study shows that when accounting for the issue of CO2 diffusivity in the leaf, the 16% difference between modelled CO2 in the atmosphere and the real observations disappear.

It is a great, neat piece of science, which connects the intricacies of leaf level structure to the functioning of the Earth system. We will need to reexamen they way we model photosynthesis in climate models and whether a better way exists in light of the new findings.

Does this change how much CO2 the land absorbs?

This study suggests that some climate models models under-simulate how much carbon is stored by plants, and in consequence over-simulate how much carbon goes into the atmosphere. The land sink might be a little bigger — although we don’t know yet how much bigger.

If the land sink does a better job, it means that for a given climate stabilisation, we would have to do a little bit less carbon mitigation.

But photosynthesis is a long, long way before a true carbon sink is created, one that actually stores carbon for a long time.

About 50% of all CO2 taken in by photosynthesis goes back to the atmosphere soon after through plant respiration.

Of what remains, more than 90% also returns back to the atmosphere through microbial decomposition in the soils and disturbances such as fire over the following months to years — what stays, is the land sink.

Good news, but not time for complacency

The study is a rare and welcome piece of possible good news, but it needs to be placed in context.

The land sink has very large uncertainties, they have been well quantified, and the reasons are multiple.

Some models suggest that the land will continue to absorb more carbon all throughout this century, some predict it will absorb more carbon up to a point, and some predict that the land will start releasing carbon — becoming a source, not a sink.

The reasons are multiple and include limited information on how the thawing of permafrost will effect large carbon reservoirs, how the lack of nutrients could limit the further expansion of the land sink, and how fire regimes might change under a warmer world.

These uncertainties put together are many times bigger than the possible effect of the leaf CO2 diffusion. The bottom line is that humans continue to be in full control of what’s happening to the climate system over the coming centuries, and what we do with greenhouse emissions will largely determine its trajectory.

The Conversation

Pep Canadell receives funding from the Australian Climate Change Science Program.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,614 other followers