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This group of Australian students has invented a new way to diagnose diseases — and it could lead to a tool that's better than what we've got now.

It's got the power to save lives, and in a few years you may even see it on a cellphone.


These dudes did it! And they're clearly pumped about it. Image courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Lee.

In 2014, the team of undergrads entered a prestigious biomolecular design competition at Harvard University from halfway around the world — and took home first place.

They call themselves Team EchiDNA. They're a group of Australian undergrads led by Dr. Lawrence Lee of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney.

So how did they win? They looked at nature.

Together with Lee, the team designed the Cooperative Molecular Biosensor that can detect viruses and diseases. They drew their inspiration from the design models found in nature.

"By copying nature, we're constructing new technologies that can potentially be used to drive a rapid diagnostic device," Lee explained to me via email.

Team members at the BIOMOD contest at Harvard's Wyss Institute. Image via Jacob Klensin/Wyss Institute.

The Cooperative Molecular Biosensor is a tiny sensor made up of a ring of beacons that light up when they bind to the target DNA — of a virus, pathogen, or even mutation.

Is the virus present? If yes, the ring lights up. That's all there is to it. You can see more of a scientific explanation in their project video.

But the bottom line: more sensitive testing and fewer false positives. Yes!

A computer model of the sensor. GIF via Team EchiDNA.

A group of students pulling this off is impressive. The short time frame they did it in is even more so.

The team was made up of undergraduates, and as Lee describes, had many other student responsibilities to worry about.

"We started the project quite late with only a few months for everything to come together," he says, explaining the challenges they've faced. "The team consisted of undergraduate students who still had to attend lectures, submit assignments, and sit exams."

Giving hope to procrastinators everywhere!

Winning the contest was just the beginning. This invention has the potential to revolutionize the way we diagnose diseases like Ebola.

At the same time the students were busy winning awards for their invention, Ebola was wreaking havoc on parts of the world. And flat-out scaring the rest of it.

Ebola virus. Image via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the outbreak, Lee says, "there was a clear need for definitive and rapid diagnostics of Ebola so that patients could be identified, isolated, and treated quickly to stem the spread of the disease."

Because the initial symptoms of Ebola are so similar to those of other diseases (malaria, typhoid fever, other bad stuff), diagnosis in the early stages can be very difficult. With current technology, a patient may be in the hospital for multiple days before a positive Ebola diagnosis is made.

Team EchiDNA saw the need to rapidly diagnose Ebola and tailored their design to help fill that void.

The team created their design to target the DNA of the Ebola virus — although, as Lee explains, "I must stress that the capacity to detect Ebola DNA sequences in laboratory setting is a long way from robust and accurate diagnostics in patient samples."

The team presenting their project at the BIOMOD contest. Image via Jacob Klensin/Wyss Institute.

In other words — the device is a long way from being sent into the field. But they are working to get there.

And once the design is perfected, it can be tailored to diagnose a wide range of other specific diseases: tuberculosis, HIV, or even a common flu.

So what's next? Lee said he and his lab (which still includes a couple members of the winning team) are working to refine the sensor and make it "so sophisticated you can test for bacteria or viruses by plugging a blood sample into your mobile phone," according to their press release.

Can you imagine!? A cell phone that diagnoses disease. Whoa. Image via Thinkstock.

These students should be so proud — and we should be so thankful for the young brains around the world helping to transform the future.

The technology being developed could drastically change the course of an Ebola outbreak — and other diseases — and stop it in its tracks before it can get out of hand. Life-saving!

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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