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Archive - Mar 12, 2015

Thin Chameleon-Like “Skin” That Changes Color on Demand; “It’s Extremely Cool,” Berkeley Engineer Says

Borrowing a trick from nature, engineers from the University of California at Berkeley have created an incredibly thin, chameleon-like material that can be made to change color -- on demand -- by simply applying a minute amount of force. This new material-of-many-colors offers intriguing possibilities for an entirely new class of display technologies, color-shifting camouflage, and sensors that can detect otherwise imperceptible defects in buildings, bridges, and aircraft. "This is the first time anybody has made a flexible chameleon-like skin that can change color simply by flexing it," said Dr. Connie J. Chang-Hasnain, a member of the Berkeley team and co-author on a paper published online on March 12, 2015 in Optica, The Optical Society's (OSA) new, high-impact journal. By precisely etching tiny features -- smaller than a wavelength of light -- onto a silicon film one thousand times thinner than a human hair, the researchers were able to select the range of colors the material would reflect, depending on how it was flexed and bent. The colors we typically see in paints, fabrics, and other natural substances occur when white, broad-spectrum light strikes their surfaces. The unique chemical composition of each surface then absorbs various bands, or wavelengths of light. Those that aren't absorbed are reflected back, with shorter wavelengths giving objects a blue hue and longer wavelengths appearing redder and the entire rainbow of possible combinations in between. Changing the color of a surface, such as the leaves on the trees in autumn, requires a change in chemical make-up. Recently, engineers and scientists have been exploring another approach, one that would create designer colors without the use of chemical dyes and pigments.

People with Anorexia and Body Dysmorphic Disorder Have Similar Brain Anomalies

People with anorexia nervosa and with body dysmorphic disorder have similar abnormalities in their brains that affect their ability to process visual information, a new UCLA study reveals. People with anorexia have such an intense fear of gaining weight that they starve themselves even when they are dangerously thin. Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in physical appearance. The researchers found that people with both disorders had abnormal activity in the visual cortex of the brain during the very first instants when the brain processes "global" information, or images as a whole, as opposed to a tiny detail. According to the authors, it could also mean that perceptual retraining may be an effective therapy for both disorders. Perceptual retraining is a behavioral exercise that attempts to help adjust or correct the participant's balance of global and detailed processing. For both of these disorders, participants are encouraged to not focus on details and process objects more globally. Previous research on body dysmorphic disorder has shown the same type of abnormal activity in the visual cortex, but the UCLA study is the first to link the locations of the abnormal brain activity with time periods beginning as early as one-tenth of a second after an image is viewed. Understanding that timing is significant, the authors write, because it may help scientists determine whether the problem is in lower-level perception that takes place in the visual cortex, or elsewhere in higher-level brain systems. The study was published online on February 5, 2015 in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Medicine.

Glucosamine-Coupled Buckyballs May Be Effective in Treating Stroke

Materials resulting from the chemical bonding of glucosamine, a type of sugar, with fullerenes, kinds of nanoparticles known as “buckyballs,” might help to reduce cell damage and inflammation occurring after stroke. A team from the Max Planck Institute in Germany has tested this on mice, opening the door to potential new drugs for the cerebrovascular accident. The majority of stroke incidents occur when the blood vessels that reach the brain are blocked by clots or fatty deposits which decrease the flow of blood towards cells in the brain. It is then that an ischemic attack occurs, a pathology that leads to the degeneration of neurones, which can be fatal and not many drugs can treat. Now, German and Swiss scientists have discovered that the combination of two substances help to reduce inflammation and the brain volume affected after a cerebrovascular accident. This is glucosamine, an amino sugar commonly used to treat arthritis and arthrosis; and certain derivatives of fullerenes, hollow and spherical structures formed by many carbon atoms. Before now, it was known that the fullerenes capture chemical radicals well which makes them act as neuroprotective agents, while the glucosamine brings down the inflammation. What the researchers have done is to chemically bond the two compounds to produce what is known as “glyconanoparticles.” These have subsequently been administered to laboratory rats which then had a cerebrovascular accident induced. The results, which were published in the March 2015 issue of Experimental Neurology, conclude that this combination of fullerene derivatives and glucosamine reduces cell damage and inflammation after a stroke, according to the MRI scans of animal brains and the improvement of their neurological symptoms.

Zarxio from Sandoz (Novartis) Receives First FDA Biosimilar Approval

In a March 6, 2015 press release, Sandoz, a Novartis company, announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zarxio™ (filgrastim-sndz) for all indications included in the reference product's label. Sandoz is the first company to receive approval of a biosimilar in the U.S. through the new FDA biosimilars pathway established under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act. The approval was based on a comprehensive package of analytical, nonclinical, and clinical data, which confirmed that Zarxio is highly similar to the U.S.-licensed reference product. The approval of Zarxio follows the unanimous positive vote in January by the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC). "The FDA approval of Zarxio marks a significant milestone for the United States healthcare system and for patients who might suffer from neutropenia," said Dr. Carol Lynch, Global Head of Biopharmaceuticals & Oncology Injectables at Sandoz. "As the global leader in biosimilars, we are honored to be the first company to successfully work with FDA to navigate the U.S. biosimilar pathway and we look forward to making this high-quality biosimilar available to patients in the US." "Filgrastim has proven clinical value in treating patients at increased risk of neutropenia, but it is underused in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, including price" said Dr. Louis Weiner, Chairman of the Department of Oncology and Director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University. "Biosimilars have the potential to increase access and the approval of Zarxio may reduce costs to the healthcare system.