Cigarette-puffing robot simulates the effect of smoking on your lungs

Researchers working to discover more about how smoke impacts people’s health have developed an artificial human lung “airway on a chip” and a smoking robot to carry out more accurate tests.

The work will help further our understanding of conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an irreversible inflammatory disease of the lung’s small airways, and will aid with investigations into newer smoking-related trends like vaping.

“It’s like a Gatling gun, a round turret with 10-12 cigarettes mounted in it,” is how Dr. Donald Ingber, director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, described the cigarette-smoking bot to Digital Trends. “We then use an automated car cigarette lighter to touch the cigarette to light it. The machine puffs the cigarette as a human would. You can tune its puffing frequency, intensity and intervals — and then observe what happens as the smoke is fed from the machine and passed through the airspace of the small airway chip.”

The “lung airway chip” technology is just the latest in a series of “organs-on-chips” — microengineered cell culture devices that are sweeping the medical research world. These artificial human organs have previously included kidneys, intestines, lungs and placentas, and allow approximations of specific organs to be created for testing without requiring potentially harmful studies on living animals or people.

In the case of the airway-on-a-chip, a hollow microchannel is lined with living human bronchiolar epithelium, taken from either healthy individuals or patients with COPD. As a press release about the news states: “Cell culture medium is continually flowed through a parallel running channel separated from the first by a porous membrane to support the epithelium for up to four weeks, and to create a so-called air-liquid interface similar to that present in [the] actual lung airway.”

While it’s no secret that smoking is bad for you, the new research can help make more accurate, personalized evaluations about just how bad it is.

“One of the biggest advances is that you can more accurately answer the question of what smoke does to a particular patient,” Dr. Ingber continued. “We can use the same patient’s chips and see what happens before and after smoke exposure. Previously, clinical studies on smoke exposure simply analyzed a certain number of patients who had a history of smoking and an equal number who didn’t. The problem with this is that you’re dealing with different people with their own histories, home environments, work environments, and so on. This gives us a much more direct idea about cause and effect.”

Wearables

Lack of regulation means wearables aren’t held accountable for health claims

As fitness trackers become more like health monitors, some physicians are concerned they can lead to over-diagnosis of non-existent problems. It’s already happening with wearable baby monitors.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.
Deals

From Samsung to HP, here are the best cheap Chromebook deals right now

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- with most…
Emerging Tech

Face-scanning A.I. can help doctors spot unusual genetic disorders

Facial recognition can unlock your phone. Could it also be used to identify whether a person has a rare genetic disorder, based on their facial features? New research suggests it can.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

Tiny animals discovered in Antarctic lake deep beneath the ice

Scientists have made a surprising discovery in Antarctica: the carcasses of tiny animals including crustaceans and a tardigrade were found in a lake that sits deep beneath over half a mile of Antarctic ice.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.