Metaverse Offers Chance to Get Technology Right

A person who requires insulin must walk a tightrope. Blood-glucose concentration can swing dramatically, and it is particularly affected by meals and exercise. If it falls too low, the person may faint; if it rises too high and stays elevated for too long, the person may go into a coma. To avoid repeated episodes of low blood glucose, patients in the past would often run their blood glucose somewhat high, laying themselves open to long-term complications, such as nerve damage, blindness, and heart disease. And patients always had to keep one eye on their blood glucose levels, which they measured many times a day by pricking their fingers for drops of blood. It was easily the most demanding therapy that patients have ever been required to administer to themselves.

No longer: The artificial pancreas is finally at hand. This is a machine that senses any change in blood glucose and directs a pump to administer either more or less insulin, a task that may be compared to the way a thermostat coupled to an HVAC system controls the temperature of a house. All commercial artificial pancreas systems are still “hybrid,” meaning that users are required to estimate the carbohydrates in a meal they’re about to consume and thus assist the system with glucose control. Nevertheless, the artificial pancreas is a triumph of biotechnology.

It is a triumph of hope, as well. We well remember a morning in late December of 2005, when experts in diabetes technology and bioengineering gathered in the Lister Hill Auditorium at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. By that point, existing technology enabled people with diabetes to track their blood glucose levels and use those readings to estimate the amount of insulin they needed. The problem was how to remove human intervention from the equation. A distinguished scientist took the podium and explained that biology’s glucose-regulation mechanism was far too complex to be artificially replicated. Boris Kovatchev and his colleagues disagreed, and after 14 years of work they were able to prove the scientist wrong.

It was yet another confirmation of Arthur Clarke’s
First Law: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

In a
healthy endocrine system,
the fasting blood glucose level is around 80 to 100 milligrams per deciliter of blood. The entire blood supply of a typical adult contains 4 or 5 grams of sugar—roughly as much as in the paper packet that restaurants offer with coffee. Consuming carbohydrates, either as pure sugar or as a starch such as bread, causes blood glucose levels to rise. A normally functioning pancreas recognizes the incoming sugar rush and secretes insulin to allow the body’s cells to absorb it so that it can be used as energy or stored for such use later on. This process brings the glucose level back to normal.

However, in people with
type 1 or insulin-requiring type

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New Sterilization Technology Offers an Alternative to EtO

According to FDA, more than 20 billion devices sold in the United States every year are sterilized with EtO, accounting for approximately 50 percent of devices that require sterilization. But recently, the EPA has taken a closer look at EtO, based on results from the National Air Toxics Assessment, which identified the chemical as a potential concern in several areas of the country. As a result, there have been several closures of EtO sterilization facilities in the United States and Europe. EPA is planning to finalize new regulations for commercial EtO sterilizers in 2022.

FDA said in 2019 that without adequate availability of EtO sterilization, it anticipates a national shortage of surgical kits and other critical devices including feeding tube devices used in neonatal intensive care units, drug-eluting cardiac stents, catheters, shunts, and other implantable devices. 

Phiex Technologies, however, hopes that its technology could offer companies an alternative to EtO sterilization. The company’s technology uses existing common packaging materials, such as plastic film or nonwovens, to sterilize devices.

“The difference is that we compound or embed a special proprietary powder additive into the package, in the material itself,” said Phiex co-founder and CEO, CL Tian, in an interview with MD+DI. “And so what an OEM has to do is essentially switch out their existing material one-for-one,” she explained. “And then when they seal the device in the package, they can activate the sterilization with a certain period of light exposure.” The contents will then be sterilized, as the packaging releases the sterilant, she said.

One of the ways that costs can be reduced by using Phiex’s technology is that the device never needs to be shipped out to a third-party vendor to be sterilized, Tian said. “That in and of itself is associated with a five to 10 percent cost [savings] by cutting freight and logistics, and time savings as it can take weeks to months to sterilize off-site, depending on how large of a medical device company you are.”

The technology is also environmentally compatible, Tian said. “The sterilant that we use actually has been in use for a very long time in the United States for its safety, from an environmental and also a human perspective,” she said.

Using Phiex’s packaging material will allow the manufacturer to bring sterilization in-house without needing any additional equipment investment, Tian said. “Typically, when you sterilize, you have to increase the heat and the humidity, and the pressure inside the gas chamber. Our technology does not require that,” she said.

Tian said she anticipates that companies will be using Phiex’s packaging materials for their devices in the next 12 to 24 months. Some OEMs are already looking into using the technology and would resubmit it in their FDA filings within 12-24 months. 

“I think it’s the right time to be rethinking ways to sterilize with the regulation happening, and we know a number of companies are in fact, looking at novel technologies and new approaches that are going to set

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5D data storage technology offers 10,000 times the density of Blu-ray

By deploying cutting-edge lasers and a little problem-solving, scientists at the University of Southampton have achieved a data storage breakthrough that offers both incredible density and long-term archiving capabilities. The technology is said to be capable of storing 500 terabytes on a single CD-sized disc, with the creators imagining it finding use in preserving everything from information for museums and libraries to data on a person’s DNA.

The technology is what is known as five-dimensional (5)D optical storage and it is one the University of Southampton team has been pursuing for a while. It was first demonstrated back in 2013, with the scientists successfully using the format to record and retrieve a 300-kb text file, though they harbored much loftier ambitions than that.

The data is written using a femtosecond laser, which emits incredibly short but powerful pulses of light, forging tiny structures in glass that are measured on the nanoscale. These structures contain information on the intensity and polarization of the laser beam, in addition to their three spatial dimensions, which is why the scientists refer to it as 5D data storage.

In 2015, the team demonstrated their progress by using the technology to save digital copies of major documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the King James Bible and the Magna Carta. As opposed to typical hard-drive memory that is vulnerable to high temperatures, moisture, magnetic fields and mechanical failure, this “eternal” 5D data storage promised incredible thermal stability and a virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature.

One thing the scientists have been working to address, however, is the ability to write data at fast enough speeds and at high enough densities for real-world applications. They now claim to have achieved this by using an optical phenomenon called near-field enhancement, which enables them to create the nanostructures with a few weak light pulses rather than writing with the femtosecond laser directly. This allows data to be written at 1,000,000 voxels per second, which equates to 230 kb of data, or more than 100 pages of text, per second.

“This new approach improves the data writing speed to a practical level, so we can write tens of gigabytes of data in a reasonable time,” says Yuhao Lei from the University of Southampton in the UK. “The highly localized, precision nanostructures enable a higher data capacity because more voxels can be written in a unit volume. In addition, using pulsed light reduces the energy needed for writing.”

University of Southampton scientists have used their cutting-edge 5D data storage tech to save around 5 GB of information onto a one-inch silica glass sample

Yuhao Lei and Peter G. Kazansky, University of Southampton

The team demonstrated this technique by writing 5 GB of text data onto a silica glass disc around the size of a CD with almost 100 percent readout accuracy, though the researchers say such a disc would be capable of holding 500 TB of data, making it 10,000 times denser than a Blu-ray disc. The researchers

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