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Added drug allows rapamycin to slow aging without risking to induce diabetes

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New research at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University suggests a fix for serious side effects of rapamycin(*), a drug that appears to mimic the ability of dietary restriction to slow the aging process.


Laboratory mice that have received rapamycin have reduced the age-dependent decline in spontaneous activity, demonstrated more fitness, improved cognition and cardiovascular health, had less cancer, and lived substantially longer than mice fed a normal diet.


However, rapamycin has some drawbacks, including an increase in insulin resistance that could set the stage for diabetes, observed in both humans and laboratory animals. The new findings, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, help to explain why that happens, and what could be done to address it.


The new research study found that both dietary restriction and rapamycin inhibited lipid synthesis, but only dietary restriction increased the oxidation of those lipids in order to produce energy. Rapamycin, by contrast, allowed a buildup of fatty acids and eventually an increase in insulin resistance, which in humans can lead to diabetes.


However, the drug metformin can address that concern, and is already given to some diabetic patients to increase lipid oxidation. In lab tests, the combined use of rapamycin and metformin prevented the unwanted side effect.


“If proven true, then combined use of metformin and rapamycin for treating aging and age-associated diseases in humans may be possible,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.


“This could be an important advance if it helps us find a way to gain the apparent benefits of rapamycin without increasing insulin resistance,” said Viviana Perez, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the OSU College of Science.


“It could provide a way not only to increase lifespan but to address some age-related diseases and improve general health,” Perez said. “We might find a way for people not only to live longer, but to live better and with a higher quality of life.”


“There’s still substantial work to do, and it may not be realistic to expect with humans what we have been able to accomplish with laboratory animals,” Perez said. “People don’t live in a cage and eat only the exact diet they are given. Nonetheless, the potential of this work is exciting.”


(*) Rapamycin, first discovered from the soils of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in the South Pacific Ocean, is primarily used as an immunosuppressant to prevent rejection of organs and tissues. In recent years it was also observed that it can function as a metabolic “signaler” that inhibits a biological pathway found in almost all higher life forms — the ability to sense when food has been eaten, energy is available and it’s okay for cell proliferation, protein synthesis and growth to proceed. Called mTOR in mammals, for the term “mammalian target of rapamycin,” this pathway has a critical evolutionary value — it helps an organism avoid too much cellular expansion and growth when energy supplies are insufficient. That helps explain why some form of the pathway has been conserved across such a multitude of species, from yeast to fish to humans.


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"Thermal Touch" can turn any surface into an augmented reality 3D touchscreen

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Augmented reality company Metaio is developing “Thermal Touch,” a technology that combines infrared and visible light cameras to detect the heat signature from your fingers and turn any object into a touchscreen. The technology could be embedded in the smartphones and wearable devices of the future to offer new ways of interacting with our environment.


Metaio, an augmented reality company based in Munich, believes that thermal imaging cameras will be a staple in the personal electronics of the future, and has developed the prototype of a user interface that relies on them to turn any object into a heat-sensitive touchscreen.


Consisting of an infrared and standard camera working in tandem and running on a tablet PC, the prototype registers the heat signature left by a person’s finger when touching a surface. Metaio’s AR software then supplements the experience with AR and computer vision to allow the user to interact with digital content in all-new tactile way.


The best graphic user interface (GUI) for wearable headsets has yet to be determined – device makers have so far experimented with voice navigation, companion devices and even projection, but in order for consumers to adopt new technology on a massive level it needs to be convenient and, above all, accessible in countless scenarios.


With “Thermal Touch”, a wearable headset user could turn any surface into a touch-screen: Imagine pushing directions to your device simply by touching a static map in a shopping mall, building complex or airport; children could bring play to new levels and launch digital content directly from their toys; design professionals could visualize their digital and 3-D creations on their real world counterparts; and service technicians could pull up information just by touching an object in real life.


“Thermal Touch” is a prototype and far from everyday usability. Metaio released the demo to educate the community on the possibilities of computer vision. It is likely that in 5-10 years infrared cameras may join a multitude of advanced sensors being integrated into devices everyday, including the wearable augmented reality headsets of the near future.


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