ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

July 2019

Image: Felice Frankel

Space

TESS discovers three new planets nearby, including temperate “sub-Neptune”

The MIT-led NASA mission, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has identified a number of new exoplanets and, in the process, helped astronomers and scientists unearth new details about our universe. Three new worlds it identified are among the smallest, nearest exoplanets known to date; the discovery may provide answers to many long-standing research questions.  Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/tess-discovers-three-planets-nasa-0729

Health/Convergence

Hydration sensor could improve dialysis

For patients with kidney failure who need dialysis, removing fluid at the correct rate and stopping at the right time is critical, to avoid sudden drops in blood pressure. Currently there is no reliable, easy way to measure hydration levels in these patients, who number around half a million in the United States. However, researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have now developed a portable sensor that can accurately measure patients’ hydration levels using a technique known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry. Such a device could be useful for not only dialysis patients, but also people with congestive heart failure, as well as athletes and elderly people who may be in danger of becoming dehydrated. The portable device is based on the same technology as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners but can obtain measurements at a fraction of the cost of MRI, and in much less time, because there is no imaging involved. Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/hydration-sensor-dialysis-0724

Microfluidics device helps diagnose sepsis in minutes

A novel sensor designed by MIT researchers could dramatically accelerate the process of diagnosing sepsis, a leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals that kills nearly 250,000 patients annually. Occurring when the immune response to infection triggers an inflammation chain reaction throughout the body, sepsis causes high heart rate, high fever, shortness of breath, and other issues. If left unchecked, it can lead to septic shock, where blood pressure falls and organs shut down. To diagnose sepsis, doctors traditionally rely on various diagnostic tools, including vital signs, blood tests, and other imaging and lab tests. The test described by MIT researchers is a microfluidics-based system that automatically detects clinically significant levels of IL-6 for sepsis diagnosis in about 25 minutes, using less than a finger prick of blood. Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/immune-response-supressant-diabetes-0624 

Cancer biologists identify new drug combo

When it comes to killing cancer cells, two drugs are often better than one. Some drug combinations offer a one-two punch that kills cells more effectively, requires lower doses of each drug, and can help to prevent drug resistance. MIT biologists have now found that by combining two existing classes of drugs, both of which target cancer cells’ ability to divide, they can dramatically boost the drugs’ killing power. This drug combination also appears to largely spare normal cells, because cancer cells divide differently than healthy cells, the researchers say. They hope a clinical trial of this combination can be started within a year or two.  Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/cancer-mitosis-drugs-combine-0710

Science/Tech

Software to empower workers on the factory floor

MIT spinout Tulip has developed a customizable manufacturing app platform that connects people, machines, and sensors to help optimize processes on the shop floor. Tulip’s apps provide workers with interactive instructions, quality checks, and a way to easily communicate with managers in the event of a problem. Managers can make changes to the apps in real-time, using its analytics dashboard to pinpoint issues with machines and assembly processes. Tulip’s tools and scalable design empowers workers in an industry historically trending toward automation. As the company continues to build out its platform — including adding machine vision and machine learning capabilities — it hopes to encourage manufacturers to see people as an indispensable resource.  Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/tulip-manufacturing-0801