UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Camera focuses near and far simultaneously

TORONTO, May 5 (UPI) — University of Toronto scientists say they have made a breakthrough in video camera design by developing a new distance-mapping technology.

Researchers, led by Professor Keigo Iizuka, said their Omni-focus Video Camera delivers automatic, real-time focus of both near and far field images, simultaneously, in high resolution. That, they said, is an unprecedented capability that can be broadly applied in industry, including manufacturing, medicine, defense and security, as wall as for the consumer market.

The Omni-focus Video Camera was produced in collaboration with consulting investigator David Wilkes, president of Wilkes Associates, a Canadian high-tech product development company.

“The Omni-focus Video Camera’s unique ability to achieve simultaneous focus of all of the objects in a scene … without the usual physical movement of the camera’s optics, represents a true advancement that is further distinguished in terms of high-resolution, distance mapping, real-time operation, simplicity, compactness, lightweight portability and a projected low manufacturing cost,” Wilkes said.

Iizuka said the camera is still in the research stage.

Roller coasters linked to ear injury

DETROIT, May 5 (UPI) — Physicians should know ear barotrauma has been linked to a roller coaster ride, a U.S. doctor warns.

Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit says the case study of a 24-year-old male experiencing pain and fullness in his right ear about 36 hours after riding a roller coaster at an amusement park may be the first reported instance between the force of acceleration in roller coasters and ear barotrauma.

Yaremchuk pointed out barotrauma — caused by a quick change in pressure in the external environment, the ear drum and the middle ear — from a roller coaster happens suddenly so it very difficult for the patient to equalize ear pressure by simply yawning or chewing gum.

“As roller coasters continue to push the envelope of speed, otolaryngologists need to be aware of this new cause of barotrauma to the ear,” Yaremchuk says in a statement. “Based on our research, we recommend that passengers remain facing forward for the duration of the ride to not let the full impact of acceleration hit the ear.”

The case study was presented at the annual meeting of Triologocial Society, part of the Combined Otolaryngology spring meetings in Las Vegas.

Caution urged in oil spill cleanup

BERKELEY, Calif., May 5 (UPI) — A U.S. ecologist is urging extreme caution in the cleanup of the fragile Gulf Coast ecosystem in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said detergents used to clean oil contaminated sites can make a bad situation even worse.

“The concentration of detergents and other chemicals used to cleanup sites contaminated by oil spills can cause environmental nightmares of their own,” Hazen said. “It is important to remember that oil is a biological product and can be degraded by microbes, both on and beneath the surface of the water. Some of the detergents that are typically used to cleanup spill sites are more toxic than the oil itself, in which case it would be better to leave the site alone and allow microbes to do what they do best.”

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig leased by BP Plc that exploded and sank April 20 is now disgorging thousands of gallons of oil daily into the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

Hazen said aggressive cleanup efforts are fraught with unintended consequences,

He cites as a prime example the Amoco Cadiz disaster.

In 1978, an oil tanker, the Amoco Cadiz, split in two about three miles off the coast of Normandy, releasing about 227,000 tons of heavy crude oil that ultimately stained nearly 200 miles of coastline. He said the spill-site was so large, only areas of great economic impact were treated with detergents. Large regions in more remote parts of the coast went untreated.

“The untreated coastal areas were fully recovered within five years of the Amoco Cadiz spill,” Hazen said. “As for the treated areas, ecological studies show that 30 years later, those areas still have not recovered.”

Genetic link found between both ALS types

CHICAGO, May 5 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve found a genetic link between sporadic and familial forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine found a protein called FUS forms characteristic skein-like cytoplasmic inclusion in spinal motor neurons in most cases of the neurodegenerative disease. Mutations in that gene have been previously linked to a small subset of familial ALS cases, so the scientists said their finding links the rare genetic cause to most cases of ALS, clearing the way for therapy research based on a known molecular target.

The researchers examined the post-mortem spinal cords and brains of 100 cases, 78 with ALS and 22 in a control group. They found FUS pathology in the spinal cords of all the ALS cases, except for a few cases with SOD1 mutations. But FUS pathology was not present in control cases without ALS.

“This is a game changer because it establishes a connection in the development of sporadic ALS with a known cause of familial ALS,” said Dr. Teepu Siddique, the study’s senior author. “Our finding opens up a new field of investigation for rational therapy for all of ALS. This is the holy grail of researchers in this field.”

The study was recently published online in the Annals of Neurology.

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