TSSG researchers at Waterford IT at forefront of nanomachine revolution

Listen below to piece broadcast on RTE Radio 1 Drivetime 27-06-19 on Ireland’s role in the exciting nanomachine revolution

Dr Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, pictured here below, is one of a group of researchers based at the TSSG at Waterford IT who are at the leading edge of the global nanomachine revolution in healthcare.

Irish film wins top award at New York science film festival

An Irish documentary has won an international prize, awarded by the AAAS in the USA (Pic: Eilis O’Dowd)

An Irish documentary called Feats of Modest Valour depicting the lives of three people living with Parkinson’s disease and scientists working to cure it has won the Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York last week.

The Scientist Award is awarded by Science, and its publisher the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to a film that portrays, in an accurate and inventive way, the life of a scientist.

The jury included Nobel prize-winning scientist, Professor Martin Chalfe, and award-winning science columnist for the New York Times, Professor Carl Zimmer.

In ‘Feats of Modest Valour’, three individuals live clockwork existences, dictated by a strict regime of medication to manage the physical reality of living with Parkinson’s disease.

Brian Carney is a farmer from County Mayo whose son had to take over the running of the family farm from a very young age; Milena Lulic is a Croatian World War II survivor who faces her condition head-on with great dignity; and Tom Hickey, the Irish actor, talks about how suffering for his art takes on a whole new meaning with the disease.

Interwoven with these individual stories, the documentary depicts researchers at NUI Galway’s Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CURÁM), led by Dr Eilís Dowd, who are developing a novel therapeutic approach which they hope will revolutionise treatment of the condition.

The film uses animated sequences to delve into the brain of someone with Parkinson’s disease, and see how dying cells can be replaced by stem cells supported by a natural biomaterial “scaffold”.

“This is a film about science and medicine, about scientists and patients, about art and music, but most of all, about hope,” said Dr Dowd. “It was a genuine privilege to work on this project with such talented filmmakers and such inspirational patients.”

The film is co-directed and co-produced by Mia Mullarkey and Alice McDowell of Ishka Films, and is due to be screened on RTE 1 on Sunday November 12th at 10:30 pm. To find out more about the film, see www.featsofmodestvalour.com.

‘Feats of Modest Valour’ was produced through the Science on Screen initiative between CÚRAM, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Galway Film Centre who manage Galway’s UNESCO City of Film designation.

Thought control of computers; the Irish angle

Listen below to piece broadcast (in edited form) on Drivetime RTE Radio 1 on 23rd August ’17

 

Scientists are working on brain computer interfaces which can enable devices to be control by thoughts alone (Credit: http://www.medium.com)

The power to read thoughts has long been a favourite topic of science fiction writers, but researchers in Ireland and around the world are now working on systems, called brain-computer interfaces, where human thoughts – in the form of electrical signals – can be read and understood by computers, and acted upon.

If this sounds far-fetched, then consider the fact that Facebook revealed in April that it has 60 engineers working on thought reading technology that scans a human brain 100 times per second to pick up the silent internal conversation in our head and translate it into text.

Or that superhero of the US scientific entrepreneurial community, Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla electric cars, the SpaceX rocket systems, and much else, in March, launched a new venture called neuralink, which aims to create devices that can be implanted in the human brain to allow for direct thought-based communication with computing devices.

Applications

The applications for BCIs have been, up to now, aimed at helping people that have are unable to communicate with the outside world such as those with ALS, or locked in syndrome, or someone that has had a severe stroke.

But, there is also another strand of research emerging, where BCIs are being developed to augment, or improve, human abilities. That might be to help a person with hearing difficulties better focus on whom they want to listen to in a crowded room, or to help elite athletes tune into their brain activity which reflects when they are performing best at their chosen event.

The BCIs are either wearable, where a user must wear a cap with many electrodes, or where a device is implanted into the person’s brain.

Headspace 

It’s clear that we are all going to have to get used to the idea that our private thoughts, or headspace, may not, in future be so private after all. Many of us will no doubt baulk at the idea of anyone getting access inside our heads.

Yet many others will welcome the ability to communicate, move and better perform various tasks that his powerful new technology can provide.

Contributors:

Alan Smeaton, Caoilainn Doyle, Dublin City University

Liam Kilmartin, NUI Galway

Tomas Ward, Maynooth University