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COVID-19 Cracked by A.I. November 7, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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The Summit computer at Oak Ridge has looked at scads and scads of data about Covid and pretty much figured out what Covid is and what to do about it therapeutically. There is an excellent writeup of it on Medium.com which I am not going to plagiarize, but tell you all to read right here.

Finally! November 2, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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It’s about damn time.

3D Printed Layer Strength Fixed! May 14, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Star Trek Technology.
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One of the many problems with the gee-whiz near-Star Trek technology of 3D printing is the sometimes poor adhesion between layers of deposited plastic; sometimes they just don’t bond as strongly as desired, resulting in a weaker part than an equivalent injection-molded part. In a paper dropped in Nano Letters, scientists at Texas A & M have found that carbon nanotubes in the mix under a plasma stream heat just the surface layers of the plastic and insure a good weld, as it were, between them. Naturally, they said it in a much more flowery way: “a dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) plasma electrode mounted concentrically around the nozzle of an ME 3D printer for in situ welding of thermoplastic parts.” That’s just the abstract; I’m sure they managed to make it sound like they earned their pay in the full document.


Homework: C. B. Sweeney et al, Dielectric Barrier Discharge Applicator for Heating Carbon Nanotube-Loaded Interfaces and Enhancing 3D-Printed Bond Strength, Nano Letters (2020). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b04718

New Aussie Fusion Technology February 25, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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The lateral-thinking Australian fusion start-up HB11 (from the University of New South Wales) patented a unique new fusion technology. Interestingly, this laser-driven technique uses no radioactive fuel(!), and much lower temperatures than “traditional” approaches employed by most fusion researchers involving heating deuterium and tritium fuel up to 15 million C.

I don’t need to tell you that method hasn’t worked yet, do I? Fifty-something years and no joy yet. I wonder why in an industry arguably filled with geniuses or at least Really Smart People that someone hasn’t said, “Hmmm…maybe we should try something new.”

UNSW Emeritus Professor of theoretical physics Heinrich Hora did. His research is being commercialized by HB11, which uses hydrogen-boron fusion wherein two lasers to push  atoms of hydrogen into boron. The lasers use “Chirped Pulse Amplification” technology, which won Gérard Mourou, Arthur Ashkin and Donna Strickland the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics(!).

One laser creates the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction. The alpha particles produced by the reaction would create a positive electrical flow that can be channelled almost directly into the existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator, and no chance of blowing the whole thing to atoms leaving a smoking crater.

The simplicity is pretty compelling…if it works. Time will tell.


Artificial Intelligence Finds an Antibiotic February 20, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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In a news flash from M.I.T. scientists announce the discover of a (potentially) low-toxicity molecule which interferes with bacteriological cell walls’ ability to maintain electrochemical gradients, which are essential to creating ATP, the main energy molecule in, well, everything: the cells would starve. An A.I. was trained on 2,500 molecules and then scanned the Broad Institute’s Drug Repurposing Hub, a library of about 6,000 compounds. The model picked out one molecule that was predicted to have strong antibacterial activity and had a chemical structure different from any existing antibiotics. Using a different machine-learning model, the researchers also showed that this molecule would likely have low toxicity to human cells.

It worked very well in vitro and in mouse models on a bunch of stubborn microbes that are getting to be pretty resistant to everything we have: Clostridium difficileAcinetobacter baumannii, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The drug apparently worked on EVERYTHING they tested, except Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Multi-dimensional Blood Testing and A.I. December 23, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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I suggested long ago that sufficiently-comprehensive blood tests could effectively predict a person’s risk of developing a broad array of different diseases. We would use artificial intelligence to find patterns of varying concentrations of blood proteins to predict and/or diagnose disease. Someone much better funded than me has a newly developed platform called SomaScan which can scan five thousand individual proteins from a single blood sample.

In a new study testing the efficacy of predicting 11 different health indicators using these protein expression patterns some models were much more effective than others, such as the protein expression model predicting percentage body fat. The cardiovascular risk model was cited as only modestly predictive, however, the researchers do suggest the protein-pattern-based system is generally more convenient, and cheaper, than many traditional tests currently available for evaluating health conditions.

The study in Nature Medicine was funded by SomaLogic which owns SomaScan, so grain of salt, people. But it’s exciting to see that someone is actually looking into what I feel will be the method of the future for maximizing health…also, the study used ~85 million protein measurements in 16,894 participants, which is a pretty damn good sample size.  Plenty of data there for an A.I. to examine for hidden relationships.


Plasma protein patterns as comprehensive indicators of health, Nature Medicine, Stephen A. Williams, Mika Kivimaki, Claudia Langenberg, Aroon D. Hingorani, J. P. Casas, Claude Bouchard, Christian Jonasson, Mark A. Sarzynski, Martin J. Shipley, Leigh Alexander, Jessica Ash, Tim Bauer, Jessica Chadwick, Gargi Datta, Robert Kirk DeLisle, Yolanda Hagar, Michael Hinterberg, Rachel Ostroff, Sophie Weiss, Peter Ganz & Nicholas J. Wareham

Capable Modular Robots November 9, 2019

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 MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Laboratory’s M-Block robots can self-assemble into different structures. The little cubes (in development over the last six years) have gained the ability to jump, flip, spin, and recognize each other. A barcode-like system on each face of each cube, allowing them to identify the other cubes around them.

The engineers wanted to see if the M-Blocks could (for example) form a straight line or form a random structure using the new communication algorithms. They waited to see if the blocks could determine how they were connected, and then what direction they would need to move to create that line. They found that 90% of the block swarm knew which motion and guidance to move to accomplish the task. I’m curious to know what the other 10% did…

Engineers hope to create a more substantial swarm of blocks (>16) that can assemble to form more complex structures with new capabilities.

3D Scanning to Print (Photogrammetry) October 8, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Photography, Publishing Tools, Star Trek Technology.
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Due to an unfortunate incident while moving from the very parted lips of Hell (Greenville, CA) I have had to replace a few parts on my Casio CDP-120 piano keyboard. Basically, the highest key (C, for those who need to know) was/is smashed and needs a replacement. Aha! I have this iPrusa printer and can whip up a new key post-haste using Fusion360 to measure and design a new key.  Right?

No. It’s a part with surprisingly complex geometry, so I thought I would try photogrammetry to create a model and see how that works.  I never tried this before, so what could it hurt? Can’t be any harder than Fusion360 to master. Right?

No. There seems to be no (free as in beer) software which can do this which is simple enough for me to install (grumble, grumble) on this company Mac, and I’m not sure company policies built into the security suite on this company Mac would permit it (grumble, grumble) anyway. Since my replacement Windows box isn’t here yet (grumble, grumble) I have to pay for a cloud-based solution…Altizure.com.  So I took 56 pictures of the C key an octave down with my cellphone camera, submitted them to Altizure.com‘s loving embrace and was rewarded with a fairly competent render of my key:

Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 11.06.36 AM.png

I say “fairly competent” because it has lots of hole in the sides.  No matter; I can probably fix it in software modify it in Fusion360 to fill in the holes.  I will likely need to use Fusion360 to get the dimensions useably correct in any case.

Now I have to steel myself to pay the subscription rate of something like $70 per project. It would be worth it if I was a company making a prototype with great prospects for the future…but I’m not (grumble, grumble).

The key costs about five bucks from Casio’s parts subcontractor, plus six or so to ship it. I know which I am going to choose.

It’s a shame, really; I was looking forward to monkeying around with it. Maybe next time.

However, I don’t give up easily; I got 3DF Zephyr and used the (limited to) 50 pictures in it at the highest defaults in the wizard to create this render:

c-key-3df zephyr

My army of loyal and discerning readers may notice a bit of degradation here and there…yeah.  I will try again, but this took an hour or so and was NOT automatically rendered, but went through stages. In all fairness it would have been shorter if my graphics card had CUDA…but I don’t have a graphics card, just whatever Lenovo thought was cheap but still enough to get by on. Still, it needs work, and it’s midnight.  Possibly updates to follow, if I get any sleep.


I got a better render with 50 pictures and the most extreme settings I could figure out:

c-3df-zephyr-2-extra tasty

It’s got the holes that Altizure’s render had, but 3DF Zephyr is free to use.  Now I have to figure out how to make the save-able form of this (an .obj file) into an .slt and thence to gcode. With luck, I will have a hideous key to use before my real one arrives.

40Hz Light Pulses Stop Alzheimer’s May 10, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Neuroscientists at MIT have published a paper which demonstrates that 40Hz pulses of light can somehow inhibit the progress of neurodegeneration in mouse model. This study is designed to figure out how a flickering light could stifle cognitive decline, using two unique mouse models engineered to overproduced the toxic proteins that contribute to neurodegeneration. The animals were exposed to light flickering at 40 Hz for one hour every day for between three and six weeks. It worked a treat;  mice engineered to overproduce tau proteins (that usually cause neurodegeneration) displayed no neuronal degeneration after three weeks of treatment compared to a control group that displayed nearly 20 percent total neuronal loss. The other mouse model, engineered to produce a neurodegenerative protein called p25, displayed no neurodegeneration whatsoever during the entire six weeks of treatment.



The researchers then zoomed in on the light-treated animal’s neurons and microglia to study whether the treatment induced any unusual changes in gene expression. The light-treated mice revealed increased neuronal expression of genes associated with synaptic function and DNA repair. In microglia, the brain’s immune cells, there was a decrease in genes associated with inflammation.

Nobody understands how a 40 Hz flickering light can trigger these specific changes to gene expression deep in the brain, but human trials testing the sound and light treatment in Alzheimer’s patients have already begun.

Note: Adding a 40 Hz auditory tone to the process improved the efficacy of this treatment.  Your elderly parents can benefit from this by using gnuaural, an open-source generator of binaural beats for meditation and other psychological effects.

Homework: https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(19)30346-0

AI Detects Rare Syndromes From Images January 9, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Photography, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Rare disorders often present with patterned discoloration of the epidermis, distortion of features and other visibly-detectable aberrations in appearance. Marfan’s syndrome presents with long, flexible body type. Noonan syndrome may present wide-set eyes, and Down’s syndrome is well-known to nearly everyone. Now, researchers have developed a facial analysis framework, DeepGestalt, using computer vision and deep learning algorithms, that quantifies similarities to hundreds of genetic syndromes based on unconstrained 2D images. DeepGestalt is currently trained with over 26,000 patient cases from a rapidly growing phenotype-genotype database, consisting of tens of thousands of validated clinical cases, curated through a community-driven platform. DeepGestalt currently achieves 91% top-10-accuracy in identifying over 215 different genetic syndromes and has outperformed clinical experts in three separate experiments.

In results published in Nature Medicine, DeepGestalt  outperformed doctors in diagnosing patients with Angelman syndrome and Cornelia de Lange syndrome versus other disorders, and in separating patients with different genetic subtypes of Noonan syndrome.

It’s a neat study in that it controls for a bunch of conditions including ethnicity and gender, so it’s a bit more robust than previous studies.


Homework: [PDF] https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.07637

Modest Plasma Globe Hack December 12, 2018

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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Type II Diabetes Prediction by Skin Autofluorescence November 27, 2018

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Despite amazing improvements in understanding of diabetes, something like one in ten humans is Type II diabetic.  Take a minute to absorb that; about half a billion people. Very, very obviously better medical tools and interventions are needed, since we as a species seem incapable of eating right (there are other factors, too; I don’t blame anyone for enjoying food). Researchers in the Netherlands and Canada have published a study using skin autofluorescence to detect some markers which accurately predict onset of Type II diabetes in the short term of about four years…unless they die first.

It’s a good study; 72,000 patients. “After a median follow-up of 4 years (range 0.5–10 years), 1056 participants (1.4%) had developed type 2 diabetes, 1258 individuals (1.7%) were diagnosed with CVD, while 928 (1.3%) had died. Baseline skin autofluorescence was elevated in participants with incident type 2 diabetes and/or CVD [(myocardial infarction, coronary interventions, cerebrovascular accident, transient ischemic attack, intermittent claudication or vascular surgery)-ed.] and in those who had died (all p < 0.001), compared with individuals who survived and remained free of the two diseases. Skin autofluorescence predicted the development of type 2 diabetes, CVD and mortality, independent of several traditional risk factors, such as the metabolic syndrome, glucose and HbA1c.”.

In high-tech terms this isn’t tough; a one-inch square is illuminated with 300-420nm UV and the fluorescence at 420-600nm.  They took the ratio of the two.  They did chemical workups on fasting blood samples as well: “On the same day, HbA1c (EDTA-anticoagulated) was analyzed using an NGSP-certified turbidimetric inhibition immunoassay on a Cobas Integra 800 CTS analzser (Roche Diagnostics Nederland, Almere, the Netherlands). Serum creatinine was measured on a Roche Modular P chemistry analyzer (Roche, Basel, Switzerland) and renal function was calculated as estimated (e)GFR with the formula developed by the Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration (CKD-EPI) [31]. Total cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol were measured using an enzymatic colorimetric method, triacylglycerol using a colorimetric UV method, and LDL-cholesterol using an enzymatic method, on a Roche Modular P chemistry analyzer (Roche). Fasting blood glucose was measured using a hexokinase method.”

Without doing the rather more expensive bloodwork, a skin fluorescence gizmo could be made cheaply available.  It’s an excellent first step.


Manufactured Human Organs November 20, 2018

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Brain, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Scientists at Tel Aviv University have created human organs (little ones but, hey) from a bit of biopsied tissues.  They separated the cells from the rest, induced pluripotency and built up organs in differentiated cell layers on a gel scaffolding.  They were able to grow cardiac, spinal and cortical cells from the biopsy sample.

This is critical to success: the cells are the patient’s own cells, with little chance of immune system rejection.  These guys (Tal Dvir, Reuven Edri, NAdav Noor, Idan Gal, Dan Peer and Irit Gat Viks) are currently engaged in regenerating an injured spinal cord and an infarcted heart with spinal cord and cardiac implants. They have also begun to investigate the potential of human dopaminergic implants to treat Parkinson’s disease in animal models.

They have big plans for this technology: “We believe that the technology of engineering fully personalized tissue implants of any type will allow us to regenerate any organ with a minimal risk of immune response,” Prof. Dvir concludes.

Homework: Reuven Edri et al, Personalized Hydrogels for Engineering Diverse Fully Autologous Tissue Implants, Advanced Materials (2018). DOI: 10.1002/adma.201803895

Getting There, One Piece at a Time January 24, 2017

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Open the Alexa app on your phone.

Use the More icon (the hamburger) in the upper left corner.

Select Settings.

Select the device whose wake word you wish to change.

Tap the Wake Word setting.

Select Computer from the drop-down.

You are done.

I would like to point out that Star Trek has so influenced culture that the United Federation of Planets is likely to happen any time now…we just need more planets.  We already have Majel Barret’s voice phonemes.  Now we need Google to sync up, a bit better response to voice meaning (the voice vector thing should help), a truthiness evaluator and bingo! Star Trek in your phone/home/office/laboratory/dungeon/whatever.

Amazon Moto G Play Phone January 19, 2017

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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People in the know (i. e., my readers) are aware that I take my phones seriously, and have for three smart phones now. Well, smart-enough phones, I guess.  I mean I had an HTC 8125 ancient creaking phone with one of Microsoft’s many, many failed phone operating systems (are they really up to FOUR commercially-failed systems, and about to go for FIVE?), which did some things I needed in a phone: calculator (never used it, but could have), texting (would have used it but did not…not sure that it could, now that I think on it), took [execrable] photographs (look back in this blog far enough and you will find them, along with scathing reviews of the image quality) but at least ran the flash card app I wrote for it, among others (my writing them would not have been necessary if MS has anything like an app store.  Just sayin’), and played my beloved audio books during my [endless] commute.1

Still, it was not the optimum device.  My next phone (Samsung Galaxy S3 i9250) was a considerable improvement, in that the camera focused closely enough to copy text.  It ran Android apps mostly without complaint (even ones I had written myself), texted my children and played Bluetooth music and audio books without complaint, even after having survived several cracked glass incidents (to be fair, I never did repair the glass.  It looked like a vandalized cathedral when it finally died). It was a vast improvement, and I cried bitter tears indeed2 when it suddenly stopped letting me make telephone calls.

Now I have the aforementioned Amazon Moto G Play phone, and I must say it is an improvement on my previous experiences (except for the annoying notifications.  How the #$%^&* do I turn them off?) in speed, in reception and in sound clarity (although not volume).  The camera is much better (see recent postings about the weather, blue jay invasion, etc.) and the Android version is 6.0, which is 1.7 better than previous.  And it was cheap: $99 for the phone with advertising, $149 without.  I have been unable to figure out how to replace the bootloader to get rid of the advertisements (which would violate my agreement and would be Bad And Wrong), but it works so well I don’t care at all.

EXCITING, HORRIBLE UPDATE: can’t root the phone to use adb wireless.  This is totally bogus.

EXCITING, HORRIBLE UPDATE 2: phone has taken to dying suddenly for no apparent reason. Motorola “service” has extensive threads about this, with no resolution other than to mark the incident “closed”–which sets off a bunch of complaints. This would be a publicity disaster if Motorola cared. Me, I’m going to find a different manufacturer. I like Samsung phones, but they seem to be going to non-removable batteries, which I will not tolerate.

1Not sure that’s the longest run-on sentence I have ever written, but Baron Bulwer-Lytton must feel somewhat threatened in his cozy grave.

2Mostly because I had spent a fortune on it.  Don’t fear; this story DOES have a happy ending.

Too Much Science to Read, Let Alone Review November 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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It’s been a banner week for science geeks, nerds, and squints. The locked-in lady gets to at least shout from her prison quietlyGoogle has radar sensitive enough to not only find objects but identify them by their radar signature and perovskite is once again breaking solar-conversion efficiency records.

Ordinarily I would give you a breakdown of each of these nifty developments, but more are coming and I may want to return to these later when I am not pressed for time.  Follow the links above; there are others as well that you will find more well constructed than my chicken scratchings, I’m sure.

Brain-Computer Interface Now in Use at Home!!! November 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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A 58-year-old woman (“HB”) with ALS has had a functioning brain-computer interface (BCI) for a while now, and is able to communicate (slowly) with the outside world. She was facing total lock-in Real Soon Now, so any device which offers communication ability is welcome.

What it is:

A diagram illustrating the setup and use of the ECoG implant.

Electrode strips at the top laid across her brain like band-aids read faint electrical signals.  With training HB was able to “type” fairly quickly (words per minute, but still).  More work remains to be done on the interfacing software (I am imagining more inputs and a neural network to interpret her thoughts more and more efficiently), and HB is ecstatic to have a way t live in the world.  She would like to use the interface to control a wheelchair, for example, but that is a ways off.


Homework:  Vansteensel, Mariska J. et. al., Fully Implanted Brain–Computer Interface in a Locked-In Patient with ALS, New England Journal of Medicine November 12, 2016 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608085

Update: New Scientist has an excellent writeup as well.

Brain-Computer Interface Restores Locomotion November 9, 2016

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You heard me. Watch the video and be amazed.

The researchers think it could be ready for human trials by the end of the decade.

If it sounds familiar, it might be because Star Trek thought of it first:

Image result for spock's brain

Homework: Capogrosso, Marco, Milekovic, Tomislav, et. al, A brain–spine interface alleviating gait deficits after spinal cord injury in primates, Nature

The Homemade Muon Detector October 15, 2016

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Dazzling in complexity, the little chart above details the fate of cosmic rays (high-energy protons hurtled from the sun) which impact our atmosphere, leaving a byzantine collection of particles and EM emissions.  Some of these suckers are relatively easy to detect; the muon possibly the easiest.  Scientists studying the output of our sun can use more information about cosmic ray bombardment and an array of muon detectors would be really useful for this as muons (and other particles) are generated within a cone-shaped shower, with all particles staying within about 1 degree of the primary particle’s path.

Enter Spencer Axani, doctoral student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has whomped one up for a mere hundred bucks, and published a paper with detailed construction plans (no Instructables project yet, however.  I checked):


Straightforward as heck, a plastic brick and a photomultiplier tube are locked up in a light-tight box.  Muons hit the brick, generate a photon on decay and the photomultiplier generates enough juice to tell there’s been an event. An Arduino is used (yes, an Arduino) as a peak detector and a Python script crunches the time-stamped data for delivery to a PC.

He took it around Fermilab to test it out in Real Life:


Neat-o, right?


Homework:  The Desktop Muon Detector: A simple, physics-motivated machine- and electronics-shop project for university students , S.N. Axani, J.M. Conrad, and C. Kirby, Physics Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Extra credit:  http://www2.fisica.unlp.edu.ar/~veiga/experiments.html

Universal Molecular Diagnostics by Affinity October 10, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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Rice University researchers have invented a technology that could potentially identify hundreds of bacterial pathogens simply, quickly and at low cost using a single set of random DNA probes. Richard Baraniuk, Amirali Aghazadeh and Rebekah Drezek whomped up a batch of five random probes and used them to identify 11 known strains of bacteria, providing a genomic-based test for identity of pathogens.  This is a big deal because usually each species required its own DNA probe.

Their new study includes several computer simulations, including one that shows how a random selection of five probes can identify 40 different strains of bacteria, and another that demonstrates how the system can accurately differentiate between 24 different species of Staphylococcus.

Rather than identifying a target strain based on a 100 percent match with a specific probe, Rice’s system tests how well the target DNA binds with several different random segments of complementary DNA. UMD uses a mathematical technique called compressive sensing, which was pioneered in the field of digital signal processing. With compressive sensing, the disease DNA need not bind with 100 percent of the probes. Instead, the new system measures how well the disease DNA binds with each of the random probes and creates a specific binding profile for the test organism. It then uses deductive reasoning to determine whether that profile matches the profile of any known pathogens.

With larger numbers of probes, it works even better:

No special hardware is required for this approach, other than the tried and true PCR with which we have become familiar over the last twenty years (thank you, Kary Mullis and LSD). The special sauce is the computer code which figures out the relative affinities.  This can be made available everywhere pretty cheaply, versus specialized DNA probes which require expensive facilities and a lot more regulatory testing.

Homework: Universal microbial diagnostics using random DNA probes, Amirali Aghazadeh1,*, Adam Y. Lin1,*, Mona A. Sheikh1,*, Allen L. Chen1, Lisa M. Atkins2, Coreen L. Johnson2, Joseph F. Petrosino2, Rebekah A. Drezek1 and Richard G. Baraniuk1, Science Advances  28 Sep 2016:Vol. 2, no. 9, e1600025 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1600025