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New skin-worn electronics

A new generation of skin-worn electronics may offer doctors a discreet alternative to the bulky systems normally used to monitor patients' vital signs.

John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and colleagues fashioned brittle silicon and gallium arsenide semiconductors into wires thin enough to be flexible -- each was just a few nanometers thick. They then used them to create a circuit between microscopic sensors, and embedded it in a stretchable patch that could be rubbed onto the skin like a temporary tattoo (Science).

Rogers' team has used the patch to detect the electrical changes beneath the skin that occur when muscles move. "We can also use the device to stimulate muscle contractions," he says. This work, only in rats so far, has yet to be published.

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Math aids cancer treatment

A mathematical model that predicts how a tumor will develop could help design treatments tailored to individual cancers.

Some tumors stop growing once they have reached a certain size, while others continue to grow. As they do so, the network of blood vessels feeding them becomes more extensive. It can also carry cancer cells to other sites in the body, a process known as metastasis. Finding a way to predict which tumors will lie dormant and which will spread is one of the most important goals of cancer research, and physicists and mathematicians are increasingly becoming involved.

Among them is physicist Sehyo Choe of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, who, with colleagues, has developed a mathematical model of how tumors evolve. The team analyzed detailed images of tumors taken from mice with cancer, and of the blood vessels feeding them, at different stages of development. The results were then fed into equations describing the complex interplay between healthy cells, cancer cells and the surrounding blood vessels.

The result is a model that predicts "corridors of likely tumor growth" says Choe, using the distribution of blood vessels around the tumor. When applied to the mice in the study, in all cases it was able to predict how their cancer would progress. "It's like having a fast-forward button," he says (Scientific Reports). He says the model should help identify which blood vessels to remove to limit a tumor's growth.

"In the future, treatments will no longer have to be based on population averages. People will get individual treatment based on the predictions of our model," says co-author Neil Johnson, a physicist at the University of Miami in Florida.

Claus Jorgensen of London's Institute of Cancer Research, says models like this will have an important role to play in future cancer treatments, but he adds that the model oversimplifies some aspects of tumor growth.

Compiled from News wire sources

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