© Hill Peppard   Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Institute of

Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, and Department of

Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry. Age: 33

The-Scientist.com, July 6, 2010, by Lauren Urban  –   One night while working in a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grad student Milica Radisic saw how “beautifully and perfectly” an individual cardiomyocyte was pulsating when she applied an electrical stimulus from a platinum electrode. She wondered if applying this same electrical impulse to multiple cells would cause them to beat together, simulating the contractions of an intact heart.

Long before this thought occurred to her, Radisic read an article about human tissue engineering by Robert Langer, while studying chemical engineering as an undergrad at McMaster University in Ontario.

 “When I read that article I got totally excited,” Radisic says. “I wanted to do something that benefitted human health.” Radisic sent a letter to Langer, who she didn’t realize was the “father of tissue engineering,” asking him to consider her application to work in his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

METHODS: After being accepted into Langer’s lab in 1999, Radisic began working on engineering functional cardiac tissues using rat stem cells.

Radisic and her colleagues developed a scaffold of engineered cardiac tissue and designed a system to maintain oxygen supplies to the stem cells during seeding, key for maintaining cell viability and function in a regenerating heart.1

Radisic then applied electrical field stimulations to the cultured rat heart cells. After 8 days of this, the cells aligned and coupled, displaying the rhythmic beating of mature cardiac tissue, and creating a model that could be used for biomedical research.2 Radisic obtained a patent for her electrically stimulated “heart patch” in 2005.

Broken Heart Patch

RESULTS: In 2005, Radisic joined the faculty of the University of Toronto, where she continues to develop her heart patch. “We are using the same principles, to make tissue out of cardiomycotes from human embryonic stem cells,” says Radisic.

She is now studying the patch’s ability to test new drugs and cell lines.3 Peter Zandstra, a stem cell bioengineer and colleague at University of Toronto, says that using the patch to test the potential of embryonic stem cells for tissue repair is proving more useful than in vivo experiments. By using Radisic’s patches, he says, there is a more controlled environment to see the “integration between the test cells and her engineered environment.”

DISCUSSION: Langer says that Radisic was “innovative and had many creative ideas even as a graduate student.” Zandstra adds that her innovative qualities make Radisic a “great collaborator and fun to work with.”

Her colleagues also marvel at how Radisic has managed all of her scientific achievements while raising a young family. She has three young children and had her first while still a PhD student. Langer says that he was amazed by how Radisic was “unphased” throughout grad school, keeping up her rigorous lab work even while pregnant. Life is “very intense in the lab and at home, but both of these aspects help each other,” Radisic says.

Read more: Milica Radisic: Mending broken hearts – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/6/1/62/1/#video#ixzz0sr2QGVUz

TechRepublic.com, July 6, 2010, by Tom Olzak  —  Biometrics has received a lot of bad press during its short life.

Fingerprint technologies have issues many businesses, and security professionals, would rather not deal with.  And then there is the cost.  So is there a technology that may provide security, involve low maintenance costs, minimize management headaches, and is acceptable to users?

The problem with fingerprints


Fingerprint scanning solutions promised a panacea for the tired and embattled password. Either as a standalone solution or as a supporting second-factor for authentication, use of a fingerprint is superficially a great idea. However, the years have shown that early implementers faced challenges still present today:

  • Sensors cost money.  This is okay if they work as advertised. However, the remaining bullets represent hidden costs in addition to those of software and hardware.
  • Users must touch the sensor. In a manufacturing or other environment with impurities in the air and on hands, the sensor quickly becomes unusable. If not unusable, then it is often frustrating to users standing in line while people in front of them try repeatedly before getting a positive response from the system. Further, today’s user is cognizant of the risks associated with touching something used by others. No one knows where the finger has been nor whether a previous user is suffering from a disease capable of hand or other surface transmission. And even if the risk is actually low, user perception may not agree with management’s acceptance of it.
  • And then there is the security issue. Time and again individuals have demonstrated how to “fool” a fingerprint system. Yes, there are solutions with a very high resistance to such attacks. But how many businesses are willing to spend the premium required to upgrade?

There are other issues with fingerprint biometrics, but these will suffice to show why it has disappointed us.

The promise of iris scans


The solution to these issues seems to be a technology that has been around for some time: iris scans. It addresses the provided list of challenges with decreasing management costs, user resistance, and increasing accuracy.  Before demonstrating the benefits, let’s look at how iris scanning works.

As shown in Figure A (howstuffworks.com, courtesy of Iridian Technologies), the iris is the colored portion of the eye.  It is as individual as a retina or fingerprint. Unlike the retina, which lies at the back of the eye and requires a more intrusive scan, the iris is easily scanned with simple camera technology.

Figure A

Scanning the iris requires no physical contact with the sensor.  As shown in Figure B (Gearfuse.com), an individual simply stands within defined proximity and an image is collected and analyzed.

Figure B

The technology used for the scan is typically the same used in digital cameras. And as the technology improves, so does the effectiveness of iris scanners. Today, iris scans are as accurate as finger or hand geometry scans.

Finally, the nature of the technology resists counterfeiting. Is it impossible to defeat it as an access control?  Nothing is impossible. However, the level of effort required today is very, very high.

Still has challenges

As the old adage tells us, nothing is perfect. There are still barriers to wide acceptance of iris scanning as a complete business replacement for other types of biometrics:

  1. The cost is high. The reader shown in Figure B is listed at over $2400. This is a big jump over most fingerprint solutions.
  2. The sensors are somewhat cumbersome to place on a user’s desk for second factor for system login.  Although many vendors do supply a USB cable for PC connectivity, this technology looks like it will be relegated to physical security applications in the short term.


The future of iris scanning


Regardless of the challenges, the popularity of iris scanning—and its cousin, facial recognition technology—is growing.  This is particularly true in physical security applications, like those used at some airports and government installations.

To process large numbers of individuals, a biometrics solution must be fast and non-intrusive. Products like Sarnoff’s Iris On the Move (IOM) (video) allows the scanning of up to 30 people per minute from a distance of several feet. The scanned individuals do not even have to stop. Compare this with an expected throughput of 10 to 15 people per minute with high-end hand or fingerprint scanners.

No-contact scanning is the future of biometrics. Iris scanning is positioned to take a central role.

Biometric Technology


Iris recognition is a biometric identification system that requires a high-resolution picture of the irides of the subject’s eye. Pattern recognition software is then used to match that picture against future iris scans.

Biometrics Technologies Measure Up

Biometrics technologies have come a long way from a slow start in the early 80s. Now they can be found almost anywhere and soon, almost everywhere.

Eye Scanners
Iris scanning technology was first thought of in 1936 by ophthalmologist Frank Burch. He noticed that each person’s iris – the part of the eye that gives color – is unique. It wasn’t till 1994 when the algorithm for detecting these differences was patented by John Daugman of Iridian Technologies


Iris scans analyze the features in the colored tissue surrounding the pupil. There are many unique points for comparison including rings, furrows and filaments. The scans use a regular video camera to capture the iris pattern.

The user looks into the device so that he can see the reflection of his own eye. The device captures the iris pattern and compares it to one in a database. Distance varies, but some models can make positive identification at up to 2 feet. Verification times vary – generally less than 5 seconds – but only require a quick glance to activate the identification process.

To prevent a fake eye from being used to fool the system, some models vary the light levels shone into the eye and watch for pupil dilation – a fixed pupil means a fake eye.

Iris scanners are now in use in various military and criminal justice facilities but have never gained the wide favor that fingerprint scanners now enjoy even though the technology is considered more secure. Devices tend to be bulky in comparison to fingerprint scanners.

Retinal scanners are similar in operation but require the user to be very close to a special camera. This camera takes an image of the patterns created by tiny blood vessels illuminated by a low intensity laser in the back of the eye – the retina.

Retinal scans are considered impossible to fake and these scanners can be found in areas needing very high security. High cost and the need to actually put your eye very close to the camera prevent them from being used more widely.
Face Recognition

Never forget a face? Why? Because each persons face is unique – enough so that this new technology promises to change they way people are identified. It also has some serious ethical and privacy concerns.

Unlike the other technologies mentioned that require the user to participate actively, this technology can do everything without you ever being aware of its presence.

 It works by taking a picture of your face and comparing things like the distance between your eyes, the width of your mouth and up to 50 other defining facial traits. It then searches a database for matches, displaying those that are similar or exactly equal to an operator.

During the 2000 Olympics in Sidney, Australia, police identified two drug traffickers from Mexico wanted in the US. They followed them to the airport then alerted US authorities who picked them up when their return flight made a refueling stop in Hawaii. They had been traveling with high quality faked papers, so were quite surprised when the FBI led them off in cuffs.

The suspects had unwittingly stumbled into the police’s hands during a visit to the main sports arena. Australian authorities had just installed a face identification system in order to thwart possible terrorist attacks. They loaded the system with all known terrorist’s and criminal’s photos from a huge database. When the drug traffickers passed through the gates – they, along with hundreds of thousands of others, were imaged and identified.

This same technology is used by London police to identify known criminals in commercial areas like malls. Large retail chains have also been using this technology to spot shoplifters although some have removed it after privacy advocates and customers objected.

Recent studies have shown that even in optimal conditions these systems, which are still being developed, have failure rates of close to 40% making them unsuitable for primary identification without some other form of verification.

However, their ability to work with existing digital and CCTV surveillance systems makes them attractive retrofits. Just install a computer with the face recognition software and photo database, connect it to your cameras and your ready to identify possible malefactors.

More reliable systems are available using stereoscopic cameras. Two or more cameras work together to construct a 3D image in a computer. This allows for more facial features to be cataloged thus greatly reducing error rates. It does, however, require active participation from the users to get original pictures for the database – for the time being. Future models will no doubt be able to take pictures from behind two way glass.

Errors caused by camera angle and poor image quality, however, require more investment and care in camera placement. Most systems can deal with things like hats, sunglass and acute image angles, but they increase the possibility of false identification.

Privacy advocates cite 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizures. Law enforcement agencies say it’s just an extension of their own observational powers and an unobtrusive way to identify people.


GoogleNews.com, July 6, 2010, by David McFadden  –  SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s top health official warned Monday that the U.S. island could face its worst-ever dengue fever outbreak if people don’t act quickly to destroy breeding areas for disease-spreading mosquitoes.

Health Secretary Lorenzo Gonzalez Feliciano issued the warning after a 37-year-old woman from the northern town of Hatillo died of the hemorrhagic form of the tropical virus. Her death was the third fatality from dengue fever so far this year on the island.

Unless islanders take urgent measures to eradicate bug breeding areas by draining standing water near their houses, the Caribbean territory will experience a public health crisis in coming months, Gonzalez said.

“If we do not act now, we will see a catastrophe in the months of August and September that could reach record numbers and would make it much more difficult to control,” said Gonzalez, who also urged people to sleep under mosquito nets and wear repellent.

The government has dispatched trucks to neighborhoods and schools to spray a mist that kills mosquitoes, but Gonzalez said too many Puerto Ricans have let down their guard against the virus. He urged islanders to report neighbor to authorities if they leave stagnant water on their property.

Damp, hot weather creates favorable mosquito breeding conditions, so the situation may be worsened by the unusually wet weather that soaked Puerto Rico in May and June.

Puerto Rico’s worst dengue outbreak was in 1998, when the virus sickened 17,000 and caused 19 deaths.

Dengue has no vaccine. It generally causes fever, headaches and extreme joint and muscle pain. Most sufferers recover within a week. The more severe hemorrhagic form can be deadly.

Once thought to have been nearly eliminated from Latin America, dengue has gained strength in the region since the early 1980s, in part because tourism and migration are circulating four different strains, increasing the risk of multiple exposure and making it more likely victims will come down with the hemorrhagic form.

Are Chia Seeds a Better Antioxident than Blueberries?


Good for Weight Loss?
WebMD.com, July 6, 2010, by Kathleen M. Zelman MPH, RD, LD  – 

Remember the Chia Pet? These gift items, clay figurines that sprouted grass-like “fur,” were once all the rage. Fast-forward a few decades, and the seeds from the same chia plant are being sold online and in health food stores as a weight loss aid.

They’re supposed to help control hunger while they enhance your diet with super-nutrients. But what’s the real story on these nutritious seeds and their ability to help you lose weight?

What Is Chia?

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. “Chia” means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. That makes sense, as chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium

Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.

The mild, nutty flavor of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. They are most often sprinkled on cereal, sauces, vegetables, rice dishes, or yogurt or mixed into drinks and baked goods. They can also be mixed with water and made into a gel. 

Can Chia Really Help You Lose Weight?

In theory, chia seeds are supposed to expand in your belly, helping you to feel full, eat less, and ultimately shed pounds. But one study indicates otherwise.

“Over a 12-week period, we did not see a change in appetite or weight loss” in study participants who consumed chia seeds, says researcher David Nieman, DrPH, a professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.  “Our study showed no reduction in body weight, body fat and no improvement in traditional cardiovascular markers from 50 grams of chia per day.”

A study reviewing the body of scientific evidence on chia found similar results.

“The evidence is limited on chia, and only two clinical trials examined heart health and body weight,” says explains researcher Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD.  “One showed some beneficial heart effect, but neither showed any effect on weight loss.”

More study is needed before chia can be recommended either for weight loss and heart health, says Ulbricht, chief editor of Natural Standard Research Collaboration.

Should You Try Chia?

While there’s little evidence for the weight loss benefits of chia, it can be a nutritious addition to your diet. Nieman notes that people in his study tolerated it without any complaints for 12 weeks.

“Use chia seeds in foods, not as a supplement, but as an alternative to processed grains like white bread because it is a much healthier whole grain that is great-tasting in foods like muffins,” suggests Michael Roizen, MD, co-author of You Staying Young

In the book, Roizen and Mehmet Oz, MD, recommend two daily doses, each consisting of 20 grams (a little less than 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds. The authors also note that the antioxidant activity of chia seeds is higher than any whole food, even blueberries.

Is there any downside to chia? Ulbricht cautions that if you have food allergies (especially to sesame or mustard seeds) or are on high blood pressure medications or blood thinners, you should ask your health care provider before adding chia to your diet.

The Bottom Line on Chia

Enjoy chia seeds for their flavor and to boost the fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3s in your diet. But don’t expect a big weight loss boost. 

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet (or seed) for weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to follow a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and get more physical activity.

Philipp J. Keller, Ph.D.

HHMI.com, July 6, 2010  –  The process of growing from embryo to complete animal is of staggering complexity. As cells multiply, they migrate from one area of the developing embryo to another, many of them eventually dying, others taking on specialized functions and shapes.

Philipp Keller is fascinated by this cellular dance, but that was not always the case. In high school he was initially drawn to mathematics and physics. Later, as an undergraduate physics student at the University of Heidelberg, three research areas piqued his interest: developing new technologies to overcome the energy crisis, exploring space, and applying physics to biological questions. In the end, the latter topic won out.

“I chose biophysics because I believed that most of the upcoming major scientific breakthroughs would be in this field,” recalls Keller. “I find many areas of research exciting but I wanted to work on research topics where it was realistic to hope for spectacular progress within my lifetime.”

That decision landed him in 2005 in Ernst Stelzer’s laboratory at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. Stelzer’s group had just developed a new type of microscope, called a light sheet–based microscope. Unlike the standard confocal microscope, which views specimens plane per plane while illuminating the entire specimen each time, the new microscope illuminates only that part of the specimen that is observed in the first place. As a result, the specimen is exposed to less light energy. “It is a gentler way of recording information,” says Keller. “In biological research you want to minimize any possible disruptions to the specimen you are studying.” Another advantage of the light sheet–based microscope, he says, is the considerably higher signal-to-noise ratio, resulting in higher quality data. In addition, the new instrument gathers data much more quickly than confocal and two-photon microscopes, the state-of-the-art technologies used in most biology labs.

At EMBL, Keller combined advanced imaging assays with biophysical modeling and started collaborations with the groups of Michael Knop and Jochen Wittbrodt. He studied meiotic division in yeast, how the architectures of yeast genomes evolved, and how specialized structures, the microtubules, are organized.

Keller next decided to study more complex biological systems. In particular, he wanted to try to record precisely how individual cells move through an entire developing zebrafish embryo. “In a way, it is like going far into space and then looking through a powerful telescope at people on Earth as they go about their business,” explains Keller.

For the project Keller worked with Stelzer to design and build a next-generation light sheet–based microscope, called the Digital Scanned Laser Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscope, which he uses to visualize cells that have been tagged with different fluorescent markers. He then was able to observe the zebrafish embryo as it went from a 32-cell “lump” to a 30,000-cell organism with a beating heart. As he observed the growing embryo, Keller recorded the movement and division of every cell.

After gathering a staggering 400,000 images, or 3 terabytes of data, for a single embryo over a 24-hour period, Keller next had to develop computer systems to extract, analyze, and convert the data into what he calls a digital embryo. “With the technologies I developed I could comprehensively analyze cell behavior in an entire zebrafish embryo,” says Keller. The press later referred to his work as “Google Earth for Development.” However, unlike Google Earth, Keller’s reconstructions also comprise “the dynamics of the biological system, continuously from the first few cells up to a stage in which major organs are in a functional state,” he explains.

Keller’s digital embryo databases and numerous movies are publicly available at http://www.digital-embryo.org/, a site accessed about 50,000 times per month worldwide, according to Keller. “Recently I noticed that one of my movies had actually been uploaded to YouTube, receiving about 180,000 hits so far.” Keller’s research with zebrafish embryos culminated in a 2008 Science article that also made the list of the journal’s top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2008.

Given Keller’s interest in working at the interface of biology, physics, and computer science, he believes Janelia Farm is the perfect place to do his research. “Janelia is a highly collaborative environment and very strong in all these areas.”

This environment will be particularly helpful as Keller ventures into the next stage of his research, examining the development of the nervous system in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. “So far, I have not had a chance to work on neuroscience projects, so this is essentially a new field for me.” says Keller. “I am very excited about moving into this fascinating area. Studying how the brain works is clearly one of the most challenging scientific questions I can imagine.”

At Janelia, Keller will build a new light sheet–based microscope optimized for his new line of research. “It is simply a lot of fun to use the most advanced technology available to study the core principles of biology,” he says. “And if the technology required to address a specific question is not available, it is also a lot of fun to develop your own tools for your projects.”


Philipp Keller is interested in the principles underlying the developmental building plans of animals. He uses advanced light sheet microscopy and computational methods to quantitatively study embryonic and neural development in Drosophila and zebrafish.

Philipp J. Keller, bio


2010– Present

Janelia Farm Research Campus

   Vordiplom, physics, University of Karlsruhe

   Diploma, physics, University of Heidelberg

   Ph.D., biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory and University of Heidelberg