126. Open Letter Against Weaponized Robots, Before Birth Stem Cell Treatment, New Blood Group

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Show Notes:

Scientists Have Discovered a New Set of Blood Groups | Wired (00:52)

  • After performing an emergency C-section for a pregnant woman, researchers were curious why there were these strange antibodies in the blood.

  • They made a startling discovery:

    • The woman’s blood was of an ultra rare type, which may have made her baby’s blood incompatible with her own.

    • Prompting her immune system to produce antibodies against her baby’s blood

  • Scientists were able to unpick exactly what made her blood different, and in the process confirmed a new set of blood grouping—the “Er” system, the 44th to be described.

    • A, B, O, and AB isn’t the only classification system

    • There are many ways of grouping red blood cells based on differences in the sugars or proteins that coat their surface, known as antigens.

  • Differences in antigens results in the following situation:

    • Someone receives incompatible blood from a donor, for example, the recipient’s immune system may detect those antigens as foreign and react against them.

  • One new blood classification system has been described by researchers each year during the past decade.

    • tend to involve blood types that are extremely rare

  • “Discovering a new blood group system is like discovering a new planet. It enlarges the landscape of our reality,” says Daniela Hermelin at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

  • Due to those genetic differences, a small number of people have alternative amino acids, or building blocks, in their Piezo1 protein.

    • Causing the different ER blood type

  • There are five Er antigens in total—five possible variations of Piezo1 on the surface of red blood cells that can lead to incompatibility.

  • Benefit of this finding:

    • It adds to our knowledge of how blood incompatibility can affect pregnant mothers and their babies

Boston Dynamics, Agility and others pen letter condemning weaponized ‘general purpose’ robots | TechCrunch (05:38)

  • A group of prominent robotics firms (Boston Dynamics, Agility, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics and Open Robotics) issued an open letter condemning the weaponization of “general purpose” robots.

  • The piece comes amid mounting concern around the proliferation of advanced robotics systems.

  • Part of the letter states:

    • “We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues. Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society.”

  • Ghost Robotics, which has its own take on the topic, told TechCrunch at the time:

    • “We don’t make the payloads. Are we going to promote and advertise any of these weapon systems? Probably not. That’s a tough one to answer. Because we’re selling to the military, we don’t know what they do with them. We’re not going to dictate to our government customers how they use the robots.”

  • Today’s open letter finds the signees pledging not to weaponize their systems, while calling on lawmakers to do more to prohibit this use for robotics.

  • They end off their letter saying:

    • “We also call on every organization, developer, researcher, and user in the robotics community to make similar pledges not to build, authorize, support, or enable the attachment of weaponry to such robots. We are convinced that the benefits for humanity of these technologies strongly outweigh the risk of misuse, and we are excited about a bright future in which humans and robots work side by side to tackle some of the world’s challenges.”

World-first stem cell therapy trial treats spina bifida before birth | New Atlas (13:14)

  • Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spine fails to develop properly, which can lead to weakness or paralysis of the lower limbs, cognitive issues, and urinary and bowel dysfunction.

    • Currently no cure, post-birth surgery can improve the symptoms in some cases.

  • But a new clinical trial aims to intervene earlier.

    • Signs of spina bifida can appear very early on in the pregnancy.

    • Allowing for time to treat it while the baby is still developing, potentially improving the outcomes.

  • The treatment involves administering a stem cell patch to the baby’s spine while still developing in the womb, and early results are promising one year on.

  • Three babies have been born out of the eventual 35 that will be enrolled in the CuRe trial.

    • The Cellular Therapy for In Utero Repair of Myelomeningocele (CuRe) trial, conducted at UC Davis Health.

  • One baby girl was expected to be born with leg paralysis – and yet, she was seen to be kicking and wiggling her toes right away.

  • The scientists will monitor the babies until they’re six years old, and there’s a particular milestone at 30 months of age to check how well they’re walking and toilet training.

A new AI tool could predict the risk of heart disease and death through retinal images | Interesting Engineering (17:10)

  • A new study has found that an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that images the retina's network of veins and arteries can accurately predict a person's risk of cardiovascular disease and death in less than a minute.

    • Non-invasive screening method that doesn't have to be done in a clinic

  • The new study demonstrates that the width of veins and arteries in the retina could indicate circulatory disease early and accurately.

    • Circulatory diseases include cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke

  • The fully automated AI-enabled tool called Quartz evaluates the potential of retinal vasculature imaging plus known risk factors to predict vascular health and death.

    • Scanned the retinal images of 88,052 people between the ages of 40 and 69

    • Later scanned an additional 7,411 participants who were aged between 48 and 92.

  • The results showed:

    • In men, the width, curviness, and width variation of veins and arteries in the retinas are important predictors of death from circulatory disease.

    • In women, artery area and width and vein curviness and width variation contributed to risk prediction.

  • From the study:

    • Below 0.5 indicates a very poor model.

    • 0.5 means that the model is no better than predicting an outcome than random chance.

    • Values over 0.7 indicate a good model.

    • Values over 0.8 indicate a strong model.

    • “Prediction models for circulatory mortality in men and women had optimism adjusted C-statistics and R2 statistics between 0.75–0.77 and 0.33–0.44, respectively.”

    • The C-statistic is a measure of goodness of fit

    • R2, coefficient of determination, is used to analyze how differences in one variable can be explained by a difference in a second variable.

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