New bionic heart saves lives without a pulse

  • Lifestyle
  • Wednesday, 18 Mar 2015

An artist’s impression of the double-detonation supernova (right) that led to the ejection of US708 (left). In reality, the supernova would have faded away long before the star reached that position. Image: S. GEIER/Nasa

The BiVACOR uses a small spinning titanium disc to pump blood through the body.

SCIENTISTS at Queensland University of Technology have developed a new bionic heart that lasts 10 years longer than current artificial ones. Named BiVACOR, the device contains a small titanium disc that spins at 2,000 revolutions per second, allowing it to pump blood around the body without beating.

The lack of pulse gives BiVACOR a longer lifespan than pulse-based artificial hearts, which contain balloon-like sacs that are vulnerable to wear and tear. The team has successfully transplanted it into a live and healthy sheep, and aims to run human trials by 2018. See:

Speediest star

ASTRONOMERS at Queen’s Belfast University have discovered the fastest-moving star in the Milky Way. Named US708 (see illustration), the star is unbound by gravity and will eventually leave our galaxy as it’s travelling at 1,200 kilometres per second – a speed that the team says can take us from Earth to the Moon in five minutes.

They believe that US708 was part of a binary system, in which two stars orbit one another, with a massive white dwarf star. When the white dwarf exploded in a nuclear reaction driven by high temperatures – a reaction known as thermonuclear supernova – it sent US708 hurtling across space. See:

Cockroaches personified

COCKROACHES have personalities too, researchers from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, have found. When the team placed cockroaches in an arena that was under a bright light, but also contained a shade in the middle, the “shy and cautious” ones immediately sought cover, whereas the “bold or explorer” ones went around the arena.

The different behaviour of individual cockroaches separates them from animals that act according to a social hierarchy, such as ants and termites, the team says. This may also be how they adapt to new environments, with brazen ones exploring their new surroundings, and wary ones staying behind. See:

Anti-ageing drugs

RESEARCHERS from The Scripps Research Institute in the United States have developed a new class of drugs that slows the aging process. Made from a combination of cancer drugs and anti-inflammatory supplements, the new drugs effectively kill senescent cells – tenacious cells that accelerate ageing – without damaging others.

Mice that are treated with a single course of the drugs had improved cardiovascular function, stamina, overall health, as well as reduced osteoporosis and frailty. The researchers also found that the effects started within five days and lasted for seven months. While more testing is needed before the drugs are used in humans, the team is hopeful about the findings’ potential. See:

Subway reefs

DISUSED subway cars in New York now serve as homes for fish and other sea creatures in the Atlantic Ocean. The city has dropped 2,500 cars into the middle of the ocean after cleaning and removing the seats, straps and wheels.

Scientists report that the underwater cars now contain 400 times as much food per square foot as the sand bottom.

The carriages also protect fish from predators as well as provide shelter for sea creatures that can only live on hard surfaces, such as blue mussels. The photos can be found at:

¦ Mandy Thoo is a science writer based in Kuala Lumpur. Tweet her at @techhead_.

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