Scientific & Technological Achievements of Iranians

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

*Iranian Researcher Invents Auditory ATM for the Blind

Iranian researcher Ebrahim Khaninzadeh has invented an auditory system that helps the blind recognize banknotes and assess the value of the money.

Blind people have always been in trouble using ATMs or other automatic bank services, but the new system can resolve their problems, said Khaninzadeh.

Using the new system, the blind will be able to assess their money value and amount of banknotes, he added.

Khaninzadeh’s design simulates human fingers’ joint matrix and operates by utilizing the sensors applied in the thumb. All electronic systems can be easily controlled by finger joints that allow the blind to be informed through an auditory command.

Khaninzadeh has been awarded in several international competitions in Switzerland, South Korea, Germany and Romania for his designs and inventions.

*Iranian Scientists Develop New Technique to Cure Malignant Liver Tumor

Iranian scientists developed a new radiopharmaceutical to cure malignant liver tumor for the first time in the country. The method uses injecting radioactive particles was carried out in Heart and Vessel Center of Shahid Rajaei Hospital, Tehran.

The radiopharmaceutical was only used by certain countries including Canada so far, but researchers in Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) managed to build the drug domestically.

Liver cancer is cured in Iran only through surgery or foreign radiotherapy, but using this method, radiopharmaceutical would be injected into a vessel feeding tumor trough angiography.

The experiments of the new method would be applied to the human phase by the next year.

The new method also prevents the risk of radio hepatitis.

The liver would not be damaged.

The animal phase of the project being was successfully carried out on rabbit and sheep and the tests would be carried out on human being by the next year.

*Iranian Researcher Helps Treating Muscular Dystrophy Using Stem Cells

Iranian researcher and lecturer Radbod Darabi jointly with his collogues from the University of Minnesota's Lillehei Heart Institute have effectively treated muscular dystrophy in mice using human stem cells derived from a new process which for the first time makes the production of human muscle cells from stem cells efficient and effective.

The research outlines the strategy for the development of a rapidly dividing population of muscle-forming cells derived from induced pluripotent (iPS) cells.

IPS cells have all of the potential of embryonic stem (ES) cells, but are derived by reprogramming skin cells. They can be patient-specific, which renders them unlikely to be rejected, and do not involve the destruction of embryos.

This is the first time that human stem cells have been shown to be effective in the treatment of muscular dystrophy.

According to the researchers, there has been a significant lag in translating studies using mouse stem cells into therapeutically relevant studies involving human stem cells.

This lag has dramatically limited the development of cell therapies or clinical trials for human patients.

The latest research from the University of Minnesota provides the proof-of-principle for treating muscular dystrophy with human iPS cells, setting the stage for future human clinical trials.

As the researchers noted one of the biggest barriers to the development of cell-based therapies for neuromuscular disorders like muscular dystrophy has been obtaining sufficient muscle progenitor cells to produce a therapeutically effective response.

They stressed that up until now, deriving engraftable skeletal muscle stem cells from human pluripotent stem cells hasn't been possible. The results demonstrate that it is indeed possible and sets the stage for the development of a clinically meaningful treatment approach.

*Iran Builds Machine to Help SCI Patients

Iranian researchers have designed and built a machine that helps patients suffering from Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) increase their movement abilities.

An Iranian faculty member of the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Science, Amir Massoud Arab, told ISNA that there is no treatment for trauma and rehabilitation plays a significant role in helping patients to return to their previous condition to some extent.

 Arab noted that the functional electrical stimulation-assisted rowing machine has been made by Iranian experts to increase the movement of SCI sufferers and materialize rehabilitation objectives.

(SCI refers to any injury to the spinal cord caused by trauma instead of disease. Depending on where the spinal cord and nerve roots are damaged, the symptoms can vary widely from pain to paralysis to incontinence.

Spinal cord injuries are described as “incomplete”, which can vary from having no effect on the patient, and “complete” injury, which means a total loss of function.

Arab noted that the patients’ lack of movement as well as their dependence on wheelchair is considered a major threat for SCI sufferers and the machine would reduce their dependency and let them have more activities.

He said the advantages of rowing exercise compared to other ones is that upper limbs would be involved in movement while lower limbs would help the functioning of the patients’ heart, adding that the machine has been tested on a number of patients and the results were satisfying.

The Iranian lecturer pointed out that the machine possesses a fly wheel equipped with magnetic brakes with nine resistance levels, adding that there is a chair equipped with a dorsal so that the patient does not have any problem while sitting on it.

“Four straps have been designed for the machine, two of which are designed for lower limbs and the two others for upper limbs,” he said.

Treatment of spinal cord injuries starts by restraining the spine and controlling inflammation to prevent further damage. The actual treatment can vary widely depending on the location and extent of the injury.

In many cases, spinal cord injuries require substantial physical therapy and rehabilitation, especially if the patient’s injury interferes with daily activities.

Spinal cord injuries have many causes, but are typically associated with major trauma from motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries and violence.

*Iran Ranks 2nd in Robocup Dutch Open Championships

Iran's soccer-playing robots stood 2nd in the International RoboCup Dutch Open Championships.The Iranian teams of MRL from Qazvin Azad University was ranked 2nd in the Robocup Dutch Open in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

Iranian runners-up beat Mexican Cambada Team in semi-final plays, but were defeated by Techunited, from the Netherlands in final plays which is one of the world's champions.

Iran's second position in the RoboCup Middle Size League has been obtained for the first time over the plays.

At the Mid-Size League (MSL), two teams of each five robots play soccer against each other. This is preformed completely autonomous, they determine their own strategies and react completely independent at the situation. The robots have a height of approximately 80 cm.

*Iranian Scientist Designs Smart Surgical Navigation System

An Iranian researcher has designed a smart surgical navigation system that helps surgeons with precise positioning of lesion in different operations.

The newly invented device can be used in divergent surgeries including nasal and sinus, skull base, brain and orthopedic operations, said Iranian inventor Ali Safavi.

He also noted that the device is able to detect the location of the tumor for radiotherapy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy in different parts of the body.

The device has been successfully examined in about 100 surgical operations so far, Safavi added.

Iran has made great strides in science and technology, particularly in medical and medicinal fields in recent years.

The country ranked 40th in scientific production and first in scientific growth in the world in 2011.

*Iranian Researcher Makes Biosensor to Detect Cancer Growth

Iranian researcher and chemistry lecturer Dr. Parviz Norouzi has designed and developed a biosensor that can show the level of cancer growth.

The biosensor can detect the level of cancer growth and recognize the health improvement of cancer patients after they undergo surgery, Norouzi explained.

The recently created biosensor was designed and developed in the Electro- chemistry center of the University of Tehran.

Recognizing the level of cancer growth after operation can play a significant role in treating patients. The new method will complete the diagnosis process in an hour leading to proper decisions for the patients.

*NEDAI Award for Iranian Article

An Iranian project whose results were published in Arthritis and Rheumatism Journal has received the NEDAI Award.

The project was jointly carried out by Iranian researchers of Tehran Medical University for rheumatologic studies and Portuguese researchers in Gulbenkian Foundation in 2012, ISNA reported.

The article titled “Association study of IL10 and IL23R-IL12RB2 in Iranian Behcet’s disease patients” was published in Arthritis and Rheumatism Journal.

Behcet’s disease, sometimes called Behcet’s syndrome, Morbus Behcet, or Silk Road disease, is a rare immune-mediated systemic vasculitis that often appears as mucous membrane ulceration and ocular involvements.

Behcet’s disease was named in 1937 after the Turkish dermatologist Hulusi Behcet, who first described the triple-symptom complex of recurrent oral aphthous ulcers, genital ulcers and uveitis.

As a systemic disease, it can also involve visceral organs such as the gastrointestinal tract, pulmonary, musculoskeletal and neurological systems. This syndrome can be fatal, due to ruptured vascular aneurysms or severe neurological complications.

*Iranian Researchers Receive US Patent on Solar Cells

Researchers at Iran’s Sharif University of Technology have received a US patent issued under the title of “Single-Sided Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Having A Vertical Patterned Structure” and publication number of US20110220192.

“We have proposed a novel structure for the solar cells which can eliminate the unnecessary formation of the conductive glasses--a major cost-intensive byproduct in course of solar cells manufacturing,” Nima Taqavinia, associate professor at Sharif University of Technology was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.

“Dye-sensitized solar cells are a type of nanostructured solar cells whose mechanism is based on light absorption by the pigment molecules plus electron and whole injection to a semiconductor and an electrolyte. This resembles the photosynthesis occurring in plants,” Taqavinia explained about the invented dye-sensitized solar cells.

The research group is affiliated to the Nanoparticles and Nanocoatings Lab at the Department of Physics of Sharif University of Technology.

“Our main mission in the laboratory is to pave the way for commercialization of the solar cells technology. Concurrent with this project, we are conducting other researches within the same framework and hope to come up with suitable results soon in the future,” he said.

As for the commercialization and mass production of solar cells in Iran, Taqavinia said, “For the fabrication of a small panel of solar cells, a large number of layering and heat treatment steps are required. From the mass production viewpoint, each simple step demands a great deal of design and operation.”

The production rate, processing cost, cost of raw materials and all other parameters impacting the final cost should be low enough for the new product to beat its rivals. Also, the durability and excellence of performance are two other key factors.

As a result, a combination of parameters together with technical novelty can guarantee a promising commercialization.

“We make our contributions to the different aspects of this development. To materialize such a dream, which is the localization of the solar cell production technology, we need to build a diverse and strong portfolio of related patents,” he said.

*Iranian Researcher Produces Smart Anti-Cancer Medicine

Iranian researcher Dr. Omid Farrokhzad of Harvard Medical School has produced a smart cancer drug that is capable of targeting cancer cells in animals.

Farrokhzad and his colleagues made the drug in nano scale which enables it to distinguish and target cancer cells without causing common side effects of chemotherapy.

In popular cancer treatment with chemotherapy, both cancer cells and healthy ones are damaged.

“The method does not include chemotherapy side effects and the animal tests show that it can reach cancer cells 500-1000 percent more than chemotherapy,” Farrokhzad explained.

He also noted that the medicine will be ready to be used after the clinical studies are finished within the next five years.

Harvard has called the drug a ‘paradigm shift’ in cancer treatment.

*Iranian Professor Elected  Secretary General's Deputy of the Ophthalmology Association in MENA

Iranian professor became Secretary General's Deputy of the ophthalmology Association in the Middle East and Africa.

Dr. Mohsen Bahmani Kashkooli Tehran University professor, was elected as Secretary General’s deputy of ophthalmology Association in Middle East and Africa ( MEACO ).

Doctor Bahmani Kashkooli is Ophthalmology professor that has been elected in 2012 as a successor Secretary General of this Association.

He has also been selected as scientific secretary of the International Congress of Ophthalmology in 2012.

*Iranian Researcher Wins 2012 Dupuytren Award

Iranian researcher Neda Mousakhani of Helsinki University in Finland has won the 2011 International Dupuytren Award for her article on Dupuytren's disease.

The award was presented to both Neda Mousakhani and Mohammad Guled from the University of Helsinki in basic research category, and Oliver Donaldson of Bristol University in the clinical research section.

Mousakhani was honored for her article ‘Unique microRNA profile in Dupuytren’s contracture supports deregulation of b-catenin pathway’ published in Modern Pathology Journal.

Dupuytren's disease or palmar fibromatosis is a fixed flexion contracture of the hand where the fingers bend towards the palm and cannot be fully extended.

It is an inherited proliferative connective tissue disorder which involves the palmar fascia of the hand.

The disease is named after the French surgeon Baron Guillaume Dupuytren who described an operation to correct the affliction in 1831.

The International Dupuytren Awards are given during the annual Dupuytren society summit in London and carry a monetary prize of 1,000 Euros.

The award recognizes exceptional scientific publications on research or clinical treatment of Morbus Dupuytren and/or Morbus Ledderhose.

Research can be about therapy, epidemiology, pathogenesis, genomics, or in other areas improving the understanding and treatment of these diseases.

*Iranian Devises New Method To Cure Heart Disease

An Iranian researcher has developed a new method to cure congenital heart diseases in newborn babies.

Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is a problem in the heart’s structure and function present at birth, ISNA reported.

CHD, which deals with a number of problems affecting the heart, is the most common type of birth defect.

The disease causes more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.

Congenital heart disease is often divided into two types of cyanotic (blue skin color caused by a lack of oxygen) and non-cyanotic.

Putting stent in ductus arteriosus of babies is a method widely used in the treatment of babies suffering from congenital heart disease.

Professor Hamid Amoozgar stressed that some babies suffering from the disease with a low level of oxygen in their blood need operation, but primary treatment has become possible by putting stent in the babies’ ductus arteriosus.

This method has reduced the level of casualties.

The professor noted that closing the Ventricular Septal Defect is another method that can be used without any need for surgery, adding that the method has already been used for adults and it would be performed on babies as well.

“Some tests were performed on children and the results were satisfying,” he said.

Amoozgar pointed out that closing the arteriovenous fistula in children has been performed on five babies and the results were satisfying.

*Iranians Transplant Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Iranian researchers have developed a method to transplant umbilical cord hematopoietic stem cells on biocompatible microvillus.

Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) is a treatment for bone marrow incompatibilities and hematologic malignancies, ISNA reported.

Cord blood can be a proper alternative source for obtaining hematopoietic stem cells for allogeneic stem cell transplant and the most HLA limitations would be resolved since T lymphocytes are few.

There are limitations in using cord blood, including the small amount of hematopoietic precursor stem cells because of low cord blood volume, hence hematopoietic precursor stem cells would overcome the problem in ex-vivo situation.

The main objective of the system is developing enough hematopoietic precursor stem cells that possess the ability for hematopoietic and transplantation process for a long time.

Microvilli are microscopic cellular membrane protrusions that increase the surface area of cells. They are involved in a wide variety of functions, including cellular absorption, secretion and adhesion.

*Iranians Develop Drop for Eye Surgeries

Iranian researchers at Mashhad Medical University have developed a local anesthetic for eye surgery that eliminates pain.

The researchers have produced an eye-drop called “lidocaine–cyclodextrin complexes” for the first time in the country, ISNA reported.

Dr. Omid Rajabi, a member of the university’s Faculty of Pharmacy, and Dr. Ali Akbar Saberi- Moqaddam of the same university have produced the drop.

Dr. Saberi- Moqaddam said the anesthetic eye-drop is one of the most essential things for eye surgery and its production will ease surgeries.

“Local and foreign anesthetic medicine lidocaine, which is used in the country, can now only be used for anesthesia of eye surface and has no application for deeper operation,” he said.

He said the newly-developed eye-drop can be applied in deeper operations, including strabismus and pterygium surgeries, adding that in these surgeries up to now surgeons have to inject anesthetic under the conjunctiva but the new drop will help them operate without an injection.

Saberi- Moqaddam further said the eye-drop has been used on 30 different patients, which gave rise to satisfactory results.

*Iranian Produces Highly Conductive Plastic Fibers

Iranian researcher Vina Faramarzi succeeded in making highly conductive plastic fibers that are only several nanometers thick.

It was a joint project with scientists from Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and the University of Strasbourg, ISNA reported.

The nanowires are self-assembled when triggered by a flash of light. Inexpensive and easy to handle, unlike carbon nanotubes, they combine the advantages of the two materials currently used to conduct electric current metals and plastic organic polymers.

Their remarkable electrical properties are similar to those of metals. In addition, they are light and flexible like plastics, which opens up the possibility of meeting one of the most important challenges of 21st-century electronics.

The next step is to demonstrate that these fibers can be industrially integrated within electronic devices such as flexible screens and solar cells.

In previous work published in 2010, researchers succeeded for the first time in obtaining nanowires. To achieve this feat, they chemically modified ‘triarylamines’, synthetic molecules that have been used for decades by industry in Xerox photocopying processes.

Much to their surprise, the researchers observed that in light and in solution, their new molecules stacked up spontaneously in a regular manner to form miniature fibers. These wires, a few hundred nanometers long, are made up of what is known as the ‘supramolecular’ assembly of several thousand molecules.

Real atomic force microscopy image showing a conductive supramolecular fiber composed of several short fibers. Each grain corresponds to a molecule.

Their first important finding was that, when triggered by a flash of light, the fibers self-assemble solely between the electrodes.

*Is Strange Organism New Branch on Tree of Life?

A single-celled organism in Norway has been called "mankind's furthest relative." It is so far removed from the organisms we know that researchers claim it belongs to a new base group, called a kingdom, on the tree of life.

"We have found an unknown branch of the tree of life that lives in this lake. It is unique! So far we know of no other group of organisms that descend from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species," study researcher Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, of the University of Oslo, in Norway, said in a statement.

The organism, a type of protozoan, was found by researchers in a lake near Oslo. Protozoans have been known to science since 1865, but because they are difficult to culture in the lab, researchers haven't been able to get a grip on their genetic makeup. They were placed in the protist kingdom on the tree of life mostly based on observations of their size and shape.

In this study, published March 21 in the journal Molecular Biology Evolution, the researchers were able to grow enough of the protozoans, called Collodictyon, in the lab to analyze its genome. They found it doesn't genetically fit into any of the previously discovered kingdoms of life. It's an organism with membrane-bound internal structures, called a eukaryote, but genetically it isn't an animal, plant, fungi, algae or protist (the five main groups of eukayotes).

"The microorganism is among the oldest currently living eukaryote organism we know of. It evolved around one billion years ago, plus or minus a few hundred million years. It gives us a better understanding of what early life on Earth looked like," Shalchian-Tabrizi said.

What it looked like was small. The organism the researchers found is about 30 to 50 micrometers (about the width of a human hair) long. It eats algae and doesn't like to live in groups. It is also unique because instead of one or two flagella (cellular tails that help organisms move) it has four.

The organism also has unique characteristics usually associated with protists and amoebas, two different branches. This left researchers wondering where the microorganism fits into the tree of life. They analyzed its genetic code to see how similar it is to organisms that have already been genetically catalogued.

"We are surprised," said study researcher Dag Klaveness, also of the University of Oslo, because the species is unique. They compared its genome with those in hundreds of databases around the world, with little luck. In all that looking they "have only found a partial match with a gene sequence in Tibet."

The researchers think this organism belongs in a new group on the tree of life. Researchers can't say for certain if other organisms previously classified as protozoans are in this same branch without their genetic information. Its closest known genetic relative is the protist Diphylleia, though other organisms that haven't been analyzed genetically may be closer relatives.

"It is conceivable that only a few other species exist in this family branch of the tree of life, which has survived all the many hundreds of millions of years since the eukaryote species appeared on Earth for the first time," Klaveness said.

Because it has features of two separate kingdoms of life, the researchers think that the ancestors of this group might be the organisms that gave rise to these other kingdoms, the amoeba and the protist, as well. If that's true, they would be some of the oldest eukaryotes, giving rise to all other eukaryotes, including humans.

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