London (U.K.). July 30 (Canadian-Media): The artificial cells could be used to sense changes in the body and respond by releasing drug molecules, or to sense and remove harmful metals in the environment, Phys.org reports said.
Building a synthetic pathway. Credit: Imperial College London
Responding to chemical changes is a crucial function of biological cells. For example, cells can respond to chemicals by creating certain proteins, boosting energy production, or self-destructing. Chemicals are also used by cells to communicate with each other and coordinate a response or send a signal, such as a pain impulse.
However, in natural cells these chemical responses can be very complex, involving multiple steps. This makes them difficult to engineer, for example if researchers wanted to make natural cells produce something useful, like a drug molecule.
Instead, the Imperial researchers are creating artificial cells that mimic these chemical responses in a much simpler way, allowing them to be more easily engineered.
Now, the team have created the first artificial cells that can sense and respond to an external chemical signal through activation of an artificial signalling pathway. They created cells that sense calcium ions and respond by fluorescing (glowing). Their results are published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
First author James Hindley, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, said: "These systems could be developed for use across biotechnology. For example, we could envisage creating artificial cells that can sense cancer markers and synthesise a drug within the body, or artificial cells that can sense dangerous heavy metals in the environment and release selective sponges to clean them up."
The team created an artificial cell that has smaller cells ('vesicles') inside. The edge of the cell is formed of a membrane that contains pores, which allow calcium ions to enter. Inside the cell, the calcium ions activate enzymes that cause the vesicles to release particles that fluoresce.
James added: "Biology has evolved to be robust by using complex metabolic and regulatory networks. This can make editing cells difficult, as many existing chemical response pathways are extremely complicated to copy or engineer.
"Instead, we created a truncated version of a pathway found in nature, using artificial cells and elements from different natural systems to make a shorter, more efficient pathway that produces the same results."
The researchers' system is simpler because it doesn't need to account for many of the things cells need to get around in natural systems—such as by-products that are toxic to the cell.
Within the system, the membrane pores and the enzymes activated by calcium are from existing biological systems—the enzyme is taken from bee venom for example—but they would not be found in the same environment in nature.
The researchers say this is the strength of using artificial cells to create chemical responses—they can more easily mix elements found apart in nature than they can add an external element into an existing biological system.
#Machinelearningtechnology; ComputersCanStudyHumanEmotions; #EmoNet
Colorado (U.S.), July 28 (Canadian-Media): Could a computer, at a glance, tell the difference between a joyful image and a depressing one? Could it distinguish, in a few milliseconds, a romantic comedy from a horror film? Yes, and so can your brain, according to research published this week by CU Boulder neuroscientists, Medical X Press reports said.
Researchers use fMRI brain imaging technology at CU Boulder. Credit: Glenn Asakawa/CU Boulder
"Machine learning technology is getting really good at recognizing the content of images—of deciphering what kind of object it is," said senior author Tor Wager, who worked on the study while a professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder. "We wanted to ask: Could it do the same with emotions? The answer is yes."
Part machine-learning innovation, part human brain-imaging study, the paper, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, marks an important step forward in the application of "neural networks"—computer systems modeled after the human brain—to the study of emotion.
It also sheds a new, different light on how and where images are represented in the human brain, suggesting that what we see—even briefly—could have a greater, more swift impact on our emotions than we might assume.
"A lot of people assume that humans evaluate their environment in a certain way and emotions follow from specific, ancestrally older brain systems like the limbic system," said lead author Philip Kragel, a postdoctoral research associate at the Institute of Cognitive Science. "We found that the visual cortex itself also plays an important role in the processing and perception of emotion."
Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder
The birth of EmoNet
For the study, Kragel started with an existing neural network, called AlexNet, which enables computers to recognize objects. Using prior research that identified stereotypical emotional responses to images, he retooled the network to predict how a person would feel when they see a certain image.
He then "showed" the new network, dubbed EmoNet, 25,000 images ranging from erotic photos to nature scenes and asked it to categorize them into 20 categories such as craving, sexual desire, horror, awe and surprise.
EmoNet could accurately and consistently categorize 11 of the emotion types. But it was better at recognizing some than others. For instance, it identified photos that evoke craving or sexual desire with more than 95 percent accuracy. But it had a harder time with more nuanced emotions like confusion, awe and surprise.
Even a simple color elicited a prediction of an emotion: When EmoNet saw a black screen, it registered anxiety. Red conjured craving. Puppies evoked amusement. If there were two of them, it picked romance. EmoNet was also able to reliably rate the intensity of images, identifying not only the emotion it might illicit but how strong it might be.
When the researchers showed EmoNet brief movie clips and asked it to categorize them as romantic comedies, action films or horror movies, it got it right three-quarters of the time.
What you see is how you feel
To further test and refine EmoNet, the researchers then brought in 18 human subjects.
CU Boulder postdoctoral researcher Philip Kragel. Credit: Glenn Asakawa/CU Boulder
As a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine measured their brain activity, they were shown 4-second flashes of 112 images. EmoNet saw the same pictures, essentially serving as the 19th subject.
When activity in the neural network was compared to that in the subjects' brains, the patterns matched up.
"We found a correspondence between patterns of brain activity in the occipital lobe and units in EmoNet that code for specific emotions. This means that EmoNet learned to represent emotions in a way that is biologically plausible, even though we did not explicitly train it to do so," said Kragel.
The brain imaging itself also yielded some surprising findings. Even a brief, basic image—an object or a face—could ignite emotion-related activity in the visual cortex of the brain. And different kinds of emotions lit up different regions.
"This shows that emotions are not just add-ons that happen later in different areas of the brain," said Wager, now a professor at Dartmouth College. "Our brains are recognizing them, categorizing them and responding to them very early on."
Ultimately, the researchers say, neural networks like EmoNet could be used in technologies to help people digitally screen out negative images or find positive ones. It could also be applied to improve computer-human interactions and help advance emotion research.
The takeaway for now, says Kragel:
"What you see and what your surroundings are can make a big difference in your emotional life."
Lucan (Ontario), July 23 (Canadian-Media): An announcement was made today by Ontario Premier Doug Ford joined by Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure; Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture; and Monte McNaughton, Member of Provincial Parliament for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and Minister of Labour that province's first-ever, $315 million plan to improve and expand service to help people in rural and remote communities with better connectivity, media reports said.
"Our government committed to help businesses, families, and farms stay connected - no matter where they live," said Ford. "Open for Business has to mean Open for Everybody...get infrastructure built, and get people and business connected. With our plan, businesses, families and workers can count on an Ontario that will move faster than ever before."
The plan includes a $150 million commitment for a new broadband fund and is expected to generate up to $1 billion in total investment over five years, resulting in new connections for up to 220,000 homes and businesses for their social and economic benefits.
Ontario has committed $71 million toward the $213 million Eastern Ontario Regional Network project, to support the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project in Southwestern Ontario, the Niagara Region and the Town of Caledon, and also maximizing the use of existing government assets and programs and modernizing government to cut red tape to encourage broadband and cellular expansion.
Montreal (Quebec), Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): Mary Ng, Federal Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion announced today an investment, through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund, of up to $3.2 million in the École des entrepreneurs du Québec, an organization that develops entrepreneurial skills by providing an accessible, innovative and collaborative learning environment, media reports said.
Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, joined by local women entrepreneurs, business leaders and representatives of the WES Québec celebrated today women’s entrepreneurship in Canada and complements Canada’s efforts to advance gender equality, including pay equity, more affordable child care and putting an end to gender-based violence with the potential to add $150 billion in incremental GDP to the Canadian economy by 2026.
“Our government believes that women’s economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do...a strategy that seeks to double the number of women-owned businesses by increasing their access to financing, networks and advice. It’s a smart investment with an economic and social return,” said Mary Ng.
WES will help our government achieve its goal of doubling the number of majority women-owned businesses by 2025.
“We are committed to supporting women in business and ensuring their full and equal participation in our economy...Today’s investments will help women-owned and women-led businesses here in Montréal and all across Quebec grow, innovate and export to new markets,” said Rachel Bendayan, Member of Parliament for Outremont.
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