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Scientists partially restore blind mice’s eyesight

A team of researchers in California gathered a few blind mice, not to see how they run, but to find a cure for their glaucoma-like condition. By the end of the experiment, the rodents regained part of their eyesight, making this the first time scientists restored “multiple key aspects of vision in mammals.” Glaucoma affects around 70 million people worldwide and currently has no cure. People afflicted with the illness have busted optic nerves — their retinal ganglion cells’ axons had been damaged or severed.

Ganglion cells, in a nutshell, process what we see and are responsible for transmitting images to the brain. You can then think of their axons, thin nerve cells that could be as long as six to eight inches, as wires connecting the eyes to the brain. The bad news is that those axons don’t regenerate in adult humans (and mice, apparently), so the team decided to find a way to grow them back.

They employed a couple of techniques to accomplish their goal. The first one is covering the mouse’s good eye and exposing its bad one to “high-contrast visual stimulation,” specifically of a constantly moving black-and-white grid. They also used chemicals to reactivate the mTOR pathway, molecular interactions that enhance growth, within the ganglion cells.

The techniques didn’t show much difference individually, but the scientists found that combining both of them led to the growth of a “substantial numbers of axons” after three weeks. When the mice were shown an image of an expanding circle (something they interpret as an approaching bird) with their good eye covered, they ran for shelter.

It’ll take a long time before we can restore people’s vision completely, though. The team said their subjects still failed tests that required “finer visual discrimination.” Some, for instance, stepped over a cliff the scientists made. They still need to find a way to regrow more axons in order to cure glaucoma in humans.

Source: Stanford

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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