Archive for October, 2012

October’s Fascinations of the Month

9 | By Michael A. Robinson

Before long, U.S. soldiers may be wearing what amounts to a “second skin” when in combat.
A team at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California is working on new a military uniform that repels chemical or biological agents. Team members say the material will change quickly and automatically, when it detects dangers, from a breathable state that lets heat out, to a protective surface that keeps harmful agents from getting in.
“The uniform will be like a smart second skin that responds to the environment,” said team leader Francesco Fornasiero, adding it could be fielded in about a decade. He says the uniform of the future works “without the need of an external control system” so soldiers don’t waste precious time turning on the barrier.
The suit is made of a unique fabric derived from carbon nanotubes (CNT). It took years to refine the process and make CNTs practical. Today, the nanotubes are used to reinforce carbon fiber products in everything from bicycles to parts of lightweight ships.
This shows you how fast things are moving in the Era of Radical Change… Scientists didn’t even know carbon nanotubes existed until 1991, when a Japanese physicist discovered them in some soot.
In the near future, we may all be able to wear such cutting-edge clothes to protect us from a wide range of hazards.
And wait ’til you see what else we just figured out.

This “Smart Bra” is Better than a Mammogram at Detecting Breast Cancer

16 | By Michael A. Robinson

You need to hear Nedra Lindsay’s story.

It’s the tale of how a chance event saved her life… and signaled the start of an exciting “biodata” investment story that may finally come to fruition sometime in 2013.

It started back in 1993, when Lindsay was just 24 years old, a nurse at a hospital in Ohio. She came across a flier about an experimental study of a new breast-cancer screening system. She nearly threw the paper away, because she didn’t think the study applied to her. After all, she was a good 15 years younger than the age at which most U.S. women begin getting mammograms (special chest X-rays designed to spot cancer in its early stages). So she really had no reason to worry about breast cancer.

In the study, Lindsay tested an interesting wearable device – think of it as the type of sports bra a female runner might wear – that gives vital health data. It works by using thousands of embedded sensors to check the heat of breast tissue and compare that with data about the correct temperature for healthy cells.

These thermal “fingerprints” are designed to detect cancer years before it would be large enough for a mammogram or self-exam to spot it.

Lindsay wore the bra for 24 hours, during which time it gathered data and sent it to her doctor.

The results were alarming. There was indeed abnormal tissue in her breasts. Three more costly tests confirmed it: She had a very aggressive form of cancer. The early detection helped her get early treatment. But had she thrown that piece of paper away, Lindsay would most likely have been a cancer victim instead of a cancer survivor.

That’s why today, at 45 years old, Lindsay is helping to spread the word about the small startup firm whose sensor-laden “smart bra” saved her life.

For the past 20 years, Lifeline Biotechnologies Inc. (OTC:LLBO) has been developing and testing a “smart bra” that can screen for very early signs of cancer. Early detection of breast cancer gives the patient more treatment options, better quality of life, and a much-increased chance of survival.

Lindsay was one of their first test subjects.

Now First Warning System Inc.’s product is almost ready to go to market. Parent company Lifeline is the principal shareholder in the firm, which was founded in 2008 and headquartered in Reno. First Warning is planning a final, limited clinical trial of its “smart bra,” as well as a premarket device classification with the FDA. It is also preparing to apply for approval to go out in the UK, EU, and Russian markets. According to ABC News, the bra will go on sale in Europe sometime in 2013 and cost about $200.

This product could improve the lives of hundreds of millions of women around the world.

It’s miles ahead of what we have now. It even qualifies as “disruptive tech,” in that it could replace mammograms altogether.

You see, the mammogram remains the chief way doctors screen women for breast cancer, and it does save countless lives. But it is hardly foolproof. The process is only accurate at finding cancer 70% of the time. Not only that, but about 750,000 biopsies called for by mammograms reveal no sign of cancer whatever. These “false positives” alone cost the U.S. $1 billion for tests that weren’t needed after all (not to mention the stress and fear these women must endure).

What’s more, mammograms don’t work well for women under 40. And yet breast cancer claims the lives of 6% of women under the age of 44.

That’s where the First Warning System comes in. In three recent studies that looked at 650 women, the bra was much better than mammograms at spotting signs of possible cancer. It was right 90% of the time, the firm says.

Recently Lindsay taped a video for First Warning Systems to celebrate 19 years of life she might never have had without them, and it is getting buzz both in the media and on the Web.

The tech really hits home for me, and I suspect it will for many of you, too. See, my wife’s mom is a breast-cancer survivor. So we pay a lot of attention to this field. My wife would like to make use of a screening process that is much less invasive than mammograms. And if it’s cheaper and more accurate, so much the better. Also, I have two teenage daughters, and I would feel a lot better if they could use a device like this starting in their early 20s.

Now here’s why it’s so exciting for investors like us…

The Dawn of Regenerative Medicine

8 | By Michael A. Robinson

Medical science is fast approaching the point at which doctors will routinely transplant major organs grown from a patient’s own cells.

No doubt, that would be huge. First, it would get around a major hurdle that now limits live-saving transplants. The waiting list for new organs is so long some patients die before they can get their operations.

Second, the body’s immune system often rejects the new organ as an “invader.” To combat this, patients must take strong drugs that can have some pretty severe side effects.

Doctors have said for decades that “regenerative medicine” would yield custom-made organs. And for just as long it’s remained more theory than practice.

Until now…

Just last month, a team from Johns Hopkins said it had rebuilt an ear for a cancer patient using the woman’s own tissue. Not only that, but they actually “grew” the ear inside the woman’s forearm.

As I see it, this is a stunning achievement that reflects the rapid progress science is making in the Era of Radical Change. We are moving quickly toward a time when living to 100 will become the norm — and you’ll remain in robust health.

Even the ear-transplant patient says she’s amazed how quickly things are progressing.

“When my doctors told me reconstruction was possible, I thought it was too good to be true,” said Sherrie Walter, a working mother of two. “It sounded like science fiction.”

But it turned out to be science fact.

More Breakthroughs in the Field of Adult Stem Cells

0 | By Michael A. Robinson

It’s flat-out amazing how fast the science of adult stem cells is moving.

Just last week, I told you about two scientists who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine for creating this field.

The advance that cemented their award occurred in 2002. But it wasn’t until just five years ago, in 2007, that the science of deriving adult stems really began in earnest. As you might expect, it took two or three years just for all those teams around the world to get organized.

Already, I’m seeing a steady stream of new findings. There seems to be something new almost every week. As a group, they point to a day in the very near future in which adult stem cells will become a routine part of treating a wide range of diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer’s.

See, that’s the great thing about stem cells – they can grow to become anything, from bone to brain tissue. Doctors hope to take your own cells, like those in your skin, and use them to grow replacement organs or to repair damaged muscles or other tissue.

Last Friday, I told you how a team used adult stem cells to reverse vision loss in older mice. As it turns out, there are more advances you should know about.

You will really like this first one…

The “Adult Stem Cell” Cure for Blindness is Close

12 | By Michael A. Robinson

You probably know that macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among the elderly. The disease affects the retina, a section of the eye that provides the kind of sharp, central vision needed to see objects clearly.

Indeed, age-related blindness affects between three and 10 million people in the U.S. alone, including some of your fellow Era readers.

So it’s no small news that a new type of treatment based on stem cells could provide a cure for blindness – and in the very near future.

As I explained on Tuesday, this is just one part of the exciting new field of adult stem cells.

A research team from Columbia University is responsible for this one.

Their findings center on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. These are adult cells – culled from a patient’s own skin – that are tweaked to induce embryonic properties. Team members noted that, just like embryonic ones, IPS cells can grow to become a wide range of different human tissues and organs.

In this case, the transformed human skin cells were shown to restore vision in blind mice who suffered from macular degeneration.

In the study, team members got the IPS cells from a donor who is 53 years old. They added a cocktail of growth factors for use in the eyes of 34 blind mice that had a genetic mutation that caused their retinas to break down over time.

Control mice that got either saline or dormant cells showed no improvement in their vision. But mice that received the treatment had better vision that lasted well into old age.

“It’s often said that iPS transplantation will be important in the practice of medicine in some distant future,” noted team leader Dr. Stephen Tsang. “But our paper suggests the future is almost here. With eye diseases, I think we’re getting close to a scenario where a patient’s own skin cells are used to replace retina cells destroyed by disease or degeneration.”

And it gets better…

How Adult Stem Cells Will Change the World (and Benefit Biotech Investors)

18 | By Michael A. Robinson

Just last Thursday, I was at in meetings at our headquarters in Baltimore, telling my editor how excited I was to tell my Era readers about several new adult stem-cell breakthroughs.

I predicted these adult stem cell lines will play a vital role in the future of the human race.

They are crucial for two main reasons:

  • First, they’re amazing feats of science. Researchers found that they could take adult cells, like those found in your skin, and (through what seems more magic than science), give them almost the same properties as those cells that come from human embryos. That means the cells can grow to become tissue, bones, or even entire organs, like the brain and heart.
  • Second, and more to the point, I and millions of others consider this branch of stem-cell science to be ethical. It’s not the same as using embryonic stem cells, which can be very disturbing – those cells often come from aborted fetuses. Thus, advances derived from these adult stem cells don’t carry with them that huge and troubling moral debate.

Yesterday morning, back in California, I woke up to learn that the Nobel committee agrees with me…

Just this week, the world’s top scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to the two men who pioneered this field for a series of experiments that (among other things) created the science of adult stem cells.

You cannot find a better scientific “stamp of approval” than the Nobel Prize. Now, researchers around the world will target adult stems cells with a passion that I predict will lead to a new round of key breakthroughs that will help us live to 100 and remain in robust health all the way there.

Indeed, I already have several new findings I can’t wait to share with you. These include a possible cure for blindness, new ways to combat brain disease, and achievements that will make this treatment option far healthier. It’s far too much to fit in one article, so I’m going to do an adult stem cells series:

  • Part One: Today, I’ll tell you the story behind the winning of the Nobel Prize.
  • Part Two: The next piece will look at a possible cure for age-related blindness.
  • Part Three: I will conclude by telling you about more breakthroughs you must know about, including something I call the New Fountain of Youth.

Let’s get started…

Three New Advances are Transforming 3D Printing

12 | By Michael A. Robinson

As new high-tech advances go, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that will have as much impact as this.

3D printing has now reached critical mass, on its way to what I believe will become a $1 trillion industry in a few short years. Along the way, it will change everything, from how airplanes and medical implants are made to how we build our homes

And we can only guess what else.

Indeed, three recent breakthroughs in particular are pushing the sector in new directions. They could affect the mass customization of consumer products and even lead to the day when doctors will “print” replacement organs on demand.

I first wrote about 3D printing last March for our sister publication Money Morning – you can read that report here. I explained that these printers are like “desktop factories” that could change our manufacturing model forever. Here’s how I described the technology itself:

“Technically, you don’t really “print’ a new product, though the process is similar. Rather than putting ink on paper, the system creates the product by adding thin layers of special polymers and some metals. This is cutting-edge high tech that is destined to become big business. I believe it is the 21st century equivalent of the laser printer and the dawn of desktop publishing in the 1980s that changed the entire print industry.”

In recent weeks, I’ve become even more convinced that 3D printing will play a vital role in the Era of Radical Change. The sector has produced a new series of amazing breakthroughs that will change the world around us.

Here are three you need to know about today…

How New Protein Chips Could Save Your Life Someday

12 | By Michael A. Robinson

Editor’s Note: Michael wrote this article for our sister publication Money Morning on Monday, and it was a big hit with readers. We wanted to make sure you got a chance to see it too. Enjoy.

Ever since some wag came up with the term “Silicon Valley” in the 1970s, investors have thought of semiconductors as the brains behind computers.

Today, semiconductors are about a lot more than computers.

And a few short years from now, those tiny silicon chips that run your PC just may save your life.

See, in a recent breakthrough, a new kind of computer chip was able to spot disease that doctors have a tough time finding on their own.

This new field of cutting-edge high tech could have a big impact on the health of millions around the world. It means we are getting very close to the point when your doctor will be able to detect not just what type of disease you have, but which of many versions is affecting you, too.

What’s more, using these new chips, doctors will have the answer in a matter of minutes. That will speed up everything: the diagnosis, the drugs and – more to the point – your return to good health.

And needless to say, these breakthrough new chips could make a few savvy investors quite rich.

This new field – loosely called “lab on a chip” – holds so much promise that a key research arm of the Pentagon will spend at least $65 million to help get it out of the lab and into the real world.

First let me explain this recent new development.

You may be pleasantly surprised to find out which company is behind it…

Brain Breakthroughs: Your Comments and Questions

16 | By Michael A. Robinson

Scientists are deeply fascinated by the human brain – and so are investors.

That’s why I sent you another report on September 21 about three new “brain breakthroughs” and how they are changing our view of this complex organ. And it drew quite a response. Dozens of you reached out to me with questions and comments.

I am always impressed with the quality of observations I get from you readers. This is a very smart group that is intrigued with the many advances that are changing the world around us every day, even if they’re not quite ripe for investment just yet.

Given the volume and caliber of comments, I thought I should take a moment today to respond.

But before I do, I want to thank you once again for your interest. I couldn’t possibly succeed in my quest to document this exciting new world without such great support from you.

A few of you shared deeply personal accounts. Thank you for that, too. I’ll do my best to address them.

First, here are two great questions from Al about brain disease …