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Jeff Bezos -founded Blue Origin has recorded another successful mission for its New Shepard sub-orbital launch vehicle, which is a key step as it readies the spacecraft for human spaceflight. This is also the sixth flight of this re-used booster, which is a record for Blue Origin in terms of relying on and recovering one of its rocket stages.

This is the ninth time that Blue Origin has flown commercial payloads aboard New Shepard, and each launch moves it one step closer to demonstrating the system’s readiness for carrying crew on board. This launch carried experimental payloads that will be used for research, including materials used in student studies. It also had thousands of postcards on board written by students from around the world, which were submitted to the Club for the Future nonprofit set up by Blue Origin earlier this year to provide educational resources about space to schools and students.

Blue Origin intends to fly paying space tourists aboard New Shepard eventually, along with other commercial astronauts making the trip for research and other missions. Up to six passengers can fit in Blue Origin’s capsule atop the New Shepard, but we don’t yet know when it’ll actually be carrying anyone on board, either for testing or for commercial flights.


TechCrunch

India said on Monday that it is moving ahead with its plan to revise existing rules to regulate intermediaries — social media apps and others that rely on users to create their content — as they are causing “unimaginable disruption” to democracy.

In a legal document filed with the country’s apex Supreme Court, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said it would formulate the rules to regulate intermediaries by January 15, 2020.

In the legal filing, the government department said the internet had “emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity.” Oversight of intermediaries, the ministry said, would help in addressing the “ever growing threats to individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty and security.”

The Indian government published a draft of guidelines for consultation late last year. The proposed rules, which revise the 2011 laws, identified any service — social media or otherwise — that have more than 5 million users as intermediaries.

Government officials said at the time that modern rules were needed, otherwise circulation of false information and other misuse of internet platforms would continue to flourish.

The Monday filing comes as a response to an ongoing case in India filed by Facebook to prevent the government from forcing WhatsApp to introduce a system that would enable revealing the source of messages exchanged on the popular instant messaging platform, which counts India as its biggest market with more than 400 million users.

Some have suggested that social media platforms should require their users in India to link their accounts with Aadhaar — a government-issued, 12-digit biometric ID. More than 1.2 billion people in India have been enrolled in the system.

Facebook executives have argued that meeting such demands would require breaking the end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp users enjoy globally. The company executives have said that taking away the encryption would compromise the safety and privacy of its users. The Supreme Court will hear Facebook’s case on Tuesday.

India’s online population has ballooned in recent years. More than 600 million users in India are online today, according to industry estimates. The proliferation of low-cost Android handsets and access to low-cost mobile data in the nation have seen “more and more people in India become part of the internet and social media platforms.”

“On the one hand, technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/social media platforms,” a lower court told the apex court earlier.


TechCrunch

New successes in printing vascular tissue from living cells point to the accelerating pace of development of 3D printing tissue — and eventually the ability to manufacture organs from small samples of cells.

Late last month Prellis Biologics announced a $ 8.7 million round of funding and some significant advancements that point the way forward for 3D printed organs while a company called Volumetric Bio based on research from a slew of different universities unveiled significant progress of its own earlier this year.

The new successes from Prellis have the company speeding up its timeline to commercialization including the sale of its vascular tissue structures to research institutions and looking ahead to providing vascularized skin grafts, insulin producing sells, and a vascular shunt made from the tissue of patients who need dialysis, according to an interview with Melanie Matheu, Prellis’ chief executive officer and co-founder.

The creation of a vascular shunt made from a patient’s own cells should increase the chances of the procedure working successfully, says Matheu. “[If] that shunt fails there aren’t many other options… and then people have ports put in their chest.” The proposed treatment from Prellis could increase quality of life and longevity of people who are waiting for a kidney,” according to Matheu. 

A few months earlier, a team of researchers led by bioengineers Jordan Miller of Rice University and Kelly Stevens of the University of Washington (UW) with collaborators from UW, Duke University, Rowan University and the design firm, Nervous System, revealed a model of an air sac that mimicked the function of human lungs. The model could deliver oxygen to surrounding blood vessels — creating vascular networks that mimic the body’s own passageways.

“One of the biggest road blocks to generating functional tissue replacements has been our inability to print the complex vasculature that can supply nutrients to densely populated tissues,” said Miller, assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering, in a statement. “Further, our organs actually contain independent vascular networks — like the airways and blood vessels of the lung or the bile ducts and blood vessels in the liver. These interpenetrating networks are physically and biochemically entangled, and the architecture itself is intimately related to tissue function. Ours is the first bioprinting technology that addresses the challenge of multivascularization in a direct and comprehensive way.”

Miller has launched a startup to commercialize the research called Volumetric Bio. While the researchers have made their findings freely available through open source licenses, they’re hoping to commercialize the technology by selling their bioprinters and materials and reagents.

The technology that Miller and his team develops uses photoreactor chemicals that respond to light, so specific area of liquid solidify while others can be rinsed away. The problem is that most of these chemicals have been found to cause cancer, so Miller and his team found a replacement to the traditional photoreactors in an unlikely place — the supermarket aisle.

The researchers surmised that food dye might do the trick and Miller just went to the supermarket and picked up a dye that’s typically used in baking, according to a story in Scientific American.

“We were screaming with joy, because it was stunning how simple an idea it was; it immediately enabled us to make this dramatically more complex architecture,” Miller told the magazine.

Prellis has made significant strides of its own. Alongside the funding, the company announced the successful implantation of tumors in animal subjects that were made using the company’s vascular scaffolds. The target market for these tests is in drug discovery, where animal testing can prove the efficacy of new treatments before they’re used on people in drug trials.

The printed structures, a combination of living cells and hydrogels are designed to provide a sort of scaffolding that an animal’s own cells can build on. In the study, conducted at Stanford University, Prellis was able to fully graft a tumor onto an animal using just 200,000 cells — far fewer than what’s required for typical tumor studies, according to the company.

And, as the company noted, within eight weeks, researchers identified branched vasculature of up to 50 microns inside of the transplanted structures, which indicated the animal’s vasculature system had incorporated the scaffolding into its own circulatory system.

Prellis is actually pitching its pre-made vascular scaffolds to researchers for their work on 3D printed biologics. Scientists at pharmaceutical companies and universities including UC San Francisco, Johns Hopkins, UC Irvine, and Memorial Sloan Kettering, are developing tests with standardized tissue structures (something that’s important for drug trials).

The drug discovery applications alone are a multi-billion dollar market, says Matheu, but the company is focused on its goal of fully transplantable 3D printed organs, starting with kidneys. The company is going to do their first large animal studies for organ implantation by the end of the year.

“My goal has always been and will always be that we want this to cost the same amount as procurement from a human donor,” says Matheu.

As Matheu looks ahead to the places where more work needs to be done, she points to getting a supply chain to source the right cells for drug therapies and organ development.

So the roadmap for new products begins with the vascular scaffolds, runs through vascularized skin grafts and developing insulin producing cells and vascular shunts for dialysis patients.

“Regenerative medicine has made enormous leaps in recent decades. However, to create complete organs, we need to build higher order structures like the vascular system,” said Dr. Alex Morgan, Principal at Khosla Ventures, in a statement. “Prellis’ optical technology provides the scaffolding necessary to engineer these larger masses of tissues.  With our investment in Prellis, we’re supporting an initiative that will ultimately produce a functioning lobe of the lung, or even a kidney, to be used in addressing an enormous unmet global need.”


TechCrunch

As expected, there was a lot at yesterday’s big WWDC keynote. In fact, you got the sense watching the whole thing unfold that Apple had to race through a number of its new features to cram everything into the two-hour-plus event.

For many, the new Mac Pro was the star of the show, but for Apple, the clear the focus was on software. The company is keenly aware as hardware sales slow that its future is all about software, services and content. This week at the show, we got a guided look through the best new features iOS, macOS and watchOS have to offer.

No surprise, iOS 13 brings the biggest changes of the bunch. Dark Mode is the highlight so to speak. The feature has the same selling points as it does on other operating systems — namely being easier on the eyes and the battery. With a touch in settings, users can turn set it as a constant or have it switch when the sun goes down.

The feature swaps in dark wallpapers and will work with all of Apple’s native apps. Third-party supports is coming as well and will be a part of its development platforms like Swift, going forward.

Apple Maps, a major underdog at launch, continues to get some key upgrades. Most notable is Lookaround — a competitor to Google’s longstanding Street View, which brings seamlessly stitched photographs to help users better navigate around. The feature was extremely smooth in our brief demo. It’s hard to say how it will behave on cellular networks out on the street, but the preview was certainly impressive.

Imaging is a key part of every iOS upgrade, and this one’s no different. Photo editing has been much improved, with more pro-style control over aspects like white balance, contrast, sharpening and noise reduction.

There are some handy dummy proof additions as well, like the ability to adjust saturation without impacting flesh tones. iOS’s editing tools are coming to video as well, this time out, with the ability to adjust settings and even rotate orientation. The photos app also gets a new dynamic view that groups images by occasions like birthdays, giving you another opportunity to mark the unwavering march of time.

This year’s show marked a big moment for iPad as well, as the tablet’s operating system broke free from iOS. For users, that primarily means more functionality on the larger screen, including the ability to to open up multiple windows of the same app for additional multitasking. That joins various other features like improved gesture based highlighting and cut and paste that help iPadOS behave more like a PC.

Far and away the most exciting addition here, however, is actually on the mac side. macOS Catalina brings Duet/Luna style second screen functionality to the tablet, letting it serve as an external monitor. The feature can be used wirelessly (over bluetooth) or tethered.

Our demo was the latter (WWDC is a busy place for wireless signals), but operated pretty flawlessly in spite of some complicated demands. With an iPad Pro, users can draw with the Apple Pencil. There’s also a handy Touch Bar-style menu tray at that populates the bottom of the iPad display.

A couple of watchOS additions are worth mentioning, as well. The most significant is native menstrual cycle tracking. The feature, which is also coming to iOS, gives users a way to keep track of another key aspect of health.

Other additions to the wearable operating system include a native app for audiobooks and a noise app that uses the watch’s built in mics to alert wearers of loud sounds that can lead to hearing loss.


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