Tech Talk: ALS Research, Diesel Alternatives, Electric Bikes, and More | Tech Parks Arizona
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Tech Talk: ALS Research, Diesel Alternatives, Electric Bikes, and More

With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments.

Glucose to fight ALS. New research from the University of Arizona’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology indicates increased glucose may give people with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, improved mobility and a longer life. The study, led by UA postdoctoral researcher Ernesto Manzo, found that when ALS-affected neurons are given more glucose, they turn it into energy and are able to survive longer. This extra energy is especially important, because  ALS patients experience changes in their metabolism, often leading to rapid weight loss. This hypermetabolism forces ALS patients to use more energy while resting than those without the disease, so increasing glucose to the cells may be a way to match ALS patients’ high energy demands. According to Daniela Zarnescu, senior author on the study, previous studies on ALS metabolisms only focused on the whole body, not on the cellular level. For their research, Manzo and Zarnescu used high-powered microscopes to observe the motor neurons of fruit flies as they provided more glucose. With an increase in glucose, the neurons “lived longer and moved more efficiently.” This is consistent with other research which found a high carbohydrate diet was a possible intervention for ALS patients with gross metabolic dysfunction.

Diesel Alternatives in Mining. While miners can encounter many life-threatening situations on the job, they also face cancer and respiratory disease risk from the diesel exhaust of the equipment they use. However, researchers at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health are using a $1.7 million grant to study safer, alternative fuels in mines. The grant, which came from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, allows the local researchers to evaluate two new alternative fuels: renewable diesel and a natural gas/diesel mixture. The researchers are partnering with a mine, where diesel is used, to find the safest option for underground fuels. 

Electric bikes on Mount Lemmon. Pedego Electric Bikes recently announced the opening of the new Pedego Mt. Lemmon store, located in Summerhaven. The store will offer rentals, tours and sales of their bikes, which have electric motors to combat the difficulty of higher altitudes and path slopes on the mountain. Pedego also owns a second store in Tucson. Pedego electric bikes have 250- to 500-watt motors and can travel up to 60 miles on a single battery charge. Free test rides are available at Pedego stores.

Local tech startup works with National Science Foundation. A local startup working with ultrasound technology in mobile devices recently completed the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program. Emagine Solutions Technology is a digital health company commercializing software to transform a doctor’s mobile device into an ultrasound machine. Their “VistaScan” is handheld and can make diagnoses at a tenth of the cost of a regular ultrasound machine. The NSF’s Innovation Corps program helps scientists move their work beyond the laboratory by working with entrepreneurs and customers to better understand the real world uses and applications of their technology. In their training, working with Tech Parks Arizona, Emagine Solutions collaborated with National Science Foundation program leaders and interviewed more than 100 clinicians to better understand the administration and research needs of their technology.

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