What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Nasa exoskeleton to keep healthy in space

Nasa has developed a new exoskeleton that may help astronauts stay healthier in space and aid paraplegics in walking here on earth. Nasa and The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) of Pensacola, with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, have jointly developed a robotic exoskeleton called X1.The 57-pound device is a robot that a human could wear over his or her body either to assist or inhibit movement in leg joints.

In the inhibit mode, the robotic device would be used as an in-space exercise machine to supply resistance against leg movement. The same technology could be used in reverse on the ground, potentially helping some individuals walk for the first time.

“Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will be critical in our future human exploration of deep space,” Michael Gazarik, director of Nasa’s Space Technology Programme said in a statement.

“It’s exciting to see a Nasa-developed technology might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs to begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time,” Gazarik said.

Fish oils can stave off heart disease: Study

Just two or three portions of fish every week or taking an oil supplement can ward off heart disease, especially in women, a new study has claimed. Researchers from the University of Reading found that fish oils can have a direct impact on the muscle cells that control the elasticity of blood vessels. Previous studies have shown that the omega-3 fish oils can dramatically cut the risk of death by slashing blood fats, reducing the chance of a blood clot. The study introduced small amounts of fish oils to meals containing saturated fat eaten by both men and women, the Daily Express reported. Researchers found that muscle elasticity was improved four-fold in women and two-fold in men. The fish oils were so effective on women they matched the benefits of L-arginine, an amino acid supplement taken for heart health.

The researchers found that some of the relaxation effect on the blood vessel wall may be due to direct actions of the fish oil acting on muscle cells themselves, rather than on the cells lining the blood vessel wall.

Mars rover finds rock resembling Earth’s interior

A rock analysed by Nasa’s Mars rover has a surprising and more varied composition than expected, resembling rare rocks from the interiors of Earth, the US space agency said.

“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Curiosity co-investigator Edward Stolper. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin,” Stolper said in a statement.

The results support some surprising recent measurements and provide an example of why identifying rocks’ composition is such a major emphasis of the mission.

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