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Posts Tagged ‘quantum computers

Science Policy Around the Web – January 19, 2018

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By: Allison Dennis B.S.

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source: pixabay

Emergency Unpreparedness

IV bag shortage has hospitals scrambling to treat flu

While other hospital activities may put a predictable strain on medical supplies, the sudden onset of a particularly bad flu season has left hospitals strapped for the basic medical staple, IV bags. Intravenous (IV) therapy delivers liquids directly to the vein and is made possible by prepackaged sterile bags loaded with saline, a mix of water, salt, sugar, electrolytes, and vitamins that match what naturally exists in the body. By matching the natural composition of blood, these fluids are able to help the body rapidly return to normal after dehydration and can efficiently deliver drugs. Severe dehydration is a common side effect of flu, as one of the body’s first line of defense is to develop a fever, a process that expends a lot of water and oxygen. Additional symptoms may leave flu-sufferers uninterested or unable to drink the water they need. For patients ill enough to seek treatment at the hospital, IV therapy is often required to rapidly rehydrate their bodies and can be used simultaneously to deliver antivirals.

IV bags have been continuously in short supply in the US since 2014. Reasons for this shortage seem to stem from the complexities of safely manufacturing saline, a 10-day process that reportedly requires 29 steps, and the insatiable demand, 740 IV bags are estimated to be used each minute in the US. Production of IV drugs and saline is more tightly regulated by the FDA than other drugs because they are injected directly into the blood stream. Even the smallest contamination can result in a widespread blood infection.

In recent months, the shortage has been heightened by the coalescing of two closely monitored seasons, flu and hurricane. Half of the IV bags used in the US are manufactured in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by hurricane damage early this fall. IV bag producers are slowly returning to their pre-storm levels of production, but ongoing power outages are continuing to cause disruption. To try to alleviate this burden, the FDA has granted additional companies permission to begin manufacturing and selling the bags that are in short supply. To help hospitals struggling to meet the constant demand for IV bags, the FDA is temporarily permitting hospitals to import sterile saline from overseas.

In some cases, care providers are able to substitute pills for drugs usually administered intravenously. In others, providers may choose to administer drugs through an I.V. push, directly injecting them into the vein, a method that can be both painful and time consuming. But when it comes to treating the severe dehydration that can result when the body battle the flu, intravenous rehydration is often the only appropriate treatment.

(Linda Johnson, Associated Press)

Technology

After years of avoidance, Department of Energy joins quest to develop quantum computers

Quantum computing promises to revolutionize the way we solve complex problems through computation. While the hardware needed to make this a reality exists, software developers and thinkers are struggling to catch up. Conventional computers use bits, either 0 or 1, to create logic in a language the computer can understand. Quantum computers would expand this language to capture the ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at a time. Instead of bits, these computers would use qubits, or quantum bits, allowing more information to be stored without using more energy.

But to think of quantum computing as just a more powerful conventional computer is off base. The types of problems these computers will solve will be fundamentally different. By using the properties of quantum interference, computer scientists are hoping to develop algorithms that would allow incorrect-solutions or redundant information to cancel each other out. These properties would allow quantum computers to perform incredibly complicated calculations while still delivering an interpretable result. These computers may prove an asset to modeling quantum processes themselves, a task conventional computers struggle with. On the to-do list are calculating molecular energies, modeling catalysis by enzymes, designing novel materials at the atomic level.

Overtime, programming languages evolved to allow developers to write code without constantly needing to know how computers would physically implement that code. However, learning how to use quantum hardware to perform what will be new types of computation is requiring physicists, computer scientists, and researchers to start from the beginning again. To foster collaboration, the Department of Energy has set up quantum computing testbeds, places where hardware designers and scientists can work together to simultaneously shape the computational revolution to come.

(Adrian Cho, Science)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

January 19, 2018 at 7:11 pm