May 17, 2020

Girl receives major vein made with her own stem cells

stem cells
vein transplant
blood vessel
2 min
A girl has received a vein grown from her own stem cells
A 10-year-old girl who recently underwent a major vein transplant received a blood vessel that was made from her own stem cells. It is thought to be th...

A 10-year-old girl who recently underwent a major vein transplant received a blood vessel that was made from her own stem cells.

It is thought to be the first transplant of its kind ever to be carried out – involving a vein that has been engineered in a lab – and was carried out in March 2011.  

Doctors in Sweden, from the University of Gothenburg,reported the transplant in The Lancet medical journal, and said the procedure greatly improved the patient’s quality of life.

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The girl had a blocked hepatic portal vein, which is responsible for draining blood from her gut and spleen to her liver; a problem that has the potential to turn fatal.

 After extracting the donor vein, the doctors stripped it of its original cells and replaced them with the girl’s own cells, which were taken from her bone marrow.

 When the 9cm length of vein was transplanted, her body immediately recognised it and accepted it, meaning she does not have to rely on taking immuno-suppressants.

The blood flow between the gut, spleen and liver was immediately restored the girl gained weight and grew in height following the transplant.

Nine months after the initial procedure, doctors also had to carry out a similar operation to rectify a narrowing of the vein.  

Commenting on the revolutionary transplant, the team of doctors said: “The new stem-cells derived graft resulted not only in good blood flow rates and normal laboratory test values but also, in strikingly improved quality of life for the patient.”

Also writing in The Lancet, Martin Birchall and George Hamilton from University College London, added: “The young girl in this report was spared the trauma of having veins harvested from the deep neck or leg with the associated risk of lower limb disorders, and avoided the need for a liver or multivisceral transplantation.

"Although the graft had to be extended by a second stem cell-based graft at one year, she has an improved exercise tolerance and evidence of improved cognition.

“Thus, in a long-term economic analysis, the substantial price for a one-off, personalised treatment can be justified.

“However acute pressures on health systems mean that this argument might be impractical in larger numbers of patients.”

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Jun 17, 2021

Peloton vulnerable to cyber attacks, McAfee research finds

2 min
​​​​​​​Software security experts McAfee discovered exercise bikes by Peloton are vulnerable to cyber attacks, which the company have since resolved 

Peloton, the popular exercise bikes, were found to be vulnerable to cyber attacks in the latest research from McAfee. 

Peloton is a brand of electric bikes that combines high end exercise equipment with cutting-edge technology. Its products use wi fi to connect to a large tablet that interfaces with the components of the exercise device, and provides an easy way for physical activity enthusiasts to attend virtual workout classes over the internet several times a week.

Peloton has garnered attention recently around the privacy and security of its products. So McAfee decided to take a look for themselves and purchased a Peloton Bike+.

The problem

Researchers looked at the Android devices and uncovered a vulnerability  that could allow an attacker with either physical access to the Bike+ or access during any point in the supply chain to gain to hack into the bike’s tablet, including the camera, microphone and personal data. 

For the person using it there would be no indication the Bike+ has been tampered with, potentially putting Peloton’s 16.7 million users at risk.  

The flaw was found in the Android Verified Boot (AVB) process. McAfee researchers were able to bypass the Android Verified Boot process, which normally verifies all code and data before booting. They were then able to get the device to boot bypassing this step. 

This could potentially lead to the Android OS being compromised by an attacker who is physically present. Even worse, the attacker could boot up the Peloton with a modified credential to gain privileges, granting them access to the bike remotely. 

As the attacker never has to unlock the device to boot it up, there would be no trace of their access on the device. This type of attack could also happen at any point from construction to warehouse to delivery, by installing a backdoor into the Android tablet without the user ever knowing. 

The solution

Given the simplicity and criticality of the flaw, McAfee informed Peloton while auditing was ongoing. The vendor was sent full details,  and shortly after, Peloton confirmed the issue and released a fix for it. 

Further conversations between McAfee and  Peloton confirmed that this vulnerability had also been present on the Peloton Tread exercise equipment. 

Peloton’s Head of Global Information Security Adrian Stone, commented on the research: “This vulnerability reported by McAfee would require direct, physical access to a Peloton Bike+ or Tread. Like with any connected device in the home, if an attacker is able to gain physical access to it, additional physical controls and safeguards become increasingly important.

"To keep our members safe, we acted quickly and in coordination with McAfee. We pushed a mandatory update in early June and every device with the update installed is protected from this issue.”

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