May 17, 2020

Patients will 'grow' new organs in future, surgeon says

stem cells
2 min
It has been predicted that patients could grow new organs
It has been claimed that in the future, patients will be able to replace their failing organs by simply ‘growing new ones. Professor Paolo Macchi...

It has been claimed that in the future, patients will be able to replace their failing organs by simply ‘growing’ new ones.

Professor Paolo Macchiarini, one of the leading transplant surgeons in the world, said the technique, which would use the patient’s own stem cells, could even solve the world’s organ shortage.

Macchiarini was responsible for a pioneering trachea transplant in 2008. The organ had been taken from a donor, had the living cells removed and had then been manufactured using the recipient’s stem cells.

He believes that the regenerative medication and technology is now so advanced that it will allow professionals to carry out similar transplants that do not rely on human donors.

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By using stem cells to enable patients to grow new organs to replace ones that are failing, there would be no need for them to take immuno-suppressive drugs for the rest of their lives following the transplant.

It would also remove the risk of the organs being rejected, as can be the case when patients receive donor organs.

For this revolutionary process to work, stem cells would need to be injected into an artificial scaffold.

One possible way of making the artificial scaffold would be to remove the living cells from animal organs, and then injecting the stem cells into those organs.

After the stem cells have been injected into the scaffold, a fully-functioning organ will be grown and will be ready to be transplanted in the patient.

Writing in the medical journal The Lancet, Professor Macchiarini said: “Such an approach has already been used successfully for the repair and reconstruction of several complex tissues such as the trachea, oesophagus, and skeletal muscle in animal models and human beings.

“Guided by appropriate scientific and ethical oversight, (this) could serve as a platform for the engineering of whole organs and other tissues, and might become a viable and practical future therapeutic approach to meet demand after organ failure.”

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Jun 17, 2021

Peloton vulnerable to cyber attacks, McAfee research finds

3 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 according to the latest research from McAfee. 

For those still unfamiliar with Peloton, it is a brand of electric bikes that combines high end exercise equipment with cutting-edge technology. Its products use a wi fi connection 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.

“Behind the scenes is a standard Android tablet, and this hi-tech approach to the exercise bikes has not gone unnoticed. Viral marketing mishaps aside, Peloton has garnered attention recently regarding surrounding 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 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 remote access to the bike’s tablet, including the camera, microphone and personal data. 

To the user there would be no indication the Bike+ has been tampered with, potentially putting Peloton’s 16.7 million users at risk of  being hacked.  

The flaw was found in the Android Verified Boot (AVB) process, leaving Peloton open to attackers. 

They were able to bypass the Android Verified Boot process, which normally verifies all code and data within the system before booting. Researchers were able to get the device to boot bypassing this step. 

This can lead to an 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 any access they achieved 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 even as auditing was ongoing. The vendor was sent full details,  and shortly after, Peloton confirmed the issue and subsequently released a fix for it. 

The patched image no longer allows for the “boot” command to work on a user build, mitigating this vulnerability entirely. Further conversations between McAfee and  Peloton confirmed that this vulnerability is also 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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