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What's cooler: A vaccine for one of the deadliest bacterial infections around or a holodeck? Well, this week we got a step closer to BOTH!

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Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium that's naturally found on our skin. But when things go wrong, it can cause serious and potentially fatal infections.

Staph kills an estimated 30,000 people a year in the United States from hospital-acquired infections alone. Which is why a staph vaccine could be a big deal for the healthcare system. And this week, researchers published some promising results.

Part of what makes staph so nasty is that it lives peacefully alongside us — right up until it gets into the wrong parts of the body. When it gets into the body, like through a cut or injury, it can multiply out of control, releasing toxins, killing cells, and devouring the nutrients that are left behind. It can be hard to treat too.

Multiple strains of staph have picked up resistance to various antibiotics. And even those that haven't can band together to create defensive patches known as biofilms, which can fend off antibiotics or attacks from the immune system. Which is why a vaccine could be really great news.

This week, in the journal Infection and Immunity, researchers reported a vaccine that significantly improved to the outlook of mice and rabbits infected with staph. More than 80% of mice survived if they had received the vaccine previously, compared to less than 10% of controls. And the immunized animals were better able to totally clear the bacteria from their bodies.

The key development was targeting the right mix of factors. Staph bacteria are a very variable bunch. They might make different proteins at different times.

Different strains might have different genetics too. This is a problem, because vaccines, in essence, equip our immune systems with the ability to recognize proteins or other factors made by or attached to invaders. If you put all your hopes on one factor and the bacteria doesn't produce it, you're out of luck.

Because of this, scientists have been looking at a multi-pronged approach. This new vaccine was developed by building off a previous, promising attempt that was able to put together four targets and get rid of the biofilms — but not the free-swimming form of the bacteria. This new vaccine adds a fifth target to go after those swimmers.

And it seems to have worked, if the results in animals are anything to go by. We don't yet have a staph vaccine approved for humans. But the scientists hope this research could lead to one, giving doctors and surgeons another tool to combat hospital-acquired illnesses.

Not to mention treating cases in the wild. But on to way more important news than a potentially life-saving vaccine: HOLODECKS. Researchers in the UK and Japan have created a kind of tactile, 3-dimensional display that's able to be seen, heard, and felt.

Called the Multimodal Acoustic Trap Display, the device is technically not a hologram — those work a little differently. Instead, it's what's known as a volumetric display. It's based on the principle of acoustic tweezers, which is a way to move or levitate small objects using sound waves.

Sound waves are waves of high and low pressure moving through a fluid, such as air. But they can be trapped to become what's known as a standing wave, which essentially creates pockets of high and low pressure in the air. . If the pressure is high enough, it can counteract gravity, exerting enough force to make tiny objects float.

Now researchers have figured out a new way to turn this phenomenon into a way to display information. They built one of these acoustic levitators from hundreds of tiny speakers, then suspended a tiny, 1 millimeter polystyrene bead above it. It was able to sit there, trapped in mid-air by ultrasonic sound waves too high for human hearing.

By shining red, blue, or green light on it, they could create a tiny, floating, colored point in space. That's cool, but then they made it move. And that's when the real show started.

The computer running the device could adjust the sound waves, making the glowing bead zip around in the air. The movement was fast enough that it could create the images of an object. The end result is a three-dimensional color image, like a floating butterfly or globe.

What's more, the same speakers can also be used to play sounds. Like, ones we can hear. And by creating multiple of these acoustic traps, they can float multiple beads.

Or, by hitting a specific frequency that activates the vibration sensors in our skin, they could create a sensation of pressure. You couldn't literally pick up the object being displayed, but there was some tactile feedback. The end result was a display you could see, hear, and feel — way ahead of the 24th century.

Besides the cool factor, the authors suggest this kind of tech could be used to manipulate small particles in a lab. But it's still a work in progress — it won't be in your living room tomorrow. So while we might not be at “Holodeck” levels yet — and “Volumetric Display-o-deck” might not have the same ring to it — it's still pretty cool.

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