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The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » November 28, 2013
The Polish Science Voice
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November 28, 2013   
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What could heart surgery possibly have in common with ship design? Apparently quite a lot. A team of researchers from the Foundation for Cardiac Surgery Development in the southern city of Zabrze has built a prototype of a cutting-edge biological heart valve to help patients with ailing hearts. The researchers, headed by Dr. Piotr Wilczek, have succeeded because they teamed up in the project with experts from different research institutions, including the Ship Design and Research Center (CTO) in the northern city of Gdańsk, which helped them understand the intricacies of how the blood flows through the organs. The researchers were also helped by the Zabrze-based Silesian Center for Heart Diseases, which specializes in the treatment of cardiovascular conditions.

A poorly functioning human heart valve can be replaced with one from a dead person or an animal. Sometimes mechanical valves are also used. The problem is that all these are imperfect. They wear out quickly and require replacement or the continuous administration of drugs. The valves developed by the Zabrze researchers are based on the patient’s own biological tissue. They eclipse any of the previously used designs in terms of quality and durability. The Zabrze team has applied for a patent and is preparing to test their invention on animals.

Medical technology is not the only domain of Polish science that has potential for innovation. A team of lexicographers, linguists and computer scientists have joined forces to produce a new dictionary of the Polish language for the digital age. Even though the dictionary—which is available to internet users—has only 15,000 entries for the time being, its editor-in-chief, Prof. Piotr Żmigrodzki, director of the Institute of the Polish Language at the Polish Academy of Sciences, has no doubts that his team has created a product that is unique and innovative. The dictionary offers easy-to-understand explanations of words most often used by Polish speakers and is the first dictionary of contemporary Polish that is exclusively available in digital form.

The dictionary can be used in a variety of ways by those teaching and learning Polish, according to Żmigrodzki—it is intended for both foreigners learning Polish and native speakers who want to quickly find the meaning of a difficult word—to explain it to a child, for example.

“We know that a lot of people from abroad use the dictionary,” says Żmigrodzki. “We have users from 80 countries worldwide, from Eastern and Western Europe to the United States and New Zealand.”

The dictionary took five years to develop and involved a total of 60 researchers, most of them lexicographers and linguists from all over Poland as well as computer scientists, who designed the IT tools. Over the next five years, the editors plan to increase the number of entries to 50,000 and expand them in line with suggestions from readers.
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