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How To Detect ANY Virus In A Patient's Blood

How To Detect ANY Virus In A Patient's Blood | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Better diagnosis leads to better treatment – that’s well-known. Easier said than done, of course, since that’s not always possible when tests for diseases or infections take time to generate results, for example, or are inaccurate or insensitive. Take viruses: There is an abundance out there capable of causing disease, many of which can present similar symptoms or, perhaps worse, none at all. Detection can, therefore, be a bit of a nightmare, sometimes demanding a labor-intensive and costly suite of tests to get to the bottom of a case.


What if there was a universal, one-size-fits-all-test that could pick up any known virus in a sample, eliminating this time-consuming detective work? That might sound quite out of our clutches, but researchers at Washington University School of Medicine might just have achieved this long-awaited, eyebrow-raising feat.


“With this test, you don’t have to know what you’re looking for,” senior author Gregory Storch said in a statement. “It casts a broad net and can efficiently detect viruses that are present at very low levels. We think the test will be especially useful in situations where a diagnosis remains elusive after standard testing or in situations in which the cause of a disease outbreak is unknown.”


Describing their work in Genome Research, the results are pretty impressive. To make their “ViroCap,” the researchers began by creating a broad panel of sequences to be targeted by the test, which they generated using unique stretches of DNA or RNA found in viruses across 34 different human- and animal-infecting families. This resulted in millions of stretches of nucleic acid that can be used to capture matching strands in a sample, should they be present.


But the broad spectrum of this test is not its only remarkable quality: It’s so sensitive that it can even pick up slight variations in sequences, meaning that a virus’ subtype can also be identified – a feature not possible with many traditional tests. Although that wouldn’t necessarily change the way a patient is treated, it could aid disease surveillance.


To demonstrate its capabilities, the researchers took samples from a small group of patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and compared the results to those obtained from standard tests. While traditional sequencing managed to find viruses in the majority of the children, ViroCap also managed to pick up some common viruses that it had failed to detect. These included a flu virus and the virus responsible for chickenpox. In a second test run on a different group of children displaying fevers, the new test found an additional seven viruses to the 11 that the traditional testing managed to detect.  


All of this sounds great on paper, but of course it is not yet ready to be used in the clinic. Further trials are required first to check its accuracy on larger groups of people, as so far only a limited number of patients have been screened. But when the time comes, the team plans to make it widely available, which would be welcome in the face of outbreaks like Ebola. Furthermore, the team ultimately hopes to tweak it so that it can detect genetic material from other microbes, like bacteria. If that’s possible, we could have a seriously useful machine on our hands that could change diagnostic medicine for the better. 

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Smart robot accelerates cancer treatment research by finding optimal treatment combinations

Smart robot accelerates cancer treatment research by finding optimal treatment combinations | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new smart research system developed at Uppsala University accelerates research on cancer treatments by finding optimal treatment drug combinations. It was developed by a research group led by Mats Gustafsson, Professor of Medical Bioinformatics.


The “lab robot” system plans and conducts experiments with many substances, and draws its own conclusions from the results. The idea is to gradually refine combinations of substances so that they kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells.


Instead of just combining a couple of substances at a time, the new lab robot can handle about a dozen drugs simultaneously. The future aim is to handle many more, preferably hundreds. The method is iterative search for anti-cancer drug combinations. The procedure starts by generating an initial generation (population) of drug combinations randomly or guided by biological prior knowledge and assumptions. In each iteration the aim is to propose a new generation of drug combinations based on the results obtained so far. The procedure iterates through a number of generations until a stop criterion for a predefined fitness function is satisfied.


There are a few such laboratories in the world with this type of lab robot, but researchers “have only used the systems to look for combinations that kill the cancer cells, not taking the side effects into account,” says Gustafsson.


The next step: Make the robot system more automated and smarter. The scientists also want to build more knowledge into the guiding algorithm of the robot, such as prior knowledge about drug targets and disease pathways.


For patients with the same cancer type returning multiple times, sometimes the cancer cells develop resistance against the pharmacotherapy used. The new robot systems may also become important in the efforts to find new drug compounds that make these resistant cells sensitive again.


The research is described in an open-access article published Tuesday (Sept. 22, 2015) in Scientific Reports.

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Protein-based sensor could detect viral infection or kill cancer cells

Protein-based sensor could detect viral infection or kill cancer cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MIT biological engineers have developed a modular system of proteins that can detect a particular DNA sequence in a cell and then trigger a specific response, such as cell death. This system can be customized to detect any DNA sequence in a mammalian cell and then trigger a desired response, including killing cancer cells or cells infected with a virus, the researchers say.


“There is a range of applications for which this could be important,” says James Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering and Institute of Medical Engineering and Science (IMES). “This allows you to readily design constructs that enable a programmed cell to both detect DNA and act on that detection, with a report system and/or a respond system.”


Collins is the senior author of a Sept. 21 Nature Methods paper describing the technology, which is based on a type of DNA-binding proteins known as zinc fingers. These proteins can be designed to recognize any DNA sequence. “The technologies are out there to engineer proteins to bind to virtually any DNA sequence that you want,” says Shimyn Slomovic, an IMES postdoc and the paper’s lead author. “This is used in many ways, but not so much for detection. We felt that there was a lot of potential in harnessing this designable DNA-binding technology for detection.”


Via Integrated DNA Technologies
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Personalized care for aortic aneurysms, based on gene testing, has arrived

Personalized care for aortic aneurysms, based on gene testing, has arrived | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the Aortic Institute at Yale have tested the genomes of more than 100 patients with thoracic aortic aneurysms, a potentially lethal condition, and provided genetically personalized care. Their work will also lead to the development of a “dictionary” of genes specific to the disease, according to researchers.


The study published early online in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.  Experts have known for more than a decade that thoracic aortic aneurysms — abnormal enlargements of the aorta in the chest area —run in families and are caused by specific genetic mutations. Until recently, comprehensive testing for these mutations has been both expensive and impractical. To streamline testing, the Aortic Institute collaborated with Dr. Allen Bale of Yale’s Department of Genetics to launch a program to test whole genomes of patients with the condition.


Over a period of three years, the researchers applied a technology known as Whole Exome Sequencing (WES) to more than 100 individuals with these aneurysms. “To our knowledge, it’s the first widespread application of this technology to this disease,” said lead author and cardiac surgeon Dr. John A. Elefteriades, director of the institute.


The researchers detected four mutations known to cause thoracic aortic aneurysms. “The key findings are that this technology can be applied to this disease and it identifies a lot of patients with genetic mutations,” said Elefteriades. Additionally, the testing program uncovered 22 previously unknown gene variants that likely also contribute to the condition.


Using the test results, the clinicians were able to provide treatment tailored to each patient’s genetic profile. “Personalized aortic aneurysm care is now a reality,” Elefteriades noted. The personalized care ranged from more frequent imaging tests to preventive surgery for those most at risk. “Patients who have very dangerous mutations are getting immediate surgery,” he said.


Given that aneurysm disease is a highly inherited condition, affecting each generation, the researchers offered testing to family members of patients, and found mutations in relatives with no clinical signs of disease.


The researchers anticipate identifying more gene variants over time, accumulating a whole dictionary of mutations. “In a few years, we’re going to have discovered many new genes and be able to offer personalized care to an even greater percentage of aneurysm patients, ” Elefteriades said.


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Tiny laser cells reveal cancer mechanisms

Tiny laser cells reveal cancer mechanisms | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK, are claiming a photonics-based breakthrough in biomedicine; having successfully tracked a day-in-the-life of a number of white blood cells by feeding them microlasers, according to a research report published in Nano Letters The technique is expected to allow new insights into how cancers spread in the human body.


The Soft Matter Photonics Group led by Professor Malte Gather of the School of Physics and Astronomy, in collaboration with immunologists in the University’s School of Medicine, found that by “swallowing” an optical micro-resonator, cells gain the ability to produce green laser light.


Research groups around the world have worked on lasers based on single cells for several years now. However, all previously reported cell lasers required optical resonators that were much larger than the cell itself, meaning that the cell had to be inserted into these resonators. By drastically shrinking resonator size and exploiting the capability of cells to spontaneously take up foreign objects, the latest work now allows generation of laser light within a single living cell.


Dr Gather said, “This miniaturization paves the way to applying cell lasers as a new tool in biophotonics. In the future, these new lasers can help us understand important processes in biomedicine. For instance, we may be able to track—one by one—a large number of cancer cells as they invade tissue or follow each immune cell migrating to a site of inflammation.”


He continued, “The ability to track the movement of large number of cells will widen our understanding of a number of important processes in biology. For instance being able to see where and when circulating tumor cells invade healthy tissue can provide insight into how cancers spread in the body which would allow scientists to develop more targeted therapies in the future.”


The investigators put different types of cells onto a diet of optical "whispering gallery" micro-resonators. Some types of cells were particularly quick to ‘swallow’ the resonators; macrophages—immune cells responsible amongst other things for ‘garbage collection’ in our body—internalized the resonators within less than five minutes. However, even cells without particularly pronounced capacity for endocytosis readily internalized the micro-resonators, showing that laser barcodes are applicable to many different cell types.


What are future objectives?

Dr Gather believes these self-contained cell lasers have great potential to become a widely used tool in biology. Conventional fluorescent tags have rather broad emission spectra which means that one can only distinguish a limited number of different tags. The narrow spectrum of the cell laser facilitates distinguishing hundreds of thousands of different tags. The availability of such a tool will lead to new insights in cancer research as it would allow one to monitor how the cells from a tumor form metastasis, providing single cell resolution; i.e. one could see exactly which cells and how many cells from a primary tumor invade healthy tissue and form a new tumor site. The objectives are to develop the technology further, by confirming accuracy, improving speed, and reducing the size of the micro-resonators required to guarantee that their presence does not influence the behavior of the cell.

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Three year clinical trial has recently been completed for bionic eye retinal implants

Three year clinical trial has recently been completed for bionic eye retinal implants | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The experimental device, known as the Argus II, functions to improve the vision in people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa. RP is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment. The Argus II restores low levels of vision in functionally blind patients.


The device works by using a microscopic video camera, located in the glasses of the patient. The device sends collected information to a special processing unit. The unit then converts the signals to an electronic device implanted into the patient’s retina.


Trials were conducted on 30 subjects in 10 centers in the United States and Europe. Tests showed that 89 percent of the subjects in a trial reported that they received strong images when using the device. Further tests are continuing, based on the very promising results. The Argus II has a unit cost of around $100,000.


The experimental device, known as the Argus II, functions to improve the vision in people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa. RP is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment. The Argus II restores low levels of vision in functionally blind patients.

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Smart insulin patch could replace painful injections for diabetes

Smart insulin patch could replace painful injections for diabetes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Microneedle-array patches loaded with hypoxia-sensitive vesicles provide fast glucose-responsive insulin delivery


Painful insulin injections could become a thing of the past for the millions of Americans who suffer from diabetes, thanks to a new invention from researchers at the University of North Carolina and NC State, who have created the first "smart insulin patch" that can detect increases in blood sugar levels and secrete doses of insulin into the bloodstream whenever needed.


The patch - a thin square no bigger than a penny - is covered with more than one hundred tiny needles, each about the size of an eyelash. These "microneedles" are packed with microscopic storage units for insulin and glucose-sensing enzymes that rapidly release their cargo when blood sugar levels get too high.


The study, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the new, painless patch could lower blood glucose in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes for up to nine hours. More pre-clinical tests and subsequent clinical trials in humans will be required before the patch can be administered to patients, but the approach shows great promise.


"We have designed a patch for diabetes that works fast, is easy to use, and is made from nontoxic, biocompatible materials," said co-senior author Zhen Gu, PhD, a professor in the Joint UNC/NC State Department of Biomedical Engineering. Gu also holds appointments in the UNC School of Medicine, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and the UNC Diabetes Care Center. "The whole system can be personalized to account for a diabetic's weight and sensitivity to insulin," he added, "so we could make the smart patch even smarter."


Diabetes affects more than 387 million people worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 592 million by the year 2035. Patients with type 1 and advanced type 2 diabetes try to keep their blood sugar levels under control with regular finger pricks and repeated insulin shots, a process that is painful and imprecise. John Buse, MD, PhD, co-senior author of the PNAS paper and the director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center, said, "Injecting the wrong amount of medication can lead to significant complications like blindness and limb amputations, or even more disastrous consequences such as diabetic comas and death."


Researchers have tried to remove the potential for human error by creating "closed-loop systems" that directly connect the devices that track blood sugar and administer insulin. However, these approaches involve mechanical sensors and pumps, with needle-tipped catheters that have to be stuck under the skin and replaced every few days.

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FDA allows marketing of vision aid via tongue for blind

FDA allows marketing of vision aid via tongue for blind | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
This month Wisconsin-based company Wicab announced that the US Food and Drug Administration cleared a nonsurgical vision aid for the profoundly blind. The safety and effectiveness of their product, BrainPort V100, were supported by clinical data.


An FDA press announcement on June 18 said the FDA "today allowed marketing of a new device that when used along with other assistive devices, like a cane or guide dog, can help orient people who are blind by helping them process visual images with their tongues." What exactly is BrainPort V100? This is an oral electronic vision aid, said the company. It makes use of electro-tactile stimulation in orientation, mobility, and object recognition.


The FDA described the components in the BrainPort V100 as "a battery-powered device that includes a video camera mounted on a pair of glasses and a small, flat intra-oral device containing a series of electrodes that the user holds against their tongue. Software converts the image captured by the video camera into electrical signals that are then sent to the intra-oral device and perceived as vibrations or tingling on the user's tongue." This product does not replace a guide dog and cane; it is an "adjunctive" device to assistive methods such as dog and cane.


How does it work? The BrainPort V100's video camera mounted on sunglasses has an adjustable field of view (zoom). It translates digital information from a video camera to electrical stimulation patterns perceived as vibrations or tingling on the surface of the user's tongue. The tongue item is connected to the glasses by flexible cable. A small hand-held unit provides user controls and houses a rechargeable battery. The system will run for approximately three hours on a single charge.


"Users describe the experience as streaming images drawn on their tongue with small bubbles. With training, users are able to interpret the shape, size, location and position of objects in their environment, and to determine if objects are moving or stationary."

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NIH study: Novel microchip captures clusters of circulating tumor cells

NIH study: Novel microchip captures clusters of circulating tumor cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

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Researchers have developed a microfluidic chip that can capture rare clusters of circulating tumor cells, which could yield important new insights into how cancer spreads. The work was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health.


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cells that break away from a tumor and move through a cancer patient’s bloodstream. Single CTCs are extremely rare, typically fewer than 1 in 1 billion cells. These cells can take up residence in distant organs, and researchers believe this is one mode by which cancer spreads.


Even less common than single CTCs are small groups of CTCs, or clusters. While the existence of CTC clusters has been known for more than 50 years, their prevalence in the blood as well as their role in metastasis has not been thoroughly investigated, mostly because they are so elusive. However, recent advances in biomedical technologies that enable researchers to capture single CTCs have renewed interest in CTC clusters, which are occasionally captured along with single CTCs.


Now, researchers led by Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., professor of surgery (biomedical engineering) at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health & Sciences Technology, report the development of a novel microfluidic chip that is specifically designed for the efficient capture of CTC clusters from whole, unprocessed blood.


“Very little is known about CTC clusters and their role in the progression and metastasis of cancer. This unique technology presents an exciting opportunity to capture these exceptionally rare groups of cells for further analysis in a way that is minimally-invasive,” said NIBIB Director Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D. “This is the kind of breakthrough technology that could have a very large impact on cancer research.”


The new technology — called Cluster-Chip — was developed with support from a Quantum Grant from NIBIB, which funds transformative technological innovation designed to solve major medical problems with a substantial disease burden, such as preventing cancer metastasis or precisely tailoring therapeutics to an individual’s cancer cell biology.


Toner and his collaborator Dr. Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D., also at MGH, recently used Cluster-Chip to capture and analyze CTC clusters in a group of 60 patients with metastatic breast, prostate, and melanoma cancers. The researchers found CTC clusters — ranging from two to 19 cells — in 30-40 percent of the patients. 


“The presence of these clusters is far more common than we thought in the past,” said Toner. “The fact that we saw clusters in this many patients is really a remarkable finding.” Further analysis of the patients’ CTC clusters yielded new insights into the biology of CTC clusters. The researchers published their results in the May 18, 2015 advance online issue of Nature Methods.


The chip is designed to slowly push blood through many rows of microscopic triangle-shaped posts. The posts are arranged in such a way that every two posts funnels cells towards the tip of a third post. At the tip, single cells — including blood cells and single CTCs — easily slide to either side of the post and continue through the chip until reaching the next tip; however CTC clusters are left at the tip, hanging in the balance due to forces pulling them down the post in opposite directions.


To determine the efficiency of Cluster-Chip, the researchers introduced fluorescently tagged cell clusters (ranging from 2-30 cells) into the chip and counted the number of clusters that were captured and the number that flowed through undetected. At a blood flow rate of 2.5ml/hr, the chip captured 99 percent of clusters containing four or more cells, 70 percent of three-cell clusters, and 41 percent of two-cell clusters. Comparison of the clusters under a microscope before and after capture found that the chip had no negative effects on the integrity of the clusters as a whole.


The researchers next compared the efficiency of their novel chip to two currently-used methods that have had some success capturing CTC clusters. They found that at similar blood flow rates, the Cluster-Chip was significantly more efficient than a filter-based method, which pushes blood through a membrane with pores only large enough to let single cells pass through. The chip was also more efficient than a different microfluidic chip — previously developed by Toner — that isolates CTCs and occasionally clusters using antibodies that stick to special proteins found on the surface of some tumor cells.


The results highlight the importance of the unique Cluster-Chip capture technique, which is based on the structural properties of CTC clusters rather than their size or the presence of surface proteins. This latter property makes the Cluster-Chip well-suited for capturing CTC clusters from a range of cancer types, including those that lose surface proteins during metastasis and those that never express them, such as melanoma.


The researchers went on to test the Cluster-Chip in a small trial of 60 patients with metastatic cancer. In this study, the chip captured CTC clusters in 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) breast cancer patients, 6 of 20 (30 percent) melanoma patients, and 4 of 13 (31 percent) prostate patients. The large number of clusters found in the patient samples suggests a possibly greater role for clusters in the metastatic cascade. While the significance of CTC clusters has not been fully established, a previous study published by Toner and the Haber team in Cell (2014) found an association between increased number of CTC clusters in patients with metastatic breast cancer and reduced survival, and an association between the presence of clusters and reduced survival in prostate cancer patients.

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Medical ‘millirobots’ could replace invasive surgery

Medical ‘millirobots’ could replace invasive surgery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Using a “Gauss gun” principle, an MRI machine drives a “millirobot” through a hypodermic needle into your spinal cord and guides it into your brain to release life-threatening fluid buildup.


University of Houston researchers have developed a concept for MRI-powered millimeter-size “millirobots” that could one day perform unprecedented minimally invasive medical treatments. This technology could be used to treat hydrocephalus, for example. Current treatments require drilling through the skull to implant pressure-relieving shunts, said Aaron T. Becker, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston. But MRI scanners alone don’t produce enough force to pierce tissues (or insert needles). So the researchers drew upon the principle of the “Gauss gun.”


Here’s how the a Gauss gun works: a single steel ball rolls down a chamber, setting off a chain reaction when it smashes into the next ball, etc., until the last ball flies forward, moving much more quickly the initial ball. Based on that concept, the researchers imagine a medical robot with a barrel self-assembled from three small high-impact 3D-printed plastic components, with slender titanium rod spacers separating two steel balls.


Aaron T. Becker, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, said the potential technology could be used to treat hydrocephalus and other conditions, allowing surgeons to avoid current treatments that require cutting through the skull to implant pressure-relieving shunts.


Becker was first author of a paper presented at ICRA, the conference of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, nominated for best conference paper and best medical robotics paper. “Hydrocephalus, among other conditions, is a candidate for correction by our millirobots because the ventricles are fluid-filled and connect to the spinal canal,” Becker said. “Our noninvasive approach would eventually require simply a hypodermic needle or lumbar puncture to introduce the components into the spinal canal, and the components could be steered out of the body afterwards.”


Future work will focus on exploring clinical context, miniaturizing the device, and optimizing material selection.

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New Device Delivers Medicine One Molecule at a Time

New Device Delivers Medicine One Molecule at a Time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It's smaller than your index finger, and it might be the future of implantable devices to treat a fractured spine, pinched nerve, or neurological disorder like epilepsy.

As they report in the journal Science, a team of engineers and medical researchers in Sweden has just designed a pinpoint-accurate implantable drug pump. It delivers medicine with such precision that it requires only 1 percent of the drugs doctors would otherwise need to deploy. As it demonstrated in tests on seven rats, the tiny pump can attach directly to the spine (at the root of a nerve) and inject its medicine molecule by molecule.


"In theory, we could tell you exactly how many molecules our device is delivering," says Amanda Jonsson, the bio-electronical engineer at Sweden's Linköping University who led the team. "These very small dosages could help avoid drug side effects, or be useful for medicines that we simply can't use at larger doses."


The technology is based on a compact but complicated piece of laboratory equipment called an ion pump. To put it simply, as electric current enters the ion pump one electron at a time, medicine is flung out the other end one molecule at a time. One caveat: Because of this setup, only medicines that can be electrically charged can be used with the pump. But that includes more pain medicines than you might think, including morphine and other opiates.

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The first hijacking of a medical telerobot raises important questions over the security of remote surgery

The first hijacking of a medical telerobot raises important questions over the security of remote surgery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A crucial bottleneck that prevents life-saving surgery being performed in many parts of the world is the lack of trained surgeons. One way to get around this is to make better use of the ones that are available. Sending them over great distances to perform operations is clearly inefficient because of the time that has to be spent travelling. So an increasingly important alternative is the possibility of telesurgery with an expert in one place controlling a robot in another that physically performs the necessary cutting and dicing. Indeed, the sale of medical robots is increasing at a rate of 20 percent per year.


But while the advantages are clear, the disadvantages have been less well explored. Telesurgery relies on cutting edge technologies in fields as diverse as computing, robotics, communications, ergonomics, and so on. And anybody familiar with these areas will tell you that they are far from failsafe.


Today, Tamara Bonaci and pals at the University of Washington in Seattle examine the special pitfalls associated with the communications technology involved in telesurgery. In particular, they show how a malicious attacker can disrupt the behavior of a telerobot during surgery and even take over such a robot, the first time a medical robot has been hacked in this way.


The first telesurgery took place in 2001 with a surgeon in New York successfully removing the gall bladder of a patient in Strasbourg in France, more than 6,000 kilometers away. The communications ran over a dedicated fiber provided by a telecommunications company specifically for the operation. That’s an expensive option since dedicated fibers can cost tens of thousands of dollars.


Since then, surgeons have carried out numerous remote operations and begun to experiment with ordinary communications links over the Internet, which are significantly cheaper. Although there are no recorded incidents in which the communications infrastructure has caused problems during a telesurgery operation, there are still questions over security and privacy which have never been full answered.

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High-resolution biosensor can report conditions from deep in the body

High-resolution biosensor can report conditions from deep in the body | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new microscopic shape-shifting probe capable of sensitive, high-resolution remote biological sensing has been developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If eventually put into widespread use, the design could have a major impact on research in medicine, chemistry, biology, and engineering and ultimately used in clinical diagnostics, according to the researchers. To date, most efforts to image highly localized biochemical conditions such as abnormal pH* and ion concentration — critical markers for many disorders — rely on various types of nanosensors that are probed using light at optical frequencies. But the light doesn’t reach far into the body, so the sensitivity and resolution of the resulting optical signals decrease rapidly with increasing depth into the body. That has limited most applications to more optically accessible regions.


Fluorescent and plasmonic labels and sensors have revolutionized molecular biology, helping visualize cellular and biomolecular processes. Increasingly, such probes are now being designed to respond to wavelengths in the near-infrared region, where reduced tissue autofluorescence and photon attenuation enable subsurface in vivo sensing. But even in the near-infrared region, optical resolution and sensitivity decrease rapidly with increasing depth. A team of scientists now presents a sensor design that obviates the need for optical addressability by operating in the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) radio-frequency spectrum, where signal attenuation and distortion by tissue and biological media are negligible, where background interferences vanish, and where sensors can be spatially located using standard magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment.


The radio-frequency-addressable sensor assemblies presented here comprise pairs of magnetic disks spaced by swellable hydrogel material; they reversibly reconfigure in rapid response to chosen stimuli, to give geometry-dependent, dynamic NMR spectral signatures. The sensors can be made from biocompatible materials, are themselves detectable down to low concentrations, and offer potential responsive NMR spectral shifts that are close to a million times greater than those of traditional magnetic resonance spectroscopies. Inherent adaptability should allow such shape-changing systems to measure numerous different environmental and physiological indicators, thus providing broadly generalizable, MRI-compatible, radio-frequency analogues to optically based probes for use in basic chemical, biological, medical and engineering research.

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Easier way to fix hearts: Catheter aided by UV repairs holes without surgery

Easier way to fix hearts: Catheter aided by UV repairs holes without surgery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Harvard-affiliated researchers have designed a specialized catheter for fixing holes in the heart by using a biodegradable adhesive and patch. The team reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine that the catheter has been used successfully in animal studies to help close holes without requiring open-heart surgery.


Pedro del Nido, chief of cardiac surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, the William E. Ladd Professor of Child Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and contributing author on the study, said the device represents a radical change in the way some kinds of cardiac defects are repaired. “In addition to avoiding open-heart surgery, this method avoids suturing into the heart tissue, because we’re just gluing something to it.”


Catheterizations are preferable to open-heart surgery because they don’t require stopping the heart, putting the patient on bypass, and cutting into the heart. The Heart Center at Boston Children’s is working toward the least invasive methods possible to correct heart defects, which are among the most common congenital defects.


Last winter, news of the unique adhesive patch was published in the same journal as the latest report. This represented a large step forward in the quest to reduce complications associated with repairing heart defects. While medical devices that remain in the body may be jostled out of place or fail to cover the hole as the body grows, the patch allows the heart tissue to create its own closure, and then it dissolves.


To truly realize the patch’s potential, however, the research team sought a way to deliver the patch without open-heart surgery. Their catheter device utilizes UV-light technology and can be used to place the patch in a beating heart.


The catheter is inserted through a vein in the neck or groin and directed to the defect within the heart. Once the catheter is in place, the clinician opens two positioning balloons: one around the front end of the catheter, passing through the hole, and one on the other side of the heart wall. The clinician then deploys the patch and turns on the catheter’s UV light.


The light reflects off of the balloon’s shiny interior and activates the patch’s adhesive coating. As the glue cures, pressure from the positioning balloons on either side of the patch help secure it in place. Finally, both balloons are deflated, and the catheter is withdrawn. Over time, normal tissue growth resumes, and heart tissue grows over the patch. The patch itself dissolves when it is no longer needed.

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Research advances potential for test and vaccine for genital and oral herpes

Research advances potential for test and vaccine for genital and oral herpes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Findings from a pair of new studies could speed up the development of a universally accurate diagnostic test for human herpes simplex viruses (HSV), according to researchers at Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The work may also lead to the development of a vaccine that protects against the virus.

Depending on the strain and other factors, HSV can cause cold sores -- classically associated with HSV1 -- or genital herpes -- classically HSV2 -- with the latter being the more serious of the two diseases, particularly because studies show that HSV2 makes carriers more susceptible to contracting HIV. Currently, individuals are screened for HSV using a test that distinguishes between a glycoprotein -- or a molecule containing a carbohydrate and a protein -- present in HSV1, which is common throughout the population, and the considerably rarer HSV2. Whereas the test discriminates between the two variants with high accuracy in the United States and Europe, it largely fails in Africa, where rates of HIV and HSV are highest.

HSV was first genetically sequenced using only European patient strains, and the resulting diagnostic test was developed to identify sequences common to those strains. Scientists have long suspected that the glycoproteins present in African patients who are HSV-positive might differ from patients in the U.S. and Europe.

"Because HSV2 enhances HIV transmission, we have been testing people across East Africa for genital herpes, but everybody was coming up positive. The test was just not as specific as it should be," says Thomas Quinn, M.D., professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and associate director of international research and senior investigator in the Division of Intramural Research at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Quinn, who has been conducting research in East Africa for 30 years, was a senior author on both studies, which will appear in print in the August issue of the Journal of Virology.
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Small sponge-like implant 'traps' spreading cancer cells

Small sponge-like implant 'traps' spreading cancer cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A small sponge-like implant that can mop up cancer cells as they move through the body has been developed by US researchers.


So far tested in mice, it is hoped the device could act as an early warning system in patients, alerting doctors to cancer spread. The implant also seemed to stop rogue cancer cells reaching other areas where new tumours could grow.


The findings appear in Nature Communications .


About 5mm (0.2in) in diameter and made of a "biomaterial" already approved for use in medical devices, the implant has so far been tested in mice with breast cancer. Experiments showed that implanting the device in either the abdominal fat or under the skin sucked up cancer cells that had started to circulate in the body.


The implant mimicked a process where cells broken loose from a tumour were attracted to other areas in the body by immune cells, the researchers said. They found that these immune cells set up camp on the implant - a natural reaction to any foreign body - drawing the cancer cells in.


Initially, the researchers "labelled" cancer cells so they would light up and be easily spotted. But they then moved on to a special imaging technique that can distinguish between cancerous and normal cells, and found they could detect cancer cells that had been caught in the implant.


Unexpectedly, when they measured cancer cells that had spread in mice with and without the implant, they found that the device not only captured cancer cells, it reduced the numbers present at other sites.

Researchers have long been looking for ways to detect the spread - or metastasis - of cancer at an early stage, but cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream are rare and hard to detect.


Study leader Prof. Lonnie Shea, from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, said they were planning the first clinical trials in humans fairly soon. "We need to see if metastatic cells will show up in the implant in humans like they did in the mice, and also if it's a safe procedure and that we can use the same imaging to detect cancer cells," he said.


He said they were continuing work in animals to see what happened to the overall outcome if cancer spread was detected at a very early stage - something which was not yet fully understood. Lucy Holmes, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, said: "We urgently need new ways to stop cancer in its tracks. "So far this implant approach has only been tested in mice, but it's encouraging to see these results, which could one day play a role in stopping cancer spread in patients."

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New Urine Test Could Tell if a Person is Suffering from MDD or Bipolar Disorder

New Urine Test Could Tell if a Person is Suffering from MDD or Bipolar Disorder | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Patients suffering from bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), which is a mental condition, causing instant mood, activity and energy changes, making the afflicted persons daily tasks much harder to do could soon be more accurately diagnosed. The ones having bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed with another serious mental condition MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and for a good reason as the condition first becomes more noticeable when the person is in a depressive state which is one of the major symptoms of the MDD.


Around 2.6%of the US population is suffering from bipolar disorder as opposed to almost 7%of the adult population with MDD in the US so making an accurate diagnosis is much more crucial to quickly get the patients the correct treatment.


Current diagnostics relies on interviewing patients and the final diagnosis is determined on these observations, which isn’t the best way as this tests are of subjective nature and can be misleading. The new method developed by the Peng Xie and his team from Chongqing Medical University relies on objective testing to differentiate between the two.


The new method is a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and with this novelty method the team analysed urine metabolites in samples from patients who either had bipolar disorder or MDD and the end results identified a panel of 6 biomarkers with an 89 to 91 percent chance of predicting each disorder.

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Marissajt's curator insight, September 15, 2015 1:57 AM

As the article stated, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are often confused and misdiagnosed. However, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder have difference interventions and treatment routes so it is important to understand the differences and diagnose individuals accurately.

 

I think having something as objective as a urine sample to distinguish between these two diagnoses would be wonderful. As the article said, as of right now the decision of a diagnosis is based off of an interview (can be very subjective) with the client where the interviewer observes the client and asks questions about the clients symptoms. It can be difficult to come up with an accurate diagnosis after a 60 minutes interview which is why I think a urine sample could be helpful in helping a clinician make this diagnosis.

 

However, I still think a personal interview should be done as well to see if the urine test results match the clinicians observations and the clients reports. Although a urine sample should be objective and reliable, tools such as this can also make mistakes.

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Next Generation Genomic Sequencing Technologies Speed Pathogen Detection

Next Generation Genomic Sequencing Technologies Speed Pathogen Detection | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Earlier this year, researchers reported details of 2 curious medical cases that left clinicians stumped. In one, after sustaining numerous tick bites, a Kansas man began experiencing fever, fatigue, anorexia, nausea, and vomiting. Doxycycline, prescribed because some tickborne illnesses respond to this drug, brought no improvement. His condition rapidly deteriorated, and despite hospitalization and additional treatment with antimicrobials, he experienced multiorgan failure and shock, dying about a week later.


In the second case, 3 men in Germany were hospitalized for and later died of encephalitis of unknown cause. An intriguing clue to a possible cause was an unusual activity the men had in common: they all bred variegated squirrels, an animal native to Central America. In both cases, diagnostic testing for a range of known infections failed to reveal the causes. Instead, answers emerged only when researchers applied powerful genomics tools to their investigations, which ultimately identified 2 novel viruses.


In the US case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent a blood sample to its virology laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, to determine if the Kansas man had been infected with tickborne Heartland virus, identified in 2012 in the Midwest. The laboratory found no signs of this pathogen, but cultures showed evidence of an unknown virus (Kosoy OI et al. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015;21[5]:760-764). The team then turned to next-generation sequencing (NGS), which allows for high-throughput sequencing of millions of snippets of DNA in parallel, to sequence the mystery virus and to bioinformatic analysis to compare the data with reference sequences cataloged in genomic databases, explained J. Erin Staples, MD, PhD, one of the report’s coauthors. The results revealed the novel virus, named the Bourbon virus after the county in which the patient lived, to be most closely related to 2 tickborne Thogotoviruses never before found in the Americas.


To search for the pathogen that killed the 3 squirrel breeders, researchers in Germany turned to metagenomics, which uses NGS to sequence genetic material from uncultured samples that might contain many species of microbes. This approach led to the discovery of a novel Bornavirus in brain tissue samples from the deceased patients and from the carcass of a squirrel owned by one of them (http://bit.ly/1LQh0Qe).


  • Next-generation sequencing (NGS): High-throughput DNA sequencing that allows rapid parallel sequencing of millions of DNA fragments in a sample; multiple rounds of sequencing improve accuracy and completeness of a reconstructed genome sequence. Bioinformatics tools are then needed to map the sequence data to a reference genome or to reconstruct the genome of a novel microbe.

  • Whole-genome sequencing: Sequencing an organism’s entire genetic sequence, including protein coding, noncoding, and regulatory sequences. Next-generation sequencing has greatly reduced the time necessary for whole-genome sequencing.

  • Metagenomic sequencing: High-throughput simultaneous sequencing of random fragments of genetic material (eg, whole genome, transcriptome, or 16S ribosomal RNA) recovered directly from an uncultured environmental sample that makes it possible to profile microbial communities. In contrast to PCR-based approaches, metagenomic sequencing relies on NGS technology and is “unbiased” in that it does not target any specific microbe.



Via Integrated DNA Technologies
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Scientists believe they are close to a blood test for pancreatic cancer (100% accurate in early tests)

Scientists believe they are close to a blood test for pancreatic cancer (100% accurate in early tests) | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists believe they are close to a blood test for pancreatic cancer - one of the hardest tumours to detect and treat. The test, which they describe as "a major advance", hunts for tiny spheres of fat that are shed by the cancers. Early results published in the journal Nature showed the test was 100% accurate.


Experts said the findings were striking and ingenious, but required refinement before they could become a cancer test. The number of people who survive 10 years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is less than 1% in England and Wales compared with 78% for breast cancer. The tumor results in very few symptoms in its early stages and by the time people become unwell, the cancer has often spread around the body and become virtually untreatable.

A cell surface proteoglycan, glypican-1 (GPC1), on circulating exosomes may serve as a potential noninvasive diagnostic and screening tool to detect early stages of pancreatic cancer, according to research published online June 24 in Nature.


Raghu Kalluri, M.D., Ph.D., chair of cancer biology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues analyzed blood samples from about 250 pancreatic cancer patients and 32 breast cancer patients. For comparison, they used blood samples from healthy donors and small groups of people with other conditions, such as pancreatitis.


The researchers found that exosomes from cancer cells, but not other cell types, harbored high levels of the GPC1 protein. "Any time we identified GPC1-enriched exosomes, we could tell it was a cancer cell," Kalluri told HealthDay. And while many breast tumors released high amounts of GPC1, all pancreatic tumors did -- including early-stage cancers.


"GPC1+ circulating exosomes may serve as a potential noninvasive diagnostic and screening tool to detect early stages of pancreatic cancer to facilitate possible curative surgical therapy," the authors write. "These results encouraged us to perform further analyses to potentially inform on the utility of GPC1+ circulating exosomes as a detection and monitoring tool for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma."

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Laser 'tricorder' can diagnose malaria through the skin within seconds

Laser 'tricorder' can diagnose malaria through the skin within seconds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It's a weapon that fights malaria – a laser scan can give an accurate diagnosis in seconds, without breaking the skin, just like the fictional tricorder in Star Trek.


It works by pulsing energy into a vein in a person's wrist or earlobe. The laser's wavelength doesn't harm human tissue, but is absorbed by hemozoin – waste crystals that are produced by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum when it feeds on blood.


When the crystals absorb this energy, they warm the surrounding blood plasma, making it bubble. An oscilloscope placed on the skin alongside the laser senses these nanoscale bubbles when they start popping, detecting malaria infections in only 20 seconds.


"It's the first true non-invasive diagnostic," says Dmitri Lapotko of Rice University in Houston, Texas, whose team used the probe to correctly identify which person had malaria in a test of six individuals. They even managed to use the device to show whether dead mosquitoes were carrying the parasite.


Malaria threatens half the world's population, killing 584,000 people in 2013. Existing tests for malaria are already quick, taking only 15 to 20 minutes to give a diagnosis, but they could be simpler. Blood has to be taken, the test has to be conducted by trained personnel to get reliable results, and extra chemical reagents must be used.


Lapotko says that a single, battery-powered device the size of a shoebox would house everything associated with the small probe, with no other reagents, facilities or specialist personnel required. The team estimates that a single unit would cost around $15,000, but that this could test 200,000 people – potentially bringing the per-person cost of testing down from as much as 50 cents to under 8 cents.


The team is now preparing for trials in Africa. "The possibility of diagnosing a malaria infection with the device, without any blood-taking and with results available in seconds will provide a fantastic new tool for the control and eventual elimination of malaria," says Umberto D'Alessandro of the UK Medical Research Council Unit in Gambia.


However Perkins says further tweaks are needed before the probe can become a mainstream diagnostic. For example, it gives a more ambiguous result if a patient has a dark skin – a potentially huge pitfall given that children living in Africa account for the majority of malaria deaths. But Lapotko's team is confident it can overcome this effect by switching to a different wavelength of laser.


Reference: Emerging Infectious Diseases, 10.3201/eid2107.150089

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Implantable device for drug testing: How to identify drugs that work best for each patient

Implantable device for drug testing: How to identify drugs that work best for each patient | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Implantable device could allow doctors to test cancer drugs in patients before prescribing chemotherapy.


More than 100 drugs have been approved to treat cancer, but predicting which ones will help a particular patient is an inexact science at best. A new device developed at MIT may change that. The implantable device, about the size of the grain of rice, can carry small doses of up to 30 different drugs. After implanting it in a tumor and letting the drugs diffuse into the tissue, researchers can measure how effectively each one kills the patient’s cancer cells.


Such a device could eliminate much of the guesswork now involved in choosing cancer treatments, says Oliver Jonas, a postdoc at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and lead author of a paper describing the device in the April 22 online edition ofScience Translational Medicine“You can use it to test a patient for a range of available drugs, and pick the one that works best,” Jonas says.


The paper’s senior authors are Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Professor at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute, the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and the Department of Chemical Engineering; and Michael Cima, the David H. Koch Professor of Engineering at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.


Most of the commonly used cancer drugs work by damaging DNA or otherwise interfering with cell function. Recently, scientists have also developed more targeted drugs designed to kill tumor cells that carry a specific genetic mutation. However, it is usually difficult to predict whether a particular drug will be effective in an individual patient.


In some cases, doctors extract tumor cells, grow them in a lab dish, and treat them with different drugs to see which ones are most effective. However, this process removes the cells from their natural environment, which can play an important role in how a tumor responds to drug treatment, Jonas says.


“The approach that we thought would be good to try is to essentially put the lab into the patient,” he says. “It’s safe and you can do all of your sensitivity testing in the native microenvironment.”


The device, made from a stiff, crystalline polymer, can be implanted in a patient’s tumor using a biopsy needle. After implantation, drugs seep 200 to 300 microns into the tumor, but do not overlap with each other. Any type of drug can go into the reservoir, and the researchers can formulate the drugs so that the doses that reach the cancer cells are similar to what they would receive if the drug were given by typical delivery methods such as intravenous injection.


After one day of drug exposure, the implant is removed, along with a small sample of the tumor tissue surrounding it, and the researchers analyze the drug effects by slicing up the tissue sample and staining it with antibodies that can detect markers of cell death or proliferation.

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A chip implanted under the skin allows for precise, real-time medical monitoring

A chip implanted under the skin allows for precise, real-time medical monitoring | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
It’s only a centimetre long, it’s placed under your skin, it’s powered by a patch on the surface of your skin and it communicates with your mobile phone. The new biosensor chip developed at EPFL is capable of simultaneously monitoring the concentration of a number of molecules, such as glucose and cholesterol, and certain drugs.
The future of medicine lies in ever greater precision, not only when it comes to diagnosis but also drug dosage. The blood work that medical staff rely on is generally a snapshot indicative of the moment the blood is drawn before it undergoes hours – or even days – of analysis.

Several EPFL laboratories are working on devices allowing constant analysis over as long a period as possible. The latest development is the biosensor chip, created by researchers in the Integrated Systems Laboratory working together with the Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit Group. Sandro Carrara is unveiling it today at the International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS) in Lisbon.

Autonomous operation
“This is the world’s first chip capable of measuring not just pH and temperature, but also metabolism-related molecules like glucose, lactate and cholesterol, as well as drugs,” said Dr Carrara. A group of electrochemical sensors works with or without enzymes, which means the device can react to a wide range of compounds, and it can do so for several days or even weeks.

This one-centimetre square device contains three main components: a circuit with six sensors, a control unit that analyses incoming signals, and a radio transmission module. It also has an induction coil that draws power from an external battery attached to the skin by a patch. “A simple plaster holds together the battery, the coil and a Bluetooth module used to send the results immediately to a mobile phone,” said Dr Carrara.

Contactless, in vivo monitoring
The chip was successfully tested in vivo on mice at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Bellinzona, where researchers were able to constantly monitor glucose and paracetamol levels without a wire tracker getting in the way of the animals’ daily activities. The results were extremely promising, which means that clinical tests on humans could take place in three to five years – especially since the procedure is only minimally invasive, with the chip being implanted just under the epidermis.

“Knowing the precise and real-time effect of drugs on the metabolism is one of the keys to the type of personalised, precision medicine that we are striving for,” said Dr Carrara.
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New electronic stent could provide feedback and therapy—then dissolve

New electronic stent could provide feedback and therapy—then dissolve | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Every year, an estimated half-million Americans undergo surgery to have a stent prop open a coronary artery narrowed by plaque. But sometimes the mesh tubes get clogged. Scientists report in the journal ACS Nano a new kind of multi-tasking stent that could minimize the risks associated with the procedure. It can sense blood flow and temperature, store and transmit the information for analysis and can be absorbed by the body after it finishes its job.


Doctors have been implanting stents to unblock coronary arteries for 30 years. During that time, the devices have evolved from bare metal, mesh tubes to coated stents that can release drugs to prevent reclogging. But even these are associated with health risks. So researchers have been working on versions that the body can absorb to minimize the risk that a blood clot will form. And now Dae-Hyeong Kim, Seung Hong Choi, Taeghwan Hyeon and colleagues are taking that idea a step further.


The researchers developed and tested in animals a drug-releasing electronic stent that can provide diagnostic feedback by measuring blood flow, which slows when an artery starts narrowing. The device can also heat up on command to speed up drug delivery, and it can dissolve once it's no longer needed.


More information: Bioresorbable Electronic Stent Integrated with Therapeutic Nanoparticles for Endovascular Diseases Bioresorbable Electronic Stent Integrated with Therapeutic Nanoparticles for Endovascular Diseases, ACS Nano, Article ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.5b00651

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Smarter, cheaper technologies for improved point-of-care medicine in remote areas

Smarter, cheaper technologies for improved point-of-care medicine in remote areas | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have developed new paper and flexible polymer substrates with special sensing devices for rapid and accurate detection of pathogens such as HIV, various bacteria, and CD4+ T lymphocytes. These novel technologies offer the type of robust, simple, and inexpensive biosensing systems required to provide point-of-care health care in remote areas, where there is minimal diagnostic infrastructure or equipment and a lack of trained medical technicians.


Current tests for HIV infection detect antibodies to HIV in the individual’s blood but it takes up to several months for those antibodies to form, so those tests do not detect individuals in the earliest stage of infection when they are most likely to pass on the disease. To detect HIV-1 in recently infected individuals, the researchers developed a disposable flexible polyester chip with implanted electrodes. HIV-1 antibodies are added to whole blood or plasma where they bind to the virus creating aggregates of antibody and viral lysate. When added to the flexible chip, the aggregates change the electrical conductivity of the chip, which gives a simple electrical readout indicating that the sample contains HIV-1. In addition to detecting early stage infection, the electrical readout is much simpler and less expensive than current assays. The researchers estimate that the cost is about $2 per test and can be safely disposed of after use.


Accurate CD4+ T cell count is essential for HIV-1 diagnosis and treatment monitoring. World Health Organization guidelines recommend antiretroviral therapy for individuals with a CD4+ T cell count of less than 500 cells/ml.


Conventional CD4+ T cell counting methods require an expensive flow cytometer, a skilled operator, and costly reagents. The research team developed a simple, inexpensive assay for CD4+ T cell count using two novel technologies: a polyester film with microfluidic channels to capture the T cells, and a detection technology known as lensless shadow imaging.


The microfluidic channels were coated with an antibody that captures the CD4+ T cells. A single drop of whole blood from a fingerprick was applied to the polyester film, where capillary forces pull the blood into the microfluidic channels. The shadow of the CD4+ T cells that adhere to the channels can then be visualized on the polyester film.


The platform allows efficient CD4+ T cell counting using fingerprick volume of unprocessed whole blood samples on disposable film at the point-of-care. This platform has the potential to replace the current use of non-disposable glass platforms that require additional steps and expense to visualize the cells with a fluorescent tag.

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Novel BLAST Method Delivers Large Particles Into Cells at High Speed

Novel BLAST Method Delivers Large Particles Into Cells at High Speed | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A newly developed device can deliver nanoparticles, enzymes, antibodies, bacteria and other “large-sized” cargo into mammalian cells at speeds up to 100,000 cells per minute.


A new device developed by UCLA engineers and doctors eventually help scientists study the development of disease, enable them to capture improved images of the inside of cells and lead to other improvements in medical and biological research.


The researchers created a highly efficient automated tool that delivers nanoparticles, enzymes, antibodies, bacteria and other “large-sized” cargo into mammalian cells at the rate of 100,000 cells per minute — significantly faster than current technology, which works at about one cell per minute.


The research, published online in Nature Methods on April 6, was led by Eric Pei-Yu Chiou, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and of bioengineering at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Collaborators included students, staff and faculty members from the engineering school and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.


Currently, the only way to deliver so-called large cargo, particles up to 1 micrometer in size, into cells is by using micropipettes, syringe-like tools common in laboratories, which is much slower than the new method. Other approaches for injecting materials into cells — such as using viruses as delivery vehicles or chemical methods — are only useful for small molecules, which are typically several nanometers in length.


The new device, called a biophotonic laser-assisted surgery tool, or BLAST, is a silicon chip with an array of micrometer-wide holes, each surrounded by an asymmetric, semicircular coating of titanium. Underneath the holes is a well of liquid that includes the particles to be delivered.


Researchers use a laser pulse to heat the titanium coating, which instantly boils the water layer adjacent to parts of the cell. That creates a bubble that explodes near the cell membrane, resulting in a large fissure — a reaction that takes only about one millionth of a second. The fissure allows the particle-filled liquid underneath the cells to be jammed into them before the membrane reseals. A laser can scan the entire silicon chip in about 10 seconds.


Chiou said the key to the technique’s success is the instantaneous and precise incision of the cell membrane. “The faster you cut, the fewer perturbations you have on the cell membrane,” said Chiou, who is also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute.


Inserting large cargo into cells could lead to scientific research that was previously not possible. For example, the ability to deliver mitochondria, could alter cells’ metabolism and help researchers study diseases caused by mutant mitochondrial DNA.

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