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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Tracking the Ebola outbreak in near real-time: HealthMap, ProMED and other tools

Tracking the Ebola outbreak in near real-time: HealthMap, ProMED and other tools | Amazing Science |

Sobering news keeps coming out of the West African Ebola outbreak. According to numbers released on August 6, the virus has sickened 1,711 and claimed 932 lives across four nations. The outbreak continues to grow, with a high risk of continued regional spread, according to a threat analysis released byHealthMap (an outbreak tracking system operated out of Boston Children’s Hospital) and Bio.Diaspora (a Canadian project that monitors communicable disease spread via international travel).

“What we’ve seen here—because of inadequate public health measures, because of general fear—is [an outbreak that] truly hasn’t been kept under control,”John Brownstein, PhD, co-founder of HealthMap and a computational epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News. “The event started, calmed down and jumped up again. Now, we’re seeing movement into densely populated areas, which is highly concerning.”

If you’re interested in keeping tabs on the outbreak yourself, there are several tools that can help:

  • HealthMap’s Ebola map. The HealthMap team is maintaining a dedicated, interactive map and timeline of the epidemic (embedded at the top of this post). Both map and timeline are regularly updated as new information becomes available, as is the HealthMap Twitter account.
  • ProMED. The International Society for Infectious Disease, a non-profit organization for infectious and emerging disease research, operatesProMED, a disease news monitoring service that tracks outbreaks of human and veterinary infectious diseases. ProMED (short for Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases) has been sending out regular email and Twitter alerts about the Ebola outbreak since it was first noticed in March.
  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is regularly posting updated news and patient counts—as well as travel and preparedness guidance and other information about the virus—on both their website and Twitter.
  • World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO’s Global Alert and Response system is providing regular updates on disease spread and control efforts. The organization is also distributing updates via its Twitter feed.
Biodefense News's curator insight, August 14, 2014 10:20 PM

One glaring omission from this list is, which is supplying CDC/GDD with outbreak information and forecasting.  Ascel Bio was also in constant contact with Samaritan's Purse and asked to help respond to evacuate.

M. Philip Oliver's curator insight, August 15, 2014 12:33 PM

Thanks To Dr. Stefan

Luigi Cappel's curator insight, August 16, 2014 5:53 PM

Not only is this a great site, but when I went in, it automatically identified that I live in New Zealand and showed me areas close to me where there are notifiable diseases. It showed that currently measles is growing around our country. This is a great site to check out, whether you are traveling overseas and want to see if there are things you want to be forewarned about, perhaps be inoculated against, or in the case of something like Ebola, places you might be better off staying well away from at least in the short to medium term. 


I recommend checking it out, whether you are traveling, or simply want to see great use of maps to show real time data. The time-lapse video showing the expansion of Ebola is fascinating. This is the sort of thing we usually just see on movies showing the CDC, like one of my favorite TV shows 24. Where's Jack Bauer when you need him? Oh, I here a rumor he may be coming back:)

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Optical projection tomography microscopy (OPTM) could detect early signs of cancer inside cells

Optical projection tomography microscopy (OPTM) could detect early signs of cancer inside cells | Amazing Science |

An optical technique able to spot the tell-tale changes in DNA content of cell nuclei during the earliest stages of cancer could offer valuable screening and surveillance in the fight against some forms of the disease.

Optical projection tomographic microscopy (OPTM), developed by a team at the University of Washingtonand commercialized as Cell-CT by VisionGate, employs computerized tomographic reconstruction methods analogous to those used in an X-ray CT scan. But its data comes from an optical examination, rather than an X-ray.

A paper published in SPIE's Journal of Medical Imaging assessed how well the technique could detect aneuploidy, the presence of an incorrect amount of DNA material in a cell nucleus that can be an early indication of cancer. The results show that OPTM was fully capable of providing results on a par with the gold-standard flow cytometry and image cytometry methods used by pathologists.

"OPTM stemmed originally from our wish to take microscopic images by simulating an X-ray," said Eric Seibel of the university's Human Photonics Laboratory (HPL). "One way to do that is to use an optical system with a high numerical aperture and high magnification lens, and scan that very thin focal plane through a very small object, such as the nucleus of a single cell."

In the Cell-CT platform, a widefield optical microscope is adapted with a customized rotation stage. Cells, their nuclear material already stained by standard techniques, are carried by an optical gel along a 50 micron channel in a microcapillary tube, which rotates around its long axis. A fast mirror scans the objective focal plane axially through the sample. The result is a large data set of "pseudo-projections," generated as the sample tube rotates. Algorithms adapted from those used in an analogous fashion for conventional CT images then turn the slices of visual data into a 3D image of the stained nuclear material of the specimen, with a resolution of 0.35 microns.

"This was essentially a calibration exercise," commented Seibel. "We wanted to make quantitative measurements on different standard cultured cancer cell lines, and see if OPTM could match results from flow cytometry; and we found that it could. We also wanted to see how to automate the process as much as possible, since 3D analysis is more difficult for humans to perform than 2D analysis, and computational power is needed."

Earliest signs of cancer: The implications for both cancer detection in certain specific scenarios and the wider development of new pathology techniques could be significant. Crucially, the technique could help to spot aneuploidy in small numbers of sample cells, potentially revealing the presence of cancer before other clinical signs materialize. Flow cytometry works on large numbers of cells and assesses whole populations, making it less able to spot the rare abnormality in a limited group of cells; but OPTM could be ideal.

In particular, VisionGate has positioned Cell-CT as means to spot the earliest signs of lung cancer, by using it to assess sputum samples from high-risk individuals, such as ex-smokers. Further developments in the platform are under way to automate the image analysis operation further, and also to boost the speed of the overall process, with the goal of imaging one cell in full 3D every second.

"There is a very good chance that 3D image analysis is the only way we can go for really early detection of cancer, early enough to allow implementation of therapeutic drugs to tamp down its progression," commented Seibel. "These types of techniques could become prominent for testing of sputum, urine, or in other instances where a sample can be taken with a needle and analyzed. Potentially this could all be done without a pathologist present."

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Corneal Inlays and Presbyopia: The Next Frontier

Corneal Inlays and Presbyopia: The Next Frontier | Amazing Science |

A look at three leading approaches using inlays to expand presbyopic patients’ range of vision.

Periodically, the search for a “cure” for presbyopia produces a new set of treatment options. The latest approach is the corneal inlay, intended to improve near vision without compromising distance vision in emmetropic presbyopes—and possibly non-emmetropes as well. 

Three variations on the concept of placing an implant inside the cornea are in different stages of the approval process. The Kamra inlay (from AcuFocus in Irvine, Calif.) uses the pinhole principle to increase depth of field; the Raindrop (from ReVision Optics in Laguna Hills, Calif.) makes the cornea multifocal by reshaping it; and the Flexivue Microlens (from Presbia in Amsterdam) creates multifocal vision using an in-cornea lens. 

Closer to a Presbyopia Cure? 
“All of these inlays seem to work,” notes Dr. Hovanesian. “You can make theoretical arguments as to why one might be better than the others, but they all seem to achieve a high level of near vision in the range of J1, while only minimally compromising distance vision to 20/20 or 20/25.” 

 “Overall, the data from the FDA trial of the Kamra, like the data from outside the United States regarding the Flexivue, indicates that these inlays are very safe,” adds Dr. Maloney. 

Of course, they have a few disadvantages. Dr. Maloney notes that all of them reduce distance vision to some degree. “That’s the trade-off for improved reading vision,” he says. “And all of them cause night glare to some degree; that’s the trade-off for changing the way the eye focuses light. So if patients aren’t happy, it’s because their night vision isn’t good enough, their distance vision isn’t good enough, or their reading vision isn’t good enough—the inlay isn’t strong enough to give them the reading vision they need. Those limitations are probably common to all inlays. But the inlays can be explanted, and vision returns to being very close to what it was before surgery. In addition, we haven’t seen significant adverse effects with the current generation of these inlays.” 

“Using an inlay requires a compromise in distance vision,” agrees Dr. Hovanesian. “That’s the nature of adding something to an emmetropic visual system. However, you’re usually doing it in the nondominant eye in a patient who is a good adapter. For most of these patients, what they sacrifice is well worth it for what they gain. 

“The Raindrop inlay, and inlays in general, are going to serve a very important purpose,” he concludes. “As they become approved, we’re going to find that patients really want this kind of technology. It’s appealing because it serves emmetropic presbyopes—patients who are not well served by any other modality we have. Many of these patients are not willing to try monovision, and they’re generally too young for lens implant surgery. They want a quick and easy solution, and they like the idea of something that’s reversible if it doesn’t work out.” 

 “I think there will definitely be a place for these inlays in our clinical practices,” agrees Dr. Maloney. “It looks like the Kamra inlay is the one closest to FDA approval, but as a surgeon I’d be very happy to add any one of them to my practice.”


1. Tomita M, Kanamori T, et al. Simultaneous corneal inlay implantation and laser in situ keratomileusis for presbyopia in patients with hyperopia, myopia, or emmetropia: Six-month results. J Cataract Refract Surg 2012;38:495-506. 
2. Tomita M, Kanamori T, et al. Small-aperture corneal inlay implantation to treat presbyopia after laser in situ keratomileusis. J Cataract Refract Surg 2013;39:898-905. 
3. Waring GO 4th. Correction of presbyopia with a small aperture corneal inlay. J Refract Surg 2011;27:842-5. 
4. Seyeddain O, Hohensinn M, et al. Small-aperture corneal inlay for the correction of presbyopia: 3-year follow-up. J Cataract Refract Surg 2012;38:35-45. 
5. Chayet A, Garza EB. Combined hydrogel inlay and laser in situ keratomileusis to compensate for presbyopia in hyperopic patients: One-year safety and efficacy. J Cataract Refract Surg 2013;39:1713-21. 
6. Garza EB, Gomez S, Chayet A, Dishler J. One-year safety and efficacy results of a hydrogel inlay to improve near vision in patients with emmetropic presbyopia. J Refract Surg 2013;29:166-72. 
7. Limnopoulou AN, Bouzoukis DI, et al. Visual outcomes and safety of a refractive corneal inlay for presbyopia using femtosecond laser. J Refract Surg 2013;29:12-8. 
8. Jackson GR, Owsley C, McGwin G Jr. Aging and dark adaptation. Vision Res 1999;39:3975-82. 
9. King BR, Fogel SM, et al. Neural correlates of the age-related changes in motor sequence learning and motor adaptation in older adults. Front Hum Neurosci 2013;7:142. 
10. Yılmaz OF, Alagöz N, et al. Intracorneal inlay to correct presbyopia:Long-term results. J Cataract Refract Surg 2011;37:1275-1281. 
11.Alió JL, Abbouda A, et al. Removability of a small aperture intracorneal inlay for presbyopia correction. J Refract Surg 2013;29:8:550-6.

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Placenta Harbors Bacteria, May Impact Fetal Health

Placenta Harbors Bacteria, May Impact Fetal Health | Amazing Science |
Study counters notion that placenta is sterile, suggests oral hygiene may be important for healthy pregnancy

Researchers have discovered a small community of bacteria living in a most unlikely place: the placenta, the organ that nourishes a developing fetus through the umbilical cord. The finding overturns the conventional wisdom that the placenta is sterile. The study also suggests that these microbes may come from the mouth, affirming that good oral hygiene may be important for a healthy pregnancy.

Medical experts have long assumed that any bacteria found in the organ must have been picked up when it passed through the vagina after delivery. But more recently, researchers have realized that a baby has a community of bacteria in its gut when it is born. And these bacteria don’t match those in the vagina, suggesting some other source, such as the placenta, says fetal medicine specialist Kjersti Aagaard of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

Aagaard and co-workers are collaborators on the U.S. Human Microbiome Project, which is studying microbiomes—communities of bacteria, fungi, and viruses—that live in various places on and in our bodies. They looked for a placental microbiome by analyzing carefully collected placentas from 320 pregnancies. The researchers extracted DNA from the placentas and sequenced it for snippets and entire bacterial genomes in order to identify and quantify microbial species and the genes they carried. This analysis revealed low levels of a diverse set of bacteria, mostly nondisease causing strains of Escherichia coli, which dominate our intestinal tracts, but also others from five broad groups, or phyla. Most were benign species known to provide services such as metabolizing vitamins.

Surprisingly, the mix of bacteria in the placenta looked more like the microbiome in an adult human’s mouth than the vaginal, skin, gut, or other body microbiomes, Aagaard’s team reports today in Science Translational Medicine. The researchers think the microbes may get to the placenta from the mother’s mouth through her bloodstream, perhaps when she brushes her teeth and dislodges them into the blood. That possibility is intriguing, because there’s a well-known correlation between gum disease and preterm birth. Indeed, the array of bacteria in the placenta differed in women who gave birth early, before 37 weeks.

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Oral flora composition may diagnose pancreatic cancer

Oral flora composition may diagnose pancreatic cancer | Amazing Science |

Patients with pancreatic cancer have a different and distinct profile of specific bacteria in their saliva compared to healthy controls and even patients with other cancers or pancreatic diseases, according to research presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. These findings could form the basis for a test to diagnose the disease in its early stages.

"Our studies suggest that ratios of particular types of bacteria found in saliva may be indicative of pancreatic cancer," says Pedro Torres of San Diego State University who presented the research.

In the United States, approximately 40,000 people die every year due to pancreatic adenocarcinoma, making it the fourth leading cause of cancer related death. Patients diagnosed in the early stages of pancreatic cancer have a 5-year survival rate of 21.5%. Unfortunately symptoms do not appear until after the cancer has become untreatable in the vast majority of cases, says Torres.

In the study, Torres and his colleagues compared the diversity of saliva bacteria across 131 patients, 63 female and 68 male, being treated at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Moores Cancer Center. Of these patients, 14 had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, 13 with pancreatic disease, 22 with other forms of cancer and 10 disease free. Results showed that patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had higher levels of two particular oral bacteria, Leptotrichia and Campylobacter, when compared to any other healthy or diseased state including non-cancerous pancreatic disease. Those with pancreatic cancer also had lower levels of Streptococcus, Treponema and Veillonella.

"Our results suggest the presence of a consistently distinct microbial profile for pancreatic cancer," says Torres. "We may be able to detect pancreatic cancer at its early stages by taking individuals' saliva and looking at the ratios of these bacteria.

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New blood test accurately detects presence of breast cancer and monitors response to treatment

New blood test accurately detects presence of breast cancer and monitors response to treatment | Amazing Science |
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center investigators report they have designed a blood test that accurately detects the presence of advanced breast cancer and also holds promise for precisely monitoring response to cancer treatment.

The test, called the cMethDNA assay, accurately detected the presence of cancer DNA in the blood of patients with metastatic breast cancers up to 95 percent of the time in laboratory studies. The findings were described in the April 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Currently, there is no useful laboratory test to monitor patients with early stage breast cancer who are doing well, but could have an asymptomatic recurrence, says Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D., who is the Barbara B. Rubenstein Professor of Oncology and co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

Generally, radiologic scans and standard blood tests are indicated only if a woman complains of symptoms, such as bone aches, shortness of breath, pain, or worrisome clinical exam findings. Otherwise, routine blood tests or scans in asymptomatic patients often produce false positives, leading to additional unnecessary tests and biopsies, and have not been shown to improve survival outcomes in patients with early stage breast cancer who develop a recurrence.

Sukumar, also a professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins, says that the current approach to monitoring for recurrence is not ideal, and that "the goal is to develop a test that could be administered routinely to alert the physician and patient as soon as possible of a return of the original cancer in a distant spot. With the development of cMethDNA, we've taken a first big step toward achieving this goal."

To design the test, Sukumar and her team scanned the genomes of primary breast cancer patients, as well as DNA from the blood of metastatic cancer patients. They selected 10 genes specifically altered in breast cancers, including newly identified genetic markers AKR1B1, COL6A2, GPX7, HIST1H3C, HOX B4, RASGRF2, as well as TM6SF1, RASSF1, ARHGEF7, and TMEFF2, which Sukumar's team had previously linked to primary breast cancer.

The test, developed by Sukumar, collaborator Mary Jo Fackler, Ph.D., and other scientists, detects so-called hypermethyation, a type of chemical tag in one or more of the breast cancer-specific genes present in tumor DNA and detectable in cancer patients' blood samples. Hypermethylation often silences genes that keep runaway cell growth in check, and its appearance in the DNA of breast cancer-related genes shed into the blood indicates that cancer has returned or spread.

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Fast way to measure DNA repair – some people's DNA gets repaired 10 times faster than others

Fast way to measure DNA repair – some people's DNA gets repaired 10 times faster than others | Amazing Science |
Test analyzing cells’ ability to fix different kinds of broken DNA could help doctors predict cancer risk.

Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources, including environmental pollutants, ultraviolet light, and radiation. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, which may lead to cancer and other diseases if not mended.

The effectiveness of these repair systems varies greatly from person to person; scientists believe that this variability may explain why some people get cancer while others exposed to similar DNA-damaging agents do not. A team of MIT researchers has now developed a test that can rapidly assess several of these repair systems, which could help determine individuals’ risk of developing cancer and help doctors predict how a given patient will respond to chemotherapy drugs.

The new test, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of April 21, can analyze four types of DNA repair capacity simultaneously, in less than 24 hours. Previous tests have been able to evaluate only one system at a time.

“All of the repair pathways work differently, and the existing technology to measure each of those pathways is very different for each one. It takes expertise, it’s time-consuming, and it’s labor-intensive,” says Zachary Nagel, an MIT postdoc and lead author of the PNAS paper. “What we wanted to do was come up with one way of measuring all DNA repair pathways at the same time so you have a single readout that’s easy to measure.”

The research team, led by professor Leona Samson, used this approach to measure DNA repair in a type of immortalized human blood cells called lymphoblastoid cells, taken from 24 healthy people. They found a huge range of variability, especially in one repair system where some people’s cells were more than 10 times more efficient than others.

“None of the cells came out looking the same. They each have their own spectrum of what they can repair well and what they don’t repair well. It’s like a fingerprint for each person,” says Samson, who is the Uncas and Helen Whitaker Professor, an American Cancer Society Professor, and a member of MIT’s departments of biological engineering and of biology, Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

With the new test, the MIT team can measure how well cells repair the most common DNA lesions, including single-strand breaks, double-strand breaks, mismatches, and the introduction of alkyl groups caused by pollutants such as fuel exhaust and tobacco smoke.

To achieve this, the researchers created five different circular pieces of DNA, four of which carry a specific type of DNA damage, also called DNA lesions. Each of these circular DNA strands, or plasmids, also carries a gene for a different colored fluorescent protein. In some cases, the DNA lesions prevent those genes from being expressed, so when the DNA is successfully repaired, the cell begins to produce the fluorescent protein. In others, repairing the DNA lesion turns the fluorescent gene off.

By introducing these plasmids into cells and reading the fluorescent output, scientists can determine how efficiently each kind of lesion has been repaired. In theory, more than five plasmids could go into each cell, but the researchers limited each experiment to five reporter plasmids to avoid potential overlap among colors. To overcome that limitation, the researchers are also developing an alternative tactic that involves sequencing the messenger RNA produced by cells when they copy the plasmid genes, instead of measuring fluorescence.

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Liquid biopsy blood test could provide rapid, accurate method of detecting solid cancers, study finds

Liquid biopsy blood test could provide rapid, accurate method of detecting solid cancers, study finds | Amazing Science |

A blood sample could one day be enough to diagnose many types of solid cancers, or to monitor the amount of cancer in a patient’s body and responses to treatment. Previous versions of the approach, which relies on monitoring levels of tumor DNA circulating in the blood, have required cumbersome and time-consuming steps to customize it to each patient or have not been sufficiently sensitive.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a way to quickly bring the technique to the clinic. Their approach, which should be broadly applicable to many types of cancers, is highly sensitive and specific. With it they were able to accurately identify about 50 percent of people in the study with stage-1 lung cancer and all patients whose cancers were more advanced.

“We set out to develop a method that overcomes two major hurdles in the circulating tumor DNA field,” said Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology. “First, the technique needs to be very sensitive to detect the very small amounts of tumor DNA present in the blood. Second, to be clinically useful it’s necessary to have a test that works off the shelf for the majority of patients with a given cancer.”

Even in the absence of treatment, cancer cells are continuously dividing and dying. As they die, they release DNA into the bloodstream, like tiny genetic messages in a bottle. Learning to read these messages — and to pick out the one in 1,000 or 10,000 that come from a cancer cell — can allow clinicians to quickly and noninvasively monitor the volume of tumor, a patient’s response to therapy and even how the tumor mutations evolve over time in the face of treatment or other selective pressures.

“The vast majority of circulating DNA is from normal, non-cancerous cells, even in patients with advanced cancer,” Bratman said. “We needed a comprehensive strategy for isolating the circulating DNA from blood and detecting the rare, cancer-associated mutations. To boost the sensitivity of the technique, we optimized methods for extracting, processing and analyzing the DNA.

The researchers’ technique, which they have dubbed CAPP-Seq, for Cancer Personalized Profiling by deep Sequencing, is sensitive enough to detect just one molecule of tumor DNA in a sea of 10,000 healthy DNA molecules in the blood. Although the researchers focused on patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (which includes most lung cancers, including adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma), the approach should be widely applicable to many different solid tumors throughout the body. It’s also possible that it could one day be used not just to track the progress of a previously diagnosed patient, but also to screen healthy or at-risk populations for signs of trouble.

Tumor DNA differs from normal DNA by virtue of mutations in the nucleotide sequence. Some of the mutations are thought to be cancer drivers, responsible for initiating the uncontrolled cell growth that is the hallmark of the disease. Others accumulate randomly during repeated cell division. These secondary mutations can sometimes confer resistance to therapy; even a few tumor cells with these types of mutations can expand rapidly in the face of seemingly successful treatment.

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A small pressure sensor can make the difference between life and death

A small pressure sensor can make the difference between life and death | Amazing Science |

When people have nerve problems such as those caused by spinal injuries, they can lose the ability to feel when their bladder is full. This means that they don't know when it needs to be emptied, resulting in a build-up of pressure that can damage both the bladder and their kidneys. Now, a tiny sensor may offer a better way of assessing their condition, to see if surgery is required or if medication will suffice.

Presently, in order to observe how well the bladder is functioning, a catheter is inserted into the patient's urethra and used to fill their bladder with saline solution. This is understandably uncomfortable for the patient, plus it's claimed to provide an inaccurate picture of what's going on, as the bladder fills up much more quickly than would normally be the case.

That's why scientists at Norwegian research group SINTEF are proposing replacing the catheters with tiny pressure sensors. The current prototypes can be injected into the bladder directly through the skin, and could conceivably stay in place for months or even years, providing readings without any discomfort, and without requiring the bladder to be filled mechanically.

Patients would be able to move around normally, plus the risk of infection would reportedly be reduced. Currently readings are transmitted from the prototypes via a thin wire that extents from the senor out through the skin, although it is hoped that subsequent versions could transmit wirelessly – perhaps even to the patient's smartphone.

Next month, a clinical trial involving three spinal injury patients is scheduled to begin at Norway's Sunnaas Hospital. Down the road, plans call for trials involving 20 to 30 test subjects.

Although they're currently about to be tested in the bladder, the sensors could conceivably be used to measure pressure almost anywhere in the body.

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Tiny Sponges Seal A Gunshot Wound In 15 Seconds

Tiny Sponges Seal A Gunshot Wound In 15 Seconds | Amazing Science |
An Oregon startup has developed a pocket-size device that uses tiny sponges to stop bleeding fast.

When a soldier is shot on the battlefield, the emergency treatment can seem as brutal as the injury itself. A medic must pack gauze directly into the wound cavity, sometimes as deep as 5 inches into the body, to stop bleeding from an artery. It’s an agonizing process that doesn't always work--if bleeding hasn't stopped after three minutes of applying direct pressure, the medic must pull out all the gauze and start over again. It’s so painful, “you take the guy’s gun away first,” says former U.S. Army Special Operations medic John Steinbaugh.

Even with this emergency treatment, many soldiers still bleed to death; hemorrhage is a leading cause of death on the battlefield. "Gauze bandages just don't work for anything serious," says Steinbaugh, who tended to injured soldiers during more than a dozen deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. When Steinbaugh retired in April 2012 after a head injury, he joined an Oregon-based startup called RevMedx, a small group of veterans, scientists, and engineers who were working on a better way to stop bleeding.

RevMedx recently asked the FDA to approve a pocket-size invention: a modified syringe that injects specially coated sponges into wounds. Called XStat, the device could boost survival and spare injured soldiers from additional pain by plugging wounds faster and more efficiently than gauze.

The team’s early efforts were inspired by Fix-a-Flat foam for repairing tires. “That’s what we pictured as the perfect solution: something you could spray in, it would expand, and bleeding stops,” says Steinbaugh. “But we found that blood pressure is so high, blood would wash the foam right out.”

So the team tried a new idea: sponges. They bought some ordinary sponges from a hardware store and cut them into 1-centimeter circles, a size and shape they chose on a whim but later would discover were ideal for filling wounds. Then, they injected the bits of sponge into an animal injury. “The bleeding stopped,” says Steinbaugh. “Our eyes lit up. We knew we were onto something.” After seeing early prototypes, the U.S. Army gave the team $5 million to develop a finished product.

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Chemical imaging brings cancer tissue analysis into the digital age

Chemical imaging brings cancer tissue analysis into the digital age | Amazing Science |

Imperial College London researchers have developed a new method for analyzing biological samples based on their chemical makeup that could transform the way medical scientists examine diseased tissue.

When tests are carried out on a patient’s tissue today, such as looking for cancer, the test has to be interpreted by a histology specialist, which can take weeks to get a full result.

Scientists have proposed using mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), which uses technologies that reveal how hundreds or thousands of chemical components are distributed in a tissue sample. But currently proposed MSI workflows are subject to several limitations, including nonoptimized raw data preprocessing, imprecise image coregistration, and limited pattern recognition capabilities.

In PNAS, the Imperial College London researchers have now outlined a comprehensive new strategy for effectively processing MSI data and building a database of tissue types. In MSI, a beam moves across the surface of a sample, producing a pixelated image. Each pixel contains data on thousands of chemicals present in that part of the sample. By analyzing many samples and comparing them to the results of traditional histological analysis, a computer can learn to identify different types of tissue.

A single test taking a few hours can provide much more detailed information than standard histological tests, for example showing not just if a tissue is cancerous, what the type and sub-type of cancer, which can be important for choosing the best treatment. The technology can also be applied in research to offer new insights into cancer biology.

According to Kirill Veselkov, M.D., corresponding author of the study from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, “MSI is an extremely promising technology, but the analysis required to provide information that doctors or scientists can interpret easily is very complex. This work overcomes some of the obstacles to translating MSI’s potential into the clinic. It’s the first step towards creating the next generation of fully automated histological analysis.”

The technology will also be useful in drug development. To study where a new drug is absorbed in the body, pharmaceutical scientists attach a radioactive label to the drug molecule, then look at where the radiation can be detected in a laboratory animal. If the label is detached when the drug is processed in the body, it is impossible to determine how and where the drug has been metabolized. MSI would allow researchers to look for the drug and any metabolic products in the body, without using radioactive labels.

Dmitry Alexeev's curator insight, February 3, 2014 1:12 AM

MS Imaging differentiation of tissues

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Live 3D Organ Holograms Give an Unprecedented View to Surgeons

Live 3D Organ Holograms Give an Unprecedented View to Surgeons | Amazing Science |

An Israeli firm (Real View Imaging) has developed 3D holographic imaging technology that allows doctors to see a patient’s anatomy ”floating” in mid-air during real time medical procedures. The company says successful trials of its system demonstrate that science fiction has become science fact.

To learn more visit:

Via Belinda Suvaal
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World's Smallest Pacemaker Can Be Implanted Without Surgery

World's Smallest Pacemaker Can Be Implanted Without Surgery | Amazing Science |
New cardiac devices are small enough to be delivered through blood vessels into the heart.

Pacemaker surgery typically requires a doctor to make an incision above a patient’s heart, dig a cavity into which he can implant the heartbeat-regulating device, and then connect the pulse generator to wires delivered through a vein near the collarbone. Such surgery could soon be completely unnecessary. Instead, doctors could employ miniaturized wireless pacemakers that can be delivered into the heart through a major vein in the thigh.

On Monday, doctors in Austria implanted one such device into a patient—the first participant in a human trial of what device-manufacturer Medtronic says is the smallest pacemaker in the world.

The device is 24 millimeters long and 0.75 cubic centimeters in volume—a tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker. Earlier this year, another device manufacturer, St. Jude Medical, bought a startup called Nanostim that makes another tiny pacemaker, and St. Jude is offering it to patients in Europe. This device is 41 millimeters long and one cubic centimeter in volume.

Doctors can implant such pacemakers into the heart through blood vessels, via an incision in the thigh. They use steerable, flexible tubes called catheters to push the pacemakers through a large vein.

The two new devices are the latest effort to make heart surgery less traumatic. Doctors began to widely use less invasive heart treatments in the late 1990s, when artery-unclogging balloons delivered by catheters started to replace bypass surgeries. Other cardiac technologies like stents, which prop open weak or narrow arteries, can also be delivered through blood vessels. More recently, researchers have developed artificial valves for patients whose natural valves have become damaged; these devices can also be delivered by catheters snaking through large blood vessels.

Brian Lindman, a cardiovascular specialist at Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues have found that less invasive catheter-based procedures for valve repair can be safer for high-risk elderly patients and can enable doctors to treat patients who are too frail to undergo surgery.

More recently, Lindman published a study suggesting that the transcatheter method may improve the odds of survival for diabetic patients as well. However, for some cardiac treatments such as valve repair, a more invasive surgery enables longer-lasting repairs, and so may be the better option for patients strong enough for surgery. “Surgery or transcatheter is not always better,” says Lindman. “It depends on the cardiac problem and on the nuances of each procedure.

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Researchers Combine Ideas of 3D Printing With Molecular Self-assembly – Is Molecular Manufacturing Next?

Researchers Combine Ideas of 3D Printing With Molecular Self-assembly – Is Molecular Manufacturing Next? | Amazing Science |

What’s the ultimate extension of 3D printing technology? Where could 3D printing take us in the future? Eventually, we will have nano-factories, 3D printing at the molecular level. We will be able to turn our garbage into just about anything we want, via a sophisticated computer system, along with hardware capable of breaking any mass down to its molecular level, before using those molecules to construct a brand new object.

The two men have now combined the ideas of 3D printing with that of molecular self assembly to create a process which they call ‘genetic 3D printing’. For those who are not biologists, molecular self assembly is simply the process in which molecules arrange themselves in a particular order without guidance from an outside source. Molecular self assembly is a bottom-up approach like that of 3D printing. The discovery, which was accidental, allowed the researchers to create proteins which have the ability to self assemble into fibers. The discovery was made while they were simply trying to produce gluten adhesives, by cutting out a section of the gluten protein. What happened next surprised them. When the section of the protein was removed, fibers self assembled themselves in the beaker.

The quality of the fibers were on par with those produced by silk spiders, something which researchers have been trying to produce for years. Spider silk has a strength-to-weight ratio which is five times that of steel, making it an ideal material for all sorts of applications. The researchers went back and realized that they can manipulate the protein structures of the fibers to change their colors, but this wasn’t all. By combining the gluten protein with other proteins, they are able to molecularly print fibers with varying electrical properties, strengths and colors. In ordinary 3D printing, individuals use a software to translate a computer code and raw material into a physical object. In this case the researchers found that they were able to use a genetic blueprint as their computer code and back-calculate the DNA, which was inserted into a host bacterium, in this case e-coli. From there, the protein (raw material) grew, left the cell, and interacted with one another to build the fibers which the researchers had predetermined.

If this seems amazing, both Barone and Senger believe that they could eventually utilize this method as a way to molecularly manufacture all sorts of objects. Because the protein fibers are natural building blocks, once a method is figured out in which they are able to get the fibers to organize into larger structures, anything could be possible. From a coffee pot, to human bone, or even muscle, the researchers believe that one day this method of 3D printing fibers could manufacture it all. The researchers are currently working to further their discovery, and produce the silk-like fibers in large quantity for a variety of uses.  Additionally they are looking for ways to increase the size of each fiber, eventually enabling the manufacturing of larger objects.

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Nonablative Laser Light Increases Influenza Vaccine Response 4 to 7-fold - Neomatica

Nonablative Laser Light Increases Influenza Vaccine Response 4 to 7-fold - Neomatica | Amazing Science |

Influenza imposes a heavy annual public health burden, and lies historically at the heart of a number of global pandemics that killed tens of millions.  To overcome the challenges of manufacturing enough vaccines such that we may stave off the next epidemic, medical researchers are searching for ways to strengthen or extend the power of existing and stockpiled vaccines.  Now a team of scientists in Boston has just developed a new method of using laser light to stimulate and enhance the immune response to a vaccine by a remarkable 4 to 7-fold against disease agents. Such treatments that assist vaccines but are not vaccines themselves are known as adjuvants.

Interestingly, the improved 4 to 7-fold laser adjuvant could not be matched even when compared against increasing the vaccine dosage 10-fold.  Efficacy of the vaccine was measured by the level of influenza-specific antibodies generated in an inoculated person.  The new method improves on an existing adjuvant hampered by harmful side effects which thus far has prevented its usage broadly.  Although the results were obtained in the context of two animal models, adult and aged mice, as well as pigs, its fairly general immunological basis is expected to translate to humans.

Before inoculation, the injection site is exposed to laser light for a short time. The light does not perforate the outer layers of the skin, but rather injures the dermis.  Because of the way the laser light is arranged, this creates a number of “microthermal zones.”  In each zone, dermal cells that are damaged stimulate inflammation, signaling danger to the immune system, which in turn attracts antigen-presenting cells (APCs) to the damaged area. APCs are cells that occur naturally in the body that bind antigens of harmful disease agents so as to prepare the rest of the immune system to recognize and neutralize the threat.

The damaged area is so small such that that self-healing occurs within 72 hours. The inspiration for the adjuvant comes from a type of skin treatment used in cosmetic dermatology.  In the cosmetic context, the laser light is used to stimulate lightly skin with aged appearance.  Post-damage, epithelial cells quickly grow to surround the microthermal zone to give rise to more youthful looking skin.  The same class of non-ablative lasers were used in this study.

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Wirelessly-powered pacemaker the size of a grain of rice implanted into a rabbit

Wirelessly-powered pacemaker the size of a grain of rice implanted into a rabbit | Amazing Science |

US researchers have built a wirelessly powered pacemaker the size of a grain of rice and implanted it in a rabbit. They were able to hold a metal plate a few centimetres above the rabbit's chest and use it to regulate the animal's heartbeat. If such medical implants could be made to work in humans, it could lead to smaller devices that are safer to fit. The findings are published in the journal PNAS.

The researchers from Stanford University hope their development could also eventually dispense with the bulky batteries and clumsy recharging systems that are currently a feature of such devices.

The central discovery was a new type of wireless power transfer that could safely penetrate deep inside the body, using roughly the same power as a cell phone.

"We need to make these devices as small as possible to more easily implant them deep in the body," said co-author Dr Ada Poon, from Stanford's department of electrical engineering. Near-field waves can be safely used, but they can only transfer power over short distances.

The researchers were able to design a device that blends the safety of near-field waves with the reach of far-field waves. "With this method, we can safely transmit power to tiny implants in organs like the heart or brain, well beyond the range of current near-field systems," said John Ho, a graduate student in Dr Poon's lab.

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An ultra-sensitive chip for early cancer detection

An ultra-sensitive chip for early cancer detection | Amazing Science |

Today, the majority of cancers are detected on the macroscopic level, when the tumor is already composed of millions of cancer cells and the disease is starting to advance into a more mature phase.

But what if we could diagnose cancer It would be like putting a fire out while it was still just a few sparks versus after having already caught on and spread to many areas of the house.

An international team of researchers, led by ICFO – Institute of Photonic Sciences in Castelldefels, has developed a “lab-on-a-chip” platform capable of detecting very low concentrations of protein cancer markers in the blood, using the latest advances in plasmonics, nano-fabrication, microfluids and surface chemistry.

The device enables diagnoses of the disease in its earliest stages before it take hold, which is key to successful diagnosis and treatment of this disease.

This cancer-tracking nano-device shows great promise as a tool for future cancer treatments because of its reliability, sensitivity, potential low cost, and small size (only a few square centimeters), allowing for effective diagnosis and treatment procedures in remote places.

Although very compact , the lab-on-a-chip hosts sensing sites distributed across a network of fluidic microchannels, enabling it to conduct multiple analyses. Gold nanoparticles on the surface of the chip are chemically programmed with an antibody receptor that can specifically attract the cancer protein markers circulating in blood.

When a drop of blood is injected into the chip, it circulates through the microchannels and if cancer markers are present in the blood, they will stick to the nanoparticles located on the micro-channels as they pass by, setting off changes in “plasmonic resonance.” The magnitude of these changes are directly related to the concentration and number of markers in the patient blood, which provides a direct assessment of the risk for the patient to develop a cancer.

“The most fascinating finding is that we are capable of detecting extremely low concentrations of this protein in a matter of minutes, making this device an ultra-high sensitivity, state-of-the-art, powerful instrument that will benefit early detection and treatment monitoring of cancer,” said ICREA Professor at ICFO Romain Quidant, coordinator of the project.

In 2009, Prof. Quidant’s research group at ICFO, in collaboration with several groups of oncologists, joined the worldwide effort devoted to the ultra-sensitive detection of protein markers located on the surface of cancer cells and in peripheral blood, which had been determined to be a clear indicator of the development of cancer. In 2010, they successfully obtained funding for the project called SPEDOC (Surface Plasmon Early Detection of Circulating Heat Shock Proteins and Tumor Cells) under the 7th Framework Program (FP7) of the European Commission.

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Microchip-Like Technology Allows Single-Cell Analysis

Microchip-Like Technology Allows Single-Cell Analysis | Amazing Science |

A U.S. and Korean research team has developed a chip-like device that could be scaled up to sort and store hundreds of thousands of individual living cells in a matter of minutes. The system is similar to a random access memory chip, but it moves cells rather than electrons.

Researchers at Duke University and Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) in the Republic of Korea hope the cell-sorting system will revolutionize research by allowing the fast, efficient control and separation of individual cells that could then be studied in vast numbers.

“Most experiments grind up a bunch of cells and analyze genetic activity by averaging the population of an entire tissue rather than looking at the differences between single cells within that population,” said Benjamin Yellen, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. “That’s like taking the eye color of everyone in a room and finding that the average color is grey, when not a single person in the room has grey eyes. You need to be able to study individual cells to understand and appreciate small but significant differences in a similar population.” The study appears online May 14 in Nature Communications.

Yellen and his collaborator, Cheol Gi Kim of DGIST, printed thin electromagnetic components like those found on microchips onto a slide. These patterns create magnetic tracks and elements like switches, transistors and diodes that guide magnetic beads and single cells tagged with magnetic nanoparticles through a thin liquid film.

Like a series of small conveyer belts, localized rotating magnetic fields move the beads and cells along specific directions etched into a track, while built-in switches direct traffic to storage sites on the chip. The result is an integrated circuit that controls small magnetic objects much like the way electrons are controlled on computer chips.

In the study, the engineers demonstrate a 3-by-3 grid of compartments that allow magnetic beads to enter but not leave. By tagging cells with magnetic particles and directing them to different compartments, the cells can be separated, sorted, stored, studied and retrieved.

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Next generation of smart devices: Enzyme-based micropump autonomously pumps insulin in response to glucose levels

Next generation of smart devices: Enzyme-based micropump autonomously pumps insulin in response to glucose levels | Amazing Science |

For next-generation smart devices, autonomy is key. These devices will be able to power themselves, independently respond to stimuli, and perform different kinds of work, all without human intervention. With these abilities, smart devices could potentially have very wide-reaching implications.

In a recent study published in Nature Chemistry, Samudra Sengupta, et al., from The Pennsylvania State University, the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, have designed and demonstrated a self-powered enzyme micropump that autonomously delivers small molecules and proteins in response to specific chemical stimuli.

"We demonstrate that surface-anchored enzymes can act as pumps in the presence of their respective substrates, pumping fluid and particles in a directional manner," coauthor Ayusman Sen, Professor of Chemistry at Penn State, told "This discovery enables the design of non-mechanical, self-powered nano/microscale pumps that precisely control flow rate and turn on in response to specific stimuli. One example described in the paper is the release of insulin from a reservoir at a rate proportional to ambient glucose concentration."

As a proof-of-principle, the researchers demonstrated how an enzyme micropump can be used to pump out insulin in response to the glucose concentration in the surrounding solution. A similar process occurs in the pancreas of healthy individuals, and afterwards the increased insulin stimulates muscle and fat cells to absorb the increased amounts of glucose from the blood.

However, in individuals with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce sufficient amounts of insulin in response to elevated blood sugar levels. By autonomously releasing insulin in response to glucose concentration, the enzyme micropump essentially fulfills this role of the pancreas.

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New body-hack app shortcuts jet-lag recovery

New body-hack app shortcuts jet-lag recovery | Amazing Science |

A new jet-lag mobile app called Entrain released by University of Michigan mathematicians reveals previously unknown shortcuts that can help travelers entrain (synchronize) their circadian rhythms to new time zones as efficiently as possible.

Entrain is built around the premise that light, particularly from the sun and in wavelengths that appear to our eyes as the color blue, is the strongest signal to regulate circadian rhythms. These fluctuations in behaviors and bodily functions, tied to the planet’s 24-hour day, do more than guide us to eat and sleep. They govern processes in each one of our cells.

The study, published April 10, 2014, in Public Library of Science Computational Biology (open access journal), relies on two leading mathematical models that have been shown to accurately describe human circadian rhythms. The researchers used these equations and a technique called optimal control theory to calculate ideal adjustment schedules for more than 1,000 possible trips.

The app gives users access to these schedules. Start by entering your typical hours of light and darkness in your current time zone, then choose the time zone you’re traveling to and when, as well as the brightest light you expect to spend the most time in during your trip (indoor or outdoor.) The app offers a specialized plan and predicts how long it will you take to adjust.

The shortcuts the app offers are custom schedules of light and darkness depending on the itinerary. The schedules boil down to one block of time each day when you should seek the brightest light possible and another when you should put yourself in the dark, or at least in dim light. You don’t even have to be asleep.

If you must go outside, you can wear pink-tinted glasses to block blue wavelength light, the researchers say. And if the app prescribes “bright outdoor light” in the middle of the night, a therapeutic lightbox can do the job — yes, its shortcuts sometimes require odd hours.

The Entrain app is available now as a free app in the Apple store.

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Cologuard stool-based DNA test for colon cancer demonstrates 93.3% sensitivty

Cologuard stool-based DNA test for colon cancer demonstrates 93.3% sensitivty | Amazing Science |

Colon cancer screening is crucial because it can prevent colon-related cancer deaths by as much as 60 percent if adults who are at least 50-years old get screened routinely. What stops many people from getting screened though is the discomfort associated with traditional screening methods.

The number of adults getting screened for colon cancer, however, may soon increase as the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is likely to give its approval to a less invasive stool-based DNA test for detecting colon cancer.

On Thursday, a panel of FDA advisers unanimously recommended the approval of Cologuard, a colon cancer screening test that analyzes DNA found in the stool. The FDA may not follow the panel's recommendation but it usually does. Cologuard was developed by Madison-based Exact Sciences which specializes in colon cancer.

"Exact Sciences Corp. (Nasdaq: EXAS) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Molecular and Clinical Genetics Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory .

Committee determined by a unanimous vote of 10 to zero that Exact Sciences has demonstrated safety, effectiveness and a favorable risk benefit profile of Cologuard, the company's stool-based DNA (sDNA), non-invasive colorectal cancer screening test," Exact Sciences announced on its website.

Findings of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week suggest that Cologuard is more efficient in detecting early-stage cancer than the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), another non-invasive colon cancer screening test. The study, which was participated by 12,776 individuals, found that Exact Science's stool-based DNA test could detect 92.3 percent of colon cancers. Cologuard was also found to be 94 percent efficient in detecting early stage cancers.

Colonoscopy remains to be the most accurate way of detecting colon cancer but many avoid it because of its invasive approach of inserting a tube into the patient's anus. Cologuard will be used as a screening test if it gets FDA's approval but patients found positive of cancer will still be asked to undergo colonoscopy.

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Holographic imaging for rapidly sorting stem cells and cancer cells

Holographic imaging for rapidly sorting stem cells and cancer cells | Amazing Science |

MIT scientists have developed a way to image cells (without fluorescent markers or other labels) as they flow through a tiny microfluidic channel for sorting. This is an important step toward cell-sorting systems that could help scientists separate stem cells at varying stages of development, or to distinguish healthy cells from cancerous cells, the scientists say.

Other cell-sorting methods require adding a fluorescent molecule that highlights the cells of interest, but those tags can damage the cells and make them unsuitable for therapeutic uses. The new method is based on a 2007 microscopy development that allowed the scientists to detail the interior of a living cell in three dimensions, without adding any fluorescent markers or other labels. This technique also revealed key properties, such as the cells’ density.

“Many stem cell applications require sorting of cells at different stages of differentiation. This can be done with fluorescent staining, but once you stain the cells they cannot be used,” says Yongjin Sung, a former postdoc in MIT’sLaser Biomedical Research Center and lead author of a paper describing the technique in the inaugural issue of the journal PRApplied.

“With our approach, you can utilize a vast amount of information about the 3-D distribution of the cells’ mass to sort them.” Instead of using fluorescent tags, the MIT method analyzes the cells’ index of refraction — a measurement of how much the speed of light is reduced as it passes through a material. Every material has a distinctive index of refraction, and this property can be used, along with cells’ volume, to calculate their mass and density.

Different parts of a cell, including individual organelles, have different indices of refraction, so the information generated by this approach can also be used to identify some of these internal cell structures, such as the nucleus and nucleolus, a structure located within the nucleus.

In the original 2007 version of this technology, known as tomographic phase microscopy, researchers led by the late MIT professor Michael Feld created 3-D images by combining a series of 2-D images taken as laser beams passed through cells from hundreds of different angles. This is the same concept behind CT scanning, which combines X-ray images taken from many different angles to create a 3-D rendering.

A key feature of the new MIT system is the use of a focused laser beam that can illuminate cells from many different angles, allowing the researchers to analyze the scattered light from the cells as they flow across the beam. Using a technique known as off-axis digital holography, the researchers can instantaneously record both the amplitude and phase of scattered light at each location of the cells. “As the cell flows across, we can effectively illuminate the entire sample from all angles without having to rotate a light source or the cell,” says former MIT graduate student Niyom Lue, a coauthor of the new paper.

The current system can image about 10 cells per second, but the researchers hope to speed it up to thousands of cells per second, which would make it useful for applications such as sorting stem cells. The researchers also hope to use the system to learn more about how cancer cells grow and respond to different drug treatments.

“This label-free method can look at different states of the cell, whether they are healthy or whether they maybe have cancer or viral or bacterial infections,” says Peter So, an MIT professor of mechanical engineering and biological engineering who is senior author of the new paper. “We can use this technique to look at the pathological state of the cell, or cells under treatment of some drug, and follow the population over a period of time.”

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Simple At-Home Test Will Detect 79% Of Colorectal Cancers

Simple At-Home Test Will Detect 79% Of Colorectal Cancers | Amazing Science |

Colorectal cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet one in three adults is not adequately screened.

Tests that require patients to collect a single stool sample at home and then send it to a lab for analysis will detect about 79 percent of colorectal cancers, according to a new evidence review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The review of 19 studies examining eight different fecal immunochemical tests, known as “FITs,” also finds that the tests will correctly identify about 94 percent of patients who do not have cancers of the rectum or colon.

“We know the FIT is easy to use, and now we also know that it is a great tool for assessing which patients have cancer and which patients don’t,” said Beth Liles, MD, review co-author and clinical investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.

“FIT is simple, can be done at home, and can save lives,” said Jeffrey Lee, MD, MAS, the study’s lead author and post-doctoral researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. and University of California, San Francisco. “The American Cancer Society and other professional organizations have recommended FIT as a screening tool for colorectal cancer since 2008, but there are still many people who don’t know about it.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people with normal risk for colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 50 and stop at age 75. Unlike older stool tests, FIT does not require people to restrict their diets or to stop taking medications. Conducted annually, the test detects small amounts of blood in the stool, and people who test positive are much more likely to have colorectal cancer. People who have a positive FIT need a follow-up colonoscopy to look for cancer or pre-cancerous polyps.

Other screening options for colorectal cancer include sigmoidoscopy, which involves physical examination of the lower colon, recommended every five years; or colonoscopy, which examines the entire colon, every 10 years.

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Google X building 'smart' contact lens to measure glucose levels for diabetics

Google X building 'smart' contact lens to measure glucose levels for diabetics | Amazing Science |

There's no doubt that Google is becoming a full-fledged hardware company, but the latest Google X project is a lot different that tablets and smartphones — the company just announced that it's building a "smart contact lens." However, it's not meant to be a miniaturized version of Glass — it's meant to help diabetes patients keep track of their glucose levels. Inside the lens is a miniaturized wireless chip and glucose monitor that will measure the glucose levels of the wearer's tears.

Google's hoping that it'll be a less painful and invasive way to monitor glucose levels than the typical method of pricking a finger and testing blood droplets multiple times a day. Ideally, the sensor would be able to generate a reading once per second, and Google wants it to act as an early warning device for when glucose levels start dropping — the company imagines putting a minuscule LED light in the lens that could indicate levels dropping above or below a set threshold.

It's not a new idea for co-creator Babek Parviz — back in 2009, Parviz showed Wired a connected contact lens meant to measure vital signs. And while this is new ground for Google, the idea of a connected contact lens for specifically measuring glucose levels isn't new — Microsoft and the University of Washington worked on a similar project back in 2011. Both Parviz and fellow co-founder Brian Otis were at the University of Washington and contributed to that project, as well.

Of course, this project is still a good ways off from being a reality — Google says its working with the FDA and is also looking for other partners who are "experts in bringing products like this to market." The company wants partners to use its technology to develop these lenses and also build apps to make the measurements available to users. There's no word on when this lens might be a reality, or even if it'll work as planned, but it's good to see Google using its engineering prowess to try and solve a long-standing medical problem.

Via Ellen H Ullman, MSW
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Why hospitals will soon sequence the genes of every single patient

Why hospitals will soon sequence the genes of every single patient | Amazing Science |

We are now on the verge of a health data breakthrough, in which computers will be able to do similar diagnostic tasks, by analyzing massive amounts of data, including genome sequences, risk factors, medical histories, drug interactions, and more.

Looking at this trend last year, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla made the bold claim that technology will replace 80 percent of companies eventually. The reality is probably more nuanced: Far from threatening to put doctors out of jobs, the falling prices of data analysis and genome sequencing are enabling them with tools they could only dream of even a few years ago.

At the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Joel Dudley, Ph.D. uses Ayasdi’s products to discover how patients with certain genes are more likely to develop some diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular conditions…) as well as how genes influence the performance of a treatment, or may reveal risks of later relapses that can be prepared for.

Already 11,000 patients at Mount Sinai have had their genome sequenced, a pool large enough for meaningful analysis, although Ayasdi tells us “those are still early days for the industry. There are no plans to act on that data directly with individual patients just yet.”

Right now the Mount Sinai community is working at organizing itself to make the useful information available to the frontline staff. And another 30,000 patients may soon sign the consent form and opt in to participate in this new way to explore which care is best for them.

The exploration of big data by the enterprise is becoming less of a competitive edge and turning into more of a must-have. Similarly, hospitals may have to adopt genetic analysis as a rule of thumb sooner rather than later.  Mount Sinai is unusual today in pioneering regular genetic screenings, but it soon may become commonplace.

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