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Implants Made to Fit a Beating Heart Perfectly | MIT Technology Review

Implants Made to Fit a Beating Heart Perfectly | MIT Technology Review | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Tailor-made medical devices could give a more detailed picture of cardiac health and may be better at predicting and preventing problems.

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It’s a poetic fact of biology that everyone’s heart is a slightly different size and shape. And yet today’s cardiac implants—medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators—are basically one size fits all. Among other things, this means these devices, though lifesaving for many patients, are limited in the information they can gather.

Researchers recently demonstrated a new kind of personalized heart sensor as part of an effort to change that. The researchers used images of animals’ hearts to create models of the organ using a 3-D printer. Then they built stretchy electronics on top of those models. The stretchy material can be peeled off the printed model and wrapped around the real heart for a perfect fit.

The research team has also integrated an unprecedented number of components into these devices, demonstrating stretchy arrays of sensors, oxygenation detectors, strain gauges, electrodes, and thermometers made to wrap perfectly around a particular heart. For patients, this could mean more thorough, better-tailored monitoring and treatment.

One device in need of improvement is the implanted defibrillator, which is attached to a misfiring heart and uses readings from one or two electrodes to determine whether to restore a normal heartbeat by applying an electric shock. With information from just one or two points, the electronics in these systems can make the wrong decision, giving the patient a painful unnecessary shock, says Igor Efimov, a cardiac physiologist and bioengineer at Washington University in St. Louis.

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One kiss 'shares 80 million bugs'

One kiss 'shares 80 million bugs' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A small study by Dutch scientists suggests a single 10-second kiss can transfer as many as 80 million bacteria.

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A single 10-second kiss can transfer as many as 80 million bacteria, according to Dutch scientists.

They monitored the kissing behaviour of 21 couples and found those who kissed nine times a day were most likely to share salivary bugs.

Studies suggest the mouth is home to more than 700 different types of bacteria - but the report reveals some are exchanged more easily than others.

The research is published in the journal Microbiome.

Continue reading the main story“Start Quote

French kissing is a great example of exposure to a gigantic number of bacteria in a short time”

Prof Remco Kort Lead researcher
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Chip lets scientists see how cancer spreads - Futurity

Chip lets scientists see how cancer spreads - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A new lab chip is giving researchers an unprecedented look at how cancer cells spread.

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A new lab chip is giving researchers an unprecedented look at the complex process that spreads cancer from its birthplace to other parts of the body.

By showing scientists precisely how tumor cells travel, the tool may help them plot new strategies for preventing metastasis, which leads to more than 90 percent of cancer deaths.

The work is published in the journal Cancer Research.

“There’s still so much we don’t know about exactly how tumor cells migrate through the body, partly because, even using our best imaging technology, we haven’t been able to see precisely how these individual cells move into blood vessels,” says lead researcher Andrew D. Wong, a graduate student in materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

“Our new tool gives us a clearer, close-up look at this process.”

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Google is developing a cancer and heart attack-detecting pill

Google is developing a cancer and heart attack-detecting pill | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New ‘nanoparticle’ pill could detect signs of disease before it becomes a problem for pre-emptive treatment, monitored by a wrist-worn device. By Samuel Gibbs
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Could liposomes be the answer to our antibiotic crisis?

Could liposomes be the answer to our antibiotic crisis? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

The WHO says we are headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill...

 

It’s no secret we are facing an antibiotic crisis. Overuse has caused widespread antibiotic resistance, leading the World Health Organisation to declare we are "headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill." Scientists from the University of Bern have developed a new non-antibiotic compound that treats severe bacterial infections and avoids the problem of bacterial resistance.

We have a lot to thank antibiotics for. Before the discovery of penicillin 90 years ago pneumonia, tuberculosis, or even an infected cut could be fatal. And today, many of our routine surgical procedures are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics.

However, up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary or inappropriate according to the Centers for Disease Control, and this overuse is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance.

Although there have been many developments over the years, such as antibiotic "smart bombs", the difficulty has been eliminating bacteria without also promoting bacterial resistance. This has created a need to strive for non-antibiotic approaches, including "ninja polymers" and more natural treatments like raw honey and natural proteins.

This latest non-antibiotic compound developed by Eduard Babiychuk and Annette Draeger from the Institute of Anatomy, University of Bern, and tested by a team of international scientists, was created by engineering artificial nanoparticles made of lipids, "liposomes" that closely resemble the membrane of host cells.

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'Tumor-in-a-dish' predicts if chemo drugs will work - Futurity

'Tumor-in-a-dish' predicts if chemo drugs will work - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Selecting the right combo of chemo drugs for every breast cancer patient is a guessing game right now. A new test could change that.
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3D printing helps build upper jaw prosthetic for cancer patient

3D printing helps build upper jaw prosthetic for cancer patient | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
While the idea of cruising around in a 3D-printed car and munching on 3D-printed chocolate before returning to a 3D-printed home sure is nice, no industry is poised to benefit from this burgeoning technology in quite the way that medicine is. Replacing cancerous vertebra, delivering cancer-fighting drugs and assisting in spinal fusion surgery are just some of the examples we've covered here at Gizmag. The latest groundbreaking treatment involves an Indian cancer patient, who has had his upper jaw replaced with the help of 3D printing..
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Doctors Tell All—and It’s Bad

Doctors Tell All—and It’s Bad | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

A crop of books by disillusioned physicians reveals a corrosive doctor-patient relationship at the heart of our health-care crisis

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..Ours is a technologically proficient but emotionally deficient and inconsistent medical system that is best at treating acute, not chronic, problems: for every instance of expert treatment, skilled surgery, or innovative problem-solving, there are countless cases of substandard care, overlooked diagnoses, bureaucratic bungling, and even outright antagonism between doctor and patient. For a system that invokes “patient-centered care” as a mantra, modern medicine is startlingly inattentive—at times actively indifferent—to patients’ needs.

To my surprise, I’ve now learned that patients aren’t alone in feeling that doctors are failing them. Behind the scenes, many doctors feel the same way. And now some of them are telling their side of the story. A recent crop of books offers a fascinating and disturbing ethnography of the opaque land of medicine, told by participant-observers wearing lab coats. What’s going on is more dysfunctional than I imagined in my worst moments. Although we’re all aware of pervasive health-care problems and the coming shortage of general practitioners, few of us have a clear idea of how truly disillusioned many doctors are with a system that has shifted profoundly over the past four decades. These inside accounts should be compulsory reading for doctors, patients, and legislators alike. They reveal a crisis rooted not just in rising costs but in the very meaning and structure of care. Even the most frustrated patient will come away with respect for how difficult doctors’ work is. She may also emerge, as I did, pledging (in vain) that she will never again go to a doctor or a hospital.

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How gut bacteria ensures a healthy brain – and could play a role in treating depression

How gut bacteria ensures a healthy brain – and could play a role in treating depression | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

One of medicine’s greatest innovations in the 20th century was the development of antibiotics. It transformed our ability to combat disease. But medicine in the 21st century is rethinking its relationship with bacteria and concluding that, far from being uniformly bad for us, many of these organisms are actually essential for our health.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the human gut, where the microbiome – the collection of bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract – plays a complex and critical role in the health of its host. The microbiome interacts with and influences organ systems throughout the body, including, as research is revealing, the brain. This discovery has led to a surge of interest in potential gut-based treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders and a new class of studies investigating how the gut and its microbiome affect both healthy and diseased brains.

The microbiome consists of a startlingly massive number of organisms. Nobody knows exactly how many or what type of microbes there might be in and on our bodies, but estimates suggest there may be anywhere from three to 100 times more bacteria in the gut than cells in the human body. The Human Microbiome Project, co-ordinated by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), seeks to create a comprehensive database of the bacteria residing throughout the gastrointestinal tract and to catalogue their properties.

The lives of the bacteria in our gut are intimately entwined with our immune, endocrine and nervous systems. The relationship goes both ways: the microbiome influences the function of these systems, which in turn alter the activity and composition of the bacterial community. We are starting to unravel this complexity and gain insight into how gut bacteria interface with the rest of the body and, in particular, how they affect the brain.

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Contraceptive Implant Hands Women Remote Control - IEEE Spectrum

Contraceptive Implant Hands Women Remote Control - IEEE Spectrum | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A microchip implant for women containing 16 years worth of contraceptives readies for pre-clinical testing next year
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A Blood Test for Depression Moves Closer to Reality

A Blood Test for Depression Moves Closer to Reality | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

 

With the recent and highly publicized death of actor Robin Williams, depression is once again making national headlines. And for good reason

With the recent and highly publicized death of actor Robin Williams, depression is once again making national headlines. And for good reason. Usually, the conversation about depression turns to the search for effective treatments, which currently include cognitive behavioral therapy and drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

However, an equally important issue is the timely and proper diagnosis of depression.

Currently, depression is diagnosed by a physical and psychological examination, but it mostly depends on self-reporting of subjective symptoms like depressed mood, lack of motivation, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns. Many people who might want to avoid a depression diagnosis for various reasons can fake their way through this self-reporting, making it likely that depression is actually under-diagnosed.

Therefore, an objective test could be an important development in properly diagnosing and treating depression. Scientists at Northwestern University may have developed such a diagnostic tool, one that requires no more than a simple test tube of blood.

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MIT pioneers drug delivery system with the potential to replace injections

MIT pioneers drug delivery system with the potential to replace injections | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

MIT, working together with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), has pioneered a method of drug distribution with the potential to dispense with traditional subcutaneous injections. The system uses a small capsule coated with microneedles in order to administer medicines directly into the lining of the intestine.

Ordinarily there is a challenge to orally administering drugs, in that rarely do they survive the acidic contents of the digestive tract long enough to effectively deploy their pharmaceutical payload. This problem becomes even more pronounced when working with drugs created from large proteins. Therefore, modern medicine has been forced to employ the frankly distasteful method of stabbing patients with tiny metal pipes and pushing medicine through the resultant wound. I think I speak for all of humanity when I say there has to be a better way.

The capsule measures 2 cm (0.8 in) in length and 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter. It's designed with a central reservoir to house the drug, which is then injected into the intestinal tract lining via a series of 5 mm (0.2 in)-long mirconeedles that coat the outside of the pill. To aide with ingestion, as the capsule makes its way through the digestive system, the needles are protected by a Ph-responsive coating that dissolves upon reaching the intestine.

Crucially, the capsule's acrylic coating allows the drug to survive the inhospitable journey through the stomach with no degradation to the effectiveness of the pharmaceuticals contained inside. Furthermore, the design of the pill will allow it to be used for a multitude of different pharmaceuticals with no redesigning required, and the lack of any pain receptors in the lining of the GI tract means that patients would not even be aware of the needles delivering the medicine.

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"Smart" bandage glows to indicate how wounds are healing

"Smart" bandage glows to indicate how wounds are healing | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
When a person's skin is burnt or otherwise injured, part of the body's healing process involves boosting oxygen levels in the damaged tissue. A new paint-on...
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Boys will be boys? Yes, neuroscience now shows

Boys will be boys? Yes, neuroscience now shows | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
If you've ever tried to warn teenagers of the consequences of risky behavior - only to have them sigh and roll their eyes - don't blame them. Blame their brain anatomy.

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Sociologists and psychologists have long known that teen brains are predisposed to downplay risk, act impulsively and be undaunted by the threat of punishment. But now scientists are beginning to understand why.

"I think teenage behavior is probably the most misunderstood of any age group - not only by parents but by teenagers themselves," says Pradeep Bhide, a Florida State University College of Medicine neuroscientist and director of the Center for Brain Repair.

"It's a critical time in life, and a very stressful one, when they are going through so many changes at the same time that their brains are changing. The teen years are actually a very busy time for brain development."

During the past year, Bhide brought together some of the world's foremost brain researchers in a quest to explain why teenagers - and male teens in particular - often behave erratically. He and two Cornell University colleagues examined 20 of the leading research projects from brain experts around the world and recently published their findings in a special volume of the scientific journal Developmental Neuroscience.

What they found surprised them - not so much because of the behavior uncovered, but because of how much of it was explained by brain development, or lack thereof.

Unlike children or adults, for instance, teenage boys show enhanced activity in the part of the brain responsible for emotions when confronted with a threat, making the threat more difficult to ignore. In one study, even when the teens were specifically told not to respond to a threat, many could not stop themselves. Magnetic-resonance-scanner readings revealed their brain activity was strikingly different from that in adult men.

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X Challenge winner diagnoses diseases in minutes from a single drop of blood

X Challenge winner diagnoses diseases in minutes from a single drop of blood | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

For the last two years, the US$2.25 million Nokia Sensing X Challengehas lured entrants from around the globe to submit groundbreaking technologies that improve access to health care. A panel of experts have awarded this year's grand prize to Massachusetts-based DNA Medical Institute (DMI), whose hand-held device is capable of diagnosing ailments in minutes, using only a single drop of blood.

The DMI team were selected from 11 finalists. Among them were Swiss team Biovotion, whose wearable computer monitors vital signs such heart rate and breathing, along with the US-based Eigen Lifescience team, whose low-cost, portable device is capable of testing for Hepatitis B in less than 10 minutes. But it was DMI's Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Lab Technology for Humans system (rHealth) that impressed the judges most.

"Our expert judging panel reviewed a very exciting group of sensing technologies, all with the potential to address a wide array of diagnostic and personal health needs,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of X Prize, the foundation behind the competition. “DMI’s rHealth system embodies the original goal of the Nokia Sensing X Challenge, to advance sensor technology in a way that will enable faster diagnoses and easier, more sophisticated personal health monitoring.”

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The Rise of All-Purpose Antidepressants

The Rise of All-Purpose Antidepressants | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Doctors are increasingly prescribing SSRIs to treat more than just depression

Antidepressant use among Americans is skyrocketing. Adults in the U.S. consumed four times more antidepressants in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1990s. As the third most frequently taken medication in the U.S., researchers estimate that 8 to 10 percent of the population is taking an antidepressant. But this spike does not necessarily signify a depression epidemic. Through the early 2000s pharmaceutical companies were aggressively testing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the dominant class of depression drug, for a variety of disorders—the timeline below shows the rapid expansion of FDA-approved uses.

As the drugs' patents expired, companies stopped funding studies for official approval. Yet doctors have continued to prescribe them for more ailments. One motivating factor is that SSRIs are a fairly safe option for altering brain chemistry. Because we know so little about mental illness, many clinicians reason, we might as well try the pills already on the shelf.

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Scientists grow miniature human stomachs from stem cells

Scientists grow miniature human stomachs from stem cells | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Miniature stomachs, known as gastric organoids, will help in study of ulcers and could be used in future to repair patients’ stomachs
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Massive Study Reveals Schizophrenia's Genetic Roots

Massive Study Reveals Schizophrenia's Genetic Roots | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The largest-ever genetic study of mental illness reveals a complex set of factors

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Schizophrenia is a distressing disorder involving hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and agitation. It affects around one in 100 people in the U.S., with symptoms usually first appearing between the ages of 16 and 30. Its causes have long been debated, particularly regarding whether genetics plays a role. It is known to be highly heritable, but small sample sizes and other methodology hurdles stymied early attempts to discern a genetic link.

Now the biggest-ever genetic study of mental illness has found 128 gene variants associated with schizophrenia, in 108 distinct locations in the human genome. The vast majority of them had never before been linked to the disorder. This finding lays to rest any argument that genetics plays no role.

The study, published in July in Nature, is the result of a collaboration among more than 300 scientists from 35 countries, named the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. The researchers compared the whole genomes of nearly 37,000 people with schizophrenia with more than 113,000 people without the disorder, in a so-called genome-wide association study (GWAS). Genetic material, or DNA, is made up of a sequence of molecular pairs, thousands of which string together to form genes. The GWAS involves tallying known common mutations in these pairs, in people with and without a condition. Variants that show up significantly more often in people with the condition are said to be “associated” with it. The GWAS “potentially provides a more comprehensive view of the biological players in disease than previous genetic studies,” says Benjamin Neale of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., one of the study's lead authors.

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‘Hidden brain signatures’ of consciousness in vegetative state patients discovered | KurzweilAI

‘Hidden brain signatures’ of consciousness in vegetative state patients discovered | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Brain networks in two behaviorally similar vegetative patients (left and middle), but one of whom imagined playing tennis (middle panel), alongside a healthy Scientists in Cambridge, England have found hidden signatures in the brains of people in a vegetative state that point to networks that could support consciousness — even when a patient appears to be unconscious and unresponsive. The study could help doctors identify patients who are aware despite being unable to communicate. Although unable to move and respond, some patients in a vegetative state are able to carry out tasks such as imagining playing a game of tennis, the scientists note. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, researchers have previously been able to record activity in the pre-motor cortex, the part of the brain that deals with movement, in apparently unconscious patients asked to imagine playing tennis. Now, a team of researchers led by scientists at the University of Cambridge and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, have used high-density electroencephalographs (EEG) and graph theory to study networks of activity in the brains of 32 patients diagnosed as vegetative and minimally conscious and compare them to healthy adults. The researchers showed that the connectome — the rich and diversely connected networks that support awareness in the healthy brain — are typically impaired in patients in a vegetative state. But they also found that some vegetative patients had well-preserved brain networks that look similar to those of healthy adults — these patients were those who had shown signs of hidden awareness by following commands such as imagining playing tennis. Identifying patients who are aware The findings could help researchers develop a relatively simple way of identifying which patients might be aware while in a vegetative state. The “tennis test” can be a difficult task for patients and requires expensive and often unavailable fMRI scanners. The new technique uses EEG, so it could be administered at a patient’s bedside. However, the tennis test is stronger evidence that the patient is indeed conscious, to the extent that they can follow commands using their thoughts. The researchers believe that a combination of such tests could help improve accuracy in the prognosis for a patient. The research findings were published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology (open access). The study was funded mainly by the Wellcome Trust, the National Institute of Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
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3D printing enables customized knee replacement surgery

3D printing enables customized knee replacement surgery | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
In today's installment of "How 3D Printing is Changing Healthcare Forever," a Massachusetts-based medical device company is forging new ground in knee replacement surgery. A combination of CT imaging, modeling software and 3D printing technology is enabling ConforMIS to offer implants tailored specifically to each patient. The development could help avoid complications that often follow the procedure, such as pain arising from instability of the joint. One of the most promising applications of 3D printing in medical fields is its ability to produce patient-specific devices. We have recently seen 3D-printed implants enable a teenager to walk again, substitute cancerous vertebra in the neck, enable customized spinal fusion surgery and replace upper and lower jaws. Knee replacement surgery is a procedure undertaken by around 700,000 people annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Issues that can arise range from minor blood loss and infections, to the threat of deep venous thrombosis. But the team at ComforMIS believes it can improve on traditional methods by steering away from generic, "off-the-shelf" implants to a more customizable solution. The company's approach is much like others used in the production of 3D-printed implants. A CT scan is taken of the patient's hip, knee and ankle, with the company's specialized software converting the scan into an exact 3D model of the patient's deteriorating knee. Using this model, personalized implants and instruments are made as one-off devices, produced, in part, by 3D printers.
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Green tea nanocarrier delivers cancer-killing drugs more effectively

Green tea nanocarrier delivers cancer-killing drugs more effectively | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Many of us drink green tea for its wonderful health benefits, including proven antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. Now, researchers in Singapore have taken its cancer-fighting properties to the next level, developing a green tea-based nanocarrier that encapsulates cancer-killing drugs. It is the first time green tea has been used to deliver drugs to cancer cells, with promising results. Animal studies show far more effective tumor reduction than use of the drug alone while significantly reducing the accumulation of drugs in other organs.

The new drug delivery system, developed at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of A*STAR, uses epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a powerful antioxidant and catechin found in green tea and used therapeutically to treat cancer and other disorders.

"We have developed a green tea-based carrier in which the carrier itself displayed anti-cancer effect and can boost cancer treatment when used together with the protein drug," says Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, IBN Principal Research Scientist and Team Leader.

One of the main drawbacks of chemotherapy is that it also kills healthy cells in surrounding tissues and organs. Carriers allow more accurate treatment, acting like homing missiles that target diseased cells and release cancer-destroying drugs. However, the amount of the drug they can deliver is limited so more carriers need to be administered for treatment to be effective. Current carriers are made of materials that at best offer no therapeutic value and at worst may have adverse effects when used in large quantities, so the green tea-based carrier is an exciting development.

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'Giant leap' to type 1 diabetes cure

'Giant leap' to type 1 diabetes cure | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

The hunt for a cure for type 1 diabetes has recently taken a "tremendous step forward", scientists have said.

The disease is caused by the immune system destroying the cells that control blood sugar levels.

A team at Harvard University used stem cells to produce hundreds of millions of the cells in the laboratory.

Tests on mice showed the cells could treat the disease, which experts described as "potentially a major medical breakthrough".

Beta cells in the pancreas pump out insulin to bring down blood sugar levels.

But the body's own immune system can turn against the beta cells, destroying them and leaving people with a potentially fatal disease because they cannot regulate their blood sugar levels.

It is different to the far more common type 2 diabetes which is largely due to poor lifestyle.

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Cancer tumours destroyed by berry found in Queensland rainforest

Cancer tumours destroyed by berry found in Queensland rainforest | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Drug derived from the fruit of the blushwood tree kills cancerous tumours long-term in animals in 70% of cases.

Scientists have managed to destroy cancerous tumours by using an experimental drug derived from the seeds of a fruit found in north Queensland rainforests.

The drug, called EBC-46, was produced by extracting a compound from the berry of the blushwood tree, a plant only found in specific areas of the Atherton Tablelands.

A single injection of the drug directly into melanoma models in the laboratory, as well as into cancers of the head, neck and colon in animals, destroyed the tumours long-term in more than 70% of cases, the study’s lead author, Dr Glen Boyle, said.

“In preclinical trials we injected it into our models and within five minutes, you see a purpling of the area that looks like a bruise,” Boyle, from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute said.

“About 24 hours later, the tumour area goes black, a couple of days later you see a scab, and at around the 1.5 week mark, the scab falls off, leaving clean skin with no tumour there. The speed certainly surprised me.”

Researchers believe the drug triggers a cellular response which cuts off the blood supply to the tumour by opening it up.

“That’s why we see a bruise-like situation forming in the tumour,” Boyle said. “This seems to lead to an activation of the body’s own immune system which then comes in and cleans up the mess.”

It has been used by veterinarians in about 300 cases of cancer in companion animals including dogs, cats and horses.

There was no evidence EBC-46 would be effective to treat cancers that had spread to other parts of the body, known as metastatic cancers, Boyle said.

The drug is being developed as a human and veterinary pharmaceutical through QBiotics, a subsidiary of the company which discovered the drug, called EcoBiotics. The company is also examining the potential for a blushwood plantation.

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The lab-grown penis: approaching a medical milestone

The lab-grown penis: approaching a medical milestone | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
After decades of research, scientists are bioengineering penises in the lab, writes Dara Mohammadi

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Gathered around an enclosure at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina in 2008, Anthony Atala and his colleagues watched anxiously to see if two rabbits would have sex. The suspense was short-lived: within a minute of being put together, the male mounted the female and successfully mated.

While it’s not clear what the rabbits made of the moment, for Atala it was definitely special. It was proof that a concept he’d been working on since 1992 – that penises could be grown in a laboratory and transplanted to humans – was theoretically possible. The male rabbit was one of 12 for which he had bioengineered a penis; all tried to mate; in eight there was proof of ejaculation; four went on to produce offspring.

The media’s coverage of Atala’s announcement a year later was understandably excited. Not just because of the novelty of a man growing penises in a laboratory, but because his work would fulfil a real need for men who have lost their penis through genital defects, traumatic injury, surgery for aggressive penile cancer, or even jilted lovers exacting revenge.

At present, the only treatment option for these men is to have a penis constructed with skin and muscle from their thigh or forearm. Sexual function can be restored with a penile prosthetic placed inside. The prosthetics can be either malleable rods, with the penis left in a permanently semi-rigid state and thus difficult to conceal, or inflatable rods, which have a saline pump housed in the scrotum. Both technologies have been around since the 1970s. The aesthetics are crude and penetration is awkward.

Another option is a penis transplant from another individual, but this carries a risk of immunological rejection. The chance of organ death can be lessened with anti-rejection drugs, but these drugs have serious side-effects. Transplants can also have a psychological impact, especially with an organ as intimate as the penis. In 2006, a Chinese man was the first to receive a donor penis; two weeks after the 15-hour operation, surgeons removed the transplanted organ on the request of both the patient and his partner.

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DNA viruses shift from solid to liquid to infect - Futurity

DNA viruses shift from solid to liquid to infect - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A transition from solid to liquid may explain how the usually rigid DNA packaged inside a virus flows from the virus to infect the cell.

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Many double-stranded DNA viruses infect cells by ejecting their genetic information into a host cell. But how does the usually rigid DNA packaged inside a virus’ shell flow from the virus to the cell?

In two separate studies, Carnegie Mellon University biophysicist Alex Evilevitch has shown that in viruses that infect both bacteria and humans, a phase transition at the temperature of infection allows the DNA to change from a rigid crystalline structure into a fluid-like structure that facilitates infection.

The findings, published in Nature Chemical Biology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), provide a promising new target for antiviral therapies.

Most antiviral drugs work by deactivating viral proteins, but viruses often evolve and become drug resistant. Evilevitch believes that researchers now have a possible new way to prevent infection—blocking the phase transition.

Such a therapy could be generalizable across all types of Herpes viruses, and wouldn’t be prone to developing resistance.

“The exciting part of this is that the physical properties of packaged DNA play a very important role in the spread of a viral infection, and those properties are universal,” says Evilevitch, an associate professor in Carnegie Mellon’s physics department. “This could lead to a therapy that isn’t linked to the virus’ gene sequence or protein structure, which would make developing resistance to the therapy highly unlikely.”

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PrintAlive 3D bioprinter creates on-demand skin grafts for burn victims

PrintAlive 3D bioprinter creates on-demand skin grafts for burn victims | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A couple of engineering students at the University of Toronto have created the PrintAlive, a 3D printer that produces skin grafts for burn victims on demand...

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While most are familiar with the potential for 3D printers to pump out plastic odds and ends for around the home, the technology also has far-reaching applications in the medical field. Research is already underway to develop 3D bioprinters able to create things as complex as human organs, and now engineering students in Canada have created a 3D printer that produces skin grafts for burn victims.

Called PrintAlive, the new machine was developed by University of Toronto engineering students Arianna McAllister and Lian Leng, who worked in collaboration with Professor Axel Guenther, Boyang Zhang and Dr. Marc Jeschke, the head of Sunnybrook Hospital's Ross Tilley Burn Centre.

While the traditional treatment for serious burns involves removing healthy skin from another part of the body so it can be grafted onto the affected area, the PrintAlive machine could put an end to such painful harvesting by printing large, continuous layers of tissue – including hair follicles, sweat glands and other human skin complexities – onto a hydrogel. Importantly, the device uses the patient's own cells, thereby eliminating the problem of the tissue being rejected by their immune system.

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