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The future of medicine and health
all that concerns the rapid evolution of medicine and health
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Artificial human blood substitute could help meet donor blood shortfall

Artificial human blood substitute could help meet donor blood shortfall | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 107 million blood donations are collected around the globe every year, most of which goes on to help save lives. However, while the need for blood is global, much of that which is donated is not accessible to many who need it, such as those in developing countries. And of the blood donated in industrialized countries, the amount often falls short of requirements. To help address this imbalance, scientists at the University of Essex are developing an artificial blood substitute that would provide a benign, virus-free alternative for blood transfusions.

The artificial blood substitute being developed by the University of Essex's Haem02 project would be able to be stored at room temperatures for up to two years, which would allow it to be distributed worldwide without the need for refrigeration and make it immediately accessible at the site of natural disasters. Best of all, as a claimed universal blood replacement it could be administered to anyone, regardless of blood type.

"It means we could overcome some of the inherent problems with transfusions as there would be no need for blood group typing and a longer shelf life means you are able to stockpile the supplies necessary for major disasters," explained Professor Cooper, a biochemist and blood substitute expert who is leading the research project. "It also offers the opportunity for routine transfusion support in ambulances or at remote inaccessible locations."

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Aspirin 'not best to stop strokes'

Aspirin 'not best to stop strokes' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Doctors are being told not to routinely prescribe aspirin for a common heart condition that increases stroke risk.

Guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are set to recommend other drugs instead for patients with an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation.

Warfarin or similar blood-thinning medicine is best, says NICE in draft advice to be finalised this month.

The advice will affect hundreds of thousands of patients.

But experts say most doctors already follow the advice to prescribe blood-thinners other than aspirin and that the guidelines are "playing catch-up" - this is the first time they will have been updated since they were first issued in 2006.

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Forehead and fingertips most sensitive to pain, research shows

Forehead and fingertips most sensitive to pain, research shows | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
University College London scientists produce the first map showing how the ability to feel pain varies across the body

The forehead and fingertips are the most sensitive parts to pain, according to the first map created by scientists of how the ability to feel pain varies across the human body.

It is hoped that the study, in which volunteers had pain inflicted without touching them, could help the estimated 10 million people in the UK who suffer from chronic pain by allowing physicians to use lasers to monitor nerve damage across the body. This would offer a quantitative way to monitor the progression or regression of a condition.

Lead author Dr Flavia Mancini, of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said: "Acuity for touch has been known for more than a century, and tested daily in neurology to assess the state of sensory nerves on the body. It is striking that until now nobody had done the same for pain."

In the study, a pair of lasers were used to cause brief sensation of pinprick pain to 26 blindfolded healthy volunteers on various parts of their body without any touch, in order to define our ability to identify where it hurts, known as "spatial acuity".

Sometimes only one laser would be activated, and sometimes both. The participants were asked whether they felt one sting or two, at varying distances between the two beams and researchers recorded the minimum distance between the beams at which people were able to accurately say whether it was one sting or two.

"This measure tells us how precisely people can locate the source of pain on different parts of their body," said senior author Dr Giandomenico Iannetti, of the UCL department of neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology. "Touch and pain are mediated by different sensory systems."

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Neuron tells stem cells to grow new neurons

Neuron tells stem cells to grow new neurons | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Duke researchers have found a new type of neuron in the adult brain that is capable of telling stem cells to make more new neurons. Though the experiments are in their early stages, the finding opens the tantalizing possibility that the brain may be able to repair itself from within.
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How to erase a memory—and restore it

How to erase a memory—and restore it | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Using a flash of light, scientists have inactivated and then reactivated a memory in genetically engineered rats. The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, is the first cause-and-effect evidence that strengthened connections between neurons are the stuff of memory.

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"Our results add to mounting evidence that the brain represents a memory by forming assemblies of neurons with strengthened connections, or synapses, explained Roberto Malinow, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), a grantee of the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). "Further, the findings suggest that weakening synapses likely disassembles neuronal assemblies to inactivate a memory."

Malinow, Roger Tsien, Ph.D., a grantee of NIH's National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and other UCSD colleagues, report June 1, 2014 in the journal Nature on their findings using cutting edge optical/gene-based technology.

"Beyond potential applications in disorders of memory deficiency, such as dementia, this improved understanding of how memory works may hold clues to taking control of runaway emotional memories in mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder," said NIMH director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.

Neuroscientists have long suspected that strengthened connections between neurons – called long-term potentiation (LTP) – underlies memory formation, But proof had remained elusive, until now.

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A nice, bright smile: Scientists use lasers to regrow teeth

A nice, bright smile: Scientists use lasers to regrow teeth | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
WASHINGTON 

(Reuters) - Scientists have come up with a bright idea - literally - to repair teeth.

And they say their concept - using laser light to entice the body's own stem cells into action - may offer enormous promise beyond just dentistry in the field of regenerative medicine.

The researchers used a low-power laser to coax dental stem cells to form dentin, the hard tissue similar to bone that makes up most of a tooth, demonstrating the process in studies involving rats and mice and using human cells in a laboratory.

They did not regenerate an entire tooth in part because the enamel part was too tricky. But merely getting dentin to grow could help alleviate the need for root canal treatment, the painful procedure to remove dead or dying nerve tissue and bacteria from inside a tooth, they said.

"I'm a dentist by training. So I think it has potential for great impact in clinical dentistry," researcher Praveen Arany of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said on Friday.

Arany expressed hope that human clinical trials could get approval in the near future.

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New research shows memory is a dynamic and interactive process

New research shows memory is a dynamic and interactive process | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Research presented by Morris Moscovitch, from the University of Toronto, shows that memory is more dynamic and changeable than previously thought. Dr. Moscovich showed that two important brain regions, the hippocampus and the neocortex, have different yet complementary roles in remembering places and events. Dr. Moscovitch proposes a novel theory to explain interactions between these brain regions, and how we remember. These results could help inform treatment and management of people with memory disorders.
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Can the Nervous System Be Hacked?

Can the Nervous System Be Hacked? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Welcome to the brave new world of bioelectronics: implants that can communicate directly with the nervous system in order to try to fight everything from cancer to the common cold.

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Conceptually, bioelectronics is straightforward: Get the nervous system to tell the body to heal itself. But of course it’s not that simple. “What we’re trying to do here is completely novel,” says Pedro Irazoqui, a professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue University, where he’s investigating bioelectronic therapies for epilepsy. Jay Pasricha, a professor of medicine and neurosciences at Johns Hopkins University who studies how nerve signals affect obesity, diabetes and gastrointestinal-motility disorders, among other digestive diseases, says, “What we’re doing today is like the precursor to the Model T.”

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Dogs Sniff Out Prostate Cancer With 98 Percent Accuracy - D-brief | DiscoverMagazine.com

Dogs Sniff Out Prostate Cancer With 98 Percent Accuracy - D-brief | DiscoverMagazine.com | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The largest study testing dogs' ability to sniff out cancer proved what many researchers already know: They're darn good at it.

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The power of dogs’ noses is well documented, and that reputation continues to improve. Researchers have discovered that our canine companions’ snouts may be more accurate than advanced laboratory procedures when it comes to detecting certain forms of cancer.

Researchers at the Istituto Clinico Humanitas in Italy have trained two dogs that can sniff out the scent of prostate cancer in urine samples with a success rate of 98 percent, a new study reports. The pool of over 600 subjects makes this the largest study ever conducted using cancer-sniffing dogs.

 

Smelling Out Cancer

Researchers used two professionally trained dogs to test their ability to detect prostate cancer from a pool 677 people. One group of participants was cancer-free; the other group ranged from individuals with low-risk tumors to those whose cancer had metastasized to other tissues.

The two dogs sniffed urine samples, and identified signs of prostate cancer with a combined 98 percent accuracy. In a few cases, the dogs identified cancer when it wasn’t there — called a false positive — accounting for the remaining 2 percent of cases. That success rate represents a vast improvement over the standard Prostate-Specific Antigen test, which has a false positive rate as high as 80 percent, Bloomberg reports.

The results were presented Saturday at the American Urological Association in Boston.

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Innovative Soho clinic streamlines sexual health testing

Innovative Soho clinic streamlines sexual health testing | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

An innovative self-service sexual health clinic has opened in Soho, London, where anyone can be screened free of charge six days a week, while only waiting six hours to get their results back. The NHS Dean Street Express clinic was designed by Penson architects and features a high-tech system that allows patients to log themselves in, before being given a self-test kit and shown to a screening room. The clinic is also home to the first on-site Infinity machine, which quickly tests all samples and allows for results to be sent back to the patients within six hours of testing."Anybody who needs a quick sexual health check-up can benefit from the self-service clinic," Penson architects tells Gizmag. "No appointment is necessary and it's open to all members of the public, regardless of age, sexual orientation or whether you're a resident of the area."

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'Arrogance' over need for sleep

'Arrogance' over need for sleep | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Society has become "supremely arrogant" in ignoring the importance of sleep, leading researchers have told the BBC's Day of the Body Clock.

Scientists from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Manchester and Surrey universities warn cutting sleep is leading to "serious health problems".

They say people and governments need to take the problem seriously.

Cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity have all been linked to reduced sleep.

The body clock drives huge changes in the human body.

It alters alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of a heart attack in a daily rhythm.

It stems from our evolutionary past when we were active in the day and resting at night.

But scientists have warned that modern life and 24-hour society mean many people are now "living against" their body clocks with damaging consequences for health and wellbeing.

Prof Russell Foster, at the University of Oxford, said people were getting between one and two hours less sleep a night than 60 years ago.

He said: "We are the supremely arrogant species; we feel we can abandon four billion years of evolution and ignore the fact that we have evolved under a light-dark cycle.

"What we do as a species, perhaps uniquely, is override the clock. And long-term acting against the clock can lead to serious health problems."

He says this is an issue affecting the whole of society, not just shift workers.

Prof Foster said that this was an acute problem in teenagers and he had met children who sleep by popping their parent's sleeping tablets in the evening and then downing three Red Bulls in the morning.

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Young mice blood may hold key to age-related diseases in humans - video

New studies suggest blood from young mice has rejuvenating effects on older mice, and may lead to new therapeutic approaches to age-related diseases in humans
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Fibre 'helps heart-attack survivors'

Fibre 'helps heart-attack survivors' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

If you have had a heart attack, eat plenty of fibre because it may improve your long-term chances of recovery, say US researchers.

Heart-attack survivors were more likely to be alive nine years later if they followed a high-fibre diet, a study in the British Medical Journal found.

Every 10g-per-day increase in fibre intake was linked with a 15% drop in death risk during the study.

Dietary fibre may improve blood pressure and cholesterol, experts say.

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A New Way to Burn Calories #WhiteFat->#BrownFat

A New Way to Burn Calories #WhiteFat->#BrownFat | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Study in mice suggests new way to fight obesity and diabetes

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What if you could trick your body into thinking you were racing on a treadmill—and burning off calories at a rapid clip—while simply walking down the street? Changing our rate of energy expenditure is still far into the future, but work in mice explores how this might happen. Two teams of scientists suggest that activating immune cells in fat can convert the tissue from a type of fat that stores energy to one that burns it, opening up potential new therapies for obesity and diabetes.

There are two types of fat in humans: white adipose tissue, which makes up nearly all the fat in adults, and brown adipose tissue, which is found in babies but disappears as they age. Brown fat protects against the cold (it’s also common in animals that hibernate), and researchers have found that mice exposed to cold show a temporary “browning” of some of their white fat. The same effect occurred in preliminary studies of people, where the browning—which creates a tissue known as beige fat—helps generate heat and burn calories. But cold is “the only stimulus we know that can increase beige fat mass or brown fat mass,” says Ajay Chawla, a physiologist at the University of California (UC), San Francisco. He wanted to better understand how cold caused this change in the tissue and whether there was a way to mimic cold and induce browning some other way.

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'Tomato in a pill' for heart disease

'Tomato in a pill' for heart disease | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Taking a tomato pill a day could help keep heart disease at bay, say UK scientists who have carried out a small but robust study.

The trial, which tested the tomato pill versus a dummy drug in 72 adults, found it improved the functioning of blood vessels.

But experts say more studies are needed to prove it really works.

The pill contains lycopene, a natural antioxidant that also gives tomatoes their colour.

Experts have suspected for some time that lycopene might be good for avoiding illnesses, including certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.

There is some evidence that eating a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in tomatoes (as well as other fruit and vegetables and olive oil), is beneficial for health.

Following a healthy diet is still advisable but scientists have been researching whether there is a way to put at least some of this good stuff into an easy-to-take pill.

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Suspended Animation Goes Primetime: Say Goodbye To Death As We Know It

Suspended Animation Goes Primetime: Say Goodbye To Death As We Know It | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
In The Princess Bride, the always sagacious Miracle Max—aka Billy Crystal—points out “there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.” And he wasn’t wrong.

Death has always been something of a moving target.  Take, for example, the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1768, that defined the term as “the separation of soul and body; in which sense it stands opposed to life, which consists in the union thereof.

But how can you tell when said separation occurs? Well, that’s a slightly more complicated procedure and one we still haven’t quite cracked. Thus, moving forward, and trying for an—um— more practical definition, we began to define the end of life by a series of cessations.

In the beginning, breath was life. Of course, this idea led to the obvious reversal, the cessation of breath, meant the cessation of life. But that didn’t last for long.

As our knowledge of biology improved, death became definable by the cessation of heart function. In other words, if you were out of pulse, you were out of time.

But advances in neuroscience, ideas about brain death, and the introduction of mechanical ventilators—with their ability to keep the heart pumping long after the brain had died—forced a society-wide reevaluation of  terms.

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Skip the Humans: Drug Discovery by Simulating Cells

Skip the Humans: Drug Discovery by Simulating Cells | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Virtual clinical trials would combine big data and computer simulation.

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The future of medicine, we're often told, will be personalized. We'll have gene therapies, wearables to monitor our vital signs—maybe even new kinds of vital signs—and robot doctors to diagnose our illnesses. 

But the real promise of personalized medicine is, counterintuitively enough, that it's not actually just about you. Improving one person's health care will mean taking what we know about everyone else and feeding that data back into a more personalized system.  

If you think about it, that's how medicine already works. Doctors are trained to recognize how likely it is that an individual's unique symptoms and characteristics point to an issue that many others have experienced before. And medical professionals are often really, really good at putting together the evidence—you have a runny nose but not a stiff neck, you're sneezing but you don't have a fever—to figure out exactly what's going on.

But, medical futurists say, they're about to get a lot better at it.

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Artificial Intelligence Is Now Telling Doctors How to Treat You | Business | WIRED

Artificial Intelligence Is Now Telling Doctors How to Treat You | Business | WIRED | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence is still in the very early stages of development–in so many ways, it can’t match our own intelligence–and computers certainly can’t replace doctors at the bedside. But today’s machines are capable of crunching vast amounts of data and identifying patterns that humans can’t.

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Long Island dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla knows how to treat acne, burns, and rashes. But when a patient came in with a potentially disfiguring case of bullous pemphigoid–a rare skin condition that causes large, watery blisters–she was stumped. The medication doctors usually prescribe for the autoimmune disorder wasn’t available. So she logged in to Modernizing Medicine, a web-based repository of medical information and insights.

Within seconds, she had the name of another drug that had worked in comparable cases. “It gives you access to data, and data is king,” Mariwalla says of Modernizing Medicine. “It’s been very helpful, especially in clinically challenging situations.”

The system, one of a growing number of similar tools around the country, lets Mariwalla tap the collective knowledge gathered from roughly 3,700 providers and more than 14 million patient visits, as well as data on treatments other doctors have provided to patients with similar profiles. Using the same kind of artificial intelligence that underpins some of the web’s largest sites, it instantly mines this data and spits out recommendations. It’s a bit like Amazon.com recommending purchases based on its massive trove of data about what people have bought in the past.

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Explainer: what is electronic skin?

Explainer: what is electronic skin? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Once a topic explored exclusively in science fiction, the notion of restoring sensory feelings to humans and to machines is now approaching reality. Scientists around the world are developing artificial organs such as bionic eyes that could potentially restore sensory feelings to the disabled or provide useful sensory capabilities to machines. Now electronic skin is being developed in an attempt to bring a sense of touch to robots and those who wear prosthetics. If the field advances even further, it could even be used in wearable technology.

As robots become part of our daily lives, electronic skin will be vital. If your robot is going to help you around the house or with medical care, tactile sensing will be a fundamental part of its safe operation. It needs to be able to detect when a surface is slippery as well as sense the shape, texture and temperature of the objects it grasps. If it can sense the properties of that object, the robot can also decide how much force it should apply when it holds it.

It is the use of distributed sensors to measure subtle pressure changes that has attracted the attention of wearable technology makers and enthusiasts. Artificial electronic skin, or E-skin has the potential to be used for on-body health monitoring and minimally invasive surgery as well as in robotics and prosthetics.

 
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Human vs superbug: Too late to turn the tide?

Human vs superbug: Too late to turn the tide? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Liz Bonnin discovers the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance and explores the possible solutions

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Antibiotics are important medicines that have been used to treat bacterial infections for 70 years. They work by either disrupting processes bacteria need to survive or preventing them from reproducing.

But these drugs are becoming less and less effective against bacterial infections and could one day run out. Right now there aren’t any alternatives that could take their place.

It’s conceivable that in 20 years, treatments such as chemotherapy and simple surgery will become impossible because they rely on antibiotics. We are facing a future where a cough or cut could kill once again.

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Researchers Get Closer to Making Functional Human Sperm in the Lab

Researchers Get Closer to Making Functional Human Sperm in the Lab | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Advances in stem cells have allowed scientists to cultivate various types of tissue in the lab, yet some tissue types have remained out of reach. The germ cells that produce sperm, whose cell development processes is one of the most specialized, are among those that have eluded researchers. But successfully generating sperm from stem cells would allow infertile men to become fathers, where current efforts to expand fertility to more people for longer stretches of their lives have focused primarily on women.

A recent Stanford University study, published in Cell Reports, suggests that the problem may be simpler than previously thought. Researchers found that simply by producing stem cells from adult male skin cells and putting them in the sperm-making tubes of mice, they could obtain partly developed germ cells. The researchers hypothesized that if the cells had been placed in human testes, with their distinct and roomier topography, they would likely have resulted in functional sperm.

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Why Mediterranean diet is 'healthy'

Why Mediterranean diet is 'healthy' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

The combination of olive oil and leafy salad or vegetables is what gives the Mediterranean diet its healthy edge, say scientists.

When these two food groups come together they form nitro fatty acids which lower blood pressure, they told PNAS journal.

The unsaturated fat in olive oil joins forces with the nitrite in the vegetables, the study of mice suggests.

Nuts and avocados along with vegetables should work too, they say.

Inspired by traditional cuisine of countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, the Mediterranean diet has long been associated with good health and fit hearts.

Typically, it consists of an abundance of vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals, olive oil and nuts, as well as poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat and butter or animal fats.

While each component of the Mediterranean diet has obvious nutritional benefits, researchers have been puzzled about what precisely makes the diet as a whole so healthy.

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Shape-changing implantable transistors grip living tissue

Shape-changing implantable transistors grip living tissue | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

A multinational group of scientists has developed implantable shape-changing transistors that can grip nerves, blood vessels and tissues. According to the researchers, these soft electronic devices can change shape within the body, while still maintaining their electronic properties, allowing them to be used in a variety of applications and treatments.

The result of a collaboration between scientists at the University of Tokyo, Japan and The University of Texas, Dallas, the soft transistors are being designed to change shape in ways that are more biologically compatible.

"Scientists and physicians have been trying to put electronics in the body for a while now, but one of the problems is that the stiffness of common electronics is not compatible with biological tissue," says Jonathan Reeder, the study's lead author. "You need the device to be stiff at room temperature so the surgeon can implant the device, but soft and flexible enough to wrap around 3D objects so the body can behave exactly as it would without the device."

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Humanized pig organs to revolutionize transplantation | KurzweilAI

Humanized pig organs to revolutionize transplantation | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
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Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) is teaming up with United Therapeutics Corporation subsidiary Lung Biotechnology Inc. to use synthetic genomic advances to develop humanized pig lungs.

The collaboration will focus on creating organs that are safe and effective for use in human patients in need of transplantation, with an initial focus on lung diseases — addressing specifically the urgent need for transplant organs for people with end-stage lung disease.

SGI  plans to use its unique DNA design, DNA synthesis, genome editing, and genome-modification tools to develop engineered primary pig cells with modified genomes. This will involve modifying a substantial number of genes at an unprecedented scale and efficiency, the company says.

400,000 people die annually from lung disease

United Therapeutics will leverage its xenotransplantation (between-species) expertise to implant these engineered cells, generating pig embryos that are born with humanized lungs.

“We believe that our proprietary synthetic genomic tools and technologies, coupled with United Therapeutics’ knowledge and advances in regenerative medicine technologies and treatment of lung diseases, should enable us to develop humanized pig organs for safe and effective transplant into humans,” said said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, SGI. “We believe this is one of the most exciting and important programs ever undertaken in modern medical science.”

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Experimental drug prolongs life span in mice

Experimental drug prolongs life span in mice | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
(Medical Xpress)—Northwestern Medicine scientists have newly identified a protein's key role in cell and physiological aging and have developed – in collaboration with Tohoku University in Japan—an experimental drug that inhibits the protein's effect and prolonged the lifespan in a mouse model of accelerated aging.

The rapidly aging mice fed the experimental drug lived more than four times longer than a control group, and their lungs and vascular system were protected from accelerated aging, the new study reports.

The experimental drug could potentially be used to treat human diseases that cause accelerated aging such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes and HIV infection as well as the effects of cigarette smoking.

"A drug like this could help reduce complications in clinical conditions that reflect accelerated aging," said Douglas Vaughan, M.D., senior author of the study. "This had a very robust effect in terms of prolonging life span."

Vaughan is the chair of medicine and the Irving S. Cutter Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and physician-in-chief at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

This is a completely different target and different drug than anything else being investigated for potential effects in prolonging life, Vaughan noted.

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