April 20, 2017

Roundup of medical research and technology:

Restoring the sense of touchSolar-Powered Graphene Skin Enables Prosthetics to Feel

Several products are in development, including this haptic system at Case Western Reserve University, which would enable upper-limb prosthetic users to, say, pluck a grape off a stem or pull a potato chip out of a bag. It sounds simple, but such tasks are virtually impossible without a sense of touch and pressure.

Now, a team at the University of Glasgow that previously developed a flexible ‘electronic skin’ capable of making sensitive pressure measurements, has figured out how to power their skin with sunlight. That renewable energy could be used to power an array of sensors to add feeling to an artificial limb, the authors describe this month in Advanced Functional Materials.


Organs on chips technology
The FDA just struck a deal that could replace animal testing with a tiny chip

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration inked a collaborative research and development agreement with Emulate, a company that makes "organs-on-chips" technology.  The hope is that instead of testing new drugs or supplements on animals, researchers can use Emulate's chips. Each chip is about the size of a human thumb, and contains tiny channels filled with living human cells that imitate the functions of different organs.
--
To start, the collaboration between the FDA and Emulate will focus on the company's Liver-Chips, which are meant to show how an animal's liver might react to a certain drug. The liver is where most drugs get broken down on their way out of the body.

Cancer-detecting CHEWING GUM to replace blood tests:

A biotech company has created a chewing gum that detects cancer. Volatile organic compounds, unique to each type of cancer, are produced in the body. The gum traps the compounds, which will then be analyzed for different cancers. It could mean the end of blood tests, urine samples and biopsies. The gum absorbs what are called 'volatiles' in a person's saliva as they chew it - chemical compounds which are released by certain forms of cancer.  After it has been chewed for 15 minutes, the product is then analyzed to determine whether or not it contains these specific chemicals. So far, scientists at the Alabama-based firm Volatile Analysis have developed different types of gum can detect pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer

Synthetic Blood Is About To Go Through Human Trials

There have been decades of failure in making a usable blood substitute but now, scientists from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford have isolated and manipulated stem cells in labs to produce red blood cells.

Their goal is to make red cells for patients with complex blood types because it can be hard for them to find donors. In the future, lab-grown blood could revolutionize medical care by providing a far reaching solution to keeping people in need supplied with blood regardless of type or donor.

Paralyzed man moves his legs and STANDS for the first time

A man paralyzed from the waist down has moved his legs for the first time after doctors inserted an electrode sending an electrical current to the spinal cord. The electrode is connected to a computer-controlled device under the skin in the 28-year-old patient's abdomen. The electrical stimulation on his spinal cord, along with intense physical therapy, enabled him to move his legs, stand and make step-like motions for the first time in three years.....Mayo Clinic researchers, who tested the pioneering treatment, say these results offer further evidence that a combination of this technology and rehabilitation may help patients with spinal cord injuries regain control. 'We're really excited, because our results went beyond our expectations,' says neurosurgeon Kendall Lee, principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic's Neural Engineering Laboratory.

A blind man sobs as he sees his wife for the first time in decades - after having his TOOTH inserted into his eye

A blind man who had his sight restored earlier this year in an incredible procedure using one of his own teeth said the best part was being able to see his wife again, "Gorgeous"

The amazing procedure saw a lens inserted into one of his teeth, which was extracted and then placed into his cheek so tissue would grow around it, enabling its own blood supply...After three months surgeons removed the tooth and inserted it into Mr Ings' old cornea. Skin was then removed from his mouth and placed over the new cornea to seal it. An opening was made to allow the new lens to work. It was the first time the surgery, called osteo-odonto kerato-prosthesis, has been performed in Australia. Mr Ing damaged his right eye in a childhood accident, and gradually lost vision in the other over the past 16 years because of the herpes simplex virus.

Chinese doctors grow a new ear on a man's ARM and transplant it to his head

Mr Ji, whose age is unknown, lost his right ear in a traffic accident in 2015.  He yearned to have the organ back because he no longer 'felt complete'. A plastic surgeon took cartilage from the patient's ribs to build an artificial ear that was modeled with the help of 3D-printing technology. It was then attached to his forearm under a piece of expanded skin. There it was allowed to grow for several months until experts deemed it ready for the transplant.  Once fully grown, it was finally transplanted from his arm to his head.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

March 31, 2017

Roundup of new research and medical tech

Unprecedented HIV vaccine breakthrough as researchers discover 'on-off switch'

Scientists say they've engineered an 'on-off switch' into a weakened form of HIV, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of a potential vaccine for the virus. HIV needs a specific amino acid to replicate so researchers replaced the code that does this with a 'nonsense' version that halts amino acid production.  When the supply of amino acids stopped, so did the replication....HIV has killed 35 million people since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s.

A wheelchair that can climb STAIRS could hit the market by the end of next year Video at the link.

Scewo is the brainchild of a group of masters students from Switzerland. Rigid rubber tracks allow the chair to safely travel up and down staircases. Self-balancing technology also enables the chair to turn on the spot, as well as to mount curbs without getting stuck. Users will be able to control the chair with a joystick orsimply by shifting their body weight. The team hopes to launch a mass market version be the end of 2018

The 'triple threat' cancer capsule that can navigate itself towards tumors before exploding and releasing drugs

Researchers have designed tiny cancer-fighting microcapsules that can navigate themselves towards cancerous tumors in the body. The multilayer capsule contains an anti-cancer drug which can be released via an ultrasound trigger, working as a guided drug delivery system....The capsule, designed by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has three traits that have been difficult to achieve all together in a single cancer drug. They're easily detectable via low-power ultrasound, they can safely and efficiently encapsulate the cancer drug doxorubicin, and a dose of ultrasound can trigger the release of the drug. Doxorubicin is a chemotherapy drug that's used to treat several types of cancer. 

The new technology could offer a noninvasive alternative to cancer surgeries or chemotherapy. Next step - animal testing.

Speaking of animal testing - Tiny human liver-on-a-chip could help put an end to animal drug testing

Sleek microchip uses real organ tissue to mimic a liver in the human body that could be used to test drugs, eliminating the need for animal testingResearcher Dr Lawrence Vernetti, from the University of Pittsburgh developed the miniature human liver using  human liver cells that were taken from patients during medical procedures, or livers intended for organ donation that weren't used.....Missing however is a vital part of the organ - the bile duct. Bile is a fluid made in the liver that facilitates the digestion of fats in the small intestine.
--
Mark Donowitz, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is working on an intestinal chip using human stem cells....One group, based at Harvard University's Wyss Institute in Boston, is adapting 'bone marrow on a chip' to study the effects of radiation....Researchers at Harvard University have been able to create kidneys, gut, bone marrow and lungs on a chip.

Dr Donald Ingber, a bioengineer at Harvard University's Wyss Institute who has been leading much of the work, said the idea was to mimic the chemical and mechanical function of the organs with little micro-engineered devices that are lined with human cells and reconstitute organ level functions.' 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2017

Roundup of Medical Technology: Robots in surgery, diagnosis and active aging companion, 'body on a chip' and heart tissue from a spinach leaf

Robot-assisted surgery is reaching an incredible level of precision!

Watch the video at the link and see for yourself how it peels a grape and then sews it back on!  It's astounding.

Robot Worm could be miniaturized to help doctors spot digestive issues

The robot that can move forwards or backwards in a wave-like motion is known as the single actuator wave-like robot (SAW) and was developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.

Artificial Intelligence Will Help the Elderly  Watch the video at the link to see how ElliQ works

For the past month or so, a small group of older adults in San Francisco has been learning to engage with a talking device named ElliQ. It’s more desk lamp than archetypal robot—think of the hopping light at the beginning of Pixar movies. But while ElliQ is meant to sit on a table or nightstand, it’s all about movement, or more accurately, body language.

 Elio Robot For Elderly

ElliQ talks. But it also moves, leaning toward the person with whom it’s speaking. It lights up, too, as another means of engagement, and uses volume and sound effects to distinguish its messages. “If ElliQ is shy, she will look down and talk softly, and her lights will be soft,” explains Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics, the Israeli company behind the device. “If she tries to get you to go for a walk, she will lean forward and take a more aggressive tone, and her lights will be bright....

ElliQ keeps learning...One of the first steps in establishing a relationship with this particular robot is to set some goals, such as how many times a week a person wants to go out for a walk or be reminded to see friends. Then, it’s up to ElliQ to determine the most effective way to do its job. In other words, it will learn that one person responds better to “It’s nice out, why don’t you go for a walk,” while another needs to be prodded more aggressively with “You’ve been on the couch watching TV for four hours. Time to get up and take a walk.”  “That’s where the emotive side kicks in,” he says. “ElliQ can set a whole different tone, and use different body language and gestures based on what works and what doesn’t work. The machine fine-tunes itself.”

“Mass-Produced” Blood Now Possible,

Researchers at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant....developed a method to freeze stem cells in their early development — while they are still replicating — which has the effect of “immortalizing” them such that scientists can produce infinitely more stem cells. They will harvest the excess stem cells to produce blood.  Right now the new method is cost-prohibitive. For the foreseeable future, it will mostly be used to provide hard-to-source blood for patients with rare blood types.

Spinach Leaf Transformed Into Beating Human Heart Tissue

Using the plant like scaffolding, scientists built a mini version of a working heart, which may one day aid in tissue regeneration.

Menstrual cycle recreated 'in a dish'

US scientists say they have made a mini working replica of the female reproductive tract using human and mouse tissue...to construct a palm-sized device that ooks nothing like a womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.  Researchers say it should help with understanding diseases of these organs and tissues and a novel way  to test new treatments.

The work is part of a project to create the entire human "body on a chip". The ultimate goal would be to take cells from any given individual in order to create a personalized model of their body to test drugs and treatments on.

We Were Wrong - the Testes Are Connected to the Immune System

Some parts of the body – including the tissues of the brain and testes – have long been considered to be completely hidden from our immune system....Last year scientists made the amazing discovery that a set of previously unseen channels connected the brain to our immune system; now, it appears we might also need to rethink the immune system's relationship with the testes...potentially explaining why some men are infertile and how some cancer vaccines fail to provide immunity.

An Unexpected New Lung Function Has Been Found - They Make Blood!  Video at the link shows how

In experiments involving mice, the team found that they produce more than 10 million platelets (tiny blood cells) per hour, equating to the majority of platelets in the animals' circulation. This goes against the decades-long assumption that bone marrow produces all of our blood components.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco also discovered a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells that makes this happen inside the lung tissue - cells that were incorrectly assumed to mainly reside in bone marrow....Scientists have now watched megakaryocytes functioning from within the lung tissue to produce not a few, but most of the body's platelets. So how did we miss such a crucial biological process this whole time?  The discovery was made possible by a new type of technology based on two-photon intravital imaging - a similar technique to one used by a separate team this week to discover a previously unidentified function of the brain's cerebellum.

10 Human Body Modifications You Can Expect in the next Decade

1. RFID Chips implanted in the body
2. Exoskeletons
3. Real-time Language Translation
4. Augmented Vision
5. Smart Contact Lenses
6. 3D Printed Body Parts
7. Smarter Drugs
8. Brain-computer Interfaces
9. Designer Babies
10. Enhanced Sexual Organs

UPDATE:  Paralyzed man moves his arm and hand with the power of his mind and a microchip

A cycling accident left Bill Kochevar unable to move from the shoulders down, but  he can now feed himself in his wheelchair, using a microchip in his brain. He is the first quadriplegic to have his movement restored by the system...
‘For somebody who’s been injured eight years and couldn’t move, being able to move just that little bit is awesome’...Researcher Dr Bob Kirsch said: ‘He’s really breaking ground for the spinal cord injury community. This is a major step toward restoring some independence.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2017

"The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea," Isak Dinesen

 Salt

Can Salted Doorknobs Prevent Superbug Infections?

It was a casual conversation with a former butcher that led Brayden Whitlock, a graduate student at the University of Alberta, to design a pilot study that put salt and copper head to head. Coupon-sized strips of pure, compressed sodium chloride were covered in an MRSA culture, alongside similar strips of antimicrobial copper and stainless steel. Whitlock found that salt killed off the bug 20 to 30 times faster than the copper did, reducing MRSA levels by 85 percent after 20 seconds, and by 94 percent after a minute.
--
The salt-covered doorknobs, meanwhile, are already in the market. Doug Olson, the former butcher who first told Whitlock about the idea, has already received a patent for the technology in nine different countries, and registered the trade name Outbreaker. Prototypes have been built by local salt companies—the compression process is identical to how salt licks for livestock are made—and discreetly installed in a handful of settings around Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, over the past few years. Compressed and smooth, with a feel akin to ceramics, Whitlock says most users have no idea that what they’re really grabbing is a fistful of table salt.

From the website for Outbreaker

OUTBREAKER is a patented, self-sanitizing, antimicrobial surface made of compressed sodium chloride (CSC). This solid, durable, versatile surface can be installed on anything frequently touched by hands. The technology is simple, all natural, and completely safe and non-toxic, while remaining very cost effective.

OUTBREAKER  recently had a pilot study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection (October, 2016). In a parallel bacterial elimination study between OUTBREAKER and antimicrobial copper, OUTBREAKER eliminated the drug-resistant superbug MRSA 20-30 times faster.

OUTBREAKER is made by a specialized compression process that turns simple, safe and non-toxic salts into a versatile surface, using over 250 tons of pressure. The resulting product is strong and durable, and can take any shape.  This simple new product is amazingly effective.  Independent laboratory tests have shown that OUTBREAKER kills between 95% and 99.9% of common germs like E. coli and Salmonella in just one minute. It has recently been shown to be extremely effective against drug resistant superbugs like MRSA and VRE.

Salt kills microorganisms in three main ways: Recrystallization, dehydration and denaturation.

“Salt of the Earth”: Is science picking up on what the Church has long believed?

The ancient world used salt much as butchers today do, as a disinfectant, purifier, and preservative. These physical uses became ritualized in many early religions. In the Old Testament, the prophet Elisha uses salt to purify a polluted spring, both materially and spiritually. The ritual use of salt has been part of Catholic tradition since the earliest days.
--
Blessed salt is a sacramental. It is used in the blessing of holy water and in the exorcism of evil spirits. (The folk custom of tossing spilled salt over one’s left shoulder to drive away the Devil is a popular superstition derived from the Rite of Exorcism.) A mixture of blessed salt, holy water, and wine is used to reconsecrate an altar that has been desecrated. Placing salt on the tongue of those to be baptized was a frequent part of the catechumenate at the time of St. Augustine, and it is still an optional part of the Rite of Baptism today.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2017

Digital brain disorders and tips for easy stress-relief

5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age

1. Nomophobia - the feeling of panic one has upon being separated from one's phone or tablet. In one U.K. survey, 73 percent of respondents felt panic when they misplaced their phone. And for another 14 percent, that panic spiraled into pure desperation.
2. Technoference - It could also be dragging down our relationships. In one 2014 study, more than half of the 143 participants said that tech devices interrupt their leisure time, conversations, and meals with their significant other. The researchers gave these interruptions a name: "technoference." Not surprisingly, higher technoference correlated directly with lower relationship and life satisfaction.
3. The phantom ring - Fauxcellarm, phantom ringing, and ringxiety are new to our lexicon, thanks to the universal presence of our buzzing, pinging smartphones. These terms refer to the perception that one's mobile device is ringing (or, more precisely, vibrating) when, in fact, it is not.
4. Cyberchondria - Hypochondria is not a new disorder, but the internet has taken it to the next level. In the broadest definition, cyberchondria refers to people who research and diagnose their own illnesses online. Sure, we've probably all done that — in fact, one in three American adults say they have used the internet to self-diagnose. But for some people who might already be prone to hypochondria, this can be detrimental.
5. Truman Show Delusion. Do you ever have that spooky feeling that someone's watching you? In the 1998 film The Truman Show, Truman Burbank had that feeling too, only his turned out to be true.---while it isn't directly caused by our digital devices, Truman Show Delusion is a product of our overly connected, reality-TV obsessed, social media–driven lifestyles that nurture our most narcissistic qualities.

The last one, #5, may not be a delusion at all given the latest Wikileaks drop, Vault #7, which show the CIA tapping just about everyone through our phones, smart TVs, and deliberately insecure software.                                                 

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Easy Rituals That Will Make You Stress-Free

1. Clench your facial muscles and relax them: (If you use Botox, just skip to the next tip.)

2. Take slow, deep breaths: If it gets Navy SEALs through Hell Week, it’ll get you through tax season.

3. Splash your face with cold water: Wakes you up, calms you down and cleans your mug. Now that’s efficiency.

4. Play some music and do a little dance: Add a “neuroscience” playlist to Spotify.

Even easier ways to  kill stress and be happier with almost no effort whatsoever.

Research shows that owning a dog reduces stress. In fact, the effect is so powerful that just watching a video of a cute animal reduces heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Watch nature documentaries to instantly boost your mood

A new study has found even watching small clips of shows such as Planet Earth II boosts people's emotions of awe, contentedness, joy and amusement.  It also can instantly help reduce anxiety, fear and tiredness.

Findings come from the BBC research, in collaboration with University of California, Berkeley.
Reviewing 150 further studies as part of the project, Berkeley's Professor Dacher Keltner found that our connection to nature enhanced our attention, cognitive performance and sense of calm. This made us more social and effective teamworkers and could even improve our physical health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2017

Round-up of new technologies in the field of medicine

Computers Turn Medical Sleuths and Identify Skin Cancer, Wall St Journal

When it comes to melanoma, early detection is a matter of life and death. But it takes a trained eye to distinguish a harmless blemish from cancer, and many people around the world lack ready access to a dermatologist...Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to get a computer, using its algorithm, to identify skin cancer as reliably as board-certified dermatologists can. The hope is that, eventually, scientists can get this to happen on a smartphone anywhere in the world.

Google's artificial intelligence can diagnose cancer faster than human doctors

The system is able to scan samples to determine whether or not tissues are cancerous...it's unlikely to replace human pathologists just yet. The software only looks for one thing - cancerous tissue - and is not able to pick up any irregularities that a human doctor could spot.

Scientists Have Stored a Movie, a Computer OS, and an Amazon Gift Card in a Single Speck of DNA
    "The highest-density data-storage device ever created."

Israeli technology revolutionizes heart attack detection with one drop of blood

Israeli technology has changed the face of heart attack detection with a kit so small it fits in the palm of your hand...

A health professional needs only one drop of blood to let a patient know if a heart attack has occurred. If two stripes appear on the kit, the result is positive and the patient must immediately receive additional care. The test is easy, noninvasive and takes less than 15 minutes to perform.

Many people believe they can identify classic heart attack symptoms, which include chest pain, dizziness, nausea, pain traveling particularly to the left arm, wheezing and extreme anxiety similar to a panic attack. In reality, these can be symptoms of heartburn, but until now, in order to find out, a patient would have to wait in an emergency room and undergo at least six hours of testing, including blood tests and an EKG.

On the other hand, less than 50 percent of heart attack victims experience classic symptoms. Many people have atypical symptoms such as shoulder or stomach pain or exhaustion. By the time they  have finished with the classic tests, precious hours will have passed, which can lead to unnecessary heart damage and even heart failure

A blood test for cancer? Simple liquid biopsy could identify where in the body a tumor exists

'Liquid biopsies' are hoped to revolutionize cancer treatment, by identifying people with slow-growing tumors and those most in danger. They work by detecting the DNA released by dying tumor cells. Now, for the first time, US scientists can also pinpoint the part of the body affected. That is because the normal cells killed off by cancer also release DNA into the bloodstream, which has its own unique signature. A team from the University of California San Diego have found the DNA patterns for 10 different types of tissue, including from the liver, lung and kidneys.  Next step is a clinical trial.

Scientists Reverse Sickle Cell Disease for the First Time Using Gene Therapy

While this is just one case study involving a single French teenager, the early signs are encouraging, and the therapy could eventually lead to an effective treatment for the millions of people with this crippling disease worldwide. Sickle-cell disease occurs when one of the proteins making up a type of hemoglobin we use to carry oxygen through our body takes a slightly different form. This small change is enough to make the red blood cells they occupy lose elasticity, deforming them into a curved 'sickle' shape and risking clumps of cells piling up as they struggle to slip through blood vessels.

But by using a virus to insert genes for the correct form of this protein into the bone marrow of a French teenager, researchers have been able to restore the elasticity to the patient's blood cells.  After 15 months of therapy, the patient is off medication, and while it's far too early to say he's been functionally cured, it's a case of 'so far so good' for this pioneering kind of treatment.

In this case scientists removed bone marrow stem cells from the teen's body and added a specially made virus, designed to recode the cells to produce normal hemoglobin again. The cells were then transfused back into the patient. Doctors are reporting that half the patient's red blood cells are now regular and healthy, and he hasn't needed any blood transfusions since three months after his first treatment.

Heart failure Breakthrough: Stem cells trial offers hope to millions.

A method of repairing damaged heart muscles that have been scarred as a result of disease or earlier heart attacks has been called the “biggest breakthrough since transplants”. British scientists have found a way to use stem cells to repair damaged tissue which could help millions living with heart failure. The data, presented at the European Society of Cell and Gene Therapy in Florence, showed an average of 40 per cent reduction in heart damage in those on the treatment.  Next year global trials involving 500 people will begin.

New 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid sends data straight to your phone while it works

A 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid will send health data from inside your body to your phone.  It is believed the tiny pill could revolutionize medicine by constantly monitoring your health and administering medicine.  The pill powers up when a zinc electrode interacts with stomach acid.  Small sensors continually monitor temperature and heart rate and it administers medicine. The creation was unveiled at the world's biggest science conference in Boston

Scientists at the University of Ottawa have developed a way of growing human cells and tissue on apples
    Video at the link shows how the biohacking was done and the new possibilities it opens.

Bad Hospital Design Is Making Us Sicker  Evidence-based medical care will require evidence-based hospital design.

It’s no secret that hospital-acquired infections are an enormous contributor to illness and death, affecting up to 30 percent of intensive care unit patients. But housing patients together very likely exacerbates the problem. Research suggests that private rooms can reduce the risk of both airborne infections and those transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. One study reported that transitioning from shared to private rooms decreased bacterial infections by half and reduced how long patients were hospitalized by 10 percent. Other work suggests that the increased cost of single-occupancy rooms is more than offset by the money saved because of fewer infections.  Installing easier-to-clean surfaces, well-positioned sinks and high-quality air filters can further reduce infection rates.

Falls in the hospital are another major problem, leading to serious injuries, longer hospital stays and significant costs. Trying to navigate the unfamiliar space of a hospital room, often while disoriented by pain and medications, makes many patients susceptible to falling. A number of design factors contribute: poorly lit areas, slippery floors, toilets that are too high or too low......And then there’s the problem of noise. The average noise level in hospitals far exceeds guideline-based recommendations, making it hard for patients to sleep. ....when it comes to recovering from illness, the more nature the better. But too often patients and physicians find themselves cooped up in dim rooms and sterile hallways with little access to natural light or views of nature: too much concrete, not enough jungle.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink