Working with lab mice models of multiple sclerosis (MS), UC Davis scientists have detected a novel molecular target for the design of drugs that could be safer and more effective than current FDA-approved medications against MS.
The findings of the research study, published online today in the…
(Photo: Oregon Health & Science University)
Researchers say they have finally managed to use cloning technology to make human embryos and grow stem cells from them in the hopes of making perfectly matched grow-your-own tissue transplants.
Stumped for years by a natural filter in the body that allows few substances, including life-saving drugs, to enter the brain through the bloodstream, physicians who treat neurological diseases may soon have a new pathway to the organ via a technique developed by a physicist and an immunologist working together at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.
The FIU researchers developed the technique to deliver and fully release the anti-HIV drug AZTTP into the brain, but their finding has the potential to also help patients who suffer from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy, as well as cancer.
A 27-year-old man has become one of the first patients in the UK to have his kidney stones removed using “micro instruments” which are only millimetres in size.
Doctors used the 3.5mm apparatus to remove Graham Edgley’s kidney stones.
Medics hope that using the instrument, which is 70% smaller than the conventional kit, will mean that patients can be treated in a day rather than having to stay in hospital for two or three days. It will typically only leave a 3mm scar, compared to the 1cm scar left after laparoscopic surgical equipment is used.
Surgeons at The Royal London Hospital, who are the first in the UK to use the apparatus, believe the minuscule equipment will be suitable for half of the patients requiring the removal of kidney stones.
Netcare assists with measles and polio vaccination campaign
Selected Netcare Stork’s Nest clinics will be administering vaccinations against polio and measles free-of-charge to pre-school children in support of the Department of Health’s (DOH) drive to eradicate these potentially dangerous childhood diseases.
Managing director of the Netcare Hospital Division, Jacques du Plessis, says that the Gauteng DOH requested the support of private healthcare providers such as Netcare to help ensure that as many children as possible in the province are immunised against polio and measles. “Netcare views this as a critical initiative to protect South Africans from these illnesses,” he continues. “We therefore did not hesitate to once again offer the services of selected Netcare Stork’s Nest clinics to assist with the campaign.”
Sharlene Swart, national Stork’s Nest operations manager, explains that the more people who are immunised against infectious diseases such as polio and measles, the less likely these diseases are to spread from person-to-person within the community. In this way families and communities can be protected from the two illnesses.
Skip the Chemotherapy? Gene Tests Help Breast Cancer Patients Make That Decision
Ask any woman with breast cancer if she’ll do all that it takes to prevent a recurrence, and chances are she’ll say, “Of course!” Yet she probably wouldn’t choose to have chemotherapy—and the hair loss, nausea, fatigue, and potentially serious medical complications that come with it—if told that it probably wouldn’t do much to lower an already low risk of relapse.
Turns out, a genetic test called Oncotype DX that predicts a woman’s chances of recurrence is, indeed, affecting doctors’ and patients’ decisions when it comes to chemotherapy, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. About one third of the time, oncologists in the study changed their treatment recommendations after seeing the test result and about one quarter of the patients chose not to have unnecessary chemotherapy.
The test, which looks at 21 genes involved in determining the risk of recurrence, is most useful for those with stage 1 or 2 tumors that are small, respond to estrogen, and haven’t spread to the lymph nodes; those with these tumors who take an antiestrogen drug like tamoxifen (which is separate from chemotherapy) typically have a 15 percent chance of recurrence after 10 years. But some have a risk lower than that, while others have a risk that’s greater.
The Oncotype test—now routinely covered by Medicare and most insurance companies—analyzes various gene mutations and assigns a score that indicates low risk, medium risk, or high risk.
Saffron Spice Found to Reverse Macular Degeneration, Preserve Eye Health
If you’ve ever priced saffron for a fancy creation in the kitchen, you may have opted to ignore the spice. Saffron is a spice stemming from the flower crocus sativus, and its rarity and difficulty to be collected cause it to be rather expensive. However, the cost may be worthwhile when you consider its potential benefits – especially those pertaining to eye health preservation.
Saffron has reportedly been used for ages, not only in cooking, but also in healing. It is said to encourage cellular repair in something called neuro-protection, something that is credited in the spice’s apparent ability to reverse the blinding effects of age-related macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is the primary cause of blindness in older individuals. While most common in those over the age of 50, the issue can also affect those who are younger. Macular degeneration occurs when the most light-sensitive part of the retina is damaged, severely limiting sight of those thing in the central line of vision.
Scientists on brink of HIV cure
Researchers believe that there will be a breakthrough in finding a cure for HIV “within months”.
In Kenya, technology revolutionizes TB management
The use of technology is revolutionizing the way Kenya manages tuberculosis (TB). Through a computer- and mobile-phone based programme called TIBU, health facilities are able to request TB drugs in real-time and manage TB patient data more effectively, health officials say. They also use the platform to carry out health education.
“One of the challenges we have had with TB treatment is people defaulting [on treatment], but this will reduce significantly because through TIBU we will be able to track down patient treatment progress,” Joseph Sitienei, head of the Division of Leprosy, TB and Lung Disease at Kenya’s National AIDS Control Programme, told IRIN.
“By being able to track a patient, the health workers can send them reminders on their mobile phones when they fail to appear for drug refills,” Sitienei added.
Saving 40,000 lives in under 3 minutes
The Boston Marathon bombing was an all-too-familiar tragedy for Israeli medic Eli Beer. In his line of work, he’s seen hundreds of similar attacks.
“I wish I could have been there to help,” says Beer, adding he happened to be in the area finishing up coursework at Harvard and had taken a walk down Boylston Street just the day before the incident.
Beer is founder of United Hatzalah, an all-volunteer rescue service in Israel, where emergencies are a way of life.
Friday in Washington, he powered onstage — sirens blaring — aboard one of his signature “ambu-cycles” (an emergency-adapted motorcycle), stunning his audience at the Kennedy Center.
A featured speaker at TEDMED — the annual conference that brings together medical professionals, scientists, researchers, educators, artists and athletes — Beer’s talk carried the provocative title: “How can we save 40,000 lives in under three minutes?”
He answered the question this way, “The average response time of a traditional ambulance is 12 to 15 minutes — we reduce it to less than three minutes. Our response is the fastest in the world. We call our approach a lifesaving flash mob. On motorcycles, traffic doesn’t stop us. Nothing does.”
When seconds count
“Last year, United Hatzalah (Hebrew for ‘rescue’) treated 207,000 people — more than 42,000 of them in life-threatening conditions,” says Beer. “We got there in under three minutes and made a huge difference.”
He leads a team of 2,000 skilled volunteers — EMTs who range professionally from “expensive lawyers to people who sell fish or shoes,” he says.
Hospital introduces new gown design: It has a back!
It’s not exactly a cure for cancer, but it’s big news for patients, nonetheless. Finally, someone’s designed a decent hospital gown.
“It’s warmer, it closes in the front, it’s much easier to put on and patients feel much more secure and have a sense of privacy which is nice,” says Michael Forbes, product designer for the Henry Ford Innovation Institute and lead designer on the project.
The new gown, which looks more like a wraparound bathrobe, is currently being used at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. In addition to being made of thicker material to keep patients warmer, the gown closes with snaps instead of ties and is adjustable to fit both large and small patients.
Cure Cancer With Your Computer
Don’t have the money to contribute to a charity this year? Too busy to donate your time?
There is still a way you could make a donation that could help find a cure for AIDS, cancer or Alzheimer’s — and it doesn’t even cost you a thing.
The technique — known as “distributed” or “grid” computing — is available to anyone with a computer.
“Grid computing is a way to harness the computing power of individual PCs that’s unused, to collect it and then contribute it to humanitarian purposes,” said Stan Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation. “Every individual who participates is becoming a philanthropist by donating something that they have that’s extremely valuable, but they’re not using.”
A team led by Dr. Alex Parker, a professor of pathology and cellular biology and a researcher at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM), has identified an important therapeutic target for alleviating the symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
In a study published in the online version of Neurobiology of Disease, the team both confirmed the importance of this new target as well as a series of compounds that can be used to attenuate the dysregulation of one of the important cellular processes that lead to neuronal dysfunction and ultimately to brain cell death.
Although scientists are unclear about causes of ALS, they have made headway in identifying the cellular process potentially implicated in disease onset and progression. One such process which has attracted researcher interest involves the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), a component of cells that plays an important role in maintaining cell health. In collaboration with Dr. Pierre Drapeau at the University of Montreal and using worm and zebrafish models of ALS, Parker’s team not only confirmed that incapacitated ER leads to the motor neuron death typical of ALS, but also identified a series of compounds that alleviate the fatal consequences of defective ER.
“Since Riluzole, the one approved treatment compound for treating ALS, only has a modest effect on slowing disease progression, we set out to test a number of other compounds, and in so doing we discovered that they work by compensating for defective ER” explains Dr Parker. The compounds in question, Methylene blue, Salubrinal, Guanabenz and Phenazine, were each tested individually and in different combinations.
With the exception of Phenazine, these compounds have known benefits for treating neurodegenerative diseases. Parker and his team showed that each of these compounds reduces paralysis and neurodegeneration and that each acts on different parts of the ER pathway to achieve neuroprotection. More importantly, the researchers found that using these compounds in different combinations can enhance their therapeutic effects.
“These results are quite encouraging,” says Dr Parker, “and have given us a much better understanding of ER’s role in ALS as well as showing the way for improved treatments”. Parker’s team plans to test and confirm these findings with more complex animal models, a necessary step in developing medication that can be of benefit to human beings.
For the first time, physicians from the Bonn University Hospital have stimulated patients’ medial forebrain bundles.
Researchers from the Bonn University Hospital implanted pacemaker electrodes into the medial forebrain bundle in the brains of patients suffering from major depression with amazing results: In six out of seven patients, symptoms improved both considerably and rapidly. The method of Deep Brain Stimulation had already been tested on various structures within the brain, but with clearly lesser effect. The results of this new study have now been published in the renowned international journal “Biological Psychiatry.”
After months of deep sadness, a first smile appears on a patient’s face. For many years, she had suffered from major depression and tried to end her life several times. She had spent the past years mostly in a passive state on her couch; even watching TV was too much effort for her. Now this young woman has found her joie de vivre again, enjoys laughing and traveling. She and an additional six patients with treatment resistant depression participated in a study involving a novel method for addressing major depression at the Bonn University Hospital.
Considerable amelioration of depression within days
Prof. Dr. Volker Arnd Coenen, neurosurgeon at the Department of Neurosurgery (Klinik und Poliklinik für Neurochirurgie), implanted electrodes into the medial forebrain bundles in the brains of subjects suffering from major depression with the electrodes being connected to a brain pacemaker. The nerve cells were then stimulated by means of a weak electrical current, a method called Deep Brain Stimulation. In a matter of days, in six out of seven patients, symptoms such as anxiety, despondence, listlessness and joylessness had improved considerably. “Such sensational success both in terms of the strength of the effects, as well as the speed of the response has so far not been achieved with any other method,” says Prof. Dr. Thomas E. Schläpfer from the Bonn University Hospital Department of Psychiatry und Psychotherapy (Bonner Uniklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie).
See-through brains promise to clear up mental mysteries
If Dr Karl Deisseroth were an architect, he might be replacing stone or brick walls with floor-to-ceiling glass to build transparent houses. But since he is a neuroscientist at Stanford University, he has done the biological equivalent: invented a technique to make brains transparent, a breakthrough that should give researchers a truer picture of the pathways underlying both normal mental function and neurological illnesses from autism to Alzheimer’s. In fact, the first human brain the scientists clarified came from someone with autism.