More than two decades ago, Ryan Vincent had open brain surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor, resulting in a lengthy hospital stay and weeks of recovery at home. Recently, neurosurgeons at Houston Methodist Hospital removed a different lesion from Vincent’s brain through a tube inserted into a hole smaller than a dime and he went home the next day.
Gavin Britz, MBBCh, MPH, FAANS, chairman of neurosurgery at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute, used a minimally-invasive technique to remove a vascular lesion from deep within the 44-year-old patient’s brain, the first to use this technique in the region. Traditionally, vascular lesions or brain tumors that are located deep within the brain can cause damage just by surgical removal.
“With this new approach, we can navigate through millions of important brain fibers and tracts to access deep areas of the brain where these benign tumors or hemorrhages are located with minimal injury to normal brain,” said Britz. “Ryan’s surgery took less than an hour.”
Houston Methodist neurosurgeons Britz and David Baskin, M.D., director of the Kenneth R. Peak Brain & Pituitary Tumor Center, are using this “six-pillar approach” that encompasses the latest technology in minimally-invasive surgeries — mapping of the brain; navigating the brain like a GPS system; safely accessing the brain and tumor/lesion; using high-end optics for visualization; successfully removing the tumor without disrupting tissues around it; and directed therapy using tissue collected for evaluation that can then be used for personalized treatments.
The new surgical technique is used to remove cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, lesions and cysts deep inside the brain. This approach reduces risks of damage to speech, memory, muscle strength, balance, vision, coordination and other function areas of the brain.
Doctors now have convincing evidence that they put HIV into remission, hopefully for good, in a Mississippi baby born with the AIDS virus — a medical first that is prompting a new look at how hard and fast such cases should be treated.
The case was reported earlier this year but some doctors were skeptical that the baby was really infected rather than testing positive because of exposure to virus in the mom’s blood.
The new report, published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, makes clear that the girl, now 3, was infected in the womb. She was treated unusually aggressively and shows no active infection despite stopping AIDS medicines 18 months ago.
“At minimum, the baby is in a clear remission. It is possible that the baby has actually been cured. We don’t have a definition for cure as we do for certain cancers, where after five years or so you can be relatively certain the person is not going to go and relapse,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
(Photo: AP Photo/Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Up to 2.5 million patients with high blood pressure could in the future have a simple operation on an artery in the throat to treat the condition.
Approval sought for world’s 1st malaria vaccine
BBC News: GlaxoSmithKline is seeking regulatory approval for the world’s first vaccine against malaria, after promising trial data showed that it cut cases of the often-fatal disease in African children.
The company has been developing the vaccine for 3 decades and plans to submit a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency.
Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.
Photo: Malaria infected mosquitoes (AFP)
(GIF: NBC News)
An affordable version of the futuristic motorized prosthesis could be available to more than 1 million amputees within three to five years.
New universal flu vaccine would use the body’s naturally occurring immune cells to fight the virus; it could even work for future deadly strains.
Australian scientists find new way to save pneumonia victims
A research team from Melbourne has developed a low cost, electricity-free oxygen concentrator that has the potential to save thousands of children’s lives each year.
New findings may help neuroscientists pinpoint better targets for antianxiety treatments.
Anxiety disorders, which include posttraumatic stress disorder, social phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder, affect 40 million American adults in a given year. Currently available treatments, such as antianxiety drugs, are not always effective and have unwanted side effects.
To develop better treatments, a more specific understanding of the brain circuits that produce anxiety is necessary, says Kay Tye, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
“The targets that current antianxiety drugs are acting on are very nonspecific. We don’t actually know what the targets are for modulating anxiety-related behavior,” Tye says.
In a step toward uncovering better targets, Tye and her colleagues have discovered a communication pathway between two brain structures — the amygdala and the ventral hippocampus — that appears to control anxiety levels. By turning the volume of this communication up and down in mice, the researchers were able to boost and reduce anxiety levels.
Lead authors of the paper, which appears in the Aug. 21 issue of Neuron, are technical assistant Ada Felix-Ortiz and postdoc Anna Beyeler. Other authors are former research assistant Changwoo Seo, summer student Christopher Leppla and research scientist Craig Wildes.
NeuroVision creates eye test that may detect signs of Alzheimer’s
Researchers in Perth, Australia, are doing trials on a eye test developed by Sacramento-based NeuroVision Imaging LLC to screen for Alzheimer’s.
Some day screening for Alzheimer’s disease may become as simple as getting your eyes checked.
Research shows Alzheimer’s disease develops slowly. It’s difficult to detect until brain damage already has occurred. However, PET imaging can show build-up of amyloid-beta protein as plaque in the brain 17 years before symptoms appear.
NeuroVision hopes to pick up these same changes in the retina of the eye through an inexpensive, noninvasive test. The trial is a collaboration with Australia’s national science agency, the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation and Edith Cowan University.
Founded in 2010, NeuroVision develops digital imaging and diagnostic solutions for Alzheimer’s disease and eye-care markets. To date, more than $3 million has been invested in the company through equity and partnerships with drug companies, according to Joanna Ross, director of finance and administration. NeuroVision has five employees and many consultants.
The trial underway, the company hopes to commercialize the test next year. [x]
Neuroscientists often use electroencephalography (EEG) as an inexpensive way to record electrical signals in the brain. Though it would be useful to run these recordings for long periods of time, that usually isn’t practical: EEG recording traditionally involves attaching many electrodes and cables to a patient’s scalp.
Now engineers at Imperial College in London have developed an EEG device that can be worn inside the ear, like a hearing aid. They say the device will allow scientists to record EEGs for several days at a time; this would allow doctors to monitor patients who have regularly recurring problems like seizures or microsleep.
“The ideal is to have a very stable recording system, and recordings which are repeatable,” explains co-creator Danilo Mandic. “It’s not interfering with your normal life, because there are acoustic vents so people can hear. After a while, they forget they’re having an EEG.”
By nestling the EEG inside the ear, the engineers avoid a lot of signal noise usually introduced by body movement. They can also ensure that the electrodes are always placed in exactly the same spot, which, they say, will make repeated readings more reliable.
Since the device attaches to just one area, it can record only from the temporal region. This limits its potential applications to events that involve local activity. Tzzy-Ping Jung, co-director of the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Advanced Neurological Engineering, says that this does not mean the device will not be valuable.
“Different modalities will have different applications. I would not rule out the usefulness of any modalities,” says Jung. “I think it’s a very good idea with very promising results.”
The new scan can differentiate the degrees of consciousness between sleep, sedation, comas, locked-in syndrome and vegetative states.
A health worker tests a child’s blood for malaria at a free clinic in Mali. A new study has raised cautious optimism that an effective vaccine might finally become available. [Getty Images]
Maverick malaria vaccine achieves 100% protection using parasites from irradiated mosquitoes
A malaria vaccine has become the first to provide 100% protection against the disease, confounding critics and far surpassing any other experimental malaria vaccine tested. It will now be tested further in clinical trials in Africa.
The results are important because they demonstrate for the first time the concept that a malaria vaccine can provide a high level of protection, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, adding that the findings are cause for “cautious optimism”.
No effective malaria vaccine is available at present. The World Health Organization has set a target to develop a malaria vaccine with 80% efficacy by 2025, but until now, says Fauci, “we have not even gotten anywhere near that level of efficacy.”
Scientists had previously been sceptical of the vaccine because producing it required overcoming massive logistical hurdles. The vaccine — called PfSPZ because it is made from sporozoites (SPZ), a stage in the life cycle of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) — uses a weakened form of the whole parasite to invoke an immune response.
More study is needed, but isoflurane might provide alternative to electroconvulsive therapyAlthough electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has long been considered the most effective treatment of medication-resistant depression, millions of people who could benefit don’t take advantage of it because of the treatment’s side effects and public misperception of the procedure.
Researchers at McMaster University have discovered a solution to a long-standing medical mystery in Huntington’s disease (HD).
HD is a brain disease that can affect 1 in about 7,000 people in mid-life, causing an increasing loss of brain cells at the centre of the brain. HD researchers have known what the exact DNA change is that causes Huntington’s disease since 1993, but what is typically seen in patients does not lead to disease in animal models. This has made drug discovery difficult.
In this week’s issue of the science journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, professor Ray Truant’s laboratory at McMaster University’s Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine reveal how they developed a way to measure the shape of the huntingtin protein, inside of cell, while still alive. They then discovered was that the mutant huntingtin protein that causes disease was changing shape. This is the first time anyone has been able to see differences in normal and disease huntingtin with DNA defects that are typical in HD patients.
They went on to show that they can measure this shape change in cells derived from the skin cells of living Huntington’s disease patients.