science + technology news

Placenta-on-a-chip models the vital mother-fetus placental barrier

Will help in studies on preterm birth
July 25, 2016

The flash-drive-sized device contains two layers of human cells that model the interface between mother and fetus. Microfluidic channels on either side of those layers allow researchers to study how molecules are transported through, or are blocked by, that interface. (credit: University of Pennsylvania)

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed the first placenta-on-a-chip that can fully model the transport of nutrients across the placental barrier — part of a nationwide effort sponsored by the March of Dimes to identify causes of preterm birth and ways to prevent it.

Prematurely born babies may experience lifelong, debilitating consequences, but the underlying mechanisms of this condition are not well understood due in part to… read more

Mayo Clinic researchers discover drug combination that helps immune system attack cancer cells

July 15, 2016

Effects of combination drug treatment on mouse tumor size in millimeters over 67 days (credit: Soraya Zorro Manrique et al./Oncotarget)

Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a drug combination that could enhance the immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells. The drugs have shown a pronounced therapeutic effect against advanced and metastatic cancers in mice, according to a  study published in the July 12 edition of the online journal Oncotarget.

“Cancers can remain inconspicuous in the body for months to years before causing major problems, leading the immune system… read more

How to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s with a simple eye exam before symptoms appear

Human clinical trials are set to start in July in Minnesota
July 12, 2016

retina - red wavelength ft

University of Minnesota (UMN) scientists and associates have developed new technology that can detect signs of Alzheimer’s before the onset of symptoms — early enough to give drugs a chance to work — in mice and humans by simply examining the back of their eyes.

Looking at Alzheimer’s effects through the eye is a key advantage of the new technology. “The retina of the eye is not just ‘connected’… read more

A host of common chemicals endanger child brain development, NIH journal reports

These widely used toxic chemicals "can contribute to learning, behavioral, or intellectual impairment, as well as specific neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder"
July 1, 2016

In addition to mercury and lead, flame retardants, air pollutants and chemicals found in many plastics, cosmetics and food containers can disrupt child brain development, researchers say. (credit: Graphic by Julie McMahon)

In a new open-access report in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives, 47 scientists, health practitioners, and children’s health advocates have made a consensus statement in “Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks“ — endorsed by nine medical organizations — and issued a call to action for renewed attention to the growing evidence that many common and widely available chemicals endanger neurodevelopment in fetuses and children of all ages.… read more

Prenatal exposure to acetaminophen may increase autism spectrum symptoms

July 1, 2016

Tylenol PM (left) and Tylenol (right) (credit: Ragesoss/CC)

A new study has found that paracetamol (aka acetaminophen; trade names include Tylenol and Panadol), which is used extensively during pregnancy, has a strong association with autism spectrum symptoms in boys and for both genders in relation to attention-related and hyperactivity symptoms.

The findings* were published this week in the International Journal of Epidemiology. This is the first study of its kind… read more

A smarter ‘bionic’ cardiac patch that doubles as advanced pacemaker/arrhythmia detector

"Cardiac patches might one day simply be delivered by injection" --- Charles Lieber
June 28, 2016

nanoelectronic scaffold - cardiac tissue ft

Harvard researchers have designed nanoscale electronic scaffolds (support structures) that can be seeded with cardiac cells to produce a new “bionic” cardiac patch (for replacing damaged cardiac tissue with pre-formed tissue patches). It also functions as a more sophisticated pacemaker: In addition to electrically stimulating the heart, the new design can change the pacemaker stimulation frequency and direction of signal propagation.

In addition, because because its electronic components are… read more

The top 10 emerging technologies of 2016

June 23, 2016

nanosensors

The World Economic Forum’s annual list of this year’s breakthrough technologies, published today, includes “socially aware” openAI, grid-scale energy storage, perovskite solar cells, and other technologies with the potential to “transform industries, improve lives, and safeguard the planet.” The WEF’s specific interest is to “close gaps in investment and regulation.”

“Horizon scanning for emerging technologies is crucial to staying abreast of developments that can radically transform our world,… read more

Unexpected discovery reveals secret of how cancer spreads in the body

Could help develop treatments to prevent metastasis (awesome animated video)
June 23, 2016

primary tumor (credit: Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL)

Metastasis (spread of cancer) is one of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment. It is often not the original tumor that kills, but secondary growths. But a key question in cancer research has been how vulnerable cancer cells are able to survive once they break away from a tumor to spread around the body.

“Metastasis is currently incurable and remains one of the key targets of cancer research,” said… read more

‘Holy grail’ of breast-cancer prevention in high-risk women may be in sight

June 21, 2016

Breast cancer prevention (credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute)

Australian researchers have discovered that an existing medication could have promise in preventing breast cancer in women carrying a faulty BRCA1 gene, who are at high risk of developing aggressive breast cancer.

Currently, many women with this mutation choose surgical removal of breast tissue and ovaries to reduce their chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Notably, in May 2013,… read more

Could deep-learning systems radically transform drug discovery?

AI drug-discovery engine to be presented at Machine Intelligence Summit in Berlin on June 29-30
June 17, 2016

(credit: Insilico Medicine)

Scientists at Insilico Medicine have developed a new drug-discovery engine that they say is capable of predicting therapeutic use, toxicity, and adverse effects of thousands of molecules, and they plan to reveal it at the Re-Work Machine Intelligence Summit in Berlin, June 29–30.

Drug discovery takes decades, with high failure rates. Among the reasons: irreproducible experiments with poor choice of animal models and inability to… read more

A low-cost ‘electronic nose’ spectrometer for home health diagnosis

June 16, 2016

Current experimental design of transmitter radio-frequency front end for a rotational spectrometer. Using integrated circuits (such as the one below “CHIP1”) in an electronic nose will make the device more affordable. (credit: UT Dallas)

UT Dallas researchers have designed an affordable “electronic nose” radio-frequency front end for a rotational spectrometer — used for detecting chemical molecules in human breath for health diagnosis.

Current breath-analysis devices are bulky and too costly for commercial use, said Kenneth O, PhD, a principal investigator of the effort and director of Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE). Instead, the researchers used CMOS integrated circuits… read more

Wearable artificial kidney prototype successfully tested

June 14, 2016

Working prototype of wearable artificial kidney developed by Victor Gura, MD, and his team (credit: Stephen Brashear/University of Washington)

An FDA-approved exploratory clinical trial of a prototype wearable artificial kidney (WAK) — a miniaturized, wearable hemodialysis machine —  at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle has been completed, the researchers reported June 2 in an open-access paper in JCI Insight.

The seven patients enrolled in the study reported “significantly greater treatment satisfaction during the WAK treatment period compared with ratings of care during periods of conventional… read more

Higher intake of whole grains associated with lower risk of major chronic diseases and death

Even small increases in consumption could bring substantial health benefits
June 13, 2016

Cereal Plant, 7-Grain Bread,Wholegrain Food (credit iStock)

A meta-analysis of 45 studies (64 publications) of consumption of whole grain by an international team of researchers, led by Dagfinn Aune, PhD, at Imperial College London, found lower risks of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease overall, as well as deaths from all causes and from specific diseases, including stroke, cancer, diabetes, infectious and respiratory diseases.

The researchers say these results “strongly support dietary recommendations to increase intake… read more

Electrical fields aid wound healing

June 10, 2016

Time-lapse photo of human macrophages migrating directionally toward an anode . Left: no electric field. Right: Two hours after 150 mV/mm electric field applied (white lines shows the movement path toward candida yeast; numbers indicate start and end positions of cells). (credit: Joseph I. Hoare et al./JLB)

Small electrical currents appear to activate certain immune cells to jumpstart or speed wound healing and reduce infection when there’s a lack of immune cells available, such as with diabetes, University of Aberdeen (U.K.) scientists have found.

In a lab experiment, the scientists exposed healing macrophages (white blood cells that eat things that don’t belong), taken from human blood, to electrical fields of strength similar to that… read more

Dietary fiber has biggest influence on successful aging, research reveals

June 2, 2016

(credit: iStock)

Eating the right amount of dietary fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits can help us avoid disease and disability into old age, according to an open-access paper published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences by scientists from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia.

Using data compiled from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study… read more

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