science + technology news

Cancer-patient big data can save lives if shared globally

May 23, 2016

Data-sharing vision as facilitated by GA4GH through its working groups (credit: GA4GH)

Sharing genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could revolutionize cancer prevention and care, according to a paper in Nature Medicine by the Cancer Task Team of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH).

Hospitals, laboratories and research facilities around the world hold huge amounts of this data from cancer patients, but it’s currently held in isolated “silos” that don’t talk to each other, according to… read more

Gene helps prevent heart attack, stroke; may also block effects of aging

May turn out to be the "fountain-of-youth gene," say researchers
May 20, 2016

This is an atherosclerotic lesion. Such lesions can rupture and cause heart attacks and strokes. (credit: UVA School of Medicine)

University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered that a gene called Oct4 — which scientific dogma insists is inactive in adults — actually plays a vital role in preventing ruptured atherosclerotic plaques inside blood vessels, the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found that Oct4 controls the conversion of smooth muscle cells into protective fibrous “caps” inside plaques, making the plaques less likely to… read more

A simple home urine test could scan for diseases

May 18, 2016

Prototype urinalysis device (credit: Gennifer T. Smith et al./Lab On A Chip)

Stanford University School of Engineering | This easy-to-assemble black box is part of an experimental urinalysis testing system designed by Stanford engineers. The black box is meant to enable a smartphone camera to capture video that accurately analyzes color changes in a standard paper dipstick to detect conditions of medical interest.

Two Stanford University electrical engineers have designed a simple new low-cost, portable urinalysis device that could allow patients… read more

Ingestible ‘origami robot’ lets doctors operate on a patient remotely

May 16, 2016

An "origami robot" unfolds itself from an ingestible capsule, and can be used to perform operations in the body (credit: Melanie Gonick/MIT)

MIT researchers and associates have developed a tiny “origami robot” that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by a physician via an external magnetic field, crawl across the stomach wall to operate on a patient. For example, it can remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound.

Every year, 3,500 swallowed button batteries are reported in the U.S. alone. Frequently, the batteries are… read more

Warning: Your hospital may kill you and they won’t report it

Medical error in hospitals is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer --- an estimated 210,000 to 400,000 deaths a year
May 9, 2016

causes of death ft

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer — an estimated 210,000 to 400,000 deaths a year among hospital patients — say experts in an open-access paper in the British Medical Journal — despite the fact that both hospital reporting and death certificates in the U.S. have no provision for acknowledging medical error.

Martinread more

New material temporarily tightens skin

“Second skin” polymer could also be used to protect dry skin and deliver drugs
May 9, 2016

“It has to have the right optical properties, otherwise it won’t look good, and it has to have the right mechanical properties, otherwise it won’t have the right strength and it won’t perform correctly,” Robert Langer says (credit: Olivo Labs)

MIT scientists and associates have developed a new material that can temporarily protect and tighten skin, and smooth wrinkles. With further development, it could also be used to deliver drugs to help treat skin conditions such as eczema.

The material is a silicone-based polymer that could be applied on the skin as a thin, imperceptible coating, mimicking the mechanical and elastic properties of healthy, youthful skin.

In tests… read more

This vitamin stops the aging process in organs, say Swiss researchers

A potential breakthrough for regenerative medicine, pending further studies
May 6, 2016

Improved muscle stem cell numbers and muscle function in NR-treated aged mice.<br />
Newly regenerated muscle fibers 7  days  after  muscle  damage  in  aged  mice (left: control group; right: fed NR) (Scale bar = 50 μm). (credit: Hongbo Zhang et al./Science)

EPFL researchers have restored the ability of mice organs to regenerate and extend life by simply administering nicotinamide riboside (NR) to them.

NR has been shown in previous studies to be effective in boosting metabolism and treating a number of degenerative diseases. Now, an article by PhD student Hongbo Zhang published in Science also describes the restorative effects of NR on the functioning of stem cells… read more

A robot for ‘soft tissue’ surgery outperforms surgeons

Let's say you're having intestinal surgery. Which do you choose: human or robot surgeon?
May 4, 2016

The STAR robot suturing intestinal tissue (credit: Azad Shademan et al./Science Translational Medicine)

Can a robot handle the slippery stuff of soft tissues that can move and change shape in complex ways as stitching goes on, normally requiring a surgeon’s skill to respond to these changes to keep suturing as tightly and evenly as possible?

A Johns Hopkins University and Children’s National Health System research team decided to find out by using their  “Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot” (STAR)… read more

Ultrasound allows for transmitting HD video through animal tissues

Imagine a miniature remote-controlled HD video camera that streams live video from a patient's intestines to a physician
April 27, 2016

Beef liver and pork loin were used to represent the density and moisture content found in human tissue (credit: UIUC)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign engineers have demonstrated real-time video-rate (>30Mbps) “meat comm” data transmission through tissue, which could mean in-body ultrasonic communications may be possible for implanted medical devices, including hi-def video.

For example, a patient could swallow a miniaturized HD video camera that could stream live to an external screen, with the orientation of the device controlled wirelessly and externally by a physician, according to Andrewread more

Just 1 minute of intense exercise produces health benefits similar to 50 minutes of moderate exercise

No time to exercise? Now you have no excuse.
April 27, 2016

fast bike ft

Researchers at McMaster University have found that a single minute of very intense exercise within a 10-minute session produces health benefits similar to those from 50 minutes of moderate-intensity continuous exercise.

Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective, a very time-efficient workout strategy, according to Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author on the study, published online in an open-access paper in the… read more

Machine learning rivals human skills in cancer detection

April 22, 2016

Samsung Medison RS80A ultrasound system (credit: Samsung)

Two announcements yesterday (April 21) suggest that deep learning algorithms rival human skills in detecting cancer from ultrasound images and in identifying cancer in pathology reports.

Samsung Medison, a global medical equipment company and an affiliate of Samsung Electronics, has just updated its RS80A ultrasound imaging system with a deep learning algorithm for breast-lesion analysis.

The “S-Detect for Breast” feature uses big data collected… read more

Scientists shoot anticancer drugs deep into tumors

Ultrasonic vibrations cause gas microbubbles to explode, releasing nanoparticles containing anticancer drugs
April 18, 2016

Schematic of magnetic microbubbles used in the study contain gas cores (blue) and shells of magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles (red), forming a dense shell (center) around a drug-containing nanoparticles. When stimulated by ultrasound at resonant frequencies, the nanoparticles can travel hundreds of micrometers into tumor tissue.  (credit:  Yu Gao et al./NPG Asia Materials)

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have invented a new way to deliver cancer drugs deep into tumor cells.

They created micro-sized gas bubbles coated with anticancer drug particles embedded in iron oxide nanoparticles and used MRI or other magnetic sources to direct these microbubbles to gather around a specific tumor. Then they used ultrasound to vibrate the microbubbles, providing the energy to direct the drug particles into… read more

Ultrathin organic material enhances e-skin displays

More than next-gen medical displays: they're also ultra mood rings and a new art form
April 15, 2016

digital hand display ft

University of Tokyo researchers have developed technology to enable creation of electronic skin (e-skin) displays of blood oxygen level, e-skin heart rate sensors for medical, athletic uses, and other applications.

To serve as a demo, they’ve created an ultrathin, ultraflexible, protective layer and created an air-stable, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display.

For use in electronic devices integrated into the human body, wearable electronics need to… read more

Creating custom drugs on a portable refrigerator-size device

A breakthrough for responding quickly to disease outbreak and producing small quantities of custom drugs needed for clinical trials, treating rare diseases, or use as personalized "orphan drugs"
April 1, 2016

custom drugs ft

MIT researchers have developed a compact, portable pharmaceutical manufacturing system that can be reconfigured to produce a variety of drugs on demand — if you have the right chemicals.

The device could be rapidly deployed to produce drugs needed to handle an unexpected disease outbreak, to prevent a drug shortage caused by a manufacturing plant shutdown, or produce small quantities of drugs needed for clinical trials or… read more

Nanoparticle ‘cluster bombs’ destroy cancer cells

New delivery method directly penetrates tumor cells, avoiding toxic side effects of cisplatin chemotherapy drug
March 30, 2016

nanoparticle cluster bomb_ft

Scientists have devised a triple-stage stealth “cluster bomb” system for delivering the anti-cancer chemotherapy drug cisplatin, using nanoparticles designed to break up when they reach a tumor:

  1. The nanoparticles start out relatively large  — 100 nanometers wide — so that they can move through the bloodstream and smoothly transport into the tumor through leaky blood vessels.
  2. As they detect acidic conditions close to tumors, the nanoparticles discharge

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