Category Archives: Uncategorized

One Injection Reduces Obesity In 4 Weeks

An injection has helped reduce body weight and glucose levels in patients with diabetes and obesity in four weeks. The findings came from a small study in which patients lost on average 4.4kg and the treatment led to substantial improvements to their blood glucose, with some patients’ reducing to near-normal levels.Obesity is a common problem in the UK and it is estimated that one in four adults are obese. One of the most common types of weight loss surgery is a procedure known as gastric bypass surgery, which can be very effective in keeping excess weight off and improving blood sugar levels in diabetics.  However, some patients decide against surgery and the procedure can cause complications such as abdominal pain, chronic nausea, vomiting and debilitating low blood sugar levels.

Previous research by Imperial College London suggested that one of the reasons why gastric bypass surgery works so well is because three specific hormones originating from the bowels are released in higher levels. This hormone combination, called ‘GOP’ for short, reduces appetite, causes weight loss and improves the body’s ability to use the sugar absorbed from eating. Researchers wanted to see if infusing patients with the GOP hormones glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), oxyntomodulin and peptide YY, to mimic the high levels seen after surgery, could aid weight loss and reduce high glucose levelsFifteen patients were given the GOP treatment for four weeks using a pump that slowly injects the GOP mixture under the skin for 12 hours a day, beginning one hour before breakfast and disconnecting after their last meal of the day. Patients also received dietetic advice on healthy eating and weight loss from a dietician.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes can lead to very serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as cancer, stroke and heart disease. There is a real need to find new medicines so we can improve and save the lives of many patients, said Tricia Tan, Professor of Practice (Metabolic Medicine & Endocrinology) at Imperial College London and lead author of the study. “Although this is a small study our new combination hormone treatment is promising and has shown significant improvements in patients’ health in only four weeks.  Compared to other methods the treatment is non-invasive and reduced glucose levels to near-normal levels in our patients”, she adds.

Source: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/

Injection Of Nanoparticle Effective Against Melanoma

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a novel nano-vaccine for melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer. Their innovative approach has so far proven effective in preventing the development of melanoma in mouse models and in treating primary tumors and metastases that result from melanoma. The focus of the research is on a nanoparticle that serves as the basis for the new vaccine. The study was led by Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nanomedicine at TAU‘s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and Prof. Helena Florindo of the University of Lisbon while on sabbatical at the Satchi-Fainaro lab at TAU. Melanoma develops in the skin cells that produce melanin or skin pigment.

The war against cancer in general, and melanoma in particular, has advanced over the years through a variety of treatment modalities, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy; but the vaccine approach, which has proven so effective against various viral diseases, has not materialized yet against cancer,” says Prof. Satchi-Fainaro. “In our study, we have shown for the first time that it is possible to produce an effective nano-vaccine against melanoma and to sensitize the immune system to immunotherapies.

The researchers harnessed tiny particles, about 170 nanometers in size, made of a biodegradable polymer. Within each particle, they “packed two peptides — short chains of amino acids, which are expressed in melanoma cells. They then injected the nanoparticles (or “nano-vaccines“) into a mouse model bearing melanoma. “The nanoparticles acted just like known vaccines for viral-borne diseases,” Prof. Satchi-Fainaro explains. “They stimulated the immune system of the mice, and the immune cells learned to identify and attack cells containing the two peptides — that is, the melanoma cells. This meant that, from now on, the immune system of the immunized mice will attack melanoma cells if and when they appear in the body.”

The results were published recently in Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: https://english.tau.ac.il/

Open Bionics Releases Affordable 3D Printed Bionic Arm

Back in January 2019, the UK-company Open Bionics announced it had raised about £5 million from investors to continue developing not just simple 3D printed prosthetics but bionic devices. Last year, the company actually released its first 3D printed bionic arm that was officially medically approved. The prosthetic devices cost about £10,000 ($13,060), which is a third of the cost of traditionally manufactured equivalents. The company has been capable of using 3D technologies to reduce its costs and offer customisable 3D printed bionic devices to clinics.

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Until now the devices were exclusively available in the UK and France. However, the company announced a new partnership with Hanger Clinic to bring its products to the US. One of its key products is the 3D printed Hero Arm: showcasing multi-grip functionality but also empowering aesthetics for below elbow amputee adults and children (aged 8 and above). The Hero Arm, as its name implies can be personalised to resemble a superhero’s arm. Variations include designs inspired by Frozen, Marvel Comics or even Star Wars. The prosthetic device can perform a wide-range of actions like gripping, giving an OK sign, high fiving, fist bumping, or even picking up a small object. The company stated, “Special sensors within the Hero Arm detect muscle movements, meaning you can effortlessly control your bionic hand with intuitive life-like precision. Also, haptic vibrations, beepers, buttons and lights provide you with intuitive notifications.

The first US recipients of the Hero Arm includes 14-year-old Hanger Clinic patient Meredith Gross, a high school freshman. She was born missing part of her lower left arm. She is a competitive golfer and volleyball player and previously had to use sports-specific prostheses. For the first time, she is considering using the 3D printed device for everyday tasks as well. Her mom said, “The Hero Arm has opened up a whole new world for Meredith. She found success from the moment she put It on, and has been able to do things for the first time in her life. This device allows people like Meredith to own their differences with more confidence”.

Source: https://openbionics.com/
AND
https://www.3dnatives.com/

Solar-driven Water Splitting Catalyst Produces Hydrogen

Engineers from Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)  are the first to utilize a single enzyme biomineralization process to create a catalyst that uses the energy of captured sunlight to split water molecules to produce hydrogen. The synthesis process is performed at room temperature and under ambient pressure, overcoming the sustainability and scalability challenges of previously reported methods.

Solar-driven water splitting is a promising route towards a renewable energy-based economy. The generated hydrogen could serve as both a transportation fuel and a critical chemical feedstock for fertilizer and chemical production. Both of these sectors currently contribute a large fraction of total greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the challenges to realizing the promise of solar-driven energy production is that, while the required water is an abundant resource, previously-explored methods utilize complex routes that require environmentally-damaging solvents and massive amounts of energy to produce at large scale. The expense and harm to the environment have made these methods unworkable as a long-term solution.

Now a team of engineers at Lehigh have harnessed a biomineralization approach to synthesizing both quantum confined nanoparticle metal sulfide particles and the supporting reduced graphene oxide material to create a photocatalyst that splits water to form hydrogen. The team reported their results in an article entitled: “Enzymatic synthesis of supported CdS quantum dot/reduced graphene oxide photocatalysts” featured on the cover of the August 7 issue of Green Chemistry, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. “Our water-based process represents a scalable green route for the production of this promising photocatalyst technology,” says Professor Steven McIntosh, who is also associate director of Lehigh’s Institute for Functional Materials and Devices.

Source: https://engineering.lehigh.edu/

Neural Text-to-Speech Machine

Thanks to modern machine learning techniques, text-to-speech engines have made massive strides over the last few years. It used to be incredibly easy to know that it was a computer that was reading a text and not a human being. But that’s changing quickly. Amazon’s AWS cloud computing arm today launched a number of new neural text-to-speech models, as well as a new newscaster style that is meant to mimic the way… you guessed it… newscasters sound.

Man sitting in news studio with breaking news sign behind her. Ready to go live. Afro-american descent.

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Speech quality is certainly important, but more can be done to make a synthetic voice sound even more realistic and engaging,” the company notes in today’s announcement. “What about style? For sure, human ears can tell the difference between a newscast, a sportscast, a university class and so on; indeed, most humans adopt the right style of speech for the right context, and this certainly helps in getting their message across.

The new newscaster style is now available in two U.S. voices (Joanna and Matthew) and Amazon is already working with USA Today and Canada’s The Globe and Mail, among a number of other companies, to help them. Amazon Polly Newscaster, as the new service is officially called, is the result of years of research on text-to-speech, which AWS is also now making available through its Neural Text-to-Speech engine. This new engine, which isn’t unlike similar neural engines like Google’s WaveNet and others, currently features 11 voices, three for U.K. English and eight for U.S. English.

Source: https://aws.amazon.com/

The Mind Controls Remotely Videogames

Scientists in Switzerland have developed a system which allows people with severely-impaired motor functions, such as quadriplegia, to use video games using only the power of their brain.

Samuel Kunz, who was paralysed after an accident, uses the brain-computer interface to control an avatar through a race course in a specially-designed computer game called ‘Brain Driver’. The ultimate aim of the research is to develop technology to control devices such as wheelchairs for those with a limited ability to move. Kunz, who is taking part in the trial, is able to ‘pilot’ the digital race-car using only his brain signals transmitted to a computer via electrodes placed on his head.

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These electrodes are connected to an amplifier and then to the computer and to our algorithms in the end. The algorithms are then calculating the brain signal and sending commands to the game that our pilot can actually control,” Dr. Rea Lehner, a neuroscientist at ETH Zurich explained. Lehner added Kunz is training his mind by imagining certain actions which are then translated into signals to control the race car. Thinking about moving his left hand makes the car turn left, thinking about moving his right hand turns the car right, and moving both together makes the car go straight. A fourth command – fully relaxing and clearing his mind – slows the car down. Kunz said it has taken a lot of practise to train his mind to control the game; which will be made even more difficult in a stadium full of people. He will be among those taking part in a special championship next year called Cybathlon in which people with physical disabilities compete against each other using state-of-the-art technology.

I have to be very concentrated. The connection between my fingers and my brain is not there anymore. I still try to move my fingers just in my head and so that needs a lot of concentration to do it exactly the same way every time,” Kunz told Reuters during a training session in Zurich.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

Amputee Feels In Real-Time With Bionic Hand

Nine years after an accident caused the loss of his left hand, Dennis Aabo Sørensen from Denmark became the first amputee in the world to feel – in real-time – with a sensory-enhanced prosthetic hand that was surgically wired to nerves in his upper arm. Silvestro Micera and his team at EPFL Center for Neuroprosthetics (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland) and SSSA (Italy) developed the revolutionary sensory feedback that allowed Sørensen to feel again while handling objects. A prototype of this bionic technology was tested in February 2013 during a clinical trial in Rome under the supervision of Paolo Maria Rossini at Gemelli Hospital (Italy). The study is published in the February 5, 2014 edition of Science Translational Medicine, and represents a collaboration called Lifehand 2 between several European universities and hospitals.
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The sensory feedback was incredible,” reports the 36 year-old amputee from Denmark. “I could feel things that I hadn’t been able to feel in over nine years.” In a laboratory setting wearing a blindfold and earplugs, Sørensen was able to detect how strongly he was grasping, as well as the shape and consistency of different objects he picked up with his prosthetic. “When I held an object, I could feel if it was soft or hard, round or square.

Micera and his team enhanced the artificial hand with sensors that detect information about touch. This was done by measuring the tension in artificial tendons that control finger movement and turning this measurement into an electrical current. But this electrical signal is too coarse to be understood by the nervous system. Using computer algorithms, the scientists transformed the electrical signal into an impulse that sensory nerves can interpret. The sense of touch was achieved by sending the digitally refined signal through wires into four electrodes that were surgically implanted into what remains of Sørensen’s upper arm nerves.

This is the first time in neuroprosthetics that sensory feedback has been restored and used by an amputee in real-time to control an artificial limb,” says Micera. “We were worried about reduced sensitivity in Dennis’ nerves since they hadn’t been used in over nine years,” says Stanisa Raspopovic, first author and scientist at EPFL and SSSA. These concerns faded away as the scientists successfully reactivated Sørensen’s sense of touch.

Source: https://actu.epfl.ch/

Contact Lens Zooms On Your Command

It is absolutely the stuff of science fiction: a contact lens that zooms on your command. But scientists at the University of California San Diego have gone ahead and made it a reality. They’ve created a contact lens, controlled by eye movements, that can zoom in if you blink twice.

How is this possible? In the simplest of terms, the scientists measured the electrooculographic signals generated when eyes make specific movements (up, down, left, right, blink, double blink) and created a soft biomimetic lens that responds directly to those electric impulses. The lens created was able to change its focal length depending on the signals generated.

Therefore the lens could literally zoom in the blink of an eye. Incredibly, the lens works regardless of whether the user can see or not. It’s not about the sight, it’s about the electricity produced by specific movements.

Why create this? Why the hell not. The researchers believe this innovation could be used in “visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future,” but I’m waiting for them to turn up on CSI Miami. Could you imagine the crimes Ice-T could solve wearing these things?

Source: https://www.cnet.com/

New Cause Of Cell Aging Discovered: Findings Have Huge Implications

New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works. The findings potentially pave the way for better cancer treatments and revolutionary new drugs that could vastly improve human health in the twilight years. The work, from Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Nick Graham and his team in collaboration with Scott Fraser, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, and Pin Wang, Zohrab A. Kaprielian Fellow in Engineering, was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

LEFT: NON-SENESCENT CELLS WERE SHOWN WITH DIFFERENT COLORS. RIGHT: SENESCENT CELLS APPEARED OFTEN WITH MULTIPLE BLUE NUCLEI AND DID NOT SYNTHESIZE DNA.

To drink from the fountain of youth, you have to figure out where the fountain of youth is, and understand what the fountain of youth is doing,” Graham said. “We’re doing the opposite; we’re trying to study the reasons cells age, so that we might be able to design treatments for better aging.”

To achieve this, lead author Alireza Delfarah, a graduate student in the Graham lab, focused on senescence, a natural process in which cells permanently stop creating new cells. This process is one of the key causes of age-related decline, manifesting in diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Senescent cells are effectively the opposite of stem cells, which have an unlimited potential for self-renewal or division,” Delfarah said. “Senescent cells can never divide again. It’s an irreversible state of cell cycle arrest.”

The research team discovered that the aging, senescent cells stopped producing a class of chemicals called nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA. When they took young cells and forced them to stop producing nucleotides, they became senescent, or aged. “This means that the production of nucleotides is essential to keep cells young,” Delfarah said. “It also means that if we could prevent cells from losing nucleotide synthesis, the cells might age more slowly.”

Graham’s team examined young cells that were proliferating robustly and fed them molecules labeled with stable isotopes of carbon, in order to trace how the nutrients consumed by a cell were processed into different biochemical pathways.

Scott Fraser and his lab worked with the research team to develop 3D imagery of the results. The images unexpectedly revealed that senescent cells often have two nuclei, and that they do not synthesize DNA. Before now, senescence has primarily been studied in cells known as fibroblasts, the most common cells that comprised the connective tissue in animals. Graham’s team is instead focusing on how senescence occurs in epithelial cells, the cells that line the surfaces of the organs and structures in the body and the type of cells in which most cancers arise. Graham said that senescence is most widely known as the body’s protective barrier against cancer: When cells sustain damage that could be at risk of developing into cancer, they enter into senescence and stop proliferating so that the cancer does not develop and spread.

Sometimes people talk about senescence as a double-edged sword, that it protects against cancer, and that’s a good thing,” Graham said. “But then it also promotes aging and diseases like diabetes, cardiac dysfunction or atherosclerosis and general tissue dysfunction,” he said. Graham said the goal was not to completely prevent senescence, because that might unleash cancer cells. “But then on the other hand, we would like to find a way to remove senescent cells to promote healthy aging and better function,” he explained.

Graham underscores that the team’s research has applications in the emerging field of senolytics, the development of drugs that may be able to eliminate aging cells. He said that human clinical trials are still in early stages, but studies with mice have shown that by eliminating senescent cells, mice age better, with a more productive life span. “They can take a mouse that’s aging and diminishing in function, treat it with senolytic drugs to eliminate the senescent cells, and the mouse is rejuvenated. If anything, it’s these senolytic drugs that are the fountain of youth,” Graham said. He added that in order for successful senolytic drugs to be designed, it was important to identify what is unique about senescent cells, so that drugs won’t affect the normal, non-senescent cells.

That’s where we’re coming in–studying senescent cell metabolism and trying to figure out how the senescent cells are unique, so that you could design targeted therapeutics around these metabolic pathways,” Graham added.

Source: https://viterbischool.usc.edu/
AND
https://eurekalert.org/

Stem Cells Restore Damaged Teeth

A new study demonstrates that stem cells from baby teeth can be used to repair damaged permanent teeth in young children. The findings suggest a new treatment for childhood dental issues may be around the corner. The treatment’s potential applications go much further than just dental health. Half of all children suffer some kind of dental injury while young. Sometimes the damage isn’t to the baby teeth they will lose anyway, but to the permanent adult teeth lying below the gums that they will need for the rest of their lives. In some cases, trauma can cut off the blood supply to a tooth and rot out the living pulp inside it; a condition called “pulp necrosis.” This condition often leads to the loss of the tooth. While treatment exists, it is often unsatisfactory.

A new clinical trial by Yan Jin, Kun Xuan, and Bei Li of the Fourth Military Medicine University in Xi’an, China and Songtao Shi of the University of Pennsylvania‘s School of Dental Medicine demonstrates how to repair teeth suffering from pulp necrosis by taking stem cells from the patient’s baby teeth.

The study, carried out in China on 40 children who had both damaged adult teeth and baby teeth that had yet to fall out, was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The test subjects were selected to either receive the new treatment or an older treatment called apexification, which attempts to address the issue by encouraging root development. This was considered the control group.

The patients who received the stem cell treatment, called human deciduous pulp stem cell (hDPSC) treatment, had pulp tissue taken out of one of their healthy baby teeth. This pulp is rich in stem cells. The cells were grown in a lab and then placed into the injured adult tooth. The hope was that the stem cells would encourage the growth of new pulp inside the tooth.

Follow-ups were carried out for up to three years. The patients who had received the hDPSC treatment showed better blood flow in their teeth, better root systems, and thicker dentin than the patents who underwent the traditional procedure. They also had recovered sensation in their teeth, while the control group had not. The use of a patient’s own cells in the treatment also reduced the risk of their body rejecting the therapymaking the concept even more attractive. “This treatment gives patients sensation back in their teeth. If you give them a warm or cold stimulation, they can feel it; they have living teeth again,” Dr. Shi told Penn Today. “For me, the results are very exciting. To see something we discovered take a step forward to potentially become a routine therapy in the clinic is gratifying.

Source: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/