How to Deliver Chemo Straight to the Brain to Kill Cancer

The blood-brain barrier is an important aspect of the brain’s blood vessels that prevents poisons, viruses, and bacteria in blood from infiltrating the brain—but it inadvertently blocks most therapeutic substances. Nanoparticles, focused ultrasound, clever chemistry, and other innovative ideas are being tried to overcome the barrier and deliver treatments to the brain. Now, neurosurgeons at Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian are taking a more direct approach: a fully implantable pump that continuously delivers chemo through a tube inserted directly into the brain.

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Simple Eye Test Uses AI To Predict Death From a Heart Condition

A simple eye test that predicts death from cardiovascular disease has been developed by British scientists. It combines artificial intelligence (AI) with scans of the retina – a membrane at the back of peepers that contains light sensitive cells. The technique could lead to a screening programme – enabling drugs and lifestyle changes to be prescribed decades before symptoms emerge. Lead author Professor Alicja Regina Rudnicka, of St George’s University of London, said the test is inexpensive, accessible and non-invasive. People at risk of stroke, heart attack and other circulatory conditions could undergo RV (artificial intelligence enabled retinal vasculometry) during routine visits to the optician.

Prof Rudnicka said: “It has the potential for reaching a higher proportion of the population in the community because of ‘high street’ availability. “RV offers an alternative predictive biomarker to traditional risk-scores for vascular health – without the need for blood sampling or blood pressure measurement. “It is highly likely to help prolong disease-free status in an ever-aging population with increasing comorbidities, and assist with minimising healthcare costs associated with lifelong vascular diseases.”

An algorithm called QUARTZ was developed based on retinal images from tens of thousands of Britons aged 40 to 69. It focused on the width, area and curvature, or tortuosity, of tiny blood vessels called arterioles and venules. The performance of QUARTZ was compared with the widely used Framingham Risk Scores framework – both separately and jointly.

The health of all the participants was tracked for an average of seven to nine years, during which time there were 327 and 201 circulatory disease deaths among 64,144 UK Biobank and 5,862 EPIC-Norfolk participants respectively. In men, arteriolar and venular width, tortuosity, and width variation emerged as important predictors of death from circulatory disease. In women, arteriolar and venular area and width and venular tortuosity and width variation contributed to risk prediction.

The predictive impact of retinal vasculature on circulatory disease death interacted with smoking, drugs to treat high blood pressure, and previous heart attacks. Overall, these predictive models, based on age, smoking, medical history and retinal vasculature, captured between half and two-thirds of circulatory disease deaths in those most at risk.

Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/

‘Dancing Molecules’ Successfully Repair Severe Spinal Cord Injuries

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new injectable therapy that harnessesdancing molecules” to reverse paralysis and repair tissue after severe spinal cord injuries. In a new study, researchers administered a single injection to tissues surrounding the spinal cords of paralyzed mice. Just four weeks later, the animals regained the ability to walk.

By sending bioactive signals to trigger cells to repair and regenerate, the breakthrough therapy dramatically improved severely injured spinal cords in five key ways: The severed extensions of neurons, called axons, regenerated. Scar tissue, which can create a physical barrier to regeneration and repair, significantly diminished. Myelin, the insulating layer of axons that is important in transmitting electrical signals efficiently, reformed around cells. Functional blood vessels formed to deliver nutrients to cells at the injury site. More motor neurons survived.
After the therapy performs its function, the materials biodegrade into nutrients for the cells within 12 weeks and then completely disappear from the body without noticeable side effects. This is the first study in which researchers controlled the collective motion of molecules through changes in chemical structure to increase a therapeutic’s efficacy.

Our research aims to find a therapy that can prevent individuals from becoming paralyzed after major trauma or disease,” said Northwestern’s Samuel I. Stupp, who led the study. “For decades, this has remained a major challenge for scientists because our body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, does not have any significant capacity to repair itself after injury or after the onset of a degenerative disease. We are going straight to the FDA to start the process of getting this new therapy approved for use in human patients, who currently have very few treatment options.”

Stupp is Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern, where he is founding director of the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology (SQI) and its affiliated research center, the Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine.

Source: https://news.northwestern.edu/

Sticker on the Skin Provides Clear Image of Heart, Lungs

Ultrasound imaging is a safe and noninvasive window into the body’s workings, providing clinicians with live images of a patient’s internal organs. To capture these images, trained technicians manipulate ultrasound wands and probes to direct sound waves into the body. These waves reflect back out to produce high-resolution images of a patient’s heart, lungs, and other deep organs.

Currently, ultrasound imaging requires bulky and specialized equipment available only in hospitals and doctor’s offices. But a new design by MIT engineers might make the technology as wearable and accessible as buying Band-Aids at the pharmacy. In a paper appearing today in Science, the engineers present the design for a new ultrasound sticker — a stamp-sized device that sticks to skin and can provide continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs for 48 hours.

The researchers applied the stickers to volunteers and showed the devices produced live, high-resolution images of major blood vessels and deeper organs such as the heart, lungs, and stomach. The stickers maintained a strong adhesion and captured changes in underlying organs as volunteers performed various activities, including sitting, standing, jogging, and biking. The current design requires connecting the stickers to instruments that translate the reflected sound waves into images. The researchers point out that even in their current form, the stickers could have immediate applications: For instance, the devices could be applied to patients in the hospital, similar to heart-monitoring EKG stickers, and could continuously image internal organs without requiring a technician to hold a probe in place for long periods of time.

If the devices can be made to operate wirelessly — a goal the team is currently working toward — the ultrasound stickers could be made into wearable imaging products that patients could take home from a doctor’s office or even buy at a pharmacy.

We envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cellphone, where AI algorithms would analyze the images on demand,” says the study’s senior author, Xuanhe Zhao, professor of mechanical engineering and civil at MIT. “We believe we’ve opened a new era of wearable imaging: With a few patches on your body, you could see your internal organs.

The study also includes lead authors Chonghe Wang and Xiaoyu Chen, and co-authors Liu Wang, Mitsutoshi Makihata, and Tao Zhao at MIT, along with Hsiao-Chuan Liu of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Source: https://news.mit.edu/

Eye Exam Could Predict a Heart Attack

Soon, retinal scans may be able to predict heart attacks. New research has found that decreased complexity in the blood vessels at the back of the retina in the human eye is an early biomarker for myocardial infarction.

For decades, I’ve always lectured that the eye is not just the window to the soul, but the window to the brain and the window to the body as well,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Howard R. Krauss,

Cardiologist Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, who was not involved in the research, said that the findings were interesting. “[A]lthough we have known that examination of retinal vasculature can produce insights on cardiovascular health, this study contributes to the evidence base that characteristics of the retinal vasculature can be used for individual risk prediction for myocardial infarction,” he said.

The greatest appeal,” underlined Dr. Krauss, who was also not involved in the study, “is that the photography station may be remote to the clinician, and perhaps, someday, even accessible via a smartphone.”

According to a press release, the project utilized data from the UK Biobank, which contains demographic, epidemiological, clinical, and genotyping data, as well as retinal images, for more than 500,000 individuals. Under demographic data, the data included individuals’ age, sex, smoking habits, systolic blood pressure, and body-mass index (BMI). The researchers identified about 38,000 white-British participants, whose retinas had been scanned and who later had heart attacks. The biobank provided retinal fundus images and genotyping information for these individuals.

At the back of the retina, on either side where it connects to the optic nerve, are two large systems of blood vessels, or vasculature. In a healthy individual, each resembles a tree branch, with similarly complex fractal geometry. For some people, however, this complexity is largely absent, and branching is greatly simplified. In this research, an artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning model revealed a connection between low retinal vascular complexity and coronary artery disease.

The research was presented on June 12 at the European Society of Human Genetics.

Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

How to Regrow Amputated Limbs

Scientists in the US have successfully regrown the lost legs of a group of frogs in a significant advance for regenerative medicine. The research is an important step to one day helping people who have experienced the loss of a limb and opens the door to the potential use of a similar treatment on humans in the future.

The African clawed frog used in the research does not have the ability to naturally regenerate a limb and was treated with a five-drug cocktail over 24 hours. That brief treatment set in motion an 18-month period of regrowth that restored a functional leg.

It’s exciting to see that the drugs we selected were helping to create an almost complete limb,” said Nirosha Murugan, research affiliate at the Allen Discovery Centre at Tufts and first author of the paper outlining the experiment. “The fact that it required only a brief exposure to the drugs to set in motion a months-long regeneration process suggests that frogs and perhaps other animals may have dormant regenerative capabilities that can be triggered into action”.

The researchers used a group of 115 adult African clawed frogs. They amputated a limb of each frog, then split them up into three groups; one group received the full treatment, one group received no treatment to act as a control and one group received partial treatment. Scientists triggered the regenerative process in the frogs by enclosing the wound for 24 hours in a silicone cap, which they call a BioDome, containing a silk protein gel loaded with the five-drug cocktail. The drugs each had a different purpose, including tamping down inflammation and encouraging the new growth of nerve fibres, blood vessels, and muscle. The bioreactor helped to stop the natural tendency to close off the stump, and instead encourage the regenerative process.

Source: https://www.euronews.com/

Ravaged Landscape of COVID-19 Lungs

A revolutionary tool designed to broaden our understanding of human anatomy has for the first time provided scientists with a cellular-level look at lungs damaged by COVID-19. In healthy lungs, the blood vessel system that oxygenates the blood is separate from the system that feeds the lung tissue itself. But in some severe respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, pressures caused by the infection can lead blood vessels in the heart and lungs to expand and grow, sometimes cutting through the body and forming channels between parts of the pulmonary system that shouldn’t be connected. Similarly, COVID-19 infections can create the same types of abnormal channels. The channels give unoxygenated blood coming into the lungs an alternate exit ramp, allowing it to essentially skip the line and shoot back into the body without picking up any oxygen molecules first. Scientists believed that this could be a cause of the low blood oxygen levels sometimes experienced by COVID-19 patients, a condition known as hypoxemia.

Blood vessel growth is a very controlled process,” said Claire Walsh, a medical engineer at University College London and the first author of the imaging study, published in the journal Nature Methods. “It should be in this lovely tree-like branching structure. And you look at the COVID lungs, and you can just see it’s in these big clumps of really dense vessels all over the place, so that it just looks … wrong.

Walsh’s team, which included clinicians from Germany and France, has procured sharper-than-ever images of these warped structures, thanks to an imaging technique known as HiP-CT, or Hierarchical Phase-Contrast Tomography, which allows them to zoom in on any body part with 100 times the resolution of a traditional CT scan. Although the technique can only be used to capture images of samples removed from a body and preserved in a way that minimizes interference (rather than of organs that are still part of a living person), in pairing it with the world’s brightest X-rays at the European Synchrotron particle accelerator, the researchers hope to build a visual database of not only lungs infected with COVID-19, but other, healthy organs throughout the body.

Source: https://www.insidescience.org/

Nano BiosuperCapacitor Provides Energy for Biomedical Applications

The miniaturization of microelectronic sensor technology, microelectronic robots or intravascular implants is progressing rapidly. However, it also poses major challenges for research. One of the biggest is the development of tiny but efficient energy storage devices that enable the operation of autonomously working microsystems – in more and more smaller areas of the human body for example. In addition, these energy storage devices must be bio-compatible if they are to be used in the body at all. Now there is a prototype that combines these essential properties. The breakthrough was achieved by an international research team led by Prof. Dr. Oliver G. Schmidt, Professorship of Materials Systems for Nanoelectronics at Chemnitz University of Technology (Germany), initiator of the Center for Materials, Architectures and Integration of Nanomembranes (MAIN) at Chemnitz University of Technology and director at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research (IFW) Dresden. The Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (IPF) was also involved in the study as a cooperation partner.

In the current issue of Nature Communications, the researchers report on the smallest microsupercapacitors to date, which already functions in (artificial) blood vessels and can be used as an energy source for a tiny sensor system to measure pH.

This storage system opens up possibilities for intravascular implants and microrobotic systems for next-generation biomedicine that could operate in hard-to-reach small spaces deep inside the human body. For example, real-time detection of blood pH can help predict early tumor growing. “It is extremely encouraging to see how new, extremely flexible, and adaptive microelectronics is making it into the miniaturized world of biological systems“, says research group leader Prof. Dr. Oliver G. Schmidt, who is extremely pleased with this research success.

The architecture of our nano-bio supercapacitors offers the first potential solution to one of the biggest challenges – tiny integrated energy storage devices that enable the self-sufficient operation of multifunctional microsystems,” says Dr. Vineeth Kumar, researcher in Prof. Schmidt’s team and a research associate at the MAIN research center.

Ever smaller energy storage devices in the submillimeter range – so-called “nano-supercapacitors” (nBSC) – for even smaller microelectronic components are not only a major technical challenge, however. This is because, as a rule, these supercapacitors do not use biocompatible materials but, for example, corrosive electrolytes and quickly discharge themselves in the event of defects and contamination. Both aspects make them unsuitable for biomedical applications in the body. So-called “biosupercapacitors (BSCs)” offer a solution. They have two outstanding properties: they are fully biocompatible, which means that they can be used in body fluids such as blood and can be used for further medical studies.

In addition, biosupercapacitors can compensate for self-discharge behavior through bio-electrochemical reactions. In doing so, they even benefit from the body’s own reactions. This is because, in addition to typical charge storage reactions of a supercapacitor, redox enzymatic reactions and living cells naturally present in the blood increase the performance of the device by 40%.

Source: https://www.tu-chemnitz.de/

Smart Nanoparticles To Target Lung Cancer

A new and promising approach for treatment of lung cancer has been developed by researchers at Lund University (Sweden). The treatment combines a novel surgical approach with smart nanoparticles to specifically target lung tumorsLung tumors are often difficult to remove using current surgical techniques due to their location in the lung or the fact that there are multiple tumors which are too small to observe. Tumors also develop natural barriers to prevent drugs and immune cells from reaching the tumor cells.

Illustration of the pH-responsive mesoporous silica nanoparticles designed to specifically target lung cancer

Therefore, patients often receive high doses of chemotherapeutics which are circulated through the entire body and lead to major side effects in other organs. While a number of new experimental therapies have been developed for lung cancer and have shown promise in the lab, a major remaining challenge has been how to deliver the right drug specifically to these difficult to reach tumors”, explains Darcy Wagner, Associate Professor and Head of the research group.

In order to overcome this challenge, the researchers behind the new study: Deniz Bölükbas and Darcy Wagner, researchers of the Lung Bioengineering and regeneration group, and colleagues developed a novel surgical technique which introduces the nanoparticles only into the blood vessels of the lung. The blood vessels around and in tumors are different than those in normal organs. The researchers used this difference to their benefit to direct nanoparticles to the interior of large and dense solid lung tumorsBölükbas and colleagues also used animal models which have a full immune system and closely resemble the types of lung tumors that patients have.

Using this technique, which we call ‘organ restricted vascular delivery’ (ORVD), we were able to see lung cancer cells with the delivered nanoparticles inside of them – something which has not been achieved previously in these types of lung cancer animal models, which closely resemble the clinical scenario”, explains Deniz Bölükbas, post-doctoral fellow and leading author of the article.

The new study has been published in the July issue of Advanced Therapeutics.
Source: https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/

Self-Cleaning Surface Repels The Deadliest SuperBugs

Researchers at McMaster (Canada) have solved a vexing problem by engineering surface coatings that can repel everything, such as bacteria, viruses and living cells, but can be modified to permit beneficial exceptionsThe discovery holds significant promise for medical and other applications, making it possible for implants such as vascular grafts, replacement heart valves and artificial joints to bond to the body without risk of infection or blood clotting. The new nanotechnology has the potential to greatly reduce false positives and negatives in medical tests by eliminating interference from non-target elements in blood and urine.

The research adds significant utility to completely repellent surfaces that have existed since 2011. Those surface coatings are useful for waterproofing phones and windshields, and repelling bacteria from food-preparation areas, for example, but have offered limited utility in medical applications where specific beneficial binding is required

 

It was a huge achievement to have completely repellent surfaces, but to maximize the benefits of such surfaces, we needed to create a selective door that would allow beneficial elements to bond with those surfaces,” explains Tohid Didar of McMaster’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and School of Biomedical Engineering, the senior author of a paper that appears today in the journal ACS Nano.

In the case of a synthetic heart valve, for example, a repellent coating can prevent blood cells from sticking and forming clots, making it much safer.

A coating that repels blood cells could potentially eliminate the need for medicines such as warfarin that are used after implants to cut the risk of clots,” says co-author , a McMaster PhD student in Biomedical Engineering. Still, she explains, a completely repellent coating also prevents the body from integrating the new valve into the tissue of the heart itself.

By designing the surface to permit adhesion only with heart tissue cells, the researchers are making it possible for the body to integrate the new valve naturally, avoiding the complications of rejection. The same would be true for other implants, such as artificial joints and stents used to open blood vessels.

If you want a device to perform better and not be rejected by the body, this is what you need to do,” says co-author Maryam Badv, also a McMaster PhD student in Biomedical Engineering. “It is a huge problem in medicine.”

Source: https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/