Transplanted Follicles Better Heal Wounds

The best Band-Aids could be sprouting from your scalp, a new study suggests. British researchers say hair follicles may have wound-healing properties, with the potential to avoid lifelong scars that can be damaging to one’s confidence.

The study out of Imperial College London reports that scars treated with hair follicle transplants began to act similarly to uninjured skin, generating new cells, blood vessels, gene expression, and even restoring itself through collagen.

Around 100 million people per year acquire scars in high-income countries alone, primarily as a result of surgeries. The global incidence of scars is much higher and includes extensive scarring formed after burn and traumatic injuries. Our work opens new avenues for treating scars and could even change our approach to preventing them,” says Dr Francisco Jiménez, lead hair transplant surgeon at the Mediteknia Clinic and Associate Research Professor at University Fernando Pessoa Canarias, in Gran Canaria, Spain, in a statement.

Scar tissue in the skin lacks hair, sweat glands, blood vessels and nerves, which are all needed for proper regulation of body temperature, as well as pain and overall sensory detection. Scarring can also disrupt movement ability, thus inducing stress and discomfort for someone.

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How to Generate Cartilage Cells

 As any weekend warrior understands, cartilage injuries to joints such as knees, shoulders, and hips can prove extremely painful and debilitating. In addition, conditions that cause cartilage degeneration, like arthritis and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), affect 350 million people in the world and cost the US public health system more than $303 billion every year. Patients suffering from these conditions experience increased pain and discomfort over time.

However, an exciting study led by faculty at The Forsyth Institute suggests new strategies for making cartilage cells with huge implications in regenerative medicine for future cartilage injuries and degeneration treatments. In a paper, entitled “GATA3 mediates nonclassical β-catenin signaling in skeletal cell fate determination and ectopic chondrogenesis,” co-first authors Takamitsu Maruyama and Daigaku Hasegawa, and senior author Wei Hsu, describe two breakthrough discoveries, including a new understanding of a multifaced protein called β-catenin. Dr. Hsu is a senior scientist at the Forsyth Insitute and a Professor of Developmental Biology at Harvard University. He is also an affiliate faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

The goal of this study,” said Dr. Maruyama of Forsyth, “was to figure out how to regenerate cartilage. We wanted to determine how to control cell fate, to cause the somatic cell to become cartilage instead of bone.

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Chronic Back Pain: New Treatment Is 84% More Effective

Back pain is a common condition with numerous causes, including poor posture, overexertion, constant stress at work or at home, lack of exercise, and poor posture. For a considerable number of patients, the symptoms are chronic, meaning they last a long period or reoccur repeatedly. However, port and exercise therapy, when done properly, can provide alleviation.

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New Lab-Made Cartilage to Rebuild Your Knees Efficiently

Over-the-counter pain relievers, physical therapy, steroid injections — some people have tried it all and are still dealing with knee pain. Often knee pain comes from the progressive wear and tear of cartilage known as osteoarthritis, which affects nearly one in six adults — 867 million people — worldwide. For those who want to avoid replacing the entire knee joint, there may soon be another option that could help patients get back on their feet fast, pain-free, and stay that way.

Writing in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, a Duke University-led team says they have created the first gel-based cartilage substitute that is even stronger and more durable than the real thing. Mechanical testing reveals that the Duke team’s hydrogel — a material made of water-absorbing polymers — can be pressed and pulled with more force than natural cartilage, and is three times more resistant to wear and tearImplants made of the material are currently being developed by Sparta Biomedical and tested in sheep. Researchers are gearing up to begin clinical trials in humans next year.

Duke researchers have developed a gel-based cartilage substitute to relieve achy knees that’s even stronger and more durable than the real thing. Clinical trials to start next year

If everything goes according to plan, the clinical trial should start as soon as April 2023,” said Duke chemistry professor Benjamin Wiley, who led the research along with Duke mechanical engineering and materials science professor Ken Gall.

To make this material, the Duke team took thin sheets of cellulose fibers and infused them with a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol — a viscous goo consisting of stringy chains of repeating molecules — to form a gel. The cellulose fibers act like the collagen fibers in natural cartilage, Wiley said — they give the gel strength when stretched. The polyvinyl alcohol helps it return to its original shape. The result is a Jello-like material, 60% water, which is supple yet surprisingly strong.

Natural cartilage can withstand a whopping 5,800 to 8,500 pounds per inch of tugging and squishing, respectively, before reaching its breaking point. Their lab-made version is the first hydrogel that can handle even more. It is 26% stronger than natural cartilage in tension, something like suspending seven grand pianos from a key ring, and 66% stronger in compression — which would be like parking a car on a postage stamp. “It’s really off the charts in terms of hydrogel strength,” Wiley said.

The team has already made hydrogels with remarkable propertiesIn 2020, they reported that they had created the first hydrogel strong enough for knees, which feel the force of two to three times body weight with each step.

Source: https://today.duke.edu/
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https://www.spartabiomedical.com/

How to Block Pain

Researchers have published the first proof-of-concept results from a years-long program to develop tiny, wireless devices that can treat neurological diseases or block pain. The nerve stimulators require no batteries and instead draw both their power and programming from a low-powered magnetic transmitter outside the body.
The MagnetoElectric Bio ImplanT—aka ME-BIT—is placed surgically and an electrode is fed into a blood vessel toward the nerve targeted for stimulation. Once there, the device can be powered and securely controlled with a near-field transmitter worn close to the body. Researchers successfully tested the technology on animal models and found it could charge and communicate with implants several centimeters below the skin.
The implant, detailed in Nature Biomedical Engineering, could replace more invasive units that now treat Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, chronic pain, hearing loss, and paralysis.

Because the devices are so small, we can use blood vessels as a highway system to reach targets that are difficult to get to with traditional surgery,” says Jacob Robinson, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering at Rice University. “We’re delivering them using the same catheters you would use for an endovascular procedure, but we would leave the device outside the vessel and place a guidewire into the bloodstream as the stimulating electrode, which could be held in place with a stent.”

The ability to power the implants with magnetoelectric materials eliminates the need for electrical leads through the skin and other tissues. Leads like those often used for pacemakers can cause inflammation, and sometimes need to be replaced. Battery-powered implants can also require additional surgery to replace batteries.

ME-BIT’s wearable charger requires no surgery. The researchers showed it could even be misaligned by several inches and still sufficiently power and communicate with the implant.

The programmable, 0.8-square-millimeter implant incorporates a strip of magnetoelectric film that converts magnetic energy to electrical power. An on-board capacitor can store some of that power, and a “system-on-a-chipmicroprocessor translates modulations in the magnetic field into data. The components are held together by a 3D-printed capsule and further encased in epoxy. The magnetic field generated by the transmitter—about 1 milliTesla—is easily tolerated by tissues, the researchers say. They estimate the current implant can generate a maximum of 4 milliwatts of power, sufficient for many neural stimulation applications.

One of the nice things is that all the nerves in our bodies require oxygen and nutrients, so that means there’s a blood vessel within a few hundred microns of all the nerves,” Robinson says. “It’s just a matter of tracing the right blood vessels to reach the targets. “With a combination of imaging and anatomy, we can be pretty confident about where we place the electrodes,” he says.

Source: https://www.futurity.org/

New Electronic Skin Reacts To Pain Like Human Skin

Researchers have developed electronic artificial skin that reacts to pain just like real skin, opening the way to better prosthetics, smarter robotics and non-invasive alternatives to skin grafts. The prototype device developed by a team at RMIT University (Australia) can electronically replicate the way human skin senses pain. The device mimics the body’s near-instant feedback response and can react to painful sensations with the same lighting speed that nerve signals travel to the brain.

Lead researcher Professor Madhu Bhaskaran said the pain-sensing prototype was a significant advance towards next-generation biomedical technologies and intelligent robotics.

Skin is our body’s largest sensory organ, with complex features designed to send rapid-fire warning signals when anything hurts,” Bhaskaran said. “We’re sensing things all the time through the skin but our pain response only kicks in at a certain point, like when we touch something too hot or too sharp. No electronic technologies have been able to realistically mimic that very human feeling of pain – until now. “Our artificial skin reacts instantly when pressure, heat or cold reach a painful threshold. “It’s a critical step forward in the future development of the sophisticated feedback systems that we need to deliver truly smart prosthetics and intelligent robotics.”

As well as the pain-sensing prototype, the research team has also developed devices made with stretchable electronics that can sense and respond to changes in temperature and pressure. Bhaskaran, co-leader of the Functional Materials and Microsystems group at RMIT, said the three functional prototypes were designed to deliver key features of the skin’s sensing capability in electronic form.

With further development, the stretchable artificial skin could also be a future option for non-invasive skin grafts, where the traditional approach is not viable or not working. “We need further development to integrate this technology into biomedical applications but the fundamentals – biocompatibility, skin-like stretchability – are already there,” Bhaskaran added.

Source: https://www.rmit.edu.au/

VR game lets patients ‘shoot’ away their pain

The Frisian company Reducept (Netherlands) has developed VR glasses that allow patients to ‘shoot away’ pain in a game. Patients come into contact with their nervous system, where they have to fight the pain.

Reducept team has developed a virtual reality headset to combat chronic pain and has won the prestigious UN World Summit Award. Exactly how many people are suffering from chronic pain in the Netherlands is not known but their number runs into the thousands, medical experts say. Often the pain has no clear cause. The conventional treatment is painkillers but these are costly and don’t always work. The VR treatment tackles the pain by training the brain, said psychologist Louis Zantema, who founded Reducept.

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People with chronic pain are oversensitive to the pain signal sent by the body to the brain. The therapy helps the nervous system because the brain believes healing is taking place,’ he said. Shooting down the pain ‘When you put on the VR headset you travel into in your own nervous system. The painful spots show up as small red dots which you shoot at, as if you were playing a game,’ Zantema explained. After ‘shooting down’ the pain the next step is a mindfulness exercise focusing on the spinal cord. ‘There we are using a psychological trick which also works for people suffering from trauma. The patient does a complicated exercise which is alternated with an intensive focusing on the pain.’ Professor Harry van Goor tested the VR headset on 40 people all of whom experienced a reduction in pain symptoms. He says the treatment offers hope to many while saving money at the same time. ‘Chronic pain is causing depression and is putting a lot of pressure on the health system. The medication either doesn’t help or is addictive and waiting lists for the specialist pain clinics are very long,’ he added. The treatment is available at over 50 healthcare institutions but is not covered by health insurers. A session costs €15 apart from the cost of buying a VR headset.

Source: https://reducept.com/

Artificial Skin Recreates The Human Sense Of Pain

Prosthetic technology has taken huge strides in the last decade, but accurately simulating human-like sensation is a difficult task. New “electronic skin” technology developed at the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) in Korea could help replicate advanced “pain” sensations in prosthetics, and enable robots to understand tactile feedback, like the feeling of being pricked, or that of heat on skin.

Trying to recreate the human senses has been a driver of technologies throughout the 20thcentury, like TV or audio playback. Mimicry of tactile sensing has been a focus of several different research groups in the last few years, but advances have mainly improved the feeling of pressure and strength in prosthetics. Human sensation, however, can detect much more subtle cues. The DGIST researchers, led by Department of Information and Communication Engineering Professor Jae Eun Jang, needed to bring together expertise from several different fields to begin the arduous task of replicating these more complex sensations in their electronic skin, working with colleagues in DGIST’s Robotics and Brain Sciences departments.

“We have developed a core base technology that can effectively detect pain, which is necessary for developing future-type tactile sensor. As an achievement of convergence research by experts in nano engineering, electronic engineering, robotics engineering, and brain sciences, it will be widely applied on electronic skin that feels various senses as well as new human-machine interactions.” Jang explained.

The DGIST team effort has created a more efficient sensor technology, able to simultaneously detect pressure and heat. They also developed a signal processing system that adjusted pain responses depending on pressure, area, and temperature.

Source: https://www.dgist.ac.kr/
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https://www.technologynetworks.com/

How To Heal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, a disease that causes severe joint pain, affects more than 20 million people in the United States. Some drug treatments can help alleviate the pain, but there are no treatments that can reverse or slow the cartilage breakdown associated with the disease.

In an advance that could improve the treatment options available for osteoarthritis, MIT engineers have designed a new material that can administer drugs directly to the cartilage. The material can penetrate deep into the cartilage, delivering drugs that could potentially heal damaged tissue.

Six days after treatment with IGF-1 carried by dendrimer nanoparticles (blue), the particles have penetrated through the cartilage of the knee joint.

This is a way to get directly to the cells that are experiencing the damage, and introduce different kinds of therapeutics that might change their behavior,” says Paula Hammond, head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and the senior author of the study. Treating  rats, the researchers showed that delivering an experimental drug called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) with this new material prevented cartilage breakdown much more effectively than injecting the drug into the joint on its own.

Brett Geiger, an MIT graduate student, is the lead author of the paper, which appears in Science Translational Medicine.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

Electronic Skin To Restore Sense Of Pain

Amputees often experience the sensation of a “phantom limb”—a feeling that a missing body part is still there. That sensory illusion is closer to becoming a reality thanks to a team of engineers at the Johns Hopkins University that has created an electronic skin. When layered on top of prosthetic hands, this e-dermis brings back a real sense of touch through the fingertips.

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After many years, I felt my hand, as if a hollow shell got filled with life again,” says the anonymous amputee who served as the team’s principal volunteer tester.

Made of fabric and rubber laced with sensors to mimic nerve endings, e-dermis recreates a sense of touch as well as pain by sensing stimuli and relaying the impulses back to the peripheral nerves.

We’ve made a sensor that goes over the fingertips of a prosthetic hand and acts like your own skin would,” explains Luke Osborn, a graduate student in biomedical engineering. “It’s inspired by what is happening in human biology, with receptors for both touch and pain“This is interesting and new,” Osborn adds, “because now we can have a prosthetic hand that is already on the market and fit it with an e-dermis that can tell the wearer whether he or she is picking up something that is round or whether it has sharp points.”

The work in the journal Science Robotics – shows it is possible to restore a range of natural, touch-based feelings to amputees who use prosthetic limbs. The ability to detect pain could be useful, for instance, not only in prosthetic hands but also in lower limb prostheses, alerting the user to potential damage to the device.

Human skin contains a complex network of receptors that relay a variety of sensations to the brain. This network provided a biological template for the research team, which includes members from the Johns Hopkins departments of Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Neurology, and from the Singapore Institute of Neurotechnology.

Bringing a more human touch to modern prosthetic designs is critical, especially when it comes to incorporating the ability to feel pain, Osborn states. “Pain is, of course, unpleasant, but it’s also an essential, protective sense of touch that is lacking in the prostheses that are currently available to amputees,” he says. “Advances in prosthesis designs and control mechanisms can aid an amputee’s ability to regain lost function, but they often lack meaningful, tactile feedback or perception.

Source: http://releases.jhu.edu/