New spinal cells for rats

Researchers announced this week that they have regrown part of the spinal column of rats. They implanted neural stem cells in the corticospinal tract of rats, and managed to get them to grow as spinal cord cells. The rats gained an increase in motor function (they could move better after the new cells grew). Previous research had tried to do something similar, but this was the first time they got regeneration of spinal cells. This work shows promise for creating new therapies for humans.

“We humans use corticospinal axons for voluntary movement,” said Tuszynski. “In the absence of regeneration of this system in previous studies, I was doubtful that most therapies taken to humans would improve function. Now that we can regenerate the most important motor system for humans, I think that the potential for translation is more promising.”

Hope for fighting antibiotic resistant bacteria

One of the things that really scares doctors is antibiotic resistant bacteria. There is a version of tuberculosis that is immune from all of the drugs we normally would use; if you get it, doctors can’t do anything to fight it. This happens because some bacteria are naturally more resistant than others. Over time, these manage to survive better because they aren’t killed by antibiotics as quickly. This is evolution by natural selection. About 2/3 of bacteria form biofilms. Researchers have found a peptide that can destroy biofilms or stop them from forming. This can kill the bacteria. Hopefully this will give us a good class of drugs that can kill the normally antibiotic resistant bacteria. Videos:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-apdGwBPz4
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_B2dURVl2I

10 Cancer myths busted

Here are 10 common myths about cancer, and why they’re wrong.

  1. Cancer is a man-made, modern disease
  2. Superfoods prevent cancer
  3. Acidic diets cause cancer
  4. Cancer has a sweet tooth
  5. Cancer is a fungus, and sodium bicarbonate will cure it
  6. There’s a miracle cancer cure
  7. The big drug companies are hiding the cancer cure
  8. Cancer treatment kills more than cancer does
  9. We’ve made no progress in fighting cancer
  10. Sharks don’t get cancer

Suspended Animation coming closer

Science fiction frequently uses suspended animation to let people travel large distances over long periods of time. And now it may be used on the operating table to give surgeons more time to save lives. They will try it with 10 patients with severe blood loss. After normal first aid has failed, they will replace the blood with cold saline solution through a catheter in the aorta. This will stop the blood loss while keeping organs alive. The organs will slow down so much that the heart will virtually stop, and the brain will stop. Then doctors can work on the original problem without having to worry about blood loss. After the operation they can put compatible blood back in, warm the body, and restart the heart. They will try this with 10 patients, and use 10 other patients with similar problem as controls. If the new procedure is beneficial it will be tried more.

This sounds scary, but has had a 90% success rate in animals.

Stem cells created from adult skin cells

Scientists have used cloning techniques to create stems cells from adult skin cells. They got donated eggs from women, removed the DNA from the eggs, and injected the skin cells into the eggs. Creating cells from these created the pluripotent stem cells that matched the skin donor DNA. At this point they were able to do this to 77 eggs, creating 2 stem cells, a success rate of 2.5%. They could shake up the medical world by fixing that problem.

Does Tamiflu really work?

An article on The Scientist highlights a study by the British Medical Journal that casts doubt on the efficacy of Tamiflu. It seems that the best Tamiflu can really give you is shortening symptoms by about half a day, which doesn’t seem worth it given the side effects of nausea and vomiting.

As expected, the manufacturer, Roche, denies the conclusions.

Given how much money is spent stockpiling the drug, studies like this should have been done and fully analyzed before using it in such quantities.

8 bit computers floating around inside living things?

Scientists have made DNA based robotsnanobots – to carry medicine to diseases and release drugs when the diseases are reached. By using DNA folding, drugs can be stored inside cages of DNA molecules. The DNA will unfold when it touches the right protein. They have made the DNA unfold when it touches certain disease molecules. These have been injected into cockroaches. These robots can behave like nanocomputers, and while we will soon be making them about as powerful as a Commodore 64 from the 1980s, how long until we have 64 bit computers traveling our bloodstreams, repairing damaged cells, transmitting information on our health at a cellular level?

New Tech for Gunshot Wounds

Not to cause wounds, but to treat them. Gunshot wounds can get deep and affect arteries. When this happens, it is important to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. The current treatment is to shove gauze deep inside the wound.The FDA has approved a new technology that uses a syringe filled with sponges to stop the flow of blood. These sponges absorb blood and expand. They are coated with a chemical to trigger clotting. They also have an “X” imprinted on them that shows up in X-Rays so it’s easy to find them and get them all out. They supposedly can stop arterial bleeding in 15 seconds. Very useful for military medics. I’m sure this would have been useful in M*A*S*H at the aid stations.

3D printed cranial skull

3 months ago, doctors in the Netherlands used 3D printing to replace a woman’s skull. Not the whole skull, just the part around the brain. The unnamed woman had a rare condition that caused her skull to thicken. It had grown thick enough to press on the brain causing loss of vision and harming motor functions. She would have died without this operation.

Doctors have done similar transplants using a material like cement, but it doesn’t fit well. This is the first time a 3D printed prosthetic has been used to replace part of the skull (sorry, second time). After 3 months, the woman’s vision is back, and she’s back to her job. You can hardly tell that she has had the operation. The new skull prosthetic is transparent, but is covered by the woman’s scalp, so she looks normal.

3D printing is becoming more and more useful in medicine. From bone replacement, to custom built guides to help make operations more effective, this technology is helping more and more doctors. Just a couple of years ago these things would have been impossible. We’re living in the future.