Monthly Archives: April 2008

The future of biomedicine: virtual humans

The future of biomedicine: virtual humans

This is your brain on a chip. This is your liver on a slide. This is your body in a supercomputer. Any questions?

It’s a bit more complicated than that, but recently scientists have provided a sneak preview of the future of biomedicine with a range of projects seeking to assemble virtual humans — or parts of them — on computers and “labs on a chip.” Someday, the descendants of these sophisticated new programs and devices could serve as our stand-ins for clinical tests on drugs, cosmetics and toxic compounds.

“I would predict that this century is going to be dominated by our ability to handle biomedical problems in a computational domain,” said Peter Coveney, director of the Centre for Computational Science at University College London.

Scientists Develop Artificial Neural Networks

Scientists Develop Artificial Neural Networks

A research team from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have managed to “build” a mini-system made of human nervous cells. According to their studies, soldiers will be able to control the battlesuits with the help of their own nerve impulses and cyber-sex could go to the next level, the participants will feel the same pleasure as the one during “normal” sex.

This technology also has a good side – it could regrow human nerves and to repair potential damaged nerves. The first tests were made on rats, were successful, but they also tested it on humans and the results were amazing. They managed to grow neurons which lived for three months in a special “growth chamber”.

HIV Breakthrough

HIV Breakthrough: Protein That Fights Immunodeficiency Identified

A Canada-U.S. research team has solved a major genetic mystery: How a protein in some people’s DNA guards them against killer immune diseases such as HIV. In an advance online edition of Nature Medicine, the scientists explain how the protein, FOX03a, shields against viral attacks and how the discovery will help in the development of a HIV vaccine.

The breakthrough emerged by studying three groups of men: One HIV-negative sample, a second HIV-positive group whose infection was successfully controlled through tritherapy and a third group whose HIV did not show any symptoms. Called elite controllers, this third group fended off infection without treatment because their immune system, which would normally be attacked by HIV, maintained its resilient immune memory through the regulation of the FOX03a protein.

“Given their perfect resistance to HIV infection, elite controllers represent the ideal study group to examine how proteins are responsible for the maintenance of an immune system with good anti-viral memory,” said Dr. Haddad. “This is the first study to examine, in people rather than animals, what shields the body’s immune system from infection and to pinpoint the fundamental role of FOX03a in defending the body.”

Cancer Breakthroughs

Breast cancer ‘master gene’ breakthrough

The most deadly feature of breast cancer is when it disperses from the breast, causing tumours to develop in other parts of the body.

But now researchers say they have found a way of stopping this process, known as metastasis, after pinpointing the gene which controls the spread of the cancer.

By removing this gene from cancer cells the American teams of scientists were able to halt its progress and even turned the cancer cell back to normal.

Cancer treatment: The chickens that lay golden eggs

The genetically modified brown eggs produced by a flock of designer hens at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh are the biotechnological equivalent of a Fabergé.

Several generations of Isa Brown hens – a prolific egg-laying French cross between Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island White – have been bred from “founder birds” that were genetically altered by Dr Helen Sang and her team to contain human genes.

Each gene provides the recipe for the production of a corresponding human protein. In the Roslin Institute hens the human protein is found only in their eggs, reducing the risk of harm to the hens themselves.

The egg proteins are rich in expensive drugs that can fight cancer and other diseases, with each egg containing enough medicine to treat a handful of patients each year.

Scientists successfully awaken sleeping stem cells

Scientists successfully awaken sleeping stem cells

Scientists at Schepens Eye Research Institute have discovered what chemical in the eye triggers the dormant capacity of certain non-neuronal cells to transform into progenitor cells, a stem-like cell that can generate new retinal cells. The discovery, published in the March issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS), offers new hope to victims of diseases that harm the retina, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

“This study is very significant. It means it might be possible to turn on the eye’s own resources to regenerate damaged retinas, without the need for transplanting outside retinal tissue or stem cells,” says Dr. Dong Feng Chen, associate scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School, and the principal investigator of the study. “If our next steps work in animal disease models, we believe that clinical testing could happen fairly quickly.”

Regrowing Limbs: Can People Regenerate Body Parts?

Regrowing Limbs: Can People Regenerate Body Parts?

Thus, our studies of salamanders are revealing that the regeneration process can be divided into pivotal stages, beginning with the wound-healing response, followed by the formation of a blastema by cells that revert to some degree to an embryonic state, and finally, the initiation of a developmental program to build the new limb. As we move toward the challenge of inducing limb regeneration in humans, we rely on these insights to guide our efforts. Indeed, the hardest things to discover in science are those that do not already occur, and limb regeneration in humans fits snugly into this category, although that does not mean humans have no natural regenerative capacity.

Diabetes Cure In Mice – Human Trials To Begin

Diabetes Cure In Mice – Human Trials To Begin

Most diabetes sufferers could be cured within four years if a revolutionary treatment involving the BCG vaccine works, scientists said yesterday.

A human clinical trial with hopes of finding a cure for type 1 diabetes is to start at a leading American research hospital using BCG, universally given for many years in Britain to prevent tuberculosis.

If all goes well in later trials, the treatment could be approved for ordinary patients in four years.

Volunteer patients are now being enrolled for the trial at at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The aim is to find out whether promising results obtained by Dr Denise Faustman in mouse studies can be applied to human diabetes.

Her studies have shown that mice with a form of diabetes closely resembling type 1 diabetes in humans can be cured. “Hundreds of mice were involved in a number of experiments over a period of years,” said Dr Faustman.

“All were suffering from type 1 diabetes with only about two weeks to live.”

“They started improving within days after the first injection of BCG was given, and were eventually free of diabetes.”

The vaccine destroyed abnormal white blood cells obstructing the production of insulin, which is needed to prevent diabetes, she said.

Konarka Tests The First Inkjet Printed Solar Cells

Konarka Tests The First Inkjet Printed Solar Cells

Konarka Technologies is a company which is trying to develop new ways of producing solar energy, with its headquarters in Lowell, Massachusetts and it was founded in 2001. On 4th of March they announced that they have successfully tested the manufacturing process of inkjet printed solar cells. This project was published in a journal called “Advanced Materials” entitled “High Photovoltaic Performance of Inkjet Printed Polymer:Fullerene Blends” and it was developed by a Konarka team consisting of Dr. Stelios A. Choulis, Claudia N. Hoth, Dr. Pavel Schilinsky and Dr. Christoph J. Brabec.

According to Rick Hess, president and CEO at Konarka, this a big step for more efficient solar cells and here are a few of his words: “demonstrating the use of inkjet printing technology as a fabrication tool for highly efficient solar cells and sensors with small area requirements is a major milestone”, also he said: “this essential breakthrough in the field of printed solar cells positions Konarka as an emerging leader in printed photovoltaics”.