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MicroRNA detection on the cheap

March 29, 2013 7:37 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Current methods of detecting microRNA (miRNA) can be time consuming and costly: The custom equipment used in such tests costs more than $100,000, and the limited throughput of these systems further hinders progress. Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni are helping to rectify these issues through their fast-growing, Cambridge-headquartered startup, Firefly BioWorks Inc., which provides technology that allows for rapid miRNA detection in a large number of samples using standard laboratory equipment.

DNA test identifies ingredients in foods

March 27, 2013 9:18 am | News | Comments

Almost all foodstuffs contain the genetic material of those animal and plant species that were used in their preparation. Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have developed a novel screening procedure that provides for highly sensitive, quantifiable analysis of animal, plant, and microbial substances present in foodstuffs. For this, the researchers have adapted the latest techniques of DNA sequencing.

Counting white blood cells at home

March 26, 2013 9:59 am | News | Comments

Currently, most white blood cell counts are performed with large-scale equipment in central clinical laboratories. If a physician collects blood samples from a patient in the office, it can take days to get the results. But now engineers at the California Institute of Technology, working with LeukoDx, have developed a portable device to count white blood cells that needs less than a pinprick's worth of blood and takes just minutes to run.

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Wireless, implanted sensor broadens range of brain research

March 19, 2013 3:31 pm | News | Comments

A compact, self-contained sensor recorded and transmitted brain activity data wirelessly for more than a year in early stage animal tests, according to a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health. In addition to allowing for more natural studies of brain activity in moving subjects, this implantable device represents a potential major step toward cord-free control of advanced prosthetics that move with the power of thought

High-resolution endoscope is as thin as a human hair

March 13, 2013 10:09 am | by Andrew Myers, Stanford University | News | Comments

Engineers at Stanford have developed a prototype single-fiber endoscope that improves the resolution of these much-sought-after instruments fourfold over existing designs. This so-called micro-endoscope can resolve objects just 2.5 micrometers in size and could lead to an era of needle-thin, minimally invasive endoscopes able to view features out of reach of today’s instruments.

Rapid cancer detection built on a chip

March 8, 2013 3:39 pm | News | Comments

Early detection is vital for the effective treatment of cancer. In many cases, tell-tale biomarkers are present in the bloodstream long before outward symptoms become apparent. The development of an inexpensive and rapid point-of-care diagnostic test capable of spotting such early biomarkers of disease could save many lives. A research team in Japan working on developing such a test has now produced their most sensitive microRNA detector yet.

Biologists produce rainbow-colored algae

March 7, 2013 3:30 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have engineered a green alga used commonly in laboratories, <em>Chlamydomonas reinhardtii</em>, into a rainbow of different colors by producing six different colored fluorescent proteins in the algae cells. Tagging algae with different kinds of fluorescent proteins could help sort different kinds of cells, allow scientists to view cellular structures like the cytoskeleton and flagella, or even to create “fusion proteins”.

New tool better estimates pandemic threats

March 6, 2013 11:12 am | News | Comments

A simple new method better assesses the risks posed by emerging zoonotic viruses Researchers show that the new tool can produce transmissibility estimates for swine flu, allowing researchers to better evaluate the possible pandemic threat posed by this virus. ntil now, estimates of transmissibility were derived from detailed outbreak investigations, which are resource intensive and subject to selection bias.

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Diagnostic cocktail: Pour, shake and stir

March 1, 2013 10:01 am | News | Comments

A homebrewed diagnostic mixture containing a single drop of blood, a dribble of water, and a dose of DNA powder with gold particles could mean rapid diagnosis and treatment of the world's leading diseases in the near future. The cocktail diagnostic is being developed at the University of Toronto and it involves the same technology used in over-the-counter pregnancy tests.

Disease diagnosis at the touch of a button

February 26, 2013 7:56 am | News | Comments

When viruses like HIV/AIDS strike in underdeveloped regions of the world, they often spiral out of control in part because there is no easy way to bring diagnostic equipment to remote areas so that the diseases can be identified, treated, and stopped before they spread. Now, an inexpensive, portable, easy-to-use device, built by a team of Caltech engineers and biologists, promises to speed the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and other diseases—and improve treatment—in even the most far-flung corners of the world.

Why cells stick: Phenomenon extends longevity of bonds between cells

February 15, 2013 8:50 am | News | Comments

Research carried out by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and The University of Manchester has revealed new insights into how cells stick to each other and to other bodily structures, an essential function in the formation of tissue structures and organs. It's thought that abnormalities in their ability to do so play an important role in a broad range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Building a biochemistry lab-on-a-chip

February 13, 2013 8:04 am | News | Comments

Miniaturized laboratory-on-chip systems promise rapid, sensitive, and multiplexed detection of biological samples for medical diagnostics, drug discovery, and high-throughput screening. Using microfabrication techniques and incorporating a unique design of transistor-based heating, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are further advancing the use of silicon transistor and electronics into chemistry and biology for point-of-care diagnostics.

Scientists probe human cells with high-frequency sound

February 4, 2013 8:29 am | News | Comments

Sound waves are widely used in medical imaging, such as when doctors take an ultrasound of a developing fetus. Now scientists have developed a way to use sound to probe tissue on a much tinier scale. Researchers deployed high-frequency sound waves to test the stiffness and viscosity of the nuclei of individual human cells. The probe could eventually help answer questions such as how cells adhere to medical implants and why healthy cells turn cancerous.

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Study: Harmful effects of bisphenol A proven

January 22, 2013 11:43 am | News | Comments

The compound bisphenol A, which is found in plastics and resins, has been under scrutiny as chemists attempt to determine whether it is a health hazard for humans. According to researchers in France, even weak concentrations of bisphenol A are sufficient to produce a negative reaction in human testicles, reducing the production of testosterone hormones.

Breath test identifies bacteria's fingerprint

January 14, 2013 11:51 am | News | Comments

Scientists have identified the chemical "fingerprints" given off by specific bacteria when present in the lungs, potentially allowing for a quick and simple breath test to diagnose infections such as tuberculosis. The researchers have successfully distinguished between different types of bacteria, as well as different strains of the same bacteria, in the lungs of mice by analyzing the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in exhaled breath.

Improving the accuracy of cancer diagnoses

December 26, 2012 8:41 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Tiny calcium deposits can be a telltale sign of breast cancer. However, in the majority of cases these microcalcifications signal a benign condition. A new diagnostic procedure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Case Western Reserve University could help doctors more accurately distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous cases.

Glowing fish shed light on metabolism

December 3, 2012 11:48 am | News | Comments

Emerging from a panel of 2,400 medications and drug-like compounds tested in a tiny zebrafish, a compound has been pinpointed by researchers who say it regulates whole-body metabolism and appears to protect obese mice from signs of metabolic disorders. The discovery may help drug discovery efforts to help help the rising population of Americans adults at risk for diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Scanning innovation may improve personalized medicine

November 28, 2012 12:07 pm | News | Comments

New combinations of medical imaging technologies hold promise for improved early disease screening, cancer staging, therapeutic assessment, and other aspects of personalized medicine, according to a new Virginia Tech report. The integration of multiple major tomographic scanners into a single framework involves the fusion of many imaging modalities known as "omni-tomography”.

White smell: Scientists find odor has color

November 26, 2012 4:49 pm | News | Comments

You can see the color white; you can hear white noise. Now, researchers have shown that you can also smell a white odor. To be perceived as white, a stimulus (like light or sound) must meet two conditions: The mix that produces them must span the range of our perception; and each component must be present at the exact same intensity. Neuroscientists have reproduced these conditions for scent.

Tooth “tattoo” sensor may help dentists assess patients' oral health

November 9, 2012 8:58 am | by David Levin, Tufts University | News | Comments

A sensor invented by Tufts University bioengineers, when attached temporarily to a tooth, could one day help dentists fine-tune treatments for patients with chronic periodontitis, for example, or even provide a window on a patient’s overall health. The thin foil-like sensor is built from gold, silk, and graphite, has a built-in antenna to receive power and signals, and is applied directly to a tooth.

Portable device enables quick RNA detection

November 8, 2012 10:29 am | News | Comments

A new power-free microfluidic chip developed by researchers at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute enables detection of microRNA from extremely small sample volume in only 20 minutes. By drastically reducing the time and quantity of sample required for detection, the chip lays the groundwork for early-stage point-of-care diagnosis of diseases.

Children’s hospital, Silicon Valley to market medical research software

October 31, 2012 10:18 pm | News | Comments

The latest significant biomedical informatics technology is not coming from the biotech industry or a university. In fact, it’s coming from a children’s hospital. Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Transformatix Technologies, Inc., in Davis, California, have partnered to create BioLinQ, a new biomedical informatics company designed to supply advanced software solutions for disease diagnosis and medical research.

Prototype ultra sensitive disease sensor developed

October 29, 2012 11:00 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have built a sensor that would enable doctors to detect the early stages of diseases and viruses with the naked eye. The sensor works by analyzing serum, derived from blood. If the result is positive, a reaction that generates irregular clumps of nanoparticles gives off a distinctive blue hue in a solution inside the container. If the results are negative the nanoparticles separate into ball-like shapes, creating a reddish hue.

Measuring molecules with the naked eye

October 26, 2012 1:36 pm | News | Comments

When someone develops liver cancer, the disease introduces a very subtle difference to their bloodstream, increasing the concentration of a particular molecule by just 10 parts per billion. That small shift is normally difficult to detect without sophisticated equipment, but new lab-on-a-chip technology designed at Brigham Young University can reveal the presence of ultra-low concentrations of a target molecule.

Study questions feasibility of entire genome sequencing in minutes

October 17, 2012 12:04 pm | News | Comments

The claim that nanopore technology is on the verge of making DNA analysis so fast and cheap that a person's entire genome could be sequenced at low cost in just minutes has produced intense interest. But a review by Northeastern University physicist Meni Wanunu questions whether the remaining technical hurdles can be overcome to create a workable, easily produced commercial device.

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