The announcements of this year's Nobel Prize winners will start Monday with the medicine award and continue with physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics. The secretive award committees never give away any hints in advance of who could win, but here's a look at five big scientific breakthroughs that haven't yet received a Nobel prize.
A microfluidic chip developed at the Univ. of Michigan is among the best at capturing elusive circulating tumor cells from blood—and it can support the cells' growth for further analysis. The device, believed to be the first to pair these functions, uses the advanced electronics material graphene oxide. In clinics, such a device could one day help doctors diagnose cancers.
Tracking blood flow in the laboratory is an important tool for studying ailments and is usually measured in the clinic using professional imaging equipment and techniques like laser speckle contrast imaging. Now, developers have built a new biological imaging system 50 times less expensive than standard equipment, and suitable for imaging applications outside of the laboratory.
At the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, experts have been conducting research of “organs” on microchips. Unlike the few other laboratories conducting these types of studies, the Army is specifically looking at potential scenarios that will affect warfighters, especially chemical agent exposure.
Pacemakers and implantable medical devices often have wireless capabilities that allow emergency workers to monitor patients. But these devices have a potential downside: They can be hacked. Researchers at Rice Univ. have come up with a secure way to dramatically cut the risk that an implanted medical device could be altered remotely without authorization.
Most people don’t think about the difference between walking across the room and walking up a flight of stairs. Their brains (and their legs) automatically adjust to the new conditions. But for people using prosthetic legs, there is no automatic link between their bodies and the prosthetics that they need to negotiate the new surroundings.
Microscopic, bottle-like structures with corks that melt at precisely controlled temperatures could potentially release drugs inside the body or fragrances onto the skin, according to a recently published study. Typical drug delivery systems act more like sponges than bottles. The researchers hope that the new system may allow for greater control of drug delivery.
A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-developed biological detection technology has been employed as part of an international collaboration that has detected a virus in bladder cancers. The research is believed to be the first study to demonstrate an association between Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), also known as human herpesvirus 8, and bladder cancers.
Siemens Healthcare has announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted 510(k) clearance for Symbia Intevo—the world’s first xSPECT system, which combines the high sensitivity of single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) with the high specificity of computed tomography (CT). Completely integrating data from both modalities, Symbia Intevo generates high resolution and, for the first time ever, quantitative images.
Scientists have developed an influenza vaccine delivered via microneedle patch that provided 100% protection against a lethal influenza virus in mice more than one year after vaccination. Instead of a liquid containing whole killed or attenuated virus, this vaccine uses dry virus-like particles which simply coat the needles in the presence of a simple stabilizing agent, reducing the need for refrigeration.
Despite widespread adoption by hospitals of surgical robot technology over the past decade, a “slapdash” system of reporting complications paints an unclear picture of its safety, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. When an adverse event or device malfunction occurs, hospitals are required to report these incidents. But this doesn’t always happen, the researchers say.
Scientists estimate that there is a minimum of 320,000 viruses in mammals awaiting discovery. Collecting evidence of these viruses, or even a majority of them, they say, could provide information critical to early detection and mitigation of disease outbreaks in humans. This undertaking would cost approximately $6.3 billion, or $1.4 billion if limited to 85% of total viral diversity.
A plastic material already used in absorbable surgical sutures and other medical devices shows promise for continuous administration of antibiotics to patients with brain infections, scientists are reporting in a new study. Use of the material, placed directly on the brain’s surface, could reduce the need for weeks of costly hospital stays now required for such treatment.
Orthocare Innovations has introduced a new technology that is intended to enhance limb control for those who rely on prosthetic ankles and feet. The Magellan MFA (Magellan Microprocessor Foot Ankle System) is a computer-controlled foot-ankle prosthesis capable of adapting to a user’s activities through a 38-degree range of motion.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked by a buildup of plaque. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows the coronary arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle, which could cause angina or a heart attack. Abbott’s Absorb Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold is the first drug-eluting, fully bioresorbable vascular scaffold technology to reach the market.
When a beating heart slips into an irregular, life-threatening rhythm, the treatment is well known: deliver a burst of electric current from a pacemaker or defibrillator. But because the electricity itself can cause pain, tissue damage and other serious side-effects, a Johns Hopkins-led research team wants to use laboratory data and an intricate computer model replace these jolts with a kinder, gentler remedy: light.
Patients who wear contact lenses often report blurred vision at the end of the day or have to blink a few times to clear their vision when working on computers. Blurred vision can be caused when contact lenses lose moisture, which changes the shape of the lens and can distort clarity of vision. To address this problem, Bausch+Lomb developed Biotrue ONEday lenses.
Univ. of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher. Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.
A lightweight and field-portable device invented at Univ. of California, Los Angeles that conducts kidney tests and transmits data through a smartphone attachment may significantly reduce the need for frequent office visits by people with diabetes and others with chronic kidney ailments.
Since the first test-tube baby was born more than three decades ago, in vitro fertilization has evolved into a highly sophisticated lab procedure. Now, scientists are going back to basics and testing a simpler method that could cost as little as $265 and use basic laboratory equipment that could fit inside a shoebox.
Traditionally, dentists have made dental impressions by having patients bite down on a moldable silicone material. Such impressions, however, can be uncomfortable and inaccurate. In the early 2000s, a group of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. began working to commercialize a novel handheld scanner that could digitally capture 3-D images of the inside of a patient’s mouth.
Researchers in Switzerland have developed a “guide” that can be used to precisely predict the number of proteins a given gene will produce under varying conditions. Each gene has a segment of DNA at its beginning called a promoter, and the researchers generated more than 200 of them, integrated them into a yeast genome, and conducted comparative analysis that generated a model. This work will help biologists to engineer cells.
When people have a brain injury so severe that they can't squeeze a loved one's hand or otherwise respond, there are few good ways to tell if they have any lingering awareness or are in a vegetative state. Now researchers have created a technique using a magnetic coil and an electroencephalogram to allow them to peek inside the brain and measure varying levels of consciousness.
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. has received a $5.6 million grant award from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use its Organs-on-Chips technology to test human physiological responses to radiation. The project will investigate if the microfluidic devices lined by living human cells can be used instead of animals to evaluate the efficacy and safety of medical treatments for radiation sickness.
A recent invention at Purdue Univ. could improve therapy selection for personalized cancer care. Researchers have created a technique called BioDynamic Imaging that measures the activity inside cancer biopsies, or samples of cells. It allows technicians to assess the efficacy of drug combinations, called regimens, on personal cancers.