Bioengineers at Harvard University have developed a gel-based sponge that can be molded to any shape, loaded with drugs or stem cells, compressed to a fraction of its size, and delivered via injection. Once inside the body, it pops back to its original shape and gradually releases its cargo, before safely degrading.
Scientists have been working on microfluidic devices that can isolate circulating tumor cells, but most of these have two major limitations: It takes too long to process a sufficient amount of blood, and there is no good way to extract cancer cells for analysis after their capture. To help overcome these limitations, a research team has developed a microfluidic device inspired by the tentacles of jellyfish.
A thin, flexible electrode developed at the University of Michigan is 10 times smaller than the nearest competition and could make long-term measurements of neural activity practical at last. This kind of technology could eventually be used to send signals to prosthetic limbs, overcoming inflammation larger electrodes cause that damages both the brain and the electrodes.
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.
A new software product developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge could greatly improve sound perception for users of hearing aids. The software prescribes the amount of amplification of high-frequency sounds required to restore the audibility of such sounds.
Deep in the inner ear of mammals is a natural battery—a chamber filled with ions that produces an electrical potential to drive neural signals. A team of researchers has, for the first time, demonstrated that this battery could power implantable electronic devices without impairing hearing.
Nerves often die or shrink as a result of disease or injury. Researchers in Michigan and California have recently reported success in developing polymer nanofiber technologies for understanding how nerves form, why they don’t reconnect after injury, and what can be done to prevent or slow damage. The breakthrough involves growing and myelinating nerve cells along thin polymer nanofibers.
A new iPhone app developed at the University of Michigan lets migraine or facial pain patients easily track and record their pain, which in turn helps the treating clinician develop a pain management plan.
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.
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.
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.
Scientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that could someday be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases. The embryos are not being used to produce children, but it has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.
The human brain consists of around 80 billion neurons, which form a tight-knit network that they use to exchange signals with each other. Understanding which neurons connect with each other could provide valuable information about how the brain works. A team of scientists in Germany has developed a method for decoding neural circuit diagrams. Using measurements of total neuronal activity, they can determine the probability that two neurons are connected with each other.
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.
Researchers in Spain have improved the antimicrobial properties of medical textiles using an enzymatic pre-treatment combined with simultaneous deposition of nanoparticles and biopolymers under ultrasonic irradiation. The technique is used to create completely sterile antimicrobial textiles that help prevent hospital-acquired infections.
Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have developed a safe and affordable way to ensure a reliable U.S. supply of certain medical isotopes. Although the invention is at a conceptual stage, it has the potential to provide critical medical diagnostic material for small regional hospitals.
Logic circuits can be built from just about anything, including billiard balls, pipes of water, or animals in a maze. Tae Seok Moon, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, intends to build logic gates out of genes, and has already built the largest such device yet reported. But the purpose of these circuits is not to crunch numbers.
In times of distress, cells start to digest their own parts and recycle them for metabolic purposes. Called autophagy, this process plays a role in immune defense as a way to eliminate pathogens. Scientists have recently found the molecular “emergency brake” that regulates autophagy to keep it from getting out of control.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins and Northwestern universities have discovered how to control the shape of nanoparticles that move DNA through the body and have shown that the shapes of these carriers may make a big difference in how well they work in treating cancer and other diseases. The technique is noteworthy because it does not use a virus to carry DNA into cells.
Conventional sterilization techniques based on a blast of radiation, or exposure to toxic gas, can damage the functional biological components of certain medical devices. According to a team of researchers from Germany and Austria, materials containing an extract from licorice can be used to sterilize and protect medical devices and implants which include biological components.
British researcher John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells—a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. More than 40 years passed between Gurdon’s initial discovery and Yamanaka’s 2006 recipe for creating stem cells.
Scientists in the U.K. have developed a new technique which has the potential to kill off hospital superbugs like Pseudomonas aeruginosa , C. difficile, and MRSA. The method uses a cold plasma jet to rapidly penetrate dense bacterial structures known as biofilms which bind bacteria together and make them resistant to conventional chemical approaches.
Cardiac stress, such as a heart attack,frequently leads to pathological heart growth and subsequently to heart failure. Two tiny RNA molecules play a key role in this detrimental development in mice, and when researchers in Germany recently inhibited one of those two specific molecules, they were able to protect the rodent against pathological heart growth and failure. These new findings may guide therapeutic approaches for humans.
Conventional defibrillators, known as transvenous defibrillators, are implanted with wires, called the leads, that snake through veins into the heart. Not all patients are suitable for a conventional defibrillator, and complex and invasive surgery is often involved when they are. What makes a new device at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute special is that it is entirely subcutaneous. No part of it actually touches the heart.
In the operating room, surgeons can see inside the human body in real time using advanced imaging techniques, but primary care physicians haven't commonly had access to the same technology. Engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have recently created a new imaging tool for them: a handheld scanner that would enable them to image all the sites they commonly examine, such as bacterial colonies in the middle ear in 3D, or the thickness and health of patients' retinas.