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Speeding up gene discovery

December 13, 2013 7:42 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, which identified nearly 20,000 protein-coding genes, scientists have been trying to decipher the roles of those genes. A new approach, called CRISPR, should speed up the process by allowing researchers to study the entire genome at once. The new system allows researchers to permanently and selectively delete genes from a cell’s DNA.

New method efficiently and easily bonds gels and biological tissues

December 12, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

A research team in France has invented an adhesion method that creates a strong bond between two gels by spreading on their surface a solution containing nanoparticles. Until now, there was no entirely satisfactory method of obtaining adhesion between two gels or two biological tissues. The bond is resistant to water and uses no polymers or chemical reactions.

Tech for Faster Diagnosis, Cures

December 10, 2013 2:52 pm | by Lindsay Hock | Articles | Comments

In January 2013, an assoc. prof of biomedical engineering at Columbia Univ., Samuel K. Sia, developed a lab-on-a-chip technology that not only checks a patient’s HIV status with a finger prick, it also synchronizes the results automatically and instantaneously with central health care records. The technology, developed in collaboration with OPKO Diagnostics and called mChip, performs all ELISA functions, and produces results within 15 min.

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Multiphysics Models Create New Biomedical Information

December 10, 2013 2:30 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

Multiphysics software simulations are used by biomedical equipment developers to reliably design complex mechanisms for enhancing the human physical condition. These medical devices can include tools for treating cancers, enhancing hearing and treating chronic back pain.

Sensor tracks zinc in cells

December 10, 2013 7:21 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Zinc is found in every tissue in the body. The vast majority of the metal ion is tightly bound to proteins, helping them to perform biological reactions. Tiny amounts of zinc, however, are only loosely bound, and may be critical for proper function in some organs. Yet the exact roles the ion plays in biological systems are unknown. A new optical sensor tracks zinc within cells and should help researchers learn more about its functions.

Innovative contact lens delivers glaucoma medication continuously

December 9, 2013 10:10 am | News | Comments

For nearly 50 years, contact lenses have been proposed as a means of ocular drug delivery that may someday replace eye drops, but achieving controlled drug release has been a significant challenge. Researchers in Massachusetts have made an advance in this direction with the development of a drug-eluting contact lens designed for prolonged delivery glaucoma medication.

Recycled plastic effective in killing drug-resistant fungi

December 9, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Singapore and at IBM Research in California have discovered a new, potentially life-saving application for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used to make plastic bottles. They have successfully converted PET into a non-toxic biocompatible material with superior fungal killing properties. This could help prevent and treat various fungus-induced diseases such as keratitis.

“Smuggling” drugs at the cellular level

December 9, 2013 9:28 am | by Britt Faulstick, Drexel Univ. | News | Comments

Medicated adhesive patches have become a preferred method of delivery for everything from nicotine to hormones to motion sickness medication. Drexel Univ. researchers are trying to expand the possibilities of this system, which is called transdermal delivery, with the help of a cleverly designed delivery vehicle and an ultrasonic "push," or pressure from sound waves.

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Industry Breakout - Life Sciences

December 9, 2013 6:10 am | by R&D Magazine/Battelle | Articles | Comments

As represented in this Forecast, the life science industry includes biopharmaceuticals, medical instruments and devices, animal/agricultural bioscience and commercial research and testing. However, the industry’s R&D spending is driven primarily by the mass and research intensity of the biopharmaceutical sector, which accounts for nearly 85% of all expenditures.

Gene sequencing that everyone can afford

December 6, 2013 8:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers in China, working on the optimization of a third-generation sequencing technique based on nanopores, have found that long-chain DNA with low salt concentration is more conducive to the nanopore sequencing process. This finding may improve the efficiency of sequencing, and further low the cost of gene sequencing.

Collaboration yields new genetic variant data set for 1000 Genomes Project

December 5, 2013 9:33 am | News | Comments

DNAnexus has announced a collaboration with Stanford Univ. that has resulted in a new 1000 Genomes Project data set of genetic variation. Launched in January 2008, the 1000 Genomes Project was the first international effort to sequence a large number of individual genomes with the goal of developing a comprehensive and freely accessible resource on human genetic variation.

Database tracks toxic side effects of pharmaceuticals

December 5, 2013 9:13 am | News | Comments

Sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease. Pharmaceutical drugs are known for their potential side effects, and an important aspect of personalized medicine is to tailor therapies to individuals to reduce the chances of adverse events. Now researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have updated an extensive toxicology database so that it can be used to track information about therapeutic drugs and their unintentional toxic effects.

Ultrathin “diagnostic skin” allows continuous patient monitoring

December 5, 2013 9:10 am | News | Comments

An international multidisciplinary team including researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering has developed  a sophisticated ”electronic skin” that adheres non-invasively to human skin, conforms well to contours, and provides a detailed temperature map of any surface of the body.

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Researchers develop new technology to study hearing

December 4, 2013 8:20 am | Videos | Comments

Much of what is known about sensory touch and hearing cells is based on indirect observation. Scientists know that these tiny cells are sensitive to changes in force and pressure. But to truly understand how they function, scientists must be able to manipulate them directly. Now, Stanford Univ. scientists are developing a set of tools that are small enough to stimulate an individual nerve or group of nerves.

A leap forward in x-ray technology

December 4, 2013 7:47 am | by David Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

X-rays transformed medicine a century ago by providing a noninvasive way to detect internal structures in the body. Still, they have limitations: X-rays cannot image the body’s soft tissues, except with the use of contrast-enhancing agents that must be swallowed or injected, and their resolution is limited. But a newly developed approach could dramatically change that.

Updated healthcare.gov gets mixed reviews

December 3, 2013 6:38 pm | by KELLI KENNEDY - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Counselors helping people use the federal government's online health exchange are giving mixed reviews to the updated site, with some zipping through the application process while others are facing the same old sputters and even crashes. The Obama administration had promised a vastly improved shopping experience on healthcare.gov by the end of November, and this is the first week for users to test the updated site.

FDA tells 23andMe to halt sales of genetic test

November 26, 2013 11:57 am | by Matthew Perrone, AP Health Writer | News | Comments

The Food and Drug Administration has ordered Google-backed genetic test maker 23andMe to halt sales of its personalized DNA test kits. In a warning letter posted online Monday, FDA regulators say that the Silicon Valley company has not shown that its tests are safe or effective despite "more than 14 face-to-face and teleconference meetings" and "hundreds of email exchanges."

Scientists find powerful tool for genetic engineering

November 22, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

Viruses can not only cause illnesses in humans, they also infect bacteria. Bacteria protect themselves with a kind of immune system that detects and “chops up” foreign DNA. Scientists have now shown that the dual-RNA guided enzyme Cas9 which is involved in the process has developed independently in various strains of bacteria. This enhances the potential of exploiting the bacterial immune system for genome engineering.

New technique improves accuracy, ease of cancer diagnosis

November 22, 2013 8:31 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers have demonstrated a technique that, by measuring the physical properties of individual cells in body fluids, can diagnose cancer with a high degree of accuracy. The technique, which uses a deformability cytometer to analyze individual cells, could reduce the need for more cumbersome diagnostic procedures and the associated costs, while improving accuracy over current methods.

Ultrasound, nanoparticle may help diabetics avoid the needle

November 21, 2013 10:12 am | News | Comments

A new nanotechnology-based technique for regulating blood sugar in diabetics may give patients the ability to release insulin painlessly using a small ultrasound device, allowing them to go days between injections—rather than using needles to give themselves multiple insulin injections each day. The technique was developed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Stents may not help treat clogged kidney arteries

November 18, 2013 4:00 pm | by MARILYNN MARCHIONE - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

New research raises serious questions about a very common medical procedure—placing a stent to prop open a narrowed kidney artery. A study found that people treated with these stents plus various heart drugs fared no better than people treated with medicines alone.

Graphene nanoribbons "read" DNA

November 18, 2013 1:31 pm | News | Comments

One of the methods used for examining the molecules in a liquid consists in passing the fluid through a nano-sized hole so as to detect their passage. Researchers in Switzerland have found a way to improve this technique by using a material with unique properties: graphene.

SlipChip counts molecules with chemistry and a cell phone

November 18, 2013 8:31 am | Videos | Comments

In developing nations, rural areas and even one's own home, limited access to expensive equipment and trained medical professionals can impede the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Many qualitative tests that provide a simple "yes" or "no" answer have been optimized for use in these resource-limited settings. But few quantitative tests can be done outside of a laboratory or clinical setting.

Robots let doctors 'beam' into remote hospitals

November 17, 2013 9:54 am | by TERENCE CHEA - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The doctor isn't in, but he can still see you now. Remote presence robots are allowing physicians to "beam" themselves into hospitals to diagnose patients and offer medical advice during emergencies. A growing number of hospitals in California and other states are using telepresence robots to expand access to medical specialists, especially in rural areas where there's a shortage of doctors.

Researcher changes software design to reduce unnecessary lab tests, patient costs

November 14, 2013 12:49 pm | News | Comments

Increasingly, medical professionals are using electronic medical systems that provide lists of laboratory tests from which medical professionals can choose. Now, a Univ. of Missouri researcher and her colleagues have studied how to modify these lists to ensure health professionals order relevant tests and omit unnecessary lab tests, which could result in better care and reduced costs for patients.

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