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DNA robots find and tag blood cells

August 8, 2013 8:00 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Columbia Univ. Medical Center, working with their collaborators at the Hospital for Special Surgery, have created a fleet of molecular “robots” that can home in on specific human cells and mark them for drug therapy or destruction. The nanorobots—a collection of DNA molecules, some attached to antibodies—were designed to seek a specific set of human blood cells and attach a fluorescent tag to the cell surfaces.

Gold nanoprobes hold the key to treating killer diseases

August 7, 2013 12:14 pm | News | Comments

Stem cell therapy is in its infancy, but has the potential to change the way we treat cancer and other diseases by replacing damaged or diseased cells with healthy ones. Identifying the right cells to use is the challenge, and scientists in the U.K. have found a way to use gold nanoprobes with surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy to differentiate the nearly identical cells.

Laser method allows DNA to be inserted gently into living cells

August 7, 2013 12:08 pm | News | Comments

A team of scientists in South Korea have recently developed the most precise method ever used to accomplish a typically messy, clumsy process: inserting DNA into living cells. It combines two high-tech laboratory techniques and allows the researchers to precisely poke holes on the surface of a single cell with a high-powered femtosecond laser and then gently tug a piece of DNA through it using optical tweezers.

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China investing billions in bid to catch up with Western pharma

August 6, 2013 10:41 am | by Lux Research | News | Comments

China’s biomedical sector is rapidly transforming itself from a manufacturing base to an innovation hub, investing billions of dollars and setting up innovation centers in a bid to catch up with the west by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan, according to Lux Research.

Battelle team wins DARPA contract to build medical device to treat sepsis

August 6, 2013 9:48 am | News | Comments

At Battelle, supporting America’s military personnel is woven into the fabric of its business. In that pursuit, a team consisting of Battelle, NxStage Medical Inc. and Aethlon Medical has won a contract from DARPA to develop an innovative, new medical device that may save the lives of soldiers—and civilians as well—by treating sepsis.

Univ. Of Maryland, Baltimore's licensing deals fuel local life sciences community

August 6, 2013 8:30 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Univ. of Maryland Ventures announced agreements between Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore and five different life sciences companies across the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan region. The companies include Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, Plasmonix, IGI Technologies, A&G Pharmaceuticals and BioAssay Works.

New microchip sorts white blood cells from whole blood

August 6, 2013 7:35 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Early in 2012, a team of scientists reported the development of a postage stamp-sized microchip capable of sorting cells through a technique, known as cell rolling, that mimics a natural mechanism in the body. The device successfully separated leukemia cells from cell cultures, but could not extract cells directly from blood. Now the group has developed a new microchip that can quickly separate white blood cells from samples of whole blood.

Simulating Sensors and Detectors

August 5, 2013 12:53 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

One of the major driving forces for developing new sensors and detectors is in medical applications. This includes the integration of fiber optic sensors, smart sensors, silicon micromachined sensors and thin-film devices. Smart sensors are devices that incorporate electronic logic, control or signal processing functions and therefore offer enhanced measurement capabilities, information quality and functional performance.

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3-D Printing for Life Science Applications

August 5, 2013 12:31 pm | by Stephen L. Pentoney Jr., PhD, MBA, and Sharon C. Presnell, PhD, Organovo, San Diego, Calif. | Articles | Comments

The human cell represents the smallest functional unit of life. All tissues in the body are composed of multiple cell types, typically arranged in a 3-D architecture that is relevant to the functions they carry out. Since cells were first isolated and grown in the laboratory environment, biologists and engineers have pursued the utilization of these tiny building blocks in the reconstruction and regeneration of functional tissue.

Researchers dismantle bacteria's war machinery

August 5, 2013 12:13 pm | News | Comments

Certain bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, have the ability to deploy tiny darts. This biological weapon kills the host cell by piercing the membrane. Researchers have unlocked, piece by piece, this intriguing little machine and found an assembly of proteins that, in unfolding at the right time, takes the form of a spur.

Research reveals how the brain keeps eyes on the prize

August 5, 2013 10:15 am | by McGovern Institute for Brain Research | News | Comments

“Are we there yet?” As anyone who has traveled with young children knows, maintaining focus on distant goals can be a challenge. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests how the brain achieves this task, and indicates that the neurotransmitter dopamine may signal the value of long-term rewards.

Auto lubricant could rev up medical imaging

August 5, 2013 9:57 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley have built a device that could speed up medical imaging without breaking the bank. The key ingredient? An engine lubricant called molybdenum disulfide, or MoS2, which has been sold in auto parts shops for decades.

Catching cancer early by chasing it

August 1, 2013 4:18 pm | News | Comments

Reaching a clinic in time to receive an early diagnosis for cancer—when the disease is most treatable—is a global problem. And now a team of Chinese researchers proposes a global solution: have a user-friendly diagnostic device travel to the patient, anywhere in the world.

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When writing antibiotic prescriptions, doctors favor strongest drugs

August 1, 2013 1:55 pm | News | Comments

A study at the Univ. of Utah finds that more than 60% of antibiotic prescriptions are for types that kill multiple kinds of bacteria. Unfortunately, in more than 25% of cases such prescriptions are useless because the infection stems from a virus, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. This overuse of antibiotics has a number of downsides.

Research points toward better colonoscopy

August 1, 2013 8:09 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new endoscopy technology that could make it easier for doctors to detect precancerous lesions in the colon. Early detection of such lesions has been shown to reduce death rates from colorectal cancer, which kills about 50,000 people per year in the U.S.

Insect-inspired super rubber moves toward practical uses in medicine

July 31, 2013 10:52 am | News | Comments

A recent publication evaluates the latest advances toward using a protein called resilin in nanosprings, biorubbers, biosensors and other applications. This remarkable protein is rubber-like and enables dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects to flap their wings, jump and chirp. Resilin could have major potential uses in medicine.

Molecular robots help researchers build more targeted therapeutics

July 29, 2013 1:55 pm | News | Comments

Many drugs such as agents for cancer or autoimmune diseases have nasty side effects because while they kill disease-causing cells, they also affect healthy cells. Now a new study has demonstrated a technique for developing more targeted drugs, by using molecular “robots” to hone in on more specific populations of cells.

Mice “incepted” with false memories

July 29, 2013 9:12 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have used optogenetics techniques to implant false memories into mice, potentially illuminating the mechanisms underlying the human phenomenon of “recalling” experiences that never occurred.

Battelle team wins DARPA sepsis medical device contract

July 25, 2013 6:23 pm | News | Comments

As many as 10% of combat wounds result in life threatening infections that ultimately lead to septicemia and/or sepsis. Battelle, in partnership with NxStage Medical Inc. and Aethlon Medical, has won a nearly $23 million contract from DARPA to develop a new medical device that would holistically treat for sepsis by removing blood and cleaning it in a manner similar to dialysis.

Pocket-sized sensor gives instant fat burning updates

July 25, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

Fitness fanatics may soon be able to gauge if their hard work is paying off without the need for weighing scales thanks to a new device that can instantly tell if your body is burning fat. The portable, pocket-sized sensor, produced by a group of researchers in Japan, works by measuring increased levels of acetone on the breath—a good indicator of when the body has begun to break down fat.

Fluxion Biosciences receives 2013 R&D 100 Award for circulating tumor cell system

July 24, 2013 1:23 pm | News | Comments

Fluxion Biosciences announced that it has won a 2013 R&D 100 Award for its IsoFlux system. The R&D 100 Award places the state-of-the-art IsoFlux system in the prestigious company of previous winners such as liquid crystal displays and the anticancer drug Taxol.

Controlling genes with light

July 23, 2013 7:28 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Although human cells have an estimated 20,000 genes, only a fraction of those are turned on at any given time, depending on the cell’s needs. To find out what those genes are doing, researchers need tools that can manipulate their status on short timescales. That is now possible, thanks to a new technology that can rapidly start or halt the expression of any gene of interest simply by shining light on the cells.

Injectable “smart sponge” holds promise for controlled drug delivery

July 22, 2013 10:16 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a drug delivery technique for diabetes treatment in which a sponge-like material surrounds an insulin core. The sponge expands and contracts in response to blood sugar levels to release insulin as needed. The technique could also be used for targeted drug delivery to cancer cells.

Bacteriophages battle superbugs

July 18, 2013 4:11 pm | News | Comments

Microbiologists in France are reinvigorating a way of battling C. difficile infections that they hope will help overcome the growing problem of antibiotic resistant superbugs in hospitals. Using a model human colon, the researchers showed that the administration of a specific bacteriophage significantly reduced toxins and the number of C. difficile cells produced without significantly affecting the other members of the gut microbiota.

New way to target an old foe: malaria

July 18, 2013 3:57 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Although malaria has been eradicated in many countries, including the United States, it still infects more than 200 million people worldwide, killing nearly a million every year. In a major step toward reducing that number, a team led by MIT researchers has now developed a way to grow liver tissue that can support the liver stage of the life cycle of the two most common species of malaria.

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