Friday, 29 April 2016

Implant Lets Paralysed Man 'Play Guitar'


Technology Helpful to People Suffering from Paralysis Stroke/Brain Damage

Ian Burkhart, a quadriplegic from Ohio in the US can once again move his fingers after a chip had been implanted in his brain. He can now move individual fingers to play a guitar based computer game. The chip is said to read brain signals that are precisely interpreted by the computer which then tends to stimulate the muscles with electricity in restoring movements.

The researchers expect that the technology would eventually be helpful to millions of people suffering from paralysis stroke or brain damage. Ian, 24 had been seriously injured in a diving accident almost six years back and had incurred damage to his spinal cord which resulted in the left messages from his brain incapable of reaching the rest of his body.

He was paralysed below the elbows and was unable to walk. However, he is now celebrating the `big shock’ of being capable of moving his hand after going through a procedure at Ohio State University. A sensor had been implanted in his brain to read the activity of hundreds of neurons in his motor cortex which took hours of practice of teaching a sophisticated computer program on how to comprehend the myriad signals in his brain.

A Significant Moment in Utilising Computers to Avoid Spinal Cord Injuries

He also wore a stimulating sleeve with 130 electrodes with it in order to stimulate and contract different muscles in his right arm. The results had been published in the journal which showed that he could grasp and move large objects, pour the contents of a glass as well as swipe a credit card.

 Ian described the earlier session as a seven hour exam which had left him ‘completely and mentally tired and exhausted’ and had to break down each part of that motion and think about it in a more concentrated manner. For the first 19 years of his life, it had been something which he had taken it for granted. But with practice he had been learning new movements much quickly.

Ian now dreams of regaining the full function of both his hands since that enables you to be a lot independent and will not have to rely on people for the simple daily tasks. The research has marked a significant moment in the field of utilising computers to avoid spinal cord injuries.

Hope for Patients with Disabilities

The neurosurgeon, Dr Ali Rezai who had implanted the brain chip had stated that they are exhilarated that Ian had progressed considerably with this technology. He adds that this really provides hope for several patients in the future since this technology evolves and matures to help people who tend to have disabilities from spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury or stroke to permit them to be more functional and more independent.

The biggest challenge would be to turn the spectacular feats in the laboratory into something which could be utilised in the daily life. The approach needs surgery and there seems to be plenty of trailing and bulky cables. It also needs a large computer in performing the difficultprocesses to reach the brain.

Moreover, the movements of Ian are not skilful as natural movement even if they would have been unlikely, immediately after his accident. But the motor cortex tends to have millions of neurons with only a few hundreds are read by the chip. Improvement in the technology is anticipated which would be getting closer in restoring the true full function.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Spread of Super-Gonorrhoea, Big concern


Spread of Super Gonorrhoea – Big Concern

The spread of super gonorrhoea all across England and to gay men has given rise to great concern among the doctors. Last year, the new superbug provoked a national alert when it emerged in Leeds as one of the foremost treatments became hopeless against it. Public Health England admits the measure of containing the outbreak has been of limited success. Instances of super-gonorrhoea have been identified in the West Midlands, London and southern England.

Around 34 cases have been confirmed officially in laboratory testing though this is probably to be the tip of the iceberg of an infection which could be without any symptoms. The outbreak began with couples but is now seen in gay men as well. There is also a possibility of having gonorrhoea in the throat and further resistance is likely to develop as the antibiotics tend to get to the throat in lower doses and the area gets packed with other bacteria which can share the resistance to drugs.

The bacterium which causes gonorrhoea is said to be very proficient at shrugging off our best antibiotics.Drugs azithromycin and ceftriaxone are used in combination. However, now resistance to azithromycin has been spreading and doctors are apprehensive and it is only a matter of time before ceftriaxone tends to fail too.

Due to Bacterium – Neisseria Gonorrhoeae

The condition is said to be due to the bacterium known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Those who have been infected, about one in 10 heterosexual men and more than three quarters of women and gay men have no recognisable symptoms.However, symptoms could include a thick green or yellow discharge form sexual organs, pain while urinating and bleeding between periods.

Infection which is not treated could lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and could be passed on to a child during pregnancy. Senior doctors in England have already cautioned that gonorrhoea is on the point of being untreatable.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the sexually transmitted infection unit at Public Health England had stated that they cannot afford to be complacent. She further added that if strains of gonorrhoea tend to emerge which are resistant to azithromycin and ceftriaxone, the options of treatment would be limited as there is presently no new antibiotic available in treating the infection.

Antibiotics to Be Prescribed Only When Necessary

She has been motivating people in practicing safe sex to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections. There is also an intensive campaign in finding the sexual partners of people having the superbug. But the Public Health England report admits that so far, this has been of limited success.

 From the 50 sexual partners reported, around 22 had been successfully followed up though disturbingly 94% of partners that were tested had the infection. The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV stated that there needs to be a rapid response to the infection and has cautioned its members to be alert. Dr. Elizabeth Carlin, its president had stated that `the spread of high level azithromycin resistant gonorrhoea is a huge concern and it is essential that every effort is made to contain further spread. Failure to respond appropriately will jeopardise the ability to treat gonorrhoea effectively and will lead to poorer health outcomes for individuals as well as society as a whole’.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary had said that he wants to see antibiotics being prescribed only when necessary and hopes this will be a new weapon to help GPs in cutting the number of antibiotics needlessly being given out.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Head and Neck Cancer Drug 'Game Changer


New Cancer Drug – A Game Changer for Head/Neck Cancer

According to experts, a new kind of cancer drug which arouses the immune system of a patient to fight the tumours could be a game change for dealing with aggressive head and neck cancers. Trials results from a US cancer conference recommend that the treatment seems to work better than the standard chemotherapy. Nivolumab tends to improve the survival chances of patients considerably with these hard-to-treat tumours. The same is already available on the NHS for those with advanced skin cancer.

However, experts are of the opinion that more research needs to be done before offering it regularly to patients with other cancers. One of the most exciting developments in the treatment of cancer for years is immunotherapy. Though it does not cure every cancer, rising evidence proposes that it can buy some very ill patients with some valuable time.

Presented at the American Association Centre Research, the phase-three trial of nivolumab recommends that the drug tends to extend the survival time by months even though the cancer seems to be aggressive and in the advanced stage. In the test, 240 patients suffering from head and neck cancer had been given nivolumab while another 121 were given standard chemotherapy.

Nivolumab – New Wave of Immunotherapies

After a period of one year, 36% of the patients treated with novolumab injections seemed to be still alive when compared with the 17% of those with chemotherapy. Prof Kevin Harrington, UK trial leader, from the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust mentioned the results were a `potential game changer’ for head and neck cancer, and introduced a new drug treatment in our armoury which at last is better than the standard chemotherapy.

Nivolumab is one of a new wave of immunotherapies which are beginning to have an impact across cancer treatment and which will provide greater promise in the future as we tend to understand how best to use them. He further adds that once it has relapsed or spread, head and neck cancer tends to be very difficult to treat with surgery and radiotherapy, often being impossible. So it is good news for patients that these interim results show that we now have a new treatment which works and can significantly extend life.

Needs Approval of NICE

Dr Emma King of Cancer Research UK has stated that `these results could have a significant impact for head and neck cancer patients who no longer respond to treatment. They also reinforce the important shift which is seen towards using immunotherapies for cancer treatment. However, the new trial is the first time it has revealed to work in head and neck cancer.

Before Nivolumab can be utilised regularly in treating head and neck cancer in the UK, it will need the approval by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence –NICE.Its manufacturer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, now intends to submit a licensing application to the European Medicines Agency for use for this cancer type. If approved, UK drugs rationing watchdog NICE would be making a decision whether to fund the £68,000 a year drug for the patients of NHS.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Leap to Mass Produced Platelets


Headway in Mass Producing Platelets

British scientists have made great headway in mass producing platelets which is part of the blood that tends to form clots. The team comprising of NHS organisation responsible for blood transfusions, transformed stem cells in the large bone marrow cells called megakaryocytes that tend to act as platelet factories. Together with the University of Cambridge, the team has found how to grow the body’s platelet factories in the laboratory. Hundreds of thousands of mature megakaryocytes had been produced which naturally began to release functional platelets.

This could give rise to a new source of platelets to stop heavy bleeding for instance after an accident. Before the trials, researchers need to make the process more effective. When the blood is donated, it is separated out into red blood cells, plasma and platelets in order that patients are provided with only the components needed. Platelets are essential after trauma, surgery, leukaemia therapy and in some blood disorders like haemophilia.

Consultant haematologist, Dr Cedric Ghevaert, had said that they are totally dependent on blood donation in order to produce those platelets. His team had been attempting in growing megakaryocytes, the mother cell platelet which tends to live in the bone marrow that tends to manufacture the clotting platelets.

Modify Platelets – Activate Clotting much Better

Reported in the journal Nature Communication, the breakthrough was the discovery of a set of chemical switches which was required in creating megakaryocytes in the lab. Their results was described by Dr Ghevaert as a major step forward who had informed BBC New website that the next big step was to get adequate platelets out of each megakaryocyte. Lab-made cells tend to produce about 10 platelets each though each one that functions normally in the bone marrow would produce up to 2,000. It is expected that recreating the same conditions as in the bone marrow could make the cells more efficient.

If the researchers tend to be successful, then the lab grown platelets would be more useful than the ones collected in a blood donation. Dr Ghevaert added that they can modify the platelets in order that they can activate the clotting much better which would have big benefit for patients with a crash or a bleed or even in soldiers who could have been injured. Moreover, it would also enable doctors to have stockpiles customised to various patients.

ES/iPS Cells – Potential of Transforming any Type of Tissue in the Body

Megakaryocytes, strangely large bone marrow cells seem to be a wonder of biology wherein, its functions has not yet been understood. Each megakaryocyte tends to mix out between 5,000 and 10,000 platelets and each adult human has nearly a trillion platelets circulating in their blood. Platelets tend to come in various forms just as red blood cells come in A, B, O and AB. Some types of platelet especially those common in black and Asian ethnic groups seem to be comparatively unusual.

The megakaryocytes made by the NHS Blood and Transplant and Cambridge University group had been derived from cultured lines of embryonic stem – ES cells and induced pluripotent stem – iPS cells. Both have the potential of transforming into any type of tissue in the body and while ES cells seem to be initially obtained from early stage embryos, iPS cells have been created in the laboratory from modified adult cells like skin cells. Mature cells made by utilising the iPS route could theoretically be generated from the tissue of the patient and thus avoids the risk of immune system rejection.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Lithium Study Helps Scientists Unlock Ageing Puzzle


Low Doses of Lithium – Prolongs Life

According to research, a common drug could be responsible for long life in flies at least. Low doses of lithium tends to prolong the life of fruit flies in lab experiments and scientists state that the finding is encouraging and would ultimately lead to new drugs which would help people live longer with healthier lives. Lithium is utilised in psychiatry in helping to prevent mood swings though it has the risk of serious side-effect on consumption of high doses.

How lithium tends to act on the brain is not very clear but in fruit flies the drug appears to extend life by stalling a chemical called GSK-3. Response seen in flies with low doses of lithium is hopeful and the next step is to seek at targeting GSK-3 in more complex animals with the focus of developing a drug regime to test in human, according to Prof Linda Partridge of the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, who led the study. In the research published in Cell Reports, it was observed that fruit flies lived 16% longer than average when low doses of lithium had been given. When given in high doses, lithium seemed to reduce the lifespan.

Shields Body from Stress/Block Fat Production

Co-researcher, Dr Ivana Bjedov from the UCL Cancer Institute stated that they found low doses not only prolonged life but it also shields the body from stress and block fat production for flies on a high sugar diet. Claire Bale of the charity Parkinson’s UK, part-funding the study states that `it is encouraging to see that the researchers have been able in identifying a key piece of the aging puzzle which one day may enable us to intervene in the aging process’.

 She adds that this research has the capabilities of not only helping in creating a healthier older generation, but also provides significant insights into how we could potentially treat or prevent conditions of aging like Parkinson’s. It is said that lithium salts had been utilised in the past as health tonic as well as to heal conditions like gout and migraines. Lithium, in modern medicine is used to boost mood stability in bipolar disorder and is also being considered for treatment of memory deficiency.

Focus – Extend Life/Live free of Diseases/Chronic Conditions

Slowing down the aging process and extending life is the most favoured choice of most of the individuals. Research into healthy ageing seems to be increasingly important since people tend to usually live longer. The focus is not only to extend life but to prolong the number of years of people who can live free of diseases and other chronic condition which infects old age.

Dr Jorge Ivan Castillo-Quan, earlier at UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing and presently at Harvard Medical School explained that to improve the quality and length of life, one must delay the onset of age-related diseases by extending the healthiest period of our lives. Identifying a drug target for ageing is a vital step in accomplishing this and by directing GSK-3 there is a possibility of discovering new ways of controlling the ageing process in mammals, including humans.

The team observed that lithium chloride delayed the ageing by blocking GSK-3 and activated another molecule known as NRF-2 that is found in worms, flies and mammals, which tends to play an important role in defending cells against damage.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Vitamin D 'Heals Damaged Hearts'


Vitamin D Supplement helps Diseased Heart

A study suggests that Vitamin D supplement could help people suffering from diseased heart. A test on 163 patients with heart failure found supplements of the vitamin, made in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight tends to improve the ability of their hearts to pump blood around the body.

A team from Leeds Teaching Hospitals who had presented a meeting of the American College of Cardiology had described the results as `stunning’. The British Heart Foundation had called for longer trials to assess the pills. Vitamin D is considered to be vital for healthy bones and teeth and tends to have major health benefits for the body though several people may suffer from deficiency.

Average age of people in the study had been 70 and like several people of that age, they seemed to have low level of vitamin D even in summer. Dr Klaus Witte, consultant cardiologist, had said that `they spend less time outside and the skin’s ability to manufacture vitamin D also gets less effective, with age and we don’t really understand why that is’. Each day for a year, patients were given either a 100 microgram vitamin D tablet or a sugar pill placebo.

Main Extent – Ejection Fraction

The researchers measured the impact on heart failure, a condition wherein the heart tends to get too weak to pump the blood accurately.The main extent was the ejection fraction which is the amount of blood pumped out of the chambers of the heart with each beat. In the case of healthy adult, the figure seems to be between 60% and 70% though only a quarter of the blood in the heart had been successfully pumped out in heart failure patients.

However, in the case of those taking the vitamin pills, the ejection fraction had increased from 26% to 34%. Dr Witte had informed BBC News website that it was quite a big deal which is as big as one would expect from other more expensive treatments that are used and it’s a stunning effect. He added that it is as cheap as chip with no side effects and a stunning improvement on people already on optimal medical therapy; it is the first time anyone has shown something like this in the last 15 years.

Most of Vitamin D – Sunlight

The study also showed that the hearts of the patient became smaller, a suggestion that they are becoming more powerful and efficient. People over 65, in the UK were advised to take 10 microgram supplement of the vitamin. But Dr Witte dos not think that high dose vitamin D should be routine prescribed just yet. He informed BBC that they are a little bit off that yet not because they do not believe it but the data has shown improvement in heart function, they may show improvements in symptoms and a large study is needed.

It was also not clear how precisely vitamin D tends to improve heart function though it is thought that every cell in the body tends to respond to the vitamin. Most of the vitamin D comes from sunlight but it is also found in eggs, oily fish and is added to some of the foods like breakfast cereals.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

New Insights Into Human Tears Could Lead to More Comfortable Contact Lenses


Stanford Researchers – Developing a Device – Improved Contact Lens

Contact lenses which tend to work well and does not seem to cause any kind of irritation after a day’s long work at the computer, gives the wearer much comfort as though they are not there on their eyes. After several hours of wear, the lenses together with the eyes seem to dry out which could cause some discomfort to the user, thereby outweighing the ease of contact lenses. Stanford researchers have been making attempts to relieve the pain by enhancing the understanding of how natural tears seem to keep our eyes comfortable and by developing a machine to design improved contact lenses.

The work had been motivated in parts by a graduate student’s dry eyes. Saad Bhamla, s Stanford postdoctoral scholar in bioengineering who had conducted the work as a graduate student in chemical engineering laboratory of Gerald Fuller, at Stanford had commented that `as a student, he had discontinued wearing lenses owing to increased discomfort. Focussing on PhD thesis to understand this issue was personal as well as a professional goal’. He is not alone but there are over 30 million Americans presently wearing contact, though around half of them have switched back to glasses due to contact lens-induced symptoms like dry eye.

Tear Film – Process Known as Dewetting

Bhamla together with Fuller doubted that most of the discomfort was the cause of break-up of the tear film, a wet coating on the surface of the eye at the time of a process known as dewetting. They observed that the lipid layer, which is an oily coating on the surface of the tear film, tends to protect the eye’s surface in two important ways, through strength and liquid retention.

By imitating the lipid layer in contact construction, millions of individuals could evade from ocular discomfort. Bhamla and his co-authors in their recent study, summarize two function of the lipid layer wherein one is to provide mechanical strength to the tear film. Lipids in this layer tend to have viscoelastic properties which enable them to stretch as well as support the watery layer below them.

Bhamla compares this protective lipid layer to that of a swimming pool cover where one cannot run on the open water though even a thin cover could offer mechanical strength in supporting the weight of the person. The lipid layer also tends to avertthe tear film from evaporating away. Eyes tend to be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit which is generally warmer than the ambient air and like any liquid on a hot surface; the eye is continually heating its liquid coating thereby losing moisture to the air.

Interfacial Dewetting& Drainage Optical Platform

Fuller had stated that they recognized early-on that the fluid mechanical responses of the lipid layer were just as important as the conventional view which its role was to control the evaporative loss. Moreover it had been gratifying to realize that the combined role of these two forces was now accepted.

The importance of developing comfortable contact lenses, involves the designing of lenses which do not tend to destabilize the tear film. Manufacturers are aware of the importance of protecting the natural tear film of the eye on a contact lens surface to reduce painful symptoms like dry eye, though it is not an easy thing to measure. To resolve this issue, Bhamla and Fuller had developed a device which resembles the surface of the eye which is known as the Interfacial Dewettingand Drainage Optical Platform or i-DDrOP.

It reproduces a tear film on the surface of a contact lens and has enabled scientist and manufacturers to systematically manage the unique array of variables which tend to affect the tear film, inclusive of temperature, various substances, humidity and the way gravity tends to act together with curved surface.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Cancer Scans 'Reduce Risky Operations


Cancer Scans Can Reduce Surgery

Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick had discovered that cancer scanners could reduce the need of a surgery for checking if cancer treatment is successful. A study suggests that utilising a scanner instead of a scalpel could save hundreds of thousands of cancer patients from risky operation.The study had been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The positron emission tomography-computed tomography or PET-CT. according to the study tends to pick up cancer cells to find out if the treatment is effective. Prof Hisham Mehanna from the Institute of Head and Neck Studies and Education, or InHANSE at the University of Birmingham informed BBC News website that `cancerous cells tend to hid among the dead cells, with PET-CT one can call them out and find out if they are alive or not.

He further added that using this new technology could save patients having a overwhelming operation and identifies those that need the operation instead of giving it to everyone.Dr Mehanna also mentioned that after treatment, the remaining cancer cell tend to play something similar to `hide and seek’. He added that `the main focus of this study was patient outcomes and avoiding unnecessary surgerythough there is a cost saving to be made also’.

An Improved Option

Scanning would reduce the chances of surgery to determinate visually if the growth has disappeared. The study was conducted on 564 patients and showed that 80% of them could avoid surgery by scanning and only around one in five of the patients needed the procedure. Doctors generally tend to check the head and neck tumour growth after chemotherapy and radiotherapy by a three hour operation.

However, the research team discovered that the scanning and surgery technique’s survival rates essentially remained the same. These rates are due to the positron emission tomography computed tomography that utilises a radioactive dye which is picked up by quickly dividing cancer cells. This enables the doctor to see if any of the head or neck cancer seems to be active without surgery. However not having to go through risky operation is not the only benefit PET-CT tends to offer. It also seems to be an improved option since it can save recovery time, money as well as prevents disfigurement owing to nerve damage which the operation could cause.

Kinder Treatment for Head & Neck Cancer

UK’s researcher, Arnie Purushotham stated that this was an important study and if long term follow-up confirms these results, this imaging procedure would result in kinder treatments for patients with head and neck cancer. She also informed that there can also be occasions to expand this kind of approach to the other types of cancer as well as probably save money for the NHS.

George Freeman, Life Science Minister had commented that `this exciting trail has the capabilities of making a difference to the lives of people with head and neck cancer, which means that they may not have to go through an extremely stressful medical procedure’. The team are of the belief that this system can help people all across the world, particularly those who may not be in a position to pay the present approach that tends to cost around £1,492 or AU$2,799 for each patient.