Glow in the dark tumors: it sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but actually, the use of a dye that glows under infrared light could drastically improve surgical outcomes for cancer patients and reduce the chance of recurrence.
Often, surgical removal is difficult because doctors can’t always be certain of the location of tumor margins. So researchers tested a dye that is already approved by the FDA and glows green under infrared light.This dye concentrates in cancerous tissues, so when the surgeon shines an infrared light on the surgical area, the tumor cells will glow.
Working with mice, they found that this dye helped them ‘highlight’ tumors before they were visible to the naked eye. Veterinarians then used the dye on several pet dogs with lung cancer before surgery, and found that it improved visibility of the tumors.
After proving the effectiveness of this dye in mice and dogs, human clinical trials were approved, and the dye actually helped doctors visualize human tumors as well as diagnose patients more accurately. This is a great example of research progressing from bench to bedside. Read more about it here:
Anyone facing infertility issues knows that when it comes to sperm, there’s a big difference between Olympic swimmers and those that will never leave the kiddie pool. But what makes those swimmers go the extra mile?
Researchers have found that it’s all about hydrodynamics. Just as professional swimmers wear swim caps and take extra steps to cruise through the water more efficiently (body waxing, anyone?), sperm with sleeker ‘swim caps’ are faster swimmers.
And it’s all in the genes. In looking at promiscuous mice, researchers found that the ratio between two specific genes is important to hydrodynamics. This is important because if these findings are similar in humans, couples facing infertility issues might have an advantage in knowing which of those swimmers (based on gene expression) are most likely to win the gold medal, so to speak. Who knows- it might be possible to alter gene expression to speed up swimmers that would otherwise need a life jacket! Read more here:
Most vaccines are injectable or inhaled solutions- needing refrigeration- that contain killed viruses or fragments of viruses that the body’s immune system will recognize. But researchers are working on creating nanovaccines, which also contain killed viruses, but in really small synthetic particles (think 1/1,000,000th of a millimeter) instead of suspended in solution like traditional vaccines. These particles are designed to be thermally stable, so they can be stored at room temperature for 6-10 months and still be effective. The goal is to maximize these vaccines so they can be delivered via nasal spray in only one dose, eliminating follow-up boosters! Nanovaccines have been effective in rodents, and studies in larger animals are already underway.
This could make a huge difference to EVERYONE receiving vaccines by reducing inconveniences associated with refrigeration, maximizing efficiency of nasal delivery, and eliminating the need for follow-up boosters. In 2012, only about 1/3 of teenage girls in the United States actually received all three doses of the HPV vaccine. In 2011, only 9% of children worldwide received all three doses of the rotavirus vaccine. Vaccine compliance could be dramatically increased by eliminating the need for booster shots, and availability could be greatly improved by eliminating the need for refrigeration! Let’s hope that researchers can create effective nanovaccines that will work in humans!