Tag Archives: new

Infertility hope: Uterus transplant results in a healthy baby boy

pixabay baby holding dad's fingerInfertility is a heartbreaking problem that many women and couples face. There’s nothing worse than wanting a baby and being told that it will never happen, or being given the “one in a million” speech. And while there have been many advances in medicine that have helped women overcome the diagnosis of “infertility,” recent news of womb transplant success gives us a new reason to be optimistic!

For women who were born without a uterus (this affects about 1 in 5000 women worldwide) or have lost theirs to cancer, becoming pregnant doesn’t even seem like an option. But in September, all that changed when baby Vincent was born. Vincent’s mother was one of nine patients who had undergone a uterine transplant over the last two years in this particular study. Out of those nine patients, Vincent’s mom was the first to deliver her baby, and six others are currently pregnant.

While several countries may now start their own womb transplant programs, this is unlikely to become a commonplace technique, as it is expensive and risky. Patients must remain on anti-rejection medication to prevent their bodies from rejecting the transplanted uterus. After birth, the uterus would need be removed to prevent long-term health effects from anti-rejection drugs. But it’s still an incredible advance, and women who had no hope of becoming pregnant may now have a chance.

None of this would have been possible without dedicated researchers worldwide and the animal models that have contributed to the understanding and application of this science. Surgical techniques and anti-rejection drugs have progressed to the point of actually allowing a woman without a uterus to undergo a successful transplant and give birth to healthy baby- and that’s amazing! Read more about it here.

Breast cancer- could LIGHT exposure affect treatment?

pixabay light through treesNew research is showing that exposure to dim light at night may negatively impact the effectiveness of breast cancer treatments. In a laboratory setting, dim light exposure during night cycles made human breast tumors in rats more resistant to doxorubicin, a standard chemotherapy for breast cancer.

But why? Well, it’s all about melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced naturally by the body during dark periods at night. In this research study, exposure to light at night disrupted rats’ melatonin cycles. Half of the rats, however, received melatonin supplements to make up for this. Researchers found that the tumors grew almost three times faster in rats that did not receive supplements, and their tumors were completely resistant to doxorubicin. It seems that the presence of melatonin helped support higher levels of active doxorubicin in the breast cancer cells, and prevented enzymes from breaking it down and making it less effective.

At this point, researchers aren’t ready to make supplementation recommendations for human breast cancer patients. And if the effects of melatonin ARE similar in humans, recommendations for supplementation would need to be carefully monitored. If disrupting the natural melatonin cycle can cause the body to react to cancer treatments differently, then incorrectly supplementing could also cause undesired effects. However, since this isn’t the first time that dim light exposure at night has been shown to have negative effects, it’s possible that this research could prompt patients to be more aware of light exposure disruptions during night cycles.

Read more about it here: http://www.aacr.org/Newsroom/Pages/News-Release-Detail.aspx?ItemID=608#.VC9VpPldWSo

 

Dogs are providing clues to human breast cancer

pixabay cocker spanielDogs are often called man’s best friend. In this case, dogs are helping humans more than you might think! Dogs can be a great model for understanding cancer, because they develop cancer spontaneously, and in this case, cocker spaniels may be able to help researchers better understand human breast cancer.

Recently, the epigenome of the cocker spaniel has been characterized. Researchers compared dog and human epigenetic changes, and found that when looking at breast cancer, the same regions of DNA are affected in dogs and humans.

So, why is this important? Discovering common mechanisms can help both humans and dogs in future research studies. It’s possible that targeting these epigenetic changes could help slow disease progression, and dogs may be able to help us understand this faster. And ultimately, understanding more about the connection between canine and human cancer will benefit both species.

Read more about this research here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/ibri-deg100214.php

Antibiotic resistance… the NEXT generation

MRSA- Picture courtesy of CDC's Public Health Image Library

MRSA- Picture courtesy of CDC’s Public Health Image Library

Antibiotic resistance is a growing- and serious- problem. Most antibiotics work by interfering with cell functions, but certain types of bacteria (like MRSA) have evolved in such a way that these antibiotics just won’t work. Researchers all over the world are working on this problem, and it seems that scientists at MIT have made a pretty significant breakthrough.

By using a genome-editing system called CRISPR, researchers have been able to target the genes that allow bacteria to resist antibiotics. And by targeting the genes responsible for antibiotic resistance and disrupting them, they were able to kill over 99% of the resistant bacteria. Using this method, they also successfully increased survival rates of waxworm larvae infected with a nasty form of E. coli.

Currently, research in mice is in progress. The goal is that one day, this technology could be modified to work on humans. As recent research hasn’t yielded many new classes of antibiotics, this method may ultimately play an important role in stopping the spread of antibiotic resistance in the human population.

Read more about it here: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/fighting-drug-resistant-bacteria-0921

Anthrax as a secret weapon to kill cancer?

pixabay petri dishBacillus anthracis, commonly known as anthrax, is extremely efficient at injecting its toxin into host cells. This characteristic is part of the reason that live Bacillus anthracis is handled at high biosafety levels in the laboratory. But it also prompted researchers at MIT to consider ways to use anthrax’s efficient delivery method to their advantage. The result? A new potential drug delivery method for cancer treatments!

Antibody mimics can disrupt protein interactions inside cells- including cancer-causing proteins. But getting them there is the challenge. Researchers used a component of the anthrax toxin to carry them. But this time, instead of injecting anthrax toxin into cells, the antibody mimics were injected. And it worked! The next step in this research is to attempt to translate it into animal models. Hopefully, this research will move forward and prove to be successful enough in animals to start human clinical trials! Read about it here.

This isn’t the first time researchers have used the Trojan horse approach in disease treatment research. Read about a similar method used in Alzheimer’s research here.

 

Lasers: A new way to map the brain!

pixabay lasersResearchers have found a way to map the brain using lasers! Chemists from Stanford University have come up with a way to track blood vessels in the brain in a new, non-invasive technique. Ultimately, this research could help improve the understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Current methods for investigating the brain are either too invasive or not detailed enough. Surgery can cause trauma that can negatively impact brain activity, and while MRIs and CT scans can give a good amount of information, sometimes it just isn’t enough.

That’s where this new technique comes in. Researchers inject water-soluble carbon nanotubes into a mouse’s bloodstream. These nanotubes fluoresce at particular wavelengths, so when researchers shine a near-infrared laser over the mouse’s skull, they can see the nanotubes, which show the structures of blood vessels. Scientists were able to see about 3mm underneath the scalp, and this technique doesn’t appear to have any negative effects on brain functions.

This research was developed in mice, but it may be able to be used in humans as well. The technique would need to be modified to allow researchers to see deeper into the brain, and they would need to identify an appropriate fluorescing agent to use. But hopefully, this new technique could give researchers a new way to study strokes, migraines, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Read more about it here:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/skull-blood-flow-080614.html

Invisibility cloaks: Out of science fiction and into reality

iStock_000042489660LargeInvisibility cloaks are becoming one step closer to reality, thanks to cephalopods. Octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish have the ability to change the color and texture of their skin to match their surroundings, and by studying these animals, researchers at MIT and Duke University have created a material that can change color and texture on demand.

In cephalopods, muscle contractions change the shapes of pigment sacs and skin texture into a large variety of colors and patterns. This new octopus-inspired material works by using voltage changes to activate molecules in the elastomer. Essentially, you’d use a remote control to change color and texture. When you turn it off, it returns to its original state. Watch the video in the link here.

Besides being very popular with Harry Potter fans, this technology is really important. A system that can modify its camouflage with a touch of a button could be extremely useful, and even life-saving. Researchers are interested in developing anti-fouling coating for ships, and military camouflage could be revolutionized. Can you think of other applications where changing the texture or color of an object could be useful? Post your ideas in the comments below!

https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/material-changes-color-texture-octopus-0916

See some other ways the octopuses are awesome: http://fbresearch.org/octopuses-are-awesome-see-why/

Biomedical research: allowing you and your pets to appreciate life to the fullest

Silhouette of Happy Family and Dog“You don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone.” You’ve undoubtedly heard a variation of this saying, and often, it’s all too true when it comes to your health or the health of your loved ones. How often do you take your health for granted? The number of medical advances we can take advantage of today are staggering- vaccines, organ transplants, blood transfusions, insulin, pain medication, allergy medication, antibiotics, skin grafts, prosthetics, pacemakers- the list goes on and on.

Researchers are working hard, often behind the scenes, to try to give you and your loved ones every possible chance to fight disease or injury. Often, biomedical research involves working with animal models to understand diseases and develop new drugs and treatments. But it’s not just for you- biomedical research is helping your pets, too!

The FDA recently approved three new drugs to treat cancer in dogs. Previously, canine cancer was treated with drugs that were approved for use in humans. But researchers have developed specialized drugs to treat mast cell tumors, mammary carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma in man’s best friend.

“You don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Thanks to biomedical research, we can enjoy our health and the health of our pets for much, much longer.

Read more about new canine cancer treatments here: http://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/mis-cancer-news-102/cancer-drugs-approved-just-for-dogs-691349.html

Read more about the benefits of biomedical research here: http://fbresearch.org/education/benefits-of-biomedical-research/

Malaria: Are malaria parasites smarter than we think?

tiger-mosquito-49141_640Smart parasites? It sounds ominous, but new research into malaria parasites is giving scientists a better understanding of disease transmission. It seems that the malaria parasite is able to increase its own transmission rate by ‘relapsing’ during the times that the host animal is bitten by the insects that are capable of spreading it.

Researchers worked with domestic canaries infected with Plasmodium relictum, which is the most common parasite involved in cases of bird malaria in Eastern songbirds. They found that when the canaries were bitten by uninfected mosquitoes, parasite numbers in their blood increased, which in turn resulted in higher infection rates of the mosquitoes.

Pretty efficient. So how can understanding parasite evolution help us? Ultimately, understanding the factors that lead to these ‘relapses’ could help researchers develop better ways to control the disease. While it’s not yet known whether this type of transmission is present in humans, there are many other human pathogens that can also relapse after dormant periods (such as HIV, Herpes Simplex, and Mycobacterium tuburculosis), so it’s possible that this research could help scientists understand potential triggers for relapse in these diseases, as well. Read more about it here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140911135436.htm

Premature infants and the benefits of massage

iStock_000013183519LargeThe health of premature infants has been helped considerably by researchers who have been working on a study in rats that started in 1979. The research shows that the health conditions of premature infants can be improved significantly by introducing certain massage techniques.

Using these stimulation techniques, it’s been found that premature infants have been able to be released from the ICU an average of six days earlier than when these techniques weren’t used. Not only is this beneficial for infant health, it’s also a significant cost savings for insurance companies- a win-win for everyone.

Interestingly enough, when the research study started, the original questions that were being asked had nothing to do with premature infants. Instead, researchers were trying to determine how applying moderate pressure to rats could affect a particular brain growth enzyme. Later, it was found that this stimulation also improved brain growth in premature infants. This isn’t the first time that research studies have led to results that led scientists in a different direction. Read about more research with unexpected results here- including Viagra and new medication to improve recovery after heart attacks.

This research has earned a Golden Goose Award, which will be awarded near the end of September 2014. This is a great recognition- and also a reminder that the support of basic research is extremely important! Who knows where it could lead next?

Read more about it here: http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2014/09/11/golden-goose-award-presented-duke-researchers-rat-study