Tag Archives: surgery

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

Glioblastoma multiforme: a new weapon in the surgeon’s arsenal

Molecular ThoughtsGlioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a devastating form of brain cancer that usually results in death within 15 months of diagnosis. Tumor cells at the margins of these brain tumors often invade surrounding tissues, and this means that they can be difficult to remove completely. If a patient is able to undergo surgery, the goal is to remove as many malignant cells as possible without affecting parts of the brain that are necessary for other essential neurological functions. Currently, surgeons have no way of knowing for sure that they’ve removed all of the cancerous cells. But new research could change that.

The day before surgery, a patient would be injected with nanoprobes that migrate to the tumor cells. These nanoprobes don’t affect normal brain tissue. Then, during surgery, the surgeon would use a device that detects these nanoprobes to determine whether they had successfully removed all of the malignant cells. The device looks like a laser pointer, and in laboratory studies with mouse models of human GBM, researchers were able to remove all of the malignant cells from the mice!

This may be ready for human clinical trials relatively quickly, and it’s possible that it could be helpful in the treatment of other types of brain cancer as well. Read more about it here:

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2014/acs-presspac-september-3-2014/handheld-scanner-could-make-brain-tumor-removal-more-complete-reducing-recurrence.html

 

Cancer that glows in the dark

pixabay green lightsGlow 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:

http://www.alnmag.com/news/2014/07/cancer-glow-improves-surgical-outcomes?et_cid=4073942&et_rid=655142386&location=top

Robots performing surgery in space!

The astronautSpace surgeons: the next generation! For astronauts who need surgery in space, this small robot could literally be a lifesaver. But prepare yourself… the method sounds like something out of an Alien movie. Ready for it? This small robot has arms with the ability to cauterize and suture, a video camera head, and it enters the body of the patient through an incision in the belly button and works inside the patient’s gas-filled abdominal cavity.

It sounds pretty crazy, but it’s true! These little robots have already performed successful surgeries in living animals (pigs), and next up are trials on human cadavers, zero-gravity tests, and surgeries on human patients here on Earth.

While long-distance, remote-controlled surgeries wouldn’t necessarily be ideal for patients with access to medical care, these robotic surgeons would be the only option for astronauts on long space missions in the event of an emergency. Most activities that we take for granted here on Earth are extremely challenging in space, and it’s amazing that scientific progress is giving astronauts the option of robotic space surgeons! Read more about it here:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25341-mini-robot-space-surgeon-to-climb-inside-astronauts.html#.UzywS_ldWSp