Stories tagged medicine

Researchers are developing nanobots that can destroy plaque build-up in arteries. These nanobots have a magnetic core, which allows physicians to track their position in the bloodstream in real-time. The physicians can then control the bots' movements and plaque destruction via a remote monitor, like an MRI.

This means that, in the future, plaque build-up could be removed without surgery, or other invasive medical procedures. Pretty cool!

See video

The iStethoscope is apparently already replacing the real thing in hospitals. (I downloaded it for $0.99, but you're supposed to watch a tutorial to make it work. I didn't watch, I got it to work, and now I don't know what the tracings mean. Geez, why not just go to med school already?)

Meanwhile, the MIT Media Lab has invented a device to turn your smart phone into a portable optometry office.

And epidemiologists might soon use the calling patterns from GPS-enabled smart phones to help reveal emerging infectious disease outbreaks.


Cell Protein: Illustration of protein chain in the human cell.
Cell Protein: Illustration of protein chain in the human cell.Courtesy Nicolle Rager and National Science Foundation
Science Buzz has had a lot of articles on organ transplants over the years but a new report on liver transplants in children adds a new twist. Currently, severe organ damage or failure requires an organ transplant, preferably one from a donor with a histocompatibility similar to the recipient. In the case of severe liver failure in children, there is often no time to wait for a compatible organ and an incompatible organ is used requiring patients to take anti-rejection drugs (immunosuppression) for the rest of their life. In fact, 70% of all liver transplants require anti-rejection drugs.

Fortunately, the liver is one organ that has the ability to regenerate itself, especially in very young patients. The child patient is given a small section of donated liver, enough to allow the body to function properly, while leaving a small portion of their own liver intact. Hopefully, after a few years, the patient’s original liver will begin to repair and regenerate itself. The doctor can than gradually reduce the quantity of anti-rejection drugs, causing the body to slowly attack and destroy the donated liver segment. Eventually the patient will be removed from anti-rejection drugs completely, have their own liver back, and no signs of the temporary donated liver.

The liver is unique in its regenerative properties; for humans, that is. In other animals, such as amphibians, entire limbs can regenerate. Scientists are researching the role proteins play in cell regeneration in hopes that stimulating certain proteins in other organs of the body will encourage them to regenerate like the liver can.

Rotator cuff injury changes from green to purple: Upon joining the Minnesota Vikings this week, Brett Favre related that he's had a rotator cuff injury in his arm for several seasons.
Rotator cuff injury changes from green to purple: Upon joining the Minnesota Vikings this week, Brett Favre related that he's had a rotator cuff injury in his arm for several seasons.Courtesy PSUMark2006
Since Science Buzz is about the only Minnesota information source that has not had an item in recent days about new Viking quarterback Brett Favre, I'm going to change that and post this video of Favre speaking about the mysteries of rotator cuff injuries, evidently something he's been dealing with a lot longer than anyone knew.


A medical miracle in the making?
A medical miracle in the making?Courtesy nbonzey
If you're one of those people who is easily grossed out, you might want to stop reading this post. Because what I'm about to tell you might make your stomach turn.

In an effort to help heal human wounds, medical researchers have been studying creepy, crawly, flesh-eating maggots. THE SAME wiggly critters that appear in your garbage can, on road kill, and any place where they can find dead meat or rotten food. In case you don't know the maggot life story, eventually these larvae grow-up to become flies, at which point they continue to hang out with garbage. It's not a pretty life, but they don't complain much.

So...what do maggots have to do with medicine?

Well, people have known for a long time that deep or difficult wounds (ulcers, burns, deep lacerations) heal much faster if you enlist maggots for a little help. In fact, hospitals even breed fly larvae (maggots!) so they can apply "maggot therapy" to wounds that would otherwise heal poorly. As gross as it sounds, this technique actually works well. The maggots eat the decaying tissue, preventing bacterial growth and helping to keep the wound "clean" so it can heal better.

Until recently, researchers were not exactly sure how these maggots did their miracle work on wounds, or how they could make maggot therapy more accessible. What they've discovered is that an enzyme produced by the maggots can itself help to remove decaying tissue. You can read more about it here.

This means that new bandages infused with maggot juice, or maggot ointment, might not be far from drugstore shelves. The enzyme appears to help heal wounds large and small, and with very few side effects. I wonder if upset stomach is one of them?

What do you think - would you buy a maggot-based product to help heal cuts and scrapes?

President Obama has signed an executive order that expands federal funding for some embryonic stem cell research.

In 1991, President Bush signed an executive order that forbade the National Institutes for Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond the 60 or so stem cell lines that already existed at the time. President Obama's order will allow scientists to use federal money to to do research on any stem cell lines, although government money still can't be used to generate new stem cell lines. (The creation of a stem cell line requires the destruction of a human embryo.)

More Buzz stories on stem cell research...

CNN's "explainer" feature on the promise of stem cell research

An advisory panel to the FDA is recommending approval of the first US drug made with help from genetically engineered animals. GTC Biotherapeutics makes Atryn, an anti-clotting therapy, using a herd of 200 goats bred to express a human protein in their milk. The drug is meant to help people with hereditary antithrombin deficiency, a genetic disorder that causes blood clotting. Patients and their families want the drug approved and say studies show it's safe and effective. But other folks argue that there hasn't been enough safety testing around the use of transgenic animals. The final FDA decision is expected February 7.

OK, not "on this day." A few days ago. Well, two weeks ago, but the BRIEFING was today. Anyway, in a marathon operation lasting 22 hours, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio performed the first face transplant surgery in the United States--replacing 80% of a female patient's face. (This surgery has been done only a few times, and was big news when the world's first face transplant, on Isabelle Dinoire, took place in France in 2006.) More details to come in the next few days.


Thinking about donating your body?: This picture was found on flickr's "Creative Commons" page.
Thinking about donating your body?: This picture was found on flickr's "Creative Commons" page.Courtesy kevin813
Want to be useful? A once in a lifetime oppurtunity presents itself
long after you die. Many people nowadays have given their body to
science. This awkward suggestion benefits medical research and gives
u a chance to help out.

what do u think? Comment!!