The Vitamin Reversing Hearing Loss…

Hearing loss resulting from exposure to loud sounds is very common. Now, using a supplement that is a source of Vitamin B3 called nicotinamide riboside or NR, scientists have successfully prevented noise-induced hearing loss in mice.

Our ears are very sensitive and can be damaged by a variety of things from disease to noise or trauma. Intense noises, for example, can induce hearing loss by triggering the degeneration of the nerve cells, or neurons, that are connected to the tiny hair cells of the cochlea – a tiny snail-shaped structure inside the ear that transmits audio signals to the brain.

Scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College and the Gladstone Institutes wondered whether it might be possible to somehow protect these nerve cells from harm.

They began by contemplating using a molecule called NAD+ which has been shown to exert protective effects to neurons in cell culture. As this molecule is unstable and difficult to get inside cells, the researchers turned to a molecule called nicotinamide riboside (NR).

NR, which is found in trace amounts in certain foods, is a precursor of NAD and also a source of Vitamin B3. Furthermore, NR enters cells easily and is quickly absorbed when administered orally, meaning it is an ideal drug candidate.

To investigate whether NR could prevent nerve damage in the cochlea, the team administered the compound to mice both before and after exposing them to loud noises. They found that NR successfully protected the nerve endings, avoiding both short-term and long-term hearing loss. Furthermore, they found it to be equally effective whether it was administered before or after noise exposure.

 

Image credit: be_khe

Superfast Clotting Agent Could Save Lives

A graduate from Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU) has invented a plant-based gel that can stop bleeding and seal serious wounds in just 15 seconds, and hopes his invention will soon be used by the military, paramedics and even vets to save lives.

VetiGel works by using a plant-based haemophilic polymer made from polysaccharides that grab onto the blood and form a mesh that seals over the wound, without any need to apply pressure.

In a medical emergency, a first responder could simply apply the gel from a syringe-shaped applicator with no preparation required, and the bleeding will stop, which means that this could be a viable replacement for plasters and bandages today.

The idea of a liquid bandage has been thought of before, and some are already on the market. However, those bandages are for superficial cuts to the skin. They won’t help with bullet wounds or if an internal organ is cut during surgery.

The gel is the brainchild of Joe Landolina, 21, the founder and CEO of Suneris, who came up with the concept when he was just 17 in 2010.

“I was always interested in science and my grandfather owned a winery, so from a really young age I learned how to work in a chemistry lab and had a love for chemistry.”

“As I was playing around, I stumbled upon two polymers that when you mix them together, they become a solid mass. That was the Eureka moment for me.”

Image credit: Juan de Dios Santander Vela

Kinetica’s New LinkedIn Careers Page

Kinetica is proud to introduce to you our brand new LinkedIn Careers page!

Our Careers page showcases a host of live job roles from within science and healthcare industries – from graduate laboratory jobs to senior, high-profile sales and marketing vacancies. The Careers page also simplifies how you apply for jobs, even allowing for your LinkedIn profile to compensate for a CV!

Visit our LinkedIn Careers page today to see our latest roles, or alternatively visit our website for a full list of all vacancies.

In addition, follow Kinetica’s company page on LinkedIn to keep up to date with news, insights and jobs from within the industry you work in.

How Green Glowing Veins Could Make Blood Donation Easier…

The world faces a shortage of blood for lifesaving transfusions, and if you’ve ever given blood, you have likely experienced the discomfort of having a nurse struggle to find your vein. Now, however, a device has been created that shows a glowing map of our veins could make the whole process a lot easier, and trials of the technology have already begun in Australia.

The technology works by beaming harmless near-infrared light at your arm. Our veins contain a lot of deoxygenated haemoglobin, and because this is absorbed by infrared light, it creates an image of exactly where your veins are under the skin.

Importantly, the device can be used anywhere. It’s already used widely in hospitals and pathology clinics around the world to make it easier for patients to have blood taken, but now it’s also going to help those willing to donate blood.

While this technology is already used globally in clinical settings to assist practitioners in taking blood samples, it’s now being trialled on blood donors in Sydney by the Australian Red Cross. It’s hoped that reducing anxiety by quickly and easily finding veins without the painful prodding will make donors more likely to return. 300 first time donors and 600 returning donors between the ages of 18-35 will be included in the trial.

The Australian Red Cross is the first blood bank service in the world to trial this technology, and has already started using it in its Sydney clinics.

Watch the video of the device in action here - New Technology for the Blood Service

Image credit: Australian Red Cross

Stomachs Grown in the Lab

A team of scientists in Cincinnati have grown 3D stomach tissue after bathing stem cells in a brew of growth-boosting chemicals.

Ulcers, stomach cancer, and other gastrointestinal diseases affect 10 percent of the world’s population, and their development is linked to chronic Helicobacter pylori infection. But because of the differences between people and lab animals such as mice and flies, existing live models aren’t ideal for studying human stomach development and disease.

To create a more realistic model, a team led by University of Cincinnati’s Yana Zavros and James Wells from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center started with human stem cells — specifically pluripotent stem cells, which have the potential to become many different kinds of cells in the body. After that, the key was to identify the steps involved in normal stomach formation during our embryonic development.

By guiding the stem cells through all these natural, sequential processes in a petri dish, the team coaxed the hPSCs toward becoming stomach tissue. The researchers focused on a pathway of interactions that acts as a switch between growing tissues in the intestine and in the antrum (the stomach’s outlet to the small intestine). When the cells were three days old, they added proteins to suppress this pathway.

Over the course of a month, these steps resulted in the formation of so-called human gastric organoids. These miniature stomachs are around 3mm in diameter, and their 3D structure contains different kinds of cell types with functional characteristics resembling those seen in our stomachs.

Stem Cell Treatment Successfully Restores Sight

Patients with macular degeneration are having their sight partially restored using human embryonic stem cells. This marks the first medium-term demonstration of the safety of embryonic stem cells, with implications for a host of other conditions.

Stem cell science is promising to replace everything from hearts to kidneys, with some hopes for diseases like MS as well. However, debate has raged over whether treatments should involve human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) or adult pluripotent stem cells from the patient themselves. The debate is partly about whether the use of hESCs is ethical, but there are also questions of safety.

Many attempts to use ESCs in animals have produced tumours, and rejection by the immune system can also be a problem. So the fact that 18 patients have had hESCs implanted without negative effects an average of 22 months later is big news.

Half the patients have Stargardt’s macular dystrophy and the other half have atrophic age-related macular degeneration, two of the most common causes of blindness in the developed world. Doses of 50,000-150,000 cells were applied. By treating one eye in each patient and leaving the other untouched, the researchers had the perfect control to establish the extent to which any changes were the result of the transplanted cells.

Ten of the patients experienced noticeable improvement in the visual acuity of their treated eye, while seven remained the same and only one got worse. On the other hand, none of the untreated eyes showed any improvement, although the researchers admit that one cannot rule out placebo effects since “both examiner and patient were aware of [which] eye underwent surgery.”

Obama Announces $46 Million BRAIN Funding

The U.S. has announced the allocation of $46 million to develop new technologies for exploring the brain.

Wearable brain scanners and lasers that can turn hundreds of cells on and off were among 58 projects awarded the figure in federal grants as part of President Obama’s $100 million initiative to unlock the secrets of the human brain.

Most of the projects focus on developing new tools to help answer basic questions about the brain, including classifying the myriad cell types in the brain and developing new methods to record brain activity and integrate that into fundamental theories of the brain.

Launched in 2013, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is designed to give scientists greater insight into how the healthy brain works and a better understanding of what systems go awry in diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia.

“Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar,” said Obama, referring to the decades-long Human Genome Project, a groundbreaking international effort to map our DNA, which this new project is being silhouetted against. “Today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.”

 

An App Better than Doctors at Detecting Jaundice?

Researchers have reported data from a trial with 100 newborns for an app that can detect jaundice.

It was found that the app had greater accuracy in detecting jaundice than visual exams performed by doctors. It also matched the accuracy of blood tests for bilirubin. High levels of bilirubin can indicate that that the liver isn’t functioning properly and signifies jaundice.

The app works by using a smartphone with a camera and flash to take pictures of the newborn’s chest with a colour calibrator – a sheet about the size of a business card with eight different colours. The software processes the images and creates a report.

The University of Seattle team working on the app, dubbed BiliCam, believe it will someday be useful in calming parent anxiety and reducing healthcare costs

The BiliCam research was funded in part by Coulter Foundation and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

The smartphone application is still in development but may someday help parents and healthcare providers screen for jaundice in newborns.

The Blood Test Diagnosing Depression

The first blood test to diagnose major depression in adults has been developed, providing the first objective, scientific diagnosis for depression.

The test measures the levels of nine genetic indicators (known as “RNA markers”) in the blood and can also predict who will benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy, offering the opportunity for more effective, individualised therapy for depression-sufferers. The test also showed the biological effects of the therapy, the first measurable, blood-based evidence of the therapy’s success and showed who is vulnerable to recurring episodes of depression, Northwestern University researchers report.

“The longer this delay is, the harder it is on the patient, their family and environment,” said lead researcher Eva Redei, a professor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences and physiology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Additionally, if a patient is not able or willing to communicate with the doctor, the diagnosis is difficult to make,” she said. “If the blood test is positive, that would alert the doctor.”

The test works by measuring the blood concentration of the RNA markers. A cell’s RNA molecules are what interpret its genetic code and then carry out those instructions from DNA. After blood is drawn, the RNA is isolated, measured and compared to RNA levels expected in a non-depressed person’s blood.

The blood test’s accuracy in diagnosing depression is similar to those of standard psychiatric diagnostic interviews, which are about 72 – 80% effective.

 

Blackberry’s Medtech Smartphone…

Disregard the excitement of the launch of Apple’s iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch, as Blackberry is taking a bold step into healthcare!

After losing ground in the smartphone race, Canadian phone maker Blackberry Limited has decided to venture into a new field by launching a healthcare service platform that will integrate thousands of medical devices to enable early detection of illnesses in India.

Blackberry has allied with NantHealth, which makes medical device interoperability systems, to develop a service platform designed to aggregate data from thousands of devices in order to generate insight into the spread of disease.

The companies plan to offer a smartphone designed to tap into the medical device network to integrate data from a variety of devices, including ECG machines, scanners and other systems. Blackberry’s platform will also provide analytics and decision support.

“Work has started on it but we haven’t finalized an official launch date,” said Sunil Lalvani, managing director of BlackBerry India. “We are running trials with multiple hospitals in India. It includes integration with different hospital information systems as well as various medical equipment.”

Image credit: Silicon Angle