Does the Salamander Hold the Key for Human Limb Regeneration?

Scientists at University College London are unravelling the secret of how salamanders successfully regrow body parts, with an aim to apply it to humans.

It has been discovered that for a salamander’s cells to contribute to the regeneration of body parts, a chain of proteins called the ERK pathway must be constantly active within the cell. This chain of proteins sends signals from a receptor on the surface to the DNA in the nucleus. The DNA in the nucleus then expresses a protein and produces a change within the cells.

The study demonstrates that the ERK pathway is not fully active in mammalian cells, but when forced, the cells are given more potential for reprogramming and regeneration. This could help researchers better understand diseases and design new therapies.

One Blood Type to Suit ALL?

Researchers at the University of Essex are making progress in developing a universal artificial blood substitute.

Should this be successful, the synthetic biology project, dubbed HaemO2, could potentially enable for artificial blood to be given to any patient in need of it, regardless of their blood type.

The introduction of a universal blood substitute would mean that those with rarer blood types would no longer struggle to find suitable donors. The requirement of screening donor blood for viral infections would be eradicated, and, with the number of blood donors decreasing on a worldwide scale, hospitals would no longer run the risk of having a short supply of blood for use during surgery or after trauma.

HaemO2 has been awarded a £1.5 million of funding which the team hopes will push the product one step further towards commercialisation. Although some blood substitutes are available in other countries, such as Russia, they are not licensed in the UK or the US.

If you reside in the UK and would like to donate blood, follow the following link, here.

The Goggles Helping Surgeons to ‘See’ Cancer

Cancer is commonly treated with drugs and radiotherapy, or by cutting the infected cells out. The latter option is not always successful as it’s often impossible to tell where the tumour ends and healthy tissue begins. To try and combat this, surgeons often remove tissue surrounding the tumour, but cancerous cells often remain, necessitating further surgery.

Now, a new goggle technology is under development in the US, which is allowing surgeons to differentiate cancerous and healthy cells in the human body – leading to cancerous cells being fully removed in one operation.

Patients are being injected with a dye before surgery. This dye has a peptide attached to it that allows it to seek out and bind specifically to cancer cells.

The dyed cancer cells emit light at a wavelength that cannot be seen by the human eye, but can be detected by a sensor in the goggles worn by the surgeons.

So far this new goggle technology has only been trialled on patients suffering from skin and breast cancer. However, the dye has been shown to bind to breast, prostate, lung and colon pancreatic cancers, and has even been shown to detect pre-cancerous cells.