British Scientists Grow Organ INSIDE Living Animal

British scientists have built a complete and functional organ from transplanted laboratory-created cells in a living animal for the very first time. The researchers have created a thymus — an organ next to the heart that produces immune cells known as T cells that are vital for guarding against disease.

Although so far only tested on mice, the technique could be used to provide replacement organs for people with weakened immune systems and eventually lead on the production of more complex organs for transplant. The technique could be used in humans in as little as ten years.

Scientists created a working thymus with connective tissue cells from a mouse embryo which were converted into a completely different cell strain by flipping a genetic “switch” in their DNA. The resulting cells grew spontaneously into the whole organ when injected into the mouse with other similar cells.

Professor Clare Blackburn, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, who led the team of scientists, said: “The ability to grow replacement organs from cells in the lab is one of the ‘holy grails’ in regenerative medicine. But the size and complexity of lab-grown organs has so far been limited.

By directly reprogramming cells we’ve managed to produce an artificial cell type that, when transplanted, can form a fully organised and functional organ. This is an important first step towards the goal of generating a clinically useful artificial thymus in the lab.”

The new research, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, raises the possibility of creating a whole new functioning thymus using cells manufactured in the laboratory.

While fragments of organs, including hearts, livers and even brains, have been grown from stem cells, no one before has succeeded in producing a fully intact organ from cells created outside the body.

 

The DEADLIEST Outbreak Of Ebola In History?

The ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus in Western Africa is now by far the biggest in the 38-year history of the disease, with 1,145 deaths and 2,127 suspected cases recorded as a virulent strain of the disease spreads across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This outbreak, which has been growing since March, concerns the deadliest form of the Ebola virus, Zaire Ebolavirus.

Zaire strain kills on average 78% of those who contract it and is mainly found in tropical Central and West Africa. Early symptoms are similar to those of flu but are followed by severe vomiting and diarrhoea, and eventually internal and external bleeding.

It is introduced into the human population through close contact with the sweat, blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines.

While the rapid spread of EVD has set off international alarm bells, it’s another disease, malaria, that’s by far the number one killer in West Africa, accounting for 33,205 deaths in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in 2011 alone.

Can This Machine Detect Heart Attacks BEFORE They Occur?

If someone shouts ‘Code Blue’ in a hospital it usually means that a patient needs immediate help. Code Blue events can include cardiac or respiratory arrests and can be hard to anticipate. However, an algorithm may be able to make that call 4 hours earlier to head off dangerous situations, and researchers have developed exactly that.

Doctors use a scorecard, known as the Modified Early Warning Score, to estimate the severity of a patient’s status by looking at vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. Knowing that certain patients are at high risk helps hospitals to lower rates of arrest and shorten hospital stays.

Sriram Somanchi of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his colleagues wanted to see if a computer could predict when emergencies were imminent. “We had to understand what happens in Code Blue patients before they enter Code Blue,” Somanchi says.

The researchers have trained a machine-learning algorithm on data from 133,000 patients who visited the NorthShore University HealthSystem, a partnership of four Chicago hospitals, between 2006 and 2011. Doctors called a Code Blue 815 times. By looking at 72 parameters in patients’ medical history including vital signs, age, blood glucose and platelet counts, the system was able to tell, sometimes from data from 4 hours before an event, whether a patient would have gone into arrest. It guessed correctly about two-thirds of the time, while a scorecard flagged just 30 per cent of events.

Peter Donnan at the University of Dundee, UK, says it may be difficult for the system to work in hospitals that don’t collect such detailed patient data. The advantage of the scorecard, he says, is that it relies on a small number of parameters. “When we look at it from a statistical point of view, a small model is better.”

Image credit: tacade.com

American Ebola Patients Receive New Experimental Treatment

West Africa is currently experiencing the largest Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in history. As of August 1, there have been 1603 cases and 887 deaths. Treatment options for EVD are fairly limited, and centered around palliative care of the patient.

Maintaining hydration and reducing fever are two of the biggest challenges for patients, but can be lifesaving. No vaccination options are currently available and antiviral medications have been slow to develop. However, a pair of Americans who had been providing healthcare to EVD patients in Liberia have exclusively received an experimental treatment after they also fell ill. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are being brought to Atlanta to receive treatment.

The experimental medication is called ZMapp and is created from monoclonal antibodies, which are the proteins created by the immune system of an organism that has previously been infected with the virus. The serum has been through rodent and primate testing, but is not ready for human trials. Animal models were given the medication 24 or 48 hours after the onset of symptoms, while the two Americans received treatment much later.