A simple breath test could help predict whether people with gut problems are at high risk of developing stomach cancer.
Scientists are hoping that the early study could develop to save thousands of lives, including many of the 7,300 people diagnosed with stomach cancer in the UK each year.
The test works by detecting chemical compounds in the breath of people in an attempt to distinguish unique ‘breath prints’ in those with risky pre-cancerous changes.
Experts say if proven in large trials, it could spot patients on the brink of cancer so they can be treated earlier.
Symptoms of stomach cancer are often mistaken for other complaints and there is no effective early screening test, so is often write my essay diagnosed when it is too late for treatment to be effective.
The new test developed by Israeli scientists senses tiny changes in the level of organic compounds in exhaled breath which signal that stomach cancer is present.
More research is required to validate the test, and research involving thousands of European patients is now underway.
Image credit: Filip Bunkens
Spider silk is a protein fibre spun by spiders, and is stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar! Spiders use their silk to make webs or other structures, which function as nets to catch other animals, or as nests or cocoons to protect their offspring. They can also use their silk to suspend themselves.
Efforts to create our own spider silk have so far failed to match the real thing. Now a German research group has equalled its toughness.
Previous attempts have focussed on two molecules that provide material properties. However, Thomas Scheibel at the University of Bayreuth in Germany and his colleagues realised that this neglected two smaller molecules that help align the strands. His team spliced spider genes into E. coli, which enabled the bacteria to produce all four molecules in a bath of alcohol and water. The team then used a method called wet spinning to draw out the fibres, creating the artificial silk.
The material is not as strong as real silk, but is more elastic, so it can absorb as much energy as the real thing.
The toughness of the current fibre can be put to good use in making car airbags. “An airbag should have exactly the properties that a spider web has,” says Scheibel – strong and elastic. Current airbags, made from materials like Kevlar, are strong but not elastic, so they can reflect energy from a crash back into the driver and cause injuries. The artificial silk could solve this, provided the team can scale up production, which might be difficult, says Scheibel.
Image credit: Alias 0591
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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.”
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.
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.
ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation) and Monash University in Australia have collaborated to fund important new projects that will use state-of-the-art equipment to benefit the environment, human health and physics.
With the hope of bringing together some of the nation’s most intelligent minds and best scientific infrastructure, the projects will include:
- Understanding radiation damage in next generation nuclear materials
- Investigating new targeted cancer treatments
- Creating new methods for imaging matter at the atomic scale
- Investigating the nature of chemical bonds using complementary X-ray and electron diffraction
- Using feathers from migratory birds as markers for environmental health
- Predicting the likelihood of algal blooms
- Understanding how water is stored in river banks
According to a new report from the American Academy of Microbiology, a combination of agricultural microbiology and new technologies could help mitigate potential food shortages which are being associated with future world population increase.
The report, ‘How Microbes can Help Feed the World’, is based on the deliberation of a group of scientific experts who gathered for two days in Washington DC in December 2012 to consider a series of questions regarding how plant-microbe interactions could be employed to boost agricultural productivity in an environmentally and economically responsible way.
In the year 2050, the global population is estimated at 9 billion, which means that agricultural yields will have to increase by 70-100%! Improved understanding of plant-microbe interactions has the potential to increase crop productivity by 20% while reducing fertilizer and pesticide requirements by 20%, within 20 years, according to the report.