Now, wearable ‘skin-like’ device to monitor heart, skin health

Scientists have developed a new device, which is much like skin itself and when worn, monitors heart and skin.

According to the researchers from Northwestern University and University of Illinois the medical device can quickly alert a person if they are having cardiovascular trouble or if it was simply time to put on some skin moisturizer. The small device, approximately five centimeters square, can be placed directly on the skin and worn 24/7 for around-the-clock health monitoring. The wireless technology uses thousands of tiny liquid crystals on a flexible substrate to sense heat. When the device turns color, the wearer knows something is awry.

Now, wearable 'skin-like' device to monitor heart, skin health

Senior researcher Yonggang Huang led the portion of the research focused on theory, design and modeling. The technology and its relevance to basic medicine have been demonstrated in this study, although additional testing is needed before the device can be put to use.

The technology uses the transient temperature change at the skin’s surface to determine blood flow rate, which is of direct relevance to cardiovascular health, and skin hydration levels. The device is an array of up to 3,600 liquid crystals, each half a millimeter square, laid out on a thin, soft and stretchable substrate.

Huang said that when a crystal sensed temperature, it changed color, and the dense array provided a snapshot of how the temperature is distributed across the area of the device. An algorithm translated the temperature data into an accurate health report, all in less than 30 seconds.

With its 3,600 liquid crystals, the photonic device had 3,600 temperature points, providing sub-millimeter spatial resolution that was comparable to the infrared technology currently used in hospitals.

The device also has a wireless heating system that could be powered by electromagnetic waves present in the air. The heating system was used to determine the thermal properties of the skin.

The study is published online in the journal Nature Communications.

New way to diagnose malaria by detecting parasite’s waste in infected blood cells

Over the past several decades, malaria diagnosis has changed very little. After taking a blood sample from a patient, a technician smears the blood across a glass slide, stains it with a special dye, and looks under a microscope for the Plasmodium parasite, which causes the disease. This approach gives an accurate count of how many parasites are in the blood — an important measure of disease severity — but is not ideal because there is potential for human error.

New way to diagnose malaria by detecting parasite's waste in infected blood cells

A research team from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) has now come up with a possible alternative. The researchers have devised a way to use magnetic resonance relaxometry (MRR), a close cousin of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to detect a parasitic waste product in the blood of infected patients. This technique could offer a more reliable way to detect malaria, says Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and biological engineering at MIT.

“There is real potential to make this into a field-deployable system, especially since you don’t need any kind of labels or dye. It’s based on a naturally occurring biomarker that does not require any biochemical processing of samples” says Han, one of the senior authors of a paper describing the technique in the Aug. 31 issue of Nature Medicine.
Peter Rainer Preiser of SMART and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore is also a senior author. The paper’s lead author is Weng Kung Peng, a research scientist at SMART.

Hunting malaria with magnets
With the traditional blood-smear technique, a technician stains the blood with a reagent that dyes cell nuclei. Red blood cells don’t have nuclei, so any that show up are presumed to belong to parasite cells. However, the technology and expertise needed to identify the parasite are not always available in some of the regions most affected by malaria, and technicians don’t always agree in their interpretations of the smears, Han says.

“There’s a lot of human-to-human variation regarding what counts as infected red blood cells versus some dust particles stuck on the plate. It really takes a lot of practice,” he says.

The new SMART system detects a parasitic waste product called hemozoin. When the parasites infect red blood cells, they feed on the nutrient-rich hemoglobin carried by the cells. As hemoglobin breaks down, it releases iron, which can be toxic, so the parasite converts the iron into hemozoin — a weakly paramagnetic crystallite.

Those crystals interfere with the normal magnetic spins of hydrogen atoms. When exposed to a powerful magnetic field, hydrogen atoms align their spins in the same direction. When a second, smaller field perturbs the atoms, they should all change their spins in synchrony — but if another magnetic particle, such as hemozoin, is present, this synchrony is disrupted through a process called relaxation. The more magnetic particles are present, the more quickly the synchrony is disrupted.

“What we are trying to really measure is how the hydrogen’s nuclear magnetic resonance is affected by the proximity of other magnetic particles,” Han says. For this study, the researchers used a 0.5-tesla magnet, much less expensive and powerful than the 2- or 3-tesla magnets typically required for MRI diagnostic imaging, which can cost up to $2 million. The current device prototype is small enough to sit on a table or lab bench, but the team is also working on a portable version that is about the size of a small electronic tablet.

After taking a blood sample and spinning it down to concentrate the red blood cells, the sample analysis takes less than a minute. Only about 10 microliters of blood is required, which can be obtained with a finger prick, making the procedure minimally invasive and much easier for health care workers than drawing blood intravenously.

“This system can be built at a very low cost, relative to the million-dollar MRI machines used in a hospital,” Peng says. “Furthermore, since this technique does not rely on expensive labeling with chemical reagents, we are able to get each diagnostic test done at a cost of less than 10 cents.”

Tracking infection
Hemozoin crystals are produced in all four stages of malaria infection, including the earliest stages, and are generated by all known species of the Plasmodium parasite. Also, the amount of hemozoin can reveal how severe the infection is, or whether it is responding to treatment. “There are a lot of scenarios where you want to see the number, rather than a yes or no answer,” Han says.

In this paper, the researchers showed that they could detect Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous form of the parasite, in blood cells grown in the lab. They also detected the parasite in red blood cells from mice infected with Plasmodium berghei.

The researchers are launching a company to make this technology available at an affordable price. The team is also running field tests in Southeast Asia and is exploring powering the device on solar energy, an important consideration for poor rural areas.

Source: science daily

Spatial attention skills don’t seem to decline over time

At least one part of an older person’s brain can still process information as well as younger people, according to new research.

Researchers compared the spatial attention skills of 60 older adults and younger people. Spatial attention is important for many areas of life, from walking and driving to picking up and using items.

Spatial attention skills don't seem to decline over time

“Our studies have found that older and younger adults perform in a similar way on a range of visual and non-visual tasks that measure spatial attention,” Dr. Joanna Brooks, who conducted the experiments as a visiting research fellow at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said in a university news release.

“Both younger (aged 18 to 38 years) and older (55 to 95 years) adults had the same responses for spatial attention tasks involving touch, sight or sound,” noted Brooks, who is now a research fellow in healthy aging at the Australian National University.

The findings were presented at a recent conference in Australia organized by the Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society.

“When we think of aging, we think not just of the physical aspects but also the cognitive [mental] side of it, especially when it comes to issues such as reaction time, which is typically slower among older adults. However, our research suggests that certain types of cognitive systems in the right cerebral hemisphere — like spatial attention — are ‘encapsulated’ and may be protected from aging,” Brooks said.

The results challenge current thinking, she said. “We now need to better understand how and why some areas of the brain seem to be more affected by aging than others,” she added.

This type of research could also improve understanding of how diseases such as Alzheimer’s affect the brain, the researchers said.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: web md

‘Stem cells show promise in stroke recovery’

Infusing stem cells into the brain may help boost recovery after a stroke, according to a pilot study by Imperial College London. Scientists believe the cells encourage new blood vessels to grow in damaged areas of the brain.

Stem cells show promise in stroke recovery

They found most patients were able to walk and look after themselves independently by the end of the trial, despite having suffered severe strokes. Larger studies are needed to evaluate whether this could be used more widely. In this early trial – designed primarily to look at the safety of this approach – researchers harvested stem cells from the bone marrow of five people who had recently had a stroke.

‘Independent living’
They isolated particular types of stem cells – known as CD34+. These have the ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. They were infused directly into damaged sections of the brain, via the major artery that supplies this area. Scientists monitored the patients for six months, charting their ability to carry out everyday activities independently.

Four of the five patients had suffered particularly severe strokes – resulting in the loss of speech and marked paralysis down one side of the body. This type of stroke usually has a high fatality and disability rate. But researchers found three of the four patients were able to walk and look after themselves independently at the end of the six-month period. And with some help, all five were mobile and could take part in everyday tasks.

‘Natural protection’
Though other stem cell treatment has shown promise as stroke therapy before, this is the first UK study to investigate using this type of approach in the first week after a stroke.

Scientists hope getting to patients early will improve chances of success. Dr Soma Banerjee, who led the study, told the BBC: “This is encouraging and exciting early research. “Now we need to look at a larger group of patients and hope eventually to develop a treatment based on this approach.”

But Dr Tim Chico, from the University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the study, said: “It is important to understand this is only the very earliest step towards a possible new treatment for stroke and does not prove the stem cell treatment improved these patients’ recovery. “A much larger trial will be needed to compare stem cell treatment with no stem cell treatment.

“Anyone who has seen the suffering a stroke can cause will be encouraged that doctors and scientists are continually exploring new ways to treat this devastating disease.”

The study is published in Stem Cell Translational Medicine.

source: bbc news

Soon ‘therapeutic bacteria’ to help win ‘battle of bulge’

Researchers have discovered a probiotic that could help prevent obesity.Researchers have discovered a probiotic that could help prevent obesity.

Vanderbilt University investigators have found bacteria that produce a therapeutic compound in the gut inhibit weight gain, insulin resistance and other adverse effects of a high-fat diet in mice.

Sean Davies, Ph.D., said that although it’s hard to speculate from mouse to human but essentially, they have prevented most of the negative consequences of obesity in mice, even though they’re eating a high-fat diet.

He further explained that regulatory issues must be addressed before moving to human studies but the findings suggested that it might be possible to manipulate the bacterial residents of the gut, the gut microbiota, to treat obesity and other chronic diseases.

Other studies have demonstrated that the natural gut microbiota plays a role in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The researchers also observed effects of the compounds in the liver, suggesting that it might be possible to use modified bacteria to deliver therapeutics beyond the gut.

The investigators are currently working on strategies to address regulatory issues related to containing the bacteria, for example by knocking out genes required for the bacteria to live outside the treated host.

The findings will be published in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation

Source: business standard

Research chemist who ‘discovered’ Ecstasy dies aged 88

research chemist 1

A world-renowned chemist famous for rediscovering a decades old recipe for the psychedelic drug ecstasy has died aged 88.

Alexander Shulgin died at his home in a remote part of northern California on Monday.

His wife, Ann, said that terminal liver cancer was the cause. She announced his death on Facebook, saying that his going “was graceful, with almost no struggle at all.”

research chemist 2

Known to some as the ‘Godfather of Ecstasy’, Shuglin created over 200 chemical compounds for use in psychotherapy – often testing the extremely psychoactive substances on himself and his wife.

He his most widely known, however, for dusting off a decades-old chemical recipe for 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine, or MDMA – the ‘active ingredient’ in the drug ecstasy.

research chemist 3

MDMA been forgotten for almost 65 years since its initial discovery in 1912 and the drug had never been tested on humans until Shuglin began clinical trials on himself.

research chemist 34

His research into the drug and its properties has led some scientists to believe that it could be introduced as a possible treatment for some mental health conditions and terminal cancer patients.

Source: itv

UK teen who raised $5 million for cancer research dies


Comedian Ricky Gervais and singer Barry Manilow are among those paying tribute to a teenager from central England who inspired a nation to give 3 million pounds ($5 million) to support cancer research.

In a posting on his Facebook page, Stephen Sutton’s mother said he died peacefully in his sleep Wednesday.

Using social media, the 19-year-old with incurable bowel cancer shared a list of the 46 things he wished to do before he died. Urging followers to support the Teenage Cancer Trust as they followed along, he went sky-diving, played drums before a crowd and hugged an elephant.

The page evolved, with Sutton’s goal ultimately being simply to help others.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who had visited him in the hospital, praised his “incredible” efforts.

Cherry juice key to a good night’s sleep


A glass of cherry juice every morning is believed to boost sleep time for older people by 90 minutes and is a better alternative to sleeping pills, research suggests.

Two glasses a day of cherry juice can ensure a better night’s sleep, according to a new study.

Among older people, a glass of the juice every morning and evening can boost sleep time by nearly 90 minutes.
Researchers gave participants cherry juice every day over two weeks to discover its affect on people who suffer from insomnia.
Insomnia is a common health problem among older adults, affecting up to one in three people over 65. It is defined as trouble sleeping on average more than three nights per week. If long-lasting, it can seriously damage health.

It is linked to a higher chance of long-term pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, a decline of mental functions and even dementia.

Dr Frank Greenway, the study leader, of Louisiana State University, warned against older people taking sleeping pills to combat insomnia. He said that such medications, “quadruple the risk of falling, which can lead to broken hips and, often, earlier death”.

In an experiment, seven adults with an average age of 68 with insomnia drank eight ounces of cherry juice twice daily for two weeks, followed by a two-week break, then two weeks when they took a placebo drink.
They were observed to see how quickly they fell asleep and how long they stayed sleeping. Participants also completed questionnaires related to sleep, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Researchers found that those who drank a sour cherry juice in the morning and at night were able to sleep an average of 84 minutes more each night, compared to those who drank a placebo. In addition, their sleep was less disrupted.

Sour cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
The study team believe the naturally occurring red pigments in sour cherry juice, known as proanthocyanidins, also play a role because they produce chemicals that help with sleep.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition in San Diego, California.

Source: The telegraph


Laughter may help stave off memory loss

Laughter may help stave off memory loss

Researchers from Loma Linda University in California say that laughter may actually help diminish memory loss and brain damage because it helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the study, two groups of elderly people – one with diabetes and one healthy – watched a 20-minute comedic video followed by a memory test involving visual recognition, learning ability, and memory recall. A third group of elders took the memory test without watching the video. Researchers measured the cortisol level for all individuals before and after the experiment.

Both groups that watched the video recorded a slight decrease in cortisol levels compared to the group that did not see the funny video. The groups that watched the video also scored higher on the memory test. The group with diabetes received the most benefits from the video based on their cortisol levels and test results.

The results may indicate that laughter leads to better memory because it releases endorphins and dopamine and that lowers stress hormones that can damage neurons in the area of the brain associated with memory.

Source: health central

Gene Therapy May Boost Cochlear Implants


Australian researchers are trying a novel way to boost the power of cochlear implants: They used the technology to beam gene therapy into the ears of deaf animals and found the combination improved hearing.

The approach reported Wednesday isn’t ready for human testing, but it’s part of growing research into ways to let users of cochlear implants experience richer, more normal sound.

Normally, microscopic hair cells in a part of the inner ear called the cochlea detect vibrations and convert them to electrical impulses that the brain recognizes as sound. Hearing loss typically occurs as those hair cells are lost, whether from aging, exposure to loud noises or other factors.

Cochlear implants substitute for the missing hair cells, sending electrical impulses to directly activate auditory nerves in the brain. They’ve been implanted in more than 300,000 people. While highly successful, they don’t restore hearing to normal, missing out on musical tone, for instance.

The idea behind the project: Perhaps a closer connection between the implant and the auditory nerves would improve hearing. Those nerves’ bush-like endings can regrow if exposed to nerve-nourishing proteins called neurotrophins. Usually, the hair cells would provide those.

Researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales figured out a new way to deliver one of those growth factors.

They injected a growth factor-producing gene into the ears of deafened guinea pigs, animals commonly used as a model for human hearing. Then they adapted an electrode from a cochlear implant to beam in a few stronger-than-normal electrical pulses.

That made the membranes of nearby cells temporarily permeable, so the gene could slip inside. Those cells began producing the growth factor, which in turn stimulated regrowth of the nerve fibers — closing some of the space between the nerves and the cochlear implant, the team reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The animals still needed a cochlear implant to detect sound — but those given the gene therapy had twice the improvement, they concluded.

Senior author Gary Housley estimated small studies in people could begin in two or three years.

“That’s a really clever way” of delivering the nerve booster, said Stanford University otolaryngology professor Stefan Heller, who wasn’t involved with the Australian work. “This is a promising approach.”

But Heller cautioned that it’s an early first step, and it’s not clear how long the extra improvement would last or if it really would spur richer sound. He said other groups are exploring such approaches as drug coatings for implants; Heller’s own research is aimed at regrowing hair cells.

Source: abc news