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Squirtable surgical glue seals wounds in 60 seconds

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Once squirted into the wound,  the MeTro glue is said to behave much like the silicone sealants used around bathroom tiles.Gives time to heal the wound.Maybe can be used for fixing loose healthy teeth in your jawbone.

www.perfectwhiteteeth.net

Advanced surgical glues that seal wounds faster could mean big things when it comes to medical care, with shorter recovery times and fewer complications just a couple of potential advantages. A new material is showing particular promise in this regard, with the ability to be squirted directly into a wound, seal it in 60 seconds and dissolve thereafter.

The researchers behind the surgical glue, which is called MeTro, say that it could replace staples and sutures used by doctors to seal up wounds, but its benefits don’t stop there. Because it is so fast-acting, it could be used at emergency sites, such as a car accident or a war zone, with the scientists likening its behavior once squirted into the wound to silicone sealants used around bathroom tiles.

“The beauty of the MeTro formulation is that, as soon as it comes in contact with tissue surfaces, it solidifies into a gel-like phase without running away,” said Assistant Professor Nasim Annabi from Northeastern University, who worked with other researchers in the US and Australia’s University of Sydney in developing MeTro.

The gel-like glue mixes natural, highly elastic proteins with light-sensitive molecules that enable it to set in 60 seconds when exposed to UV light. This UV-treatment cures the glue and allows it to form tight bonds with structures on the surface of the tissue, which maintains its elasticity. Also included is a degrading enzyme that can be manipulated to determine how long the glue lasts in the wound, ranging from hours to months, depending on the time it needs to heal.

Because of the glue’s high elasticity, it could be suitable for treating wounds in tissues that expand and relax and are therefore at risk of re-opening, like the lungs or heart. The team says it could also prove valuable in treating internal wounds in places where bodily fluids ruin the effectiveness of more conventional sealants.

Annabi was the lead author of the new study putting MeTro through its paces, where the team quickly and successfully closed wounds in rodent arteries and lungs, along with the lungs of pigs. Buoyed by the results, he and the team are now shifting their focus towards human trials.

“MeTro seems to remain stable over the period that wounds need to heal in demanding mechanical conditions and later it degrades without any signs of toxicity, it checks off all the boxes of a highly versatile and efficient surgical sealant with potential also beyond pulmonary and vascular suture and staple-less applications,” says Harvard Medical School Professor Ali Khademhosseini, who helped develop MeTro.

The team has published their results in the journal Science Translational Medicine, while the video below provides an overview of how MeTro works.

Source: University of Sydney

Henry Sapiecha

Pen-like instrument detects cancer in mere seconds

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

The instrument developed at UT Austin is claimed to be both much quicker and more accurate at detecting cancer than existing approaches(Credit: University of Texas at Austin)

Distinguishing cancerous tissue from healthy tissue is a chief concern when it comes to surgery, which is why medical scientists are continually looking at new technologies to help surgeons sort the good from the bad. Over the years, we’ve seen research advances in the form of glowing compounds that light up cancerous cells and smart scalpels that offer visual and audio guidance. Now researchers at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin have developed a pen-like device that identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, boosting the chances of a successful procedure.

“If you talk to cancer patients after surgery, one of the first things many will say is ‘I hope the surgeon got all the cancer out,'” says Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry at UT Austin who led the team. “It’s just heartbreaking when that’s not the case. But our technology could vastly improve the odds that surgeons really do remove every last trace of cancer during surgery.”

Telling cancerous tissue apart from healthy tissue is key during surgery, and not just to ensure that all the tumor is removed. Taking too much healthy tissue can also be dangerous, raising the prospect of damage to muscle and nerve function, along with other painful side effects.

Currently, the state-of-the-art method surgeons use to differentiate cancer and healthy tissues is called Frozen Section Analysis. The downside to this approach is that it requires a sample to be prepared and assessed by a pathologist, which can take more than 30 minutes and leaves the patient exposed to increased risk of infection. Furthermore, it can prove unreliable in as many as 10 to 20 percent of cases.

The instrument developed at UT Austin is claimed to be both much quicker and more accurate than current approaches. Called the MasSpec Pen, it works by detecting the biomarkers of certain types of cancer, using software to check them against a catalog of 253 samples comprising both healthy and cancerous tissues of the breast, lung, thyroid and ovary.

“Cancer cells have dysregulated metabolism as they’re growing out of control,” says Eberlin. “Because the metabolites in cancer and normal cells are so different, we extract and analyze them with the MasSpec Pen to obtain a molecular fingerprint of the tissue. What is incredible is that through this simple and gentle chemical process, the MasSpec Pen rapidly provides diagnostic molecular information without causing tissue damage.”

The pen simply needs to be held against the tissue while a foot pedal is used to kick off the process. This sees a drop of water fall onto the tissue, allowing small molecules to be absorbed into the liquid. This water is then fed into a mass spectrometer, an instrument with the ability to detect thousands of molecules and interpret the molecular fingerprints of various cancers.

Once this analysis is completed, a connected computer screen will automatically display “Normal” or “Cancer” within about 10 seconds, and for certain cancers, will even name the subtype, such as “lung cancer,” for example. When testing the MasSpec Pen on 253 tissue samples taken from cancer patients, it proved more than 96 percent accurate and was also able to detect cancer in marginal areas between normal and cancerous tissue.

“Any time we can offer the patient a more precise surgery, a quicker surgery or a safer surgery, that’s something we want to do,” says James Suliburk, head of endocrine surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and a collaborator on the project. “This technology does all three. It allows us to be much more precise in what tissue we remove and what we leave behind.”

The team has filed patents for the technology, and expects to start testing it during oncologic surgeries in 2018. A paper describing the research was published in Science Translational Medicine, while the video below provides an overview of how it works.

Source: University of Texas at Austin


Henry Sapiecha

Rare flesh-eating cancer shock surprise after visit to dentist

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Ceri Jones thought she had an abscess — No- She had a rare flesh-eating cancer

Bravery of Ceri Jones

The Ceri Jones flesh eating disease story

CERI Jones thought it would just be a routine trip to the dentist. www.perfectwhiteteeth.net

The 21-year-old had a lump in her mouth she thought was an abscess, so went to the dentist for a check up. It was only then the pub chef from Wales was horrified to lean her problem was in fact a serious, very rare, form of flesh-eating cancer.

The dentist did X-rays and told her there was nothing there so sent her to hospital for more tests. She then got the devastating diagnosis.

“It was November last year when I was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma and was referred to Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

“I’d never heard of anything like it, I was so shocked that I actually had it to be honest,” The Mirror reported.

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma affects the salivary glands of the head and neck. She needed 36 hours on the operating table to remove the tumour. But she also lost her left eye.

But that wasn’t all.

The cancer was at an advanced stage after it had spread so her upper left jaw and upper left facial bones were also replaced with titanium metal and her face needed to be reconstructed.

She also lost her teeth on the left side as she had to have the muscle and skin on her right thigh grafted into her mouth.

Miss Jones told the Daily Post the horrifying detail of the operation.

“I was under sedation for two weeks while they did it and took skin and muscle from my right thigh to replace the left and side palate in my mouth, and they had to connect major arteries to blood vessels in my neck so the palate would keep alive.”

The British health system has paid for her to fly to Florida, in the United States, to undergo specialist radiotherapy for the next few months.

But she has to meet her own costs to cover day-to-day living and other expenses, so her family have launched a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with hopes to raise almost $10,000.

Her mum Sarah Evans said: “I relive this nightmare every day from the day we took Ceri to Liverpool to the day she came home and the morning she went down to theatre for the longest life-changing surgery and the complications she had thereafter.”

She said she was proud of the “bravery and strength” her daughter had shown.

“She’s an inspiration.”

Henry Sapiecha

Video below on Flesh Eating Cancer

Potent Plant powder power prevents malaria victims from dying

Monday, May 8th, 2017

So what is this plant?

Weathers has made several high-producing versions of the plant using tissue cultures  (Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

When 18 malaria patients in the Congo failed to respond to conventional treatments and instead continued to head toward terminal status, doctors knew they had to act fast – and try something different. So instead of turning to more synthetic drugs, they turned instead to nature and found a solution that delivered remarkable results.

The patients were first treated with the regimen described by the World Health Organization (WHO): artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). This drug combines an extract from a plant known as Artemisia annua, with other drugs that launch a multi-pronged attack on the malaria parasite. But just as is the case with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the malaria parasite is evolving to resist the drugs designed to kill it. In fact, according to the WHO, three of the five malarial parasites that infect humans have shown drug resistance.

As the patients continued to decline, with one five-year-old even entering into a coma, the doctors administered a drug called artesunate intravenously, which is the preferred course of action when treating severe malaria. The treatment didn’t work.

Finally, doctors turned to the Artemisia annua plant itself. Also called sweet wormwood or sweet Annie, the plant is the source of the chemical artemisinin, which is used in ACT therapy. The plant has been used since ancient times in Chinese medicine to treat fevers, although this bit of knowledge was lost until 1970 when the Chinese Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergency Treatments (340 AD) was rediscovered. In 1971 it was found that extracts from the plant could fight malaria in primates.

Pamela Weathers, professor of biology and biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute began researching Artemisia annua over 25 years ago. Along with postdoctoral fellow Melissa Towler, Weathers created a pill made from nothing more than the dried and powdered leaves of the plant. When the pills were given to the 18 dying patients over the course of five days, all of them completely recovered, with no trace of the malaria parasite remaining in their blood.

“These 18 patients were dying,” Weathers said. “So to see 100 percent recover, even the child who had lapsed into a coma, was just amazing. It’s a small study, but the results are powerful.”

Weathers had previously shown that the dried leaves of the Artemisia annua plant (DLA) could deliver 40 times more Artemisia annua to the blood than extracts of the plant alone. In a later experiment, she showed that not only could the leaves beat drug-resistant bacteria in mice, but that after passing the malaria parasite through 49 generations of mice, the parasite still showed no resistance to the plant.

While the exact mechanism through which DLA operates is unclear, Weathers says it’s likely due to the intricate chemical dance that occurs between the phytochemicals in the leaves.

Weathers with the Artemisia plant (Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

Because the drug is inexpensive and relatively simply to produce, Weathers also says that it could be a source of industry for people living in the areas where malaria is a problem, such as Ghana, Kenya and Malawi where it was recently announced that the first malaria vaccines will be deployed. “This simple technology can be owned, operated, and distributed by Africans for Africans,” said Weathers, who has already established a supply chain on the continent for the leaves using local producers.

Weathers also said that further research into DLA could lead to effective ways to combat other maladies.

“We have done a lot of work to understand the biochemistry of these compounds, which include a number of flavonoids and terpenes, so we can better understand the role they play in the pharmacological activity of the dried leaves,” Weathers said. “The more we learn, the more excited we become about the potential for DLA to be the medication of choice for combatting malaria worldwide. Artemisia annua is known to be efficacious against a range of other diseases, including other tropical maladies and certain cancers, so in our lab we are already at work investigating the effectiveness of DLA with other diseases.”

The results of the case in the Congo have been described in the journal Phytomedicine. You can hear more from Weathers in the video below.

Source: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

www.pythonjungle.com

Henry Sapiecha

 

Surviving Meningococcal: Ripu Bhatia’s Story on video

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017


Published on Oct 1, 2016

When Ripu contracted meningicoccal septicaemia the doctors put him into a medically induced coma while they fought to save his life. The disease took his arms and legs and his nose. On the first anniversary since contracting the disease Ripu finds himself on a challenging rehabilitation journey. He’s taught himself to play guitar, writes a popular blog, and can still host a great party. But moving beyond the psychological trauma of what’s happened to him is as hard as overcoming the physical challenges he now faces.

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Henry Sapiecha

Three children hospitalised after contracting meningococcal disease

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

the-most-common-symptoms-for-meningococcal-include-high-fever-and-chills-headaches-stiff-necks-and-purple-areas-on-the-skin-that-appear-as-bruises-image-www-newcures-info

The most common symptoms for Meningococcal include high fever and chills, headaches, stiff necks and purple areas on the skin that appear as bruises.

“The disease itself is really quite hard to get, and you need to be in very close proximity.”

“The key thing here is they are all from the same family and have all been spending a lot of time together over the holidays. They didn’t just get the infection from being at Southbank.”

It’s understood that Queensland Health is now working to trace the family’s movement over the holiday period and alert those who may have come in contact with the children.

Dr Megan Young, public health physician at Metro North Public Health Unit, confirmed the three children came from Brisbane’s northside but said the “strain of meningococcal disease has yet to be confirmed.”

“The children became ill following an extended family gathering over the holiday break and were admitted on New Year’s Day to LCCH where they continue to receive treatment,” she said.

“Those who had close contact with the children have been identified and the majority provided with information and antibiotics where appropriate.”

Know, Check, Act – Meningococcal Disease

Dr Young said the outbreak serves as a reminder to parents to keep track of their children’s immunisation history.

“The risk of contracting meningococcal disease is very low for contacts, and there is not any increase in risk to the broader community, however this a timely reminder for parents to ensure their vaccinations are up to date,” she said.

“Meningococcal C vaccination is recommended at 12 months of age and is provided free of charge under the National Immunisation Program.”

The disease which is an acute bacterial infection can turn fatal if not treated identified and treated on time and is predominately spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing food or drink.

The most common symptoms for Meningococcal include high fever and chills, headaches, stiff necks and purple areas on the skin that appear as bruises.

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Henry Sapiecha

Hodgkin’s Disease explained here Video presentation.

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Part 1 of 6

What Is Hodgkin’s Disease?

Hodgkin’s disease (HD) is a type of lymphoma, which is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps the immune system get rid of waste and fight infections. HD is also called Hodgkin disease, Hodgkin lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

HD originates in white blood cells that help protect you from germs and infections. These white blood cells are called lymphocytes. In people with HD, these cells grow abnormally and spread beyond the lymphatic system. As the disease progresses, it makes it more difficult for your body to fight infections.

HD can be either classic Hodgkin’s disease or nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s disease (NLPHD). The type of HD is based on the types of cells involved in your condition and their behavior.

The main cause of HD isn’t known. The disease has been linked to cell mutations, or changes, as well as to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes mononucleosis. HD can occur at any age, but it most commonly affects people between ages 15 and 40 and people over age 55.

The overall survival rate for HD has increased due to advances in treatment. The five-year survival rate is about 85 percent, and the 10-year survival rate is approximately 81 percent.

Part 2 of 6

What Are the Symptoms of Hodgkin’s Disease?

Symptoms

The most common symptom of HD is swelling of the lymph nodes, which causes a lump to form under the skin. This lump usually isn’t painful. It may form in one or more of the following areas:

  • on the side of the neck
  • in the armpit
  • around the groin

Other symptoms of HD include:

  • night sweats
  • itchy skin
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • unintended weight loss
  • persistent cough
  • pain in the lymph nodes after consuming alcohol
  • enlarged spleen

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms. They can be signs of other conditions, and it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis.

Part 3 of 6

How Is Hodgkin’s Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosis

To diagnose HD, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your medical history. Your doctor will also order certain tests to make a proper diagnosis. The following tests may be done:

  • imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans
  • lymph node biopsy, which involves removing a piece of lymph node tissue to test for the presence of abnormal cells
  • blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC), to measure levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets
  • immunophenotyping to determine the type of lymphoma cells that are present
  • lung function tests to determine how well your lungs are working
  • an echocardiogram to determine how well your heart is working
  • bone marrow biopsy, which involves the removal and examination of marrow inside your bones to see if the cancer has spread

Staging

Once an HD diagnosis has been made, the cancer is assigned a stage. Staging describes the extent and severity of the disease. It will help your doctor determine your treatment options and outlook.

There are four general stages of HD:

  • Stage I (early stage) means that cancer is found in one lymph node region.
  • Stage II (locally advanced disease) means that cancer is found in two lymph node regions on one side of the diaphragm, which is the muscle beneath your lung. It may also indicate that cancer was found in one lymph node region as well as in a nearby organ.
  • Stage III (advanced disease) means that cancer is found in lymph node regions both above and below your diaphragm. It may also indicate that cancer was found in one lymph node area and in one organ on opposite sides of your diaphragm.
  • Stage IV (widespread disease) means that cancer was found outside the lymph nodes and has spread to other parts of your body, such as your bone marrow, liver, or lung.

Part 4 of 6

How Is Hodgkin’s Disease Treated?

Treatment

Treatment for HD typically depends on the stage of the disease. The main treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy involves the use of medications that can kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be given orally or injected through a vein, depending on the specific medication.

Radiation therapy alone may be sufficient for treating early stage NLPHD. If you have NLPHD, you may only need radiation since the condition tends to spread more slowly than classic HD. In advanced stages, targeted therapeutic drugs may be added to your chemotherapy regimen.

A stem cell transplant may also be used if you don’t respond to chemotherapy or radiation. A stem cell transplant infuses healthy cells called stem cells into your body to replace the cancerous cells in your bone marrow.

After treatment, your doctor will want to follow up with you on a regular basis. Be sure to keep all your medical appointments and follow your doctor’s instructions.

Part 5 of 6

Risks of Treatment for Hodgkin’s Disease

Risk Factors

Treatments for HD can have long-term side effects and can increase your risk of developing other serious medical conditions. Radiation to the chest can increase your risk of:

  • breast cancer
  • lung cancer
  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol

You should get regular mammograms, cholesterol tests, and heart disease screenings to check for these conditions.

It’s also important to attend regular follow-up appointments with your doctor. Make sure to tell them about any concerns you may have about long-term side effects and what you can do to help reduce your risk.

Part 6 of 6

Long-Term Outlook for People with Hodgkin’s Disease

Outlook

Advances in the treatment of HD over the past few decades have greatly increased the survival rate. According to the American Cancer Society, the relative survival rates for all people diagnosed with HD are as follows:

  • The one-year survival rate is about 92 percent.
  • The five -year survival rate is about 85 percent.
  • The 10-year survival rate is about 81 percent.

The following are the five-year survival rates for the different stages:

  • Stage I HD is about 90 percent.
  • Stage II HD is about 90 percent.
  • Stage III HD is about 80 percent.
  • Stage IV HD is about 65 percent.

These rates may vary depending on the stage of the disease and the age of the individual.

Dealing with an HD diagnosis can be challenging. Support groups and counseling can help you manage your anxiety and provide a safe place for you to discuss concerns and feelings about your experience. The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society also provide resources for people who’ve recently been diagnosed with HD.

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Henry Sapiecha

BLACK SALVE OINTMENT TREATMENT FOR CANCERS [22] VIDEO COLLECTION YOU TUBE

Thursday, November 24th, 2016
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Seeds of hope for cancer victims Video & story

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

blushwood-berries -in-hand image www.newcures.info

Dr Victoria Gordon and Dr Paul Reddell have discovered a compound EBC-46 that may transform cancer treatment in the fruit of the Brushwood tree in the rainforest on the Atherton tablelands.North Queensland Australia  Source: News Limited

VICTORIA Gordon holds in her hands the chance at life that she had to deny her cancer-stricken sister: a potential breakthrough drug that “eats” tumours.

Dr Gordon and her husband, fellow scientist Paul Reddell, discovered the compound in a north Queensland rainforest and have spent nearly a decade developing the drug and dem­onstrating its effectiveness in ­animals.

Hundreds of horses, dogs, cats, even a Tasmanian devil had life-threatening tumours reduced to harmless sludge by the experimental drug, EBC-46, produced from the seed of the common blushwood tree.

Now, at last, it is to be tested on people battling advanced melanoma and notoriously difficult to treat head and neck cancers. Clinical trials are set to get under way in a number of hospitals by September.

Dr Gordon and Dr Reddell realised something special was happening when they saw hungry rat kangaroos spit out fallen berries from the blushwood tree, which grows only in the tropical rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands, west of Cairns.

The chemical responsible for this “feeding deterrent’’ turned out to be EBC-46, propelling Dr Gordon to her moment of truth with her dying sister, Cheryl.

The 61-year-old chef begged Dr Gordon to toss away the rule book and let her have the experimental drug before she succumbed last December to liver cancer. “I couldn’t,’’ a tearful Dr Gordon says, for the first time telling her story of scientific discovery and its anguished denouement with her older sister.

“Basically, the question Cheryl asked was, ‘Do you believe EBC-46 could help me, and can I have the drug?’ Factually, I said to her we were unsure of the role EBC-46 would play in liver cancer and, even so, this is a drug that has not yet been approved for human use. And, as such, no, she could not use the drug. I just had to be … cold and clinical with that. It was heartbreaking.’’

Dr Gordon and Dr Reddell have been reluctant to speak in detail about EBC-46 until now, with the clinical phase I/II human trial in sight. If all goes to plan, the program will begin within months with about 30 cancer patients, all of them “at the end of the line’’ with conventional treatments.

Turning down her sister was the hardest thing Dr Gordon has had to do. “We are asked almost on a daily basis for access to this drug,’’ she says. “I am sincere when I say this … as much as I would dearly love to help those in need, it’s simply not an option. The regulators and the rules are there to protect patients. Yes, we have very good results in the animals. But if we have not proven this drug is a safe drug to use in people, there is no way we should be making it available.’’

>>>>More CLINICAL information please read this original research work.

Atherton vet Justine Campbell, one of the first to treat pets with the drug, said she was approached by a client who had terminal melanoma. “He was desperate,’’ she said. “He had heard about EBC-46 and asked, ‘Can you treat me?’ And I had to say to him, to his face, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t.’ It’s just awful.’’

Years of research into the drug’s effectiveness in animals have been submitted for publication in an international scientific journal by Dr Gordon, Dr Reddell and scientists from Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

The head of the institute’s Cancer Drug Mechanism Group, Glen Boyle, said the drug broke down tumours within hours of being injected into them. Human melanoma grown on the skin of laboratory mice began to swell by the time the animals were returned to their cage, a sign the powerful response triggered by the drug was choking off the tumour’s blood supply. Minutes later, the growth was a bruised purple, a sign the cancer cells were dying.

“A couple of days after that there is a scab where the tumour used to be,’’ said Dr Boyle, the lead author of research paper.

Veteran medical scientist Peter Parsons said fieldwork with cancer-struck animals outside the laboratory increased his confidence that the drug would work on most tumour types — and in people.

QBiotics, the company established by Dr Gordon and Dr Reddell, both 54, says the drug destroyed all traces of tumour or shrank them by more than half in 78 per cent of the 344 companion animals treated by vets, including Ms Campbell.

Dr Gordon insists “it’s time, we need to get this into people’’.

For her, the clock is ticking in a personal sense. In addition to losing her sister to cancer, both her parents and grandparents died of a disease that will kill more than 44,000 Australians this year. “I have already lost loved ones. I’m sure that more of my family will present with cancer, as my sister did. I wasn’t ready for her. So I have some incentive, real incentive, to get this drug through.’’

MY EARLIER BLUSHWOOD TREE POSTINGS >> 

ONE    +   TWO   +  THREE

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Henry Sapiecha

Tiny “Neural Dust” Sensors Could One Day Control Prostheses or Treat Disease

Friday, August 19th, 2016
These devices could last inside the human body indefinitely, monitoring and controlling nerve and muscle impulses

neural-dust-uc-berkeley-sensor-on-fingertip image www.newcures.info

They’re tiny, wireless, battery-less sensors no larger than a piece of sand. But in the future, these “neural dust” sensors could be used to power prosthetics, monitor organ health and track the progression of tumors.

A team of engineers and neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley have been working on the technology for half a decade. They’ve now managed to implant the sensors inside rats, where they monitor nerve and muscle impulses via ultrasound. Their research appears in the journal Neuron.

“There’s a lot of exciting things that this opens the door to,” says Michel Maharbiz, a professor of engineering and one of the study’s two main authors.

The neural dust sensors developed by Maharbiz and his co-author, neuroscientist Jose Carmena, consist of a piezoelectric crystal (that produces a voltage in response to physical pressure) connected to a simple electronic circuit, all mounted on a tiny polymer board. A change in the nerve or muscle fiber surrounding the sensor changes the vibrations of the crystal. These fluctuations, which can be captured by ultrasound, give researchers a sense of what might be going on deep within the body.

diagram-uc-berkeley-sensor-nerves image www.newcures.info

Building interfaces to record or stimulate the nervous system that will also last inside the body for decades has been a long-standing puzzle, Maharbiz says. Many implants degrade after a year or two. Some require wires that protrude from the skin. Others simply don’t work efficiently. Historically, scientists have used radio frequency to communicate with medical implants. This is fine for larger implants, says Maharbiz. But for tiny implants like the neural dust, radio waves are too large to work efficiently. So the team instead tried ultrasound, which turns out to work much better.

Moving forward, the team is experimenting with building neural dust sensors out of a variety of different materials safe for use in the human body. They’re also trying to make the sensors much smaller, small enough to actually fit inside nerves. So far, the sensors have been used in the peripheral nervous system and in muscles, but, if shrunken, they could potentially be implanted directly into the central nervous system or the brain.

rat-diagram-uc-berkeley sensor image www.newcures.info

Neural dust implanted in a rat (UC Berkeley)

Minor surgery was needed to get the sensors inside the rats. The team is currently working with microsurgeons to see what kinds of laparoscopic or endoscopic technologies might be best for implanting the devices in a minimally invasive way.

It may be years before the technology is ready for human testing, Maharbiz says. But down the road, the neural dust has potential to be used to power prosthetics via nerve impulses. A paralyzed person could theoretically control a computer or an amputee could power a robot hand using the sensors. The neural dust could also be used to track health data, such as oxygen levels, pH or the presence of certain chemical compounds, or to monitor organ function. In cancer patients, sensors implanted near tumors could monitor their growth on an ongoing basis.

“It’s a new frontier,” Maharbiz says. “There’s just an amazing amount you can do.”

www.spy-drones.com

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Henry Sapiecha