Doctors Implant 3D-Printed Vertebrae

3D Printers have helped medicine come a long way, with the ability to customise and create things in an easy and cost-effective way that previously would have been impossible to do. 3D-printed ribs, to livers, eyes and even ears. While these are all amazing feats, they have always been generic items, things which are custom but not unique in their design. At the end of 2015, this changed though when a patient was implanted with two 3D printed vertebrae.

Vertebrae are the discs that cling to your spine and are responsible for giving you a lot of your movement. The patient in question suffered from a form of cancer that had formed on the top two of his vertebrae, potentially threatening his spinal cord as it developed. The top two vertebrae are the ones responsible for your heads movement, meaning that grafting one from another piece of bone or material would be particularly difficult given their custom nature.

The solution was to work with an Australian medical device manufacturer, Anatomics, who using a 3D printer created the top two vertebrae using a 3D printer and some titanium. Ralph Mobbs, the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery stated that it was “a pure delight” to perform the surgery knowing that you had already done it on a model.

The surgery itself took 15 hours to perform and given the location was not without risk. Described as “essentially disattaching the patient’s head from his neck and taking the tumour out and reattaching his head back into his neck”. The surgery was a success though and Mobbs was able to not only remove the tumor but also implant the prosthetic into the patient.

Is there anything people can’t do when they work together with technology and each other?

Gauss Cannon Designed To Heal You From Inside

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Gauss Guns are often a thing of fiction. While they have been designed, achieving their aim is difficult due to the size and energy required to fire them. For those who are unaware of what I mean when I say gauss gun, it was a device designed to avoid using gun powder. Using magnetic charges, the concept is to propel an object through the air using only metal, a small electrical charge and magnetism. A research team in America may have found another use for it though.

University of Houston and Bostons Child Hospital have developed an application for the gauss technology to help medicine. The idea would be to inject tiny microscopic robots into your body which could then be ‘remote controlled’ via an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine. Using magnetism, the nano-bots would be steered to a location, before finally sending in an activation nano-bot. When this final nano-bot is inserted it bumps into the next, sending it flying into the next and this continues until the last one is reached. With this in mind the final nano-bot can be used to do anything from opening blocked passageways, delivering a drug to a specific area of the body or even puncturing a membrane to release fluid which has gathered in the body.

With yet another example how science is being changed to not only prevent harm but also to save lives, the only thing left before future trials is to miniaturize the nano-bots, which at the moment are just bots.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Artificial Intelligence Solves 120-Year-Old Mystery of Cellular Regeneration

An artificial intelligence has, with absolute autonomy (i.e. no input from humans), cracked a 120-year-old biological mystery. A team of computer scientists and biologists from Tufts University developed a computer that was able to form its own theories when given scientific data to work from. The first challenge the team posed to the computer was the conundrum of the flatworm. Scientists have known for over a century that pieces of flatworm removed from the main body are able to regenerate to form new organisms, but why remained an enigma, until now.

The computer was able to reverse engineer an explanation for the process known as Planaria, revealing that the information to regenerate cells is coded into not just the flatworm’s genes, but the genes of every creature on the planet.

“Most regenerative models today derived from genetic experiments are arrow diagrams, showing which gene regulates another. That’s fine, but it doesn’t tell you what the ultimate shape will be. You cannot tell if the outcome of many genetic pathway models will look like a tree, an octopus or a human,” Michael Levin, one of the researchers, said. “What we need are algorithmic or constructive models, which you could follow precisely and there would be no mystery or uncertainty. You follow the recipe and out comes the shape.”

“One of the most remarkable aspects of the project was that the model it found was not a hopelessly tangled network that no human could actually understand, but a reasonably simple model that people can readily comprehend,” he added. “All this suggests to me that artificial intelligence can help with every aspect of science, not only data mining but also inference, of meaning of the data.”

The team from Tuft University believes that this breakthrough could potentially lead to regenerative medicine for humans. We’ll be regrowing limbs in no time.

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information.

New Disposable Tech Can Draw Blood Without Needles

A new startup, sponsored by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has developed a new piece of medical tech that can draw blood, painlessly, without breaking the skin. The blood-drawing device – developed by Tasso Inc, an affiliate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison – could replace needles entirely and can be self-administered. To pursue the project, Tasso has been the beneficiary of a $3 million federal grant, courtesy of DARPA.

The ping-pong ball-sized device creates a small vacuum between it and the skin which draws blood from the body through tiny capillaries without even breaking the skin, let alone entering a vein as a hypodermic needle would. The blood then collects in the attached container, which holds up to 0.15 cubic centimetres of blood, which is enough for most routine tests, such as analyses of cholesterol, infection, cancer cells, and blood sugar levels – “basically anything that is being tested for in a modern lab,” according to Ben Casavant, vice president and co-founder of Tasso.

“We see our specialty as people who need to test semi-frequently, or infrequently, to monitor cancer or chronic infectious diseases,” Casavant continued in a press release. “Instead of buying a machine or expensive equipment, we ship you this device, you put it on your arm for two minutes and send it back to the lab.”

The device, still unnamed, could revolutionise blood testing, offering a less invasive alternative for people with an aversion to needles, and the ability to self-administer means freeing up nurses. Tasso hopes to bring the product to market by 2016.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information.

Man Saves Wife’s Sight With 3D Print-Out of Her Tumour

Back in 2013, Californian 3D graphic artist Michael Balzer took it upon himself to intervene in the treatment of his wife’s brain tumour, and saved her sight in the process.

Pamela Shavaun Scott, Balzer’s wife, discovered after an MRI scan in August 2013 that she had a brain tumour, positioned behind her left eye. Neurologists claimed that such a growth was common amongst women – nothing to be too concerned about – and suggested having a follow-up scan in a year.

Balzer was unconvinced, and sought the advice of the best doctors in the country. The neurologists Balzer sent the MRI results to agreed that Scott would require surgery. The proactive Balzer researched possible treatments for his wife. He settled on Center for Robotic Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where surgeon-controlled robotic arms use micro-movements to perform delicate operations.

Balzer requested Scott’s DICOM files (the digital format for MRI scan data) and used his expertise in 3D imaging to to convert them into a 3D model of his wife’s skull, complete with tumour. “I thought, ‘why don’t we take it to the next level?’” Balzer said. “Let’s see what kind of tools are available so that I can take the DICOMs, which are 2D slices, and convert them into a 3D model.”

Using the digital 3D creation he had formed, Balzer created a physical facsimile of Scott’s head with a 3D printer. After showing this model to neurosurgeons, it became feasible to avoid the usual high-risk method of operation – cracking the skull and lifting the brain to reach the tumour – and instead enter Scott’s skull with a micro-drill through the top of her eye cavity.

The operation was a success: Scott’s tumour was removed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in May 2014. During surgery, the neurologist discovered that the tumour had started to entangle the optic nerve to Scott’s left eye. If she’d waited a year, as initially advised, she would have suffered damage to the nerve, possibly losing her sight. The procedure took eight hours, with 95% of the tumour removed. The scar above Scott’s left eyelid is barely visible.

Source: Make

Remarkable GIFs Showing the Inner-Working of the Body From GE’s New CT Scanner

General Electric has been showing of the capabilities of its new computerised tomography (CT) scanner, and the results are stunning.

The Revolution CT, though introduced in 2013, has only been in hospital and clinic use since last September, and doctors and patients alike are impressed; doctors because the images the Revolution produces are some of the most detailed and illustrative as they get, and patients because GE’s machine emits less radiation and is more comfortable than any previous CT scanner.

GE seems rather proud of the Revolution CT. See for yourself why:

Source: The Verge

HIV Virus Successfully Removed From Human Cells For The First Time

Scientists at the Temple University School of Medicine in the USA claim that they have successfully managed to remove the HIV virus from cultured human cells for the first time. The experiment that has achieved the feat are detailed in a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released on July 21st. The discovery is a “proof of concept” that HIV can be removed from a patient with the potential for a permanent cure.

“This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS. It’s an exciting discovery, but it’s not yet ready to go into the clinic. It’s a proof of concept that we’re moving in the right direction.” says Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple

The research was carried out on the most common strain of HIV, HIV-1, and to remove it from human cells a DNA-cutting enzyme known as nuclease was used with a targeting strand of guide RNA (gRNA). In combination those two things were able to track down the virus genome and remove it from the human cells. The medical school is hoping that they will be able to start clinical trials in the near future and are really optimistic about the prospects of using such a discovery to eliminate and cure AIDS.

“We are working on a number of strategies so we can take the construct into preclinical studies. We want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patient. That will cure AIDS. I think this technology is the way we can do it,” stated Khalili.

Source: MedicalXpress

Image courtesy of J Roberto Trujillo/Wikipedia

Music Proven to be More Effective than Drugs When Fighting Alzheimer and Dementia

Modern medicine nowadays tries to ‘fix’ us with pills and drugs, even when the latter type of medication proves to be ineffective. A natural phenomenon that we tend to medicalize is aging, a process we all have to face sooner or later. Statistics show that around 1.5 million people are institutionalized in the United States alone, 80% of which have been separated because they are suffering from Alzheimer or other forms of dementia.

For these people, a normal day starts and ends with powerful psychotropic drugs, with the treatment not aimed at curing the disease, but at making the patients more malleable and manageable. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on these drugs annually, providing limited relief and often comes with significant side effects. However, in this particular case, non-pharmaceutical interventions has proven to be more effective. Whether it is access to companion animals, dietary supplements, memory training or even art therapy, science has proven that the latter provide meaningful benefits without the cost or the dangers of drugs.

One of the most significant of all non-pharmaceutical approaches to Alzheimer and dementia patients has proven to be music. The concept is said to be very simple and involving a simple MP3 player, such as an iPod, and a special playlist for each patient. The benefits resulting from this approach are said to include better memory, improved mood, decreed pain, increased involvement in the world and enhanced well-being. 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Choice Award-winning documentary film by Michael Rossato-Bennett, Alive Inside (video below), is shown to provide a testament to the power of reconnecting dementia sufferers with their deepest sense of self.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaB5Egej0TQ[/youtube]

Music is said to be a side door into a part of the mind that is relatively undamaged by dementia. People are said to process music with almost every part of the brain and music with personal meaning can promote extremely strong responses. Clinical studies have demonstrated that it is possible for personalized music to have a greater effect than medication and that it can even trigger long-term memories. It is said that there is currently no drug on the market that can help a person reconnect with their vital essence the way music does.

However, the practices shown in the documentary are yet to be considered as real-life effective treatment for Alzheimer or dementia patients. Nonetheless, this does not stop family members from using the powerful tool of personalized music with their loved ones.

Thank you The Daily Beast for providing us with this information
Image and video courtesy of The Daily Beast

Remote Control Contraceptive Being Developed by The Gates Foundation

A new project is being funded by the Gates Foundation that could end the need to take a daily contraceptive pill. Instead of taking one pill a day, their project could result in you taking one pill that lasts 16 years! It seems like complete over kill for a tablet to last so long, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Using a single smart capsule which releases the required drug over time means you only need to take it once. The capsule can respond to a remote wireless signal from something like a dedicated hand scanner to enable, disable or alter the treatment dosage when you visit the doctors.

The project is already well underway and they hope to start preclinical testing in 2015, with a goal of reaching the market in 2018.

Obviously there are hacking concerns and other issues with carrying a 16 year dose of a powerful hormone in your system, so a lot of things have to be done right before this becomes commercially viable, but it’s an interesting approach that could pave the way for some radical changes in medicine.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of The Verge.

Face Off, Donors Soon Decide On Donating Face

Remember the hit 1997 movie Face/Off starting Nicolas Cage and John Travolta? Well due to medical procedure advancements the idea of transplanting faces could soon be a possibility. Faces are not the only transplants that could be achieved, with the U.S. Government preparing a new legislation to help donors who may not want to give up certain parts of their body. In other words the definition of organ donor is being reviewed, since now due to medical advancements doctors are able to graft hands, feet, and even though face transplants are still rare they can and are happening.

The new legislation being drafted by the Government with the help of leading transplant specialist Dr Suzanne McDiarmid, aims at informing would be donors out there about the new advancements so donors can still assist in giving another person the gift of life, without fear that they will be giving up something they don’t want too. Dr McDiarmid went out to explain the matter further;

“Joe Blow is not going to know that now an organ is defined as also including a hand or a face. The consent process for the life-saving organs should not, must not, be derailed by a consent process for a different kind of organ that the public might think of as being very different from donating a kidney or a heart or a liver.”

As stated before, face transplants are still rare procedures but they are happening. One of the first successful face transplants Happened in Victoria Australia in 1996, however in that case it wasn’t a transplant it was just re-attaching a woman’s own face. What do you think of this new change to being an “organ donor”,  soon the chances are the next time you renew or apply for a car licence you may have a whole new choice of where to draw the line on organ donations.

Thank you Nine MSN for the information provided

Image courtesy of NYDailyNews

Jellyfish DNA Can Make Glow In The Dark Pigs

When scientists from Turkey created glow in the dark Rabbits in August 2013, we wondered whether or not this interesting experiment would continue. Well it has, a team from the South China Agricultural University has been able to produce 10 glow in the dark pigs. The pigs turn a green color when exposed to black fluorescent lights. The technique was first developed at the University of Hawaii’s Manona School of Medicine. The technique involves injecting the subject animal embryo with DNA from jellyfish. The reason for the “green” glow is that the florescent genetic material from the jellyfish has successfully been incorporated into the pigs natural genetic make-up whilst the animal was still an embryo.

The reason for these color changing experiments isn’t just for fun or a giggle. Researchers hope that from the findings of these successful experiments in the future they will be able to introduce different beneficial genes into much larger animals to help create more effective and less costly medicines. Dr Stefan Moisyadi from the University of Hawaii where the technique was developed went onto explain more;

“The green color shown by the animals is just a marker to show that we can take a gene that was not originally present in the animal and now is. With this technique we can create enzymes a lot cheaper in animals rather than in a factory that will cost millions of dollars to build”.

Although there is a scientific and medical use tho this breakthrough, one would wonder when new genetic trait could be made available to the public as a new version of “designer pet”. What family petwould you like to see glow in the dark? On a final note Dr Moisyadi went onto say that the animals were not negatively affected by the florescent protein and they would have the same life span as other pigs.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tw8NgpE_a0[/youtube]

Thanks to The Sydney Morning Herald for the information provided

Image Courtesy of ZDOUF