A “Smart Bomb” against Breast Cancer
Enthusiasm is running high among scientists who feel they have discovered a possible breakthrough in breast cancer – in fact, they believe they’ve engineered an unusual drug that can actually stop cancer.
That is a profound statement to make, but they’re not backing off.
At Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, Dr. David Spector said it was a eureka moment when a new drug, which he and colleagues invented, chewed up and destroyed aggressive and metastatic breast cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
The effect was far greater than they had predicted. Dr. Spector described the drug as a smart bomb in fighting cancer. Tested on mice, it seeks out and latches onto what’s called “non-coding RNA,” a little-understood relative of DNA in the cell nucleus.
Investigators found that non-coding RNA is what breast tumors need to multiply and spread. The new drug changes the cancer tumor into a more passive state, significantly reducing metastasis. Much of the RNA densely packed within a cancer cell was gone within weeks of treatment.
The testing is at an early stage, but to this point the researchers don’t see any significant side effects.
For now, hopes for the future will depend on the next phase, which is testing on human tissue – with clinical trials to follow as soon as three years from now.
Sourced from: Gulf News, ‘Smart bomb’ against breast cancer tumour unveiled
Published On: Mar 7th 2016
Monkeys Control Wheelchairs with Thoughts
The headline may seem absurd at first, but the truth is that it barely does justice to the almost-beyond-belief advancement announced in a new study published in Scientific Reports.
Neuroscientists from Duke University’s Center for Neuroengineering have successfully endowed monkeys with the ability to move robotic wheelchairs using thought alone. The interface between brain and machine utilizes signals from neurons in two regions of the monkey’s brain specifically involved with sensation and movement.
The study authors point out that for some severely disabled people, using a wheelchair or device controlled by noninvasive measures like an EEG (a device that monitors brain waves through electrodes on the scalp) may not be sufficient. For those individuals, intracranial implants could offer a more practical option.
Beginning in 2012, researchers trained monkeys to navigate a wheelchair towards a goal: a bowl of grapes. All the while, the scientists monitored the monkeys’ brain activity. A computer system then translated the brain signals into digital motor commands capable of controlling the wheelchair’s movements.
As the monkeys’ proficiency at controlling the wheelchair improved, the scientists saw brain signals that showed the monkeys were thinking about the distance between them and the grapes. That surprised the study team because it demonstrated the brain’s enormous flexibility to assimilate a device, in this case a wheelchair.
The researchers note in their study that brain-machine interface will likely have a profound clinical impact, and improve mobility for the disabled. According to Popular Science, the surgery to install the device is minimally invasive and some implants have been left in a monkey’s brain for seven years.
Sourced from: Bioscience Technology, Monkeys Control Wheelchair with Thoughts
Published On: Mar 7th 2016
Nitrous Oxide Could Reduce Bad Memories
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more common that you might think. It affects around 5% of men and 10-12% of women after a catastrophic event. Rates are particularly high among rape victims, 60-80% of whom experience PTSD.
Now research published in Psychological Medicine suggests that receiving nitrous oxide after a traumatic event may help to reduce the incidence of distressing memories.
The study involved 50 healthy adult volunteers and was overseen by both a trained clinical psychologist and a medical doctor. They asked participants to watch two graphic scenes from the 2002 movie, “Irreversible,” once described as “so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable.”
After watching the clips, the participants were given a gas to breathe for 30 minutes. Half of them breathed a 50-50 mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen; the others received medical air.
Over the following week, the participants kept a daily record of intrusions related to the movie clips. Intrusions are involuntary, distressing, memories that flash into the mind after a distressing event.
Inhaling nitrous oxide after watching the clips was linked to a much faster decline in the incidence of distressing memories. The day after viewing, the number of intrusions fell by 50%, and intrusions declined exponentially over the following week. In contrast, the people who breathed normal air experienced a slower, more gradual and linear decline. A significant drop did not occur until day four.
Throughout our days, certain memories are “tagged” in our brain. Tagging is carried out by N-Methyl D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain. Tagged information is then filed for long-term storage as we sleep. Nitrous oxide blocks NMDA receptors, which could mean that it hinders tagging and leaves weaker memories.
Sourced from: MNT, Nitrous oxide could reduce bad memories of a traumatic event
Published On: Mar 7th 2016