News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized forms.

1. Blood sugar monitoring without finger pricks

The FDA have approved of the first ever continuous blood sugar monitor for diabetic which does not require the finger prick tests. Traditional blood sugar monitors require their users to prick their fingers twice a day for a blood sample to be measured. Aside from the inconvenience, traditional methods also cause pain and rising medical bills which serve to dissuade diabetics from keeping a close watch on their blood sugar.

The new system manufactured by Abbott, is known as the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System. It monitors the patient’s blood sugar level via a small sensor attached to the upper arm, thus, removing the need for daily finger pricks. Simply by waving a machine over the sensor patch, patients can measure their current blood sugar level and note any changes over the past eight hours.

Abbott’s device has been approved for use in adults with type 1 or 2 diabetes with expected market availability within the coming months.

2. Wearable trackers to detect early-stage lung cancer

Researchers at the University of Buffalo are currently working on a project to detect early stages of lung cancer via a wrist-worn tracker. The concept of the cancer tracker revolves around three key components. The first, an implant under the skin which reacts to biomarkers in the blood. The second, the wrist mounted sensor which picks up signals from the implant before passing it on to the third component; a smart-device or tablet which receives and deciphers the information.

The three-part system of the wrist-worn cancer tracker. Photo credit: Pedram Johari, PhD Candidate in Dr. Jornet's Research Lab/ Wareable
The three-part system of the wrist-worn cancer tracker. Photo credit: Pedram Johari, PhD Candidate in Dr. Jornet's Research Lab/ Wareable

The project will last three years, with the final year of the project dedicated to testing the tracker on human subjects. To make this concept a reality, the team will be working with Intel Labs which provides the technology in wearable devices and signal management.

In the future, the team hopes to detect more types of cancer with the tracker.

3. Dentists harvest stem cell from teeth

Dr. Karl Kingsley and Dr. James Mah. Photo credit: Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services
Dr. Karl Kingsley and Dr. James Mah. Photo credit: Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services

Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) have developed a new method for extracting tooth root pulp that quadruples the number of stem cells that can be harvested and replicated.

“Stem cells can be extracted from nearly any living tissue,” explained Dr James Mah, director of UNLV’s advanced education program in orthodontics, doctor of dental surgery, and dental researcher. “The biggest challenges with stem cells are gathering enough of them to work with and keeping them viable until they are needed.”

With that challenge in mind, Dr Mah and Dr Kingsley worked together with a group of students at UNLV to come up with a new method for extracting teeth while still maintaining a high yield of stem cells. The solution to the problem cracked by then dental student, Happy Ghag, was to first score the tooth to enable a clean break in half and remove the pulp.

The new method showed a four times increased yield in viable stem cells, which could be consistently replicated. “The work Dr Kingsley and I are doing is part of a paradigm shift,” said Dr Mah. “Our fracturing process could hasten the collection and cryogenesis process, thereby preserving a high stem-cell count that furthers research into how using these cells can aid healing and potentially cure diseases.”

4. Multiple vaccines administered simultaneously

How microparticles are fabricated. Photo credit: Science/ The Guardian
How microparticles are fabricated. Photo credit: Science/ The Guardian

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new approach, which would allow for multiple vaccines to be delivered with a single injection. Effectively making multiple injections for vaccinations a thing of the past, the new technology work using the concept of microparticles.

Using this technique, the vaccines are encapsulated within tiny particles made of biodegradable polymers, which break down at different time points and are gradually absorbed by the body. The new technique has already been tested on mice with positive results showing a greater response compared to regular injections of the same dose.

The team believes the technique can be expanded to more than just vaccines. Soon, treatment for allergies, diabetes and even cancer which require multiple injections, may all benefit from the time-released nature of the microparticles.

5. Blood labyrinth which catches cancer cells

This blood labyrinth is able to “catch” cancer cells. Photo credit: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing/Science Alert
This blood labyrinth is able to “catch” cancer cells. Photo credit: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing/Science Alert

Researchers at the University of Michigan have devised a blood labyrinth that promises big improvements in the detecting cancer cells in the blood. This micro-maze chip controls the flow of the blood and can filter out larger cell types, such as cancer cells and cancer stem cells. These cells are known to be particularly malignant and resistant to treatment. Thus, allowing doctors to anticipate tumour growth and plan for personalised treatment of the patient.

Aside from being faster and more effective than current techniques, the team also claims a cleaner stream of cancer cells that would be more beneficial to scientists in their analysis. The whole technique takes just five minutes and is currently being tested in a breast cancer clinical trial. MIMS

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Sources:
1.https://www.statnews.com/2017/09/28/blood-sugar-monitor-finger-pricks-diabetes/
2.https://www.wareable.com/saves-the-day/university-of-buffalo-lung-cancer-tracker-wearable-9812
3.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171004132610.htm
4.https://www.unlv.edu/news/article/dentists-get-cracking-stem-cell-front
5.https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/14/multiple-time-delayed-drugs-could-be-given-in-single-injection-say-scientists
6.http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6356/1138
7.https://www.sciencealert.com/running-blood-through-this-micro-maze-could-help-spot-cancer-cells