1. 3D printing the human heart tissueScientists at Sydney's Heart Research Institute have 3D printed human heart tissue that can replace a patient's damaged heart cells.
The cells behave like real heart cells, pumping and beating and researchers hope that the therapy will be available for patients within five years. If successful, the approach would change how people are treated after a heart attack.
The method is currently used to see what side-effects certain drugs have on hearts and could also be used to test new drugs for individual patients.
2. Just one breath to identify 17 different diseasesA breathalyzer that identifies 17 different diseases has been developed by 56 scientists worldwide. The device, called "Na-Nose", can identify multiple sclerosis, kidney disease, two types of Parkinson's disease, Crohn's and various cancers including colorectal, lung, ovarian and prostate.
It can diagnose a disease in its early stages and may predict people who are at high risk for certain conditions. The researchers have identified more than 100 chemical compounds in exhaled breath, of which 13 were associated with certain diseases. The device includes an "artificially intelligent" nano-array which analyses the chemicals to assess what levels are healthy.
It has an 86% accuracy rate after being tested on 1,404 sick and healthy patients across nine countries, although its developers say it is not yet good enough to be used clinically as a diagnostic tool, but shows clear potential for the future.
3. Scientists develop new way to treat gonorrhoeaGonorrhoea is more sensitive to carbon monoxide-based toxicity than other model bacterial pathogens. Therefore, scientists at the University of York have harnessed the therapeutic effects of carbon monoxide-releasing molecules to fight it.
There is increasing evidence that CO, which is naturally produced in the body, enhances antibiotic action. It is toxic in high concentrations, but is able to affect bacteria at low concentrations.
“Gonorrhoea only has one enzyme that needs inhibiting and then it can't respire oxygen and it dies," said Professor Ian Fairlamb, from the University's Department of Chemistry. The team is looking to develop a drug in the form of a pill or cream.
4. Doctors perform first DBS procedure for stroke surgeryDoctors at Cleveland Clinic in the US recently performed the first deep brain stimulation (DBS) for stroke surgery in a patient. The experimental procedure sees electrodes that provide small electric pulses implanted into the brain, allowing patients to regain control over movements lost to stroke.
Judy Slater was the first person to be treated on 19 December. She is currently recovering from brain surgery and in March, doctors will turn on the stimulation. Slater still undergoes standard physical therapy and it is hoped that DBS will improve progress from standard rehabilitation. After three months, the stimulation will be turned off to see if the effects remain.
The team is also testing DBS to treat tremors in Parkinson's disease sufferers and will enrol more people in a clinical trial after observing Slater's progress. Neither procedure is approved by the US FDA.
5. Company develops portable perfusion systems to preserve organs between transplantsOrgans are usually transported in cooler boxes, allowing them a few hours to be transplanted into a patient. Now, TransMedics, Inc., a portable perfusion system company has developed Organ Care SystemTM to preserve hearts, lungs and livers until they are ready to be transplanted.
The systems maintain organs in a warm, functioning state outside of the body, optimising their health and allowing continuous clinical evaluation. It also enables quick resuscitation of the organ to improve function after removal from the donor.
"Having a transport pump to preserve the heart function allows us to better match the hearts to the recipients," says Dr. Jason Smith, cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Washington.
The different systems integrate a compact wireless monitor, organ specific perfusion module, and proprietary solution for organ maintenance.
6. FDA makes antibiotics for animals illegalThe US FDA has declared it illegal to feed animals with antibiotics that are "medically important" to speed growth. The policy was three years in the making and requires producers of agricultural antibiotics to change labelling on the drugs to state that they should not be used for growth promotion. All manufacturers have reached a consensus to abide by the new rule.
It also states that livestock can only be given medically important drugs under the supervision of a veterinarian, a move aimed at restricting antibiotic use to the treat animal illnesses.
There are still loopholes, but the new policy represents a major step forward, said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington. MIMS
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