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

1. WHO announces three countries to pilot malaria vaccine

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to pilot the first malaria injectable vaccine, RTS,S, next year on hundreds of thousands of young children, who have been a highest risk of death.

The vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, has partial effectiveness but is expected to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures, according to WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti. Children receiving the vaccine will range from age five to 17 months old to see whether its protective effects seen in clinical trials can translate to real-life conditions.

The three countries were chosen as all have strong prevention and vaccination programmes yet still continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said. The vaccine scheme is funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

2. Chemical technique to make bones transparent

If you can turn bones transparent, you can better understand how they work. Video credit: Alex Hogan/STAT

A chemical technique, called CLARITY, which is usually used in the past to make brains and kidneys see-through, has been tweaked to work on bones. This is the first time the technique is used in hard tissues, according to Caltech.

The technique works by chemically locking proteins and DNA in place with a hydrogel, which washes away fats within the tissue, making it transparent - as lipids refract light. Looking for progenitor cells in the bone's soft spongy marrow is difficult as bone cell death and growth is continuous.

Furthermore, there are not that many progenitor cells, therefore extrapolating the number and distribution based on a small sample is not ideal. Slicing and reassembling the bone into a coherent 3D picture is also very difficult and can damage edges. Therefore the technique presents a method to monitor bone health or disease progression with increased accuracy.

3. 5G technology integrated into smart bandages

Smart bandages that use real-time 5G technology to monitor the healing of a wound has been developed by Swansea University and could be trialled within the next 12 months. The bandages can monitor the wound, suggesting what treatment is needed and also keep track of patient's activity levels by using nanotechnology that is connected to a 5G infrastructure. The bandage is 3D-printed to keep the cost down.

"You combine all of that intelligence so the clinician knows the performance of the specific wound at any specific time and can then tailor the treatment protocol to the individual and wound in question," said professor Marc Clement, the chairman of ILS.

4. Security measures for prescribed painkillers

The TimerCap, a prescription vial cap with an embedded stopwatch, is one of many products aimed at slowing opioid abuse. Photo credit: Max Blau/STAT
The TimerCap, a prescription vial cap with an embedded stopwatch, is one of many products aimed at slowing opioid abuse. Photo credit: Max Blau/STAT

Medical entrepreneurs are attempting to address the opioid epidemic in the US through devices such as TimerCap, SaferLock and iKeyp. TimerCap and SaferLock are both prescription vial caps. TimerCap is embedded with a stopwatch that resets to zero whenever a vial is opened.

"If someone took your meds, you'd know the exact minute the diversion happened," Larry Twersky, the founder of TimerCap LLC said. "You can detect if there's unwanted openings.”

SaferLock on the other hand, has a four-digit combination that fits the standard prescription vial found in most medicine cabinets.

“If a bottle is broken or is missing; then you know there’s a problem, and you can hopefully prevent it from getting any worse,” said Nathan Langley, the-co-founder of Gatekeeper Innovation.

iKeyp is a medical safe that fits inside a bathroom cabinet, which sends an alert to the owner's cell phone if someone types in the wrong code. It also features an accelerometer that detects movement and alerts the owner of potential theft.

5. 50-year-old drug can cut maternal mortality by 31%

Postpartum haemorrhage is the biggest cause of death during pregnancy and early motherhood, however an international study suggests "tranexamic acid" could address the problem.

Invented by husband and wife Shosuke and Utako Okamoto in Japan in the 1960s, the drug prevents blood clots breaking down and makes it easier for the body to stop bleeding. At that time, they could not convince local doctors to carry out a clinical trial for postpartum haemorrhage, so instead it was used as a treatment for heavy periods.

Now, a study coordinated by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in a collaboration of 193 hospitals in Africa and Asia looked at 20,000 patients and found that tranexamic acid cut deaths by a fifth overall, and by 31% in those given the drug within three hours of birth.

The drug is inexpensive, can be given in a single shot and reduce the risk of bleeding to death. The WHO said it would update its recommendations for treating postpartum haemorrhage treatment. MIMS

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