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

1. Nanodiamonds bring a new approach to root canal recovery

Researchers at the UCLA School of Dentistry and UCLA Henry Samuell School of Engineering and Applied Science have found that nanodiamonds increased the chances of a full recovery following a root canal. Nanodiamonds are nanoparticles made of carbon and are so small that millions of them could fit on the head of a pin. Structurally, these nanodiamonds resemble faceted spheres which allows for a wide variety of drugs and imaging agents to be delivered.

“Harnessing the unique properties of nanodiamonds in the clinic may help scientists, doctors and dentists overcome key challenges that confront several areas of health care, including improving lesion healing in oral health,” said Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine in the dental school and a co-corresponding author of the study.

By embedding the nanodiamonds with gutta percha, the team successfully created a barrier of protection against infection, which was more effective than conventional means. Thus far, all clinical trial subjects have healed properly without unusual pain and without infection.

“We believe nanodiamonds could ultimately help us sidestep drug resistance in cancer, improve the efficiency of magnetic resonance imaging and address other clinical challenges,” said Ho.

2. FDA approves new anti-cancer treatment

Yescarta is the second CAR-T drug to be approved by the FDA.
Yescarta is the second CAR-T drug to be approved by the FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a new drug, made by Gilead Sciences, which aims to target particularly deadly form of cancers. The drug, known as CAR-T, is made by extracting patients’ white blood cells and re-engineering them to target tumour cells in the body. For patients in terminal stages of cancer, CAR-T has shown unprecedented results.

Gilead Sciences is planning to sell the drug under the name ‘Yescarta’, and it is the second CAR-T therapy to be approved by the FDA. The first being Novartis’ treatment, Kymriah, which was approved for use in children with aggressive blood cancer by the FDA back in August. Yescarta is targeted at patients with the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma – diffuse large B cell lymphoma.

The biggest hurdle for Gilead remains to be the price of the therapy which costs a staggering USD373,000 for a one-time dose. Moreover, Gilead has not revealed any systems put into place with medical insurances to help subsidise the cost for end users.

3. Games which help improve hearing

The audio game has shown a 25% improvement in hearing abilities in people who play it. Photo credit: Daniel Polley/CNN
The audio game has shown a 25% improvement in hearing abilities in people who play it. Photo credit: Daniel Polley/CNN

Scientists at Harvard Medical School have developed an audio game that they hope will help improve people’s hearing in real life. Developed over the past 13 years, the audio game works by targeting the brain rather than focusing on the ear. Rather than focusing on amplifying sound like hearing aids do, the game aims to improve the brains recognition of audio signals.

As much of the test remains to be proprietary, the mechanics of the game remains to be kept in secret until the team is able to carry out more settings. On the other hand, the results of the game have been very promising. Adults who played the specially designed game were able to identify 25% more words in spoken sentences or random digits spoken in high noise environments. Meanwhile, those who did not play the game showed no improvement.

Nevertheless, the improvements are not permanents as those who stopped playing the audio game would soon lose their once improved hearing abilities. With that in mind, the scientists are aiming to build an audio game for commercial use, where consumers will be able to practice regularly on their own time

4. Life-saving cancer test, developed by doctors in Croydon

The research team at Croydon University Hospital. Photo credit: Michael Foster/Croydon Advertiser
The research team at Croydon University Hospital. Photo credit: Michael Foster/Croydon Advertiser

A group of researchers from the Croydon University Hospital have developed a life-saving cancer test that could not only save thousands of lives but, millions of dollars too. The medical staff in the university hospital have developed a pocket-sized test which could detect bowel cancer earlier and allow for prompt treatment to be administered upon diagnosis.

Known as the FIT (faecal immunochemical test) test, the test involves dipping a small plastic instrument into the patient’s faecal matter and within minutes, reveals if the patient’s symptoms are cancer or not. Where an old test involving a camera probe may take up to a whole day for the patient, the benefits of this simple test are simply monumental.

Moreover, the costs saving is insurmountable as a successful deployment of the FIT test could see the NHS saving millions every year. Currently, tests for colon cancer cost around GBP400, whereas the FIT test only costs roughly GBP10. The success and low cost of the FIT test is only the beginning as the team at Croydon are still working on fine-tuning the test.

5. A new way to heal wounds

Researchers have begun mimicking the healing process of the body with the use of nanoparticles.
Researchers have begun mimicking the healing process of the body with the use of nanoparticles.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have discovered a way of mimicking the body’s natural healing process to repair injured tissue. By using nano-particles called vesicles and harnessing the regenerative capacity of these particles, the team is able to promote healing in cells.

Dr Sophie Cox, from the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, explained, "Though we can never fully mimic the complexity of vesicles produced by cells in nature, this work describes a new pathway harnessing natural developmental processes to facilitate hard tissue repair."

The use of vesicles avoids any serious side-effects and high costs as they are naturally generated during bone formation. Moreover, the use of vesicles also complies with regulatory, ethical and economic standards, which make this cell-based therapy a viable option.

The research team is currently looking at ways to therapeutically apply vesicles in the regeneration of tissue and at a larger scale. MIMS

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Sources:
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/nanodiamonds-show-promise-for-aiding-recovery-from-root-canal
https://www.statnews.com/2017/10/18/gilead-car-t-approval/
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/19/health/cant-hear-try-a-game/index.html
http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/news/croydon-news/life-saving-cancer-test-been-681445
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171003093941.htm
https://www.rdmag.com/article/2017/10/new-tissue-regeneration-method-mimics-natural-healing
https://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/extracellular-vesicles-used-as-novel-approach-for-tissue-repair/81255004