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

1. Ebola outbreak in DRC prompts WHO to prepare experimental Ebola vaccine for emergency

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on 12 May that an Ebola outbreak has occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the remote Bas-Uele province with 19 suspected cases and three dead patients.

Attempts to trace contacts and stop the disease have been unsuccessful therefore the WHO has reported the "national risk" for DRC as "high".

At the same time, the WHO and external experts have been making arrangements to send an experimental Ebola vaccine to the DRC in an attempt to fight the outbreak.

The DRC has not formally requested the vaccine and it is also unclear if or when it will. The country's drug regulatory agency would also have to authorise the emergency use of the unlicensed vaccine.

2. Stanford develops possible wearable for personalised drug deliveries

A researcher holds a prototype of a biosensor. Photo credit: Soh Lab, Stanford University.
A researcher holds a prototype of a biosensor. Photo credit: Soh Lab, Stanford University.

Engineers from Stanford University have developed a drug delivery tool to make it easier for patients to obtain the correct dose of lifesaving drugs.

In prototype stages currently, the final version could be an implant of wearable which automatically monitors and administers patients' medication.

The tool comprises a biosensor which monitors the levels of the drug in the patient's bloodstream, a control system which determines the correct dose depending on the potency of the medicine and the patient's requirements, and a programmable pump which could automatically deliver the measured amount of medicine to maintain the desired dose.

The researchers hope that this could be a big step towards personalised medicine.

3. Mussel secretion could prevent scars in wound healing

A sticky substance naturally secreted by mussels has been found to prevent scarring after wound healing

Conventionally, decorin, a skin protein involved in collagen organisation is applied to reduce scarring – but, it has a highly complex physical structure that is difficult to synthesis and is therefore not used clinically.

Hyung Joon Cha, and his team at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea, managed to create a simplified version of decorin by combining a section of decorin to a collagen-binding molecule and the sticky substance secreted by mussels.

The glue was then tested on rats with deep, 8-millimetre-wide wounds and after 11 days, 99% of the wound closed and by the fourth week, there was no visible scarring.

4. "Tinder-style" app for people who want babies

A pair of Australian entrepreneurs have created a "Tinder-style" app called Just A Baby to "bring people together solely based on their desire to make a baby."

Recently launched in the UK and US last week, followed by a soft launch in Sydney, the pair said that there was a good response.

Users fill out a "biological profile" on the GPS-enabled app, describing what they need or can provide – sperm or egg donations, surrogacy, co-parenting or just partnering. No details on race or body type is provided.

The pair anticipates that the app will do well for millennials "who may be less inclined to settle down than previous generations, but still want to experience parenthood, no matter their relationship status."

5. Orlando doctor injects herpes to fight skin cancer

Doctors see improvement after herpes virus injected into cancer patients. Photo credit: WFTV9ABC
Doctors see improvement after herpes virus injected into cancer patients. Photo credit: WFTV9ABC

A doctor in Orlando has been introducing an unconventional method to fight skin cancer - injecting herpes into the cells.

Dr Sahjeve Thomas has tested this out on a half dozen patients. The virus has been retrofitted to be injected directly into the skin cancer and months later, visible skin cancer lesions were proven to shrink 50% of the time.

Patients can still get herpes from the shots, but Thomas says that the chance is very small. The treatment works by forcing the immune system to recognise the viral invasion at specific spots, therefore killing of the cancer cells as well.

Thomas believes that it could be a long-term durable control towards all types of cancers especially melanoma - which was chosen as the test - as it is one of the most common cancers. MIMS

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