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

1. Universal blood test for cancer

A team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University has formulated what is possibly the first universal blood test for cancer in the world. With findings published in the Science journal, the team details the new blood tests’ ability to detect up to eight different types of cancers. These include ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, bowel, lung and breast cancers.

Aptly named CancerSEEK, the test detects trace amount of DNA and proteins released by cancer cells into the blood stream. More than just its ability to detect a wide variety of cancers – the most a single test is able to, to date – the test is also able to detect very early stages of cancer, yet producing very low levels of false positives.

Touted as the the Holy Grail of cancer treatment, CancerSEEK is a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy.
Touted as the the Holy Grail of cancer treatment, CancerSEEK is a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy.

Such accuracy and reliability means that CancerSEEK is the ideal solution for early detection and stopping cancer while it is still curable. Large scale tests are currently underway to finalise the blood tests methodology. Consumers may expect to see its full utilisation within the next five to six years.

2. Learning companion – robots to aid children with ADHD

A collaboration between tech company, Neeuro, and three students from the Singapore Polytechnic has witnessed the development of a robot-cum-mobile application, come to fruition. As part of Neeuro’s line of wearable technology, the application, known as SenzeBand, allows users to control a robot using only their brainwaves. The SenzeBand monitors the brainwave levels of its user and in return, corresponds to their levels of attentiveness.


Whenever the wearer’s focus falls below a certain level, this will trigger an alarm within the robot to re-focus its wearer. With a heavy emphasis on focus, the system is being targeted towards children with ADHD, who have trouble maintaining focus and attention. The product is expected to arrive in March, priced at SGD600.

"ADHD kids have impulsiveness issues, so they might not know what they're doing right. So, they'll be like, 'Oh, I'm doing the right thing' even when they're not," expressed Mr Denzil Ang, 22, one of the students behind the 10-month-old project.

3. Walmart turns excess opioids into biodegradable gel

WalMart is offering free packets, which turn unused opiods into useless gel.
WalMart is offering free packets, which turn unused opiods into useless gel.

The opioid epidemic is the latest health epidemic taking developed nations by storm, most notably the United States. As such, retail giant, Walmart, has devised a method to help consumers dispose of leftover opioids by providing packets which render these drugs into a biodegradable gel.

Developed by the company, DisposeRx, these packets are provided free with any opioid prescriptions in many of the major pharmacies all around the US. Simply by adding warm water into the packet, it triggers a reaction with the powder within the packet, which then renders the opioid pills into a safe, biodegradable gel.

To reach out to more users, WalMart is also offering the packets for free to anyone who requests for it.

4. Malaysia fast-tracks the cure for hepatitis C

The Malaysian government has won an award for making hepatitis C treatment available to the masses at an affordable cost.
The Malaysian government has won an award for making hepatitis C treatment available to the masses at an affordable cost.

The Malaysian government has received the Leadership Award in Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines at the Global Summit of Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines in Morocco. This award was a recognition of the country’s effort in fast-tracking the process to obtain the new hepatitis C medication, Sofosbuvir, at an affordable price point.

“A pride to the nation. Malaysia is a trailblazer when it comes to access to medicine for hepatitis C,” expressed Director-General of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The Malaysian government overcame the high cost of the new hepatitis C medication by obtaining a government-use license to enable import of generic versions of Sofosbuvir. This move would make the drug much more affordable to the 400,000 Malaysians battling the disease.

5. A new algorithm for combating antibiotic resistance

The computer algorithm, VarQuest, is able to create thousands of different antibiotic variants.
The computer algorithm, VarQuest, is able to create thousands of different antibiotic variants.

Every day, research teams from all around the world are hard at work – trying to come up with a solution for the already growing antibiotic resistance issue. Now, one team of researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University is proposing the utilisation of an algorithm to discover new antibiotics. Using the algorithm, VarQuest, the process of developing new antibiotics shifts from chemical science to data analysis, where a computer creates countless permutations of antibiotics.

The only drawback to the entire process is the thousands of different antibiotics that the algorithm can come up with. With this much data, it is up to the analyst and researchers to make sense of what will work and what will not. If successful, the technology has the potential to accelerate antibiotic research dramatically. MIMS

Read more:
News Bites: Vitamin D and calcium ineffective in preventing fractures, Excessive video gaming may be an official disorder
News Bites: Understanding cancer spread through worms, Bacteria able to swap antibiotic resistance
News Bites: Research unveils new drug to tackle maternal obesity; Understanding wound healing and the effects of air pollution on osteoporosis

Sources:
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42736764
https://theconversation.com/a-new-blood-test-can-detect-eight-different-cancers-in-their-early-stages-90221
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2018/01/17/science.aar3247
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/robot-buddies-may-soon-help-children-with-adhd
https://www.neeuro.com/senzeband/
https://www.statnews.com/2018/01/17/walmart-leftover-opioids-gel/
https://www.statnews.com/2018/01/17/walmart-leftover-opioids-gel/
https://futurism.com/antibiotic-algorithml-fast-track-the-search-for-new-medicine/
https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/01/18/malaysia-wins-award-for-access-to-affordable-hepatitis-c-medicine/#zJtjFOhL94C7J6Q0.99
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-017-0094-2
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-01/cmu-cms011818.php