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

1. Pill-sized device squirts vaccines through inner cheeks

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a pill-sized device that can substitute a syringe in delivering vaccines. The device, MucOJet, blasts vaccines through the inside of the cheek painlessly and eliminates the need for a healthcare professional.

A 15mm cylinder with a 7mm wide bulb on the end, the MucOJet works by the patient squeezing the bulb which breaks a thin membrane that separates two compartments. Held against the inside of the cheek, the device squirts the vaccine through the mucosal layer that lines it, which is usually difficult to penetrate without a needle.

The device has been tested on live rabbits and will be tested on larger animals next. Different shapes and sizes of the device are also being tested out, before it will be commercially available in five to ten years.

2. Robotic patient simulators now show emotion

Robotic patient simulators have been in use in doctors' training to practise procedures and test their diagnostic abilities, but the simulators only have static faces, void of emotion.

Laurel Riek from the University of California, San Diego and her team set out to change this and have developed a robotic face that can express pain, disgust and anger, to help emulate realistic patient feedback. Face-tracking software was used to convert expressions of people expressing pain, disgust and anger in videos. Their expressions were converted into a series of moving points before they were mapped onto the robot face and avatar.

Videos of the robot and avatar were then shown to 102 volunteers, who had to match an emotion with the expressions shown. Half of the participants were healthcare professionals and the other half had no medical background.

Only 54% of healthcare professionals were found to be accurate compared to 83% that had no medical background at recognising both pain and anger. The groups had similar accuracy levels for identifying disgust. The robot will undergo a trial at a medical school later this year.

3. Proteins that causes cancer and Huntington's disease can now be targeted

Scientists from the University of Dundee reported a major breakthrough in targeting the causes of many diseases. They have developed a method to destroy proteins - Ras and Myc - that have been deemed as 'undruggable'.

Ras and Myc have been known to cause cancer and Huntington's disease, but were proved to be resistant towards many drugs. The team led by Professor Alessio Ciulli in the School of Life Sciences at Dundee, have used a small molecule approach, to bind the 'bad' proteins to neutralising agents, triggering a process of degradation, removing them entirely.

"This presents a paradigm shift in how we can ensure selective chemical intervention against proteins which we know are factors in causing disease but which until now have been impossible to successfully target. It points towards the possibility of drugging the `undruggable'," said Professor Ciulli.

4. 3D-printed baby mannequin allows healthcare professionals to practice infant CPR

Photo credit: 3D Hubs
Photo credit: 3D Hubs

Eindhoven University of Technology PhD student Mark Thielen has turned to 3D-printing to create a baby mannequin to help doctors and nurses practice infant CPR without hurting any real infants.

After taking a full-body MRI of an infant, Thielen and his team printed models of the baby's bones, heart and lungs using different materials. The skeleton is made from thermoplastic polyurethane, stiff enough to mimic human bone and cartilage, while the lungs are made from quickly curing silicon.

To create detailed inner structures and allow sensors to be embedded, the heart required a combination of 3D printing and injection moulding. The sensors then provide real-time feedback.

Now the team is moving to create life-like skin made of silicone gel to mimic the biological feel of the baby's body. They hope to have a complete mannequin by the end of the year.

5. Cheap and accurate blood test determines blood type in 30 seconds

Researchers from China have developed a cheap and simple test to determine a patient's blood type with 99.9% accuracy in a matter of seconds - in full detail. This innovation may help especially in remote settings or conflict zones.

The assay is able to tell whether a person is type A, B, AB, or O in just 30 seconds, and determine the blood type in full detail in approximately two minutes. Conventional tests take up to between 10 and 20 minutes and other technologies have only managed to cut the time down to under five minutes.

The assay is also able to consolidate the two-step process of blood typing in one quick, simple test by doing both forward and reverse typing at the same time. It uses a filter that separates the blood needed for forward typing from the plasma needed for reverse typing.

The paper test strip houses antibodies that are able to recognise the antigens found in different blood types. A commonly used green dye on the paper turns test windows on the paper strip to into a different colour depending on blood type. MIMS

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