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

1. Tricorder capable of providing diagnoses to patients

The XPrize Tricorder winner is designed for patients rather than healthcare professionals.  Photo credit: Engadget
The XPrize Tricorder winner is designed for patients rather than healthcare professionals. Photo credit: Engadget

Basil Leaf Technologies, a Pennsylvania-based medical device start-up, has won the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize. Its device has the capacity to monitor the five vital signs, diagnose medical conditions, send data to the internet and it weighs under five pounds.

The tricorder comprises a compact spirometer that measures the strength of a patient’s lungs, a Mono test kit, medical-grade heart rate and respiration monitors and devices such as the DxtER Orb, which functions as a thermometer and stethoscope.

The device cannot scan patients at microscopic level or with just a swipe over the patient’s body like the Star Trek’s device shown fifty years ago, but Basil Leaf Technologies says that their device is designed for patients to use themselves, as it is capable of providing a medical diagnosis instead of just highlighting the symptoms.

A consumer version is still years away, but the company says it is using the USD2.5 million it won to help fund a 500-patient clinical trial in order to gather evidence for FDA approval.

2. Blood group ‘O’ at lower risk of suffering heart attacks or strokes

Individuals who are of blood group ‘O’ are at a lowered risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to research by the University Medical Centre Gorningen in the Netherlands.

The study involved 1.3 million people and showed that those who have A, B and AB blood types are at a slightly higher risk of heart disease and stroke, which could be attributed to the fact that there are higher levels of a blood-clotting protein in those blood groups.

14 in 1,000 blood type ‘O’ individuals suffered a heart attack compared to non-O blood groups, where the figure was 15. The increased risk may seem small on an individual level, but study author Tessa Kole said it could be important in terms of the population and that blood groups should be considered in the future as part of risk assessment in preventing cardiovascular disease.

3. HCV-infected patients can be organ donors, too

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a new approach that could revolutionise organ donations and transplants. They have managed to transplant organs from patients with diseases – that are usually discarded – and cured the disease afterwards.

Patients who had been waiting for kidney transplants for at least 18 months were approached by the researchers and told that they could have kidney transplants from patients infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Ten patients were selected to receive high quality kidneys but all donors suffered from HCV. Patients received the new kidneys and tested positive for HCV after the surgery. They were given the new anti-Hepatitis-C drug, Zepatier, produced by Merck for 12 weeks and were cured of the infection.

The researchers hope that the technique can be expanded to heart donations and eventually livers and lungs.

4. Zapping paper-based sanitizers could combat microbes

Devices made of paper offer an inexpensive, effective way to kill bacteria and sanitise surfaces. Developed by researchers at Rutgers University, the papers are integrated with thin layers of aluminium of hexagon/honeycomb patterns that serve as electrodes to produce the plasma, or ionised gas upon applications of high voltage.

The plasma, which is a combination of heat, ultraviolet radiation and ozone that kills microbes. The fibrous and porous nature of the paper allows gas to permeate it, fuelling the plasma, yet facilitating cooling.

The researchers hope that the paper-based sanitizers may be suitable for clothing that sterilises itself, smart bandages to heal wounds, devices that sanitise laboratory equipment, among other uses. Their next step is to test how effective the sanitizer system is in killing spores.

5. Snipping away the HIV through CRISPR

Scientists are one step closer to a cure for HIV after it has been proven that the virus can be snipped away from infected cells using the gene-editing technology, CRISPR. It is hoped that the virus will not return after the cut.

Researchers at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University completely shut down the virus and eliminated it from the tissues of mice, which had been transplanted with HIV-infected human immune cells. This latest research builds on the team’s previous research, where they managed to delete HIV-1 from the genome of most tissues.

They believe that replacing just 20% of the immune cells with genetically altered cells would be enough to cure the disease. The team is now hoping to move to trials in primates, and eventually humans, before 2020. MIMS

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