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December 20, 2006, 7:18 PM CT

Snake-like Robot Could Assist Surgeons

Snake-like Robot Could Assist Surgeons The snake-like robot designed by Johns Hopkins engineers
Credit: Will Kirk/JH
Drawing on advances in robotics and computer technology, Johns Hopkins University scientists are designing new high-tech medical tools to equip the operating room of the future. These systems and instruments could someday help doctors treat patients more safely and effectively and allow them to perform surgical tasks that are nearly impossible today.

The tools include a snakelike robot that could enable surgeons, operating in the narrow throat region, to make incisions and tie sutures with greater dexterity and precision. Another robot, the steady-hand, may curb a surgeon's natural tremor and allow the doctor to inject drugs into tiny blood vessels in the eye, dissolving clots that can damage vision.

These and other projects are being built by teams in the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology, based at Johns Hopkins. Launched in 1998 with funding from the NSF, the center aims to transform and improve the way a number of medical procedures are performed.

Working closely with physicians from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the center's engineers and computer researchers are building robotic assistants intended to enhance a surgeon's skills. They are devising detailed visual displays to guide a doctor before and during a difficult medical procedure and planning digital workstations that would give the doctor instant access to an enormous amount of medical information about the patient.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


December 20, 2006, 5:06 AM CT

Androgen Therapy To Slow Progress Of Alzheimer's Disease

Androgen Therapy To Slow Progress Of Alzheimer's Disease
Experiments on mouse models of Alzheimer's disease (AD) suggest that therapy with male sex hormones might slow its progression. The findings, reported in the December 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, provide new insight into the relationship between testosterone loss and AD, which affects 4.5 million Americans.

Senior author Christian Pike, PhD, of the University of Southern California (USC), with colleagues at USC and the University of California, Irvine, sought to better understand the role hormones play in aging and disease. Recent studies had already established a link between testosterone loss in men and AD due to natural aging.

The research team established a connection between low testosterone and elevated beta-amyloid (A), a protein that accumulates abnormally in AD patients. This finding, they say, suggests that testosterone depletion in aging men may be a risk factor for AD by promoting accumulation of A in the brain. Testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, is one in a group of related steroid hormones referred to as androgens. Recent studies suggest that androgens may lower A levels.

"This study raises the possibility that androgen replacement treatment might lower the risk for Alzheimer's, but this is far from proven," says Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, chair of the Alzheimer's Association's Medical and Scientific Advisory Council and director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University. "Because testosterone is rapidly converted to estrogen after entry into neurons, the new data are logical, and they dovetail well with historical data".........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


December 20, 2006, 4:19 AM CT

Link Between Nanoparticles And Kidney Stones

Link Between Nanoparticles And Kidney Stones
Scientists at Mayo Clinic have successfully isolated nanoparticles from human kidney stones in cell cultures and have isolated proteins, RNA and DNA that appear to be linked to nanoparticles. The findings, which appear in the recent issue of the Journal of Investigative Medicine, are significant because it is one step closer in solving the mystery of whether nanoparticles are viable living forms that can lead to disease -- in this case, kidney stones.

Kidney stones are linked to pathologic calcification, the process in which organs and blood vessels become clogged with calcium deposits that can damage major organs like the heart and kidneys. What causes calcium deposits to build up is not entirely known. Medical researchers at Mayo Clinic are studying calcification at the molecular level in an effort to determine how this phenomenon occurs.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that links calcification to the presence of nanosized particles, particles so small that some researchers question whether a nanoparticle can live and if so, play a viable role in the development of kidney stones.

The presence of proteins, RNA and DNA does not prove that nanoparticles are viable living forms because a genetic signature has not been identified, says the study's author John Lieske, M.D., a nephrologist with Mayo Clinic. A genetic signature would prove that nanoparticles are indeed living forms that replicate and can cause disease.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


December 20, 2006, 4:15 AM CT

Language Used By Nerve Cells

Language Used By Nerve Cells Image showing junction (green) between nerve (red) and muscle cells (blue)
Credit: Laura N. Borodinsky, UCSD
UC San Diego biologists have shown that the chemical language with which neurons communicate depends on the pattern of electrical activity in the developing nervous system. The findings suggest that modification of nerve activity could have potential as a therapy for a wide range of brain disorders.

In the study, published this week in the early on-line edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the biologists showed that, contrary to the prevailing viewpoint, neurotransmitters-the chemical language of nerve cells-and receptors-the proteins that receive and respond to neurotransmitters-are not specified by a rigid genetic program. Altering nerve activity during development determines the "mother tongue" nerve cells use to communicate. The study will appear in the print edition of PNAS on January 2.

"Most cognitive disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease, involve problems with neurotransmitters or neurotransmitter receptors," said Nicholas Spitzer, a professor of biology and the senior author of the study. "If modifying electrical activity in the adult brain can alter neurotransmitters and receptors similarly to the way we have discovered in the developing frog nervous system, it could provide a promising approach to treating these disorders".........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


December 15, 2006, 4:40 AM CT

Software Automates Access to Brain Atlases

Software Automates Access to Brain Atlases
USC computer researchers have found a cheap, quick and copyright- respecting way to turn existing print brain atlases into multimedia resources. The software, now available in an experimental beta version for free download, is a robust and user-friendly interface that works on all the most popular computer operating systems.

"Brain atlases are basic tools for scientists in neural science," says Gully A.P.C. Burns, a specialist in neuroinformatics who works as a research scientist at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, part of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. "Our NeuARt II system will make them much more user-friendly.

The same viewing system, Burns believes, can help neuroresearchers store, organize and use data from ongoing experiments.

Burns was part of a team of computer experts and neuroresearchers that worked with Larry W. Swanson of the USC Neuroscience Institute, author of the standard printed rat brain atlas, Brain Maps, Structure of the Rat Brain, (Elsevier Academic Press, 1992-2004) to produce the NeuroARt II viewer, following up on years of earlier development. "The entire design of our approach arose from practical methods" from Swanson's lab, as per a paper on the project Burns co-authored, published this month in the online journal BMC Bioinformatics.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


December 15, 2006, 4:22 AM CT

How To Predict Potential For Breast Cancer Spread

How To Predict Potential For Breast Cancer Spread
Expression of two different proteins taken from primary tumor biopsies is highly linked to spread of breast cancer to nearby lymph nodes, as per scientists who say this protein profile could help identify at an early stage those patients whose disease is likely to metastasize.

In the December 15 issue of Cancer Research, the scientists say over-expression of one unidentified protein and under-expression of another is 88 percent accurate in identifying breast cancer that has spread in a group of 65 patients, in comparison to an analysis of lymph nodes and outcomes.

If the predictive and diagnostic power of these proteins is validated, they could be analyzed in primary tumor biopsies that are routinely collected at the time of diagnosis, saving some women from extensive and possibly unnecessary therapy as well as from undergoing a second surgery to collect lymph nodes for analysis, the scientists say.

"We want to be able to predict, at the earliest stages, if a tumor has spread and how dangerous it will be," said the study's lead author, Dave S. B. Hoon, Ph.D., director of Molecular Oncology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Saint Johns Health Center, in Santa Monica, California. "These two proteins may allow us to target aggressive tumors with more extensive treatment management to some women, while sparing others from needless therapy".........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


December 13, 2006, 7:55 PM CT

New Hope To Lung Cancer Patients

New Hope To Lung Cancer Patients
Patients suffering from the most common type of lung cancer experienced a 20-percent improvement in overall survival in a national clinical trial of a drug that chokes off the blood vessels nourishing tumors, a multicenter study has observed.

Dr. Joan Schiller, chief of hematology/oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said: "This is great news for patients with lung cancer - they live longer, and the side effects from Avastin are unlike those of conventional chemotherapy. For example, Avastin does not cause hair loss, nausea, or vomiting".

Results of the Phase III trial involving 878 patients that was conducted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group are published in the Dec. 14 issue of the New England Journal (NEJM). The publication of the study comes two months after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug bevacizumab, known under the trademark Avastin, as a first-line therapy for patients with inoperable, locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer. The FDA approval was based on the findings of the study.

The results of the trial showed that patients who received Avastin along with the conventional chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and carboplatin had a 35-percent chance of responding to the therapy, in comparison to 15 percent for patients who received chemotherapy alone.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


December 13, 2006, 6:32 PM CT

International Trial Of Novel Breast Cancer Drug

International Trial Of Novel Breast Cancer Drug
A clinical trial of a new targeted breast cancer drug, led by physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center, has begun enrolling patients. The TEACH (Tykerb Evaluation After CHemotherapy) trial will investigate the experimental drug Tykerb (lapatinib) in patients with early-stage, HER2-positive breast cancer who have not been treated with Herceptin, another targeted drug used for the same type of tumor. The MGH is the lead institution for the international trial, which is being sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Tykerb.

"This trial represents another step toward understanding the role of targeted therapies in extending disease-free survival," said Paul Goss, MD, PhD, director of Breast Cancer Research at the MGH Cancer Center, who proposed the TEACH study and chairs the International Steering Committee.

About one quarter of patients with breast cancer have tumors that overexpress or produce too a number of copies of a receptor molecule called HER2. Because cellular growth is stimulated by the overactivity of this molecule, which also is called ErbB2, these tumors are more likely to recur and are less responsive to hormone-based therapys. Herceptin, a monoclonal antibody that blocks the HER2 receptor, is approved by the FDA as an adjuvant therapy - given along with chemotherapy after surgical removal and/or radiation treatment - for early-stage, node-positive and HER2-positive tumors as well as for metastatic tumors.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


December 13, 2006, 6:22 PM CT

New Tool To Halt Recurrence Of Atrial Fibrillation

New Tool To Halt Recurrence Of Atrial Fibrillation High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) ablation system
Credit: Courtesy: ProRhythm, Inc
Clinical scientists at the University of Pennsylvania Health System are starting a trial utilizing a new mechanism to treat the heart when its electrical pulses essentially short-circuit, referred to as atrial fibrillation (A-Fib).

The biggest problem physicians run into with current therapies to cope with electrical rhythmic pumping problems in the heart, namely pulmonary vein isolation procedures, is that up until now, they've had to deliver the energy bursts to the tissue in a dot-by-dot catheter ablation procedure around the veins, almost like a string of pearls. "That can cause swelling, and when that swelling goes down, you may still have viable tissue left behind, gaps, where the electricity can still conduct itself or get through," explains David Callans, MD, director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and principal investigator of this study. "Now we have a mechanism to construct this barricade of lesions, to do an entire circular ablation, minimizing the potential for gaps behind in the pulmonary veins".

Cardiac electrophysiologists at Penn are now using a high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) ablation system. It's the first to deliver energy bursts forward in a complete circle, all at once, from outside of the vein. This invasive procedure is done in the lab with balloon catheters while the patient is awake but sedated.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


December 13, 2006, 4:57 AM CT

Positive Reults For Investigational Thrombocytopenia Agent

Positive Reults For Investigational Thrombocytopenia Agent
AKR-501 is a promising member of a new class of agents called, "TPO receptor agonists" that is now in Phase II clinical development. It is an investigational orally administered drug being developed by AkaRx, Inc. intended to mimic the biologic effect of thrombopoietin, a growth factor that stimulates production of platelets.

At the American Society of Hematology meeting, results from two Phase I clinical research trials were presented. These data in healthy volunteers showed that AKR-501 produced a 50% increase or greater over the baseline platelet count. AKR-501 is the first oral drug in its class to show these platelet increases with a single dose. In the single dose study this was achieved at the 100 mg dose. In all volunteers given multiple doses of either 10 mg or 20 mg for 10 - 14 days a platelet effect was observed where increases were at least 50% over baseline.

The unmet medical need for AKR-501 is that there is no approved agent to specifically stimulate megakaryocytes to produce platelets to treat thrombocytopenia in the same way that there are products available to stimulate production of red and white blood cells. Severe thrombocytopenia is currently managed in some settings with platelet transfusions. However, this temporary solution in not suitable for long-term use in chronic settings and is often linked to serious complications when used in acute situations. AKR-501 imitates the body's mechanism for stimulating platelet production by mimicking the action of thrombopoietin-the growth factor that modulates this process.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Yale have brought to light a mechanism that regulates the way an internal organelle, the Golgi apparatus, duplicates as cells prepare to divide, according to a report in Science Express.Graham Warren, professor of cell biology, and colleagues at Yale study Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes Sleeping Sickness. Like a number of parasites, it is exceptionally streamlined and has only one of each internal organelle, making it ideal for studying processes of more complex organisms that have a number of copies in each cell.

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