New DNA nanorobots successfully target and kill off cancerous tumors

Original Article

Science fiction no more — in an article out today in Nature Biotechnology, scientists were able to show tiny autonomous bots have the potential to function as intelligent delivery vehicles to cure cancer in mice.

These DNA nanorobots do so by seeking out and injecting cancerous tumors with drugs that can cut off their blood supply, shriveling them up and killing them.

“Using tumor-bearing mouse models, we demonstrate that intravenously injected DNA nanorobots deliver thrombin specifically to tumor-associated blood vessels and induce intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis and inhibition of tumor growth,” the paper explains.

DNA nanorobots are a somewhat new concept for drug delivery. They work by getting programmed DNA to fold into itself like origami and then deploying it like a tiny machine, ready for action.

The scientists behind this study tested the delivery bots by injecting them into mice with human breast cancer tumors. Within 48 hours, the bots had successfully grabbed onto vascular cells at the tumor sites, causing blood clots in the tumor’s vessels and cutting off their blood supply, leading to their death.

Remarkably, the bots did not cause clotting in other parts of the body, just the cancerous cells they’d been programmed to target, according to the paper.

The scientists were also able to demonstrate the bots did not cause clotting in the healthy tissues of Bama miniature pigs, calming fears over what might happen in larger animals.

The goal, say the scientists behind the paper, is to eventually prove these bots can do the same thing in humans. Of course, more work will need to be done before human trials begin.

Regardless, this is a huge breakthrough in cancer research. The current methods of either using chemotherapy to destroy every cell just to get at the cancer cell are barbaric in comparison. Using targeted drugs is also not as exact as simply cutting off blood supply and killing the cancer on the spot. Should this new technique gain approval for use on humans in the near future it could have impressive affects on those afflicted with the disease.

This electronic skin can heal itself — and then make more skin

The new e-skin. Photo by Jianliang Xiao / University of Colorado Boulder

In a quest to make electronic devices more environmentally friendly, researchers have created an electronic skin that can be completely recycled. The e-skin can also heal itself if it’s torn apart.

The device, described today in the journal Science Advances, is basically a thin film equipped with sensors that can measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and air flow. The film is made of three commercially available compounds mixed together in a matrix and laced with silver nanoparticles: when the e-skin is cut in two, adding the three compounds to the “wound” allows the e-skin to heal itself by recreating chemical bonds between the two sides. That way, the matrix is restored and the e-skin is as good as new. If the e-skin is broken beyond repair, it can just be soaked in a solution that “liquefies” it so that the materials can be reused to make new e-skin. One day, this electronic skin could be used in prosthetics, robots, or smart textiles.

Many labs around the world are developing e-skins. One created in Europe allows users to manipulate virtual objects without touching them, by using magnets. Another one developed in Japan can turn a smart shirt into a video game motion controller. This latest e-skin is special because it’s recyclable — and that’s an important added bonus if you consider that in the US alone, 16 billion pounds of electronic waste was created in 2014. All these circuit boards, transistors, and hard drives can contain toxic chemicals that need to be disposed of properly.

“This particular device … won’t produce any waste,” says study co-author Jianliang Xiao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at University of Colorado Boulder. “We want to make electronics to be environmentally friendly.”

So if the e-skin is severely damaged, or you’re just done with it, it can be recycled using a “recycling solution.” This solution dissolves the matrix into small molecules, allowing the silver nanoparticle to sink to the bottom. All materials can then be reused to create another patch of functioning e-skin. The whole recycling takes about 30 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) or 10 hours at room temperature. The healing happens even faster: within a half hour at room temperature, or within a few minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), according to Xiao.

The e-skin isn’t perfect. It’s soft, but not as stretchy as human skin. Xiao says he and his colleagues are also working to make the device more scalable, so that it’ll be easier to manufacture and embed in prosthetics or robots. But it’s the fact that the e-skin can be recycled that gets Xiao excited.

“We are facing pollution issues every day,” he says. “It’s important to preserve our environment and make sure that nature can be very safe for ourselves and for our kids.”

More US teens are rejecting ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ gender identities, a study finds

Original Article

(CNN)More teenagers are identifying themselves with nontraditional gender labels such as transgender or gender-fluid, according to a new study.

The research, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found that almost 3% of Minnesota teens did not identify with traditional gender labels such as “boy” or “girl.” That number is higher than researchers expected. A UCLA study from a year ago estimated that 0.7% of teens identified as transgender.
Lead researcher Nic Rider of the University of Minnesota said the main purpose of the new study was to examine health differences between gender-nonconforming teens and teens who are cisgender, a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.
The study found that transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) youth reported “reported significantly poorer health” — including mental health — than cisgender teenagers. TGNC teens also were less likely to get preventive health checkups and more likely to visit their school nurse, the study found.
But more surprising may have been the rising percentage of teens who say they don’t fit traditional gender norms.
The study supports prior research suggesting “that previous estimates of the size of the TGNC population have been underestimated by orders of magnitude,” wrote Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, in an accompanying opinion article.
The study supports prior research suggesting “that previous estimates of the size of the TGNC population have been underestimated by orders of magnitude,” wrote Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, in an accompanying opinion article.
That’s a big jump from the UCLA study, which was published in January 2017 and estimated that 0.7% of American teens ages 13-17 identify as transgender.
That study was based on government data on adults collected by 27 US states in 2014 and 2015. The survey’s researchers used the adult data to estimate the percentage of transgender teens.
Rider’s new study only focuses on Minnesota teens, but researchers hope to expand it into a national study to get more accurate data.

‘A window into high school-aged youth’

Growing awareness and visibility surrounding transgender issues in recent years may make teenagers more comfortable with steering away from traditional gender labels, experts say.
Shumer, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, believes that the growing percentage of gender-nonconforming youth should serve as a lesson to schools and physicians to abandon limited views of gender.
“Of particular interest is how the researchers in this study were able to provide a window into how high school-aged youth understand and redefine gender,” he wrote.
“Continued work to build understanding of how youth understand and express gender is a critical step toward reducing health disparities in this important and valued population.”
Rider hopes this study will help improve health care for transgender teenagers, adding that doctors and parents should help gender-nonconforming youth feel more comfortable about seeking medical help.

The UK Is Officially Letting Doctors Create A 3-Parent Baby

 

Original Article

The modern era of the so-called “three-parent baby” has officially kicked off, and it will begin in the UK.

According to the BBC, the country’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has granted permission for doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Center to artificially implant two women with an embryo containing the DNA of three people. The procedure is intended to prevent the women from passing a rare, debilitating genetic condition known as MERRF (myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibers) syndrome down to their children. People born with MERRF suffer a wide variety of chronic symptoms, including seizures, impaired muscles, and eventually dementia.

There are two current techniques that can be used to create a three-parent baby, but the net result is the same: A child born with the nuclear DNA of their intended parents, and the swapped-in mitochondrial DNA of a donor woman.

Mitochondria are an essential part of nearly every kind of cell found in the body, acting as the cell’s source of energy. But only a tiny slice of our DNA determines how our mitochondria functions—a whooping 37 genes out of more than 20,000. And none of these genes influence things like our appearance, risk of some cancers, or propensity for Cheetos. But because we obtain the genes for making mitochondria exclusively from our mother, women whose mitochondria have damaging mutations are at high risk at passing on those same flaws to their children, including those responsible for MERRF syndrome.

Three-parent babies actually aren’t new. Similar procedures were performed throughout the 90s in various countries, including the U.S. But concerns emerged that the techniques used then were too risky, and may have resulted in children who were either born with the same mutations their mothers had or who developed other complications. Within a few years, the FDA banned these procedures from being performed in the states, while other countries informally followed suit.

The new generation of three-parent techniques are thought to be much safer. But there are still worries that we might be moving too fast. Last year, the FDA warned John Zhang, a New York fertility doctor, to steer clear of the U.S. if he wanted to perform his version of the technique, since there is still a formal ban on implanting women with genetically modified human embryos.

Zhang is credited as the first doctor to successfully perform the modern-day procedure, but ethicists have balked at the shady workarounds he used to pull it off. According to the FDA, Zhang’s initial application to have the procedure put through clinical trials was denied, and he promised to avoid performing it stateside until he could gain approval. But he’s also continued to advertise it as a way to not only prevent mitochondrial birth defects, but age-related infertility. Meanwhile, other teams from China and the Ukraine have also reported using 3-person techniques in the wake of Zhang’s success.

Unlike the U.S., the UK has long been preparing for the arrival of three-parent babies. In 2015, its Parliament passed regulations that would eventually allow the use of these techniques, pending a lengthy review process by the HFEA. Last year, the agency finally granted its first license to perform the procedure to the Newcastle Fertility Center. For the time being, each potential case will be reviewed by the HFEA before its approval.

http://bgr.com/2018/01/01/alzheimers-treatment-drug-type-2-diabetes-research/

Original Article

Developing new treatments for ailments can be a tedious and frustrating process for scientists. Oftentimes, newly developed drugs just don’t work the way they were intended, falling short of expectations and leading to a dead end. But other times, a drug developed for one purpose turns out to be even more effective at treating something completely different. That appears to be exactly what is happening with a new class of drug originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but has recently been shown to have a drastic benefit in mice with Alzheimer’s.

The new drugs, which are classified as “triple agonist” (because they work in three ways), were tested on mice which were developed to express genes linked to Alzheimer’s. The animals were already exhibiting many of the symptoms associated with the disease, including compromised memory and difficulty learning, but showed dramatic improvement in their brain function after receiving the unique treatment.

The treatment “holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” Professor Christian Holscher, lead researcher of the study, explains. The research was published in Brain Research.

According to the study, the triple-acting treatment is thought to work against Alzheimer’s disease by protecting nerve cells, reducing amyloid plaques in the brain (which have been linked to Alzheimer’s), and reducing inflammation while slowing nerve cell degradation. Mice that received treatment demonstrated significant improvement in learning as well as memory formation.

Discovering a potential new treatment for a devastating disease like Alzheimer’s is fantastic news, but the fact that the drug was initially intended to treat type 2 diabetes isn’t just a coincidence. Type 2 diabetes has been linked to Alzheimer’s in the past, and the two often go hand-in-hand in older individuals. “Insulin desensitisation has also been observed in the Alzheimer’s disease brain,” the researchers explain in a press release. “The desensitisation could play a role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders as insulin is a growth factor with neuroprotective properties.”

The treatment has not yet been approved for Alzheimer’s patients, and has only been demonstrated in these early trials with mice. Further research is most certainly warranted, and if we’re lucky, we might actually have a go-to solution for the disease sooner rather than later.

Gaming disorder is going to be named a mental health condition for the first time

Original Article

By Sabrina Barr

 

a man holding a guitar© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media LimitedGaming disorder is soon to be classified as a mental health condition for the very first time, the New Scientist reports.

The International Classification of Diseases is a diagnostic manual that’s published by the World Health Organisation.

It was last updated 27 years ago, in 1990.

The eleventh edition of the manual is due to be published in 2018 and will include gaming disorder as a serious health condition to be monitored.

The wording of the gaming disorder hasn’t been revealed yet.

However, the draft outlines the criteria needed to determine whether someone can be classed as having a gaming disorder.

Vladimir Poznyak, a member of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, spoke about the importance of recognising gaming disorder as an important issue.

“Health professionals need to recognise that gaming disorder may have serious health consequences,” he said.

“Most people who play video games don’t have a disorder, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t have a disorder either. However, in certain circumstances overuse can lead to adverse effects.”

Last year, researchers from the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute undertook a study to investigate the percentage of gamers who are addicted to video games.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that only 2 to 3 per cent of the 19,000 men and women surveyed from the UK, the US, Canada and Germany admitted that they experienced five or more of the symptoms from the American Psychiatric Association checklist of health symptoms.

A few years ago, the APA created a list of nine standard symptoms that could determine “internet gaming disorder”. These symptoms include anxiety, withdrawal symptoms and antisocial behaviour.

Dr Andrew Przybylski, lead author from the University of Oxford study, discussed their findings.

“To our knowledge, these are the first findings from a large-scale project to produce robust evidence on the potential new problem of ‘internet gaming disorder,’” he said.

“Contrary to what was predicted, the study did not find a clear link between potential addiction and negative effects on health; however, more research grounded in open and robust scientific practices is needed to learn if games are truly as addictive as many fear.”

While some may debate whether gaming does pose a threat to mental health, the amount of time many people spend playing video games is astounding.

When researchers from ESET polled 500 gamers, they discovered that 10 per cent admitted to spending between 12 and 24 hours glued to their video game screens.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcqmZOiH8Hd/embed/?cr=1&v=8&wp=777#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A1549.455%7D

“Gaming is highly addictive, and it is no wonder so many respondents from our study admit to playing them for so long,” said Mark James, a security specialist at ESET.