While You Were at the Bench: Week 49

A small clinical trial has demonstrated that colorectal cancer can be detected in patients by analyzing the volatile organic compounds in their exhaled breath with up to 75% accuracy.  While further studies are required to improve the accuracy, this noninvasive screening method could be applied to detecting other types of cancers.

Voyager 1, launched in 1977, has reached the boundary of our solar system and could be the first craft to pass beyond our solar system in months to years.  Despite being 11 billion miles from Earth, Voyager 1 is still able to transmit scientific data albeit 17 minutes delayed.

I can see my house lights!  Click here to check out global composite night time images of Earth in stunning clarity.

Researchers in The Netherlands have discovered that maggot secretions degrade complement proteins thus preventing inflammatory responses thereby helping open sores and wounds to heal faster.  Unfortunately, a topical cream is several years away.

Using tunable plasmonic nanobubbles, researchers at Rice University were able to kill cancer cells while simultaneously performing gene transfer in healthy cells of the same sample.  This rapid procedure can help improve the safety and efficacy of cell and gene therapy or bone marrow transplantation.

First soil samples analyzed by Curiosity indicate water, sulfur, chlorine and carbon on the Red Planet’s surface.  While it is too early to claim organic compounds, the recent success has led NASA to announce another rover sent to Mars by 2020.  No word on sending a rover to Titan. Might it be because the ice is thicker than originally thought?

High levels of dichlorophenols typically found in herbacides and pesticides have been linked to food and other environmental allergens in 64.5% of the study participants.  By the way, did I mention that dichlorophenols are also used in water chlorination.

Extroversion may increase lifespan….at least in gorillas.  An 18 year longitudinal study of 283 captive gorillas has shown that those with high social, play, and curiosity behaviours were linked with increased survival.

Now go get out of the lab and Have a Great Weekend!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 48

Scientists at Wake Forest University have combined an ink jet printer and an electrospinning machine to fabricate cartlidge using viable tissue.  This printer hybrid is a big step forward in designing three dimensional tissue for implantation in humans.

At a separate Skynet facility….errr…I mean University of Waterloo, computational neurobiologists have developed a 2.5 million neuronal model that is capable of counting, recollection, and gambling.  I’m thinking, Vegas baby!

Swedish engineers have developed an aerosol based growth method for mass fabricating highly reproducible semiconductors using gold rather than a silicon substrate.  This method is potentially a cheaper alternative to constructing batteries, LED’s, and solar cells.

Sea snails obtained near Antartica are showing severe signs of shell dissolution due to increased ocean acidification (uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide), which has been previously demonstrated in a controlled laboratory environment.  These snails are a vital source of food and important for the carbon cycle in the waters around Antartica.

The bread wheat genome has been deciphered in the hopes of improving wheat production world wide.  If only this study had come out sooner, maybe Hostess brands would have been saved…..nah.

SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has proposed creating a self-sustaining Martian colony by utilizing a new type of spacecraft called cyclers that the company is building.

In an update to a former blog post regarding a French study on toxicity of genetically modified corn, the European Food Safety Authority has concluded that the study “does not meet acceptable scientific standards” due to “inadequencies in the design.”  You can read the full report here.

Apparently Movember is also Bigfoot month.  Veternarian Melba S. Ketchum claims to have sequenced 100 DNA samples from the elusive hairy beast.   According to Dr. Ketchum, the DNA results indicate Sasquatch is a result of mating between homo sapien and an unknown primate 15,000 years ago.  Until I read the peer reviewed journal article on this one, I think it might just be this guy “it is“.

Have a Great Weekend!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 47

I hope everyone in the US had a great Thanksgiving.  I’ll keep this post short in case the Tryptophan is kicking in.

Over the past year, cancer researchers from Georgetown University have developed a technique to induce an indefinite proliferative state in primary mammalian epethelial cells without producing tumors that normally occur with embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells.  These conditionally reprogrammed cells (CRC’s) were designed for screening cancer therapies, but this technique for creating adult stem-like cells is ideal for regenerative medicine.

In a big step forward for optogenetics, scientists at MIT have developed a 3D array of thin microwaveguides for delivering light to discrete brain regions for activating specific neurons.  This design allows for the independent control of hundreds of light sources for researchers to better understand the activity of entire neuronal circuits.

Turns out green algae is the vampire of the plant kingdom.  This is the first known plant species that secretes enzymes to break down cellulose from neighboring plants and assimilate it as an energy source for continued survival.  Since a major process for biofuel production is cellulose breakdown, green algae can now be used to expedite this process.

By pharmacologically inhibiting eIF4E expression, researchers at McGill University were able to reverse social behavior deficits in a mouse model of autism spectrum disorder.  While the inhibitory drug used is too toxic for human use, it does open new avenues of therapeutic targets for treating Autism.

Did the 2.5 billion dollar Curiosity Rover hit pay dirt?  (Sorry, I’ve been watching too much discovery channel.)  NASA is going to hold a press conference in two weeks to discuss an exciting discovery regarding a sample of Martian soil.  Internet buzz suggests organic material, but NASA is staying mute on the subject for now.

Have a Great Weekend!  I’m off to stimulate the economy.

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100% Efficacy for Improving Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients?

This post deviates from our normal posts.  It is not about careers.  It is not directly about science and research.  But it is about results.  I recently attended a conference and had the pleasure of attending a talk by Dan Cohen about the use of music as an aide to improve quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Music is able to accomplish this by engaging the whole mind and body.  Dan Cohen gave several examples of success stories, but one of the more powerful was Henry.  As you can see in the video, Henry was unresponsive, irritable, depressed, and at times didn’t even recognize his own daughter.  After just a few sessions of listening to music that was personalized for him, not just songs from his generation, but songs he actually used to listen to and enjoy, Henry became animated.  He began to sing and dance and he became responsive to questions and engaging. 

While Dan was not an especially polished speaker, his message was clear…personalized music is more effective than any medicine currently on the market at increasing quality of life for people with dementia.  This is a sentiment that is echoed by many, including Dr. Oliver Sacks who authored Musicophillia and Dr. Peter Davies who has been instrumental in the development of several drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease (such as Aricept).  The Music and Memory program has been implemented in over 60 nursing home/adult care facilities across North America since its inception 7 years ago and every single one of them has continued the program.  My question is this…why is this inexpensive (the cost of iPods, earphones, and music-if they are not donated) and easily implemented (just find out what music they like and download it on the iPod) program not established in every adult care facility in the world?  In the US alone there are over 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease and an estimated cost to/on society of ~$200,000,000,000/year.  Add to that the cost to bring an Alzheimer’s drug to market.  Now think about the efficacy of that drug.  Add in patient compliance and potential side effects.  Is there really any comparison?  The Music and Memory program can be implemented now with almost immediate results and added benefits of decreasing depression, disruptive behaviors, and anxiety. 

Modern medicine has been wonderful at extending our lifespan.  Unfortunately, this is often accompanied by debilitating diseases and poor quality of life.  As the holiday season is upon us, why don’t we get involved and do some good.  If you get a new iPod, why not donate your old one to Music and Memory ?  Better yet, start a donation center in your city and bring Music and Memory to people in your community.  Let’s see if we can make a difference worldwide.

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