“Can we grow organs instead of transplanting them?” — asks Anthony Atala, surgeon and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
The first organ transplant occurred in Boston in 1954. Since then, many advances have been made and many lives saved. But we still have an extreme shortage of organs. In the last decade alone, the number of patients requiring a transplant has doubled, whereas the number of available organs has remained constant – the result of an increasingly ageing population.
“We are just getting older”, says Anthony Atala. Yes, medicine is doing a great job in prolonging life, but as we age, our organs tend to fail more. What can we do about it?
Still shot from TED talk: Growing new organs, by Anthony Atala, who calls the shortage of organs available for transplant a “public health crisis”
What if doctors could grow a precise, functioning replica of a patient’s old, damaged organ? Continue reading →
Several AIDS prevention advertisements from all over the world, taken from the Wellcome Images. The message is the same across all posters – learn about the risks of HIV/AIDS and practice safe sex. But every poster takes a different route in conveying the point across; the end result is a colourful and interesting display of images/photographs.
[Credit: Wellcome Library, London]
Advertisement for AIDS awareness by the National AIDS Programme of Trinidad & Tobago. 1996 [Trinidad & Tobago]
Advertisement for AIDS awareness by the National AIDS Programme of Trinidad & Tobago. 1996. [Trinidad & Tobago]
Advertisement for AIDS awareness by the National AIDS Programme of Trinidad & Tobago. Colour lithograph by Illya Furlonge-Walker, ca. 1996. [Trinidad & Tobago]
In a terrifying article in the March 2013 issue, TIME magazine reports on the continuous rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. Or should I rephrase – is curable and preventable if the patient is responsive to medication.
Active, drug-sensitive TB disease is treated with a standard six-month course of four antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer. Since 1995, over 51 million people have been successfully treated (WHO).
However, extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis was first described in 2006 – and physicians continue to observe increasingly resistant strains of tuberculosis. XFR TB is most prevelant in Russian prisons and in overcrowded poorer areas of India. If we turn our back on this and attempt to rationalise that it bears little significance to us living the high-life in the West, we will all get screwed.
Extensively drug-resistant strains have arisen after the mismanagement of individuals with multidrug-resistant TB
Multi-drug resistant TB threatens us all – the healthy and rich in the West just as much as the poor in Asia. And we should all be worried. Transmission of TB occurs through coughing of infectious droplets – all it takes is one infected passenger on board a flight to the UK from Delhi. The more we overprescribe antibiotics, the more rapidly antibiotic-resistant strains will develop. Read previous post on antibiotic-resistant strains. Moreover, in poor areas and Russian prisons, medication is scarce and patients are not receiving appropriate treatment or do not get follow up and do not finish the mandatory 6-month treatment. A lack of funds, inconsistancy of treatment, and bureaucracy obstruction the distribution of drugs.
With abbreviated or no treatment bacteria that have evolved resistance to drugs escape eradication and proliferate as a resistant strain. Then, even when treated with the strongest drugs for two years, the resistant TB is fatal about 60 percent of the time. — PBS
Unless politicians get involved and big money is spent all round towards providing the care TB patients need throughout the world, TB will hit us like the 14th Century Black Death. And we can all do our own little bit towards slowing down the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by thinking twice when taking antibiotics next time.
The threat of antibiotic resistance has been creeping up on us for decades – yet hardly anyone has been paying attention, let alone doing anything about it. Physicians are still over-prescribing them and patients are still popping pills like there is no tomorrow.
If the huge rise of untreatable life-threatening and drug resistant infections was not enough of a warning sign, the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has announced that antimicrobial resistance would be put on the government’s national risk register of civil emergencies – which provides guidance on potential threats such as terrorist attacks, pandemic flu and major flooding. (BBC)
A five-year UK Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy will be published shortly which will advocate the responsible use of antibiotics and strengthened surveillance.
Dame Sally said she was shocked by the “woeful education” in antimicrobial resistance given to many medical students and doctors. She wants to decrease antibiotic prescription and make sure they are prescribed only when there are no other choices available.
Exactly –> patients and physicians alike – PLEASE LISTEN!
“A simple cut to your finger could leave you fighting for your life. Luck will play a bigger role in your future than any doctor could.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies says the threat posed by antibiotic resistance is a “ticking time-bomb” – watch video here
The UK’s national synchrotron facility, Diamond Light Source, is now the first and only place in Europe where pathogens requiring Containment Level 3 – including serious viruses such as those responsible for AIDS, Hepatitis and some types of flu – can be analysed at atomic and molecular level using synchrotron light. The synchrotron produces beams of light that can be used to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of tiny entities, such as proteins and viruses. Level 3 is one step down from the most dangerous types of infectious agent, such as Ebola, which can only be handled in the most secure government facilities.
Telehealth, the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies, has led to significant reductions in hospital re-admissions and bed days among early adopters such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM)— also referred to as home telehealth, telehomecare, and telemonitoring—can help improve coordination, improve patients’ experience of care, and reduce hospital admissions and costs. Such technologies remotely collect, track, and transmit health data from a patient’s home to a health care provider and can facilitate communication and help engage patients in the management of their own care (Broderick and Lindeman, 2013). Continue reading →
French meat food industrial factory, working on the production chain of beef steaks. A Europe-wide food fraud scandal over horsemeat sold as beef deepened as Romania announced an inquiry into the origin of the meat and suspicions of criminal activity mounted.
Horsemeat has been discovered in meat produce across the UK. Until this mess has cleared up, please stick to unprocessed meat foods that are clearly NOT horse!! Unless you’re ok with eating horses… and in that case this is probably not the blog post for you. Continue reading →
There have now been 11 confirmed cases of the new SARS-like respiratory virus. First reported in September 2012, the newly identified virus, called HCoVEMC/ 2012, belongs to the coronavirus family – a large family of viruses that includes SARS as well as less severe illnesses including causes of the common cold. This particular coronavirus causes pneumonia, and sometimes kidney failure.
Most recently, a third case has been identified in the UK. The first two patients had traveled to the middle east, whereas the third patient did not. That said, this person is related to one the other British patients. It is thought one family member picked up the virus while travelling to the Middle East and Pakistan and then the virus spread to his son and another family member.
The patient is is being treated in intensive care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. The patient is known to have an underlying health condition which left them with a weakened immune system. This may have made them susceptible to the infection. (Source, BBC)
“Confirmed novel coronavirus infection in a person without travel history to the Middle East suggests that person-to-person transmission has occurred, and that it occurred in the UK.” — Prof John Watson, Health Protection Agency
“The virus is most closely related to viruses in bats found in Asia, and there are no human viruses closely related to it therefore, we speculate that it comes from an animal source.” – said Ron Fouchier of the prestigious Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. ”Therefore we speculate that it comes from an animal source”.
And if the virus could easily spread from human to human, we should be seeing a lot more cases. It is presumed that the third person being treated got infected due to an already compromised immune system. Prof John Oxford, a virology expert at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “This doesn’t raise too many alarm bells.” – lets hope it stays this way.
I am running the marathon June 16th! I will be fundraising for the Cancer Research Institute. The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure cancer.
Each year globally, 12.7 million people learn they have cancer, and 7.6 million people die from cancer. Thats more than 14 deaths per minute. It comes as no surprise then that we’ve all be touched by cancer – either personally or via someone we know. CRI provides researchers with grants in order to push forward our understanding of the mechanisms that govern cancer and to produce better preventative therapeutics and treatments. Discovery-driven scientific research is the only way to find more effective, innovative approaches to cancer. CRI is committed to translating basic discovery into real-life applications in the clinic, and is dedicated to overcoming hurdles to academically-led clinical discovery efforts.
“The Cancer Research Institute is dedicated to finding novel ways to harness the power of our own immune systems to conquer cancer.”
I have recently started working as a research assistant at University College London. My group is working to find a therapeutic that will inhibit the growth of blood vessels in developing tumours. Blood vessel formation is a prerequisite for tumour growth and metastases – inhibiting new blood vessel formation will prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells an will significantly ameliorate outcome. Fundraising for a charity that supports cancer research feels like the best way to invest in my own particular field of molecular biology.
My fundraising page can be found here – San Francisco Marathon – I appreciate your help immensely. This comes as a big source of motivation for the remainder of my preparation and for the 42.195km that lay ahead on June 16th..
Donating through this website (FirstGiving) is simple, fast and secure. The way this website works is that non-profits pay an annual fee – but after that, all the money raised goes directly to the specified charity. FirstGiving will send all donations raised to the Cancer Research Institute. So your money won’t be wasted. Thank you so so much!
When a new drug is developed, the pharmaceutical company that discovers it receives a patent, usually for about 20 years. This gives the original company time to make back the money that it spent on R&D for the drug.
If you like, the patent serves as the ‘incentive’ for pharmaceutical companies to take risks and spend lots of money on developing drugs. And remember that the cost of bringing a new drug to the market is over $1 billion – if they were unable to secure profit, how would a pharmaceutical company justify the cost of R&D? Continue reading →
Few life stories will leave such a long-lasting impression such as that of Rita Levi-Montalcini (April 22 1090 – December 30 2012). Last night, my supervisor at work was so inspired by her story that he sent the link of her obituary in the scientific journal Neuron to all members of of our lab. And today we’re all talking about her.
Dr Rita Levi-Montalcini is the Nobel Prize-winning neurologist who discovered nerve growth factor, the first substance known to regulate the growth of cells. She showed that when tumors from mice were transplanted to chicken embryos they induced rapid growth of the embryonic nervous system. She concluded that the tumor released a nerve growth-promoting factor that affected certain types of cells.
The nerve growth factor controls the growth of nerve fibers and also plays a role in the brain and the immune system. It is one of the most important steps taken so far toward understanding how complex neuronal networks are laid down in embryogenesis. Her work has also significantly increased our understanding of many conditions, including tumors, developmental malformations, and dementia. It also led to the discovery by Stanley Cohen of another substance, epidermal growth factor, which stimulates the proliferation of epithelial cells. The two shared the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1986“for their discoveries of growth factors”.
Her death was announced by the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, referring to her death as a great loss `’for all of humanity.” He praised her as someone who represented “civic conscience, culture and the spirit of research of our time”. Her death was recognized by the Vatican, the Italian President of the Republic and the Italian prime Minister. It was reported by all major news media (BBC News, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post…).
Despite being a Jew during the Nazi invasion and despite building a career as a woman in a highly male-driven environment, she blossomed into a talented scientist who has left her mark on medicine. Behind the work of an extraordinary scientist, lies the life of an extraordinary woman. Continue reading →
In 1832, Charles Darwin stood on the deck of the HMS Beagle in Tenerife and looked out to sea. He was amazed by the glow emanating from the ocean. On a night in January 1832, off the coast of Tenerife, a young Charles Darwin wandered up on to the deck of the HMS Beagle. As the young naturalist looked out to sea, he was struck by the unearthly glow emanating from the ocean.
“The sea was luminous in specks & in the wake of the vessel of an uniform slight milky colour. When the water was put into a bottle it gave out sparks for some few minutes after having been drawn up.” – Zoology notes, 1832-1836
Darwin was almost certainly describing the light emitted by tiny marine organisms called dinoflagellates, which hold the capacity of bioluminescence.
Bioluminescence refers to the light that some organisms emit from their cells, which comes from a chemical reaction in the living cells and can occur in the absence of light. Continue reading →
Heart disease, referred to as cardiovascular disease (CVD) in medicine, is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels (i.e. arteries, capillaries or veins). This includes coronary heart disease (disease of vessels supplying the heart muscle), cerebrovascular disease (disease of vessels supplying the brain), and rheumatic heart disease (disease of vessels supplying the arms and legs).
CVDs are the number one cause of death globally – more people die from CVDs than from any other cause. In the UK, CVD kills one in three people. An estimated 17.3 million people died from CVDs in 2008, representing 30% of global deaths. By 2030, ~25 million people will die from CVDs (WHO). Continue reading →
Scientists find a four-stranded form of DNA in the shape of a quadruple helix (pictured), which is arranged like a stack of squares lying on top of one another.
The double stranded DNA helix was first described by Watson and Crick in February 1953 at Cambridge University. And now, exactly 60 years down the line and at the same place where Crick and Watson made their famous discovery, researchers have found that human DNA can naturally wrap itself into a different shape – a quadruple helix. Continue reading →
Matt Wall (Computing for Psychlogists) introduces the interactive ebook that’s just been released detailing the adventures of Ned the Neuron – a proper story-book, but with three interactive games built in, all with the aim of teaching kids about basic neuroscience.
“The Adventures of Ned the Neuron was designed with kids ages 7-11 in mind, but it is fun and educational for adults as well!” – say the developers
“Antibiotic use on farms is increasing not decreasing, so despite the initiatives and efforts we have heard about, the trends are heading in the wrong direction.”
The golden age of antibiotics has been short-lived but the move towards a post-antibiotic era has been slow to occur. We should have cut back on the use of antibiotics years ago, this would have enabled us to ‘save’ antibiotics for those extreme cases where infection is very difficult to treat otherwise. Instead, physicians have largely overlooked the looming threat of antibiotic resistance and patients have ignorantly continued to use them in scenarios where they are completely unnecessary.
For the first time since 1998, when a report was published by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on Antibiotics, the Parliament has last week finally drawn attention to the overuse of antibiotics and its consequences. Continue reading →
Drug discovery has traditionally gone through a linear process – scientific disciplines have been separated, with very limited crosstalk between the fields. Geneticists studied genes, cellular biologists studied cells, physiologists studied organs, so on and so forth. This approach was useful for a long time – by breaking down a complex phenomenon into smaller components, it becomes easier to understand. But medical research has come a long way and if before the reductionist approach increased our understanding of disease and ameliorated R&D, it now poses a problem. We have maxed out all there is to know by breaking down the system into components, so to speak.
The pluralism of causes and effects in biological networks can only be seen if observing multiple components simultaneously. Researchers looking at information on a single level, for example, a DNA expression profile, only observe a partial composite of the biological system. So why not simultaneously measure different biological systems, at the level of a subcellular organelle, cell, organ, tissue or organism? Continue reading →
Genentech, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute have partnered to carry out the first-ever study of healthy individuals. In this study, 300 members of distantly related families in Colombia who share a rare gene mutation that triggers Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in early life, with initial symptoms appearing around the age of 45. A small number of US citizens will also be included in this study.
This study is the first of its kind, in that it will examine patients before they show any symptoms of cognitive decline. Continue reading →
Written by guest blogger, Louis Daillencourt – for correspondence, please email: email@example.com
The publication of the United Nations World Drug Report and Home Affairs Select Committee report on drug policy put the question of how to effectively deal with drug use back into the spotlight. These reports argue that prohibition results in high levels of international drug-related crime but do not fundamentally alter the access and usage of drugs in developed countries.
These reports back numerous arguments frequently put forward which advocate for a change in drug policy. But their atomicity is also their weakness. Stressing the lamentable impact of drug-trafficking in producing or transit countries (60 000 people are estimated to have died as a direct result in Mexico alone) is unlikely to change the government’s policy. Humanitarian concerns abroad carry little weight when they do not coincide with a party’s short-term political interests. Former chief government advisor on drugs David Nutt has also argued that prohibition harms science by making it illegal to research drugs’ medicinal potential and denounced the chasm between drug classification and the risks they entail. Nutt’s dismissal, however, is evidence that drug policy is not rational and that cultural aspects are just as important determinants of policy. His oft-mentioned comparison with alcohol (in terms of health risk and social disruption) pays not credit to the fact that most illegal drugs have been introduced over the past 5 or 6 decades while alcohol has been a feature of our society for several centuries. Finally, education and treatment has replaced prohibition and policing in Portugal. This points to a societal shift in the way people perceive drug users. But it cannot be exported. Politicians at home legitimately seeking to lower drug use continue to argue that ending prohibition would send the wrong message to young people – and their electorate.
Ending prohibition has better chances of succeeding if politicians are confronted with one compelling reason, not a multiplicity of opinions backed by interests. What argument is therefore likely to have the most purchase? The experience of the last decades has shown that when it comes to defending the rights of minorities (5% of the world’s adult population has used drugs in 2010), arguing for freedom works. Insofar as one’s freedom does not encroach on someone else’s it should not be restricted. Societal debates such as the rights of homosexuals or the right to a dignified death are testament to this. That of drug policy should be framed in very much the same way. The fundamental premise underpinning progressive social policies have been that people should be free to make their own choices and that laws should evolve to mirror the spirit of societies. This is before one mentions the positive practicalities expected at home and abroad.
While drugs do pose a hazard to individuals, we do not live in a society averse to taking risks (possibly quite the contrary). A policy mix of prevention, education and a better understanding of addiction would go a long way in pacifying social interactions around the issue of drugs.
Mark Cahill, 51, underwent the first hand transplant surgery in the UK over the festive period. He is making good progress after an eight-hour operation at Leeds General Infirmary. This is the first such transplant in the UK and also the first time a patient’s hand has been amputated during a surgery to attach a donor hand. Nerves, bone, blood vessels and tendons in Cahill’s arm were connected with those in the donor. Continue reading →