Someday, your doctor may turn to you and say, "Take two surgeons and call me in the morning." If that day arrives, you may just have Ada Poon to thank. At the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) before an audience of her peers, electrical engineer Poon demonstrated a tiny, wirelessly powered, self-propelled medical device capable of controlled motion through a fluid - blood more specifically. The era of swallow-the-surgeon medical care may no longer be the stuff of science fiction. Poon is an assistant professor at the Stanford School of Engineering. She is developing a new class of medical devices that can be implanted or injected into the human body and powered wirelessly using electromagnetic radio waves. No batteries to wear out. No cables to provide power. "Such devices could revolutionize medical technology, " said Poon.
Biomedical laboratories have to be safe, ergonomic and flexible. At the same time, labs need to be able to deal with a high throughput of samples while reliably documenting each step in the testing process. Fraunhofer researchers are working to fully automate the processing of samples in tomorrow's laboratories. The scientists will be showing the effectiveness of their concept at the MEDTEC Europe trade fair in Stuttgart from March 13 to 15, 2012. Anyone who goes to their doctor for a blood test generally has to wait a few days for the results. But this time of uncertainty can make patients anxious - especially in critical cases, such as a possible HIV infection. The fact that it takes so long for laboratories to analyze samples is in no small part due to all the cumbersome paperwork: Each sample must be accompanied by meticulous records, so lab technicians are obliged to write a lengthy report including the patient's details, the results of the analysis and the testing methods employed.
UCLA stem cell researchers have discovered a critical placental niche cell and signaling pathway that prevent blood precursors from premature differentiation in the placenta, a process necessary for ensuring proper blood supply for an individual's lifetime. The placental niche, a stem cell "safe zone, " supports blood stem cell generation and expansion without promoting differentiation into mature blood cells, allowing the establishment of a pool of precursor cells that provide blood cells for later fetal and post-natal life, said study senior author Dr. Hanna Mikkola, an associate professor of molecular cell and developmental biology and a researcher at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA. Mikkola and her team found that PDGF-B signaling in trophoblasts, specialized cells of the placenta that facilitate embryo implantation and gas and nutrient exchanges between mother and fetus, is vital to maintaining the unique microenvironment needed for the blood precursors.
Yale researchers have discovered how megakaryocytes - giant blood cells that produce wound-healing platelets - manage to grow 10 to 15 times larger than other blood cells. The findings, to be published March 13 in the journal Developmental Cell, also hint at how a malfunction in this process may cause a form of leukemia. "A failure of these cells to grow might be an initial trigger for megakaryoblastic leukemias, " said Diane Krause, senior author of the paper, who is a researcher for the Yale Cancer Center; professor of laboratory medicine, cell biology, and pathology; and associate director of the Yale Stem Cell Center. Megakaryocytes grow so large because the DNA within the cell duplicates many times - but without the cell undergoing cell division: a process called endomitosis. A megakaryoblastic can shelter more than 120 sets of nuclear DNA before it eventually becomes the biological equivalent of a supernova, undergoing profound changes to break apart into thousands of platelets needed for normal blood clotting.
This week's PLoS Medicine reports on a comprehensive study that reveals that levels of the amino acid, homocysteine, have no significant effect on the risk of developing coronary heart disease. This concludes the ongoing argument of the previously suggested benefits of lowering homocysteine with folate acid. According to earlier studies, high blood levels of homocysteine might be a modifiable risk factor for coronary heart disease. However, Robert Clarke, from the Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit at the University of Oxford and his team, have proven in a detailed assessment of data from 19 unpublished and 86 published studies that lifelong moderate elevation of homocysteine levels had no important effect on the risk of developing coronary heart disease. The results of the study indicate that extensive publication bias, combined with methodological problems have previously influenced suggestions to associate homocysteine with coronary heart disease risk.