Category Archives: medical

Zika as a Cancer Treatment

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Zika as a Cancer Treatment?

Zika as a Cancer Treatment?

I stumbled across one story this week regarding the Zika virus and brain cancer research that caught my eye, though the research is far from conclusive. Before I really discuss the article and the study it describes, I wanted to give some context behind Zika and its current state.

Zika is a virus that in a healthy, non-pregnant person causes only mild symptoms. It is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes in the Aedes genus, frequently by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, but it is also known to be transmitted sexuallyMany who are infected don’t realize they’ve come down with the virus, and very few deaths are caused by it. There are two complications of the disease, however, that make it more than concerning – it can trigger Guillain–Barré syndrome (which causes your immune system to attack your nerves) in adults, and microcephaly (a smaller than average head) and other brain defects in children born to infected mothers. Much of the work around Zika includes preventing the infection of pregnant women, and there are already vaccines being tested for them.

I want to be clear – Zika virus is not yet a massive threat in the United States. It is much more prevalent in South America, Central America, Africa, and other regions closer to the equator. The nation-wide panic and sensationalism that filled the news in 2016 when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global medical emergency has more or less subsided. Though we don’t know what the future holds, the CDC is taking measures to prevent its spread around the world and in the US, such as education, travel warnings, further study, and comprehensive tracking, among other things.

Now, what does Zika have to do with brain cancer? Though it is largely a negative force in the world, researchers at the University of Campinas’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in São Paulo State, Brazil are trying to use it for good.

Glioblastoma, which is the most common and aggressive type of adult brain tumor, is very resistant to chemotherapy. That means that alternate forms of treatment for it are very sought after.

One newer, promising candidate for cancer treatment is the use of what are known as oncolytic viruses. These are viruses that have been genetically engineered and altered to destroy tumors. This technique is already showing promise in treating melanoma, bone cancer, and more.

Now, these scientists at the University of Campinas’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences are finding some success using Zika to kill off glioblastoma tumors. They have found that by infecting tumor cells with Zika, the tumor cell is induced into producing a molecule known as digoxin, which has previously shown promise in killing breast and skin cancer tumors. After observing these infected tumor cells using mass spectrometry, the researchers found signs of cell death caused by the induced digoxin. They hope in the future to genetically engineer a form of Zika that will only synthesize digoxin instead of infecting the patient with Zika.

The fact that humans are able to take a dangerous and possibly debilitating disease such as Zika and try to use it as a potential cure for cancer speaks volumes towards human ingenuity and our ability to make the best out of a bad situation. I realize that, like many cutting-edge medical advances that you see in the news, this treatment option likely has years of testing to go through before it is even considered for use in a clinical setting. It has a decent chance of never making it out of the lab. But, still, we are trying incredibly innovative (counter-intuitive, even) solutions to some of our most frightening problems.

—Courtesy of GSC Go Science Crazy and Jacob Monash

Giving transplant patients a second chance to soar

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 121,357 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S. alone. Some of these people are probably your loved ones, your neighbor, your best friend or your co-worker. Organ transplants have the possibility to extend the lives of thousands of people each year and it has been Thermo Fisher Scientific’s mission to advance the field of transplantation and improve the quality of life for both patients and their families. Read on to find out how one transplant recipient benefited from our diagnostic tools and technologies and has committed her life to paying it forward.

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“Smart” Gel Immediately Begins Healing Process

Image thhike-with-dogis scenario: You’re hiking through the primeval forest with your favorite hiking companion – your dog. You two have enjoyed many similar excursions through all kinds of terrain without incident, but today, neither of you are so lucky. A freak rockslide leaves the animal severely cut and bleeding profusely. You know the blood flow is dangerously fast and must be stopped before your canine friend bleeds out. You have to do something quickly.

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Is Climate Change Spreading Infectious Diseases?

Buruli ulcer is not an affliction disease strainyou would like anyone to contract. Caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, it produces a toxin which necrotizes tissue and hampers immune response. Up to 6000 cases are reported annually to the World Health Organization from 15 countries. Though 80 percent of cases can be cured by antibiotics if caught early, late reporting is typical, leading to a high proportion of permanent disability.

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Healing Optimized Thanks to Virtual Wounds

bandaged-handComplex events occur within the human body, such as when the body fights off an infection or repairs cell damage. This inflammatory process is critical for survival — without it the body cannot repair itself. Researchers like Gary An, surgeon and researcher at the University of Chicago in Illinois, and Shayn Peirce, researcher at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, are using Agent-based modeling (ABM) to create “virtual wounds” with immune cells as programmable “agents.” Their models are robust enough to closely simulate the body’s actual inflammation response.

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Sun Protection Makes Vacation Sense

sunscreenThose warming rays of the sun have a well-deserved Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reputation. While they generate vitamin D and make us feel great, they also cause skin damage with UV radiation. UV-A radiation prematurely ages skin and contributes to skin cancer. UV-B radiation creates the tans we love and burns we hate.

 
Our skin’s natural protection, melanin — associated with the amount of pigment in the skin — is not enough. So how can you enjoy the outdoors safely?

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Portable Instant Blood Test Provides Fast Results

thBlood tests offer a way for doctors to determine how their patients’ bodies are functioning. After a clinical worker collects the patient’s blood sample, many procedures occur in order for doctors to get the blood test results for their patients.
Currently, tests are performed on complicated, bulky lab equipment that is time consuming and labor intensive. Now, a company called Radisens Diagnostics claims that they have developed a blood-lab-in-a-box; a new way to perform blood tests for particular diseases.

 

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TINY PARTICLES MAY HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON TREATING CANCER

nanoparticles_lancastriaResearchers developed a drug that may stop the spread of cancer cells, but needed to develop a process for introducing the drug without damaging healthy tissues.  The scientists turned to nanoparticles, objects so small that 800 of them could fit in the width of a human hair. These tiny particles can deliver the drug directly to cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.

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