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November 29, 2006, 5:08 AM CT

A Sense Of Touch For Robotic Surgery Tools

A Sense Of Touch For Robotic Surgery Tools Allison Okamura demonstrates her lab's scissor-based surgical simulator.
By substituting mechanical instruments for human fingers, robotic tools give surgeons a new way to perform medical procedures with great precision in small spaces. But as the surgeon directs these tools from a computer console, an important component is lost: the sense of touch.

Johns Hopkins scientists are trying to change that by adding such sensations, known as haptic feedback, to medical robotic systems. "Haptic" refers to the sense of touch.

"The surgeons have asked for this kind of feedback," says Allison Okamura, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins. "So we're using our understanding of haptic technology to try to give surgeons back the sense of touch that they lose when they use robotic medical tools".

Okamura is a leading researcher in human-machine interaction, especially involving mechanical devices that convey touch-like sensations to a human operator. In recent years, she has focused on medical applications as a participant in the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology, based at Johns Hopkins. With funding from the National Institutes of Health and the NSF, she has established a collaboration with Intuitive Surgical Inc., maker of the da Vinci robotic system used in a number of hospitals for heart and prostate operations.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


November 29, 2006, 4:56 AM CT

Painkillers May Threaten Power Of Vaccines

Painkillers May Threaten Power Of Vaccines
With flu-shot season in full swing and widespread anticipation of the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, a new University of Rochester study suggests that using common painkillers around the time of vaccination might not be a good idea.

Scientists showed that certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), also known as cyclooxygenase inhibitors, react with the immune system in such a way that might reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

The research has widespread implications: study authors report that an estimated 50 to 70 percent of Americans use NSAIDs for relief from pain and inflammation, even though NSAIDs blunt the bodys natural response to infection and may prolong it.

For years we have known that elderly people are poor responders to the influenza vaccine and vaccines in general, said principal investigator Richard P. Phipps, Ph.D., a professor of Environmental Medicine, and of Microbiology and Immunology, Oncology and Pediatrics. And we also know that elderly people tend to be heavy users of inhibitors of cyclooxygenase such as Advil, aspirin, or Celebrex. This study could help explain the immune response problem.

The study is available online in the Dec. 1, 2006, Journal of Immunology, and was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. (See full study at: http://www.jimmunol.org/cgi/content/full/177/11/7811).........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


November 28, 2006, 8:00 PM CT

How Old Is Too Old?

How Old Is Too Old?
Average paternal age is increasing in the UK (and USA) Growing evidence shows that the offspring of older fathers have an increased risk of some birth defects, some cancers, including breast , prostate and nervous system and schizophrenia. The public health implications have not been widely anticipated or debated. In October, in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health , a paper was published, "Advanced Paternal age: How old is too old?', led by epidemiologist Dr. Isabelle Bray.calling for a discussion of this issue.

It is thought that there is an increased risk of certain conditions due to an accumulation of mutations etc. in the sperm of older men. It was cited that the "accumulation of damage to DNA in sperm of men age 36-57 is three times that of men <35.", They include studies of childhood cancers, childhood brain cancer, retinoblastoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia all having increased incidence with advanced paternal age. The epidemiologists state in the article that as our appreciation of the genetic contribution to disease develops it seems probable that if the current trends in the timing of fatherhood continues, the consequences at a population level may be worth considering. To illustrate the possible scale of the effects, results from a Swedish population based cohort study have been used to estimate that the increase in paternal age since 1980 could account for 10% of new cases of schizophrenia diagnosed in the UK in 2002. Adverse health outcomes should be weighed up against potential social advantages and disadvantages for children born to older parents, mindful that these societal effects are likely to change over time. Possible interventions they imagine might include health promotions advising people about the risk of delaying childbearing or changes at a societal level (family benefits, etc.) that encourage couples to have children earlier rather than later.........

Posted by: Dorje      Permalink         Source


November 28, 2006, 4:39 AM CT

Flu Can Bide Time In Icy Limbo Before Re-emerging

Flu Can Bide Time In Icy Limbo Before Re-emerging
It sounds like a campy '50s horror movie ("It Came from the Ice!"), but a Bowling Green State University biologist believes it's a very real possibility. Dr. Scott Rogers is talking about the potential for long-dormant strains of influenza, packed in ice in remote global outposts, to be unleashed by melting and migratory birds.

"We've found viral RNA in the ice in Siberia, and it's along the major flight paths of migrating waterfowl," whose pathways take them to North America, Asia and Australia, and interconnect with other migratory paths to Europe and Africa, explains Rogers.

Viruses, he says, can be preserved in ice over long periods of time, then released decades later when humans may no longer be immune to them. For instance, survivors of the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 had immunity to the responsible strain-called H1N1-but that immunity has died with them, meaning a recurrence "could take hold as an epidemic."

H1, the first of 16 versions of the protein heamagglutinin, is what Rogers and his Russian and Israeli colleagues sought in their research, which is being reported in the recent issue of the Journal of Virology. The BGSU professor and biological sciences department chair believes it to be the first time anyone has found--and maybe even looked for--the viral RNA in ice.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


November 28, 2006, 4:19 AM CT

First Robot-assisted Weight Loss Surgery

First Robot-assisted Weight Loss Surgery
UT Southwestern Medical Center surgeons are the first in North Texas to perform robotically assisted laparoscopic gastric-bypass and colon-resections surgeries.

The procedures were performed using DaVinci, a four-armed robot controlled by the surgeon via a joystick. DaVinci can provide better camera views and more precise surgical manipulations than are available in traditional laparoscopic surgeries.

The robot can offer easier access to some of the more inaccessible places in the body such as abdominal and gastrointestinal areas. As a result, laparoscopic surgeons expect the robotic procedures to grow in popularity for colon, gastric and esophageal operations, said Dr. Edward Livingston, chairman of GI/endocrine surgery.

Surgeries for colon cancers are on the rise, while gastric bypass procedures also are becoming more common.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in America with more than 106,000 new cases in 2006.

Gastric bypass has become more popular as obesity among the nations population increases. More than 140,000 gastric bypass procedures are performed annually in the United States.

Laparoscopic surgeries, also called minimally invasive surgeries, are performed via several tiny holes rather than one long incision. This commonly results in fewer complications, shorter recovery times and less post-operative pain.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 27, 2006, 5:01 AM CT

Chemotherapy Temporarily Affects The Brain

Chemotherapy Temporarily Affects The Brain
Scientists have linked chemotherapy with short-term structural changes in cognitive areas of the brain, as per a new study. Reported in the January 1, 2007 issue of CANCER (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/cancer-newsroom), a peer-evaluated journal of the American Cancer Society, the study reveals that within 12 months of receiving adjuvant chemotherapy, significant regions of the brain linked to memory, analysis and other cognitive functions were significantly smaller in patients with breast cancer who received chemotherapy than those who did not. Within four years after therapy, however, there were no differences in these same regions of the brain.

While the development of chemotherapy has had substantial and beneficial impact on cancer survival rates, it is also associated with significant short- and long-term adverse effects. Gastrointestinal complaints, immunosuppression, and painful mucositis, for example, are the immediate risks of the therapy.

Patients receiving chemotherapy have also long complained of problems with memory, problem-solving and other cognitive abilities. Eventhough chemotherapy was thought not to affect brain cells due to the blood-brain barrier, recent clinical studies have confirmed declines in cognitive functions in patients receiving chemotherapy. Animal studies have shown physical changes in the brain and in neurons caused by chemotherapy drugs. In human studies, however, the little data that is available is only available through imaging and is not consistent in the long-term. In addition, lack of controls in studies makes it difficult discern cancer- versus drug-effects.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


November 27, 2006, 4:42 AM CT

Human testis harbors HIV-1 in resident immune cells

Human testis harbors HIV-1 in resident immune cells
Scientists have demonstrated HIV replication within resident immune cells of the testis, providing an explanation for the persistence of virus in semen even after effective highly active antiretroviral treatment. The related report by Roulet et al., Susceptibility of human testis to human immunodeficiency virus-1 infection in situ and in vitro, appears in the recent issue of The American Journal of Pathology.

As per the most recent World Health Organization data, 39.5 million people are infected with HIV. Semen remains the main means of spreading the virus, even though highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) can successfully suppress virus in the blood. The presence of HIV in the semen despite successful HAART has intrigued scientists.

Scientists led by Dr. Nathalie Dejucq-Rainsford examined testis tissue for the presence of HIV receptors. They observed that all of the necessary cellular receptors (CD4, CXCR4, CCR5, and DC-SIGN) were present on cells located within the testis, specifically testicular macrophages.

The point was demonstrated further by using explanted organ cultures in which human testis tissue was grown in culture. This testis culture, which retained the same tissue architecture as in vivo tissue and continued to secrete testosterone, was able to support infection by HIV-1. Virus produced from the testis culture was fully active as collected virus was able to infect permissive cells in culture.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


November 26, 2006, 7:13 AM CT

Reversing Type 1 Diabetes In Mice

Reversing Type 1 Diabetes In Mice
New data reported in the Nov. 24 issue of Science provide further support for a protocol to reverse type 1 diabetes in mice and new evidence that adult precursor cells from the spleen can contribute to the regeneration of beta cells. In 2001 and 2003, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) demonstrated the efficacy of a protocol to reverse of type 1 diabetes in diabetic mice. Three studies from other institutions reported in the March 24, 2006 issue of Science confirmed that the MGH-developed protocol can reverse the underlying disease but were inconclusive on the role of spleen cells in the recovery of insulin-producing pancreatic islets. The new data from a study performed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), published as a technical comment, provides additional confirmation of the ability to reverse type 1 diabetes and on the role of the spleen cells in islet regeneration.

"This data from the NIH and the earlier studies have added significantly to the understanding of how diabetes may be reversed," says Denise Faustman, MD, PhD, director of the Immunobiology Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, primary author of the 2001 and 2003 studies and co-corresponding author of the current report. "It is still early, but it appears that there are multiple potential sources for regenerating islets. As a research community we should pursue all avenues. We're excited to see what will happen in humans."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 21, 2006, 5:12 AM CT

Clues From Dragonfly About Human Obesity

Clues From Dragonfly About Human Obesity Among dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) a supposedly harmless parasite triggers metabolic disorders similar to those found in humans afflicted with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Parasite-infected dragonflies suffer the same metabolic disorders that have led to an epidemic of obesity and type-2 diabetes in humans, reveal the findings of research conducted at Penn State University that are due would be reported in the 5 December 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and also in the PNAS early online edition at www.pnas.org on 21 November. The discovery expands the known taxonomic breadth of metabolic disease and suggests that the study of microbes found in human intestines may provide a greater understanding of the root causes of human metabolic dysfunction.

James Marden, professor of biology and an insect physiologist at Penn State, and Ruud Schilder, who in August 2006 earned his doctorate in biology at Penn State and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Nebraska, are the first to show a non-mammalian species suffering from metabolic dysfunction in ways similar to humans. "Metabolic disease isn't some strange thing having just to do with humans," said Marden. "Animals in general suffer from these symptoms".

The work is also novel because it links metabolic disease to a supposedly harmless parasite living in the dragonfly's gut. The parasites, known as gregarines, belong to the Apicomplexa, a group of microorganisms that includes protozoa, which cause diseases like malaria and cryptosporidiosis. The dragonfly species that Marden and Schilder studied is Libellula pulchella. The microbes disrupting the dragonfly metabolism may hold clues for researchers looking for the root causes of metabolic diseases in humans, as per Marden and Schilder's paper.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 20, 2006, 5:08 AM CT

Yeast Model Shows Promise As Alzheimer's Test

Yeast Model Shows Promise As Alzheimer's Test
A century ago this month, German psychiatry expert Alois Alzheimer formally described characteristics of the neurodegenerative disease which ultimately came to bear his name. While international efforts to learn about Alzheimer's disease and develop therapys have progressed significantly in recent years, a cure remains an elusive goal.

A new research tool developed by Susan Liebman, distinguished university professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, may ultimately provide a means for treating the earliest stage of Alzheimer's, thereby stemming its progression.

Typically alzheimer's disease is characterized by the formation of plaques in the brain largely composed of fibers made from a peptide called beta-amyloid, or A-beta, for short. There is abundant evidence to support the hypothesis that accumulation of A-beta peptide triggers the appearance of Alzheimer's. But while earlier research suggested the A-beta fiber caused Alzheimer's, recent research points at much smaller aggregates of the peptide as the culprit.

"We've developed a yeast model system in which A-beta small aggregate formation can be detected," said Liebman. "The system employs a fusion of the human A-beta peptide to a functional yeast protein, called a reporter protein, which is only active in allowing cells to grow on test media if the fusion does not form aggregates".........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Yale have brought to light a mechanism that regulates the way an internal organelle, the Golgi apparatus, duplicates as cells prepare to divide, according to a report in Science Express.Graham Warren, professor of cell biology, and colleagues at Yale study Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes Sleeping Sickness. Like a number of parasites, it is exceptionally streamlined and has only one of each internal organelle, making it ideal for studying processes of more complex organisms that have a number of copies in each cell.

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