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Italian Family Feels No Pain

Scientists have isolated a genetic mutation that appears to render an Italian family unable to feel...
Scientists have isolated a genetic mutation that appears to render an Italian family unable to feel pain, and the find may help develop new treatments for people suffering chronic pain(Credit: zimmytws/Depositphotos)

Unpleasant as it is, pain serves an important function by telling us that something is wrong. But for people suffering from chronic pain conditions, the message is blaring constantly, and conventional painkillers aren’t all that effective. Now, a new hope for relief might have been found in the strange case of an Italian family, who all have a genetic mutation that makes them feel almost no pain at all. read more

Alcoholism Drug Fights Cancer

An old drug prescribed to help people stop drinking alcohol may be an effective cancer-killer, according to new study.

The drug, Antabuse, appears to ‘freeze’ cancer in place, preventing them from getting rid of waste, which, ultimately, kills them.

Danish and Czech researchers tested the drug in live mice and human cancer cells and found that it was effective in both without harming other cells.

These findings are not enough to indicate how Antabuse would behave in living people, but the drug is already FDA-approved and its patent is long expired, so if further testing is as promising as this study’s findings, the drug could someday be a cheap alternative cancer treatment. read more

3D Printed Organs

An artificial prostate fitted with a soft sensor
An artificial prostate fitted with a soft sensor(Credit: McAlpine Research Group)

An international team of researchers has used 3D-printing technology to produce individually-tailored model organs. These dummy organs could one day improve your chances of surviving surgery, by allowing doctors to plan and practice a lifesaving procedure on a realistic replica before putting you to the scalpel.

Surgery is often a matter of life or death. The ability to practice a procedure outside of the operating room on an artificial human, or at least the relevant organ of a patient, can help to prepare a doctor for surgery, and so increase the chances of a patient surviving the procedure. read more

New Cancer Treatment Won’t Harm Healthy Cells

Iridium, a rare metal brought to Earth by asteroids, has been found to be an effective...Iridium, a rare metal brought to Earth by asteroids, has been found to be an effective cancer-killer(Credit: Shad.off/Depositphotos)

Over 65 million years ago, an asteroid some 10 km (6 mi) wide crashed into the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. Strangely, the legacy of this huge space rock could include a treatment for cancer after scientists from the UK and China demonstrated that iridium – a rare metal delivered to Earth by the asteroid – can be enlisted to kill cancer without harming healthy cells. read more

Weapon Wednesday – Well – Not Really

A new prosthetic developed by the Office of Naval Research is designed to be more comfortable...
A new prosthetic developed by the Office of Naval Research is designed to be more comfortable to wear, and is fitted with sensors to monitor for infection and stress(Credit:Joseph Xu/Senior Multimedia Content Producer, University of Michigan – College of Engineering)

As useful as they are for amputees, prosthetic legs aren’t the most comfortable things to wear. With the whole body pressing down on the point of contact, they can be painful, awkward to walk with and cause infections. Now scientists from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have developed a more comfortable and “smart” prosthetic that can be attached and detached at will, and monitored for infection and stress with an array of sensors. read more

Life Extended by 20 Percent

A sample of the mitochondria (shown in green) of the fruit flies used in the study....
A sample of the mitochondria (shown in green) of the fruit flies used in the study. Upper left was taken at 10 days old, upper right at 28 days, and both lower images are from 37 days old. The bottom-right image though, shows how the mitochondria was reduced to a size typical of younger flies after treatment with Drp1 protein.(Credit: Nature Communications/Anil Rana)

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have figured out a way to extend the life of female fruit flies by 20 percent by manipulating what the school has called a “cellular time machine.” The biologists who carried out the work are hopeful that their findings will have implications for human aging and help fight off age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. read more

Nano-Machines Kill All Cancers

Scientists have created light-driven spinning nanomachines that could kill cancer cells in just 60 seconds.

In laboratory tests, researchers showed how the molecules can be activated by ultraviolet light to spin up to three million times a second and drill through cell membranes.

In one test, it took between one and three minutes to cut through the outer shell of prostate cancer cell and destroy it.

Another application for the tiny ‘nanomachines’ might be to deliver therapeutic medicines, researchers say.

A sequence of images taken over 10 minutes shows a human prostate cell under attack by motorized molecules. The cell, tagged with a green fluorescent protein, is made permeable by the nanomachines, which drill through its lipid bilayer membranes. The right images clearly show blebbing (bubbling) of the membrane as cytoplasm leaks out of the cell
A sequence of images taken over 10 minutes shows a human prostate cell under attack by motorized molecules. The cell, tagged with a green fluorescent protein, is made permeable by the nanomachines, which drill through its lipid bilayer membranes. The right images clearly show blebbing (bubbling) of the membrane as cytoplasm leaks out of the cell

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A Single Treatment for a Variety of Neurological Disorders

Multiple neurological diseases could be targeted by a single antibody treatment
Multiple neurological diseases could be targeted by a single antibody treatment (Credit:vampy1/Depositphotos)

Scientists believe that the underlying cause of many neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, is the buildup of misfolded protein clusters in the brain. A new antibody treatment developed by a team at the NYU School of Medicine has the potential to target a feature of these misfolded proteins shared by several different diseases, promising a possible single treatment for a variety of neurological disorders. read more

A Cancer Vaccine Could be Coming

A golden nanostar, seen here under an electron microscope, is a key part of a new ...
A golden nanostar, seen here under an electron microscope, is a key part of a new treatment that might eventually lead to a cancer vaccine (Credit: Duke University)

In experiments on mice, researchers at Duke University have found that combining two different techniques for fighting cancer is more effective than either treatment is on its own. In one case, the mouse’s immune system not only destroyed the tumor, but stayed strong enough to ward off a later injection of cancer cells, raising hopes that the strategy could one day lead to a viable cancer vaccine.

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This Little Piggy Grew an Organ

Growing human transplant organs in pigs has become a more realistic prospect after scientists used advanced gene editing to remove threatening viruses from the animals’ DNA.

Porcine endogenous retroviruses are permanently embedded in the pig genome but research has shown they can infect human cells, posing a potential hazard.

The existence of the virus has been a major stumbling block preventing the development of genetically engineered pigs to provide kidneys and other organs for transplant into human patients.

That hurdle may now have been cleared away, according to new research reported in the journal Science.

Researchers at Harvard University and a private company used the precision gene editing tool Crispr-Cas9 combined with gene repair technology to deactivate 100 percent of the virus in a line of pig cells.

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