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Bioengineered Spinal Discs Show Real Promise

An illustration of a human spinal column, highlighting a deteriorated intervertebral disc
An illustration of a human spinal column, highlighting a deteriorated intervertebral disc(Credit:CLIPAREA/Depositphotos)

As the shock-absorbing cartilage discs between our vertebrae degenerate due to aging, accidents or overuse, severe back pain can result. While some scientists have developed purely synthetic replacement discs, a recent test on goats indicates that bioengineered discs may be a better way to go. read more

Injured!

To all my loyal readers – I’d like to apologize in advance. I, the Common Constitutionalist, sustained a sports-related injury yesterday.Turns out I’m not invincible after all. Who knew? I’ll tell you who knew. Everyone but me.

I won’t detail it, but it’s a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament or PCL. It’s the largest of four knee ligaments, and the least known. Anyone who follows sports, especially football, knows the other three – the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). read more

Put Down That Romaine Lettuce – It may Contain E. coli

As of late yesterday, there have been 32 stricken with E. coli in 11 States thus far. Although no deaths have been reported, 13 people have been hospitalized – one with kidney failure.

from the CDC:

Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Romaine Lettuce

Illustration with a triangle and exclamation mark and text reading Food Safety Alert
CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, Canada, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) infections linked to romaine lettuce.

Advice to Consumers, Restaurants, and Retailers:

CDC is advising that U.S. consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any, until we learn more about the outbreak. This investigation is ongoing and the advice will be updated as more information is available.

  • Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
    • This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
    • If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
    • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.

Read more

Is a Diabetes Cure Now a Reality?

The new technique cures diabetes in mice by bypassing the immune system that attacks beta cells
The new technique cures diabetes in mice by bypassing the immune system that attacks beta cells(Credit: JacobSt/Depositphotos)

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1.25 million people suffer from type 1 diabetes in the US alone. So far, it can only be managed with diet and regular doses of insulin, but scientists at UT Health San Antonio have invented a way of curing the disease in mice that may one day do the same for humans even with type 2 diabetes. read more

A Cancer-Killing Virus

Nobel-winning technology reveals cancer-killing virus locking onto target like a “key in a lock”

Professor Mihnea Bostina from the University of Otago was part of a research team imaging the...
Professor Mihnea Bostina from the University of Otago was part of a research team imaging the Seneca Valley Virus(Credit: University of Otago)

Last year, a cutting edge scientific imaging technology called cryo-electron microscopy earned a Nobel Prize for chemistry, lauded by the committee as ushering in a “revolution in biochemistry.” The technique allows scientists to visualize biomolecules in their natural state for the first time ever, and one year on is already opening up some exciting possibilities. Now, scientists have used it to image a high-potential cancer-killing virus in unprecedented detail, allowing them to now ponder how it might be genetically modified to better do the job. read more

New Use for Ethanol – Kill Cancer

Ethanol - good to fuel your car, and now potentially kill tumors
Ethanol – good to fuel your car, and now potentially kill tumors(Credit: erierika/Depositphotos)

Scientists have known for some time that ethanol can kill cancer cells, but several limitations held it back from becoming a broadly used treatment. A team at Duke University has recently developed a new type of ethanol solution that can be injected directly into a variety of tumors to potentially offer a new, safe, and cheap form of cancer treatment. read more

Battle Against Dementia – Clearing Zombie Brain Cells

Zombie cells, aka senescent cells, have been found to accumulate in the brain ahead of the...
Zombie cells, aka senescent cells, have been found to accumulate in the brain ahead of the toxic protein build-ups that are generally implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia(Credit: Mayo Clinic)

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have identified a new target in the battle against dementia and age-related cognitive decline – zombie cells. More formally known as senescent cells, these are cells that have stopped dividing but don’t die, and tend to accumulate with age. The new research reveals that many pathological signs of neurodegenerative disease can be eliminated by removing these cells from the brain. read more

Asteroid Cancer Killer

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

New Gel Neutralizes Snake Venom

A new nanogel could make for a better snake antivenom, by sequestering the toxins within the...
A new nanogel could make for a better snake antivenom, by sequestering the toxins within the bloodstream(Credit: SURZet/Depositphotos)

According to the World Health Organization, snakes bite an estimated 5 million people each year, killing more than 100,000 of those victims and permanently injuring hundreds of thousands more. Current antivenoms might not be saving lives as efficiently as they could be, given that they’re difficult and expensive to produce, distribute and administer. Now, researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have developed a synthetic alternative with a long shelf-life that can neutralize the venom from several species of snakes. read more

Spinal Cord Injuries Could be a Thing of the Past

A 3D-printed device, loaded with neuronal stem cells, that can be implanted into an injured spinal...
A 3D-printed device, loaded with neuronal stem cells, that can be implanted into an injured spinal cord to help “bridge” the damage(Credit: University of Minnesota)

Spinal injuries can be like downed power lines – even if everything on either side of the injury is perfectly functional, the break can effectively shut down the whole system. Now, researchers at the University of Minnesota have designed a device that could link everything back together again. A silicone guide, covered in 3D-printed neuronal stem cells, can be implanted into the injury site, where it grows new connections between remaining nerves to let patients regain some motor control. read more