Category Archives: Medical

Compact light source improves CT scans

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The Compact Light Source by Palo Alto-based Lyncean Technologies Inc. generates X-rays suitable for advanced tomography. The car-sized device is a miniature version of football-field-sized X-ray generators known as synchrotrons and it emerged from basic research at SLAC in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Credit: Lyncean Technologies Inc.

A new study shows that the recently developed Compact Light Source (CLS) — a commercial X-ray source with roots in research and development efforts at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory — enables computer tomography scans that reveal more detail than routine scans performed at hospitals today. The new technology could soon be used in preclinical studies and help researchers better understand cancer and other diseases.

With its ability to image cross sections of the human body, X-ray computer tomography (CT) has become an important diagnostic tool in medicine. Conventional CT scans are very detailed when it comes to bones and other dense body parts that strongly absorb X-rays. However, the technique struggles with the visualization and distinction of “soft tissues” such as organs, which are more transparent to X-rays.

“Our work demonstrates that we can achieve better results with the Compact Light Source,” says Professor for Biomedical Physics Franz Pfeiffer of the Technical University of Munich in Germany, who led the new study published April 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The CLS allows us to do multimodal tomography scans — a more advanced approach to X-ray imaging.”

More than One Kind of Contrast

The amount of detail in a CT scan depends on the difference in brightness, or contrast, which makes one type of tissue distinguishable from another. The absorption of X-rays — the basis for standard CT — is only one way to create contrast.

Alternatively, contrast can be generated from differences in how tissues change the direction of incoming X-rays, either through bending or scattering X-ray light. These techniques are known as phase-contrast and dark-field CT, respectively.

“Organs and other soft tissues don’t have a large absorption contrast, but they become visible in phase-contrast tomography,” says the study’s lead author, Elena Eggl, a researcher at the Technical University of Munich. “The dark-field method, on the other hand, is particularly sensitive to structures like vertebrae and the lung’s alveoli.”

Shrinking the Synchrotron

However, these methods require X-ray light with a well-defined wavelength aligned in a particular way — properties that conventional CT scanners in hospitals do not deliver sufficiently.

For high-quality phase-contrast and dark-field imaging, researchers can use synchrotrons — dedicated facilities where electrons run laps in football-stadium-sized storage rings to produce the desired radiation — but these are large and expensive machines that cannot simply be implemented at every research institute and clinic.

Conversely, the CLS is a miniature version of a synchrotron that produces suitable X-rays by colliding laser light with electrons circulating in a desk-sized storage ring. Due to its small footprint and lower cost, it could be operated in almost any location.

“The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is the world’s largest colliding beam storage ring, and the CLS is the smallest,” says SLAC scientist Ronald Ruth, one of the study’s co-authors. Ruth is also chairman of the board of directors and co-founder of Palo Alto-based Lyncean Technologies Inc., which developed the X-ray source based on earlier fundamental research at SLAC. “It turns out that the properties of the CLS are perfect for applications like tomography.”

More Modes, Finer Detail

In the recent study, the researchers reported the first “multimodal” CT scan with the CLS: They recorded all three imaging modes — absorption, phase contrast and dark field — at the same time. Using a total of 361 two-dimensional X-ray images of an infant mouse taken from different directions, the scientists generated cross-section images of the animal.

“The absorption images only show bones and air-filled organs,” Eggl says. “However, the phase-contrast and dark-field images reveal much more detail, showing different organs such as the heart and liver. We can even distinguish different types of fat tissue, which is not possible with absorption-based CT scans.”

Using a standard sample of chemically well-defined liquids, the scientists also demonstrated that they could not only visualize but also quantify differences in their properties — information that can be applied to various body tissues and that is only obtained when combining all three tomography modes.

Implications for Cancer, Materials

The success of this research, which was done on a CLS prototype, has led to the commissioning of the first commercial device.

The researchers’ next goal is to use the CLS for phase-contrast and dark-field CT in preclinical studies — an approach that could help visualize cancer. “We work closely together with two clinics to study tumors,” Eggl says. “One of our plans is to image breast tissue samples and also entire breasts after mastectomy to better understand the clinical picture of breast cancer.”

Besides medical applications, multimodal tomography could also open up new possibilities in materials science, for instance, in studies of extremely durable and light-weight carbon fibers and other fibrous materials, where the X-ray absorption contrast provides little information.

Please follow this link to Science Daily for the original story.

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A New High-Speed MRI Technique Is Fast Enough To Record Someone Singing

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It’s a remarkable technology capable of looking inside a human being, but magnetic resonance imaging—or MRI—machines are finicky and require a patient to remain absolutely still while it does its thing. But researchers at the University of Illinois have found a way to capture up to 100 frames per second on an MRI machine allowing them to record patients in motion.

The need for a faster MRI technique arose when a faculty member at the University of Illinois’ Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology wanted to study how the muscles of the larynx worked in elderly patients while singing, in an attempt to help give them more powerful and pronounced voices. The problem with using MRI machines was that they could only capture images at around ten frames per second which was far too slow to study what was going on with the 100 or so muscles required to sing.

So Zhi-Pei Liang, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the institute, worked with his team to develop a new methodology to extract more frames from an MRI machine—which is a far cheaper solution than trying to rebuild and redesign one of the incredibly expensive devices from the ground up. Here’s how the new technique they came up with is described in an issue of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine:

An imaging method is developed to enable high-speed dynamic speech imaging exploiting low-rank and sparsity of the dynamic images of articulatory motion during speech. The proposed method includes: (a) a novel data acquisition strategy that collects spiral navigators with high temporal frame rate and (b) an image reconstruction method that derives temporal subspaces from navigators and reconstructs high-resolution images from sparsely sampled data with joint low-rank and sparsity constraints.

To read the full story and for more information please follow this link to Gizmodo.

Design Library Lets Researchers Print their Own Syringe Pumps

Furnishing a research lab can be pretty expensive. Now a team led by an engineer at Michigan Technological University has published an open-source library of designs that will let scientists slash the cost of one commonly used piece of equipment: the syringe pump.

Syringe pumps are used to dispatch precise amounts of liquid, as for drug delivery or mixing chemicals in a reaction. They can also cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Joshua Pearce and his team of Michigan Tech students published the library of free syringe-pump designs, which anyone can make on a RepRap 3D printer just for the cost of the plastic filament. Better yet, the designs are perfectly customizable.

“Not only have we designed a single syringe pump, we’ve designed all future syringe pumps,” said Pearce.  “Scientists can customize the design of a pump for exactly what they are doing, just by changing a couple of numbers in the software.”

The library includes recipes for most parts of a syringe pump. You’ll have to buy the small electric stepper motor that drives the liquid, some simple hardware and the syringe itself, which is inexpensive.

The team also went a little further, incorporating a low-cost, credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computer as a wireless controller. “That way, you can link the syringe pump to the network, sit on a beach in Hawaii and control your lab,” Pearce said. “Plenty of people can have access, and you can run multiple experiments at the same time. Our entire single-pump system costs only $50 and can replace pumps that run between $250 and $2,500.”

It costs more to make a double-pump system, about $120, but it replaces a commercial system that costs $5,000.

That said, Pearce believes someone will figure out how to make them better. “The international scientific open-source lab community is growing rapidly. From UC Berkeley’s Tekla Lab to Sensorica in Montréal and OpenLabTools at the University of Cambridge, we are all working together to make science cheaper, faster and better. I’m sure someone will improve our designs and share their results with us and the rest of the community. That’s the beauty and power of open source,” he said.

Megan Frost, a biomedical engineer at Michigan Tech, uses syringe pumps from Pearce’s library to introduce agents into cell cultures.

“What’s beautiful about what Joshua is doing is that it lets us run three or four experiments in parallel, because we can get the equipment for so much less,” she said. “We’d always wanted to run experiments concurrently, but we couldn’t because the syringe pumps cost so much. This has really opened doors for us.”

The work is described in the paper “Open-source Syringe Pump Library,” published in PLoS One and coauthored by Pearce, graduate student Bas Wijnen, research scientist Gerald Anzalone and undergraduate Emily Hunt. The hardware plans, designs, and source code for the pumps is available for free at http://www.appropedia.org/Open-source_syringe_pump.

Pearce is an associate professor with appointments in both the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

For more information and the original story follow the source link below.

Source: MICHIGAN TECH NEWS

Implant Device for Stopping Uncontrolled Seizures

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Surgeons at Comprehensive Epilepsy Center Say Pacemaker-like RNS System Provides Innovative Approach to Stop Seizures Before They Start

Newswise — NYU Langone Medical Center last month became the first hospital outside of a clinical trial site to implant a pacemaker-like device in the brain that may be a game-changer for patients with epilepsy.

The device, called the RNS System, was implanted April 17, 2014 in a patient with seizures that previously could not be controlled with medication, or intractable epilepsy, by Werner Doyle, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone. The patient has recovered completely from the surgery.

The first-of-its-kind device is similar to an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which delivers electrical pulses to the heart to prompt it to beat a normal rhythm and provides a new alternative treatment to vagus nerve stimulation and surgical removal of the focus site – parts in the brain where the seizures originate — for people with intractable epilepsy.

Prior to last month’s surgery, the only implants of the seizure-reducing medical device took place at U.S. medical centers that had previously researched the device’s effectiveness and safety, making NYU Langone the first non-study hospital in the U.S. and New York metropolitan area to offer the RNS System to patients.

“Medically intractable epilepsy is often a debilitating disorder that puts sufferers at risk from sudden loss of consciousness and uncontrolled movements. It stigmatizes patients and restricts their independence,” said Dr. Doyle. “Epilepsy surgery is an important therapeutic option for patients, which can significantly or completely control their seizures and return their lives to normal. The RNS device improves our ability to control seizures with surgery and now offers patients who may not have been surgical candidates in the past a surgical option.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.3 million Americans suffer from epilepsy, with about one in 26 people expected to be diagnosed in their lifetimes. Approximately one-third of patients do not respond to medications and face major challenges with daily living. Uncontrolled seizures may interfere with normal activities such as working, going to school and driving. Patients also face increased risk for anxiety, depression, injury, brain damage, and in rare cases, death.

The RNS System, manufactured by NeuroPace Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., is a responsive stimulation device that’s implanted in the skull along with brain electrodes to detect abnormal electrical activity in the brain associated with seizures. After two or more weeks of recording the activity, doctors program the device to specifically respond to these abnormal signals by delivering imperceptible electrical pulses to the brain that normalize the activity. The device essentially “reboots” the portion of the brain where the seizure is originating, thereby effectively interrupting the abnormal electrical activity before it spreads or causes its unwanted effects.

The RNS System received pre-market approval from the Food and Drug Administration in November 2013 to treat patients’ seizures that have not been controlled by two or more antiepileptic medications.

In clinical trials performed at medical centers across the U.S., including at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey by Dr. Doyle and Orrin Devinsky, MD, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone, 55 percent of patients experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in seizures two years post implantation.

“The RNS System represents one of the most important and innovative therapies to treat people with epilepsy,” says Dr. Devinsky. “This new surgical therapy uses information to target and shut down points in the brain where seizures start without removing tissue, providing a novel option for patients with uncontrolled seizures.”

For more information follow the source link below.

Source: Newswise

New ‘T-ray’ tech converts light to sound for weapons detection, medical imaging

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ANN ARBOR—A device that essentially listens for light waves could help open up the last frontier of the electromagnetic spectrum—the terahertz range.

So-called T-rays, which are light waves too long for human eyes to see, could help airport security guards find chemical and other weapons. They might let doctors image body tissues with less damage to healthy areas. And they could give astronomers new tools to study planets in other solar systems. Those are just a few possible applications.

But because terahertz frequencies fall between the capabilities of the specialized tools presently used to detect light, engineers have yet to efficiently harness them. The U-M researchers demonstrated a unique terahertz detector and imaging system that could bridge this terahertz gap.

“We convert the T-ray light into sound,” said Jay Guo, U-M professor of electrical engineering and computer science, mechanical engineering, and macromolecular science and engineering. “Our detector is sensitive, compact and works at room temperature, and we’ve made it using an unconventional approach.”

The sound the detector makes is too high for human ears to hear.

The terahertz gap is a sliver between the microwave and infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum—the range of light’s wavelengths and frequencies. That spectrum spans from the longest, low-energy radio waves that can carry songs to our receivers to the shortest, high-energy gamma rays that are released when nuclear bombs explode and radioactive atoms decay.

In between are the microwave frequencies that can cook food or transport cell phone signals, the infrared that enables heat vision technologies, the visible wavelengths that light and color our world, and X-rays that give doctors a window under our skin.

For more information and the full story follow the source link below.

Source: University of Michigan News

IT malpractice: Doc operates on server, costs hospitals $4.8M

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Image source Alegrasoft

New York Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center settle with HHS to end probe into 2010 patient data leak

An inadvertent data leak that stemmed from a physician’s attempt to reconfigure a server cost New York Presbyterian (NYP) Hospital and Columbia University (CU) Medical Center $4.8 million to settle with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The hospitals and HHS announced the voluntary settlement, which ends an inquiry into the incident, on Wednesday. New York Presbyterian will pay $3.3 million, while Columbia will pay $1.5 million to settle the complaint.

The hospitals also agreed to take “substantive” corrective action, including development of a new risk management plan and new policies and procedures for handling patient data. The HHS will also be provided with periodic progress updates under the agreement.

“Our cases against NYP and CU should remind health care organizations of the need to make data security central to how they manage their information systems,” the statement said.

The $3.3 million settlement with New York Presbyterian is the largest ever obtained by the HHS for a violation of HIPAA security rules.

The breach occurred in 2010 after a physician at Columbia University Medical Center attempted to “deactivate” a personally owned computer from an New York Presbyterian network segment that contained sensitive patient health information, according to the HHS.

The two health care organizations have a mutual agreement under which CU faculty members serve as physicians at NYP. The two entities operate a shared network that links to systems contacting patient health data at NYP.
It is not clear why a physician had a personally owned system connected to the network, or why he was attempting to “deactivate” it.

In a joint statement, the two hospitals blamed the leakage on an “errantly configured” computer server. The error left patient status, vital signs, laboratory results, medication information, and other sensitive data on about 6,800 individuals accessible to all via the Web.

The leak was discovered after the hospitals received a complaint from an individual who discovered personal health information about his or her deceased partner on the Web.

An investigation by the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that neither CU nor NYP had implemented adequate security protections, or undertook a risk analysis or audit to identify the location of sensitive patient health information on the joint network.

The OCR also faulted New York Presbyterian not ensuring that only properly authorized systems could access patient data.

In an email, NYP and CU said they have taken substantial steps to strengthen data security controls following the breach.

“For more than three years, we have been cooperating with HHS by voluntarily providing information about the incident in question,” the statement said. “We also have continually strengthened our safeguards to enhance our information systems and processes, and will continue to do so under the terms of the agreement with HHS.”

HHS has also extracted settlements from several other healthcare entities over the past two years as it beefs up the effort to crack down on HIPAA violations.

In April, it reached a $2 million settlement with with Concentra Health Services and QCA Health Plan. Both organizations reported losing laptops containing unencrypted patient data.

Last December, a Massachusetts dermatology clinic agreed to pay $150,000 to settle an HHS investigation into the loss of a thumb drive containing unencrypted patient health information.

Source: Computer World

First U.S. case of deadly MERS virus confirmed: CDC

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(Reuters) – A healthcare worker who had traveled to Saudi Arabia was confirmed as the first U.S. case of Middle East Respiratory Virus (MERS), an often fatal illness, raising new concerns about the rapid spread of such diseases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

The male patient traveled via a British Airways flight on April 24 from Riyadh to London, where he changed flights at Heathrow airport to fly to the United States. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to an undisclosed city in Indiana.

On April 27, he experienced respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the man visited the emergency department at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, on April 28 and was admitted that same day.

Because of his travel history, Indiana health officials tested him for MERS, and sent the samples to the CDC, which confirmed the presence of the virus on Friday.

The virus is similar to the one that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which emerged in China in 2002-2003 and killed some 800 people. It was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a conference call the first U.S. case of MERS was “of great concern because of its virulence,” proving fatal in about a third of infections.

She said the case represents “a very low risk to the broader general public,” but MERS has been shown to spread to healthcare workers and there are no known treatments for the virus.

Schuchat said the patient was now in stable condition and there are no other suspected cases of MERS at the current time.

The CDC declined to identify the patient by name or say where he was being treated. It also declined to say on which airlines or bus line the patient traveled. Schuchat said the CDC was working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to contact individuals who may have been exposed to the patient during his travels.

In Britain, public health officials said they were contacting any passengers who had been sitting near the patient.

Greg Cunningham, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation, said that the department “has been advised that there is no reason to suspect any risk at O’Hare,” Chicago’s main international airport. “There has only been one incident confirmed to have MERS, and he is hospitalized in Indiana,” he said.

Officials at Community Hospital in Munster confirmed that the man was in good condition, and said the hospital is “maintaining appropriate isolation protocols for the protection of health care staff.”

The hospital, located in northwest Indiana about 30 miles from Chicago, said it has been working with the CDC and the state health department, and will be tracking the health of the patient’s family members and exposed health care workers daily during the next two weeks to check for MERS symptoms.

“This patient was not out in the local community and, therefore, any public exposure was minimal,” the hospital said in the statement.

The hospital stressed that transmission of MERS requires close contact, and said the patient’s activities in the United States have been very limited, reducing the risk of widespread transmission of the virus.

WORKING SURVEILLANCE

Although the vast majority of MERS cases have been in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East, the discovery of sporadic cases in Britain, Greece, France, Italy, Malaysia and elsewhere have raised concerns about the potential global spread of the disease by infected airline passengers.

With the addition of the U.S. patient, 262 people in 12 countries have been confirmed to have MERS infections and have been reported to the World Health Organization. Of those, 93 have died, Schuchat said.

Infectious disease specialists in the United States said that the fact the newest patient was identified quickly showed that disease surveillance was working.

“It was only a matter of time before the United States had a case,” said virologist Dr. W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University in New York. “Most of us thought it was not a question of if, but when. Am I more concerned as a result of this case? No.”

“One case does not represent a reason for panic,” agreed Dr. Wayne Marasco, an infectious disease specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

“But the very fact that we have a virus with documented person-to-person transmission at a fairly efficient rate and a high mortality rate suggests we have a potentially serious pathogen. There are no therapies out there that I’m aware of, but I don’t think we have a very big risk in the United States.”

Marasco suggests that immigration agents should nevertheless be on heightened alert for passengers arriving in the United States after trips to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.

“They should ask, where did you travel? Have you had contact with animals, with anyone who was sick, and do you have a fever or cough?” he said.

Marasco does not believe that thermal scanners such as those China and other countries deployed during the 2003 SARS epidemic would make much of a difference. That’s because the incubation period for MERS is two to 14 days, “so an asymptomatic traveler could make it through a thermal scanner,” Marasco said.

MYSTERY OF TRANSMISSION

The greatest reason for concern is that so little is known about this coronavirus. It has been found in bats and camels, and many experts say camels are the most likely animal reservoir from which humans become infected.

In part, that ignorance is a result of the lack of cooperation between Middle Eastern countries, where MERS has been spreading, and scientists elsewhere. “One of the biggest problems is that we haven’t had any access to samples from Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Qatar despite my efforts,” Marasco said

Now that the United States has a case of MERS, there might be political pressure for that to change, suggested Lipkin, who pointed out that during the SARS epidemic, China was similarly reluctant to cooperate with western scientists.

“Now the U.S. is going to be more interested. I think it will have an impact on the number of scientists here who will be encouraged to work on MERS and congressmen will stand up and rail about the importance of this,” Lipkin said.

For more information follow the source link below.

Source: Reuters

BrainHealth Research Shows Strategic Thinking Strengthens Intellectual Capacity

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Strategy-based cognitive training has the potential to enhance cognitive performance and spill over to real-life benefit according to a data-driven perspective article by the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. The research-based perspective highlights cognitive, neural and real-life changes measured in randomized clinical trials that compared a gist-reasoning strategy-training program to memory training in populations ranging from teenagers to healthy older adults, individuals with brain injury to those at-risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our brains are wired to be inspired,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman,  founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHeath and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair at The University of Texas at Dallas. “One of the key differences in our studies from other interventional research aimed at improving cognitive abilities is that we did not focus on specific cognitive functions such as speed of processing, memory, or learning isolated new skills. Instead, the gist reasoning training program encouraged use of a common set of multi-dimensional thinking strategies to synthesize information and elimination of toxic habits that impair efficient brain performance.”

The training across the studies was short, ranging from 8 to 12 sessions delivered over one to two months in 45 to 60 minute time periods. The protocol focused on three cognitive strategies — strategic attention, integrated reasoning and innovation. These strategies are hierarchical in nature and can be broadly applied to most complex daily life mental activities.

At a basic level, research participants were encouraged to filter competing information that is irrelevant and focus only on important information. At more advanced levels, participants were instructed to generate interpretations, themes or generalized statements from information they were wanting or needing to read, for example. Each strategy built on previous strategies and research participants were challenged to integrate all steps when tackling mental activities both inside and outside of training.

“Cognitive gains were documented in trained areas such as abstracting, reasoning, and innovating,” said Chapman. “And benefits also spilled over to untrained areas such as memory for facts, planning, and problem solving. What’s exciting about this work is that in randomized trials comparing gist reasoning training to memory training, we found that it was not learning new information that engaged widespread brain networks and elevated cognitive performance, but rather actually deeper processing of information and using that information in new ways that augmented brain performance.

Strengthening intellectual capacity is no longer science fiction; what used to seem improbable is now in the realm of reality.”

Positive physical changes within the brain and cognitive improvement across populations in response to strategy-based mental training demonstrate the neuro-regenerative potential of the brain.

“The ability to recognize, synthesize and create the essence of complex ideas and problems to solve are fundamental skills for academic, occupational and real-life success,” Chapman said. “The capacity to enhance cognition and complex neural networks in health, after injury or disease diagnosis will have major implications to preventing, diagnosing and treating cognitive decline and enhancing cognitive performance in youth to prepare them for an unknown future and in middle age to older adults who want to remain mentally robust.”

Source: Center for BrainHealth

Bats confirmed as SARS origin

A team of international scientists has isolated a very close relative of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) from horseshoe bats in China, confirming them as the origin of the virus responsible for the 2002-3 pandemic.

The SARS-CoV pandemic killed 774 people of the 8094 people infected, a case fatality ratio of almost 10 per cent. With cases diagnosed across the world, the pandemic had an impact on international travel and trade.

The research team, led by Professor Shi Zhengli from Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and including CSIRO and Duke-NUS scientist Professor Linfa Wang, have just had their breakthrough results published in the prestigious journal Nature.

The results will help governments design more effective prevention strategies for SARS and similar epidemics.
While researchers globally have previously used genetic sequencing to demonstrate that bats are the natural reservoirs of SARS-like CoVs, this is the first time that live virus has been successfully isolated from bats to definitively confirm them as the origin of the virus.

The team successfully isolated a SARS-like CoV, named SL-CoV WIV1, directly from faecal samples of Chinese Horseshoe bats using the world renowned bat virus isolation methodology developed by scientists at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.

The results will help governments design more effective prevention strategies for SARS and similar epidemics.

Horseshoe bats are found around the world, including Australia and play an important ecological role. Their role in SARS-CoV transmission highlights the importance of protecting the bat’s natural environment so they are not forced into highly populated urban areas in search of food.

This work is part of CSIRO’s ongoing commitment to protect Australia from biosecurity threats posed by new and emerging infectious diseases.

Source: csiro.au

Hospital To Use Microfluid Prototype For Diagnosing Tumors

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Photo: Lucas Laursen

Chemist Emmanuel Delamarche held a thin slice of human thyroid tissue on a glass slide between his fingers. The tissue poses a mystery: does it contain a tumor or not? Delamarche, who works at IBM Research in Zurich, Switzerland, turned the slide around in his hand as he explained that the normal method of diagnosing a tumor involves splashing a chemical reagent, some of which are expensive, onto the uneven surface of the tissue and watching for it to react with disease markers. A pathologist “looks at them under a microscope, and he’s using his expertise, his judgment, and looks at what chemical he used, what type of color he can see and what part and he has to come up with a diagnosis,” Delamarche says, “he has a very, very hard job, OK?”

IBM is already good at precise application of materials to flat surfaces such as computer chips. Human tissue, sliced thin enough, turns out to receptive to the company’s bag of tricks too. Delamarche, turning to one of three machines on lab benches, explained that a few years ago his team began trying to deliver reagents with more precision. University Hospital Zurich will be testing the results over the next few months.

The idea was that instead of a sprawling blot occupying most of a tissue sample, a tiny tube something like an inkjet printer could deliver many droplets onto the tissue. Pathologists might put multiple reagents on a single fingernail-sized tissue sample, saving them the need for more samples and surgery. They might make better-informed diagnoses because the printer-like machine would allow them to control how much reagent to place on the tissue and where it goes. Pathologists could also compare the effects of well-measured doses on suspected cancerous parts. “We are interested in maybe thinking about technology to go from qualitative info to more quantitative information,” Delamarche says.

But that precise delivery of the reagents proved elusive. Some of it spilled outside the target area. In 2011 Delamarche and colleagues announced a vertical microfluidic probe, that unlike previous microfluidic probes was not parallel to the target surface. It consisted of a glass and silicon wafer about one square centimeter with one channel about a micrometer across that shot liquid to the target and another channel that vacuumed up any excess. “The trick, or the invention actually, that we had was to put a second aperture that continuously re-aspirates what we inject,” Delamarche says. Today the team can create spots just 50 micrometers across, though he says the sweet spot for diagnoses may be more like a few hundred micrometers.

The microfluidic machine is part of a trend toward keeping samples put and moving the thing that analyzes them, according to a recent review in Lab on a Chip.

The technology is attractive both to pathologists, such as those at University Hospital Zurich, and to basic researchers, with whom Delamarche and mechanical engineer Govind Kaigala can share a larger, more customizable version in their lab.

Source: IEEE Spectrum