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Synthetic Blood Via Artificial Cells And Platelets From Stem Cells

There’s hema­tology news, times two (at least):

1. Progress in devel­oping syn­thetic red blood cells

A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill research group has created hydrogel par­ticles that mimic the size, shape and flex­i­bility of red blood cells (RBCs). The researchers used PRINT® (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) tech­nology to gen­erate the fake RBCs, which are said to have a rel­a­tively long half-life. The findings were reported on-line yes­terday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (abstract available, sub­scription required for full text). According to a PR-ish but inter­esting post on Futurity, a website put forth by a con­sortium of major research uni­ver­sities, tests of the par­ticles’ ability to perform func­tions such as trans­porting oxygen or car­rying ther­a­peutic drugs have not yet been conducted.

Developing com­petent, arti­ficial RBCs is a hematologist’s holy grail of sorts, because with that you might alle­viate anemia without the risks of transfusion.

2. Progress in using human stem cells to gen­erate lots of platelets

In an exciting paper pub­lished today in Cell Research, inves­ti­gators stim­u­lated human embryonic stem cells to become platelet-producing cells, called megakary­ocytes. According to the article (open-text at Nature PG), the platelets were pro­duced in abun­dance, appeared typical and clotted appro­pri­ately in response to stimuli in vitro. The researchers injected them into mice, used high-speed video microscopy for imaging, and demon­strated that the stem cell-derived human platelets con­tributed to clot for­mation in mice, in vivo (i.e., they seem to work). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

Kids With Dyslexia: Predicting Their Reading Skills With MRI

An international team of researchers has developed a rather reliable test that predicts the future improvement of reading abilities in kids with dyslexia. The method uses functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) to scan the brain, and data crunching software to interpret the data. The researchers hope that the finding will help parents and therapists uniquely identify which learning tools are best for each child.

From the announcement by Vanderbilt University :

The 45 children who took part in the study ranged in age from 11 to 14 years old. Each child first took a battery of tests to determine their reading abilities. Based on these tests, the researchers classified 25 children as having dyslexia, which means that they exhibited significant difficulty learning to read despite having typical intelligence, vision and hearing and access to typical reading instruction.

During the fMRI scan, the youths were shown pairs of printed words and asked to identify pairs that rhymed, even though they might be spelled differently. The researchers investigated activity patterns in a brain area on the right side of the head, near the temple, known as the right inferior frontal gyrus, noting that some of the children with dyslexia activated this area much more than others. DTI scans of these same children revealed stronger connections in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus, a network of brain fibers linking the front and rear of brain. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Medical Journal Retractions: A Transparency Issue

Interesting case study raised by the Retraction Watch blog.

A 2009 journal article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – promoted in a news release by the journal and picked up by many news organizations — has now been retracted by the authors. But the journal issued no news release about the retraction — an issue of transparency that the RW blog raises. And you can guess how much news coverage the retraction will get.

And this was all over a molecule that could supposedly “make breast tumors respond to a drug to which they’re not normally susceptible” — as the RW blog put it. But it was also a molecule, RW points out, that wasn’t even in clinical trials yet.

He or she who lives by the journal news release risks one’s long-term credibility.

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Can Vocal Analysis Help Detect Autism Early?

Identifying autistic kids as early as possible is very important so that appropriate clinical interventions and upbringing can have the most beneficial effect.

Now a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that analyzing the unique signature of children’s pre-speech vocalizations can be a pretty good way to identify potential cases of autism. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

First In-Vivo Gene Delivery Mastered?

While gene therapy has always seemed just on the verge of being right around the corner, the limitation has always been delivery of the gene. How do you get the new gene to the right cells and activated?

An in-vivo mice study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) may take us closer to a usable delivery system. Rui Maeda-Mamiya of the University of Tokyo and others were able to get diabetic mice to increase their insulin levels after delivery of a insulin 2 gene by a water-soluble fullerene. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

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