A cure for HIV may soon be on the way as researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA, are nearing a breakthrough by targeting infected cells that could be lying dormant in the body.
In a study published in the journal Nature Communications this week, researchers improved upon a method originally developed in 2017 to kill hidden HIV-infected cells using cells that are naturally produced by the body’s immune system.
The advance brings scientists one step closer to controlling or even eradicating the virus, which attacks the body’s immune system.
“These findings show proof-of-concept for a therapeutic strategy to potentially eliminate HIV from the body, a task that had been nearly insurmountable for many years,” Jocelyn Kim, the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “The study opens a new paradigm for a possible HIV cure in the future.”
Globally, 38 million people are currently living with the deadly virus, and an estimated 36 million have died of AIDS-related diseases since the 1980s, according to UNAIDS. Over time, HIV can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition.
People diagnosed with HIV typically take antiretroviral medication to keep the virus at bay, but the HIV still has the ability to elude antiretrovirals by lying dormant in cells called CD4+ T cells.
UCLA researchers’ recent findings build on a strategy designed in 2017 called “kick and kill.” During that study, mice whose immune systems had been altered to mimic those of humans were infected with HIV and given antiretroviral drugs.
After a synthetic compound was administered to activate the mice’s dormant HIV, researchers observed that up to 25 per cent of the previously dormant cells died within 24 hours.
This time around, researchers used the same compound to “flush HIV-infected cells out of hiding,” before injecting “healthy natural killer cells” into the mice’s bloodstream. In 40 per cent of the infected mice, HIV was completely cleared.
According to Kim, her team’s next objective is to develop an approach that eliminates HIV in 100 per cent of the mice they tested in further experiments.
“We will also be moving this research toward preclinical studies in nonhuman primates with the ultimate goal of testing the same approach in humans,” she said.
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Miniaturized Ultrasound Scanner Could Help Detect Breast Cancer Earlier
A wearable ultrasound scanner that could help detect breast cancer earlier – and thus improve survival rates – has been developed by a research team headed up at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women, with around 2.3 million new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2020. When caught in its early stages, the survival rate is nearly 100%, but this drops to 25% among patients whose tumours are detected at a late stage. Regular self-checks and mammograms can help secure positive outcomes.
However, in the UK, an estimated 39% of women do not regularly check their breasts for the signs of cancer – which can include shape changes, lumps or swelling.
On the screening front, notes surgical oncologist Tolga Ozmen of the Massachusetts General Hospital, “One of the main obstacles in imaging and early detection is the commute that people have to make to an imaging centre.” Yet even when people do undergo regular mammograms, breast tumours can still sneak up between screenings. These “interval cancers” make up 20–30% of all breast cancer cases, and their tumours tend to be more aggressive than those found during routine scans.
Galvanized by the death of her aunt – who was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer at 49, despite regular check-ups – MIT engineer Canan Dagdeviren set about designing an easy-to-use device that could enable more frequent and even at-home screening.
“My goal is to target the people who are most likely to develop interval cancer,” explains Dagdeviren. “With more frequent screening, our goal is to increase the survival rate to up to 98%.”
To realize this vision, Dagdeviren, Ozmen and colleagues developed a miniaturized ultrasound scanner using a novel piezoelectric material fashioned into a phased array. The scanner fits inside a small tracker that’s inserted into a flexible, 3D-printed patch with a honeycomb-like pattern. The tracker can be moved along a path in the patch to provide imaging from six different positions, together affording coverage of the entire breast.
The whole set-up is worn by attaching the patch, via magnets, to a special bra containing openings where the scanner can contact the skin. The researchers note that the device, which they describe in Science Advances, does not require any special expertise to operate.
“We changed the form factor of the ultrasound technology so that it can be used in your home. It’s portable and easy to use, and provides real-time, user-friendly monitoring of breast tissue,” Dagdeviren explains.
To demonstrate the scanner’s potential, the team tested it on a 71-year-old patient with a known history of breast cysts. The wearable enabled the researchers to detect the cysts, which were as small as 3 mm in diameter, the same scale as early-stage tumours. Furthermore, the researchers report, the device achieved a resolution comparable to that of traditional ultrasound systems used in medical imaging centres and could image tissue to a depth of 8 cm.
At present, the scanner has to be connected to a traditional imaging system for its data to be visualized. However, the researchers are developing a miniaturized version – about the size of a smartphone – to add to their scanner. Other developments being planned include the integration of artificial intelligence-powered diagnostics and adaptation of the ultrasound technology for use on other parts of the body.
Sheng Xu – a materials scientist from the University of California San Diego who was not involved in the present study, but is also working on conformable ultrasound patch designs – called the device “impressive”. He adds: “The tracker in the bra could help standardize the ultrasound imaging procedure and minimize operator dependency, which plagues conventional ultrasound technology.”
Researchers demonstrate the positioning of the wearable BraCoil
Wearable coil vest could change the game in breast MRI
“This would be of great benefit to individuals and health services alike,” agrees biophysicist Jeff Bamber of the Institute of Cancer Research, who says that in the UK, pressure on imaging services in hospitals has helped generate waiting lists that are millions of patients long. Bamber notes that the low profile needed for wearables makes it difficult to build ultrasound transducer arrays without compromising on image quality.
He adds: “This group has incorporated single crystal piezoelectric array technology with advanced doping of the crystal, as used in modern conventional ultrasound probes. The result is good electromechanical coupling, good sensitivity and wide bandwidth, enabling them to achieve relatively good image quality to practically useful imaging depths.”
“With further development to produce images of diagnostic quality, the potential for use in home monitoring would be considerable,” Bamber tells Physics World.
. Physics World
Israeli Doctors Reattach Boy’s Decapotated Head
Israeli doctors have performed a miraculous feat of reattaching a boy’s head after he suffered internal decapitation in a road accident.
According to The Times of Israel, a 12-year-old Palestinian named Suleiman Hassan, suffered a serious injury in which his skull got detached from the top vertebrae of his spine- officially known as a bilateral atlanto occipital joint dislocation.
Hassan was riding his bike when he was hit by a car. He was brought to Hadassah Medical Center and was immediately operated upon via surgery in the trauma unit.
Dr. Ohad Einav, an orthopedic specialist led the operation which took several hours. He informed that the doctors used “new plates and fixations in the damaged area.”
“Our ability to save the child was thanks to our knowledge and the most innovative technology in the operating room,” said Einav as quoted by New York Post.
As per the doctors, Hassan’s head was “almost completely detached from the base of his neck” in what is known as an internal decapitation. The operation actually happened in June but doctors revealed about it only now.
Meanwhile, Hassan was discharged with a cervical splint and doctors will continue to monitor his recovery.
“The fact that such a child has no neurological deficits or sensory or motor dysfunction and that he is functioning normally and walking without an aid after such a long process is no small thing,” said Einav.
“This is not a common surgery at all, and especially not on children and teens. A surgeon needs knowledge and experience to do this,” he explained.
Israel’s TPS news agency quoted Hassan’s father as thanking the doctors: “Bless you all. Thanks to you, he regained his life even when the odds were low and the danger was obvious.”
“What saved him were professionalism, technology and quick decision-making by the trauma and orthopedics team,” said the father.
Dangers Of Consuming Carbide-ripened Fruits – NAFDAC
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has listed the dangers of consuming fruits ripened by chemicals such as carbide.
According to the Director-General of The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof Mojisola Adeyeye the consumption of fruits ripened with calcium carbide may cause damage to the heart, kidney and liver.
Adeyeye also said fruits ripened with calcium carbide have the tendency to cause cancer, frequent thirst, irritation in the mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcer.
The NAFDAC boss spoke on Tuesday at the official take-off of the agency’s media sensitisation workshop on the dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbides.
She said the ripening of fruits with carbide is a public challenge and the agency has deployed a multifaceted approach to tackle the menace.
“Fruits provide the body with micronutrients that improve immunity and prevent diseases among other benefits. Fruit ripening is a unique aspect of plant development, which makes the fruit edible, softer, sweeter, more palatable, nutritious, and attractive.
“However, the consumption of fruits such as mango, banana, plantain, guava, orange, grape, etc, or any other fruits ripened with calcium carbide is dangerous to health.
“Fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, but the inside remains unripe. You can identify such artificially ripened fruits if you notice that the fruits are all yellow whereas the stem is dark, this is true, especially with bananas and plantains.
“In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly,” she said.
Adeyeye noted that the artificial ripening of fruit quality leads to a large loss of properties such as colour, taste and feel, and such practice does not give the natural aroma and flavour to the fruits.
“These fruits do not possess uniform colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have a comparatively shorter shelf life. Calcium Carbide when sprayed with water reacts chemically to produce acetylene, which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process,” she said.
“Calcium carbide generally contains impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus and others that pose several very serious health hazards. Consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure. They may also cause frequent thirst, irritation in the mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcer and so forth. Higher exposure may cause undesired fluid build-up in the lungs.
“Acetylene produced by calcium carbide affects the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia. The impurities are hazardous to pregnant women and children and may lead to headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids, sleepiness, seizure, and others.”
She continued the clarifications by saying that calcium carbide is alkaline in nature and erodes the mucosal tissue in the abdominal region and disrupts intestinal functions.
“Consuming such artificially ripened fruits could result in sleeping disorders, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, kidney problems and possibly even cancer. Other symptoms of poisoning include diarrhoea, burning or tingling sensation in abdomen and chest difficulty in swallowing, irritation in eyes, and skin, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, and numbness”, she reiterated.
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