3D Printed Pelvis And Femur Implants For Bone Cancer Treatment

On December 22nd of 2023, a Vietnamese patient underwent hours-long surgery in order to remove part of his pelvis and femur, as per the usual treatment for bone cancer. What was special here was that the bone was replaced with 3D-printed replicas, to restore the shape and function of the parts that were removed. A long time before this surgery, [Mr. Le Dinh Thuan] was diagnosed with lung cancer, for which he received surgery. Yet not long after this surgery it was discovered due to sudden hip pain that the cancer had spread to one hip joint, which is quite uncommon, but requires that the affected bone is removed. This replacement with a prosthetic was a first for cancer treatments in Vietnam. Continue reading “3D Printed Pelvis And Femur Implants For Bone Cancer Treatment”

Simulating Cellular Biology In The Browser

[Technistuff] read a paper about simulating a “minimal” cell — apparently a cell with only 493 genes. This led to a goal: reproduce the simulation in TypeScript so it can run in a web browser. Why? We don’t know, but it is an interesting look at both in-depth biology and how to handle complex simulations. The code is available on GitHub.

For a point of reference, E. Coli has over 4,500 genes. The cell in question — JCVI-syn3A — actually has seven more genes than truly necessary. The data for this bacteria is available from a research lab, again, using GitHub.

Continue reading “Simulating Cellular Biology In The Browser”

DIY Chemistry Points The Way To Open Source Blood Glucose Testing

Every diabetic knows that one of the major burdens of the disease is managing supplies. From insulin to alcohol wipes, diabetes is a resource-intensive disease, and running out of anything has the potential for disaster. This is especially true for glucose test trips, the little electrochemical dongles that plug into a meter and read the amount of glucose in a single drop of blood.

As you might expect, glucose test strips are highly proprietary, tightly regulated, and very expensive. But the chemistry that makes them work is pretty simple, which led [Markus Bindhammer] to these experiments with open source glucose testing. It’s all part of a larger effort at developing an open Arduino glucometer, a project that has been going on since 2016 but stalled in part thanks to supply chain difficulties on the chemistry side, mainly in procuring glucose oxidase, an enzyme that oxidizes glucose. The reaction creates hydrogen peroxide, which can be measured to determine the amount of glucose present.

With glucose oxidase once again readily available — from bakery and wine-making suppliers — [Markus] started playing with the chemistry. The first reaction in the video below demonstrates how iodine and starch can be used as a reagent to detect peroxide. A tiny drop of glucose solution turns the iodine-starch suspension a deep blue color in the presence of glucose oxidase.

While lovely, colorimetric reactions such as these aren’t optimal for analyzing blood, so reaction number two uses electrochemistry to detect glucose. Platinum electrodes are bathed in a solution of glucose oxidase and connected to a multimeter. When glucose is added to the solution, the peroxide produced lowers the resistance across the electrodes. This is essentially what’s going on in commercial glucose test strips, as well as in continuous glucose monitors.

Hats off to [Markus] for working so diligently on this project. We’re keenly interested in this project, and we’ll be following developments closely. Continue reading “DIY Chemistry Points The Way To Open Source Blood Glucose Testing”

British Hospital Blasts Through Waiting Lists By Slashing Surgeon Downtime

It feels like it doesn’t matter where you go, health systems are struggling. In the US, just about any procedure is super expensive. In the UK and Australia, waiting lists extend far into the future and patients are left sitting in ambulances as hospitals lack capacity. In France, staff shortages rage furiously, frustrating operations.

It might seem like hope is fruitless and there is little that can be done. But amidst this horrid backdrop, one London hospital is finding some serious gains with some neat optimizations to the way it handles surgery, as The Times reports.

Continue reading “British Hospital Blasts Through Waiting Lists By Slashing Surgeon Downtime”

An Insulin Injection That Lasts For Days: A New Hope For Diabetics

A major challenge for people who have a form of diabetes is the need to regulate the glucose levels in their body. Normally this is where the body’s insulin-producing cells would respond to glucose with a matching amount of insulin, but in absence of this response it is up to the patient to manually inject insulin. Yet recent research offers the hope that these daily injections might be replaced with weekly injections, using insulin-binding substances that provide a glucose-response rather like the natural one. One such approach was tested by Juan Zhang and colleagues, with the results detailed in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

In this study, the researchers injected a group of diabetic (type 1) mice and minipigs with the formulation, consisting out of gluconic acid-modified recombinant human insulin bound to a glucose-responsive phenylboronic acid-diol complex. The phenylboronic acid element binds more easily to glucose, which results in the insulin being released, with no significant hypoglycemia observed in this small non-human test group. A major advantage of this mechanism is that it is fully self-regulating through the amount of glucose present in the blood.

This study is similar to work by Sijie Xian and colleagues published in Advanced Materials (ChemRxiv preprint) where a similar complex of glucose-sensitive, bound insulin complex was studied, albeit in vitro. With non-human animal testing showing good results for this method, human trials may not be far off, which could mean the end to daily glucose and insulin management for millions in the US alone.

(Top image: Chemical structures of the insulin-DiPBA complex and its functioning. Credit: Sijie Xian et al., 2023)

Mobile Phones And The Question Of Declining Sperm Quality

In a world increasingly reliant on technology, a pressing question arises: can our dependence on gadgets, particularly mobile phones, be affecting our health in unexpected ways? A growing body of research is now pointing towards a startling trend – declining sperm quality in the human population – with mobile phones emerging as a potential culprit.

Recent studies have been sounding the alarm over a noticeable decline in sperm counts and quality across the globe. This decline isn’t just about quantity; it’s about the vitality, motility, and overall health of sperm cells. The implications of this trend are profound, affecting fertility rates and possibly even the long-term viability of populations. The situation is murky and complicated, but new studies suggest that cellular phones could have a role to play.

Continue reading “Mobile Phones And The Question Of Declining Sperm Quality”

In New Doctor’s Office, Stethoscope Wears You

The medical professional wearing a stethoscope is a familiar image, but Northwestern University wants to change that. Instead of someone hanging an ancient device around their neck to listen inside of you, they want to put sticky sensors on patients to continuously monitor sounds from hearts, lungs, and the GI tract.

The tiny devices stick to your skin and wirelessly beam audio to clinicians for analysis. They’ve tested the devices on people ranging from people with chronic lung disease to premature babies. In fact, you can hear breath sounds (and crying) from a microphone attached to a baby in the video below. The device uses noise suppression to remove the crying sounds effectively.

Continue reading “In New Doctor’s Office, Stethoscope Wears You”