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Bioinformatics - personalized medicine

Harvard researchers the first to 3D print an organ-on-a-chip

Researchers at the Harvard Wyss Institute were the first to 3D print an organ-on-a-chip resembling a human heart which can be used to test drugs. The organ-on-a-chip has integrated sensors that automates the collection of data from the device, making it easier and more precise to measure its performance. This new method allows for the automated and mass production of organs-on-a-chip, leading to faster drug screening. Its 3D printing system can also be programmed to print other organs-on-a-chip such as the lung, gut, vascular system and more. The Wyss team plans to print 10 organ-on-a-chips and connect them to simulate the human body. 

Key Takeaway: 

Researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute have produced the first 3D printed organ-on-a-chip, a heart chip, with a system that can lead to the mass production of other organs-on-a-chip, resulting to faster screening of drugs without the need to test on animals or humans.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
October 27, 2016

Portable system makes therapeutics on demand

MIT researchers have developed a portable microbioreactor that can produce therapies on demand. Such a system could prove useful and cost effective in very remote areas as well as military missions. The device which holds cells inside uses genetically modified yeast which can express certain therapeutic proteins when mixed with a specific chemical that is fed into the system. When the next therapy is to be produced, the device simply flushes out the liquid from the system while retaining the cells in time for the new chemical to be filled in and the succeeding therapy to be developed. The microbioreactor makes use of a microfluidic chip and optical sensors to monitor oxygen and acidity. The researchers are also exploring combining multiple therapeutics in one system. The work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Key Takeaway: 

A portable system from researchers at MIT is able to produce small doses of therapies on demand, which cuts the cost of making medicines in large quantities and the need to transport them to remote areas as well as combat missions.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
July 29, 2016

Medical microbots could release drugs inside the body

Scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH Zurich have developed biocompatible microbots that can be controlled by electric fields and used to deliver drugs and other treatments in the body. The bots are soft, flexible, without motors and look like tiny microbes measuring 500 micrometers wide. They are made of polymers, hydrogels and iron oxide, which enable them to be magnetically responsive to electric fields. They can also change shape while inside the body, responding to temperature changes produced by lasers. At 40 degrees Celsius, the microbots could flatten out, for example, to release carried drugs to the bloodstream. Such microbots can enable highly-targeted treatments like drug delivery, cancer cell targeting, and also conduct microsurgery such as removing blockage in arteries, without harming healthy tissues. The researchers reported their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Key Takeaway: 

EPFL and ETHZ scientists have produced microbots made of biocompatible materials and can be maneuvered with electric fields that could one day be used to administer drugs to the body as well as perform microsurgeries.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
July 27, 2016

Irish researchers work on AI, bioinformatics, next gen batteries and more

Irish researchers are conducting major advancements in the fields of AI, autonomous vehicles, next gen batteries, bioinformatics and others. Researchers from Trinity College are building naturally conversant artificial intelligence that learn from the social interactions of humans. The CAR Group from NUI Galway is creating algorithms for autonomous vehicles that monitor not just road conditions but even the health condition of drivers as they drive. The University of Limerick is developing nano-sized anodes that can enable smaller and lighter batteries in the future for electric vehicles and mobile computing. Roy Sleator from the Cork Institute of Technology is programming microbes in the colon to battle infections that could also be used to treat cancer. Brian Corbett from the Irish Photonic Integration Centre is advancing optogenetics to study how brain cells get stimulated and measure their responses. Dublin City University's work on organs-on-a-chip will test the effect of mycotoxins on organs. Lastly, a team at CRANN is working on sustainable and stable materials for perovskite solar cells

Key Takeaway: 

Researchers in Ireland are developing naturally conversant artificial intelligence, a new battery design for lithium ion, programmable microbes to combat diseases, and many other innovations that could positively impact people's lives in the future.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
July 16, 2016

Scientists discover genetic mutations behind breast cancer

An international team of scientists have discovered and published the first complete list of genetic mutations that cause breast cancer. The team studied the genomes of 560 breast cancer cases and identified 93 that when mutated turns a normal breast cell into a cancer cell. Moreover, they discovered that just 10 genes are behind 60% of breast cancer mutations. Some mutations are rare and in small percentage. The list can enable research institutions, pharmaceutical companies and biotech firms to develop drugs that target specific mutations or proteins behind the mutations to cure certain types of breast cancer. The researchers also published in their research the 12 causes of breast cancer mutations. By profiling individual cancer genomes, personalized cancer therapies can also emerge that would be more effective to treat the cancer.

Key Takeaway: 

A team of scientists have identified the 93 genetic mutations that could alter normal breast cells into cancer cells, the first such list to be published potentially bringing more cures for specific breast cancer types.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
May 2, 2016

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