Technology and Health News
All kinds of interesting tech and health news from around the World!
A study in the Lancet suggests the existence of a correlation between certain drugs and a slight increase in the risk of developing cancer.
For now it is only a hypothesis to be investigated, but according to a study published in Lancet Oncology, there may be a link between a small increase in the possibility of developing cancer and the use of certain drug receptor blockers (ARBs), commonly used worldwide to treat high blood pressure, heart attacks and kidney problems caused by diabetes. A team of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (Cleveland, USA) found an increased risk of cancer 1, 2 percent in patients taking medicines ARB compared with control groups.
The research examined a series of studies published before November 2009 on clinical trail drug ARB analyzing total cases of more than 60,000 patients. The analysis took into account several types of cancer, including prostate, breast and lung.
"Overall - the researchers said - the results show that patients treated with this type of antihypertensive drugs, which work by blocking the receptors for angiotensin, a hormone that increases blood pressure, seem to have a higher risk of developing cancer than those taking other drugs or placebo. Percentages are by 7.2 percent in the first case and 6 percent in the control groups.
The study did not reveal any connections details regarding the use of ARB and mortality in subjects who had been diagnosed with cancer, although, as noted by the authors, the follow up of patients may not be long enough to reveal exactly the mortality rate associated with the ARB. Concerning the incidence of cancer in organs, the only significant increase was observed for the lung: 0.9 percent in patients treated with ARB, against 0.7 percent in others.
Small transistosr as small as a single molecule. The creators of this technology, researchers at Yale University in Connecticut, and the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, show that one of the limits to miniaturization of electronic devices - represented in fact by the transistor - may soon be overcomed.
Transistors are the basic elements of integrated circuits: they control the flow of current between two electrodes (called "source" and "well" or "discharge") by changing the voltage applied to third electrode ( "gate" or "gate") . The aim of nanotechnology has long been the construction of a transistor in which the electrodes are separated by a single molecule in which the electrons to flow.
This is not the only way to explore the possibility of linking to a molecule, but only the first - in which the current was successfully controlled by varying the energy of molecular orbitals, ie the "cross" on which run its electrons. Organic molecules seem the ideal candidate, but so far nobody has been able to work circuits so small.
To build their transistor, the researchers placed on a layer of aluminum oxide coated with gold threads of benzene, an organic molecule, and later broke the golden threads by creating micro-fractures. In the most fortunate cases, in a micro-fracture can remain trapped one molecule of benzene. In this way, the researchers recreated a micro-transistor, where the ends of the wires were broken once in the spring, the other shaft, aluminum oxide made by hand at the base gate. In this way, the molecule of benzene has become the electrical junction between the electrodes of the micro-transistors.
The particles of cobalt-chromium can cause DNA damage even if they do not come physically into contact with the cells.
The nano-particles manage to damage the DNA of cells protected by a barrier made up of cellular membranes, without physically entering into contact with the cell, but rather through a multitude of chemical signals.
This was found in a study coordinated at the Bristol Implant Research Center, proving that it brings out a new risk associated with nanotechnology, but also the opportunity to exploit this behavior in an innovative way.
Nano-particles are now widely used. In surgery, for example, are an integral part of prostheses and implants. The research conducted so far on the risks of nanoparticles, however, relates mainly to the effects of direct exposure, while very little is known about what can cause the indirect exposure. In the new study, researchers have wondered if a barrier device was able to protect cells from the effects of nano-particles consisting of chromium and cobalt in the tissues of the clothes and orthopedic implants. The researchers interposed a barrier between nanoparticles formed out of multilayer chromium-cobalt (in quantities thousands of times greater than those with whom we come in contact normally) and a culture of human fibroblasts (connective tissue cells).
Although nano-particles have not managed to cross the membrane, the fibroblasts had DNA mutations which were ten times more than the control fibroblasts. According to scholars, the effect is due to chemical signals between the cell membrane and fibroblasts. If the lines of communication between them are broken, the rate of DNA damage returned to normal.
This study researched killing cancer cells with nano-magnets, with the same principle as a microwave oven.
The study of nano-particles applied to biomedicine continues to give interesting results, as research is still in its infancy. Through their work, the chemists from the university of Cagliari are now investigating some of the possibilities opened by this field. One is to use magnetic particles to convey the drugs only to the diseased cells, the other is to drive up the tumor and then force them to oscillate under the control of a variable magnetic field, thereby heating the target cells, just like a microwave oven does with the water molecules contained in food.
This second mechanism exploits hyperthermia. It appears that cancer cells can be destroyed by beeing brought to a temperature of 42.5 degrees Celsius for about half an hour.
In order arrive at the place desired, the particles must be incorporated into liposomes, hollow microspheres formed by lipid bilayers (for which reason they are called "magneto-liposomes"), which are able to overcome the barrier of cells. They must have a diameter of about 20 nanometers. Larger could indeed block blood vessels, while smaller particles may be "eaten" by macrophage cells which are in charge with the elimination of foreign bodies.
Currently, the research team is working on the synthesis of particles and study of their structural and magnetic properties. Currently these are being built in oxide of iron or iron cobalt. The latter are more manoeuvrable, because their magnetic properties depend strongly on the direction along which the field is applied to (property known as magnetic anisotropy).
Can we act on stopping the process of infection, without the risk to develop strains resistant to antibiotics ?
Small molecules that interrupt the chemical signals by which bacteria communicates by blocking the process of infection have been identified. The discovery, published in Molecular Cell, as well as representing a new option in the treatment of infections, reduces the risk of growth of bacteria strains resistant to antibiotics.
Bacteria will exchange information with a system of intercellular communication, called quorum sensing, which allows them to perceive and respond to changes in density and to coordinate actions of the group. As soon as the conditions are favorable to population growth, for example if they are within a host, the bacteria sends chemical signals to molecules that bind to receptors inside: LuxR-type proteins or proteins of the type LuxN, located on membrane of each cell. In this way the infection proceeds without hitches. "
Blocking the communications of the enemy has always been a winning weapon. The researchers searched the key to succeeding, and found in an old acquaintance. In a previous study Bassler and colleagues had discovered that a class of molecules called lactose acilomoserina (AHL), is able to compete with the signals acting on LuxN proteins, preventing them from binding to the receptor. In the recent study, researchers have realized that the AHL can also bind to proteins of the LuxR type.
In this way was brought into light the AHL the ability to bind to both receptors, although the two proteins have two completely different structure and location mechanisms.
Cancer threatens the conservation of some wild species because it represents one of the top causes of death. This was also recently featured on the Discovery Channel.
Cancer affects some animals with the same effect as in human beings, and could be the cause of extinction of some wild species. The researchers say the Society of Preservation of Fauna and Flora of New York have found an increase in cancer cases in wild animals in recent years.
According to their findings, published in Nature Reviews Cancer, the species most affected are those at risk of extinction, like the Tasmanian devil, a small marsupial carnivore, already decimated in the late nineties by a rare form of transmissible cancer (the devil facial tumor).
The cause is unknown, but it has been shown that malignant cells are able to spread among the samples and through bites during fights. To save the species, biologists are now isolating infected animals in zoos or reserves.
Denise McAloose and Alisa Newton, authors of the study, have investigated the possible causes of cancer in different species, and have found a correlation between cancer and pollution. For example, for the living beluga in the estuary of the St. Lawrence River (Canada), a form of bowel cancer is the second leading cause of death. The culprit could be an organic compound (a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon that is found in oil, but also in municipal waste), already known to be carcinogenic for our species.
Italian researcher Alessandra Luchini wins the first edition of "The Prize Award” with a paper of a system to identify those molecules that signal the presence of a tumor (tumor markers) that are beyond the traditional methods of investigation.
To do this requires making a hydrogel containing certain microscopic nano-spheres that once inserted in the samples of blood taken for analysis diagnostic trap some markers and protect them from deterioration.
"These nano-spheres, made of the same plastic as hydrated soft contact lenses are equipped with special molecules that, once in the blood, snap-specific tumor markers and incorporate them. In this way, they protect them from enzymes that would otherwise deteriorate them. Usually blood tests fail to identify precisely because these markers are destroyed prematurely, " says researcher Alessandra Luchini.
"The beauty of this system," says the researcher, "is that it does not need very sophisticated tools, which is simple and economical: with one hundred U.S. dollars we can make nano-spheres for more than two hundred patients." The new method is not going to replace the standard, but acts at a stage prior to analysis by providing a better quality.
Small robots that walk on water like insects? The kitchen table, the walls of a room or the arms of an armchair that are self-cleaning? Two phenomena that Xiao Cheng Zeng, a professor of chemistry at University of Nebraska in Lincoln (USA), considers possible in the near future, and based on the same characteristic: super hidrofobia.
Thanks to the computational performance of the super computer of the Riken Institute in Japan, the researcher is able to reproduce the conditions that give the area the property is to "roll" away the drops of water.
In nature this phenomenon is observed on the bristles of caterpillars or on lotus flowers, and allows insects that often are seen on ponds slip skate on water. As the authors of the study reported the caterpillars or insects skaters get the super hydrophobia surface through a "two-tier" surface which means a waxy base on which there are microscopic structures like hair, often covered in turn by smaller "hair".
These gradients decrease the surface area in contact with the drop of water. The result is that the drop rolls instead of sliding, as it would be a hydrophobic surface.
Twenty years after the first partially successful attempt to cold fusion, a new experiment seems to have reopened the hopes of obtaining nuclear reactions at low energy (LENR low-energy nuclear reactions).
This was announced by a team of researchers led by Pamela Mosier-Boss of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego (California), with a study presented at the annual meeting of American Chemical Society, the first visible evidence of the production of neutrons, the particles subatomic whose presence demonstrates the atomic reaction occurred.
It was 1989 when Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons showed that it has obtained experimentally the Cold Fusion, arousing great outcry in the scientific community. Fusion is the reaction that takes place inside of stars, their source of energy, able to reproduce in the laboratory at room temperature this process would be an amazing achievement.
Further research then disappointed initial expectations: the rare attempts (for example, those of 2000 and 2002) to reproduce the results of 1989 and have not convinced the path of nuclear reaction at low energy has not proved viable as an alternative to "clean" nuclear fission, which is based on the common operation of nuclear power.
The use of an organic material has been put in place a structure capable of transmitting data at rates eight times higher than those of traditional devices .
The study of materials capable of transmitting data at ever higher speeds is the constant challenge of the technology of optical communications. The use of a new organic material, tested by a team of U.S. and European research coordinated by Ivan Biaggi of Lehigh University (United States), has enabled to achieve data transfers much higher than that obtained so far with traditional devices.
The novelty lies in the combination of structures in silicon with organic material, identified by the initials Ddmebt . This is essentially a kind of "nonlinear" device, able to change its molecular structure to the passage of light, making it propagate at high speed. To minimize interference with the passage of data, researchers have vaporized the organic material and the deposit left on the rails of silicon and in the spaces between them. In this way, explain the authors, the molecules are deposited "like snowflakes", forming a highly homogeneous plastic. It is precisely in the interstices between the rails of silicon, filled with new material, that the light passes at high speed, allowing you to transmit data up to 170 Gigabit per second (with the traditional structures, which consist only of silicon, you can reach a maximum speed around 20-30 Gigabit per second). Combining silicon with an architecture was needed to channel and confine the flow of light within very small spaces (the guide of silicon is separated by a few tens of nanometers).