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Medical

In Africa, the spread of parasitic worms known as Loa loa is seriously hindering the efforts of health care workers to cure particular rampant diseases. Though there are drugs available to treat both river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, if they are administered to a patient who also happens to also be infected with Loa loa the consequences can be lethal. This is complicated further by the inherent difficulties in screening for the worms, but a newly developed mobile phone microscope needing only a drop of blood to automatically detect the parasite promises to make things a whole lot simpler.

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Had bioprinting been around in Vincent van Gogh's day, he would have had to do something more dramatic to express his inner torment than cutting off his ear – American startup BioBots has been demonstrating that he could have easily just 3D-printed a new one.

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In order to conduct electrical signals from the skin, the electrodes on heart rate monitors need to be slightly moist. That's why gel is first applied to patients' skin. Unfortunately, that gel dries up within 24 hours. Now, however, scientists from Switzerland's Empa research institute are developing a solution – a self-moistening heart rate-monitoring chest strap, for use in situations where electrocardiograms (ECGs) need to be recorded over a period of several days.

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A key battleground in the fight against cancer has been the development of vaccines to stop tumors taking hold. These are intended to kick the body's own immune system into action to fend off the cancerous cells, with immunotherapy drugs for melanomas, prostate and lung cancer all emerging in recent years. But one hurdle oncologists are yet to tackle with any great success is a vaccine for breast cancer. New research now suggests this mightn't be all that far away, with the discovery that loading cancer antigens into silicon microparticles serves to greatly boost the immune response.

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Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed and tested a molecule that has the ability to disrupt the body's regulation of cancer cells, causing the cells to self-destructing rather than multiply. The method was found to be effective when tackling dormant brain cancer cells that existing treatments are ineffective at eradicating.

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A natural enzyme called catalase may prove hugely significant in treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson's. These extremely potent antioxidants can tackle neuron-killing inflammation with an effectiveness unparalleled by small molecule drugs. But there's a problem, they are big. So big that getting them through the blood-brain barrier for delivery straight to the brain is nearly impossible. But researchers have now discovered that loading them into tiny, naturally occurring bubbles allows them to sneak past the brain's defenses, pointing to the possibility of improved treatments for such conditions.

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When it comes to donated blood, type O is special. It can be given to anyone, regardless of their blood type. By contrast, type A can only go to A or AB patients, and B can only go to B or AB patients. Additionally, type O patients can only receive O. Thanks to new research, however, it may soon be possible to give anyone whatever type of blood happens to be available, with no ill effects. Read More
When a vein or artery gets seriously blocked, a common course of action involves replacing it with part of another blood vessel harvested from elsewhere in the patient's body. While 3D-printed and lab-grown blood vessels show promise as alternatives, scientists from the Vienna University of Technology and Vienna Medical University have developed another option – polymer fabric vessels that transform into biological ones, once implanted. Read More
And so the emerging value of smartphones as a tool for diagnosing various medical conditions continues to grow. Recent advances have raised the possibility of using phones to detect ailments like ear infections, cervical cancer, HIV and syphilis. Now, researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have created an app they claim can detect sleep apnea with similar accuracy to available methods, potentially removing the need for expensive equipment and overnight hospital stays. Read More
A new study suggests that RTS,S/AS01, the prime candidate for a malaria vaccine and the first one to reach large-scale clinical testing, is partially effective especially among young African children for a period of up to four years after vaccination. The vaccine could potentially prevent millions of cases of clinical malaria, particularly in areas of high transmission like sub-Saharian Africa, and in the age group in which malaria is known to be the most lethal. Read More
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