In what is being touted as the most complex and complete face transplant ever performed, a crew of medicos at New York University's (NYU) Langone Medical Center has replaced the entire face of 41-year-old Patrick Hardison, a volunteer firefighter who suffered catastrophic burns while on duty in 2001. The team replaced Patrick's scalp, ears and ear canals, parts of bone in the chin and cheeks, and his entire nose. He also received new eyelids and the muscles that control them.
According to the World Health Organization, somewhere between 130 and 150 million people around the globe suffer from chronic hepatitis C infection. As the virus is usually asymptomatic it can go undetected in its early stages, giving rise to complications such as liver damage and cirrhosis. Screening for the virus is possible, but is neither straightforward nor widely accessible, as it involves taking a blood sample and two separate lab tests. But researchers have now developed a one-step test that can detect hepatitis C using only a urine sample, promising to boost the availability of diagnosis and efforts to curb the virus around the world.
Prebiotic compounds that promote the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, can be traced back billions of years to their origins in the primordial goo – a rich soup of compounds from which all organic life on Earth is theorized to have begun. Now, scientists at Australia's CSIRO have discovered just how good a rich broth of these early molecules may be at improving the acceptance of implanted medical devices in the human body.
Although peripheral devices now allow smartphones to serve as everything from weather stations to eye-examiners, it's typically thought that genuine purpose-built tools still perform best. In the case of stethoscopes, however, that may not be the case. Researchers with Florida-based Orlando Health recently determined that HeartBuds – a new stethoscope device/app – performed as well as traditional stethoscopes, and better than a commonly-used disposable model.
Bandages are important for stopping germs from entering a wound and making things worse, but could they play a more active role in making things better? New research has brought the idea of wound-healing dressings closer to reality by establishing a method of electrical stimulation that kills off the majority of multi-drug resistant bacterium commonly found in difficult-to-treat infections.
The blood-brain barrier is an almost impenetrable membrane that surrounds vessels in the brain and stops harmful particles from entering. The trouble is that it doesn't discriminate, at the same time making it very difficult for beneficial molecules like medication to pass through. But researchers have now non-invasively breached the barrier for the first time in a human subject, delivering chemotherapy drugs to a brain cancer patient with a high level of precision and paving the way for improved treatments and fewer side effects for sufferers of neurological disorders.
Being a surgeon is a pretty high-stress job, and relies heavily on surgical assistants for things like setting clamps and holding tools. Researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute are looking to lighten the load a little, by developing a metal hand that lets surgeons more directly control what's happening on the operating table.
Detecting cancer early is difficult enough at the best of times, but the problem is compounded in developing countries where patients don't always have access to advanced diagnostics equipment. A team of UK-based scientists has developed a new tool that could greatly assist those taking the fight to cancer in these regions. Billed as a lab-in-a-briefcase, the low-cost, portable diagnostics tool works similarly to a pregnancy test and can detect cancer biomarkers in as little as 15 minutes.
Combining cornstarch with volcanic ash clay to create a plastic for bone grafts could make the surgical process of bone replacement much simpler in the future. Researchers say the material could replace the need to remove bone from another part of a patient's body, or to use donor cadaver bones that are limited in supply.
Of the hundreds of million people around the world that suffer from diabetes, a sizeable portion need to subject themselves to daily insulin injections. But a more palatable way of keeping blood glucose levels in check may be on the way, with scientists developing a patch that attaches to the intestinal wall and releases the hormone after being swallowed in the form of a capsule.