The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is where the miraculous meets the impractical. In addition to probing the secrets of the Universe at the subatomic level, it also has potential for a variety of medical applications. Unfortunately, with a circumference of 27 km (16.7 mi) the LHC is so unwieldy that it would be about as practical as using Big Ben for a wristwatch. In the hopes of creating something a bit more useful for the medical fraternity, CERN engineers have come up with a miniature linear accelerator (mini-Linac) that, at 2 m (6.5 ft) long, is small enough to be set up in hospitals for medical imaging and radiotherapy applications.
Researchers at MIT have developed a new material that shows promise for use in ultra-long drug delivery systems, as well as electronic monitoring of the stomach and weight-loss intervention. A type of polymer gel, the material is flexible and pH-responsive, allowing it to reside in the stomach for long periods of time before safety dissolving in the small intestine.
Portable test kits represent an advance in disease diagnosis, as their
ready availability increases chances of earlier detection and treatment.
This type of technology is constantly evolving, and sometimes
inspiration can come from surprising sources. Such is the case with
research carried out by a Swiss team, which has borrowed from the
mechanics behind the firefly's glow to develop a sensitive molecule
Although we've seen "bio-inks" that allow sensors to be drawn directly on a person's skin and other surfaces to gauge things like glucose levels, functional inks such as this are usually heat-sensitive, meaning they aren't suitable for use in inkjet printers. Researchers at Tufts University have now developed silk-based inks containing bacteria-sensing agents that can withstand the rigors of inkjet printing, opening the door much wider for printing biomolecules.
Some of the most difficult types of surgery just got easier and more versatile. A team of engineers and doctors at Vanderbilt University has developed a tiny mechanical wrist that can be used for millimeter-sized incisions and sutures that allow new kinds of operations and less-invasive ways of conducting existing procedures. The wrist is flexible enough that its end can be steered to allow needles to reach inside the nose, throat, ears, urethra, and brain.
People suffering from cataracts aren't exactly flush with options when it comes to restoring their vision. As they grow over time, they start to impede the ability to perform everyday tasks like reading and driving, prompting surgical removal either by scalpel or laser. But new research suggests a less invasive solution might be on the way in the form of a naturally-occurring molecule that can be administered through a simple eye drop.
You might remember the Argus II implant from when it first gained market approval in the US back in 2013. The ambitious prosthesis is back, with researchers now looking to utilize the technology to treat patients with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The effort forms part of a feasibility study, and early results are positive.
The ability of mussels to stubbornly bind themselves to underwater surfaces has intrigued scientists for years. If this ability could be recreated in the lab, it could lead to new adhesives for all kinds of applications. A team of Korean scientists has now developed a surgical glue inspired by these natural wonders that's claimed to be cheaper, more reliable and incur less scarring than existing solutions.
As with every form of the deadly disease, early detection of oesophageal cancer is critical to recovery. The current approach of detecting the cancer through biopsy can be a little hit and miss, so the University of Cambridge's Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald and her team have developed what they claim to be a more accurate tool for early-diagnosis. Billed as "a pill on a string," the Cytosponge is designed to scrape off cells from the length of the oesophagus as it is yanked out after swallowing, offering up a much larger sample for inspection of cancer cells.
Respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema and asthma are extremely prevalent, with more than 35 million sufferers in the US alone. Now, a team from the Weizmann Institute of Science has worked to create a new treatment for repairing damaged lung tissue, using the procedure for bone marrow stem cell transplantation as a template.