Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Disease

Aedes aegypti, the #1 disease vector for dengue fever (Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, publ...

War, plague, famine, heart disease, cigarettes, road trauma: six very effective killers of human beings. But they're all amateurs when their records are compared to the number one mass murderer of all time. The humble mosquito, and the deadly diseases it carries, is estimated to have been responsible for as many as 46 billion deaths over the history of our species. That staggering number is even more frightening in context - it means that mosquitoes are alleged to have killed more than half the humans that ever lived. So if any species deserves the full wrath of human technology, this is the one. And here, it seems, is how we might take our revenge - genetically modified strains of mosquito that are designed to cripple their own offspring and systematically destroy entire populations. And these mutant, auto-genocidal mozzies are already loose in the wild.  Read More

Star Syringes' K1 Auto Disposable syringe can only be used once, to reduce the spread of d...

In these days of reducing, reusing and recycling, it may seem strange that anyone would be going out of their way to make a potentially reusable product disposable. It all makes sense, however, when that product is a syringe. According to the World Health Organization, every year approximately 1.3 million people die worldwide, due to diseases contracted through the reuse of syringes. Part of this can be chalked up to needle-sharing by users of illicit intravenous drugs, but much of it is due to health care workers (particularly those with little training or in impoverished conditions) using the same syringe to inoculate multiple patients. If a syringe simply ceases to function after one use, however, reusing it is impossible. That’s the idea behind Star Syringes’ K1 Auto Disposable syringe.  Read More

In many parts of the world the absence of sanitary waste disposal is not just inconvenient...

Whatever you call it - lavatory, privy, latrine, crapper, loo or dunny - most of us take the humble toilet for granted. But in many parts of the world the absence of sanitary waste disposal is not just inconvenient, it can cause deadly diseases such as hepatitis, dysentery, trachoma, typhoid and cholera. Enter Marc Deshusses, a Duke University environmental engineer who has envisioned an innovative yet simple waste disposal system designed specifically for Third World countries that can be constructed from everyday items. Now, as part of a broad ranging project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Deshusses has received $100,000 to perfect and test the system in the laboratory before producing a prototype to field-test in 18 months time.  Read More

A new technique uses light to differentiate between healthy (top) and misshapen (bottom) r...

Ordinarily, red blood cells should look like a disc with a medium-sized dimple on the top and bottom. If that dimple is either too large or too small, it can indicate the presence of a disease such as sickle cell anemia or malaria. Pathologists traditionally have had to examine blood samples under a microscope, manually looking for these misshapen cells. A new technique developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, however, uses light to automatically detect such cells within seconds.  Read More

During the first 15 years of the Tobacco Control Program in California, which cost in the ...

In the past decade a line has been drawn in the sand in most major cities. Tax revenues from cigarettes are higher than ever, and most bars and restaurants no longer allow smoking within their confines. The days of smoking being the social norm are quickly turning into times when those lighting-up are viewed as an outcast minority, and when it comes to quitting, the evidence is clear that it's not just the smokers themselves who stand to benefit.  Read More

Five skeletal remains from the East Smithfield site (Photo: Museum of London)

It's hard to comprehend the impact of the Black Death. The "Great Pestilence" is believed to have originated somewhere in Northern Asia in the 1330s before hitting Europe in 1347. It killed an estimated 75 million people worldwide - that's around 25 per cent of all humans in existence at the time. Now in an effort to better understand modern infectious diseases, scientist have sequenced the entire genome of the Black Death.  Read More

Dr Iain White analyzes the constituents of medical student Tom Geliot's breath in the DDU

While Star Trek-style multifunctional medical "tricorders" are still in the realm of sci-fi, scientists at the University of Leicester and Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) in the UK may be making the first tentative steps toward making them a reality. The researchers are developing a holistic high-tech diagnostic unit designed to quickly detect the "sight, smell and feel" of disease in real time without the need for invasive and time-consuming procedures. Much of the technology being used was originally developed for space research, atmospheric chemistry and emergency medicine.  Read More

The pseudoceratinapurpurea sea sponge has a naturally-occurring chemical that blocks compo...

Psammaplin A is a naturally occurring chemical found in the sea sponge that has been found to block several components that are involved in the growth and division of cancer cells. Dr Matthew Fucher and his team at Imperial College London have developed a new, and inexpensive way of manufacturing psammaplin A, and is using synthetic variations of the chemical to better understand its anti-cancer properties, which will help them in future efforts to create anti-cancer drugs.  Read More

Immune cells, tagged with green fluorescent protein, are surrounded by nanoparticles (red)...

Vaccines work by exposing the body to an infectious agent in order to prime the immune system to respond quickly when it encounters the pathogen again. Some vaccines, such as the diphtheria vaccine, consist of a synthetic version of a protein or other molecule normally made by the pathogen, while others, such as the polio and smallpox vaccines, use a dead or disabled form of the virus. However, such an approach cannot be used with HIV because it's difficult to render the virus harmless. MIT engineers have now developed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria, and could even help scientists develop vaccines against cancer.  Read More

Satellite image using what is known as the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) to show plant c...

Directly tracking disease-carrying mice from space would seem to be a tall order – and even without knowing the full capabilities of military satellites, I suspect the ability to do so is still a couple of years off yet. But researchers at the University of Utah have come up with an indirect way of tracking rodents by using satellite images to monitor surges in vegetation that boost mouse populations. Such a method could help forecast outbreaks of rodent-borne illnesses worldwide by allowing the creation of risk maps that show when and where outbreaks are likely to occur.  Read More

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