tech

4 Medicine & Science Podcasts to Check Out

Radiolab Radiolab is the holy grail of science podcasts. It’s consistently ranked in the top five on iTunes, and for good reason. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the two-time Peabody Award-winner uses sound effects and music to bring great science reporting to life. Often, Abumrad and Krulwich will invite a guest to talk about the issues and raise questions that you probably hadn’t thought to ask. If you’re interested in listening, check out these two episodes: “Update: CRISPR” and “Radiolab Extra: Henrietta Lacks.” The Show About Science The Show About Science is hosted by a six-year-old—yes, you read that right. Nate Butkus started the show when he was five years old, and he’s serious about science. In each episode, Nate invites a guest to talk about their research. For example, MIT’s Kevin Esvelt recently came on the show to talk about gene editing. The great thing about Nate’s podcast is that guests often explain things as if they were talking to a six year old (which they actually are), and this makes science much easier to understand for listeners. Nate already has the quite the following after 28 episodes—check him out on Ellen: Hidden Brain NPR’s Hidden Brain is one of my favorite podcasts. Host Shankar Vedantam uses a blend of science and storytelling to uncover how our unconscious drives our behavior. Vedantam focuses on large-scope issues such as the...

DNA Bacteria Will Be Your New Hard Drives

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to encode five frames of a vintage motion picture into the DNA Bacteria of E. coli bacteria. By reducing each frame into a series of single-color pixels and matching each color to a DNA code, the scientists were able to string together DNA strands that represented the video frames. Non-biological information has been encoded into DNA before, going back as far as 2003. However, this is the first time living organisms have been used as the message’s vessel. Living organisms are in a constant state of movement and flux, making them less stable and less predictable than the synthetic DNA material used in previous encoding experiments. Even though this technology is in its infancy, the research team was able to retrieve approximately 90% of the original message from the E. coli cells, effectively marking a new milestone in the advancement of our information storage methods. According to the research from Methods and applications, edited by Y.E. Khudyakov and W.A. Fields. 2003, for the US National Library of Medicine: Despite the broadness of the biochemical and medical applicability of artificial DNA presented in this book, some important aspects from a more chemical point of view are missing. These include new synthetic DNA constructs, such as locked DNA (LNA), metal-mediated base pairing (M-DNA), artificial DNA bases with or without hydrogen-bonding capabilities, new DNA base pairs for the extension of the...

Reprogramming Cells to Fight Leukemia

The FDA may soon approve a new cancer therapy that genetically alters a patient’s own existing T-cells to fight leukemia. This new, investigational treatment is known as CTL019 and is a type of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy. CTL019 utilizes a process in which T-cells are carefully harvested from each individual leukemia patient. These patient-specific T-cells are then genetically reprogrammed to express a chimeric CD19 antigen receptor and subsequently transfused back into the specific patient from whom they were originally collected. Once back inside the patient, these reprogrammed T-cells multiply, hunt down, and attack CD19-positive leukemia cells. Click here to read about this FDA update in the NY Times. A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine on Wednesday, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease. If the F.D.A. accepts the recommendation, which is likely, the treatment will be the first gene therapy ever to reach the market in the United States. Others are expected: Researchers and drug companies have been engaged in intense competition for decades to reach this milestone. Novartis is now poised to be the first. Its treatment is for a type of leukemia, and it is working on similar types of treatments in hundreds of patients for another form...

Suffering From Swallowing Disorders? 3D Printing Food Can Help

For those who suffer from swallowing disorders, the options for nutrition are severely limited. In many cases, patients may only tolerate specific textures to ensure adequate nutritional intake and safety. Approximately 1 in 20 Americans have a swallowing disorder, with over 10 million being evaluated for swallowing difficulties each year, according to the National Foundation for Swallowing Disorders. Image: Rainbow 2013-055, Frédérique Voisin-Demery/ CC by 2.0 Speech pathologists generally recommend that patients with dysphagia eat mostly pureed, minced and moist, or soft and bite sized foods, depending on the severity of their condition. Unfortunately, this limits people to foods that may look unappealing, and there is no doubt that eating pureed food all the time can be very boring and repetitive. But the 3D printing industry has a solution – 3D printing food that both looks and tastes appealing. Image: www.wasproject.it  Food created by 3D printers is having a bit of a moment, with restaurants that are incorporating 3D printers into their kitchens, and even some shops and pop-ups serving solely 3D-printed food. However, doctors and speech pathologists envision an entirely different opportunity for 3D-printed food: helping those with dysphagia improve their diet by offering a wider variety of experiences that still suit their condition. Image: Foodink.io By using 3D printers, clinicians see an opportunity to add colors, flavors and an infinite number of ways to present the food at...

How Exactly Does Gene Transfer via AAV Work?

Properly functioning genes within our DNA provide the blueprint for the production of proteins. Mutations affecting those genes can result in proteins with altered or zero function. Using gene transfer techniques might be an effective way to restore function of proteins within cells. Gene transfer can occur via adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors because they can target both dividing and non-dividing cells to correct disease-causing improper protein function. Therapeutic genes loaded inside an AAV can correct defective or missing protein function by injecting the AAV’s therapeutic genetic material to restore function of the proteins. A capsid encases the genetic material of the vector and helps target delivery to specific cells. Once inside the targeted cells, an episome is formed from the vector genome which allows for long-term expression of the therapeutic molecule. AAVs are nonpathogenic and can be administered by intravenous drip or direct injection to target tissues. The unique life cycle of adeno-associated virus (AAV) and its ability to infect both nondividing and dividing cells with persistent expression have made it an attractive vector. An additional attractive feature of the wild-type virus is the lack of apparent pathogenicity. Gene transfer studies using AAV have shown significant progress at the level of animal models; clinical trials have been noteworthy with respect to the safety of AAV vectors. No proven efficacy has been observed, although in some instances, there have been promising observations. In this review, topics in AAV biology are supplemented with...

Skywalker-Inspired Bionic Arm Gives Amputees “A New Hope”

US military veterans Fred Downs and Nardi McCauley lost their arms during service to their country. As participants of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research study, they have become the first individuals to receive the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) LUKE arm system. The LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) bionic arm is a novel robotic prosthesis that attaches to the amputee’s limb and replicates many functions of a human arm with the help of sensors and an easy-to-use controller. This device allows users to control multiple joints simultaneously and performs a variety of grips with adjustable grip forces. This technology was made possible by the Army Research Office and funding assistance from the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC). The working prototypes were designed by the DEKA Research and Development Corporation and built by Mobius Bionics, a commercial-scale manufacturer borne out out of the VA’s development efforts after years of research and testing. US military veterans Fred Downs and Nardi McCauley lost their arms during service to their country. As participants of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research study, they have become the first individuals to receive the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) LUKE arm system. The LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) arm is a novel robotic prosthesis that attaches to the amputee’s limb and replicates many functions of a human arm with the help of sensors and an easy-to-use controller. This device allows users...

When Will Science Fiction Become Science Fact?

What can we expect to see in the next few decades as medicine progresses? Have your favorite science fiction films and medical television shows predicted the future of medicine? You might think that science fiction and movies are just stories. Pie in the sky. But often, ideas for future procedures are dreamt up in the films we call entertainment. Science fiction has officially become science fact. They could be seen as predictions and demonstrations of how medicine and biotechnology might look in the future. Exploring is what humans do best and if these movies are anything to go by, we have some great inventions ahead of us, that aren’t as “pie in the sky” as you might think. In this infographic from GapMedics, we look at some of the movies that could shape medical technology and change the way we live and treat illnesses in the future. Make sure to also check out Yash Pandya’s series of “Movies that Illuminated The Medical Field!” Parts One, Two, and Three! Medicine has intrigued cinema for as far back as we can remember. From the gruesome depictions of surgical procedures to the long struggles against chronic ailments, the medical field is omnipresent in movies. Furthermore, given the current struggles in medicine, including antibiotic resistance and our inability to manage all diseases, a look back is well warranted to put things in perspective and...