Tag: biomedical engineering

Bioethics Blogs

Tumor Scanner Promises Fast 3D Imaging of Biopsies

Caption: University of Washington team that developed new light-sheet microscope (center) includes (l-r) Jonathan Liu, Adam Glaser, Larry True, Nicholas Reder, and Ye Chen.
Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington

After surgically removing a tumor from a cancer patient, doctors like to send off some of the tissue for evaluation by a pathologist to get a better idea of whether the margins are cancer free and to guide further treatment decisions. But for technical reasons, completing the pathology report can take days, much to the frustration of patients and their families. Sometimes the results even require an additional surgical procedure.

Now, NIH-funded researchers have developed a groundbreaking new microscope to help perform the pathology in minutes, not days. How’s that possible? The device works like a scanner for tissues, using a thin sheet of light to capture a series of thin cross sections within a tumor specimen without having to section it with a knife, as is done with conventional pathology. The rapidly acquired 2D “optical sections” are processed by a computer that assembles them into a high-resolution 3D image for immediate analysis.

The microscope was developed in the engineering lab of Jonathan Liu at University of Washington, Seattle. Liu got the idea after receiving an email from Nicholas Reder, a medical resident in the university’s pathology department. Reder noted that when pathologists examine a tumor specimen under a conventional analog microscope, they must first prepare the sample. That involves the laborious process of taking a thick piece of tissue, slicing it into smaller pieces for embedding in wax before cutting them again into a few paper-thin sections suitable for mounting on traditional glass slides.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Should Getting High be a Possible Treatment for Depression?

By Maria Paula Martinez

This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.

Maria Paula Martinez is a student of a joint degree program majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University and Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. She is 20 years old and originally from Bogota, Colombia.
What if instead of the traditional and usually ineffective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to treat depression, we could provide patients with a drug that directly mimics the effects of serotonin, the “happiness neurotransmitter”? Not only have such compounds been around for over a millennium, but they are the active ingredients in psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms. A scientific paper released in The Lancet Psychiatry this past May opened the possibility for compounds like psilocybin, the active ingredient of “shrooms”, to potentially treat depression. A group of researchers in the Imperial College of London were able to give psilocybin to 12 patients with depression who had unsuccessfully tried at least two different treatment types and had suffered from depression for an average of 17.8 years. The results of this preliminary study were astonishing. Not only did all patients show significant improvements after a single week of treatment, but the remission rate was double that of patients given SSRIs in a three-month treatment period (Cormier, 2016). Even though these are only preliminary results, it seems there is little control over how the media decides to portray these results, and what is likely to happen when these news articles reach the hands of patients with depression is not promising.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Successful Launch of the 2nd Edition Global Bioethics Summer Program in Manhattan, NYC 2016!

Interested in getting involved in bioethics? Join Global Bioethics Initiative’s summer program organized annually in Manhattan, NYC and Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we discuss controversial issues such as embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, gene therapy, human genetic engineering, organ trafficking, euthanasia, and human enhancement.

Our notable faculty and eager participants are exceptional, with complex multicultural backgrounds, educations, and experience. Over the past couple of days in Manhattan, we have enjoyed lectures and film screenings during the week and field trips on the weekend.

Here are some testimonials from the international participants of our Manhattan session, July 11-18, 216.

“As a Biomedical Engineer working in research at a university in Bogota, Colombia, I have experience both in structuring, reviewing and presenting research proposals. I decided to attend the Global Bioethics Initiative Summer Program to inform myself about current bioethical issues facing the scientific community, so that I could apply that knowledge to my own work in order to make better informed decisions. The program has far exceeded my expectations. The diversity of the lecturers and the other participants both in their professional backgrounds and cultural diversity allows for so much insight. We have had lecturers speak to us about topics ranging from human stem cell culture to in-vitro fertilization to forced human organ trafficking. The expertise of those involved has allowed me to grow personally, and the networking opportunities have been priceless. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us in this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Luis Martinez, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, Bogota, Hospital Universitario La Samaritana

“I was motivated to attend the Global Bioethics Initiative Summer School in Manhattan because of my desire to expand my knowledge of the bioethical issues that surround us.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

June 2016 Newsletter

Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI) is dedicated to fostering public awareness and understanding of bioethical issues, and to exploring solutions to bioethical challenges.
Through its events and activities, which include annual summer schools on global bioethics, GBI seeks to keep the international community, policy decision-makers, the media, and the general public aware of important bioethical issues which is essential for making informed decisions and fostering public debate. Using various platforms, we at GBI are able to promote our motto “Doing bioethics in real life!”.
GBI is an active member of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and enjoys a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the UN’s central platform for debate, reflection, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.
Check out our new website here.
Upcoming Events
Call for Applications Deadline Extended:
Bioethics Summer Programs 2016

What would you prefer this summer?

The multicultural and sparkling life of New York City or the lovely Pearl of the Adriatic (Dubrovnik)?

Click on Apply Here below for more information, or simply reply to this email!

Students may intern with GBI during the summer of 2016 as well as attend the summer programs.

Partial Scholarships for low-income country residents & Continuing Medical Education credits are available

Manhattan, NYC – July 11-22, 2016
Extended Deadline: July 5The registration fees are 100% tax deductible
Apply Here
Dubrovnik, Croatia – August 5-14, 2016
Deadline: July 10
Apply Here
Rita Charon, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Director of Program of Narrative Medicine; Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center
Honoring the Stories of Illness
When:
Thurs, July 21, 6:00 – 7:15pm
A cocktail reception will follow, TBDWhere:
New York Society for Ethical Culture – Ceremonial Hall
2 West 64th Street (at Central Park West)
New York, NY 10023
RSVP to Ana Lita
Phone: 212-687-3324 | Fax: 212-661-4188
alita@globalbioethics.org

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Worcester Polytechnic Institute Team Awarded Patent for Reprogramming Skin Cells

May 25, 2016

(Eurekalert) – The novel method, developed by WPI faculty members Raymond Page, PhD, professor of practice in biomedical engineering, and Tanja Dominko, PhD, DVM, associate professor of biology and biotechnology, is described in U.S. Patent number 9,290,740, titled “Use of basic fibroblast growth factor in the de-differentiation of animal connective tissue cells,” which was issued on March 22, 2016. The technology enables adult human connective tissue fibroblasts (cells from skin or other tissues), which were previously thought to have a very limited lifespan outside of the body, to be cultured and replicated for long periods. It further causes those cells to express genes and proteins typically associated with stem cells, thereby demonstrating that the cells are in a less differentiated state. Notably, this technology works without inserting viruses or foreign genes into the cells.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

LabTV: Curious about Pancreatic Cancer

Growing up in Blacksburg, VA, Lindsey Brinton was constantly asking her parents how everything worked. She took this expansive natural curiosity with her to the University of Virginia, where she earned undergraduate degrees in French literature and biomedical engineering. Now a Ph.D. candidate at UVA in the lab of Kimberly Kelly—and the subject of our latest LabTV video—Brinton is posing interesting questions about pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, in part, because it often spreads early and is diagnosed too late. Brinton’s research is focused on the cells that surround the tumor, the so-called stroma, and on the risk of metastasis. She wonders whether these cells display unique targets on their surface that, once discovered, can be exploited to kill the tumor cells. It’s certainly challenging research. Failures far outnumber successes. But as Brinton points out, endurance, perseverance, and keeping your eye on the big picture can lead to success.

Her curiosity and positive perspective inform Brinton’s advice to those interested in a career in science. She says, “It’s important to … allow yourself many experiences in different fields in order to figure out one that you’re really passionate about.” Brinton speaks from experience, having worked as an undergrad in labs involved in systems biology and modeling traumatic injuries before turning to pancreatic cancer. She’s learned that, if passion is driving your research, it helps you overcome the challenges that research presents: “If you find what you’re passionate about, you’ll succeed.” Here’s wishing her every success!

Links:

LabTV

Kelly Lab (University of Virginia, Charlottesville)

Science Careers (National Institute of General Medical Sciences/NIH)

Careers Blog (Office of Intramural Training/NIH)

Scientific Careers at NIH

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

LabTV: Curious about Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis

If you like sports and you like science, I think you’ll enjoy meeting Avery White, an undergraduate studying biomedical engineering at the University of Delaware in Newark. In this LabTV profile, we catch up with White as she conducts basic research that may help us better understand—and possibly prevent—the painful osteoarthritis that often pops up years after knee injuries from sports and other activities.

Many athletes, along with lots of regular folks, are familiar with the immediate and painful consequences of tearing the knee’s cartilage (meniscus) or anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Most also know that such injuries can usually be repaired by surgery. Yet, many people aren’t aware of the longer-term health threat posed by ACL and meniscus tears: a substantially increased risk of developing osteoarthritis years down the road—in some individuals, even as early as age 30. While treatments are available for such post-traumatic osteoarthritis, including physical therapy, pain medications, and even knee-replacement surgery, more preventive options are needed to avoid these chronic joint problems.

White’s interest in this problem is personal. She’s a volleyball player herself, her sister tore her ACL, and her mother damaged her meniscus. After spending a summer working in a lab, this Wilmington, DE native has grown increasingly interested in the field of tissue engineering. She says it offers her an opportunity to use “micro” cell biology techniques to address a “macro” challenge: finding ways to encourage the body to generate healthy new cells that may prevent or reverse injury-induced osteoarthritis.

What’s up next for White? She says maybe a summer internship in a lab overseas, and, on the more distant horizon, graduate school with the goal of earning a Ph.D.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Bionic Pancreas for Type 1 Diabetes

Ed Damiano and son David

Caption: Boston University researcher Ed Damiano with his son David, who has type 1 diabetes, in 2002.
Credit: Toby Milgrome

From taking selfies to playing Candy Crush, smart phones are being put to a lot of entertaining uses. But today I’d like to share an exciting new use of mobile health (mHealth) technology that may help to save lives and reduce disability among people with type 1 diabetes—an advance inspired by one researcher’s desire to help his son.

By teaming a smart phone with a continuous glucose monitor and two pumps designed to deliver precise doses of hormones, a team from Boston has created a bionic pancreas that appears to control blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes more effectively than current methods. That is a significant achievement because if blood glucose levels are either too high or too low, there can be serious health consequences.

In a healthy body, the pancreas masterfully regulates blood glucose levels by orchestrating the secretion of insulin and another hormone, called glucagon, which raises blood glucose. These hormones work together like an automatic thermostat, raising and lowering blood glucose when appropriate. However, in type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, leading to increased levels of glucose that gradually damage blood vessels, kidneys, and nerves, raising the risk of blindness and amputations.

To prevent such damage, people with type 1 diabetes must receive supplemental insulin. Yet if people with diabetes take too much insulin, don’t eat properly, or experience physical or mental stress, their blood glucose levels may drop too low—a condition called hypoglycemia that may cause seizures or even death.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Lab-Grown Muscle Bundles: A Glimpse of the Future?

Muscle fibers

Caption: Engineered muscle fibers are stained with red and green dyes that recognize particular protein markers. The yellow color results from a combination of red and green. The blue dots are cell nuclei.
Credit: Duke University

When you do a hard workout at the gym, or run a marathon, you generate lots of little tears in muscle. This is usually not a problem and may even lead to improved muscle strength—because the injury activates stem cells in the muscle (called satellite cells) that replicate and form new muscle fibers to repair and rebuild the damaged tissue. But when injuries extend beyond the normal wear and tear—a major injury or resection, for example—this amazing self-healing system isn’t enough. That’s when a self-healing, lab-grown muscle transplant would be particularly useful—but we haven’t yet been able to create this in a dish.

But NIH-funded researchers at Duke University in Durham, NC, have now taken a significant step in that direction. They isolated satellite cells from the muscles of rats, genetically engineered them with marker proteins, surrounded them with a special nutrient rich hydrogel, and grew them in small cylindrical molds for two weeks. The result was an elongated bundle of muscle fibers that spontaneously twitched. When stimulated with electric pulses, the muscle bundle contracted—just like real muscle. And, it turned out to have about the same strength as the muscles in a newborn rat.

To test the healing properties of their engineered tissue, the researchers destroyed part of the muscle bundle with a component of snake venom, and waited.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.