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Bioengineers Design Rapid Diagnostic Tests Inspired by Nature

Inexpensive medical diagnostic tests that take only a few minutes to perform

 

By mimicking nature's own sensing mechanisms, bioengineers at UC Santa Barbara and University of Rome Tor Vergata have designed inexpensive medical diagnostic tests that take only a few minutes to perform. Their findings may aid efforts to build point-of-care devices for quick medical diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), allergies, autoimmune diseases, and a number of other diseases. The new technology could dramatically impact world health, according to the research team.

The rapid and easy-to-use diagnostic test consists of a nanometer-scale DNA "switch" that can quickly detect antibodies specific to a wide range of diseases. The research is described in an article published this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Nanoparticles Detect Biochemistry of Inflammation

A non-invasive way of detecting measurable, low levels of hydrogen peroxide and other ROS to provide a viable way to detect inflammation

 

Inflammation is the hallmark of many human diseases, from infection to neurodegeneration. The chemical balance within a tissue is disturbed, resulting in the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide, which can cause oxidative stress and associated toxic effects.

Although some ROS are important in cell signaling and the body’s defense mechanisms, these chemicals also contribute to and are indicators of many diseases, including cardiovascular dysfunction. A non-invasive way of detecting measurable, low levels of hydrogen peroxide and other ROS would provide a viable way to detect inflammation. Such a method would also provide a way to selectively deliver drugs to their targets.

Adah Almutairi, PhD, associate professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Department of NanoEngineering, and the Materials Science and Engineering Program at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues have developed the first degradable polymer that is extremely sensitive to low but biologically relevant concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.

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New White Blood Cell Discovery Reveals Target for Better Vaccine Design

Researchers in Newcastle and Singapore have identified a new type of white blood cell which activates a killing immune response to an external source

 

The discovery provides a new potential target for vaccines for conditions such as cancer or Hepatitis B.

Publishing in the journal Immunity, the team of researchers from Newcastle University in collaboration with A*STAR's Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) describe a new human tissue dendritic cell with cross-presenting function.

Dendritic cells (DCs) are a type of white blood cell that orchestrate our body’s immune responses to infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses, as well as cancer cells. They are also very important for eliciting the immune response generated by vaccines.

DCs kick start an immune response by presenting small fragments of molecules from micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses, or from vaccines or tumours, called antigens on their surface. This leads to activation of another white blood cell subset called T cells, which specialise in killing cells and are crucial for eliminating cancerous or infected cells. Most cells are only able to present antigens from within themselves, and so will only elicit an immune response if they are infected themselves. Only a specialised subset of DCs is able to generate a response to an external source of antigen, for example bacteria, vaccines and tumours.

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