HOLOLENS PROJECT ENABLES COLLABORATION AMONG SURGEONS WORLDWIDE

By Deborah Bach

One day in mid-December, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bruno Gobbato walked into an operating room in Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil, put on a HoloLens 2 mixed-reality headset and prepared for surgery.

Joining him remotely were fellow surgeons Professor Thomas Gregory, who was tuning in from Paris, and Dr. John Erickson, who is based in New Jersey. Gobbato’s patient had a collarbone fracture that hadn’t healed properly, so Gobbato needed to reposition the bone and perform a shoulder arthroscopy, which involved inserting a small camera into the joint to try to determine what was causing the man’s shoulder pain.

Gregory and Erickson were linked to Gobbato’s headset via the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist app and shared his field of view on their computer screens through Microsoft Teams. They could see the patient and the holographic images Gobbato generated from a CT scan, one showing the patient’s damaged clavicle and another replicating his healthy clavicle. The three surgeons on three continents discussed how to approach the procedure, conferring on each step and sharing their respective approaches.

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New realm of personalized medicine with brain stimulation

Research represents a major step forward in achieving new therapies for a whole host of neurological and mental disorders. Credit: Cornelia LI

Millions of patients suffering from neurological and mental disorders such as depression, addiction, and chronic pain are treatment-resistant. In fact, about 30% of all major depression patients do not respond at all to any medication or psychotherapy. Simply put, many traditional forms of treatment for these disorders may have reached their limit. Where do we go from here?

Research to be published in Nature Biomedical Engineering led by Maryam Shanechi, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Early Career Chair in electrical and computer engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, paves the way for a promising alternative: personalized deep brain stimulation. The work represents a major step forward in achieving new therapies for a whole host of neurological and mental disorders.

Until now, the challenge of personalized deep brain stimulation has been the human brain itself. Mental disorders can manifest differently in each patient’s brain. Similarly, whether and how each patient’s brain activity and their symptoms will respond to stimulation can be very different. This makes it difficult to know the effect of stimulation in a given patient or how to change the dose of stimulation—that is, its amplitude or frequency—over time to tailor it to a patient’s needs.

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New gene therapy to delay ageing, extend lifespan

Scientists in Beijing have developed a new gene therapy which can reverse some of the effects of ageing in mice and extend their lifespans, findings which may one day contribute to similar treatment for humans.

The method, detailed in a paper in the Science Translational Medicine journal earlier this month, involves inactivating a gene called kat7 which the scientists found to be a key contributor to cellular ageing.

The specific therapy they used and the results were a world first, said co-supervisor of the project Professor Qu Jing, 40, a specialist in ageing and regenerative medicine from the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

“These mice show after 6-8 months overall improved appearance and grip strength and most importantly they have extended lifespan for about 25 per cent,” Qu said.

The team of biologists from different CAS departments used the CRISPR/Cas9 method to screen thousands of genes for those which were particularly strong drivers of cellular senescence, the term used to describe cellular ageing.

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‘Virtual biopsies’ could replace tissue biopsies in future thanks to technique developed by Cambridge scientists

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Illustration of a patient with a pelvic tumour. a Routine contrast-enhanced CT images were used to manually segment the pelvic tumour (dashed line). b Spatial radiomic feature extraction and generation of habitat maps. For this patient, three tumour habitats are feasible and highlighted in blue, red, and green, respectively. c The left figure shows the US image with the co-registered CT-based tumour segmentation (dashed line). The right figure shows the CT scan overlaying the US plane, with the habitat maps highlighted in colour. The US images correspond to a different plane orientation with respect to panels a and b Credit: University of Cambridge

A new advanced computing technique using routine medical scans to enable doctors to take fewer, more accurate tumour biopsies, has been developed by cancer researchers at the University of Cambridge. This is an important step towards precision tissue sampling for cancer patients to help select the best treatment. In future the technique could even replace clinical biopsies with ‘virtual biopsies’, sparing patients invasive procedures.

The research published in European Radiologyshows that combining computed tomography (CT) scans with ultrasound images creates a visual guide for doctors to ensure they sample the full complexity of a tumour with fewer targeted biopsies.

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Team paves the way for growing human organs for transplantation with new proof-of-concept

by University of Maryland

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Bhanu Telugu, UMD. Credit: Edwin Remsberg, UMD

In a new paper published in Stem Cell Reports, Bhanu Telugu and co-inventor Chi-Hun Park of the University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Animal and Avian Sciences show for the first time that newly established stem cells from pigs, when injected into embryos, contributed to the development of only the organ of interest (the embryonic gut and liver), laying the groundwork for stem cell therapeutics and organ transplantation. Telugu’s start-up company, Renovate Biosciences Inc. (RBI), was founded with the goal of leveraging the potential of stem cells to treat terminal diseases that would otherwise require organ transplants, either by avoiding the need for transplants altogether or creating a new pipeline for growing transplantable human organs. With the number of people who suffer from organ failures and the 20 deaths per day in the U.S. alone purely from a lack of available organs for transplant, finding a new way to provide organs and therapeutic options to transplant patients is a critical need. In this paper, Telugu and his team are sharing their first steps towards growing fully transplantable human organs in a pig host.

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Scientists Reverse the Aging Clock: Restore Age-Related Vision Loss Through Epigenetic Reprogramming

By HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL 

Advanced Vision Technology Concept
  • Proof-of-concept study represents first successful attempt to reverse the aging clock in animals through epigenetic reprogramming.
  • Scientists turned on embryonic genes to reprogram cells of mouse retinas.
  • Approach reversed glaucoma-induced eye damage in animals.
  • Approach also restored age-related vision loss in elderly mice.
  • Work spells promise for using same approach in other tissues, organs beyond the eyes.
  • Success sets stage for treatment of various age-related diseases in humans.

Harvard Medical School scientists have successfully restored vision in mice by turning back the clock on aged eye cells in the retina to recapture youthful gene function.

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Energy-generating synthetic skin for affordable prosthetic limbs and touch-sensitive robots


by University of Glasgow

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A new type of energy-generating synthetic skin could create more affordable prosthetic limbs and robots capable of mimicking the sense of touch, scientists say.

In an early-view paper published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics, researchers from the University of Glasgow describe how a robotic hand wrapped in their flexible solar skinis capable of interacting with objects without using dedicated and expensive touch sensors.

Instead, the skin puts the array of miniaturized solar cells integrated on its soft polymer surface to a clever dual use. The cells generate enough energy to power the micro-actuators which control the hand’s movements, but they also provide the hand with its unique sense of ‘touch’ by measuring the variations in the solar cells’ output.

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Scientists reverse age-related vision loss, eye damage from glaucoma in mice

by Ryan Jaslow , Harvard Medical School

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Harvard Medical School scientists have successfully restored vision in mice by turning back the clock on aged eye cells in the retina to recapture youthful gene function.

The team’s work, described Dec. 2 in Nature, represents the first demonstration that it may be possible to safely reprogram complex tissues, such as the nerve cells of the eye, to an earlier age.

In addition to resetting the cells’ aging clock, the researchers successfully reversed vision loss in animals with a condition mimicking human glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness around the world.

The achievement represents the first successful attempt to reverse glaucoma-induced vision loss, rather than merely stem its progression, the team said. If replicated through further studies, the approach could pave the way for therapies to promote tissue repair across various organs and reverse aging and age-related diseases in humans.

“Our study demonstrates that it’s possible to safely reverse the age of complex tissues such as the retina and restore its youthful biological function,” said senior author David Sinclair, professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at HMS and an expert on aging.

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Human aging process biologically reversed in world first

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The ageing process has been biologically reversed for the first time by giving humans oxygen therapy in a pressurised chamber.

 Scientists in Israel showed they could turn back the clock in two key areas of the body believed to be responsible for the frailty and ill-health that comes with growing older.

As people age, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes – called telomeres – shorten, causing DNA to become damaged and cells to stop replicating. At the same time, “zombie” senescent cells build up in the body, preventing regeneration.

Increasing telemere length and getting rid of senescent cells is the focus of many anti-ageing studies, and drugs are being developed to target those areas.

Now scientists at Tel Aviv University have shown that giving pure oxygen to older people while in a hyperbaric chamber increased the length of their telomeres by 20 per cent, a feat that has never been achieved before.

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Scientists 3D Bioprint a hybrid tissue construct for cartilage regeneration

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Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine scientists (WFIRM) have developed a method to bioprint a type of cartilage that could someday help restore knee function damaged by arthritis or injury.

This cartilage, known as fibrocartilage, helps connect tendons or ligaments or bones and is primarily found in the meniscus in the knee. The meniscus is the tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in the knee joint. Degeneration of the meniscus tissue affects millions of patients and arthroscopic partial meniscectomy is one of the most common orthopedic operations performed. Besides surgery, there is a lack of available treatment options.

In this latest proof-of-concept strategy, the scientists have been able to 3D bioprint a hybrid tissue construct for cartilage regeneration by printing two specialized bioinks – hydrogels that contain the cells – together to create a new formulation that provides a cell-friendly microenvironment and structural integrity. This work is done with the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System, a 3D bioprinter that was developed by WFIRM researchers over a 14-year period. The system deposits both biodegradable, plastic-like materials to form the tissue “shape” and bioinks that contain the cells to build new tissues and organs.

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Nanobiologic approach trains the innate immune system to eliminate tumor cells

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A groundbreaking new type of cancer immunotherapy developed at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai trains the innate immune system to help it eliminate tumor cells through the use of nanobiologics, tiny materials bioengineered from natural molecules that are paired with a therapeutic component, according to a study published in Cell in October.

This nanobiologic immunotherapy targets the bone marrow, where part of the immune system is formed, and activates a process called trained immunity. This process reprograms bone marrow progenitor cells to produce “trained” innate immune cells that halt the growth of cancer, which is normally able to protect itself from the immune system with the help of other types of cells, called immunosuppressive cells.

This work for the first time demonstrates that trained immunity can be successfully and safely induced for the treatment of cancer. The research was performed in animal models, including a mouse model with melanoma, and the researchers said it is being developed for clinical testing.

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Scientists create artificial, ‘living aneurysm’ outside the human brain in extraordinary first

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 For the first time, researchers have 3D printed a ‘living’ model of an aneurysm outside the body, using human brain cells. The breakthrough could one day assist brain surgeons in both training and high-risk decision-making.

An aneurysm occurs when a bulge or bubble develops at a weak point in a given blood vessel, which can take place in the heart or brain. The weakened wall can eventually rupture, with catastrophic and life-threatening consequences for the patient.

Given the highly sensitive and delicate areas in which aneurysms take place, they are often extremely difficult to both find and treat.

As a potential solution, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), including scientists from Duke University and Texas A&M, have created an external, artificial replica which mimics the particular environment in which aneurysms occur.

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