With the pandemic dominating the news cycle and social media posts around the clock, it’s easy to fall into a gloomy-and-doomed situation. So here’s something to catch you straight from it, even when you’re at a social distance, wash your hands a lot and keep a mask nearby for excursions. We found examples of good news on the health front, especially for aging issues.
Reprogrammed mouse cells resemble human ear hair cells
Hair cells in the inner ear, so-called because of their hair-like protrusions that sense sound waves, are crucial for hearing. They are also easily damaged by loud noises, such as all these loud decibel concerts. While these cells are currently impossible to repair in humans, researchers at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, have reprogrammed various mouse cell types into what they call induced hair cell-like cells. The reprogrammed cells are similar to the real thing. If all goes well with the research, the cells will hopefully be valuable in the near future for testing against drug candidates to prevent or treat hearing loss, the researchers say. Studying these cells can also help experts understand how the hair cells are damaged in the first place, perhaps leading to ways to undo the damage.
“Lab-on-a-Chip”; to find cancer
Cancerous tumors release chemicals and other substances into our bloodstream, and these clues can help detect the disease early. University of Kansas researchers study a “lab-on-a-chip” blood test. About the size of a glass microscope lens, the device, called EV-CLUE, works by taking a very small amount of blood from the person and pumping it into eight small channels in the device that can detect various cancer markers, says Liang Xu, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular life sciences at the University of Kansas. For example, one of the channels is looking for an enzyme linked to cancer progression. In early tests, the device detected breast cancer or early-stage cancer that had spread 97% of the time. “Clinical trials [of the device] for lung cancer has begun, says Xu.
Helps worn knees with supergel
Anyone with bad knees knows: when the cartilage that cushions the joints goes, it can really, really hurt. Now, Duke University researchers have developed what they say is a first – a cartilage-like gel that is strong enough for the knees. If all goes well with its development, “our hydrogel can eventually be used to resume cartilage in most joints, such as the knee, hip, foot, finger, toe, shoulder,” says researcher Benjamin Wiley, MD, professor of chemistry at Duke University. The hydrogel is a very tough solid, he says, so it must be incorporated into an implant that attaches the hydrogel to the bone. They work with it. And even if it is an implant, the goal is to insert it in a simple, quick procedure, he says. Its properties, he says, make it an excellent candidate to replace damaged cartilage.
To catch diabetes-related eye problems, save vision
If diabetes is not well controlled, high blood sugar can lead to damage to the tissue in the back of the eye, the retina … and it can lead to blindness. Early detection and treatment can prevent blindness, but not everyone has easy access to an ophthalmologist, especially among the minority populations who are often more likely to develop diabetes. Researchers have suggested using smartphones to take pictures of the changes in the retina to get problems early. Now Indian and German researchers say they are developing an app that allows healthcare professionals to use a smart phone to document changes in the retina and then transfer the information to an ophthalmologist for evaluation.
Hear questions? Diabetes? Common questions? Brain Health? Sight? Which area of physical health is most valuable or interesting to you, and why? Let us know in the comments so we can keep track of developments – and tell you when there are Good news!
Photo: Gary Binder