None of us are getting any younger, but now a pill that reverses ageing could be on the shelves as soon as 2020 as researchers make a ‘revolutionary’ step forward in anti-ageing technology.
The revolutionary drug has caught the attention of NASA as they hope to defend Mars-bound astronauts against the effects of radiation.
After successfully being used on mice the researchers believe it could be tested on humans within six months.
ll cells in the human body have an innate capability to repair DNA damage, but this ability to do so declines as we age, meaning we become more susceptible to dangerous mutations that cause disease.
But the team at the University of New South Wales has identified a critical step in the molecular process and a key metabolite, NAD+, which has a central role as a regulator in protein-to-protein interactions that control repair to our DNA.
Treating mice with a NAD+ booster called NMN improved their cell’s ability to repair DNA damage caused by radiation exposure or old age in just one week of treatment.
Lead scientist Professor David Sinclair said: “This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well.
“The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment.”
NASA are interested in this development because of it’s potential in protecting astronauts against radiation. Even on short missions, astronauts experience accelerated ageing from cosmic radiation, suffering from muscle weakness, memory loss and other symptoms when they return.
On a trip to Mars, the situation would be far worse, as 5% of the astronauts’ cells would die and their chances of cancer would approach 100%.
Cosmic radiation is not only an issue for astronauts. We’re all exposed to it when we fly. It is estimated that a London-Singapore-Melbourne flight has roughly the radiation equivalent to a chest X-ray.
By: Huffpost Tech, UK
Scientists have solved fundamental problems that were holding back cures for rare hereditary disorders. Next we’ll see if the same approach can take on cancer, heart disease, and other common illnesses.
When Kala Looks gave birth to fraternal twin boys in January 2015, she and her husband, Philip, had no idea that one of them was harboring a deadly mutation in his genes.
At three months old, their son Levi was diagnosed with severe combined immune deficiency, or SCID, which renders the body defenseless against infections. Levi’s blood had only a few immune cells essential to fighting disease. Soon he would lose them and have no immune system at all.
Kala and Philip frantically began sanitizing their home to keep Levi alive. They got rid of the family cat, sprayed every surface with Lysol, and boiled the twins’ toys in hot water. Philip would strap on a surgical mask when he came home from work.
At first, Kala and Philip thought their only option was to get Levi a bone marrow transplant, but they couldn’t find a match for him. Then they learned about an experimental gene therapy at Boston Children’s Hospital. It was attempting to treat children like Levi by replacing the gene responsible for destroying his immune system.
“I thought, this isn’t real,” Kala says. “There’s no way this could work.”
Nonetheless, the Lookses flew from their home in Michigan to Boston in May 2015. Days later, Levi got an infusion of the therapy into his veins. He has been a normal boy ever since—and he has even grown larger than his twin brother. Babies born with SCID typically didn’t survive past two years old. Now, a one-time treatment offers a cure for patients like Levi Looks.
Researchers have been chasing the dream of gene therapy for decades. The idea is elegant: use an engineered virus to deliver healthy copies of a gene into patients with defective versions. But until recently it had produced more disappointments than successes. The entire field was slowed in 1999 when an 18-year-old patient with a liver disease, Jesse Gelsinger, died in a gene-therapy experiment.
Gene-Therapy Time Line
But now, crucial puzzles have been solved and gene therapies are on the verge of curing devastating genetic disorders. Two gene therapies for inherited diseases—Strimvelis for a form of SCID and Glybera for a disorder that makes fat build up in the bloodstream—have won regulatory approval in Europe. In the United States, Spark Therapeutics could be the first to market; it has a treatment for a progressive form of blindness. Other gene therapies in development point to a cure for hemophilia and relief from an incapacitating skin disorder called epidermolysis bullosa.
Fixing rare diseases, impressive in its own right, could be just the start. Researchers are studying gene therapy in clinical trials for about 40 to 50 different diseases, says Maria-Grazia Roncarolo, a pediatrician and scientist at Stanford University who led early gene-therapy experiments in Italy that laid the foundation for Strimvelis. That’s up from just a few conditions 10 years ago. And in addition to treating disorders caused by malfunctions in single genes, researchers are looking to engineer these therapies for more common diseases, like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart failure, and cancer. Harvard geneticist George Church has said that someday, everyone may be able to take gene therapy to combat the effects of aging.
Early gene therapies failed in part because of the delivery mechanism. In 1990, a four-year-old girl with a form of SCID was treated by scientists at the National Institutes of Health, who extracted white blood cells from her, inserted normal copies of her faulty gene into them, then injected her with the corrected cells. But patients later treated for a different type of SCID went on to develop leukemia. The new genetic material and the virus used to carry it into cells were delivered to the wrong part of the genome, which switched on cancer-causing genes in some patients. In Gelsinger’s case, the virus used to transport functioning genes into his cells made his immune system go into overdrive, leading to multiple organ failure and brain death.
Gene-therapy researchers have surmounted many of those early problems by using viruses that are more efficient at transporting new genetic material into cells.
But several challenges remain. While gene therapies have been developed for several relatively rare diseases, creating such treatments for more common diseases that have complex genetic causes will be far more difficult. In diseases like SCID and hemophilia, scientists know the precise genetic mutation that is to blame. But diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart failure involve multiple genes—and the same ones aren’t all involved in all people with those conditions.
Nonetheless, for Kala and Philip Looks, the success of gene therapy is already real. A treatment they had never heard of rid their child of a horrific disease.
By: MIT Technology Review, USA
Source: www.technologyreview.comRead More
The technology, patented by CSIC, is also being applied in the early detection of some types of cancer
In addition, the total test time is 4 hours, 45 minutes, meaning clinical results could be obtained on the same day. The research is published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
The biosensor combines micromechanical silicon structures with gold nanoparticles, both functionalised with p24-specific antibodies. At the end of the immunoassay procedure, p24 is sandwiched between the gold nanoparticles and the micromechanical silicon structures. The gold nanoparticles have optical resonances known as plasmons. These are capable of scattering light very efficiently and have become one of the structures to attract most interest in the field of optics over the last decade. Micromechanical structures are excellent mechanical sensors capable of detecting interactions as small as intermolecular forces. The combination of these two structures produces both mechanical and optical signals which amplify one another, producing remarkable sensitivity, to detect the p24.
The technology, which has been patented by CSIC, is also being applied in the early detection of certain types of cancer.
“The chip itself, the physical part, is identical for HIV tests and for cancer biomarker tests. What changes is the chemical part- the solution we apply- so that it reacts accordingly to what we are looking for. That’s why our fundamental work is focused on developing applications for this new technology”, points out CSIC researcher Javier Tamayo, who works at the Institute of Microelectronics in Madrid.
“The biosensor uses structures which are manufactured using well-established microelectronics technology, thus making large scale, low cost production possible. This, combined with its simplicity, could make it a great choice for use in developing countries”, notes Tamayo.
How the biosensor works
The experiment begins by incubating one millilitre of human serum on the sensor for one hour at 37 °C to allow binding of any existing HIV-1 p24 antigens to the capture antibodies located on the sensor’s surface. Next, it is re-incubated at 37 °C, though in this case with gold nanoparticles, for 15 minutes so the captured p24 proteins can be marked.
Finally, the resulting material is rinsed to remove any unbound particles. “The test takes a total of 4 hours 45 minutes, which is really rapid. In fact, to confirm the diagnosis you could even repeat the test and the clinical results could be back on the same day as the medical examination. The results are statistically significant and could be adapted to medical requirements”, explains the CSIC researcher.
HIV detection systems
Acute human immunodeficiency virus infection is defined as the time from virus acquisition to seroconversion, i.e. the onset of detectable antibodies to HIV in the blood.Today there are two ways to detect HIV in the blood. Firstly, infection can be diagnosed by detecting viral RNA in the blood using nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT), and secondly by detecting p24 protein with fourth generation immunoassays.
The first method, based on detecting viral RNA in the blood, has a detection limit of 20 to 35 copies of RNA per millilitre, i.e. a concentration typically occurring two weeks after HIV acquisition. In the second method, during the fourth generation immunoassays, a detection threshold of p24 in 10 picograms per millilitre is reached. This occurs approximately three to four weeks after infection.
“This new technology is capable of detecting p24 at concentrations up to 100,000 times lower than the previous generation of approved immunoassays methods and 100 times lower than methods for detecting viral RNA in blood. This reduces the undetectable phase after infection to just one week”, says CSIC researcher Priscila Kosaka from Madrid’s Institute of Microelectronics.
Detecting HIV in blood
The period between infection and seroconversion is approximately four weeks. The early detection of HIV is crucial to improving a person’s health. Progressive changes occur after HIV acquisition, such as irreversible depletion of gut CD4 lymphocytes, replication in the central nervous system, and the establishment of latent HIV reservoirs.
“The potential for HIV infectivity in the first stage of infection is much higher than in the later stages. Therefore, initiating antiretroviral therapy prior to seroconversion improves immune control and has been associated with benefits in CD4 cell count, a reduction in systemic inflammation, the preservation of cognitive function, and a reduction of the latent reservoir. Logically, its detection is critical to the prevention of HIV transmission”, explains Kosaka.
Patented by CSIC, this technology has been licensed to the Mecwins company (a CSIC spin-off) created in 2008 by Javier Tamayo and Montserrat Calleja, and current owner of three patents which represent the fruit of the CSIC researchers’ labour. This recent research has received funding from the Spanish Cancer Association.
Priscila M. Kosaka, Valerio Pini, Montserrat Calleja and Javier Tamayo. Ultrasensitive detection of HIV-1 p24 antigen by a hybrid nanomechanical-optoplasmonic platform with potential for detecting HIV-1 at first week after infection. PLOS ONE.
Kosaka, P. M.; Pini, V.; Ruz, J.; Da Silva, R.; González, M.; Ramos, D.; Calleja, M.; Tamayo, J., Detection of cancer biomarkers in serum using a hybrid mechanical and optoplasmonic nanosensor. Nature Nanotechnology 2014, 9 (12), 1047-1053.
Patente ES2553027 A1. Tamayo de Miguel, Francisco Javier; Monteiro Kosaka, Priscila; Pini, Valerio; Calleja, Montserrat ; Ruz Martínez, José Jaime ; Ramos Vega, Daniel ; González Sagardoy, María Ujué. System for biodetection applications.
By: EurekAlert!, USA
Source: www.eurekalert.orgRead More
Deep learning-based system could be further developed for smartphones, increasing access to screening and aiding early detection of cancers
Computers can classify skin cancers as successfully as human experts, according to the latest research attempting to apply artificial intelligence to health.
The US-based researchers say the new system, which is based on image recognition, could be developed for smartphones, increasing access to screening and providing a low-cost way to check whether skin lesions are cause for concern.
“We hope that this is a first step towards early detection,” said Andre Esteva, an electrical engineering PhD student from Stanford University and co-author of the research.
According to the World Health Organisation, skin cancer accounts for one in every three cancers diagnosed worldwide, with global incidence on the rise.
In the UK alone, 131,772 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were recorded in 2014. In the same year there were 15,419 new cases of the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma, making it the fifth most common cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.
As the disease is often initially spotted by a visual examination, Esteva teamed up with colleagues in fields ranging from dermatology to artificial intelligence to create a computer system that would aid screening.
Their approach, described in the journal Nature, is based on deep learning – a class of algorithms used for artificial intelligence. When fed with a large set of ready-sorted data these algorithms pick out and “learn” patterns and relationships. Once trained, the algorithms can then be used to categorise new, unsorted data.
To create the system, the team harnessed a deep learning algorithm built by Google that had already been presented with 1.28 million images of objects such as cats, dogs and cups. Esteva and colleagues then fed the system more than 127,000 clinical images of skin lesions, each already labelled, encompassing many different skin diseases.
Once trained, the team then tested the system’s ability to classify skin cancer by presenting it with just under 2,000 previously unseen images of skin lesions, whose nature had previously been determined by biopsy, and further compared the results for nearly 400 of the images against the judgement of at least 21 dermatologists.
The results reveal that the system is on a par with – if not better than – the experts in telling apart carcinomas from common benign skin growths and melanomas from moles.
For melanomas, the average dermatologist classified around 95% of malignant lesions and 76% of harmless moles correctly. By comparison, the algorithm is capable of correctly classifying 96% of malignant lesions, and correspondingly 90% of benign lesions.
“The aim is absolutely not to replace doctors nor to replace diagnosis,” said Esteva. “What we are replicating [is] sort of the first two initial screenings that a dermatologist might perform.”
While Esteva and colleagues admit the system needs further testing in clinical settings they believe the approach has great promise, suggesting it could be applied to a host of other medical fields.
Boguslaw Obara, a computer scientist at Durham University and expert in image processing, said that the size and complexity of the dataset used to train the system was impressive. The work, he adds, shows we are likely to see algorithms cropping up more and more in everyday life.
Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation also welcomed the research. “This is an exciting new technology that has the potential to increase access to dermatology at a time where there is a national shortage in this speciality and the rates of skin cancer continue to rise,” she said.
But, Mahto warned, the system will need to be carefully assessed for its benefits before it can be rolled out. The approach is also unlikely to replace the role of dermatologists, she adds, pointing out that during a full-body examination experts often discover skin cancer at different sites to those that initially concerned the patient. “There is therefore a possibility that if you rely on people to self-report what they are worried about, other skin cancers – particularly in hard to see sites, e.g. the back – may be missed,” she said.
By: The Guardian, UK
Source: www.theguardian.comRead More
Singapore: Australian authorities have just approved a new drugvenetoclax that is touted to have the power to “melt away” certain advanced forms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in Australia, with 1300 people diagnosed each year.
The drug is recommended for patients with relapsed or refractory CLL with 17p deletion – a mutation that makes the disease relatively resistant to standard treatment options – as well as for patients with relapsed or refractory CLL for whom no other treatment options are available.
Venetoclax was discovered and developed with scientists from US pharmaceutical companies AbbVie and Genentech, as part of an international collaboration with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. The first clinical trials for venetoclax started in Melbourne at the Institute’s Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre partners The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and were led by Australian haematologists.
Professor Doug Hilton AO, director, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research expressed excitement on the news of the drug’s approval. He said that the drug will be most importantly benefit patients with limited treatment options.
“The fact that Australians with hard-to-treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia can now benefit from a drug like venetoclax demonstrates how critically important medical research is to the health of our community,” Professor Hilton said.
“TGA approval of venetoclax is a major milestone in a journey spanning decades of powerful and innovative research by teams of leading scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs, including more than one hundred researchers at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.”
Professor Andrew Roberts, a clinical haematologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and cancer researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the University of Melbourne, said venetoclax was being combined now with other approved drugs and undergoing phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials in other blood cancers.
“The hope is that venetoclax, potentially in combination with other approved drugs, could benefit more patients including those with other hard-to-treat types of blood cancer,” Professor Roberts said. “Ongoing research suggests that this drug will be very active against other cancers, so this milestone may just be the beginning.”
By: BioSpectrum, Asia
Source: www.biospectrumasia.comRead More
A prototype device to detect the scent of disease
ONE of a doctor’s most valuable tools is his nose. Since ancient times, medics have relied on their sense of smell to help them work out what is wrong with their patients. Fruity odours on the breath, for example, let them monitor the condition of diabetics. Foul ones assist the diagnosis of respiratory-tract infections.
But doctors can, as it were, smell only what they can smell—and many compounds characteristic of disease are odourless. To deal with this limitation Hossam Haick, a chemical engineer at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, has developed a device which, he claims, can do work that the human nose cannot.
The idea behind Dr Haick’s invention is not new. Many diagnostic “breathalysers” already exist, and sniffer dogs, too, can be trained to detect illnesses such as cancer. Most of these approaches, though, are disease-specific. Dr Haick wanted to generalise the process.
As he describes in ACS Nano, he and his colleagues created an array of electrodes made of carbon nanotubes (hollow, cylindrical sheets of carbon atoms) and tiny particles of gold. Each of these had one of 20 organic films laid over it. Each film was sensitive to one of a score of compounds known to be found on the breath of patients suffering from a range of 17 illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, bladder cancer, pulmonary hypertension and Crohn’s disease. When a film reacted, its electrical resistance changed in a predictable manner. The combined changes generated an electrical fingerprint that, the researchers hoped, would be diagnostic of the disease a patient was suffering from.
To test their invention, Dr Haick and his colleagues collected 2,808 breath samples from 1,404 patients who were suffering from at least one of the diseases they were looking at. Its success varied. It could distinguish between samples from patients suffering from gastric cancer and bladder cancer only 64% of the time. At distinguishing lung cancer from head and neck cancer it was, though, 100% successful. Overall, it got things right 86% of the time. Not perfect, then, but a useful aid to a doctor planning to conduct further investigations. And this is only a prototype. Tweaked, its success rate would be expected to improve.Read More