Researcher Anna Young of MIT's Little Devices Lab works on a solar-powered autoclave for sterilizing medical instruments
(Image: Jose Gomez-Marquez)
“It’s a robot…it brings the remote.”
A kid in a striped shirt who looks to be going into the second or third grade reluctantly explains his cardboard and foam creation, a boxy figure with four wheels and a grabbing arm. He’s taken his invention from paper design through model through an imagined cover of TIME magazine, joined by countless other children who have designed everything from rockets to surprisingly detailed wind turbines.
I’m at the MIT Museum, and today it is overrun with inventors. Upstairs, younger visitors are invited to invent and model their own creations—like the remote-getting robot—and downstairs people gather to see presentations and prototypes by students working in MIT labs. This event is Insight into Innovation, the mad invention of the museum’s summer interns, and it’s a natural fit for MIT’s Little Devices Lab, a medical research group with a do-it-yourself twist whose offices are right above the museum. Three groups from that lab are exhibiting.
Full story »
Lee's team is using proteomics and glycomics to establish normal urine profiles, as well as biomarkers of kidney damage. (Harald/Flickr)
Part 1 of a two-part series on kidney disease. Part 2 is here.
In up to 5 percent of all pregnancies, children are born with some degree of kidney dilation or swelling, known as hydronephrosis. Unfortunately, says urologist Richard Lee, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, “many of these kids go through a lot of testing after birth and are followed for a long period of time—sometimes unnecessarily.”
Hoping to reduce such testing, Lee and his colleagues are turning to urine. They’ve been collecting comprehensive data on the urinary proteome—all the proteins urine normally contains. With this baseline information, they hope to establish biomarkers that identify kidney damage.
In a recently published study, Lee and his coauthors compared the urinary proteomes of healthy infant boys versus men to find out what happens naturally with age. Through their work, they identified nearly 1,600 protein groups and determined that the healthy male urinary proteome changes over time. Full story »
Who will invest in the clinical development of drugs that offer limited commercial opportunities?(scottchan/Fotolia.com)
The desire to impact areas of great need drives many academic medical researchers. Unfortunately, a variety of challenges can prevent even the most promising innovations and technologies from reaching the patients who would benefit most. When the target population is primarily in the developing world, these challenges are magnified. Only a fraction of research and development funding goes toward treatments that target neglected diseases and the needs of low- and middle-income countries
, posing a particularly frustrating situation.
The Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)’s recent forum on Global Access Licensing of Biomedically Relevant Technologies delved into this pressing issue. According to the UAEM philosophy, the accessibility of medicine to developing nations “depends critically on how universities manage their intellectual property.” Further, the UAEM suggests that obtaining patents means that “anyone who can’t afford the asking price will be unable to access the product” and that “further innovation is hampered or outright blocked.”
In contrast, many of the panelists at the forum didn’t see intellectual property licensing as the primary obstacle—rather, they viewed it as a requirement to attract industry partners. Full story »
Nicole D. Kling, PhD, is a patent specialist at Nixon Peabody LLP who focuses on patent prosecution in biotechnology, the life sciences and biomedical advances. David Resnick, JD, of Nixon Peabody contributed to this post. Opinions expressed in this article represent only those of the authors, not Nixon Peabody or its clients.
The Supreme Court's ruling did not hand a clear victory to either party.(bobosh_t/Flickr)
The recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court brought Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics back to the headlines, with interest being stoked by Angelina Jolie’s recent disclosure of her double mastectomy.
The lawsuit revolved around patents owned by Myriad related to its BRACAnalysis test, which assesses the likelihood that a person will develop certain cancers, including breast cancer, by searching the DNA for disease-causing sequences. The patents under focus in this lawsuit claim genetic sequences isolated from, or derived from, human DNA—molecules created by manipulating, changing or adding to the DNA.
Myriad argued that the molecules they claimed do not exist as such in human cells and are instead the result of human manipulation and innovation. Full story »
Whole-exome sequencing reveals a gene mutation that comes into play only if inherited from the father.
For a small subset of boys and girls who undergo early puberty, there’s now a specific explanation. New genetic research, involving whole-exome sequencing, has identified four novel heterozygous mutations in a gene known as MKRN3
. Interestingly, while precocious puberty is more common in girls, all 15 affected children in the study inherited the mutations from their fathers.
Precocious puberty—the development of secondary sexual characteristics before 8 years in girls and 9 years in boys—has been associated with short stature, long-term health risks and an increase in conduct and behavioral disorders during adolescence. Physiologically, there are two types: central and peripheral. Central, the more common form, occurs when the pituitary gland, which controls puberty development, is activated too early.
“While a great deal of genetic studies have focused on the overall genetic contribution to pubertal timing, far less research has been conducted to find specific genetic causes of central precocious puberty,” says Andrew Dauber, MD, MMSc, of the Division of Endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital, who co-authored the study, published online this week by The New England Journal of Medicine. Full story »
In the developing world, health care providers often don’t have access to diagnostic technologies like the automated lab tests taken for granted in the resource-rich United States. Specimens often have to be sent to a distant central lab, and it can be weeks before an answer wends its way back.
That’s a tough situation when you’re, say, trying to assess whether a patient is having liver toxicity from a drug, such as drugs used to treat tuberculosis (TB) and HIV. By the time the results come back and indicate you need to stop or switch medications, the patient may be long gone, unable to travel back to the clinic.
For the past four years, Nira Pollock, MD, PhD, associate medical director of the Infectious Diseases Diagnostics Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, has been working with Diagnostics For All (DFA), a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, Mass., to develop and test a low-cost diagnostic device that works on the spot, involving just a finger-stick and a square of paper. The technology is all in the paper square—using wax printing and microfluidics techniques Full story »
Ed Smith explains the moyamoya operation during a live webcast.
Lindsay Hoshaw contributed to this post.
It’s 7 a.m. and neurosurgeon
Ed Smith, MD, is downing a Diet Coke as he reviews the MRIs of today’s patients. He sprints up a stairwell to greet his first patient in the pre-operating wing.
Thirteen-year-old Maribel Ramos, about to have brain surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, sits in her bed fidgeting. Smith reassures her about the operation, promises they’ll shave off as little hair as possible, and gets Maribel to crack a smile by telling her he moonlights as a hairdresser. Full story »
As the close of American Heart Month draws near, let's take a moment to learn what two teams of scientists are doing to help heart transplant patients keep their new hearts in the long run. (englishsnow/Flickr)
You’re a heart transplant patient. You’ve been on the waiting list for months, maybe years. Now, you’re being wheeled out of the operating room, a donated heart beating in your chest.
You’ve finished one journey, but are only just starting on a new one: keeping your body from rejecting your new heart.
Luckily for you, new methods under development could help tell early on when chronic rejection problems—the kind that arise five or 10 years after your transplant—start to loom. And even better, scientists are homing in on a new way to prevent chronic (and maybe short-term) rejection from happening in the first place. Full story »
Just about any measurable molecule that changes with health and disease could be a biomarker. (David Guo's Master/Flickr)
Your doctor has a lot of tools to detect, diagnose and monitor disease: x-rays, MRIs, angiography, blood tests, biopsies…the list goes on.
What would be great would be the ability to test for disease in a way where there’s no or low pain (not invasive) and lots of gain (actionable data about the disease process itself, its progression and the success of treatment).
That’s where biomarkers come in. Full story »