It is estimated that at least one tenth of the population have some form of needle phobia. That is the arrant fear of injections and the associated hypodermic syringes to the point where it seriously hampers medical procedures. There have even been reported cases of people actually dying of fright (more accurately drop in blood pressure) as the physiological result of their fear. One solution which may help, though not particularly designed with this problem in mind, is the microneedle.
Diseases such as emphysema, bronchitis and severe asthma can be described together as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). As people grow older they are much more likely to suffer from one of these diseases and much more likely to assume the symptoms are just a sign of getting older. It is said that 30 million people in the USA currently have it and it is predicted that COPD will be the third highest cause of death by 2020. It is believed that air pollution can be a aggravating feature of the disease and considering that 3 billion people world wide are exposed to biomass smoke, the smoke produced by burning any living thing, as compared to the 1 billion tobacco smokers in the world, it is very possible biosmoke actually leads to more cases of COPD.
Trying to produce metallic and metallic oxide nanoparticles is a challenge. To do so in expensive, laborious, time consuming, produces hazardous waste and after all that the product may not even be uniform enough for use. Clean methods for producing nanoparticles are passed off onto biological production methods. If bacteria, fungi or algae could be convinced to produce the nanoparticles it would circumvent some of the issues or we can simply remove whatever enzyme allows them to perform the feat and create the nanoparticles extracellulary. Although some metallic nanoparticles are antibiotic there has been success when using cyanobacteria. Unfortunately very little work has been done on the production of noble metals like gold, platinum and silver.
Almost a year ago now I published this post on random lasers which lightly covered the idea of using them for biological sensing. Unlike regular lasers the random variety do not require a cavity to bounce the photons back and forth to produce the laser. In the random lasing medium it is nanoparticles which have been dispersed in the material which produce the optical feedback required to create a laser. In essence the two requirements for a random laser is random and disordered scattering of light and valid gain material (a material that gives energy to electromagnetic radiation). The standard as already described is to spread the scattering component throughout the gain medium, but results have also been gained by having separated scattering and gain regions and there have also been investigations into using pure biological samples as the scatterers also.
It is a well known fact that the human heart uses electrical currents in order to keep the cardiac muscles pumping in time. The current it taken to the muscle cells by conducting cells which pass the current through the heart to the correct places. The sinoatrial node is the originator of the signal which then moves to activate the atria and then the ventricles.
Now I actually have been diagnosed with having first degree heart block, which is so minor it doesn’t even cause noticeable bradycardia (slowing of heart beat). This means that the due to a lack of conductivity in my heart there is a slight delay between the contraction of the atria and the ventricles although not enough to have any noticeable adverse effects. For others though, it can be a lot more serious. Cardiovascular diseased cause the highest number of deaths in the world according to the World Health Organisation (WHO?), with many of these being caused by arrhythmias.
When people have myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) the cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) can suffer hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and so apoptosis (the death of cells) can occur. The (very complicatedly named) effects can be mitigated through a process called angiogenesis. This is where new blood vessels are created rapidly in order to perforate some living tissue and in this case combat the hypoxia. Now when it comes to treating and intervening in patients with growing areas of dead cells (the infarct) in the heart, fitting a catheter is the most reliable cure. Cell based therapies or those that angiogenic assistance could be used to treat the growing risk of a heart attack but no clinical trials have proven them to be a success. It can be seen as worrying that in the last fifty years (the nobel prize for cardiac catheters was awarded in 1956) there have been no more advancements or great innovations.
Most readers will probably be aware of how important stem cells are when it comes to medical research. As they have yet to differentiate they have the possibility of becoming any cell in the body if required, but this great variability comes with an inherent instability. The hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow, the cells from which the blood cells can be formed, have the potential to produce leukaemia and other blood cancers. There is also the risk of local tumours spreading their cells into the bone marrow which can result in cancer stem cells and rapid bone metastasis as the skeleton is invaded by the cancer. It is important to understand how the standard and malevolent stem cells interact with each other in the bone marrow so that these conditions can be counteracted and prevented.