Oil droplets turn cells into tiny lasers

By Allie Wilkinson

Injecting single cells with spheres of fluorescent dye could open new research and treatment avenues using light.

Scientists have turned individual cells into miniature lasers by injecting them with droplets of oil or fat mixed with a fluorescent dye that can be activated by short pulses of light.

The finding, reported on 27 July in Nature Photonics1, could help to broaden how light is used for both medical diagnosis and treatment.

The system was devised by Seok Hyun Yun and Matjaž Humar, both optical physicists at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and uses droplets of fat or oil within a cell to reflect and amplify light, generating a laser.

Yun had previously reported a method for generating laser light by engineering cells to express a fluorescent jellyfish protein, then placing a single such cell between a pair of external mirrors2. His latest work goes a step further, producing a cell with a self-contained laser.

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Quick DNA Tests Crack Medical Mysteries Otherwise Missed

Researchers are developing a radical way to diagnose infectious diseases. Instead of guessing what a patient might have, and ordering one test after another, this new technology starts with no assumptions.

The technology starts with a sample of blood or spinal fluid from an infected person and searches through all the DNA in it, looking for sequences that came from a virus, a bacterium, a fungus or even a parasite.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco are reporting this week their first results from the technique, which relies on a technology calledNext Generation Sequencing.

One of their early patients is Andrea Struve, a 21-year-old San Franciscan who returned from 40 days in the Australian Outback last year with a nasty set of symptoms.

“I was in classes, sweating profusely with a fever and joint pain, and it just wasn’t fun, so that’s when I went to the doctor,” she says.

Her doctor made a bunch of educated guesses about the underlying cause, but all the tests came back negative. So physicians enrolled Struve in a study at UC San Francisco to try out a different approach.

“As opposed to the way we normally diagnose infectious disease — meaning we target a single infectious agent at a time — this test works by detecting all the DNA present in clinical samples,” says Dr. Charles Chiu, who is running the study.

Chiu extracted DNA from Struve’s blood and ran it through a superfast sequencing machine. He compared the DNA he found with a huge library of DNA sequences from all sorts of infectious agents. It turns out that she was infected with a virus related to chicken pox — one that normally causes a roseola rash in young children.

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Photo: Doctors used a rapid DNA test to identify a Wisconsin teen’s unusual infection with Leptospira bacteria (yellow), which are common in the tropics. (CDC/Rob Weyant)

A gravity-powered chip that can mimic a human heartbeat outside the body could advance pharmaceutical testing and open new possibilities in cell culture because it can mimic fundamental physical rhythms, according to the Univ. of Michigan researchers who developed it.  

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UK Woman Gets “World’s Most Advanced” Bionic Hand Replacement

A new technology has enabled a woman who was born without a right hand to ride a bike for the first time, among other new abilities.

Steeper Group, which is based in Leeds, created the “BeBionic” small hand for Nicky Ashwell, a 26-year-old from London; the company claims it is the most “anatomically accurate” out there and offers an “unrivalled level of precision and natural movements”.




EVERYONE W/ A CAMERA: RECord yourself on camera answering these three specific questions RE: Future Technology: 

  1. How would you feel about the self-driving car? Would you feel out of control? Do you think it seems dangerous? Do you think it would reduce the death rate of car accidents? 

  2. How do you feel about the idea of brain chips? Does it sound fun or scary to you? 

  3. How do you feel about medical technology evolving to the point of making immortality a reality? Is the point of life that it’s finite?

Please Help!!!

As some of you know, my father left his job as a pediatrician so that he could create an application that makes it easier for doctors and patients to communicate and share information. It has been a really hectic year with trying to launch a business and my dad has spent nearly all his waking hours putting his heart into this project. unfortunately, doctors are reluctant to try it out- even for free. He’s nearly defeated and it breaks my heart…

Currently there is a huge medical conference/contest that could be the last big chance to turn the app around. The top 4 medical ideas are selected for a paid conference at Harvard! The catch is- to vote you must be a doctor or med student… if any of you ARE either, or know either, or would consider signal boosting this, I will be forever grateful!!

Please share this with any med students and doctors, even if they don’t vote maybe they will like the idea and want to be involved!!

Thank you so much and best wishes- this means more to me than I can explain. I know it’s a really long shot to gain awareness through my art and plant blog, but the internet is surprising.
3-D Printers Help Grow New Jaws For Dogs At UC Davis

Previously, the doctors had to wait until they cut into the dog to form the titanium plate. But with UC Davis’ new 3-D printing facility, they can now print an exact replica of the dog’s skull ahead of time, allowing doctors to plan and cut down on anesthesia time in the operating room.<br/>

The future is here.

Cellular Adaptions to Stress

Stress. We all deal with it—whether it’s during finals week or during a rough day of work—it happens. Each and every single one of us has a way of coping with that stress (in a healthy manner, hopefully). But has anyone ever stopped to think about how our cells cope with stress? Probably not. Amazingly enough, our cells have their own ways of adapting to stress. The big important ones are:
• Hypertrophy
• Hyperplasia
• Atrophy
• Metaplasia

Hypertrophy is defined as an increase in the size of cells resulting in increase in the size of the organ. It is important to note that in this phenomenon, there is no new cells being formed, rather it is simply an increase in the size of the cells that are already there. These cells will increase their amount of structural proteins and organelles. Hypertrophy can be either physiologic or pathogenic (cause of disease). Hypertrophy is usually the result of increased demand (think of a uterus getting larger to bare a child) or by hormonal stimulation.

Hyperplasia is characterized by an increase number of cells due to cell proliferation. Hyperplasia occurs in cells that are (obviously) capable of cell replication. It can occur with hypertrophy, usually due to the response of the same stimuli. Like hypertrophy, hyperplasia can be either physiologic or pathologic (both due to hormonal stimuli). An example of physiologic hyperplasia would be the proliferation of female breast tissue during puberty. Here, the glandular epithelium is being exemplified by a hormonal stimuli. Another example of physiologic hyperplasia falls under the category of compensatory hyperplasia. This is where remaining tissue grows back after the removal of part of an organ. An example of pathologic hyperplasia would be a disease called endometrial hyperplasia. This is caused by uncontrolled estrogen stimulation, which leads to uncontrolled proliferation of the inner layer of the uterus. 

Atrophy is the shrinking in the size of the cell caused by the loss of the cells substance. It is important to note that atrophic cells diminished in function, but they are not necessarily dead. Causes of atrophy are immobilization (lack of use), loss of innervation, diminished blood supply, inadequate nutrition, lack of endocrine stimulation (such as in menopause), and aging. When the cell is faced with any of these obstacles, it reduces in size to a point where survival is still possible and reaches a new equilibrium. In the case of atrophy, protein synthesis is reduced due to the reduced metabolic activity of the cell. Some cellular proteins may diminish due to nutritional deficiencies and disuse. These two factors activate the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, causing ubiquitin ligases to attach many copies of the ubiquitin peptide to our own cellular proteins, which then flags them for degradation in the proteasomes.  Atrophy can also be the result of increased autophagy. This is where there is an increased number of autophagic vacuoles in the cell, which then would promote the cell to eat its own components as a way to survive.

Metaplasia is a reversible change in which one adult cell type is replaced by another cell type. in this cell adaption, a cell that is undergoing a lot of stress is replaced by a different type of cell that will better fit the environment. Scientist believe that metaplasia is caused by the reprogramming of stem cells to differentiate along a new pathway rather than the pathway of the already differentiated cells. Metaplasia is a double edged sword. Epithelial metaplasia, for example, is characterized by the squamous change that occurs in the respiratory epithelium of smokers. Normally, ciliated columnar that line the trachea and bronchi are replaced by stratified squamous epithelium. The stratified squamous epithelium may have a better chance of surviving the toxins that come from the cigarette smoke. This may seem like a good thing, but the protective mechanisms provided by the ciliated columnar epithelium are lost, such as mucous secretion and ciliary clearance. 

Source:Kumar, Abbas, Aster. Robbins, Basic  Pathology. 9th edition.


One of the most fascinating aspects of emerging medical technology is how close we’re coming to being able to map and understand an entire human organism in real time. The gifs above come from GE’s new Revolution CT Scanner, a technology that exists today. Imagine what will exist tomorrow. In coming years, we may be able to push past the mapping of blood flow to begin mapping interactions between neural synapses, the reactions that make up our consciousness, that determine the most fundamental aspects of who we are. And once we can map our consciousness in real time, what’s to prevent us from replicating it?

Cranquis Mail: Are "migraine apps" a headache for doctors?

(name withheld) asked:

Ok, you’re at your clinic and your new pt says, “I’ve had migraines for years, I’m so tired of them and OTC medicine that works half the time, I started a diary in my headache phone app to see just how frequently I actually get them in a month. Here, look.” Do you think, “She’s one ‘of those’,” or do you prefer the headache pt keeping track? I don’t add what I ate that day or my activity because my diet doesn’t vary much, I get them at home or work, my eyes are checked regularly and I get them wearing contacts, not wearing contacts, with glasses or without. And by “years” I mean I’m 30 now and I remember getting migraines as young as 10 years old - light sensitivity, nausea/vomiting, the whole bit. Every time I go to a clinic for something (colds/sore throats , yearly physicals) I add frequent headaches on my history sheet but it’s never brought up (I feel too terrible with the illness or it’s not appropriate for my obgyn to address). I plan on being seen just solely for the migraines/headaches and I want to show frequency. I don’t want to show a Dr my phone app diary if it just makes them think, “Oh, lord, here we go (internal eye rolls)”. Just looking for a Dr’s honest opinion on the best way to evaluate a new pt’s chief complaint. I don’t have a PCP.

Hi there, Headodynia (your Cranquis-Nym for future communiques re: this topic)

I personally would have NO problem if a patient brought in a symptom diary for their headaches or menstrual issues or GI symptoms or blood pressure or whatever! (Sure, I’m an Urgent Care doctor, so technically if your medical problem has been around long enough to require journaling, it’s probably something that should be managed by a primary doctor or a specialist – but, the concept of a patient actually collecting and organizing their relevant data before coming to talk to me about their long-standing medical problem? ME LIKEY!)

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This CEO is out for blood

Most important, Theranos tests cost less. Its prices are often a half to a quarter of what independent labs charge, and a quarter to a 10th of what hospital labs bill, with still greater savings for expensive procedures. Such pricing represents a potential godsend for the uninsured, the insured with high deductibles, insurers, and taxpayers. The company’s prices are set to never exceed half the Medicare reimbursement rate for each procedure, a fact that, with widespread adoption, could save the nation billions. The company also posts its prices online, a seemingly obvious service to consumers, but one that is revolutionary in the notoriously opaque, arbitrary, and disingenuous world of contemporary health care pricing.


Using A 3-D Version Of Rodin’s Hands To Understand Anatomy

Auguste Rodin is known for his realistic, unflinching depiction of the human form. Some of the French sculptor’s work even shows the ravages of disease and disfigurement. A Stanford University professor and surgeon who noticed these realistic details was inspired to incorporate Rodin into his teaching using a curriculum that combines Rodin’s sculpture with medical science and computer technology.

Dr. James Chang first noticed certain details of Rodin’s sculptures when he was a medical resident at Stanford studying hand surgery. He used to relax on the grass at the sculpture garden of the school's Cantor Arts Center. “The more I looked at the Rodin sculptures … and I focused on the hands, and if you look at each hand … they’re exactly like the actual medical conditions I was treating.”

The works include some of Rodin’s most famous pieces, like the Burghers of Calais, a group of defeated noblemen. Chang noticed that one of the Burghers had fused fingers. “We have children with Apert syndrome that have a similar fusion of the fingers and an open thumb, and we release the fingers to put [them] into a more natural condition,” he says.

When he finished his residency in 1998, Chang joined the Stanford faculty in plastic surgery, and he decided to consult an expert on Rodin. He went to Bernard Barryte, the curator of European art at the Cantor. Barryte says what made Rodin a revolutionary artist is that he broke from the classical traditions of idealizing the human form.

“He wants to render it warts and all,” Barryte says. “So if a hand is the result of an accident, that sort of enhances and enriches its meaning for him, and he uses that to render figures much more expressive and much more powerful.”

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