Monday, February 19, 2018

NEWS POST: New Blood And Urine Test To Detect Autism In Children

 A team at University of Warwick led the research. Photograph: Paul Cooper
Scientists have developed a blood and urine test that can detect autism in children. Researchers at the University of Warwick said the test, believed to be the first of its kind, could lead to earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children who could then be given appropriate treatment much earlier in their lives.

ASDs mainly affect a person’s social interaction and communication, with symptoms that can include speech disturbances, repetitive and/or compulsive behaviour, hyperactivity, anxiety, and difficulty adapting to new environments.

As there is a wide range of ASD symptoms, diagnosis can be difficult and uncertain, particularly at the early stages of development. It is estimated that around one in every 100 people in the UK has ASD, with more boys diagnosed with the condition than girls.

Scientists said their research found a link between ASD and damage to proteins in blood plasma. They found the most reliable of the tests they developed was examining protein in blood plasma, which found children with ASD had higher levels of the oxidation marker dityrosine (DT) and certain sugar-modified compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Genetic causes are thought to be responsible for around a third of cases of ASD, while the rest are believed to be caused by a combination of environmental factors, mutations, and rare genetic variants.

But researchers believe their new tests could reveal yet to be identified causes of ASD. They also confirmed the previously held belief that mutations of amino acid transporters are a genetic variant associated with ASD.

It is estimated that around one in every 100 people in the UK has ASD, with more boys diagnosed with the condition than girls Emmanuel Fradin for Spectrum
The Warwick team worked with collaborators at the University of Bologna in Italy, who recruited 38 children who were diagnosed with ASD along with a control group of 31 other children between the ages of five and 12. Blood and urine samples were taken from the children for analysis.

The Warwick team discovered there were chemical differences between the two groups. Working with a further collaborator at the University of Birmingham, the changes in multiple compounds were combined together using artificial intelligence algorithm techniques to develop a mathematical equation to distinguish between ASD and healthy controls. The outcome was a diagnostic test better than any method currently available.

They said the next steps are to repeat the study with further groups of children to confirm the good diagnostic performance and to assess if the test can identify ASD at very early stages, indicate how the ASD is likely to develop further to more severe disease and assess if treatments are working.

The research was led by Dr Naila Rabbani, reader of experimental systems biology at the University of Warwick, who said: “Our discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention.

“We hope the tests will also reveal new causative factors.

“With further testing we may reveal specific plasma and urinary profiles or ‘fingerprints’ of compounds with damaging modifications. This may help us improve the diagnosis of ASD and point the way to new causes of ASD.”

A blood sample (Image: Getty)
The research has been published in the journal Molecular Autism.

Originally published on DAILY MAIL UK WIRES

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NEWS POST: Cancer-Fighting Robots Thinner Than Human Hair Are Able To Fight Cancer By Destroying Tumours In The Body

Robots one-thousandth the width of a human hair are now able to fight cancer by destroying tumours in the body
Robots one-thousandth the width of a human hair are now able to fight cancer by destroying tumours in the body. Scientists have built nano-robots from DNA sheets shaped into tubes and injected into the bloodstream. The tubes carry a blood-clotting enzyme, thrombin, and are painted with proteins which home in on a separate protein found only in tumour cells.

When the robots reach their target and bind to its surface they spring open and deliver the enzyme which clots the blood supply to the tumour and causes it to have a mini heart attack and die. The nanorobots work fast, congregating in large numbers to surround a tumour just hours after injection.

They were found to be safe in tests on mice and pigs, with no evidence of spreading to the brain where they could cause a stroke. The treatment blocked tumour blood supply and generated tumour tissue damage within 24 hours, while having no effect on healthy tissue.
Three out of eight mice with skin cancer saw their tumours shrink, with their survival time from cancer more than doubling on average from 20.5 to 45 days.

The research comes after a team of scientists, involving Durham University, last year created nanorobots able to drill into and destroy cancer cells.

Scientists have built nano-robots from DNA sheets shaped into tubes and injected into the bloodstream
Nanorobots are so-called because of their tiny size and because they contain parts capable of movement within the body. In this case, the mechanical action is the springing open of the DNA sheet to reveal the blood-clotting drug.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: 'The development of nanorobots that can deliver drugs to a specific target within a tumour is an exciting glimpse into the future of cancer medicine.

'This is the first time that DNA molecules have been manipulated to deliver drugs in this way – a fascinating advance that, if refined and proven effective in humans, could have far-reaching implications for treating cancer and other diseases.'

Professor Peter Dobson, from the University of Oxford, said: 'It is a neat idea and there is a lot of evidence in the paper to show that this is a promising approach.'

Professor Hao Yan, a co-author of the study from Arizona State University, said: 'We have developed the first fully autonomous, DNA robotic system for a very precise drug design and targeted cancer therapy. Moreover, this technology is a strategy that can be used for many types of cancer, since all solid tumour-feeding blood vessels are essentially the same.' Nanotechnology, which is smaller than most of us can imagine, is seen as the way forward to tackle cancer through a simple injection.

One sheet of newspaper is around 100,000 nanometres thick. The nanorobots used to fight cancer are made from sheets of DNA measuring just 90 nanometres by 60.
The tubes carry a blood-clotting enzyme, thrombin (pictured), and are painted with proteins which home in on a separate protein found only in tumour cells
Dr James Tour of Rice University in the US, who was involved in last year's breakthrough with Durham University, said the 'spring-loaded' nanorobot was 'exciting', adding: 'It is a nano-Trojan horse!'

The research, which was led by the National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology in China, is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Originally published on DAILY MAIL UK WIRES

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

NEWS POST: Europe’s Largest Science Festival Unveils 2018 Programme In Landmark Year

Edinburgh International Science Festival World’s Longest-Running Science Festival
The world’s longest-running science festival will explore the wonder and diversity of life on this planet – and further afield – in its milestone 30th year.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is making Life, the Universe and Everything Else its theme for its outing in 2018, the year in which the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s famous early sci-fi novel Frankenstein is being celebrated.

Overall, the festival’s newly-launched programme features almost 270 events for families and adults in more than 30 venues in the Scottish capital. The events, at what organizers describe as Europe’s largest science festival, include discussions, workshops, performances, screenings and exhibitions.

Highlights include a large outdoor exhibition at The Mound, backed by EDF Energy, on low carbon technologies. Families can take part in events at the City Art Centre, Summerhall and hands-on workshops at the National Museum of Scotland.

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the venues (Edinburgh International Science Festival/PA)
Meanwhile, a series of events focused on food returns, with, among other things, Bake Off finalist Andrew Smyth exploring baking in space. A project entitled Busking Bikes will take science to communities across the city including Muirhouse and Leith. 

Creative director Amanda Tyndall said: “This year’s festival is a celebration of life, our existence and of the potential that science offers us as individuals as well as for the planet.

“As always, we deliver this through an incredible programme of hands-on experiments, thought-provoking discussions, dynamic performances, events and exhibitions; all designed to show how important and central science is to shaping and living our lives and inspiring the problem solvers of tomorrow.

“It’s our 30th festival this year and we appreciate the privileged role we have in delivering not only the world’s longest-running science festival but one of the highlights on the city’s annual calendar of events.”

Children's events feature in the programme (Edinburgh International Science Festival/PA)
The festival runs from March 31 to April 15.

Originally published on DAILY MAIL UK WIRES