(Time) – Time Person of the Year 2014: The Ebola Fighers, the ones who answered the call
(Nature) – The Ebola crisis in West Africa is approaching the one-year mark, with no clear end in sight. At present, fewer than one in five people with Ebola is diagnosed within two days of becoming infectious, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet in the absence of a safe and effective vaccine, the only way to end the epidemic is to quickly identify and quarantine people who have been infected. A major problem is that relatively few laboratories in West Africa have the necessary equipment and personnel to test blood samples from people thought to have Ebola.
(Scientific American) – Many early-stage breast cancer patients don’t get the recommended short course of radiation after surgery, even though it’s considered just as good as prolonged treatment, a new study finds. “Only a third of women are getting a shorter course of radiation that has been found to be effective and no more toxic,” said lead author Dr. Justin Bekelman, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
(Nature) – he hope is that pluripotent cells could be used to repair damaged or diseased tissue — something that moved closer to reality this year, when retinal cells derived from iPS cells were transplanted into a woman with eye disease, marking the first time that reprogrammed cells were transplanted into humans. There is just one hitch. No one, not even the dozen or so groups of scientists who intensively study reprogramming, knows how it happens. They understand that differentiated cells go in, and pluripotent cells come out the other end, but what happens in between is one of biology’s impenetrable black boxes.
(Nature) – The most important resource needed to conduct research on humans, it is said, is not brainpower or money: it is trust. In the United States, as elsewhere, hundreds of institutions and thousands of investigators work to protect that trust by carefully evaluating proposals for clinical trials and other research that uses human subjects.
(Medical Xpress) – While many different combinations of genetic traits can cause autism, brains affected by autism share a pattern of ramped-up immune responses, an analysis of data from autopsied human brains reveals. The study, a collaborative effort between Johns Hopkins and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, included data from 72 autism and control brains. It will be published online Dec. 10 in the journal Nature Communications.
(New York Times) – It is either the most exciting new treatment for depression in years or it is a hallucinogenic club drug that is wrongly being dispensed to desperate patients in a growing number of clinics around the country. It is called ketamine — or Special K, in street parlance. While it has been used as an anesthetic for decades, small studies at prestigious medical centers like Yale, Mount Sinai and the National Institute of Mental Health suggest it can relieve depression in many people whsto are not helped by widely used conventional antidepressants like Prozac or Lexapro.
(Business Insider) – An artificial smart skin has been created which replicates the sensory process, including feeling strain, pressure, temperature and humidity. US and Korean scientists say the cyborg skin includes stretchable sensors for nerve stimulation so that electrical signals can be transmitted from the prosthetic to nerves in the body. Details of the smart prosthetic skin made from silicon nanoribbons is reported this week in the journal Nature Communications.
(Phys.org) – But a new technique to transmute living cells into more permanent materials that defy decay and can endure high-powered probes is widening research opportunities for biologists who are developing cancer treatments, tracking stem cell evolution or even trying to understand how spiders vary the quality of the silk they spin. The simple, silica-based method also offers materials scientists the ability to “fix” small biological entities like red blood cells into more commercially useful shapes.
(The Atlantic) – The doctors and scientists hunting for new cures and treatments work in a constant state of tension. They operate in a tremendously high-stakes environment, pouring years of their lives into research as the people who inspire them continue to suffer and even die. Drug hunters face failure after failure, almost never followed by success. Decades of work flame out. Promising ideas turn into dead ends. For every 10,000 compounds they explore, scientists wind up with just one drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Even when medical science moves as fast as it can—and today, it’s moving faster than ever before—it’s still an agonizingly slow process.