Saturday, June 16, 2012

Science Saturday 2.10: Stem Cells, Sputnik, & Star Trek


A 10-year old girl from Sweden suffering from blockages in her hepatic portal vein (blood flow between the liver and the gut) received a transplant that used her own stem cells to grow a new vein.  A vein was removed from a cadaver and stripped of it's cells, leaving behind only a structural protein scaffold.  This was then covered in stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow.  Usually during transplants, there is risk of the body rejecting the "foreign material" - but because the stem cells are from the patient, the grafted vein was taken into the body without any need for immunosuppresant drugs.  Very cool!

Cross section of hepatic vein filled with red blood cells
source
With the discovery of large viruses, further research has shown that they can be infected by smaller viruses coined as virophages (Latin "viro-" virus; Greek "-phagein" to eat).  It has been generally accepted that viruses are non-living infectious agents, simply acting as a "machine" to take over it's host's system and replicate.  However, discover of the virophage Sputnik, which infects giant viruses, suggests that viruses may be living organisms - with the ability to get sick like we do.

Giant virus (red) infected by Sputnik virus (purple)
source
Afraid of needles at the doctor's office?  Researchers at MIT have developed a "needleless" injector - much like something you'd see Dr. "Bones" McCoy use on Star Trek.  The injector uses a high pressure system to "shoot" the medication painlessly into your skin.  The can administer various dosages at various depths of the skin tissue.






1 comment:

  1. Soooo interesting...so what makes us sick but doesn't respond to antibiotic (virus's) can get sick? Is that what this means?

    It is so exciting to see the research on self-made stem cells! I am so excited to see where these studies lead us. Dr. Phil tells the chronically ill or the terminally ill to promise to live one more day because that day may literally make a difference in their lives. This is literally true!

    Years and years ago there was an attempt at needle-less shots. My mother and I got our flu shots that way. But they warned that we couldn't even flinch because it could literally rip open our arm. I haven't heard anything about this until now. I am all in favor of needle-less shots!! Come on Star Trek!!


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