July - September 2010 Edition: Naples Health

Looking Ahead

What’s new and promising

Hope for stomach woes Probiotic microbes—akin to those now being added to yogurts and other foods—hold promise of helping those with Crohn’s

junction that nerve fibers can grow into. The junction has been successfully tested on rats and shown good long-term stability. Cederna hopes to start testing the junction in people in

three years. If successful, it could lead to the ability to type, sense hot and cold, and touch others. The U.S. Department of Defense and the Army have funded the new research with $4.5 million. Using magnets to deliver drugs Many medical conditions, including diabetes, cancer and chronic pain, require medication that cannot be taken orally but must be dosed intermittently as the patient needs it. Attempts to implant electronic chips to act as on/off switches for such medication have proved unreliable over time. Now, researchers at Chil- dren’s Hospital Boston have developed a method that combines nanotechnol- ogy and magnetism that appears to work well over several courses of dosing. The researchers created a

disease, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD in any of its forms brings inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that causes abdominal pain and watery and bloody diar- rhea. This emerging disease affects 20 out of 100,000 genetically susceptible people throughout Europe and North America. While the exact causes are unclear, it’s thought to be linked to an imbalance of the types of bacteria normally found in the gut.

IBD affects 20 out of 100,000 genetically susceptible people in Europe and North America.

Recent studies have indentified butyric acid (a well-known anti-inflammatory able to strengthen intestinal walls) as a potential therapy for IBD. Some normal gut bacteria produce the acid, but in IBD patients those strains are depleted. Researchers found that injecting mice with one of the butyric- acid-producing bacterium was effective at restoring normal levels of gut bacteria and easing IBD symptoms. The next step will be developing bacterial strains that can produce butyric acid and also build up stable colonies in IBD patients. Restoring a sense of touch Prosthetics have come a long way since the days of “Peg-leg Pete,” but the ability to restore full function to amputees— including fine motor skills and a sense of touch—has proved elusive. A new method of tapping brain signals at nerve ends, however, is showing promise of reaching that goal. In recent years, tiny cuffs wrapped around nerve ends and needle probes have both been used to try to connect brain sig- nals to the prostheses. Both methods stop working over time. At the annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons last October, researcher Dr. Paul S. Cederna and his colleagues released a report on their development of a kind of

small implantable device composed of magnetite, a mineral with natural magnetic properties. Encapsulated within is the medication, surrounded by a specially engineered membrane embedded with nanoparticles. When a magnetic field is switched on outside the body, near the device, the nanoparticles heat up, softening the gels in the membrane to temporarily collapse and allow the release of the drug. When the magnetic field is turned off, the particles cool and the gels re-expand to halt the release of the medicine. In animal tests, the membranes remained mechanically stable, showed no toxicity to cells and were not rejected by the ani- mals’ immune systems.

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Naples Health | JULY-SEPTEMBER 2010

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