Doctors Treat Gynecological Cancer 92% Faster

Approximately 71,500 women in the United States are diagnosed with gynecological cancer every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Researchers from University Hospitals Case Medical Center have developed a more effective way to treat gynecological cancers, shortening radiation treatment time from five weeks to three days.

The new method, stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) has been used on other types of cancer, but Case Medical Center is the first treatment facility to apply it to gynecological cancers. Dr. Charles Kunos, who co-authored the article, said the radiation therapy machine “looks like a robot you would make cars with, and targets specific cancer cells.”

Unlike traditional radiation therapy, SBRT uses focused radiation beams and targets well-defined tumors. In order to focus in on the region, the tumors need to be imaged and marked (using fiduciary markers) in advance. During treatment with the Cyberknife system (from Accuray), patients need to be immobilized, and even the patient’s breathing needs to be taken into account.

The highly specific nature of the procedure not only shortens treatment time, it limits the effect of the radiation on healthy tissues.

“SBRT holds great promise for treating persistent or recurrent gynecological cancers,” said JoVE Science Editor, Dr. Nandita Singh. “SBRT can deliver radiation with high precision and is particularly effective in delivering reduced radiation to cancer targets that are refractory to chemotherapy and conventional radiation.”

Dr. Kunos said he is very pleased with his article, and felt that it was critical to high-quality video of the protocol for people to see when he and his team launch a nationwide clinical trial. To learn more about how a video in JoVE Medicine can help you, please click here.

A Better Tool to Diagnose Tuberculosis

Up to 30 percent of the world’s population is infected with Tuberculosis (TB), but in many areas of the world, TB diagnosis still relies on insensitive, poorly standardized, and time-consuming methods. A new diagnostic tool, endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), may change that. Dr. Thomas Bodmer from the University of Bern, Switzerland, shows how it’s done in the April issue of JoVE.

Currently, TB is diagnosed through either a skin test, which produces a small bump on the patient’s arm when administered and needs to be checked after 72 hours, and through smear microscopy, a method that was developed over a century ago. The new test is fully automated and takes about an hour and a half to give results. It is also able to determine if the patient is infected with a multidrug-resistant strain of the bacteria.

“The Xpert MTB/RIF assay is intended for use with specimens from patients for whom there is suspicion of pulmonary tuberculosis and who fulfill the criteria outlined in the accompanied text,” said Dr. Bodmer, who co-authored the article.

WHO endorsed the test in 2010, and is working to roll it out across tuberculosis-affected countries. An important aspect of this is training people to use the device, and the JoVE video-article will help with standardization.

“TB is one of the most deadly infectious diseases worldwide and accurate and rapid diagnosis is essential for timely and proper treatment. This test is expected to dramatically improve the diagnosis of TB,” said JoVE Science Editor, Dr. Charlotte Frank Sage. “Publication of the protocol in JoVE allows researchers around the world to see a detailed demonstration of this diagnostic tool and will aid in establishing this technology in their laboratories and clinics.”

To see the full video-article, please click here.

How Fat Are Your Lab Mice?

Researchers are increasingly aware that fat in some parts of the body is more harmful than fat in other places. To help determine how obesity works, scientists turn to animal models and now, they are able to visualize how much fat their lab rats are carrying and where it is stored.

“One of the key benefits of this technique versus existing methods, like ex vivo analysis, is that this technique allows for non-invasive and longitudinal assessment of fat in small animal disease models,” said paper-author Dr. Todd Sasser.

Traditionally, researchers have had to use either invasive techniques, which provide more insight into where fat is being stored specifically but result in the death of the mouse, or less specific, non-invasive imaging techniques. Here, they use dedicated small animal X-ray computed tomography (CT) and customized analytics to see how the fat is distributed inside the animal.

The process is highly visual, resulting in three-dimensional images of the fat within the mouse, which is why the researchers chose to publish their method in JoVE, the only peer reviewed, PubMed-indexed science journal to publish all of its content in both text and video format.

“Generally, individuals new to this method will struggle, because the segmentation and visualization protocol includes several steps that must be completed in succession,” said co-author Sarah Chapman, from the University of Notre Dame.

To see the full video-article, please click here.

The Electronic Nose Knows When Your Cantaloupe is Ripe

Have you ever been disappointed by a cantaloupe from the grocery store? Too ripe? Not ripe enough? Luckily for you, researchers from the University of California, Davis might have found a way to make imperfectly ripe fruit a thing of the past.

“We are involved in a project geared towards developing rapid methods to evaluate ripeness and flavor of fruits,” said paper-author Dr. Florence Negre-Zkharov. “We evaluated an electronic nose to see it it can differentiate maturity of fruit, specifically melons. The goal is to develop a tool that can be used post-harvest to better evaluate produce, and develop better breeds.”

When fruit ripens, it develops a characteristic volatile blend, indicating its maturity. Traditionally, the gold-standard of evaluating these volatiles has been gas chromatography, but it takes up to an hour to analyze a single sample, which makes it impractical to use outside the lab. Dr. Negre-Zakharov and her team wanted to determine if the much cruder— but much faster— electronic nose was able to determine if the melon they used in the experiment were ripe. It was.

Read more…

Eye-Tracking in Young Children with Autism

Though the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been steadily climbing— from 6 in 1,000 children in 2002, to nearly 10 in 1,000 children in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention— little is known about the disorder. But, research with young kids can lead to important insights in how children with developmental abnormalities view the world. This month in JoVE, researchers demonstrate how to use eye-tracking in very young children with autism.

“Generally, individuals new to this method often struggle, as eye-tracking young children with autism involves unique challenges that are not present when tracking typically-developing older children or adult population,” said paper-author Dr. Noah Sasson.

Eye-tracking is one of the few quantifiable ways to study children with autism spectrum disorder. It requires that children look at pictures on a screen— in this study, objects and faces— and the eye-tracking technology can record where a child is looking, when.

Dr. Sasson explains that though researchers have known for a long time about the social impairment that comes with autism, they are not sure if young children with autism are actually looking at faces differently, or ignoring faces all together.

To help other scientists who are interested in answering this question, Dr. Sasson published his methodology in JoVE. According to JoVE Editor Leiam Colbert, the lack of standardization in the field is a real problem.

“There are challenges with research of this kind— both from the methodological and clinical perspectives. Less experienced researchers may or may not be aware of the difficulties inherent in eye-tracking children with autism. The need for standardization of this type is great, to prevent the publication of spurious results, or wasting scare resource funds and participant time.”

The video-article shows how Dr. Sasson sets up the lab with few distractions, so the children participating are more likely to focus on the eye-tracking screen and how cartoons and moving images with sounds are useful ways to get children to refocus their attention on the screen.

“I think visually seeing the lab, visually seeing the child and how to conduct the test is important,” said Dr. Sasson. “I think this will be a very helpful resource.”

To watch the full video-article, please click here

JoVE Judo in Science NOW

On Tuesday, JoVE published a fascinating article on how energy is used during complex sports, such as judo and other martial arts. Previous research on exercise science has focused on sports that can be easily recreated in the lab, such as running and cycling, but these Brazilian scientists have found a completely unique way of studying more complex sports.

Science NOW picked up the story and did an excellent job of explaining how the researchers did it:

The Science of Judo

Martial arts are exhausting, as anyone who’s traded a few punches, kicks, or throws can attest. But where exactly does the energy come from? Every form of exercise uses a different combination of the body’s metabolic systems for energy. Cyclical sports such as running and cycling are relatively easy to replicate with exercise machines in a laboratory, but that’s harder to do with more unpredictable sports such as martial arts. So a team of Brazilian researchers have taken the lab into the dojo to study the energy requirements of the Japanese art of judo.

Three different systems convert food to energy. During long periods of moderate exercise, aerobic metabolism does most of the work, using oxygen to turn sugar into energy, water, and CO2. Running a marathon or cycling for 100 miles, therefore, is almost entirely aerobic. For shorter, more intense exertion, or when the oxygen runs out, muscles can break down sugar anaerobically, although that system is far less efficient and produces muscle-burning lactic acid as a byproduct. Lastly, for very short bursts of energy, such as a 10-second sprint, muscles can rely on another type of anaerobic system: they use up energy-storing compounds, called phosphagens, in muscular tissues.

Click here to read the full story.

Scientists Measure How Energy is Spent in Martial Arts

Two judo fighters face off, one in a white judogi (the traditional judo uniform) and one in blue. They reach for each other’s shoulders and lock arms, in what looks like an awkard dance, before the fighter in blue throws his opponent head-over-feet onto the mat.

Judo and mixed martial arts have become increasingly popular over the past few years and scientists have taken note. The two fighters were actually filmed as part of a science experiment that demonstrates how researchers can quantify exactly how the athletes are spending their energy. The video will be published in JoVE today.

An athlete wears a portable gas analyzer during a judo match.

Previously, researchers have only been able to study predictable sports that are easy to replicate in the laboratory, such as running. With this new method, scientists will be able to study the team and individual sports that have previously been neglected.

“Each sport has specific characteristics which confer different metabolic demands to them,” said paper-author Dr. Emerson Franchini. “One of the most important aspects of the metabolic demand is the relative contribution of the energy systems.”

Read more…

How to Convert a Standard InkJet Printer Into a Cell Printing Machine:

Researchers from Clemson University have found a way to create temporary holes in the membranes of live cells using a standard inkjet printer. The method will be published in JoVE at 1pm today.

“We first had the idea for this method when we wanted to be able to visualize changes in the cytoskeleton arrangement due to applied forces on cells,” said paper-author Dr. Delphine Dean.

A fibroblast printed with the modified inkjet printer. The interior of the cell shows that the fluorescently tagged actin monomers have been incorporated.

She said other researchers have been using this method to print cells onto slide, but that they have only recently discovered that printing the cells causes the disruption in the their membranes for a few hours. Creating temporary pores allows researchers to put molecules inside of cells that wouldn’t otherwise fit, and study how the cells react.

“The authors have used an extremely innovative approach for bioprinting cells. Moreover, this approach can be used for applications other than cells printing.” said JoVE Science Editor, Dr. Nandita Singh. “Matrix proteins can be printed onto substrates with this technique for cell patterning.”

The printer is modified by removing the paperfeed mechanism and adding a “stage” from which to feed the slides. The ink is replaced with a cell solution, and the cells are printed directly on to the slides.

Using this method, the researchers are able to process thousands of cells in a matter of minutes. Dr. Dean’s team used the holes to introduce fluorescent molecules that illuminate the skeleton of the cell.

“We are actually interested in the cell mechanics of compressed cells. This method allows us to push on the cells and watch the response easily,” said Dr. Dean. “We are interested in cardiovascular cells, and how they respond to mechanical force.”

Dr. Dean chose to submit her method to JoVE, the only peer reviewed, PubMed-indexed science journal to publish all of its content in both text and video format, because, she said, “until you’ve seen it done, it’s hard to understand the process.”

To see the full article, please click here (after 1pm EST).

Want to see all of what JoVE has to offer? Follow the link to recommend a subscription to your librarian.

JoVE Talks Information Access at the NIH

It’s been six months since we partnered with HINARI to bring JoVE to countries in the developing world, and what better way to celebrate this partnership that with a presentation to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Global Health Interest Group.

In the last year, the conflict between authors and academic publishers has heated up significantly. For the most part, authors want the academic literature to be more freely available, and publishers want to maintain their profit margins. To help explain the issues and understand JoVE‘s take on all of this, Dr. Jameela Khan invited Dr. Claire Standen and myself down to the NIH this past Monday to speak with the group.

In January of 2011, an editorial in The Lancet did a beautiful job of explaining its controversy with its own publisher. Several publishers, including Elsevier, which publishes The Lancet journals withdrew their journals from HINARI programs in certain countries, including Bangladesh and Kenya. The editors were upset, arguing that ‘any country designated as “low human development” by the UN justifies a clear and unambiguous commitment by all publishers to full and free access to research through HINARI.”

Elsevier restored access of its journals to Bangladesh, and assured the editors at The Lancet that they would be consulted in all future HINARI access negotiations.

Still, information access for all researchers has remained a contentious issue. As the editors in The Lancet editorial began: “Lack of access to knowledge is the main limitation to human development.” Dr. Timothy Gowers, for one, has had enough of academic publishers controlling the knowledge researchers provide.

His main complaint is that since the majority of the work that goes into producing an academic article is done for free by academics, and because we no longer need information to be published in print to access it, he believes that the publishers are no longer adding value. This is for the most part true— all the publishers who have refused to innovate since the first academic journal was published in the 1600s are not adding much value.

Dr. Standen did a beautiful job of explaining how we at JoVE are working to change that. Rather than simply publishing text, the she and the other editors, as well as the video production team at JoVE work hard to translate scientific research into a video other scientists can learn from. So is the answer to this problem to abolish the academic publishers, or, should we be demanding more for them?

Researchers Open the Brain to New Treatments

One of the trickiest parts of treating brain conditions is the blood brain barrier, a blockade of cells that prevent both harmful toxins and helpful pharmaceuticals from getting to the body’s control center. But, a new video shows how an MRI machine can guide the use of microbubbles and focused ultrasound to help drugs enter the brain, which may open new treatment avenues for devastating conditions like Alzheimer’s and brain cancers.

“It’s getting close to the point where this could be done safely in humans,” said paper-author Meaghan O’Reilly, “there is a push towards applications.”

The current method of disrupting the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is by using osmotic agents such as mannitol, which suck the water out of the cells that form the barrier, causing the gaps between them to get bigger. Unfortunately, this method opens large areas of the barrier, leaving the brain exposed to toxins.

The benefit of the microbubble technique is that it can be used on a very small area of the BBB. The microbubbles, made of lipids (fats) and gas, are injected into the blood stream. When focused ultrasound is applied, the bubbles expand and contract. It is thought that the force of the movement in the bubbles causes the cells that form the BBB to temporarily separate, which allows drugs to reach the brain.

“Microbubble technology has been around for years, though its applications have mostly been as contrast agents for diagnostic ultrasound,” said Editorial Director, Dr. Beth Hovey. “This newer approach, using ultrasound to help the bubbles permeablize the blood brain barrier, will hopefully allow for better treatment of diseases within the brain.”

In this method, O’Reilly and her colleagues use the MRI machine to ensure that the barrier opens, and they can also time how long it takes for it to close, which will be important for when the technique is used one patients,

O’Reilly chose to publish the technique in JoVE to help other scientists learn the method.

“The ability of focused ultrasound combined with microbubbles to disrupt the blood brain barrier has been known for over a decade. However, because the actual technique can be challenging— there are critical steps involved— the video article fills a gap in the literature that is a major hinderance to people getting into the field,” she said.

To see the full article, please click here (after 1pm EST).

Want to see all of what JoVE has to offer? Follow the link to recommend a subscription to your librarian.