Author Archives: Clive Sullivan

Electricity can be used to heal bacterial wound infections

Fight bacterial infections using electricity? It is possible according to a group of researchers at the Indiana Center for Regenerative and Engineering who have developed a type of dressing that uses an electric field to stop the infection on bacterial biofilms.

The study, published in Annals of Surgery, describes the system based on an electric field that directly treats bacterial biofilms. The latter are thin and slimy films made by bacteria that form on wounds, in particular burns or surgical infections.

It happens that these bacteria generate a small amount of electricity through which they basically communicate and multiply, which naturally makes treatment more difficult.

The new dressing, on contact with the body fluids that come out of the wounds, is able to generate a volt of electricity independently, a very low amount that does not create any problem for the patient but instead counteracts the bacteria.

This is the first study to show that “the bacterial biofilm can be destroyed using an electroceutical dressing”, as Chandan Sen, one of the actors involved in the study, points out. This new dressing has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Humans were already cooking and eating starch 120,000 years ago according to new findings.

Humans cooked and ate vegetable starches, such as those of tubers and rhizomes, already 120,000 years ago according to research in the Journal of Human Evolution. The evidence came by analyzing the remains found in the cave of the Klasies River in South Africa. Remains of charred food were found in this cave after cooking on fireplaces.

This is the first research showing that the first humans used to consume starch, as reported by lead author Cynthia Larbey, a researcher at the University of Cambridge: “Our results showed that these small hearths were used to cook food and the starch and tuber roots were clearly part of their diet.”

It was a fairly healthy diet, as reported by Professor Sarah Wurz, of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg: by combining cooked roots and tubers with protein and fat from shellfish, fish and other animals, these human communities have adapted optimally to their environment and have also shown considerable ecological intelligence in the exploitation of food resources already 120,000 years ago.

Furthermore, this research confirms that starches have become an important food for humans long before the beginning of agriculture (it is believed that agriculture started only about 10,000 years ago); indeed, starch consumption can be considered almost as old as modern humans themselves.

Individually manipulable atoms with electron beam with new system

Very often in science fiction films set in the future, particularly those about spaceships, you can see machines that produce everything, especially food, with a simple command. To do this you need to manipulate atoms at the basic level, something we are not yet able to do, in order to build everything molecule by molecule. However, manufacturing atomic devices atom by atom with precise control is the goal of many scientists and research institutes.

This is also demonstrated by a new study conducted by a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Vienna and other international institutes who have taken a good step in this direction, which is still “futuristic” at the moment. The scientists have succeeded in developing a method by which atoms can be repositioned with a highly focused electron beam. With this beam, it is then possible to control the exact position of the atom and its orientation. This discovery could be the basic approach for humanity to truly enter a new era of “atomic engineering.”

Published in Science Advances, the study aims to “control from one to a few hundred atoms, check their positions, check their state of charge and control their electronic and nuclear spin states,” as Ju Li, one of the researchers involved in the study, says.

While previous research was based on the use of microscopic needles and tunnel effect microscopes to manipulate atoms at this level, this new process manipulates atoms using a beam of relativistic electrons with a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM).

With this system, the atom can be electronically controlled with magnetic lenses which, among other things, do not require moving mechanical parts. The process therefore becomes faster and more practical. It is “an exciting new paradigm for the manipulation of atoms,” as Toma Susi, professor at the University of Vienna who is involved in the study, says.

Immune cells engineered with CRISPR to fight viruses

The experiment has already been conducted on mice: researchers have genetically engineered the immune cells to make the antibodies more efficient. Specifically, they helped the mice to fight a powerful lung virus, a strategy that could perhaps also help humans in all those diseases and illnesses for which no vaccine exists.

The study, conducted by immunologist Justin Taylor of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is based on the use of the CRISPR system to engineer B cells to create an antibody known to be efficient against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

B lymphocytes are immune cells that release antibodies to the pathogen. Using CRISPR, researchers cut one of the antibody genes in the mouse’s B cells and transported them through a virus into the DNA. The genes then began to “churn out” antibodies to counteract RSV.

The same way could also be used for humans: stimulating B cells to create antibodies against particular viruses for which no vaccines exist, in particular HIV and certain types of influenza viruses.

“We hope that one day children will go to their pediatrician’s office to receive engineered B cells that emit the best-known antibodies to protect against most strains of certain viruses,” says Michael Goldberg, CEO of the STIMIT biotech startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts.