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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1921
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    'Micro rockets' to capture cancer cells!

    A group of scientists from India and Germany claimed to have created "micro rockets" out of carbon nanotubes to selectively capture tumour cells from a large population of blood cells.

    "It is difficult for clinicians to trap the few nasty cancer cells swimming stealthily alongside billions of healthy blood cells and diagnose cancer affirmatively. We have overcome this challenge," Pune-based researcher Jayant Khandare said.

    The researchers used a chemical 'fuel' to propel these rockets up or down in an artificial cell suspension.

    "We were able to trap and transport tumour cells to diagnose specific cancers. The micro rockets can also be used to detect or trace chemicals, deliver drugs and penetrate tissues during non-invasive surgeries," Khandare said.

    Scientists earlier used microfluidic devices to capture and isolate tumours but the devices did not serve the purpose efficiently.

    It is difficult to detect tumour cells in cancer patients as for every millilitre of blood, only 10-100 tumour cells appear in a sea of about a billion normal blood cells, he said.

    The researchers from Actorius Innovations and Research, Maharashtra Institute of Pharmacy and peers from Institut fur Chemie, Freie Universitat Berlin, worked to synthesise the new efficient micro rockets, Khandare said.

    The micro rockets could become a potential tool for non-invasive liquid biopsy at an early stage of metastasis, Khandare said.


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  2. #1922
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Can 15 mins of brain training a day keep ageing away?

    To answer this question, Adam Shaw travels to Japan, and gets beaten at simple maths by a brain-trained 80-year-old.

    In the town of Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region in Japan, there are a million people going about their daily lives. I have no idea what all but one of them is doing. One lady, Ms Endo Tokiko, who won't mind me revealing that she is in her 80s, is almost certainly telling everyone around her, how she defeated, conquered, trounced and thoroughly overwhelmed an English man almost half her age. What's more she will no doubt explain how she did it with ease, while the short bald Englishman from the BBC, sweated with effort. More of which later.

    I was in Sendai to meet Dr Ryuta Kawashima. He is a Japanese neuroscientist whose work has involved mapping the regions of the brain which control emotion, language, memory and cognition.

    He is well known in academic circles for his research. However more unusually he is also known to millions of ordinary adults and children as the animated figure in the Nintendo DS Brain Game.

    Unlike his fellow neuroscientists he has a fan club of millions. In 2003, Kawashima wrote a book called 'Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain'. It was not only a success in Japan. It sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide. That not only lead to the publication of a whole series of other books, it also piqued the interest of the Japanese gaming company Nintendo who turned his brain training programme into a game which itself sold millions of copies.

    At Tohoku University, he helped found the Smart Aging International Research Centreand the Department of Advanced Brain Science. At the centre he is working with groups of elderly people to see how to keep their brains active for longer. As part of his experiments, he runs regular mental workouts or gyms for people who are largely in their 80s or older.

    His belief is that through some fairly basic exercises, repeated often, we can enlarge the functionality of the brain and stop and indeed reverse the ageing process of some brain functions.

    Indeed one of his concerns is that as we increasingly rely on computers for information and to process and interpret data for us, our brains have to do less. The modern world, in other words, is making our brains duller.

    Kawashima believes that exercising one function of the brain can improve its other functions. This could be very important because it implies that if we regularly do some simple maths exercises, such as easy addition and subtraction, we may not only get better at remembering names and where we put our car keys but our brain will become sharper at most tasks.

    Three times a week, a group of the older Sendai residents make their way to Dr Kawashima's brain gym to give their mental facilities a tightly monitored workout. I recently joined them.

    Wearing a brain monitor that linked to an app on Dr Kawashima's smart phone, I was to go up against their star pupil. Ms Endo Tokikosat next to me. She was composed, self-possessed, unruffled, unmoved and unemotional. She stared ahead unsmiling and uncommunicative.

    I, on the other hand, was a little nervous but fairly confident that whilst I was no maths genius, I could do some easy additions and should be able to do them faster than an 80 year old.

    Dr Kawashima then said: "You may turn over your paper and begin." A phrase I had not heard for many years. I rushed through the first 10 questions - quietly confident that I was going to be an easy winner.

    My complacency was shattered when I heard Ms Tokiko turning her second page - I didn't want to look across at her as it would slow me down but I was still half way through page one. I finished the first section and glanced across at my opponent who was now rushing towards the end.

    With an almost imperceptible smile, she placed her pencil down and looked at Dr Kawashima - no words were needed but Dr Kawashima shouted them anyway. Ms Tokikohad won.

    I genuinely could not believe I had been so roundly trounced.

    What's more, an analysis of our brain patterns during the exercise revealed something even more shocking. Whilst I had used all my mental guns, lighting up the brain monitor like Piccadilly Circus, Tokiko's brain monitor showed how she was only using a very small part of her faculties. As Dr Kawashima explained to me - not only had I been beaten badly but my opponent had done it with one arm tied behind her back - she had used only a fraction of her brain power whilst I had brought everything I had to the game.

    This fantastic performance, he said, was the result of 15 minutes a day of brain training. The fact that I had to look up the name of my opponent whilst she no doubt remembers mine to this very day - may also be a sign of which one of us is regularly doing our little brain training exercises.

    Shaw is the host of BBC's Horizons


  3. #1923
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Soon, vaccines for 2 bird flu strains

    A new study has detailed vaccine development for two new strains of avian influenza that can be transmitted from poultry to humans.

    The Kansas State University's vaccine development method is expected to help researchers make vaccines for emerging strains of avian influenza more quickly, which could reduce the number and intensity of large-scale outbreaks at poultry farms as well as curb human transmission. It also may lead to new influenza vaccines for pigs, and novel vaccines for sheep and other livestock, said researcher Jurgen Richt.

    Richt and his colleagues focused on the avian influenza virus subtype H5N1, a new strain most active in Indonesia, Egypt and other Southeast Asian and North African countries. H5N1 also has been documented in wild birds in the U.S., though in fewer numbers.

    H5N1 is a zoonotic pathogen, which means that it is transmitted from chickens to humans, Richt noted, adding that so far it has infected more than 700 people worldwide and has killed about 60 percent of them. Unfortunately, it has a pretty high mortality rate.

    Researchers developed a vaccine for H5N1 by combining two viruses. A vaccine strain of the Newcastle disease virus, a virus that naturally affects poultry, was cloned and a small section of the H5N1 virus was transplanted into the Newcastle disease virus vaccine, creating a recombinant virus.

    Researchers also looked at the avian flu subtype H7N9, an emerging zoonotic strain that has been circulating in China since 2013. China has reported about 650 cases in humans and Canada has reported two cases in people returning from China. About 230 people have died from H7N9.

    The study is published in Journal of Virology.


  4. #1924
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Four of 10 stents used locally 'made in India'

    Mention stents, and an image of an imported medical device with a hefty price tag comes to mind. But the latest data from the Cardiological Society of India shows that a sizeable number of stents-tiny, mesh-like tubes that are used to open up narrowed diseased arteries - used across hospitals in 2014 carried the 'Make in India' label.

    Almost four out of every 10 stents used in Indian hospitals carry a local tag, said the National Interventional Council (NIC) registry maintained by the CSI. "The Indian stents offer a price advantage," said a doctor. Only 396 out of the 624 cath labs (where stenting is carried out) across India report to the registry, but it provides the best insight into heart-care and disease patterns across the country.



    "A total of 3,10,190 stents were reported to be used for 2,48,152 coronary interventions, an average of just over 1.2 per procedure," said Dr Praveen Chandra, a cardiologist from Medanta Medicity in Gurgaon who worked out the NIC data. His data shows that 40.5% of these 3.1 lakh stents were made by Indian companies, while three multinational companies enjoy 59.5% of the market share.

    In recent times, stents have come to symbolize corruption in the Indian healthcare system; charges of overpricing are rampant. The Maharashtra Food & Drug Administration last week said that imported stents were sold to Indian patients at 700% more than the import cost: a stent with a landing price of Rs 25,000 costs Rs 1.55 lakh to the hospitalized patient.


    The debate between imported versus Indian stent thus gains importance. Cardiologists say that Indian stents seem effective enough; they added that there is little to show in terms of scientific data.



    Dr A B Mehta, director of cardiology from Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road, said, "The Indian stents are not only cheaper but some of them have great specifications. The stents made by Meril, for instance, have less thickness than the imported ones and are hence quite popular."

    But there are many doctors who don't use Indian stents because of the lack of academic work. "I have never used a stent that hasn't been thoroughly researched," said Dr Prafulla Kerkar, who heads the cardiology department of KEM Hospital in Parel. Even for the poor patients operated under the Maharashtra-government-run Rajeev Gandhi Arogya Yojana, he prefers to use an imported stent specially procured by the state government at the cost of Rs 23,000.



    "A poor patient can never get what is considered the Iphone 6, but let us at least give him or her an Iphone 4 that has great amount of data and research behind it," he said. Stents, like smartphones, come with various upgrades and are named as 'generation 1', 'generation 2' and so on. The Maharashtra government procures drug-eluting stents costing between Rs 23,000 and Rs 28,000 for patients operated under its health schemes.

    Senior cardiologist Dr Ashok Seth from Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi said that he had conducted two studies on the efficacy of Indian stents. "Indian stents are no doubt good, but they are at best copies of the original stents," he said.



    All medical devices and medicines need to pass through a clinical trial before being offered to patients. "However, the Indian stents only need to show safety in 100 patients to get regulatory approval. The imported stent, on the other hand, goes through clinical and safety trials as well as one-, two- and five-year follow-up studies," said Dr Seth. It is time Indian companies invested in research, he added.

    All doctors whom media spoke to supported the idea of governmental regulation in pricing of stents, but they said the government should standardize safety and efficacy aspects as well


  5. #1925
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Abdominal obesity leads to cardiovascular diseases: Experts

    More than 65% Kanpurities are suffering from the problem of abdominal obesity, also known as beer belly, a prime reason behind cardiovascular diseases, informed experts during the continuing medical education (CME) programme of All India Association for Advancing Research in Obesity (AIAARO), organised here on Saturday.

    The CME was inaugurated by Director General, Medical Education, Dr VN Tripathi.

    According to experts, the increasing cases of obesity has become a matter of concern for doctors.

    Dr Raghuvir Mathur, obesity and weight management specialist, said that abdominal obesity causes high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, heart problems, Alzheimer's disease as well as other metabolic and vascular diseases.

    Abdominal obesity is not confined only to the elderly only even children are getting obese because of faulty lifestyle and consuming junk food.

    "Around 62 per cent people in the city are suffering from stomach disorders, including acidity. When a person takes antacids, the production of hydrochloric acid (which is responsible for digestion) decreases and also increase the count of bacteria in the stomach, resulting in stomach ache, swelling in stomach and diarrhoea. Stomach disorders, if not treated on time, lead to abdominal obesity which gives rise to cardiovascular disorders," he said.

    The doctor said that one of the main reasons behind increase in abdominal obesity is sedentary lifestyle and eating too many antacids. He said that adopting a healthy lifestyle is helpful in keeping the disorder at bay.

    "According to World Health Organisation (WHO), men with waist size of more than 35 inch and females with waist size of more than 32 inch are considered to be obese. Packed foods contain preservatives that are very harmful for stomach health. Also, in order to remain healthy, people should avoid eating too much of spices. If an obese person reduces 5-10 kg of weight, he can be saved from other stomach problems like fatty liver and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) etc," he said.


  6. #1926
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Two cups of coffee a day boosts sex life: Study

    Drinking just two cups of coffee a day could dramatically improve your sex life, a university study has concluded.

    A study by the University of Texas has found that men who drank two cups a day were 42% per cent less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction compared to others.

    For an article for the American science journal PLOS ONE, scientists studied 4,000 men drinking caffeinated drinks including coffee, tea, fizzy and sports drinks and found the result was the same regardless of weight, age or blood pressure.

    Scientists believe it could be because the caffeine triggers a chemical reaction that increases blood flow to the penis by relaxing muscles.

    But two cups might be the limit as the researchers also found the result dipped slightly to 39% per cent for men drinking three a day.

    It also appears to have no effect on men already suffering from diabetes.

    Prof David Lopez, of the University of Texas, Houston, said: "Even though we saw a reduction in the prevalence of erectile dysfunction with men who were obese, overweight and hypertensive, that was not true of men with diabetes", according to the Daily Telegraph.Previous research has already suggested the caff- eine can boost sex drive in women. the independentIn a 2006 experiment on female rats by Southwestern University in Texas, scientists found drinking coffee stimulated the parts of the brain that signal sexual arousal. But this effect could possibly was only be seen in women who did not drink coffee regularly.

    Scientists have long argued whether to much coffee is bad for you with some arguing drinking more than four cups a day is dangerous as it causes restlessness, tremors, irritability, insomnia and stomach pain.

    But in March a separate study on 25,000 middle aged men and women suggested that drinking three to five cups a day could reduce the chances of heart disease or stroke.

    The research showed the people who drank the least- and the most- coffee showed the most signs that their arteries were clogging up- which dramatically increases the likelihood of a heart attack.


  7. #1927
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    CIIMS lab develops better meningitis test

    Meningitis is a serious infection that can also kill. It is caused by a variety of bacteria and viruses. Hence diagnosing the disease and treating it specifically for the particular bacterium causing it is vital but a very difficult task.

    The research laboratory at the Central India Institute of Medical Sciences (CIIMS) has developed a PCR (nested polymerase chain reaction) based diagnostic test that can identify eight of the known bacteria causing the disease. This test, which is yet to be commercialized, will revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.

    The test developed by the CIIMS team that included some neurologists and neurosurgeons as well is not only cheaper but extremely sensitive and specific. The project was led by the principal investigators H F Daginawala, the laboratory head, and Rajpal Kashyap, senior scientist, with Sharda Bhagchandani, a research scholar, and Priyanka Nikhare and Sushant Kubade, research fellows.

    CIIMS founder Dr G M Taori is the brain behind the idea of generating diagnostic tests for brain tuberculosis, dengue, meningitis etc by the laboratory. He had initiated the idea of the research lab itself. The doctors who participated in research by trying to treat the patient based on the bacteria specific diagnosis by the laboratory included Dr Lokendra Singh, Dr Nitin Chandak, Dr Dinesh Kabra, Dr Neeraj Baheti, Dr Vijay Agrawal, Dr Pankaj Sarda, Dr Parikshit Mahajan and Dr Ashish Ganjre.

    CIIMS has so far tried the test on 100 patients from the community and 30 hospitalized patients and obtained results with over 92% accuracy. Kashyap told TOI that the laboratory was also working with a Bangalore-based diagnostics firm Bhatt Diagnostics. "Though it make take some time but eventually the test, now called nested PCR, will be converted to I-PCR (impedance) and will give results in just ten minutes instead of the existing 24-48 hours time," he said.

    At present 'culturing the bacteria' is the only available test. This test too takes 24-48 hours but it does not identify any of the bacteria specifically. It costs 1700. A PCR based test of Bangalore based company, Xcyton is also available but it costs Rs6000 and can identify only five bacteria. "Our test, which would cost about Rs3000, can identify eight bacteria," said Bhagchandani who is doing her doctoral research on the subject in the CIIMS lab.

    Kashyap explained diagnosing meningitis, that routinely occurs in patients following brain surgery, was difficult as the cerebrospinal fluid drawn to culture the bacteria was devoid of live bacteria as the patients were already on antibiotics. Some bacteria could be resistant to either a single or more antibiotics. Hence the nested PCR test will revolutionize the treatment in the long run.

    HOW DOES A PERSON GET MENINGITIS

    Exposure to air when an infected person sneezes called as community or acquired infection or from the hospital during brain surgery as the bacteria can be present anywhere

    From a cut or wound suffered during an accident when

    the patient's blood is exposed to soil

    EIGHT BACTERIA THAT CIIMS TEST CAN IDENTIFY

    Pseudomonas, streptococcus, micrococcus, staphylococcus, acinetobacter, neisseria, hemophilus genus members and enterobacteriaceae (E-coli K1 strain & K pneumoniae) family species

    STEPS FOLLOWED IN CIIMS RESEARCH LAB TEST

    Taking out the brain or cerebrospinal fluid; isolating the DNA from it; running the nested polymerase chain reaction test



    BENEFITS AND COST INVOLVED IN THE TEST

    Much more sensitive and specific to different bacteria, especially culture method.

    Half the cost of available PCR tests

    Can identify eight disease causing bacteria enabling the doctor to treat for a particular microbe


  8. #1928
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Traffic noise may give you a pot belly: study

    People regularly exposed to a combination of road, rail and plane noise are at a high risk of developing a pot belly, a new Swedish study has warned.

    Road traffic noise is linked to a heightened risk of developing a mid-riff bulge, researchers said.

    Exposure to a combination of road traffic, rail, and aircraft noise may pose the greatest risk of acquiring a spare tyre - otherwise known as central obesity, and thought to be one of the most harmful types of fat deposition around the body, the finding suggests.

    Researchers assessed how much road traffic, rail, and aircraft noise 5,075 people living in five suburban and rural areas around Stockholm, Sweden, had been exposed to since 1999.

    The analysis, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, indicated no link between road traffic noise and Body Mass Index (BMI). But there was an association between road traffic noise and waist size, with a 0.21 cm increase for every additional 5 decibel (dB) increase in exposure, although this was only significant among women.

    Similarly, there was a link to waist-hip ratio, with a change of 0.16 for every 5 dB increase in noise exposure to road traffic; this association was stronger in men.

    A larger waist was significantly associated with exposure to any of the three sources of noise, but the link was strongest for aircraft noise; a larger waist-hip ratio was associated with road traffic and aircraft noise only.

    There seemed to be a cumulative effect, however: the more sources of noise pollution a person was exposed to at the same time, the greater their risk of central obesity seemed to be.

    The heightened risk of a larger waist rose from 25 per cent among those exposed to only one source to almost double for those exposed to all three sources.

    The findings were not influenced by socioeconomic factors, lifestyle, or exposure to ambient air pollution from local road traffic.

    But age was an influential factor, with associations between central obesity and road traffic noise only found for those below the age of 60.

    Noise exposure may be an important physiological stressor and bump up the production of the hormone cortisol, high levels of which are thought to have a role in fat deposition around the middle of the body, researchers said.

    "This may explain why the effects of noise were mainly seen for markers of central obesity, such as waist circumference and waist-hip ratio, rather than for generalised obesity, measured by BMI," they said.


  9. #1929
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    In a first, cold sore virus used to fight cancer cells

    Scientists have the first proof that a "brand new" way of combating cancer, using genetically modified viruses to attack tumour cells, can benefit patients, paving the way for a "wave" of new %potential treatments over the next decade.

    Specialists at the NHS Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) confirmed that melanoma skin cancer patients treated with a modified herpes virus (the virus that causes cold sores) had improved survival - a world first.

    In some patients, the improvements were striking. Although all had aggressive, inoperable malignant melanoma, those treated with the virus therapy - known as T-VEC - at an earlier stage survived, on average, 20 months longer than patients given an alternative.In others patients results were more modest, but the study represents a landmark: it is the first, large, randomised trial of a so-called oncolytic virus to show success.

    Cancer scientists predict it will be the first of many in the coming years - adding a new weapon to our arsenal of cancer treatments. The method - known as viral immunotherapy - works by launching a "two-pronged attack" on cancer cells. The virus is genetically modified so that it can't replicate in healthy cells. the independent - meaning it homes in on cancer cells. It multiplies inside the cancer cells, bursting them from within. At the same time, other genetic modifications to the virus mean it stimulates the body's own immune response to attack and destroy tumours.

    Other forms of immunotherapy - the stimulation of the body's own immune system to fight cancer - using antibodies rather viruses, have been developed into successful drugs. It is hoped that T-VEC could be used in combination with these.

    Findings from trials of T-VEC, which is manufactured by the American pharmaceutical company Amgen, have already been submitted to drugs regulators in Europe and the USA.Viral immunotherapies are also being investigated for use against advanced head and neck cancers, bladder cancers and liver cancers.

    Kevin Harrington, UK trial leader and professor of biological cancer therapies at the ICR and an honorary consultant at the Royal Marsden, said he hoped the treatment could be available for routine use within a year in many countries, although it would need to pass the UK's own regulatory approval before it could be prescribed here.

    "I hope, having worked for two decades in this field, that it really is the start of something really exciting," said Professor Harrington. "We hope this is the first of a wave of indications for these sorts of [cancer fighting] agents that we will see coming through in the next decade or so."Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the ICR said: "We may normally think of viruses as the enemies of mankind, but it's their very ability to specifically infect and kill human cells that can make them such promising cancer treatments."

    The study, which is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included 436 patients, all of whom had aggressive, inoperable malignant melanoma. More than 16 per cent of patients were responding to treatment after six months, compared to 2.1 per cent who were given a control treatment.

    Some patients were still responding to treatment after three years.Alan Melcher, professor of clinical oncology and biotherapy at the University of Leeds, and an expert in oncolytic viruses, said the field had accelerated quickly in recent years.

    "They were first developed to go in and kill cancer cells but leave other cells unharmed. What's become clear is that these viruses may do that but what is probably more important, is that they work by stimulating an immune response against cancer," he said."The field has moved very quickly clinically. Immunotherapy looks promising and big pharmaceutical companies are now involved. Amgem have bought this virus and the reality is, when the big companies get involved things move a lot more quickly."

    Dr Hayley Frend, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said the potential for viruses in future cancer treatments was "exciting".

    "Previous studies have shown T-VEC could benefit some people with advanced skin cancer but this is the first study to prove an increase in survival. The next step will be to understand why only some patients respond to T-VEC, in order to help better identify which patients might benefit from it," she said.

    Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, and is becoming more widespread as a result of increased exposure to the sun in younger generations who have benefitted from easier access to sunnier climates on holiday. Survival chances are good if the cancer - indicated by the appearance of a new mole on the skin - is caught early.

    However, if left alone, the tumour can become inoperable, and 2,000 people still die from melanoma in the UK every year.


  10. #1930
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Cells that aid hearing, balance created in lab

    Scientists have successfully developed a way to coax embryonic stem cells to become the inner-ear hair cells which are responsible for hearing and sense of balance.

    This is an important step for the future production of large numbers of these cells for use in cell transplantation therapies or large-scale drug screens, researchers from the Molecular Medicine Institute in Lisbon, Portugal said. Sensory hair cells located in the inner ear are vital for our sense of hearing and balance. As these cells are unable to regenerate, millions of people worldwide have permanent hearing and balance impairments. Previous studies had already reported the successful generation of hair cells in the lab, but the protocols used were complex and inefficient.

    To overcome these problems, the team led by Domingos Henrique from the Molecular Medicine Institute in Lisbon, Portugal decided to follow a different strategy.

    "We explored the extensive knowledge on the various regulatory proteins that control hair cell development in the embryo to design an effective combination of three transcription factors able to induce the formation of these cells," said Henrique and Aida Costa, the graduate student involved in the work.

    The team applied this simpler approach to mouse embryonic stem cells in a dish, which have the potential to become any cell type.

    They were able to convert these cells into hair cells, more successfully and with higher efficiencies than previously reported.

    Excitingly, when the team added the three players to cells in the ear of a developing chick embryo they were also able to induce the formation of many new hair cells, including in areas where they do not form normally, suggesting that a similar strategy might work in vivo.

    Hair cells get their name from the bundle of hair-like structures that protrude from the cell. These protrusions have mechanosensitive ion channels that allow hair cells to transform vibrational movements into electrical signals.

    "We observed that the hair cells we produced are also able to develop similar protrusions, but with an immature and disorganised morphology," said the authors.


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