Good News Tuesday

This week, as so often, a focus on medical good news. I believe I’ll start trying to alternate: medicine vs everything else.

This first one is pretty darned good:

Arming Bodies with CRISPR to Fight Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s is so awful, and there has never been anything much we could do about it. Now: In a study published in August, Yeo and his colleagues used CRISPR-Cas9 to destroy errant repeats in RNA sequences. When tested in the lab, Yeo’s CRISPR tool obliterated 95 percent or more of these RNA knots in cells harboring Huntington’s disease and a type of ALS. … The researchers also tested the approach on a form of inherited muscular dystrophy, called myotonic dystrophy. They were able to eliminate 95 percent of faulty RNAs in muscle cells taken from patients. After they applied CRISPR, the once-diseased cells resembled healthy ones. Yeo thinks more than 20 genetic diseases that are caused by toxic RNA repeats could potentially be treated this way.


Huntington’s and similar conditions have been problems for ages, but “superbugs” are of course a modern phenomenon. I’m waiting for therapies that don’t involve antibiotics to be developed, since that seems like the most promising avenue to deal with drug-resistant bacteria. Here’s an in-between type of therapy: a way of boosting the performance of older antibiotics:

Light-Activated Nanoparticles Help Fight Drug-Resistant Superbugs

Our strongest antibiotics are increasingly defenseless against the nastiest bacterial infections, but the use of new light-activated nanoparticles could give those old drugs a fighting chance. In a paper published today in Science Advances, researchers reported that quantum dots—light-activated semiconductor nanoparticles—when engineered at a particular size can sneak into bacteria, disrupt their cellular processes, and make them more susceptible to antibiotics.

The discovery could breathe new life into old antibiotics, says Anushree Chatterjee, a chemical and biological engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder, who co-authored the report. It also exemplifies how electrical engineering can be used to address problems typically approached purely though medicine.

Next, a very science-fiction-y wound treatment, although I question the use of the word “heals” here:

Injectable glue heals wounds in seconds

The injectable glue, MeTro, is based on a naturally occurring protein called tropaelastin. It is applied directly to the wound and is then activated with UV light to form a complete seal, eliminating the need for staples or stitches. Its elasticity means it’s designed to work well on shape-changing internal organs like the lungs and heart.

A study published in journal Science Translational Medicine showed the glue quickly and successfully sealed incisions in the arteries and lungs of rodents and the lungs of pigs.

Of course there’s quite a difference between “healing” and “sealing,” but hey.

And speaking of misleading headlines, this one is probably a trifle overstated:

An End to Blindness?

But still, it sounds pretty cool:

If you had seen Lisa Kulik and her husband strolling the grounds of the University of Southern California’s Eye Institute last summer, you would have thought nothing of it. But for Kulik, that simple walk around the campus was “a miracle.” Blind for more than two decades from an inherited eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, Kulik was seeing again — clearly enough to make out the sidewalk and the grassy edge — thanks to a sophisticated microchip implanted in one of her eyes.

The device, called the Argus II, is just one of a growing number of bold new approaches to treating blindness, offering hope to the millions of mostly older Americans in danger of losing their sight from macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases.

The reason this can’t possibly be sufficient to fix “blindness” is that sometimes blindness results from a problem in the brain, not a problem in the eye. Plus I have no doubt that this microchip will fail to work for some conditions affecting the eye. Still . . . faster, please!

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3 thoughts on “Good News Tuesday”

  1. All of these are amazing, but the post about gluing wounds really stands out: I read about this in Science as a research article just this summer. That it’s come through clinical trial this fast is *fantastic*. Usually this takes an incredibly long time.

  2. Addendum: it’s worth noting that gluing flesh is really difficult. It’s wet. It doesn’t have clean surfaces. It needs to bend. The glue can’t be toxic. And any glue needs to dry almost instantly. The article in Science used superglue (polycarboxylate) as a comparison: it’s toxic; it’s not very flexible; and it doesn’t like being wet. And the glue they developed is as strong as super glue, even on dry surfaces. It’s a real tour de force.

  3. All that about glue makes total sense! Pretty snazzy they managed to come up with a glue that actually works. Maybe fairly soon this will just be something everybody has in their first aid kits.

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