122. Better Concussion Detection, Restoring Memories With Prosthesis, AI and Epilepsy

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Shows Notes:

Neck-worn "bandage" sensors could better warn of concussions | New Atlas (01:09)

  • One of the dangerous things about sports-related concussions is the fact that athletes may not realize they have one.
    • A new sensor could let them (or their coaches) know.
    • It would go on their neck, not their head.
  • Helmet-integrated sensors, which have been developed, detect the type of impacts associated with concussions; such devices aren't necessarily 100-percent reliable.
  • Because a lot of concussions are associated with their head rapidly moving whiplash-style to one side, researchers at Michigan State University developed a thin-film adhesive-patch sensor that could detect the telltale neck movements.
    • Size of a small bandage
    • prototype device is only about 0.1 mm thick
    • Piezoelectric material that produces an electrical charge when stretched or compressed.
  • Once the material is charged due to the movement of the material, the data is sent to a computer, which will analyze it to determine if a concussion-grade impact occurred.
  • While executing tests with this prototype, they found it performed as well as the helmet-integrated accelerometers at detecting concussion causing impacts, BUT they found the neck-bandage wouldn't produce false readings.
  • The researchers are looking into ways of streamlining the design of the patch, such as equipping it with a transmitter that would wirelessly relay data to a nearby computer or mobile device.

Cancer trial amazingly results in 100% remission in every patient | Brighter Side News (07:41)

  • Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s own immune system as an ally against cancer.
    • The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was investigating — for the first time ever — if immunotherapy alone could beat rectal cancer that had not spread to other tissues
  • Sascha Roth, a 6-month participant in the clinical trial, found out, “a team of doctors examined my tests … And since they couldn’t find any signs of cancer, Dr. Cercek said there was no reason to make me endure radiation therapy.”
  • These same remarkable results would be repeated for all 14 people — and counting — in the MSK clinical trial for rectal cancer with a particular mutation.
    • The rectal cancer disappeared after immunotherapy — without the need for the standard treatments of radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy
    • the cancer has not returned in any of the patients
  • Dr. Cercek talks on this rewarding experience:
    • “It’s incredibly rewarding … to get these happy tears and happy emails from the patients in this study who finish treatment and realize, ‘Oh my God, I get to keep all my normal body functions that I feared I might lose to radiation or surgery.’ ”
  • The research team went out to figure out precisely which patients benefit most from immunotherapy, so they can receive it right away.
    • Patients who have tumors with a specific genetic makeup known as mismatch repair-deficient (MMRd) or microsatellite instability (MSI).
    • Between 5% and 10% of all rectal cancer patients are thought to have MMRd tumors.
    • 45,000 Americans are diagnosed a year with rectal cancer.
  • Dr. Diaz talks on the mutation and treatment:
    • “An MMRd tumor develops a defect in its ability to repair certain types of mutations that occur in cells. When those mutations accumulate in the tumor, they stimulate the immune system, which attacks the mutation-ridden cancer cells.”
  • An immunotherapy agent called a checkpoint inhibitor releases the brakes on an immune cell, freeing it to recognize and attack cancer cells.
    • The patients were given the checkpoint inhibitor dostarlimab (Jemperli) intravenously every three weeks, for six months.
  • Another amazing thing is removing the toxicity of chemotherapy, which Dr. Cercek mentions:
    • “The most exciting part of this is that every single one of our patients has only needed immunotherapy. We haven’t radiated anybody, and we haven’t put anybody through surgery … They have preserved normal bowel function, bladder function, sexual function, fertility. Women have their uterus and ovaries. It’s remarkable.”

A memory prosthesis could restore memory in people with damaged brains | MIT Technology Review (15:09)

  • A unique form of brain stimulation appears to boost people’s ability to remember new information—by mimicking the way our brains create memories.
    • Given the term: memory prosthesis
  • It involves inserting an electrode deep into the brain, and it seems to work in people with memory disorders.
    • Copies what happens in the hippocampus
    • Effective in people who had poor memory to begin with
  • The researchers, at University of Southern California, think future devices like this one could help people with memory loss due to brain injuries or as a result of aging or degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • The hippocampus that it is mimicking helps us form short-term memories but also appears to direct memories to other regions for long-term storage.
  • The researchers’ overall idea is to use brain electrodes to understand the electrical patterns of activity that occur when memories are encoded.
    • Then use those same electrodes to fire similar patterns of activity.
  • The team has tested versions of this prosthesis in animals and in some human volunteers with epilepsy who already had electrodes implanted in their brains.
  • Two versions:
    • Memory decoding model (MDM), mimics patterns of electrical activity across the hippocampus that occur naturally when each volunteer successfully forms memories.
    • Multi-input, multi-output (or MIMO), more closely mimics how the hippocampus works by learning the patterns of electrical inputs and outputs that correspond with memory encoding, and then mimicking them.
  • The research team saw memory test improvements ranging from 11% to 54% for the MDM prosthetics.
  • The MIMO model had even better results, on average.
    • The biggest improvements were seen in people who had the worst memory performance at the start of the experiment.
  • The researchers hope that their memory prosthesis could one day be widely used to restore memory in people with memory disorders.

Team Says It Assembled the Most Complex Synthetic Microbiome | GenEngNews (20:15)

  • Scientists at Stanford University report that they have built the most complex and well-defined synthetic microbiome, creating a community of over 100 bacterial species that was successfully transplanted into mice.
  • The ability to add, remove, and edit individual species will allow scientists to better understand the links between the microbiome and health.
    • Additionally, this could lead to developing first-in-class microbiome therapies.
  • Each cell in the microbiome occupies a specific functional niche, performing reactions that break down and build up molecules.
  • To build a microbiome:
    • Was remarkably stable, with 98% of the constituent species colonizing the gut of these germ-free mice.
    • Ensure that the final mixture is stable, meaning maintains a balance without any single species overpowering the rest.
    • Needs to be functional, performing all the actions of a complete, natural microbiome.
    • They selected over 100 bacterial strains that were present in at least 20% of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) individuals.
    • They grew in individual stocks and then mixed into one combined culture to make what they call human community one, or hCom1.
  • They found over 20 new bacterial species that inserted themselves in at least two of their three fecal transplant studies.
    • Adding those to their initial community and removing those that failed to take root in mouse guts gave them a new community of 119 strains, dubbed hCom2.
  • Why is this important?
    • The researchers believe that hCom2, or future versions of it, will enable similar reductionist studies that reveal the bacterial agents involved in other areas, like immunotherapy responses.

New AI Algorithm Could Lead to an Epilepsy Cure | SciTechDaily (26:00)

  • Researchers working under the direction of University College London have created an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that can identify subtle brain abnormalities that cause epileptic seizures.
    • Multicentre Epilepsy Lesion Detection (MELD)
    • Analyzed more than 1,000 patient MRI images from 22 international epilepsy centers.
  • Focal cortical dysplasia are brain regions that have developed abnormally and often cause drug-resistant epilepsy.
    • Finding the lesions on an MRI is an ongoing problem for physicians since MRI scans for FCDs can appear normal.
  • The scientists utilized about 300,000 locations throughout the brain to develop the algorithm, which measured cortical features using MRI scans.
    • How thick or folded the cortex/brain surface was.
  • Then professional radiologists classified MRI examples as either having FCD or having a healthy brain, which served as the algorithm’s training data.
  • According to the results, the algorithm was successful in identifying the FCD in 67% of cases in the cohort (538 participants).
  • The MELD algorithm was able to detect FCD in 63% of instances where professional radiologists did not detect the existing abnormality.
  • Co-senior author, Dr. Konrad Wagstyl stated:
    • “This algorithm could help to find more of these hidden lesions in children and adults with epilepsy, and enable more patients with epilepsy to be considered for brain surgery that could cure epilepsy and improve their cognitive development. Roughly 440 children per year could benefit from epilepsy surgery in England.”
  • The MELD FCD classifier tool can be run on any patient with a suspicion of having an FCD who is over the age of 3 years and has an MRI scan.

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