Looking for the fountain of youth? Scientists may have found it.

Scientists led by Johan Auwerx from the EPFL, in collaboration with the Netherlands and the US, have found that the mitochondria play an important role in the aging process and that it can be influenced using antibiotics. Mitochondria are responsible for transforming nutrients into proteins, which are used by muscles as energy. The research has identified the exact genes involved in the process and the consequences of varying the amount of protein they encode for. The less protein, the longer the life span.

The study has been carried out on mice and worms, showing that three genes situated on chromosome number two can be manipulated to extend life. A 50% reduction in the expression of these genes led to a 60% increase in life span for both the mice and the worms.

Still a long way to go before it can be tested on humans, but nonetheless, a breakthrough that can revolutionize the world.

For more information, please refer to: Houtkooper, R, Mouchiroud, L, Ryu, D, Moullan, N, Katsyuba, E, Knott, G, Williams, R, & Auwerx, J (2013), ‘Mitonuclear protein imbalance as a conserved longevity mechanism’, Nature, 497, 7450, p. 451


The Biological Internet

October 2, 2012

Bioengineers from Stanford University have used the parasite M13 to create what could be the roots of biological internet: “Bi-Fi”. M13 packages genetic messages: it reproduces inside its host, taking strands of DNA, wrapping them up and sending them, encapsulated in proteins produced by M13, to infect other cells. The strands of DNA can be controlled by engineers, in such a way that, the channel is isolated from the content. This cell-cell communication platform might lead the way to cell programming and even regeneration of tissue organs, according to the authors. For more information, click here


According to a study carried out by researchers from the Centre for PET at Austin Health in Melbourne and Bayer Healthcare using florbetaben-PET imaging on 45 subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), progression to Alzheimer’s disease occurred in 75%of MCI with high florbetaben uptake, compared with 53% of MCI with hippocampal atrophy.Furthermore they also found that 80% of MCI with both high florbetaben uptake and hippocampal atrophy progressed to Alzheimer’s, while 19% of MCI subjects with low florbetaben developed other dementias. The researchers concluded that high florbetaben binding indicated a “very high risk of progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s within two years and was a stronger and more specific risk factor than hippocampal atrophy in this cohort.” For more information, refer to the Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.

The number of movies in “3D” has increased a lot in the last couple of years, but not only in the cinemas is 3D becoming important. More and more researchers and medical companies are trying to create 3D visualization of medical images in order to help physicians reconstruct in their minds the organ they are seeing as a 2D representation. This is called spatial cognition and there are big differences in the spatial cognition capabilities of different people. Some companies such as Echopixel technologies and Infinite Z, are already working to integrate 3D visualization into the clinical practice by developing advanced visualization and manipulation tools to be used within well-defined clinical protocols.


Faster MRI?

May 15, 2012


Researchers from the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C (principal researcher: Stanley Fricke) have recently published a study in Medical Physics where they show that ultra-fast magnetic gradients (pulse sequences with rise times 100 times faster than conventional MRI) do not produce nerve stimulation or muscle twitching. According to the researchers, MRI limiting speed should be revisited taking into account the new developments, and they expect MRI to allow imaging of small children in seconds rather than minutes.

Last February, a group of Canadian researchers presented at the American Academy of Orthopeadic Surgeons (AAOS) a new study about the interpretation of MR images on the iphone.

Smartphones are becoming part of every activity of our lives, and this is also true for physicians and hospitals. The advantage is that they are portable and most of the time on the pocket or handbag, but the question is whether they are good enough for a medical diagnosis.

According to Dr. John Theodoropoulos, an orthopedic surgeon from the University of Toronto, “iPhone interpretations showed high sensitivity and specificity for medial meniscus and cruciate ligaments injuries with lower sensitivity for lateral meniscus tears and lower specificity for cartilage injuries.  And compared to much larger the PACS workstation interpretation on a flat screen, the iPhone showed excellent agreement for medial meniscus and cruciate ligament injuries and good agreement for cartilage injuries”. However, Dr. Theodoropoulos said that the iPhone app missed two cartilage tears versus the full-sized workstation.

Maybe we are not there yet, but the smartphones and tablets certainly look promising for medical image interpretation and have many features that make them very attractive, specially for emergency cases.

More info


The use of mobile medical apps on tablets and smartphones is becoming more and more common in healthcare. Therefore the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has included medical imaging applications in a new draft guidance document. It is not yet final. Comments and suggestions may be submitted to the FDA until October.