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Gizmorama - August 8, 2018

Good Morning,

Spinal injuries are getting help from magnetic particles. Magnetic particles, combined with surgical cement, help guide healing nanoparticles to injured areas of the spine. That's huge! It could decrease healing time and increase spine stability.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Magnetic particles in surgical cement for spine may target drug delivery --*

Adding magnetic particles to surgical cement better helps heal spinal fractures by guiding nanoparticles directly to lesions, according to research involving pigs.

The method, researchers said, will better target drugs to the affected area during a procedure called kyphoplasty, where a fracture is filled with surgical cement. Findings from the recent study were published Friday in the journal PLOS One.

"By modifying the kyphoplasty bone cement, we can both stabilize the spinal column and provide a targeted drug delivery system," co-lead author Steven Denyer, a third-year medical student in the UIC College of Medicine, said in a press release. "This is a very promising technology as it has the potential to become a surgical option for patients with primary spinal column tumors or tumors that metastasize to the spinal column."

While kyphoplasty can stabilize the bone in patients who have spinal fractures caused by tumors or osteoporosis, those with cancer often still have tumors left in the spinal column that can be difficult to reach with conventional chemotherapy that does not cross the blood-brain barrier during intravenous delivery.

For the new study, researchers used a pig to study their magnetically-guided drug delivery system.

Twenty-four hours after the kyphoplasty, a 50 mg/mm2 solution of the magnetic nanoparticles was injected into the right ear vein over 15 minutes. The researchers successfully steered magnetic nanoparticles to the magnetic cement in the animal's spinal vertebrae.

The researchers hope to test the efficacy of this technique on spinal column tumors by binding the magnetic nanoparticles to tiny amounts of chemotherapy drugs.

"Our study provides an in vivo proof-of-concept that this novel drug delivery system can help treat underlying causes of spinal fractures in addition to providing structural support," said co-lead author Abhiraj Bhimani, a fourth-year medical student in the UIC College of Medicine.

*-- Canadian telescope picks up mysterious, low-frequency fast radio burst --*

Canada's newest radio telescope has recorded the first fast radio burst featuring low-frequency waves.

The unusual fast radio burst, or FRB, was originally picked up by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, in late July. The novel signal was reported by McGill University astronomer Patrick Boyle in the Astronomer's Telegram last week.

"The event is clearly detected at frequencies as low as 580 MHz and represents the first detection of an FRB at radio frequencies below 700 MHz," Boyle wrote in his report.

Fast radio bursts have been regularly recorded by telescopes and studied by astronomers, but scientists have struggled to explain their origins.

Astronomers are, however, getting better at tracking the signals. An earlier FRB study used a combination of telescopes to trace its origin to an elliptical galaxy located 6 billion light-years away.

The study of another FRB -- and its unique twisting pattern -- suggested the signal originated near a supermassive black hole.

Scientists do know fast radio bursts are extremely bright and travel from far away. Their intensity suggests they are produced by extremely powerful phenomena.

"If we had one of these on the other side of our own galaxy -- the Milky Way -- it would disrupt radio here on Earth, and we'd notice, as it would saturate the signal levels on our smartphones," astronomer Shami Chatterjee said earlier this year. "Whatever is happening there is scary. We would not want to be there."

Some amateur astronomers have suggested the fast radio bursts are produced by highly advanced civilizations located in billions of light-years away. The scenario sounds far-fetched, but astronomers have acknowledged they can't rule out an artificial source.

With newly constructed observatories, like CHIME and IceCube, beginning to field unique observations, scientists may soon be able to better explain FRBs.


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