August 5, 2015

From inspecting the far reaches of cornfields to delivering your latest electronics, researchers and businesses seem to be finding new uses for drones every day.

And now, medical science has taken flight with the use of what are known officially as “unmanned aerial systems.”

Researchers in the United States and in Uganda looked into the feasibility of using a drone to transport diagnostic lab specimens from remote areas to laboratories for testing.

They collected blood samples, then packed half of them and flew them in drones under normal flight conditions, including rough takeoffs and landings.

They then took all the samples to a laboratory for testing. The result: There was no appreciable difference between the samples that had been airborne and those that had not.

August 3, 2015

Among all the organs in your body, few are as good at repairing themselves as the liver. Sometimes, though, even the liver can’t fix damage caused by cirrhosis and acute failure.

Enter stem cells. A team of researchers in the United Kingdom has, for the first time ever, repaired a severely damaged liver in a lab mouse by transplanting liver stem cells that were grown in a laboratory.

The transplanted stem cells converted themselves into hepatocytes, the cells in the liver than produce proteins and break down toxins, restoring functionality to the organ.

“Revealing the therapeutic potential of these liver stem cells brings us a step closer to developing stem cell based treatments for patients with liver disease,” said Stuart Forbes, of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

July 29, 2015

Of the three typical components of blood donations – red blood cells, plasma and platelets – platelets are the most in demand.

The reason: They have a short shelf life. They are usable for just five days after donation.

That’s why the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center encourages platelet donation, both at its locations in San Antonio, New Braunfels and Victoria, and at specially designed buses for mobile drives. You can donate platelets every seven days, up to 24 times a year.

Here are some facts about donating platelets:

Anyone who is at least 17 years of age, weighs at least 110 pounds and is in good general health may be eligible to donate platelets. Donation also depends on the body’s platelet count, which will be assessed before donation.

July 27, 2015

Blood stem cells – also known as bone marrow cells – have been used for transplant for many years, but the genes that control those stem cells have remained a mystery until recently.

But now researchers at the University of Southern California have uncovered genes that affect both stem cell development and maintenance.

By performing a genetic screen of a collection of more than 100 strains of mice used in laboratories, the USC Stem Cell labs of Hooman Allayee and Gregor Adams have found significant differences among the strains of mice.

Some of the mice have larger amounts of a subpopulation of stem cells called short-term HSCs that are responsible for the formation of red and white blood cells in adults. The team identified a gene associated with an increased number of the short-term HSCs.

July 22, 2015

Making a double red blood cell donation is similar to a whole blood donation. In both instances, the result is saving lives.

However, in a double red blood cell donation, an apheresis machine is used to separate the blood components, collecting red blood cells and returning plasma and platelets to the donor during a single donation.

The double red blood cell donation process is about 30 minutes longer than a whole blood donation, to allow time for the machine to separate the components. Including the pre-screening paperwork and the mini-physical to determine eligibility, the total time spent at the donation site is about 90 minutes.