October 26, 2015

An international team of researchers has developed prototypes for a device that can count a patient’s white blood cells without a blood test.

The Leuko project, a collaboration between scientists in Spain and the United States, would allow patients undergoing chemotherapy to estimate the state of their immune systems without submitting a blood sample. It especially would be helpful in cases of leukemia and lymphoma, allowing doctors to tailor treatment to the state of the patient’s immune system.

A low white blood cell count is the main side effect of chemotherapy. Low white cell counts leave patients vulnerable to infections, said Carlos Castro, a biomedical engineer at MIT, in a post at Sinc, a Spanish science website.

October 21, 2015

Every time you donate, you are asked if you have taken certain medications, including Proscar, ‰ Avodart, Propecia, Accutane, Soriatane and Tegison.

The reason we ask is simple: These medications can cause birth defects, which is why they never are prescribed for women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant. We just want to make sure that any blood you donate is clear of any of these medications, in case one of the patients who receives it is pregnant.

These guidelines have been established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and apply to all blood centers in the United States.

If you have taken Proscar, Propecia or Accutane, you can donate one month after your final dose, as a month is enough time to clear them from your bloodstream.

October 19, 2015

A molecule plucked from the common sea sponge may lead to an entirely new kind of treatment for leukemia, researchers at Harvard University report.

The team found that the molecule, called cortistatin A, can stop the growth of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells without many of the side effects that current treatments for the blood cancer have.

The molecule was collected from the sea sponge, synthesized in a lab and tested in mice. Results were reported in the journal Nature and summarized at Science Daily.

“Given the dearth of effective treatments for AML, we recognize the importance of advancing it toward clinical trials as quickly as possible,” said Matthew Shair, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard and the leader of the study.

October 14, 2015

Every time you donate blood, you’re asked about your travel outside the United States, and especially about any time spent in the United Kingdom.

The reason is simple: It’s called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare but fatal brain disorder that can be transmitted via blood transfusion.

After extensive study, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that anyone who lived in any part of the United Kingdom from 1980-96 may be at risk for exposure to CJD. During that time period, the appearance of a new variant of CJD was prevalent in the area and was potentially transmitted to humans through the consumption of contaminated beef. As a result, the FDA directed all blood centers in the country to defer donations from anyone who spent six months or more in the UK during those 17 years.

October 12, 2015

Bernard Siegel, founder of the Genetics Policy Institute and the father of the World Stem Cell Summit, calls the development of stem cell therapies a “game changer” for patients around the world.

Siegel launched the institute 14 years ago with plans to facilitate “collaboration between scientists, industry, patients and the media.” The summit was an outgrowth of that effort. BioBridge Global was a sponsor of the summit last year, when it was in San Antonio, and is again for this year’s summit, which is in December in Atlanta.

He recently sat down with Daniel E. Levy of The Life Sciences Report for an extensive Q and A about Siegel’s promoting the development of stem cell therapies. The interview is available at the organization’s website.