Week ending April 20, 2018

Research Consortium to Address Firearm Deaths Among U.S. Children & Teens
University of Michigan – 4/18/18
More than 20 researchers at 12 universities and health systems across the nation are working to address firearm deaths among children with a recent $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The new consortium brings together expertise from many fields, including scientists from public health, adult and pediatric emergency medicine, pediatrics, criminal justice, psychiatry, psychology, data science and trauma surgery. “Research and training in the field of firearm injury prevention needs to be substantially increased to develop evidence-based solutions to prevent and reduce firearm injury,” says Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., a professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine and the University of Michigan School of Public Health and associate vice president for research-health sciences at U-M. “There is a current deficit of data-driven solutions.” Read more 

Green bioprinting grows from tissue engineering
PhysicsWorld – 4/18/18
Computer-controlled 3D printing is now enabling the custom manufacture of many different products and structures, including tissue scaffolds that are designed to grow artificial tissues and organs in the lab. Researchers are busy exploring the performance of porous designs that contain different cells and growth factors, with the aim of repairing or replacing damaged parts of the body. But the possibilities for this fast-evolving medical technique doesn’t stop there. Experts are also investigating whether the technology is compatible with plant cells, which could, for example,  help to nurture active agents for pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics. Michael Gelinsky and his team at the Centre for Translational Bone, Joint and Soft Tissue Research at the University of Dresden in Germany have found that a bioink developed for printing human cells could be adapted to fabricate 3D plant cell cultures. Read more

Deep Italian cave provides clues for how to detect life on Mars
Penn State News – 4/17/18
What can a massive cave in Italy tell us about life on Mars and other planets? According to new research by Penn State scientists, a whole lot. In work published in Astrobiology, Penn State researchers identified biosignatures — or signs of the presence of life — about 1,300 feet below ground in the Frasassi Caves in central Italy. “Using this cave environment, we provide a real-life field example of how we can detect life, past or present, on other planets,” said Jenn Macalady, associate professor of geosciences. Next, the team will study what Frasassi cave levels can tell us about current and past life, possibly revealing what the new biosignature can tell us on a longer timescale. Read more

Social and Environmental Change Drives a World of Newly Emerged Infections
Scientific American – 4/17/18
“In an unchanging world, you don’t see a lot of emerging disease,” epidemiologist William Karesh told Scientific American contributor Lois Parshley during her reporting for this special section, The Future of Medicine 2018. The world, of course, is changing fast. In the U.S., growing economic inequality is driving a resurgence of deadly hepatitis, Legionnaires’ and other infections. Globally, climate change and unchecked urbanization are creating conditions in which diseases emerge faster and spread farther. As the six articles in this special report show, hope resides with interdisciplinary collaborations—epidemiologists, climatologists, ecologists, and others working together to solve medical problems with deep social roots. Read more

Researchers Examine Barriers to Organ Donation and Possible Remedies
UC Merced – 4/16/18
Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the national organ transplant waiting list, and about once every hour, someone on the list is removed — either because they died while waiting or grew too ill for surgery. The number of Americans on the waiting list totals more than 114,000 as of this writing, and about 30,000 transplants will be performed this year. In part, that’s because there are not enough organ donors. Two new collaborative papers by UC Merced Economics Professor Kurt Schnier reveal that increasing the incentives and eliminating barriers for donors — both living and deceased — would greatly improve other people’s chances of receiving life-saving transplants. Two interdisciplinary collaborations revealed that people don’t need to be paid to be donors—which is illegal and unethical anyway — all they really need is a reduction in the current disincentives. Read more