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Biotechnology remains a mystery for many Canadians – Western Producer

Posted: June 24, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Canadians generally do not have a solid understanding of what exactly the term biotechnology refers to, according to recently released public opinion research collected by Nielsen Consumer Insights on behalf of Agriculture Canada.

In July 2016, the department issued a contract asking Nielsen Consumer Insights to conduct a comprehensive research project to measure Canadian consumers perceptions and attitudes towards issues related to domestic agriculture and agri-food.

The research would help provide insight while developing the next agriculture policy framework, which comes into force in 2018. The data was collected via a series of focus groups, telephone calls and online consultations.

Overall, researchers found 88 percent of those surveyed have a generally positive or neutral view of biotechnology.

Canadians generally feel that biotechnology will have a positive impact on their future, placing it near the top of a selection of new and emerging technologies in terms of this promise, researchers told Agriculture Canada.

However, Canadian knowledge and view on specific forms of biotechnology varies widely.

Researchers found that most of the people who were surveyed struggled to give examples of biotechnology used in agriculture. Participants typically offered up examples used within the medical and health care fields, such as stem cells, antibiotics and robotics.

The association of the term biotechnology with health applications may be an indication that it is profiting from a halo effect, re-searchers warned.

This could lead to people feeling that biotechnology is positive because the applications that they associate with it promote human well-being.

Researchers reported an aversion to applications of biotechnology that consumers felt had the potential to upset the natural order or would allow scientists to play god.

The closer the application could be seen in terms of living, breathing organisms, the more resistance there was to the specific applications, such as genetically modified animals.

Researchers found less than half (46 percent) of the Canadians surveyed were familiar with the concept of GM animals, which has dropped from previous years.

Canadians werent particularly comfortable with the idea. Many within the focus groups raised moral or ethical concerns about it.

People were much more likely to see the potential risks of GM animals as outweighing the benefits than they were likely to see with other technologies, the report reads.

Those technologies include biofuel, gene editing and genetically modified fish, including fish that could be used to produce insulin for diabetic human patients.

Despite specific consumer concerns around certain applications, researchers found Canadians have not rejected biotechnology all together.

Consumer opinions are built based on the specific use presented and individual knowledge of that particular form of biotechnology, researchers said.

In other words, there does not appear to be a blanket approval or rejection of biotechnologies themselves.

Thats good news for Canadian agriculture, where participants stressed Canada could easily be-come a world leader in the agriculture and food biotechnology re-search field. That conviction, researchers found, is increasing as more attention is paid to it.

It is possible that this is due to the growing role that these technologies are playing in our food supply and a higher level of media attention, Agriculture Canada was told.

Similarly, people agree that these technologies will be developed elsewhere in the world where regulations and control may be less stringent, the report said, which isa situation Canadians said they would like to avoid. The federal government, respondents said, has an important role to play in the biotechnology field.

Over the course of the study, 875 Canadians were contacted last year by phone between Aug. 31 and Sept. 17 and Dec. 1-13. The phone portion of the research has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Another 220 Canadians participated in the online survey, and 10 focus groups were held, with two meetings each in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax and Calgary.

Kelsey Johnson is a reporter with iPolitics, http://www.ipolitics.ca.

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Eli Lilly Unveils $90M Expanded Biotechnology Center in San Diego – Times of San Diego

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Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced the completion of a $90 million expansion of its San Diego biotechnology center, which is now more than double its previous size with the addition of 180,000 square feet of work space.

The facility, on Campus Point Drive near UC San Diego, also includes a new high-tech laboratory and room for what the Indianapolis-based company calls a Life Science Studio.

Eli Lilly moved into San Diego in 2004 with the acquisition of Applied Molecular Evolution Inc., and built its Biotechnology Center in 2009.

Being in the San Diego area for the last 13 years has been a game changer for us, specifically in the arena of discovering medicines for hard-to- treat autoimmune conditions, said Thomas F. Bumol, Lillys senior vice president of biotechnology and immunology research.

Company officials said they hope the new facility will allow closer collaboration among researchers. The center originally focused on immunology, but in the larger facility, scientists will also work on diabetes, oncology, neurodegeneration and pain reduction.

Investing in drug discovery and development is critical to maintaining an ecosystem that encourages and promotes innovation, said Jan Lundberg, executive vice president for science and technology and president of Lilly Research Laboratories.

Our expansion in San Diego is a prime example of investing in a research success story, Lundberg said. Expanding our presence in San Diego will not only help us discover and deliver innovative medicines faster, but will also help us achieve our goal of launching 20 new medicines in 10 years.

According to Eli Lilly, the Life Science Studio will allow researchers across the globe to remotely design, synthesize and screen molecules in an unprecedented manner, expanding the ability of scientists to test new ideas, reduce costs and minimize environmental impacts.

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Roche’s lampalizumab halts geographic atrophy – European Biotechnology

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A publication in Science Translational Medicine shows that Roche has a rising star in the 15 million patient market of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In a Phase II trail US and German researchers showed efficacy in geographic atrophy, an advanced stage of AMD, which has currently no treatment.

One week prior to the publication, Roche announced it has intitiated two Phase III trails (CHROMA and SPECTRI) enroling 936 patients with the advanced form of AMD that affects 5 million AMD patients and has currently no cure. Primary endpoint is slowing for disease progression at 12 months, secondary endpoint is visual acuity at 24 months. However, rumors say the FDA could accelerate patient access through granting breakthrough status to the treatment.

In a multi-center, randomized, 18 month Phase study that recruited 129 AMD patients ( MAHALO), lead author Brian Yaspan observed a 20% reduction in lesion area progression in patients receiving Roche/Genentechs antibody drug candidate lampalizumab at acceptable safety profile. Lampalizumab zeroes in on complement D, part of the innate immune defenses alternative complement pathway

Genome analysis of participants identified a patient subgroup with complement D variants who showed a 44% reduction in geographic atrophy area progression. The authors say targeting the alternative complement pathway has potential to be a viable treatment option for patients with secondary geographic atrophy.

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Play the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index (ETF)’s (IBB) Popularity for Free – Investorplace.com

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Wall Street is going gaga over the healthcare and biotech sector. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index (ETF) (NASDAQ:IBB) rallied 9% in four days. TheSPDR S&P Biotech (ETF) (NYSEARCA:XBI) rallied even more.

These are impressive moves that deserve respect. But I cannot chase it if I am not already on board the trade. Or I will end up buying someone elses profits. Wall Street loves to trade memes these days. A few weeks ago the IBB was dead money, now they cant have enough of it.

The hoopla centers around expectations from the new healthcare bill. I think we are giving it too much credit. We dont know if it will pass and even if it does, we dont know its full effects. But I am willing to bet that it wont be better to the sector than Obamacare was. This new bill is likely to be less, and therefore we could have a disappointment period coming.

Click to Enlarge Before you label me a perma-bear, I was a fan of the IBB a few weeks ago. Instead of chasing the momentum after it happens, a bit a good homework delivered great results. Case in point is this massive win from a bullish trade I shared on May 23 which yielded easy profits and out of thin air.

Now that everyone and their sister is chasing this rally in the IBB, I am ready to try and short it. Before you send out the posse to arrest me for daring to short the hot topic du jour, my trade is not against the sector, but rather is my bet against the short-term price action. I like to go long IBB on weakness but here I see the potential for a dip.

A lot of the enthusiasm is tied to politicians doing the right thing, and I am not so sure they will deliver. Even if they do, its probably going to take longer and be less than we expect. Eventually, traders will get antsy and lose interest and the IBB bids will abate, thereby creating a small vacuum below the current steep wedge. Therein lies the opportunity.

The Bearish Bet: Buy the IBB Aug $315/310 debit put spread for $1.50 or better per contract. If price falls through my spread in the next 56 days, I could triple my money. The faster and sooner the fall, the better otherwise time is my enemy.

To mitigate my out-of-pocket risk, I will leverage the value in the IBB ETF. I will sell longer dated puts to finance my bearish bet.

The Bank: Sell IBB Dec $270 puts and collect $5 per contract. This is a bullish trade which has a 90% theoretical chance of success. But if the IBB falls through my short put, then I will own the shares and could accrue losses below $265. But if Wall Street is correct about the political exuberance in the biotech sector, then I really have nothing to worry about. For a smaller risk profile, I could use a credit put spread instead.

Selling options is risky, so I never risk more than I am willing or able to lose.

Learn how to generate income from options here. Nicolas Chahine is the managing director of SellSpreads.com. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter at @racernicand stocktwits at@racernic.

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Stem cells: the future of medicine – Medical Xpress

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June 23, 2017

Imagine being able to take cells from your skin, transform them into other types of cells, such as lung, brain, heart or muscle cells, and use those to cure your ailments, from diabetes to heart disease or macular degeneration. To realise this, however, challenges still remain, Professor Janet Rossant, a pioneer in the field, says.

All across the world, scientists have begun clinical trials to try and do just that, by making use of the incredible power and versatility of stem cells, which are special cells that can make endless copies of themselves and transform into every other type of cell.

While human embryos contain embryonic stem cells, which help them to develop, the use of those cells has been controversial. The scientists are using induced pluripotent stem cells instead, which are other cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like stem cells.

“There are still significant challenges that we need to overcome, but in the long run we might even be able to create organs from stem cells taken from patients. That would enable rejection-free transplants,” said Professor Janet Rossant, a pioneer in the field.

The mouse that changed everything

A speaker at the recent Commonwealth Science Conference 2017 held in Singapore and organised by Britain’s Royal Society and Singapore’s National Research Foundation, Prof Rossant gave an overview of stem cells’ origins, history, uses and potential.

Now a senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (also known as Sick Kids) in Toronto, Canada, after a decade as its chief of research, she was the first scientist to demonstrate the full power of stem cells in mice.

In the early 1990s, scientists believed that stem cells could only become certain types of cells and carry out limited functions. Based on her own research and that of others, however, Prof Rossant believed that they were capable of far more.

Working with other scientists, she created an entire mouse out of stem cells in 1992, upending the conventional wisdom. “We went on to create many baby mice that were completely normal, and completely derived from stem cells grown in a petri dish,” she said.

“That was an amazing experiment, and it was instrumental in making people believe that human embryonic stem cells could have the full potential to make every cell type in the body,” she added.

When scientists learned how to remove stem cells from human embryos in 1998, however, controversy ensued. Many lobbied against the cells’ use in medical research and treatment due to the moral implications of destroying even unwanted embryos to gain the cells.

In Canada, Prof Rossant chaired the working group of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research on Stem Cell Research, establishing guidelines for the field. These guidelines helped to keep the field alive in Canada, and were influential well beyond the country’s borders.

In 2006, Japanese researchers succeeded in taking skin cells from adult mice and reprogramming them to behave like embryonic stem cells. These revolutionary, induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells allowed scientists to sidestep the ongoing controversy.

The challenges in the way

While stem cells have been used for medical treatment in some cases bone marrow transplants, for example, are a form of stem cell therapy there are several challenges that need to be overcome before they can be used more widely to treat diseases and injuries.

“We need to get better at turning stem cells into the fully mature cells that you need for therapy. That’s going to take more work. Another issue is that of scale-up. If you’re going to treat a patient, you need to be able to grow millions of cells,” said Prof Rossant.

She added: “Safety is another concern. One of the most exciting things about pluripotent stem cells is that they can divide indefinitely in the culture dish. But that’s also one of the most scary things about them, because that’s also how cancer works.

“Furthermore, because we need to genetically manipulate cells to get IPS cells, it’s very hard to know whether we’ve got completely normal cells at the end of the day. These are all issues that need to be resolved.”

She noted that some scientists are working on making “failsafe” IPS cells, which have a built-in self-destruct option if they become dangerous. “Bringing stem cells into regenerative medicine is going to require interdisciplinary, international collaboration,” she said.

In the meantime, stem cells have been a boon to medical research, as scientists can use them to create an endless supply of different cells to study diseases and injuries, and test drugs. “That’s the biggest use of IPS cells right now,” Prof Rossant said.

Sick kids and how to help them

At SickKids, which is Canada’s largest paediatric research hospital, she has been using stem cells to study cystic fibrosis, a frequently fatal genetic disorder that causes mucus to build up and clog some organs such as the lungs. It affects primarily children and young adults.

SickKids discovered the CFTR gene that, when mutated, causes the disease. It was also the first to produce mature lung cells, from stem cells, that can be used to study the disease and test drugs against it.

Even better, Prof Rossant and her team were able to turn skin cells from cystic fibrosis patients into IPS cells and then into lung cells with the genetic mutation specific to each of them. This is critical to personalising treatment for each patient.

“Drugs for cystic fibrosis are extraordinarily expensive, and patients can have the same mutation and yet respond differently to the same drug,” Prof Rossant explained. “With our work, we can make sure that each patient gets the right drug at the right time.”

In 1998, Prof Rossant also discovered a new type of stem cell in mice, now called the trophoblast stem cell. These surround an embryo and attach it to the uterine wall, eventually becoming the placenta. She is using such cells to study placenta defects and pregnancy problems.

By using IPS cells to create heart cells and other cells, pharmaceutical companies can also test their new drugs’ effectiveness and uncover potential side effects, as well as develop personalised medicines.

“There are still huge amounts of opportunities in pluripotent stem cells,” said Prof Rossant, who has won numerous awards for her research, including the Companion of the Order of Canada and the 2016 Friesen International Prize in Health Research.

She is also president and scientific director of the Toronto-based Gairdner Foundation, which recognises outstanding biomedical research worldwide, and a professor at the University of Toronto’s molecular genetics, obstetrics and gynaecology departments.

“Meetings like the Commonwealth Science Conference are a fantastic opportunity for scientists to come together, learn about each other’s work and establish new relationships, which will help to push science forward, including in stem cell research,” she said.

She noted: “The world of science is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, so this kind of meeting of minds across nations, cultures and scientific fields is really the way of the future.”

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Lipoprotein abnormalities linked to vaso-occlusive events in patients … – News-Medical.net

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June 23, 2017

An article published in Experimental Biology and Medicine links imbalances in lipoprotein metabolism with vaso-occlusive events in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). The study, led by Dr. Eric Soupene in Dr. Frans Kuypers’ laboratory at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) in Oakland CA, identified high density lipoprotein (HDL) metabolites in SCD plasma that promote inflammation and may reduce the effectiveness of current therapies.

The red blood cells in patients with SCD contain a mutated hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen throughout the body. SCD patients also have abnormalities in cholesterol metabolites (plasma cholesterol and lipoproteins) and other plasma components such as acute phase reactants, inflammatory mediators, cell free hemoglobin, and heme. In SCD, the red blood cells (RBCs) become inflexible and stick to the walls of blood vessels, which prevents the delivery of oxygen to cells and tissues. These vaso-occlusive events are further exacerbated by abnormalities in plasma components. The standard treatment for vaso-occlusive events is replacement of the sickle RBCs with normal RBCs. However, RBC exchange therapy does not normalize alterations in plasma components. Thus, the majority of the plasma present after RBC exchange therapy will form a proinflammatory environment that can reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.

Previous studies have demonstrated that the proinflammatory environment of the blood in patients with SCD reduces the activity of high density lipoprotein (HDL), the so called ‘good’ cholesterol particle. In the current study, Dr. Soupene and colleagues characterized HDL metabolites in SCD plasma and their effect on endothelial cell function. SCD plasma exhibited alterations in the size distribution, but not the total level, of HDL particles. SCD plasma was depleted of the pre- particle, which is essential for reverse cholesterol transport. This observation may partially explain the altered plasma cholesterol content observed in SCD patients. HDL isolated from SCD plasma upregulated PTX3, a protein that is predictive for the length of inflammatory episodes in SCD, in endothelial cells. The addition of the heme-scavenger hemopexin (Hx) blocked PTX3 upregulation by SCD plasma. Collectively, these findings link lipoprotein alterations to SCD pathology, and suggest that replacement of plasma and RBCs, whole blood transfusion, may be a more effective treatment for vaso-occlusive events. According to Dr. Soupene, “RBC exchange therapy, a well-accepted transfusion treatment of SCD patients, may have to be re-evaluated. Replacing only the red blood cells underestimates the importance alterations in the plasma compartment.”

Dr. Steven R. Goodman, Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology and Medicine, said, “Soupene and colleagues have provided an important new view on treatment of vaso-occlusive episodes. They clearly demonstrate an altered HDL particle size distribution in SCD plasma that leads to increased inflammatory response. Their work points to consideration of whole blood transfusion, as an alternative to RBC exchange therapy, as a treatment for vaso-occlusive episodes.”

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Tags: Blood, Blood Transfusion, Blood Vessels, Cell, Children, Cholesterol, Endothelial cell, Hemoglobin, Hospital, Laboratory, Lipoprotein, Metabolism, Metabolites, Pathology, Protein, Red Blood Cells, Sickle Cell Disease

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Organoids Set to Dominate Stem Cell Therapy – https://ryortho.com/ (press release) (subscription)

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Biloine W. Young Fri, June 23rd, 2017 Print this article

Welcome to the world of organoidsminiature stem cell derived human organs.

According to Don Gibbons, writing for MedPage Today, organoids are expected to become invaluable tools for modeling disease, drug screening, toxicity testing, and a wide variety of therapeutic purposes.

Participants at the Boston June 2017 meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research learned of organoids generated from pluripotent stem cells.

Hans Clevers, M.D., Ph.D., of Humbrecht Institute in the Netherlands, called the gut stem cell “the champion of all stem cells,” in that it replaces the entire intestinal lining of treated rodents every four days as well as seeking out and healing induced lesions. Similarly, gastric organoids have been able to heal Helicobacter-induced lesions in the stomachs of rodents.

First developed about four years ago, organoids have now been made for virtually every organ. Clevers said it is quite easy to source the starting cells. Lung organoids can be grown from sputum, and bladder and kidney organoids can be made from urine.

Organoids generated from adult pluripotent stem cellsusually by reprogramming adult cells from patients to create personalized organoids, or brain organoids, are the most controversial of the new cellular entities.

Researchers noted that patients viewed their mini-organs differently from how they did their stem cells in a dish. Gibbons quoted panelist Marieke Broekman, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, whose patients would declare with some emotion, “That is my mini brain” upon seeing their neural cell organoid.

The use of brain cells to create organoids raises the issue of creating animal/human chimers or more humanized animals. The stem cell field has long dealt with the ethical issues of creating animal/human chimers, particularly involving brain cells, said Insoo Hyun, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Organoid brain work could result in animals much more humanized than cell-based work, he cautioned.

Speaking from the audience, according to Gibbons report was Bernard Siegel, J.D., of the Regenerative Medicine Foundation, who said: “This is a Dolly the sheep moment. which raised the question, to what extent is creating an organoid creating a person?

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‘Lifting the cloud’ of diabetes with a special dog – Burnett County Sentinel (subscription)

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Since her diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes in 2009, Madyi Stangl has felt that the disease has placed a cloud on her life limiting her ability to travel and live life.

But that cloud has lifted, thanks to a special golden retriever named Willy.

Willy is a diabetes assistance dog that was given to Stangl by Can Do Canines, a New Hope, Minn., based non-profit organization that trains dogs to help people who live with diabetes, autism, seizures, hearing loss and mobility issues.

Madyi and Willy graduated in a class of 14 on June 10.

Willy can detect changes in Stangls blood sugar levels by scent. He alerts Madyi to high or low blood sugar levels by touching her with his paw. If she doesnt respond, he will whine or whimper and eventually do whatever he needs to do to get her attention. He is trained to bring glucose tablets or even a cell phone to Stangl.

Recently, Stangl had a scary low of 34 during the night. When she failed to respond to Willys touches, he laid over her body until she woke up. She then checked her blood sugar levels and ate food to bring her levels back up to normal, saving her life.

Can Do Canines has produced nearly 600 teams of dogs and their human companions since opening in 1989, according to Client Services Coordinator Sarah Schaff.

The organization can give away the dogs, which are sold by other organizations for $20,000 or more, because of volunteers and many donors, Schaff says.

Funding comes from donations from individuals, companies and grants. Schaff reports that the organization does not receive any state or federal funds, relying solely on donations, fundraisers and bequests.

Puppies are bred in a cooperative program with other certified service dog organizations, raised by volunteers and many receive their initial training in six Minnesota and two Wisconsin prisons.

Schaff notes that the prison environment is good for the dogs as well as the inmates.

It gives dogs a 24/7 taste of what life will be like when they are working, she says, adding that there are many studies pointing to the therapeutic benefits for the inmate handlers as well.

The organization has a screening process to find suitable candidates to match with dogs that are in the system or are in training.

It takes two years to raise and train a dog to be an assistance animal, Schaff says.

Madyi lives ub Minneapolis and works as the Operations Lead for the University of Minnesota Physicians, and Willy accompanies her to work as well. He even alerted a diabetic co-worker to a low blood sugar level.

Stangl grew up with dogs and reports that having Willy around is like having a big security blanket that I carry with me all the time. She is now more confident as well.

Even though Im going to continue on as this girl with this physical reminder of my disability, Im a little prouder because Im able to shed light on diabetes. Diabetes is an invisible illness, but it is something that needs to be seen because its not something to be taken lightly, she says.

Even though Willy is a beautiful and friendly dog, Stangl asks that people should refrain from touching him or any other assistance dog without permission of the owner.

When we are out in public and Willy is wearing his vest, its important not to make eye contact or distract him, Stangl says. He is working for me, and if he gets distracted, he stops working and that could be dangerous.

Schaff says that Can Do Canines is in need of volunteers to raise and train labrador, collie and poodle puppies for two years and return them to the company for further training.

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BD fun run to benefit juvenile diabetes research | Local | kearneyhub … – Kearney Hub

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LOOMIS Becton Dickinson wants to help cure or find a better way to treat diabetes, so the medical equipment manufacturer supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

To do so, BD is sponsoring a 2K Color Fun Run July 1 in Loomis. It will begin at Loomis High School and will end at the communitys water park.

Usually, we sponsor an event inside the plant, but we decided to do something different this year, said Holdrege BD employee and event leader Sheri Freeland.

Donations will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Lincoln and Greater Nebraska Chapter to create a world without type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which a persons pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone people need to get energy from food.

The disease can suddenly strike both children and adults. Type 1 diabetes is unrelated to diet or lifestyle. People with type 1 diabetes must regularly monitor their blood-sugar levels, inject or continually infuse insulin through a pump, and carefully regulate insulin doses with eating and activity 24 hours a day.

The juvenile diabetes foundation funds research to deliver new treatments and therapies that make day-to-day life with diabetes easier, safer and healthier until it can prevent and one day cure the disease.

After hearing a speech from 13-year-old Riley Kinnan, who was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7, Freeland knew leading this event was something she wanted to do.

(Her speech) was interesting and motivating. Since Ive worked (at BD) for 36 years, I felt like I should do something, and I knew this was a great way to help out, said Freeland.

Riley, an eighth-grader to be from Lincoln, is an ambassador for the juvenile diabetes foundation. She is very passionate about helping younger children, especially those who are also dealing with the challenges of a diabetes diagnosis.

In the past, BD has sponsored diabetes foundation events such as chili cookoffs, salsa-making contests, hamburger feeds and silent auctions. It has sponsored the juvenile diabetes foundation for six or seven years.

There are 30 people signed up for the Color Run, and Freeland said she has already sold 80 T-shirts for the occasion. All proceeds are going to the juvenile diabetes foundation, and BD is matching the money raised.

Freeland said she is grateful for the number of people who have signed up so far to participate.

We werent sure if we would have enough people or money to put this event together, but we ended up having many volunteers and people in the community willing to help out.

With continued publicity for the event, Freeland hopes to help those suffering with diabetes.

Its a scary disease, and it can affect so young. There are kids that are 2 or even younger that have it, and its terrifying to think about how many shots to have daily and watching what you eat constantly. Its not like you can take a pill and make it go away. For kids, it just sucks, Freeland said.

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Bioengineers create more durable, versatile wearable for diabetes … – Phys.Org

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June 23, 2017 Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have developed a wearable diagnostic biosensor that can detect three interconnected, diabetes-related compounds — cortisol, glucose and interleukin-6 — in perspired sweat for up to a week without loss of signal integrity. The team envisions that their wearable devices will contain a small transceiver to send data to an application installed on a cellphone. Credit: University of Texas at Dallas

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas are getting more out of the sweat they’ve put into their work on a wearable diagnostic tool that measures three diabetes-related compounds in microscopic amounts of perspiration.

“Type 2 diabetes affects so many people. If you have to manage and regulate this chronic problem, these markers are the levers that will help you do that,” said Dr. Shalini Prasad, professor of bioengineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. “We believe we’ve created the first diagnostic wearable that can monitor these compounds for up to a week, which goes beyond the type of single use monitors that are on the market today.”

In a study published recently in Scientific Reports, Prasad and lead author Dr. Rujute Munje, a recent bioengineering PhD graduate, describe their wearable diagnostic biosensor that can detect three interconnected compounds – cortisol, glucose and interleukin-6 – in perspired sweat for up to a week without loss of signal integrity.

“If a person has chronic stress, their cortisol levels increase, and their resulting insulin resistance will gradually drive their glucose levels out of the normal range,” said Prasad, Cecil H. and Ida Green Professor in Systems Biology Science. “At that point, one could become pre-diabetic, which can progress to type 2 diabetes, and so on. If that happens, your body is under a state of inflammation, and this inflammatory marker, interleukin-6, will indicate that your organs are starting to be affected.”

Last October, Prasad and her research team confirmed they could measure glucose and cortisol in sweat. Several significant advances since then have allowed them to create a more practical, versatile tool.

“We wanted to make a product more useful than something disposable after a single use,” Prasad said. “It also has to require only your ambient sweat, not a huge amount. And it’s not enough to detect just one thing. Measuring multiple molecules in a combinatorial manner and tracking them over time allows us to tell a story about your health.”

One factor that facilitated their device’s progress was the use of room temperature ionic liquid (RTIL), a gel that serves to stabilize the microenvironment at the skin-cell surface so that a week’s worth of hourly readings can be taken without the performance degrading over time.

“This greatly influences the cost model for the deviceyou’re buying four monitors per month instead of 30; you’re looking at a year’s supply of only about 50,” Prasad said. “The RTIL also allows the detector to interface well with different skin typesthe texture and quality of pediatric skin versus geriatric skin have created difficulties in prior models. The RTIL’s ionic characteristics make it somewhat like applying moisturizer to skin.”

Prasad’s team also determined that their biomarker measurements are reliable with a tiny amount of sweatjust 1 to 3 microliters, much less than the 25 to 50 previously believed necessary.

“We actually spent three years producing that evidence,” Prasad said. “At those low volumes, the biomolecules expressed are meaningful. We can do these three measurements in a continuous manner with that little sweat.”

Prasad envisions that her wearable devices will contain a small transceiver to send data to an application installed on a cellphone.

“With the app we’re creating, you’ll simply push a button to request information from the device,” Prasad said. “If you measure levels every hour on the hour for a full week, that provides 168 hours’ worth of data on your health as it changes.”

That frequency of measurement could produce an unprecedented picture of how the body responds to dietary decisions, lifestyle activities and treatment.

“People can take more control and improve their own self-care,” Prasad said. “A user could learn which unhealthy decisions are more forgiven by their body than others.”

Prasad has emphasized “frugal innovation” throughout the development process, making sure the end product is accessible for as many people as possible.

“We’ve designed this product so that it can be manufactured using standard coating techniques. We made sure we used processes that will allow for mass production without adding cost,” Prasad said. “Our cost of manufacturing will be comparable to what it currently takes to make single-use glucose test stripsas little as 10 to 15 cents. It needs to reach people beyond America and Europeand even within first-world nations, we see the link between diabetes and wealth. It can’t simply be a small percentage of people who can afford this.”

Prasad was motivated to address this specific problem in part by her own story.

“South Asians, like myself, are typically prone to diabetes and to cardiovascular disease,” Prasad said. “If I can monitor on a day-to-day basis how my body is responding to intake, and as I age, if I can adjust my lifestyle to keep those readings where they need to be, then I can delay getting a disease, if not prevent it entirely.”

For Prasad, the latest work is a fulfilling leap forward in what has already been a five-year process.

“We’ve been solving this problem since 2012, in three phases,” Prasad said. “The initial concept for a system level integration of these sensors was done in collaboration with EnLiSense LLC, a startup focused on enabling lifestyle based sensors and devices. In the market, there’s nothing that is a slap-on wearable that uses perspired sweat for diagnostics. And I think we are the closest. If we find the right partner, then within a 12-month window, we hope to license our technology and have our first products in the market.”

Explore further: Bioengineers create sweat-based sensor to monitor glucose

More information: Rujuta D. Munje et al, A new paradigm in sweat based wearable diagnostics biosensors using Room Temperature Ionic Liquids (RTILs), Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-02133-0

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