Ann Conkle
Mar 9, 2012

Medical Nova Weekly: Top five trends for 3/5-3/9

Here’s your weekly collection of medical news making waves this week.

Robotic surgery equipmentRobotic surgery: Improving patient outcomes and opening the door for telesurgery

We are still a long ways away from an android like C-3PO performing surgery by itself. But the advent of robots is changing the surgical experience for surgeons and patients alike. And giving surgeons, engineers, and other scientists plenty to work on as they further develop the field of robotic surgery and understand its benefits and drawbacks.


Structure of an immune system proteinNew method may allow kidney recipients to live without anti-rejection medication

New ongoing research suggests organ transplant recipients may not require anti-rejection medication in the future thanks to the power of stem cells. Northwestern Medicine® and University of Louisville researchers are partnering on a clinical trial to study the use of donor stem cell infusions that have been specially engineered to trick the recipients' immune system into thinking the donated organ is part of the patient's natural self. This, would eliminate or reduce the need for anti-rejection medication, which recipients currently have to take for the rest of their lives.

DNA moleculeCancer genes differ in different parts of a tumor

Taking a sample from just one part of a tumor may not give a full picture of its ‘genetic landscape,’ according to a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Cancer Research UK scientists carried out the first ever genome-wide analysis of the genetic variation between different regions of the same tumor using kidney cancer samples. The majority, around two thirds of gene faults, were not shared across other biopsies from the same tumor, meaning that genetic cancer treatments would need to be much more complex than previously thought.

MRI image showing neural fibersInnovations and ethical dilemmas of treating traumatic brain injury

While we have come a long way from the barbaric techniques of cutting open our skulls to release the insanity from our minds or from the use of lobotomies, our basic understanding of brain physiology is still limited. This, combined with a wide spectrum of subtle symptoms, has made the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI)  rather difficult.  However, new MRI technology and medications are improving the diagnosis and treatment of TBI, but are also raising ethical questions about this exciting research.

A woman exercises in Santa Monica, Calif.Exercise changes your DNA

Researchers have found that when healthy but inactive men and women exercise for a matter of minutes, it produces a rather immediate change to their DNA. Perhaps even more tantalizing, the study suggests that the caffeine in your morning coffee might also influence muscle in essentially the same way. The underlying genetic code in human muscle isn't changed with exercise, but the DNA molecules within those muscles are chemically and structurally altered in very important ways.