Google files patent to draw your blood without needles
Google (GOOG) has filed for a patent of a "needle-free blood draw" system, a wearable device that removes small amounts of blood from your body through a gas based automated or manual process. According to the patent application, the blood draw is received through a surge of pressurized gas that launches a micro-particle and pierces the skin. The device will be created to look like a tradition finger-tip machine or a watch.
Although the device is suspected to be used for glucose testing and aid in diabetes in a similar fashion to other recent Google initiative, the patent does not provide indicators for the device’s usage. A Google spokesperson made note of: "We hold patents on a variety of ideas—some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents.”
Sydney college pioneers lab assistant program
As of January 2016, the Cape Breton Business College (private college) will be offering Nova Scotia's only medical laboratory assistant program. The 25-week program will include a six-week clinical placement. Prior to the official announcement, the program had approximately 80 people looking for more information on a wait list. It is expected that 16 students will be eligible for a July graduation.
“We are always hopeful that our private career colleges will offer programming that will link graduates to job opportunities,” said Chrissy Matheson, spokeswoman for the Labour and Advanced Education Department. “This particular program has been independently reviewed and meets employer standards, and it seems as though there is lots of potential for graduates in our province.”
LabBuzz Editor's note: The above article incorrectly identifies the CSMLS as the accreditation and regulatory body for the program. The Canadian Medical Association is the accrediting body for Medical Laboratory Assistant programs in Canada. Medical Laboratory Assistants remain an unregulated profession throughout the country.
Utilization management: Moving beyond clichés
Quote: “I thought laboratory test utilization management (UM) was like the old cliché about the weather in that everyone talked about it, but no one did anything about it…. I have learned that I was very wrong. …However, the success of UM interventions has been variable, so a better cliché to describe UM might be ‘…easier said than done’.”
Geoffrey Baird discusses the various approaches to UM and their ability to succeed or not. As Baird states, UM has moved beyond the clinical laboratory by national efforts such as Choosing Wisely. However, it is still imperative for laboratory professionals to understand that addressing UM concerns is a matter of: reviewing your test menus for obsolete tests; creating reflexive test algorithms to ensure appropriate pre-test probabilities; crafting targeted pop-up messages; starting a laboratory test formulary committee; developing and delivering provider report cards; and pairing all of this with appropriate education.
Developing the next generation of laboratory leaders
A high functioning laboratory requires effective leadership and management skills in key individuals. Too often employees are promoted to management without being provided the proper training in these skill sets as it is assumed that the promoted high performers will naturally have or acquire these abilities. This is contrary to Gallup which found only 30% of people have the innate talent or can be taught. In a structure attempt to find a solution, the Mayo Clinic’s anatomic pathology division have created a 12-month program to identify and train high performing staff interested in becoming leadership roles, called Leadership Exploration in Anatomic Pathology (LEAP). The program uses a flipped classroom approach where assignments and lectures are completed prior to class and facilitated discussions on practical applications occur in the class room. In addition, reflective practice is built into each session to ensure essential building blocks in a successive manner. The article provides an overview of the program and success to date.
Waiting to exhale: Clinical breath tests advance slowly towards adoption
A valuable source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), our breath, has specific biomarkers for certain diseases that can be captured and analyzed. Although adoption to date has been slow, there is a swing towards researchers exploring the development and use of non-invasive, easy-to-use, and cost-effective point-of-care (POC) breath tests that rapidly detect disease. Nonetheless, to date, studies have found preliminary positive results for the identification of gastric and breast cancer, active pulmonary tuberculosis, heart and liver disease, and in drug and therapeutic monitoring. Michael Phillips, founder and CEO of Menssana Research, suggests that, “Cancers and infectious diseases are the two hottest areas where we’re likely to see Food and Drug Administration approvals first.” Read the discussion on this research and the proposed reason for the slow adoption of breath tests.
ASH: Hot topics highlight of annual meeting
The premier event in malignant & non-malignant hematology, the annual meeting of the American Society for Hematology provided an exciting amount of new research to the forefront. Read the main article to hear some of the event highlights in addition to the research spotlight below.
Northstar Study – Demonstrated that gene therapy can help patients with beta-thalassemia major reduce or eliminate their dependence on transfusions.
Sickle cell disease Study - Oral medication can be a good alternative to transfusion in patients with sickle cell anemia and a high risk of stroke, as indicated by Transcranial Doppler (TCD) screening.
Phase III Tourmaline-MM1 Study - Found positive outcomes after adding Ixazomib, an oral proteasome inhibitor, to standard care with lenalidomide (Revlimid) and dexamethasone.
Phase I/II Daratumumab Study - A human anti-CD38 IgG1κ monoclonal antibody provides good response it is combined with lenalidomide and dexamethasone.
ASH Meeting: Event Program
Expert discusses field of flow cytometry 50 years after its Invention
Happy 50th Anniversary Flow Cytometry!
Flow cytometry, which allows for measurement of multiple parameters and rapid analysis of individual cells within a liquid sample, has become a staple for biological research as well as clinical diagnostics. The number of simultaneous measurements that can be done on each cell has grown to more than 30, leading to a wealth of scientific data. Flow cytometry is now an industry worth more than $3 billion and its use has expanded into environmental sciences and the livestock industry. Get a glimpse into a pioneer in the field as he reflects on the history and future of flow cytometry.
Original Abstract: Flow cytometry strikes gold
Lab staple agar hit by seaweed shortage
Microbiology’s most important reagent, agar (specifically Moroccan Gelidium), has become more valuable as the demand is exceeding the supply. The lessened crop comes from a recent enforcement of 2010 derived trade restrictions due to increased environmental concerns of over harvesting. For example, the Moroccan government cut the legal annual harvest to around 6,000 tonnes from 14,000. Although the possible subtle implications of this shortage are to be discovered still, agar has already tripled in price.
This type of algae can be found growing on top of cool rocky sea beds in turbulent waters that provide a steady supply of oxygen and other nutrients. It is impossible to industrial-scale farm it and substitutes have proved unsuitable for culturing microbes as well. What is the solution? In a tweet by Adam Roberts, Robert Koch isolated bacteria on potato slices and this may be the solution. “Unless we go back to what Koch used to do — use a potato… there’s no real alternative.”
Interesting Article: A better way to grow cells: A 120-year-old mystery that's stumped microbiologists has been solved.
Fine needle aspiration cytology of lymph nodes in breast cancer follow-up is a feasible alternative to watchful waiting and to histology
Published in BMC Women’s Health, Mattias Hammon, from the University Hospital Erlangen in Germany, lead a study to evaluate the diagnostic performance of minor invasive ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) in sonomorphologically suspicious lymph nodes of breast cancer follow-up patients. In 38 sonographically suspicious lymph nodes, ultrasound-guided FNAC was performed with cytological specimens evaluated for sufficient diagnosis of cancer cells. The diagnostic performances of physical examination and FNAC were: sensitivity 52/100%, specificity 88/100%, PPV 85/100%, NPV 60/100%, respectively. These preliminary results demonstrate the safe and efficient diagnostic approach of FNAC for the evaluation of suspicious lymph nodes in the follow-up breast cancer patients. The authors suggest that when used in conjunction with general follow-up, this approach is a feasible alternative to surgery.
New gene map reveals cancer’s Achilles’ heel: Team of researchers switches off almost 18,000 genes
With the arrival of the gene editing technology CRISPR has made it possible to turn genes off, one by one, to determine what each does. Published in the journal Cell, Jason Moffat of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Bimolecular Research and the University of Toronto, with contributions from Stephane Angers from the University of Toronto, have individually and systematically switched off approximately 18,000 genes (90% of human genome), to determine which are essential for cell survival. This resulted in a “core” set of 1,500 some odd essential genes being identified. By using CRISPR, the team also identified which genes express proteins that make specific cancer cells grow and turned them off. “We can now interrogate our genome at unprecedented resolution in human cells that we grow in the lab with incredible speed and accuracy. In short order, this will lead to a functional map of cancer that will link drug targets to DNA sequence variation,” says Moffat.
Relevant Article: Geneticists Are Concerned Transhumanists Will Use CRISPR on Themselves
Relevant Article: The New Gene-Editing Technique That Reveals Cancer’s Weaknesses
We appreciate that you have taken the time to read LabBuzz. This is a new CSMLS venture to provide relevant medical laboratory news to its members.
We need your help to grow this newsletter! Please pass along the subscription link to any colleague you think would benefit from hearing about med lab news.
If you have any suggestions to improve LabBuzz, we would love to hear from you. In fact, if you have a news or publication link you would like us to consider for a future issue, please send it to email@example.com