The tiny glass beads that could stop the side effects of radiation therapy


Tiny glass beads placed inside the body could reduce the side effects that cancer patients experience from radiation therapy.

Dozens of beads, each less than a millimeter wide, are threaded into a fine cotton thread and inserted into the body through a tube and positioned to sit as close to the tumor as possible.

During each radiotherapy session, the beads absorb the radiation.

At the end of each treatment, they are removed and put through a scanner which measures the amount of radiation they have been exposed to.

Dozens of beads, each less than a millimeter wide, are threaded into a fine cotton thread and inserted into the body through a tube and positioned to sit as close to the tumor as possible. A stock image is used above

This tells doctors if they are directing the right amount of radiation therapy at the cancer.

If the radiation stored in the beads is lower than expected and too low to eliminate cancer cells, the patient’s next dose of radiation therapy may be increased.

But if the beads show the dose was too high – and risked damaging surrounding healthy tissue – it can be reduced.

About 40% of all cancer patients undergo radiation therapy, which works by killing malignant cells or slowing their growth by damaging their DNA.

Typically, a machine transmits energy through the skin to the tumor site. The dose used is modulated according to the type of tumour, its location and its size. Physicians must also consider how far the energy must travel in the body.

But while a machine can be programmed to deliver a specific dose, a difficulty with radiation therapy is determining how much radiation is reaching the tumor.

Too little may not do the job, while too much can make side effects, such as inflammation, worse. Doctors don’t know if the dose is correct until the tumor starts to shrink, or if there are obvious signs of harmful side effects – which can take weeks to show up.

The glass beads could refine the treatment right from the start.

The scientists behind the invention, called DOSEmapper, chose glass because it is able to store electrons, the particles that make up radiation therapy beams.

After the beads on a string have been routed through the body to the tumor site, they are left in place for the first episode of radiation therapy.

They are then removed and passed through a scanning device, which heats them up to 300°C. At this temperature, the beads release the stored electrons in the form of light.

The scanner measures the light to determine the amount of radiation in the beads and whether it matches the dose the doctors predicted for the tumor.

The results are then passed on to the cancer team, who can adjust the next dose if necessary.

DOSEmapper, which is being tested at NHS Clatterbridge Cancer Center in Liverpool, was developed by Afghan physicist Dr Shakardokht Jafari, after watching her father die of cancer and developing breast cancer herself.

Researchers say it is best suited for tumors that can be reached relatively easily with a tube (catheter), by feeding it through the mouth, genitals or rectum. But a net of beads that can be used externally, for example draped over a breast during radiotherapy, is also under development.

Dr Nicky Thorp, Medical Director of Professional Practice and Clinical Oncology at the Royal College of Radiologists, said: ‘Radiotherapy is one of the most important tools we have for treating cancer, and it is encouraging to see efforts to make it safer and more efficient. We look forward to seeing the results of clinical trials using this technology.

American scientists are developing a form of radiotherapy that delivers its dose in less than a second, compared to a few minutes for conventional radiotherapy.

The technique has been shown to destroy tumors in animals, while significantly reducing “collateral damage” to surrounding healthy tissue.

The researchers are refining the technique at the University of Pennsylvania and plan human trials in the next few years.

great seeds

The tiny seeds that pack a nutritional punch. This week: chia seeds

These black seeds contain more calcium than the equivalent amount of milk, three times more iron than spinach, 15 times more magnesium than broccoli and are also rich in many nutrients the brain needs to function, including mineral boron and B12 for energy. .

Chia seeds are also one of the few sources of the mineral selenium, which helps with immune function.

The seeds swell when mixed with water to form a gel, and one tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 30ml of water makes an effective egg substitute in baking.

Coarse health

Sex is not a major risk to men’s hearts, although it is a popular drama plot. Only 0.2% of men die of a heart attack during sex, according to patient records at St George’s Hospital in London. The researchers found that only 17 of the 6,847 patients who died of a sudden heart attack were in the act. The problem was more likely in younger men than in older men, due to pre-existing heart conditions, reports JAMA Cardiology.

watch the clock

How to harness the power of your biological clock. This week: Use an alarm clock

Waking up at the same time every day helps reduce daytime fatigue by synchronizing our biological clock.

But be realistic about when you’ll get up, advises independent sleep expert Neil Stanley.

“If you’re relying on an alarm, set it at the last possible moment,” he says. “The alarm is designed to scare you into spikes in heart rate and blood pressure, which causes stress and is not the right way to start the day.”

“It’s far better for you to get extra, uninterrupted sleep than to unnecessarily surprise yourself by hitting the snooze button three times.”

Waking up at the same time every day helps reduce daytime fatigue by keeping our body clock in sync

Waking up at the same time every day helps reduce daytime fatigue by keeping our body clock in sync

Cataract surgery could reduce dementia risk

Cataract surgery is linked to a 30% reduction in the risk of developing dementia, according to scientists at the University of Washington School of Medicine in the US, based on data from over 3,000 patients .

Cataracts cause cloudy patches to develop in the lens of the eye. One theory is that improving vision keeps the brain more active, thus preventing dementia.

Another is that after surgery, more blue light enters the eye. Studies show that it suppresses drowsiness by blocking the sleep hormone melatonin, and also improves short-term memory.

Blood pressure medications are being tested as a treatment for impotence. In a trial at Peking University in China, 740 men will receive the experimental drug, known as TPN171H, or a placebo up to four hours before sex. It is thought to work by widening blood vessels and improving blood flow, similar to drugs such as Viagra.

Eating grapes helps boost gut bacteria

According to researchers from the University of California in the United States, two servings of grapes a day are good for the intestine.

They asked volunteers to follow a diet low in fiber and nutrients for a month, then to follow the same diet but with 46g of grape powder (equivalent to two servings of fruit) every day for a second month. . Study results showed that grapes boosted participants’ gut microbiome – the trillions of microbes in the gut that are linked to many aspects of health.

The benefits are thought to be due to the high levels of cell-protecting antioxidants and fiber in grapes, according to the journal Nutrients.


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