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An Oxford university student has successfully created the first synthetic retina, giving the visually impaired a chance to see again.

Until now research into synthetic retina has focused solely upon rigid, hard materials. Vaneessa Resptrepo-Schild, a 24 year old Dphil student and research at the Oxford University department of Chemistry is the first person to successfully create an artificial retina using biological, synthetic tissues, developed in a laboratory environment.

This development is a huge step forward and could help revolution the bionic implant industry as it will facilitate the development of new, less invasive implants that more closely resemble human body tissues. This would be a game changer when it comes to treating degenertive eye conditions.

Our retina sits at the back of the eye and contains cells that can convert light into electrical signals that travel to our brain. These electric impulses then allow our brain to render the light into an image that we can then use to understand our surroundings.

The Synthetic retina is designed to mimic the natural human retinal process as closely as possible. The artificial retina consists of soft water droplets and biological cell membrane proteins. The design is much like a camera, the cells acting as pixels that detect and react to light in order to create a gray-scale image. Miss Restrepo-Schild said that “the Synthetic material can generate electrical signals, which might just stimulate the neurons at the back of our eyes”

This technology is hugely superior to the alternative of implanting a mechanical device directly into the eye, which can lead to inflammation and scarring. The synthetic retina is soft and primarily water based, which makes it far friendlier to the eye and more comfortable for the patient.

Miss Restrepo-Schild is hoping to prove that current technology can be used in order to replicate the function of human tissues, without having to use living cells. The eventual aim of the study is to replicate the principles of vital bodily functions like our sense of hearing and touch and replicate them in a laboratory environment with synthetic components. The hope is that this will lead to bionic implants that are less invasive than current alternatives.

The artificial retina is still in early stages and so far has only been tested in laboratory conditions. The Oxford University team will look to expand on this work with an eventual aim of moving onto animal testing and then clinical trials in Humans.

You'll find me wandering around the Science sections mostly, excitedly waving my arms around while jumping up and down about the latest science and tech news. I am also occasionally found in the gaming section, trying to convince everyone else that linux is the future of the computer gaming.

Medicine and Health

As a possible world first, Finland will give bird flu vaccines to groups that are most likely to get sick





Inland is poised to become the first nation globally to administer prophylactic avian influenza vaccines to select individuals. According to reports, the European Union (EU) has obtained the initial deliveries of the vaccine, which will be sent to the EU. This is to ensure that individuals who are most vulnerable to the virus can receive some level of protection.

According to Reuters, the European Union (EU) is set to enter into a contract with CSL Seqirus, a vaccine maker, to obtain 665,000 doses of a preventive avian influenza vaccine. This contract will be on behalf of 15 nations within the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). Similar initiatives are already in progress in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. However, considering that the European Union’s agreement is scheduled to be finalized on June 11, 2024, it appears highly probable that Finland will be the first country to commence its immunization campaign.

The Zoonotic Influenza Vaccine Seqirus, approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in October 2023, was specifically designed to combat a strain of avian influenza classified as H5N8.

This is distinct from the avian influenza that has recently received attention as a result of outbreaks on dairy farms in a number of US states, specifically due to the H5N1 virus. The vaccine does focus on the hemagglutinin surface protein of the virus, specifically the “H” part that is shared by both H5N8 and H5N1, so it is expected to offer some protection against H5N1.

Currently, there have been three instances where agricultural workers in the US have become infected with the virus due to contact with cows that were carrying the infection. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted between individuals. Although the overall risk is typically deemed to be minimal, those who have vocations that include close interaction with animals will serve as early indicators if this virus begins to transmit more frequently to people.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise those who are in close proximity to dairy cows or raw milk to maintain proper hand hygiene and utilize personal protection equipment such as gloves, respirators, and safety goggles. It is anticipated that a vaccination, even targeting a slightly variant strain of avian flu, will provide an additional level of defense.

As of now, no nations in the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) have reported any instances of H5N1 infection in humans. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control stated in its weekly report for June 1–7 that the likelihood of zoonotic influenza spreading to the general public in EU/EEA nations is deemed to be minimal.

In 2023, Finland saw many occurrences of extremely contagious H5N1 infections. These outbreaks affected both wild birds and mammals on numerous fur farms around the country, leading to the need for extensive culling.

Farmed animals, such as mink, are prone to the avian flu. However, the occurrence of outbreaks on fur farms and the current situation with dairy cows in the US are particularly worrying to epidemiologists. This is because it raises the possibility of continuous transmission between mammals, which in turn increases the likelihood of a virus crossing over to humans.

According to Hanna Nohynek, the head of the Infectious Diseases Control and Vaccines Unit at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, “the situation appeared highly concerning last year,” according to Euractiv. “Although this year has been relatively peaceful, we are aware that the virus is still present based on the situation in the United States. Therefore, our aim is to safeguard individuals who are involved in handling animals that could potentially be impacted.”

According to STAT News, Finnish officials intend to promptly distribute vaccination doses to chicken farmers, fur farm workers, veterinarians, and virus researchers once the vaccines arrive in the country.

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Medicine and Health

The Roman Baths in England are renowned for their potential medicinal properties





New research has indicated that the thermal waters of the famous Roman Baths in the city of Bath, England, may provide a solution to fighting antibiotic resistance. By isolating over 300 distinct microorganisms residing in the warm pools of the renowned attraction, the researchers found that 15 of these have the ability to impede certain highly concerning disease-causing agents.

Antimicrobial resistance is a significant and continuously escalating concern, projected to result in approximately 1.27 million fatalities annually worldwide. It is anticipated that this yearly toll would escalate to 10 million by the year 2050. Currently, the search for novel natural antibiotics is considered our most promising solution to counteract the increasing danger. However, efforts to uncover such items have mostly been fruitless thus far.

In order to look for these new compounds that might kill bacteria, scientists are now placing more emphasis on extreme habitats like hot springs. This is because the unusual ecosystems present in these conditions are likely to harbor distinct creatures that might possess antimicrobial characteristics.

The researchers chose to examine the microbial communities in the water, biofilm, and sediment at specific locations within the Roman Baths. These locations include the King’s Spring, where the water temperature reaches approximately 45 °C (113 °F), and the slightly cooler Great Bath, which has a temperature of around 30 °C (86 °F). The Roman Baths are unique in the UK as they are the only place with a thermal spring.

In total, the researchers successfully identified and separated 297 unique bacterial species, including many strains of Actinobacteria and Myxococcota, which are well-known for their ability to produce antibiotics. Upon initial screening, it was shown that 92 of these substances exhibited different degrees of activity against the pathogens E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

Subsequently, these highly potential candidates underwent testing against the remaining six bacteria that constitute the ESKAPE pathogens. These pathogens are deemed by the World Health Organization to be in critical need of innovative antibiotic therapies. In total, 15 of the samples collected from the Roman Baths exhibited “broad spectrum activity,” meaning they were effective against three or more of these diseases.

Dr. Lee Hutt, the study author, stated that these studies have shown, for the first time, the presence of some microbes in the Roman Baths. This discovery suggests that the Roman Baths could be a valuable source for developing new antimicrobial substances.

“It is quite ironic that the waters of the Roman Baths have been historically recognized for their medicinal qualities, and now, with the progress of modern science, we may be close to confirming that the Romans and subsequent civilizations were indeed correct,” he remarks.

The research is published in the scientific publication named The Microbe.

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Medicine and Health

What is the medical condition known as “gamer’s thumb”?





The global popularity of video games and e-sports is steadily increasing, resulting in a growing number of individuals of different age groups engaging in gaming. Nevertheless, this increase in popularity and acceptance may bring about several lesser-known issues. While gaming may not directly affect our health, it nonetheless places physical demands on our bodies.

Indeed, while gaming and e-sports may not need the same level of physical exertion as conventional sports, they can nonetheless result in injuries due to repetitive strain. An example of this is a condition known as “gamer’s thumb”.

While the term “gamer’s thumb” may suggest that it only affects individuals who play computer games, it is not exclusive to gamers. However, individuals who engage in repetitive thumb movements, such as excessive texting or typing, or frequently lifting heavy objects, are susceptible to developing this condition. For gamers and e-sports participants, regardless of whether they are using a console, PC, or mobile phone, the extensive amount of time spent engaging with keyboards, twisting, and grasping may render them susceptible to this issue.

The condition is formally referred to as “de Quervain’s tenosynovitis”. This condition is classified as an overuse injury, akin to carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger. It results in inflammation of the tendons in the thumb and the protective covering that surrounds them. It is believed that this is caused by the repetitive motion associated with grabbing, clenching, and pinching, which leads to the thickening of the tendon and difficulty in its smooth movement within its protective covering.

Repeated movement might result in discomfort and sensitivity near the thumb’s base. Occasionally, there may be concomitant pain on the radial side of the wrist, which is the side where the thumb is located. Certain individuals may also encounter challenges in mobilizing their thumb, particularly when attempting to grip or squeeze an object.

Once the sensation of pain arises, it has the potential to significantly disrupt routine tasks and responsibilities. Engaging in activities such as lifting goods or executing seemingly uncomplicated actions like loosening jar lids might result in discomfort.

Untreated, the pain may eventually hinder your gaming performance and enjoyment, as it affects both your ability to move and the level of pain you experience.

If you are experiencing symptoms similar to these, it is advisable to seek medical assistance. Procrastinating on addressing the issue can exacerbate its severity. Occasionally, the discomfort can extend to the thumb or forearm, and movement may also become more agonizing.

During the examination, your doctor will probably assess the thumb and wrist and may require an X-ray of the hand and wrist region. If the diagnosis is confirmed, the treatment will primarily aim to alleviate pain and restore the functionality of the hand and wrist. If the condition is extremely serious, a medical professional may advise undergoing a surgical procedure.

Non-invasive therapies encompass the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate swelling and discomfort. In certain instances, corticosteroid injections can be considered as an alternative, effectively reducing both pain and inflammation. A physician may also advise immobilizing the thumb and wrist region using a brace or splint, since this will aid in preventing additional irritation to the affected area.

Treatment for “gamer’s thumb” is often basic and effective. Nevertheless, the most effective approach to prevent the problem is to refrain from engaging in extended periods of gaming and to incorporate intervals of rest between gaming sessions. This will aid in the prevention of injuries and enable you to fully enjoy gaming without any complications.

This essay does not aim to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always advisable to consult certified healthcare professionals if you have any inquiries about medical concerns.


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