Friday, February 10, 2012

Nanoparticle scare could lead to skin cancer

"Nanoparticles" are the latest hysteria among health freaks

SUNLOVERS may be raising their risk of skin cancer by avoiding sunscreen due to unfounded fears over nanoparticles, according to a federal government study. One in four Australians who had heard stories about the risks of nanoparticle-based sunscreens felt it was safer to use no sunscreen at all, the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) study found.

The findings, released at the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Perth, were based on an online poll of 1000 people last month.

According to the poll, one in three Australians had heard or read stories about the risks of using sunscreens with nanoparticles in them. Of these, 13 per cent were concerned or confused enough about the issue that they would be less likely to use any sunscreen - whether or not it contained nanoparticles.

The study also found one in five respondents would go out of their way to avoid using sunscreens with nanoparticles in them, while three in five wanted more information before deciding.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, according to Cancer Council Australia, with more than 1700 people dying and 440,000 receiving medical treatment each year.

According to DIISRTE, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has previously stated that "the current weight of evidence suggests titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells, rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin".


Revolutionary putty could heal bone fractures in days rather than months, claim scientists

This is brilliant news if it lives up to its initial promise

Anyone who has broken a bone knows how long and arduous the recovery period can be. Now scientists say they have created a revolutionary 'putty' that can put the healing process into super-drive.

Scientists from the University of Georgia Regenerative Bioscience Center used adult stem cells to produce a protein involved in bone healing and generation. They then incorporated them into a gel, combining the healing properties into something they labelled 'fracture putty.'

Working with Dr John Peroni from the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine the team used a stabilising device and inserted putty into fractures in rats. Video of the healed animals at two weeks shows the rats running around and standing on their hind legs with no evidence of injury. The RBC researchers are testing the material in pigs and sheep, too.

'The small-animal work has progressed, and we are making good progress in large animals,' study leader Dr Steve Stice said.

The researchers hope the putty will revolutionise fracture treatment for injured soldiers. 'Complex fractures are a major cause of amputation of limbs for U.S. military men and women,' Dr Stice said. 'For many young soldiers, their mental health becomes a real issue when they are confined to a bed for three to six months after an injury. 'This discovery may allow them to be up and moving as fast as days afterward.'

However, more animal trials will need to before it can be tested on humans.

'The next step is to show that we can rapidly and consistently heal fractures in a large animal,' Dr Peroni said, 'then to convert it to clinical cases in the UGA clinics where clinicians treat animals with complex fractures all the time.'

Between 2009 and 2011 the group were awarded $1.4million from the U.S Department of Defense for testing the putty in sheep. This year, they revealed bone can be generated in the animals in less than four weeks.

However, the scientists may have to find new funding as the Department of Defense may cut the grant for biomedical work.

The team said they aren't the only group working on a faster fix for broken bones. 'Our approach is biological with the putty,' Dr Stice said.

'Other groups are looking at polymers and engineering approaches like implants and replacements which may eventually be combined with our approach. We are looking at other applications, too, using this gel, or putty, to improve spinal fusion outcomes.'

One of the best hopes for the fracture putty is in possible facial cranial replacements, an injury often seen on the battlefield.

The project ends in mid-2012. 'By then we are to deliver the system to the DOD,' Dr Stice said.


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