Volume 2, Number 3, July, 1984

Future File

Recent developments of long term significance as selected by Jane Talisman and Eric Geislinger, editors of Claustrophobia.

"Stitchless Junction Supports Healing Nerves" Science News, January 28, 1984

Lack of a reliable method for splicing nerves is one of the major obstacles to (among other things) brain transplants. Standard microsurgery is so traumatic to injured nerve cells as to be practically useless. Luis de Medinaceli and colleagues at St. Elizabethan Hospital in Washington D.C. have developed a new method that is extremely promising. Nerve stumps are placed in a fluid that mimics the fluid inside a nerve and also contains polyvinyl alcohol to prevent swelling and protein loss and a drug that limits damage done by calcium. The stumps are attached to a small rectangle of rubber for support and carefully frozen and trimmed with a vibrating razor blade. Then the ends are warmed and brought into proper position. Thirteen out of thirteen rats treated with the procedure showed complete or almost complete recovery of nerve function. Experiments on monkeys are being planned.


"The Birth of Recombinant RNA Technology" Science, December 23, 1983.

Synthesis of RNA has been possible for some time. However, it required the transcription of RNA copies from a DNA template—an extremely slow process. Now, Fred Kramer and associates at the Institute of Cancer, Columbia University, have developed a technique that, in addition to producing the RNA copy, also produces an additional template. This technique allows exponential growth of the RNA and promises to create a "RNA revolution" similar to what recombinant technology did for DNA.


"Helium Beam Saves Eyes" Medical World News, January 9, 1984

Physicians at the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory have developed a new method of treating thyroidal melanoma once treated by removal of the entire eye. Using an ionized helium beam from a 184-inch cyclotron they have shrunk tumors in 90% of more than 100 patients. The procedure preserves vision and results in a metastic rate of ?0% [garbled --editor]—compared to 50% with surgery. The surprising thing, and the thing which will lend to treatment of other cancers is the degree of control that they have developed. The tumor receives doses of up to 8,000 rads—the equivalent of more than a million chest x-rays. The ionized particles deliver the radiation so precisely that tissue 3 mm away from the point of maximum irradiation gets virtually zero radiation.

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