A cluster of bubbles float on a blue background

Bubbles: Good for more than just champagne.

Tonight’s video is a brief introduction to the Unist’ot’ten Camp, indigenous people and other climate change activists who are blockading pipeline projects in Canada.

We need to go beyond petitions, letters, and rallies to stop the government and corporations from destroying Indigenous land and exploiting communities for profit. Direct action initiatives like the Unist’ot’en Camp are an effective way to stop devastating projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline and Chevron-Apache’s Pacific Trail fracking pipeline.

Thanks to MyFDL’s CTuttle for suggesting this video. Please share more videos of direct action — I’d love to keep featuring them in the Watercooler.

Tiny vibrating bubbles may be the solution to one of medical science’s most difficult problems — getting medicine to cross the blood brain barrier in order to treat conditions like tumors or Alzheimer’s directly at the source. From New Scientist:

‘Opening the barrier is really of huge importance. It is probably the major limitation for innovative drug development for neurosciences,’ says Bart De Strooper, co-director of the Leuven Institute for Neuroscience and Disease in Belgium. Institute in Toronto, Canada, thinks the answer lies in gas-filled microbubbles. These were discovered accidentally in the 1960s when radiologists noticed that tiny bubbles in blood made ultrasound images clearer. More recently, they have been investigated as a way to help treat hard-to-reach cancers.

[Researcher Kullervo] Hynynen’s trial will involve 10 people with a cancerous brain tumour. First, the volunteers will be given a chemotherapy drug that does not usually cross the BBB [Blood Brain Barrier]. They will then receive an injection of microbubbles, which will spread throughout the body, including into the blood vessels that serve the brain. Next is a treatment called high-intensity focused ultrasound. The volunteers will wear a cap that contains an array of transducers that direct ultrasound waves into their brain. Just as the sun’s rays can be focused by a magnifying glass, ultrasound waves can be concentrated inside the body to get the microbubbles to vibrate.

The vibrating bubbles will expand and contract about 200,000 times a second, which will force apart the endothelial cells that form the BBB. The idea is that this will allow the chemotherapy drug in the bloodstream to sneak through the gaps in the barrier and into any nearby tumour cells (see diagram). The ultrasound will be on for a maximum of 2 minutes, during which time it will perforate the BBB in nine sites around each volunteer’s tumour. To confirm that this happens, the team will inject a fluorescent marker and watch it move from the blood stream into the tumour using fMRI scans. Shortly after, the volunteers will have surgery to remove the tumour, which will be sampled to compare the concentration of the chemotherapy drug in areas zapped by ultrasound with those that remained unzapped.

The BBB starts to close almost immediately after the ultrasound is turned off, says Hynynen, and should be back to normal about 6 hours later. [...] Alzheimer’s would be another possible target. In brain tissue grown in a dish, antibodies that cannot easily cross the BBB have been shown to wipe out the protein plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s (Experimental Gerontology, doi.org/s79). ‘We think trials of these antibodies in humans failed because researchers haven’t managed to get a high enough dose into the brain,’ says Hynynen. ‘So we hope to try these drugs in humans in the future, maybe as soon as a year, depending on how well this first trial goes.’

Thanks to Annalee Newitz for this link.

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Photo by Ilena Gecan released under a Creative Commons license.