tea party
Enjoying a nice cup of oolong or green tea could have unexpected benefits. Researchers at Saint Louis University have discovered it can damage breast cancer cells and inhibit the growth of tumors. Published in Anticancer Research, the study tested how five tea extracts affected six different breast cancer cell lines and found that green and oolong tea prohibited growth in all six. The findings correlate with cancer statistics from the tea-producing province Fujian in China, where the incidence of breast cancer is 35 percent lower than the national average. While more research is needed, this could offer a nontoxic strategy for cancer prevention.

pump up the volume
Concert-goers, rejoice. The Department of the Army has given Washington University $10.5 million to investigate whether an anti-seizure drug can prevent noise-induced hearing loss. In partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Akron, Ohio, and Gateway Biotechnology, researchers will evaluate how the drug zonisamide impacts police officers exposed to gunfire at a shooting range and patients exposed to drilling during skull surgery. Zonisamide blocks several chemical signals that nerve cells use to communicate and has been shown to prevent temporary hearing loss in animal models.

i, robot
While they are old standbys in sci-fi classics like Star Wars, surgical robots are no longer just the stuff of fiction. Surgeons in the StL have been performing robot-assisted procedures for years, but now, SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital is the first in the region to offer a new type. The Flex Robotic System is used to perform less invasive surgery by using the body’s natural orifices. For example, surgeons can insert a single, fully flexible robotic arm into a patient’s mouth to access tumors previously unreachable without a long incision in the neck.

jumping to conclusions
Mutations, which are mistakes in the DNA sequence, are known to drive cancer growth, but researchers at Washington University have discovered that a genetic phenomenon known as ‘jumping genes’ may play a role, too. Also called transposable elements, jumping genes are short sections of the DNA sequence that have been incorporated randomly into the genome. A study published in Nature Genetics found they function like an on-and-off switch in many tumors. The findings could help doctors predict a patient’s prognosis and open up new avenues of research that focus on gene regulation rather than mutation.