November 5, 2017

Some recent articles on medical research and technology

Nintendo Wii-inspired microchip turns 2D ultrasound machines into 3D imaging devices

A Nintendo Wii controller has inspired scientists to convert a portable ultrasound into a cheap 3D scanner. Scientists used a common microchip costing just £7 ($10) that tracks how your smartphone or controller is oriented to convert current hospital ultrasound machines. It produced an instant 3D model similar in quality to a CT scan or MRI that are five times more expensive. It is also portable enough to be used in casualty to let doctors instantly know if a patient suffers internal bleeding or provide pregnant women with cheaper 3D scans of their babies.

The fingernail sized chip mounts onto a traditional plastic ultrasound probe that slides over a patient's skin, relaying two dimensional pictures of internal organs or unborn babies. Just like the Wii video game controller, the chip registers the probe's orientation and ten uses software to seamlessly stitch hundreds of individual slices of the anatomy together in 3D.

Professor Joshua Broder, lead researcher from of Duke University, North Carolina, explained: 'With 2D technology you see a visual slice of an organ, but without any context, you can make mistakes.'These are problems that can be solved with the added orientation and holistic context of 3D technology. Professor Broder said the idea came to him while playing with a Nintendo Wii gaming system with his son. With the game console's ability to accurately track the exact position of the controller, he wondered about just sticking the controller to an ultrasound probe with duct tape.  The technology is now being tested in clinical trials to determine how it fits in the flow of patient care.

Doctors replace boy’s skin using breakthrough gene therapy, stem cells

In a breakthrough treatment, researchers at a burn unit in Europe found a way to replace 80 percent of a boy’s skin using a combination of gene therapy and stem cells. The grafted skin attached to his body has continued to replace itself, even months later.  The patient –- a boy who was 7 years old at the time of the treatment –- was born with a rare skin condition called junctional epidermolysis bullosa. The condition causes the outer layer of the skin to peel away easily from the lower skin layers, making it incredibly fragile and prone to injury....In this case, the treatment may have been lifesaving. The patient arrived at the hospital with a life-threatening bacterial skin infection spread over much of his body. Over the following weeks, his doctors tried everything they could to treat him without success.  Out of options, his treatment team was preparing to start end-of-life care when his parents pleaded with them to try an experimental therapy.

Single injection of stem cells could banish back pain for up to three years

Stem cell injections into the spine ease the discomfort of around half of chronic lower back pain sufferers for two years, with some even being symptom-free three years later, a study found. Researchers believe injected stem cells re-inflate vertebrae that have dried and cracked by causing water to trap between discs. Such treatments could resolve the opioid endemic that killed 33,000 people in the US in 2015 alone, with half of such painkiller prescriptions being due to chronic lower back pain.

Researchers from the drug manufacturer Mesoblast in Melbourne injected stem cells into 100 people with degenerative disc disease, which accounts for around 22 percent of cases of chronic lower back pain. The stem cells were extracted from the bone marrow of donors and grown in a lab to create large quantities. Results reveal one stem cell injection helped around half of the study's participants to experience no back pain for two years. Some of the participants have been pain-free for three years. Almost half of those treated became mobile and dropped 15 points on a 100-scale disability score versus just 13 percent receiving a placebo.

Feeling hungry or full is down to our BONES

We've long been told that a part of our brain controls our appetite – but a new study suggests that our bones also play a key role. A hormone they produce, called osteocalcin, has been shown to affect how we metabolize sugar and fat. It has also been associated with insulin sensitivity, which is linked to developing type 2 diabetes.

Professor Mathieu Ferron, of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), spent the last decade studying osteocalcin. ... He says osteocalcin is produced by osteoblasts, the same cells responsible for making our bones. The hormone builds up in bone, and then, through a series of chemical reactions, is released into the blood.  'When it is first produced in osteoblasts, osteocalcin is in an inactive form,' he explained. 'What interested us was understanding how osteocalcin becomes active so as to be able to play its role when released into the blood.' His lab demonstrated that an enzyme, which acts like molecular scissors, is required
Professor Ferron's team succeeded in identifying the protein furin which causes osteocalcin to become active and the hormone is then released into the blood. He said: 'We demonstrated that when there was no furin in bone cells, inactive osteocalcin built up and was still released, but this led to an increase in blood glucose levels and a reduction in energy expenditure and insulin production.' Professor Ferron explained that deleting these 'scissors' also had an unexpected effect: it reduced the mice's appetite.

The iPhone ultrasound device that can spot CANCER

Dr John Martin diagnosed his own stage four cancer last summer - using only his iPhone. The 59-year-old doctor is a vascular surgeon and the chief medical officer at Butterfly Network, a company that has invented a handheld ultrasound machine that can connect to an iPhone called the Butterfly iQ.  While the product was being tested for FDA clearance in July, Dr Martin decided to scan his own neck using the device because he felt a mass in his throat. The results that popped up on his phone screen revealed he had metastatic cancer. It had started in his tongue and throat and spread to his neck. After surgery, it was downgraded to stage three and now, coming to the end of six weeks of radiation, doctors say he looks set to be cured.

A new blood test could predict from the earliest stage of pregnancy whether a woman will go on to suffer a miscarriage.

The test, carried out in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, can also predict if a woman is at risk of giving birth prematurely or developing pre-eclampsia, a potentially fatal condition causing high blood pressure. Researchers from the Laboratory for Reproductive Medicine and Immunology in San Francisco discovered molecules in the blood that predict these birth complications with up to 98 per cent accuracy.  More research is needed before the test could be rolled out – but the findings have been hailed as 'very promising'.

Algorithm can identify suicidal people using brain scans

Scientists have trained a computer program to identify people with suicidal thoughts based on their brain scans. The study is small, but the method could one day be used for diagnosing mental health conditions, researchers say....The algorithm isn't perfect — and a medical test would have to be. It may also not become widely used since brain scans are expensive. But “it’d be nice to have this additional method,” says study author Marcel Just, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Thirty-four volunteers participated in the study: 17 with suicidal thoughts and 17 without. The volunteers read 30 words that were either positive (“bliss”), negative (“cruelty”), or related to death (“suicide”) and thought about the meanings while undergoing a type of brain scan called fMRI.  Researchers found that the responses to six words — “death,” “trouble,” “carefree,” “good,” “praise,” and “cruelty” — showed the biggest differences between the two groups of participants. So, they gave a machine-learning algorithm these results for every person except one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2017

New Med research and Tech: Pasta, diabetes Type 3c, blindness breakthrough, new pneumonia vaccine, OCD genes and more

Italian researchers have created a pasta that could help us survive heart attacks

In a newly published study, medical researchers at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna’s Institute of Life Sciences in Pisa developed a special kind of pasta enriched with barley flour. The barley contains a substance called beta-glucan that is known to help the body form new blood vessels – which could serve as a “natural bypass” in the event of a heart attack, the researchers said.

Wanted: 1 million people to study genes, habits and health

U.S. researchers are getting ready to recruit more than 1 million people for an unprecedented study to learn how our genes, environments and lifestyles interact — and to finally customize ways to prevent and treat disease....The NIH's massive "All Of Us" project will push what's called precision medicine, using traits that make us unique in learning to forecast health and treat disease. Partly it's genetics. What genes do you harbor that raise your risk of, say, heart disease or Type 2 diabetes or various cancers? But other factors affect that genetic risk: what you eat, how you sleep, if you grew up in smog or fresh air, if you sit at a desk all day or bike around town, if your blood pressure is fine at a check-up but soars on the job, what medications you take.

Pilot testing is under way and if it  goes well, NIH plans to open the study next spring to just about any U.S. adult who's interested, with sign-up as easy as going online. It's a commitment. The study aims to run for at least 10 years.
The goal is to enroll a highly diverse population, people from all walks of life — specifically recruiting minorities who have been under-represented in scientific research. And unusual for observational research, volunteers will get receive results of their genetic and other tests, information they can share with their own doctors.

There's a Totally New Type of Diabetes And It's Being Misdiagnosed as Type 2

Type 3c diabetes might be surprisingly widespread.  Researchers from the University of Surrey studied medical records on people diagnosed with pancreatic diseases.  They found that most were misdiagnosed and actually had type 3c diabetes. The records used were taken from the Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Database (RCGP RSC). This database, mainly used for flu surveillance, contains the anonymized healthcare records of people of all ages for a sample of GP practices spread out across England..... In adults, type 3c diabetes was more common than type 1 diabetes. We found that 1 percent of new cases of diabetes in adults were type 1 diabetes compared with 1.6 percent for type 3c diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is where the body's immune system destroys the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. It usually starts in childhood or early adulthood and almost always needs insulin treatment.  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can't keep up with the insulin demand of the body. It is often associated with being overweight or obese and usually starts in middle or old age, although the age of onset is decreasing. Type 3c diabetes is caused by damage to the pancreas from inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), tumors of the pancreas, or pancreatic surgery. The onset of type 3c diabetes could occur long after the onset of pancreas injury. In many cases more than a decade later. This type of damage to the pancreas not only impairs the organ's ability to produce insulin but also to produce the proteins needed to digest food (digestive enzymes) and other hormones.  However, our latest study has revealed that most cases of type 3c diabetes are being wrongly diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Only 3 percent of the people in our sample – of more than 2 million – were correctly identified as having type 3c diabetes.

FDA approves first blood sugar monitor for diabetics that DOESN'T need a finger prick

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Abbott Laboratories' glucose monitoring device for adults with diabetes, allowing millions of people to track their blood sugar levels without having to prick their fingers. The Abbott's FreeStyle Libre Flash uses small sensor wire inserted below the skin that continuously measures and monitors glucose levels throughout the day.  The device can be worn for up to 10 days before being replaced

Blindness breakthrough: Single gene injected into the back of the eye reverses retinitis pigmentosa

Scientists have used gene therapy to reverse one of the most common causes of blindness. A single gene injected into the back of the eye restores vision, by fixing a problem which stops the retina detecting light. The breakthrough, in mice experiments, saw the animals' blindness cured so that they again responded to beams of light and could see objects placed in their cage. Crucially, the eye continued to make a vital protein which restores sight for 15 months after the initial injection. Researchers at the University of Oxford says the gene therapy goes further than other work on retinitis pigmentosa. It could be available for patients in five to 10 years. The results lasted into old age, although trials on humans are needed to ensure the results are permanent, and are hoped to go ahead within five years.

Scientists may have found a cause of dyslexia

A duo of French scientists said Wednesday they may have found a physiological, and seemingly treatable, cause for dyslexia hidden in tiny light-receptor cells in the human eye.  In non-dyslexic people, the cells are arranged asymmetrically, allowing signals from the one eye to be overridden by the other to create a single image in the brain.  In non-dyslexic people, the blue cone-free spot in one eye -- the dominant one, was round and in the other eye unevenly shaped.In dyslexic people, both eyes have the same, round spot, which translates into neither eye being dominant, they found.

"The lack of asymmetry might be the biological and anatomical basis of reading and spelling disabilities," said the study authors. Dyslexic people make so-called "mirror errors" in reading, for example confusing the letters "b" and "d". The team used an LED lamp, flashing so fast that it is invisible to the naked eye, to "cancel" one of the images in the brains of dyslexic trial participants while reading. In initial experiments, dyslexic study participants called it the "magic lamp," said Ropars, but further tests are required to confirm the technique really works.

In development - New Vaccine promises to wipe out pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis

The current pneumonia vaccine targets only 32 forms of bacteria, with others causing death.  The new jab destroys 72 of the 90 known strains, including the 32 most deadly. In many instances, the vaccine in development outperformed existing injections. Yet, the new vaccine does not target all of the gut's bacteria; therefore keeps healthy strains.  By targeting pneumonia bacteria, it protects against septicemia and meningitis. Study author Dr Blaine Pfeifer from the University at Buffalo, said: 'We can potentially provide universal coverage against bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other types of pneumococcal disease. It holds the promise of saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year."

Researchers Have Finally Discovered Genes That Are Linked to OCD

We were seeking ways to take advantage of information from other species in order to inform and focus the study in humans," says computational biologist Hyun Ji Noh from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Noh's team compiled a list of genetic associations observed in previous studies of human OCD, and also analyzed the results of research into compulsive behavior in mice, and in dogs, where it's called canine compulsive disorder (CCD).

They ended up with an array of around 600 genes that looked to be tied to OCD or its variants, which can urge people to do things like obsessively check or clean items around the house, or wash their hands – and, in animals like dogs, it provokes similarly compulsive acts.  "Dogs, it turns out, are surprisingly similar to people," one of the researchers, geneticist Elinor Karlsson told NPR.  This helped them to cull the list down to just four genes expressed in the brain – called NRXN1, HTR2A, CTTNBP2, and REEP3 – which, when they undergo mutations, are significantly associated with human OCD.

Teens who suffer concussions are 22% more likely to develop multiple sclerosis,

Scientists at Orebro University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden studied every person in the country who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) between 1964 to 2012.  They found 7,292 patients in the national database who were diagnosed with the autoimmune disease.  The findings showed that adolescents increased their risk of having multiple sclerosis as adults and adds to the growing evidence about the dangers of high-impact sports.

Evidence Is Mounting That The Drug Ketamine Can Actually Treat Chronic Migraines

The latest study focussed on 61 patients, all male, who had been suffering chronic migraines that did not respond to any of the treatments available. This type of migraine is known as a refractory headache or intractable migraine. Even though it only affects less than 1 percent of all migraine sufferers, this version tends to be an especially severe form, causing debilitating episodes that last for days at a time or even longer.  Using an intravenous ketamine infusion for stubborn migraines is not an entirely new concept, but it's considered to be a "last resort" treatment and is not widely available. It does make sense, though, because research has indicated that ketamine infusions can help with other stubborn pain conditions that don't respond to more conventional treatments.  Patients in this study all received ketamine infusions at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, a hospital that not only offers this option to patients, but also works to investigate its clinical benefits.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

September 14, 2017

Roundup: Medical Research and Technology

A 25-year-old student has come up with a way to fight drug-resistant superbugs without antibiotics.

The new approach has so far only been tested in the lab and on mice, but it could offer a potential solution to antibiotic resistance, which is now getting so bad that the United Nations recently declared it a "fundamental threat" to global health.  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already kill around 700,000 people each year, but a recent study suggests that number could rise to around 10 million by 2050.

But Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.  Before we get too carried away, it's still very early days. So far, Lam has only tested her star-shaped polymers on six strains of drug-resistant bacteria in the lab, and on one superbug in live mice. But in all experiments, they've been able to kill their targeted bacteria - and generation after generation don't seem to develop resistance to the polymers.  The polymers - which they call SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers - work by directly attacking, penetrating, and then destabilizing the cell membrane of bacteria.

Scientists honor Chad Carr, 5, who died of incurable brain tumor as tests on his donated tissue lead to major cancer research breakthrough

Chad died in 2015 aged 5, just 14 months after he was diagnosed with DIPG. Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a lethal and untreatable brain tumor which predominantly affects children under the age of nine.  An analysis of his brain has led to a major breakthrough in understanding the genetic mutations that drive DIPG. Experts say the unprecedented finding is the first concrete result of any study into the little-understood disease. 

Zika virus used to treat aggressive brain cancer

Using viruses to fight cancer is not a new idea, but using Zika as the weapon of choice is. But the latest research shows the virus can selectively infect and kill hard-to-treat cancerous cells in adult brains. Zika injections shrank aggressive tumors in fully grown mice, yet left other brain cells unscathed.  While human trials are still a way off, experts believe Zika virus could potentially be injected into the brain at the same time as surgery to remove life-threatening tumors.  The Zika treatment appears to work on human cell samples in the lab.

New device accurately identifies cancer in seconds

A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin has invented a powerful tool that rapidly and accurately identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, delivering results in about 10 seconds— more than 150 times as fast as existing technology. The MasSpec Pen is an innovative handheld instrument that gives surgeons precise diagnostic information about what tissue to cut or preserve, helping improve treatment and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence.

New class of drugs targets aging to help keep you healthy

The researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, are calling for senolytic drugs to make the leap from animal research to human clinical trials.  As we age, we accumulate senescent cells, which are damaged cells that resist dying off but stay in our bodies. They can affect other cells in our various organs and tissues. Senolytic drugs are agents capable of killing problem-causing senescent cells in your body without harming your normal, healthy cells. Senescent cells play a role in many age-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, most cancers, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis and blindness.

Gut germs play role in multiple sclerosis, studies show

Two teams of scientists have found the strongest evidence yet that intestinal bacteria play a role in multiple sclerosis, an incurable disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the myelin coating on neurons, causing tremors, fatigue, cognitive problems, and more.

Gut germs that were unusually abundant in people with MS changed white blood cells in a way that made them more likely to attack the body’s own cells, including neurons, one study reported on Monday; the other experiment found that gut germs from people with MS made mice more likely to develop the disease than did gut germs from their identical but healthy twins.
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Together, the two studies advance the idea that gut microbes play a role in turning the immune system against nerve cells, causing MS. It will take a lot more work to develop cures or preventive strategies based on that, but the research raises the intriguing possibility of treating an often-devastating disease with something as low-tech as fecal transplants or probiotics.

How infection can trigger autoimmune disease

Australian scientists have confirmed a ‘weak link’ in the immune system – identifying the exact conditions under which an infection can trigger an autoantibody response, a process not clearly understood until now.

We May Have Finally Discovered The Trigger That Starts Autoimmune Diseases

The chain reaction, discovered after four years of research in mice, has been described as a "runaway train" where one error leads the body to develop a very efficient way of attacking itself.  The study focused on B cells gone rogue. Ordinarily these cells produce antibodies and program the immune cells to attack unwanted antigens (or foreign substances), but scientists found an 'override switch' in mouse B cells that distorted this behavior and caused autoimmune attacks.

"Once your body's tolerance for its own tissues is lost, the chain reaction is like a runaway train," says one of the team, Michael Carroll from Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School (HMS). "The immune response against your own body's proteins, or antigens, looks exactly like it's responding to a foreign pathogen."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

September 1, 2017

Roundup of Medical Research and Technology: Restoring nerve cells in Parkinson's, nanomachines, reversing memory loss, AAV2 and Blat

Scientists devise 'promising' new stem cell treatment that has the 'potential to cure Parkinson's disease' and stop tremors

In trials on laboratory monkeys, researchers were able to restore nerve cells. In humans, Parkinson's causes a loss of neurons, which affects movement. Experts hailed the findings of the Japanese study to be 'extremely promising'  It is believed that the team of scientists are just a short step away from testing the stem cell treatment in clinical trials.  Lead author Professor Jun Takahashi said that they are hoping to start looking for suitable patients within the next 15 months.

Dr Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s UK-funded researcher at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, saying, 'This is extremely promising research demonstrating that a safe and highly effective cell therapy for Parkinson’s can be produced in the lab...Such a therapy has the potential to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s in patients by restoring their dopamine-producing neurons."

Nanomachines which drill into cancer cells killing them in just 60 seconds, developed by scientists

The tiny spinning molecules are driven by light, and spin so quickly that they can burrow their way through cell linings when activated. In one test conducted at Durham University the nanomachines took between one and three minutes to break through the outer membrane of prostate cancer cell, killing it instantly.

A daily jab of a bone hormone could reverse age-related memory loss, study finds

Scientists restored a hormone produced by bone cells back to youthful levels. This reversed memory loss in mice, which are biologically similar to humans.  Researchers say injecting osteocalcin has no toxic side effects as it's natural. This finding paves the way for a novel approach to treating age-related cognitive decline in a safe way, say the scientists.

Professor Gerard Karsenty from Columbia University Medical Center in New York said: "In previous studies, we found that osteocalcin plays multiple roles in the body, including a role in memory. We also observed that the hormone declines precipitously in humans during early adulthood. 'That raised an important question: Could memory loss be reversed by restoring this hormone back to youthful levels? The answer, at least in mice, is yes."

Scientists may have stumbled across a cure for cancer

Craig M. Meyers, a distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology at Penn State, has made a career out of studying the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). In 2008, he was conducting an experiment to see the effect another virus, called adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2), would have on HPV. The team introduced AAV2 into the cell lines of a cancerous HPV specimen and left them to incubate for a week.

BYU Magazine reports, the results of this test left the team convinced they had made a mistake. All the cancerous cells had died.  The success of AAV2 against cancerous HPV cells led the team to begin testing on other forms of cancer. They found that AAV2 worked on breast cancer, prostate cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and mesothelioma.

It has been a long road since 2008, but Meyers still has further to go. The research still has more trials to run before the FDA will allow it to go to human testing. It is possible we might see this new treatment in hospitals within the next 5 years.

Cholesterol Crystals Are A Sign Heart Attack Is Imminent according to new study

After examining materials that were blocking the coronary arteries of a number of patients, a team of scientists and medical experts at Michigan State University confirmed that it was cholesterol - in the form of crystals. They found that this particular type of hardened cholesterol was found in over 89 per cent of emergency room cases.

Dr George Abela, professor of medicine at Michigan State University, said “In previous studies, we showed that when cholesterol goes from a liquid to a solid, or crystal state, it expands in volume like ice and water. This expansion inside the wall of the artery can tear it and block blood flow causing a heart attack or stroke.”

Meet Blat: The Barcelona dog that can detect lung cancer from sniffing a person’s breath

 Blat+Owner-1

Blat, a labrador retreiver mixed with an American Staffordshire pit bull, had a success rate of 95 percent in detecting cases of lung cancer and was even able to do so in very early stages – identifying cancer when the tumor was a mere four millimeters in diameter.  His owner and trainer, Ingrid Ramón, runs Barcelona-based Argus Detection Dogs, which trains dogs to specifically identify types of illness.

”Blat's 'spectacular' results indicate that there are molecules that are specific to lung cancers and that some of these molecules are detectable in the exhaled air," explained Laureano Molins, a thoracic surgeon at Hospital Clinic and co-author of trial.  "At the moment the olfactory skills of a dog are superior to any technology we have today," said Molins. "Our goal now is to identify the molecules (detected by Blat) and develop a diagnostic test that acts as an electronic nose."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 AM | Permalink

August 20, 2017

New Medical Research and Tech: Vaccine breakthroughs, Watson, probiotics, type 1 diabetes and balding

New treatment cures, vaccinates mice against cancer

Researchers at Duke University have successfully cured and vaccinated mice against cancer in a recent small study using nanotechnology and immunotherapy. The study combined a Food and Drug Administration-approved cancer immunotherapy treatment with a new tumor-killing nanotechnology to improve the effectiveness of both therapies. Researchers developed the photothermal immunotherapy using lasers and gold nanostars to heat and destroy tumors in combination with an immunotherapy drug.

Plants 'hijacked' to make polio vaccine

Plants have been "hijacked" to make polio vaccine in a breakthrough with the potential to transform vaccine manufacture, say scientists. The team at the John Innes Centre, in Norfolk,U.K., says the process is cheap, easy and quick.  As well as helping eliminate polio, the scientists believe their approach could help the world react to unexpected threats such as Zika virus or Ebola.

Experts said the achievement was both impressive and important. The vaccine is an "authentic mimic" of poliovirus called a virus-like particle. Outwardly it looks almost identical to poliovirus but - like the difference between a mannequin and person - it is empty on the inside. It has all the features needed to train the immune system, but none of the weapons to cause an infection.

IBM Watson Makes a Treatment Plan for Brain-Cancer Patient in 10 Minutes; Doctors Take 160 Hours

In treating brain cancer, time is of the essence....IBM Watson’s key feature is its natural-language-processing abilities. This means Watson for Genomics can go through the 23 million journal articles currently in the medical literature, government listings of clinical trials, and other existing data sources without requiring someone to reformat the information and make it digestible. Other Watson initiatives have also given the system access to patients’ electronic health records, but those records weren’t included in this study.

At Last, a Big, Successful Trial of Probiotics

A large Indian study of 4,500 newborn babies found that the right microbes can prevent a life-threatening condition called sepsis.  Sepsis is one of the biggest killers of newborn babies, ending around 600,000 lives every year when they’ve barely begun. ...in Panigrahi’s trial, just 5.4 percent of the infants who took the synbiotic developed sepsis in their first two months of life, compared to 9 percent of those who received a placebo. That’s a reduction of 40 percent....The effect was twice as large as what the team expected, especially since the infants took daily doses of the synbiotic for just one week. And given the clear evidence of benefits, independent experts who were monitoring the study decided to stop the trial early: It would have been unethical to continue depriving half the newborns of the treatment...

The treatment also reduced the risk of infections by both the major groups of bacteria: the Gram-positives, by 82 percent; and the Gram-negatives, which are harder to treat with antibiotics, by 75 percent. It even reduced the risk of pneumonia and other infections of the airways by 34 percent. That was “completely unexpected,” says Panigrahi, and it’s the result he’s especially excited about. It suggests that the synbiotic isn’t just acting within the gut, but also giving the infants’ immune systems a body-wide boost.

Immune systems of type 1 diabetics can be ‘retrained’ to stop destroying insulin, scientists show

Researchers at King’s College London and Cardiff University showed that injecting patients with tiny protein fragments prevented immune cells from targeting vital insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops when a patient's immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without treatment the number of beta cells will slowly decrease and the body will no longer be able to maintain normal blood sugar (blood glucose) levels, leading to patients needing daily injections. But a trial involving 27 people showed it was possible to halt the loss of  beta cells with fortnightly or monthly injections for six months. There were also no toxic side-effects.

A cure for balding could be on the horizon after scientists have found a new way to make hair grow.

Increasing lactate production genetically accelerates the stem cells in dormant hair follicles to get them growing again, a study on mice showed. Researchers believe the discovery may lead to new drugs to help people who suffer from alopecia, the medical term for hair loss. Receding hairlines and thinning crowns can be caused by aging, genetics, hormone imbalance, stress, illness and medications.

'Before this, no one knew that increasing or decreasing the lactate would have an effect on hair follicle stem cells,' said William Lowry, a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The researchers - whose work was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology - stress that these medications were used in preclinical tests only.  They have not been tested on humans or approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:55 PM | Permalink

August 9, 2017

Astonishing advances in medical technology

Groundbreaking skin patch the size of a penny can regrow organs, restore brain function, and heal wounds by injecting genetic code into the damaged area

 Tissue Nanotransfection

The technology, known as Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), uses a nanochip the size of a penny, which is placed on the skin for a second and then removed. In that time, the chip injects genetic code into skin cells, turning them into any type of cell needed to restore wounded blood vessels. And a new study reveals its effects can be seen within days. The researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center restored brain function to mice after strokes and rescued badly injured legs on mice in just three weeks with a single touch of this device. ...
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'What's even more exciting is that it not only works on the skin, but on any type of tissue,' Sen said. In fact, researchers were able to grow brain cells on the skin surface of a mouse, harvest them, then inject them into the mouse's injured brain.  Just a few weeks after having a stroke, brain function in the mouse was restored, and it was healed. Because the technique uses a patient's own cells and does not rely on medication, researchers expect it to be approved for human trials within a year.

This miracle medical chip could one day heal almost anything

The future implications for such a device are limitless, though some examples include reprogramming brain cells in Alzheimer’s or stroke patients, regenerating limbs or helping injured soldiers or car crash victims at the scene.

“This technology does not require a laboratory or hospital and can actually be executed in the field,” said Chandan Sen, the director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies. “It’s less than 100 grams to carry and will have a long shelf life.” The technology is currently waiting for FDA approval, but Sen expects the device to enter human trial within the year.

Cutting edge procedure uses your own cells to repair cartilage

It's called MACI, which is a procedure that repairs damaged cartilage using a person’s own cartilage cells. Doctors say cartilage is harvested from the patient and sent to a lab in Massachusetts. It's then soaked into a patch and applied to the damaged area.

"You stimulate the cells in the right environment and they make cartilage around themselves. It's kind of like they make a cushion around themselves,” Dr. Zak Knutson said. "The cells start to stick 24 hours to the bone. Once they stick, then we're good because then we start motion and a little bit of weight-bearing to stimulate them to grow and make cartilage around them.”

Mind-controlled hearing aids filter out background noise by tracking the wearer's brain activity

Scientists have created a hearing aid that is controlled by the mind, new research reveals. The technology filters out background noise, allowing the wearer to focus on just one conversation, a study found. Such a hearing aid works by monitoring the user's brain activity to determine who they are conversing with and amplifying that voice, the research adds. Current hearing aids can filter out background noise but are unable to determine specifically who the wearer is listening to.

Researchers from Columbia University in New York are behind the technology, which picks up several speakers before separating them into individual voices thus combining speech engineering and auditory decoding.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

August 4, 2017

Medical research and technology roundup: Lung fibrosis, cancer, depression gene, MS, aging cells, bio-glue

Stem cell therapy for lung fibrosis conditions

A team of scientists from the UNC School of Medicine and North Carolina State University (NCSU) has developed promising research towards a possible stem cell treatment for several lung conditions, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis -- often-fatal conditions that affect tens of millions of Americans.

Discovery points to drugs that would 'short-circuit' deadly leukemia

Researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have discovered that survival of a particularly aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) depends on production of a small molecule called heme that is a kind of molecular "battery." The researchers said discovery of this vulnerability points the way to new targeted drug therapies that block heme synthesis, killing the leukemic cells.

Nearly 25% of people carry a gene that makes it more likely they will develop depression as they age, a new study claims

The study, conducted at the University of Central Florida, found that a gene variant called apolipoprotein-E4 (ApoE4), makes it 20 percent more likely that people will develop depression later in life than people without it. The study was conducted on a pool of 3,203 participants, following them as they aged from 53 to 71 years old.

New blood test can check for 13 types of cancers

A research team led by the Tokyo-based National Cancer Center Japan has developed a new test to diagnose 13 kinds of cancers from a single drop of blood, including relatively early stage 1 cancers, with more than 95 percent accuracy. Breast cancer was diagnosed with 97 percent accuracy....The new test utilizes microRNA (miRNA), a substance that is secreted from cells into the blood and regulates the movements of genes and which differ between cancer cells and normal cells.

Pioneering test can predict whether breast cancer will return

Patients with clustered immune cells, known as 'hotspots', were 25 per cent more likely to relapse within 10 years. The likelihood of cancer returning within five years was 23 per cent higher in women with the hotspots, a study found. The new method gives doctors the opportunity to dish out better preventative drugs to help keep the disease at bay. An automated computer tool on tissue samples searches for 'hotspots' by assessing how cells are organized spatially.

Small green sponge found in the icy waters off Alaska could CURE pancreatic and ovarian cancer

Scientists say a molecule from the sponge selectively killed malignant cells in both types of diseases in laboratory tests....The molecule in the sponge is structurally and chemically unique, said researchers...The discovery came after researchers spent the last two decades researching natural products that could be used for drugs....Any clinical trials would likely be about six years away

Resistance training SLOWS the progression of multiple sclerosis and even REVERSES brain shrinkage

Specifically, resistance exercise - also known as strength or weight training - has been shown to result in less brain shrinkage in patients. Furthermore, brain atrophy - classically considered as a measure of the disease's progression - appeared to be reversed in small areas....The team say they are unable to explain why training had a positive effect on the brain in people with MS. Previous research suggests exercise boosts two proteins - brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF) - which help repair neurons in MS.  Study author associate professor Ulrik Dalgas at Aarhus University in Denmark, said, "The fact that physical training also seems to have a protective effect on the brain in people with multiple sclerosis is new and important knowledge.'  Dr Dalgas said further - and larger - research was necessary.  He stressed that the aim is not to replace medication with physical training.

Harvard develops medical bio glue based on slug secretions

As any gardener who has observed the revolting pests scaling a wet flowerpot will know, the sticky mucus exuded by the revolting pests has the power to stick to wet surfaces....[while]  most glues invented by humans require nice dry surfaces to stick, or are often too toxic to use on a human wound......The bio-glue was developed by experts at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The researchers say that in laboratory tests they successfully repaired a hole in a pig heart that was slick with blood.  The sealant did not leak when the pig's heart beat, highlighting how the glue was flexible enough to cope with stretching. Tests revealed it bound together skin, cartilage, heart, artery, and liver with significantly greater strength than other medical adhesives. It is also non-toxic and does not cause tissue damage or adhesions. Professor Donald Ingber, who worked on the project, said: "Nature has frequently already found elegant solutions to common problems...'We are excited to see how this technology, inspired by a humble slug, might develop into a new technology for surgical repair and wound healing."

Brain cells found to control aging

Scientists have found that stem cells in the brain's hypothalamus govern how fast aging occurs in the body. In mice, when adult stem cells were injected, the signs of aging were reversed. The crucial hypothalamus stem cells are 'mother cells' that mature to produce new neurons. Researchers  believe that humans are likely to respond to the influence of hypothalamus stem cells in just the same way. The finding could lead to new strategies for warding off age-related diseases and extending lifespan.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2017

Roundup of exciting medical research and new medical technologies

Scientists stumble across a solution to deadly antibiotic resistance by CHANCE

Deemed to be one of the biggest threats to humanity, antibiotic resistance has previously been cited as severe as terrorism and global warming. It is causing usually harmless infections to turn into deadly superbugs that don't respond to a range of medications.  But Salford University scientists claim they may have stumbled across a very simple way forward – even though they weren't looking for antibiotics. And they have created several of the drugs already – many of which are as potent, or more so, than amoxicillin.

Study author Professor Michael Lisanti told MailOnline they were looking into ways of inhibiting mitochondria, the 'powerhouse' of cells which fuel fatal tumors, when they made the discovery. 'These broad-spectrum antibiotics were discovered, by simply screening candidates first on mitochondria in cancer cells.
'Mitochondria and bacteria have a lot in common. We began thinking that if what we found inhibited mitochondria, it would also kill bacteria.' 'So, these new anti-cancer agents should also be potential antibiotics.'

Their results showed that these synthetic compounds - without any additional chemical engineering - inhibited a broad spectrum of five types of common bacteria. This included Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). They also killed the pathogenic yeast, Candida albicans.
Dubbed as 'mito-riboscins', they are equally, if not more, potent than standard antibiotics, the researchers said.

Johns Hopkins researchers say they've unlocked key to cancer metastasis and how to slow it

Hasini Jayatilaka was a sophomore at the Johns Hopkins University working in a lab studying cancer cells when she noticed that when the cells become too densely packed, some would break off and start spreading....Seven years later, the theory Jayatilaka developed early in college is now a bona fide discovery that offers significant promise for cancer treatment.

Jayatilaka and a team at Johns Hopkins discovered the biochemical mechanism that tells cancer cells to break off from the primary tumor and spread throughout the body, a process called metastasis. Some 90 percent of cancer deaths are caused when cancer metastasizes. The team also found that two existing, FDA-approved drugs can slow metastasis significantly....The drugs the team used were Tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and Reparixin, which is being evaluated for cancer treatment. The drugs bind to the Interleukin receptors and block their signals, slowing metastasis.  The next step for the team is to test the effectiveness of the drugs in human subjects.

New vaccine providing '100% protection' against life-wrecking Lyme disease is in the pipeline

Experts at UMass Medical School in Boston have prevented mice getting Lyme disease.  A single jab injects an antibody that targets bacteria inside the tick's gut as soon as the tick bites, thus preventing the illness from being transmitted to the body.

The seasonal injection of the single antibody could be given in the spring, and could last through the fall, when ticks are most active. The developers say it has shown virtually no adverse side effects, but more testing needs to be done. And this means that it could take another two-to-three years before it is available and it has passed the clinic trials required for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Until then, the sweetener Stevia might work even better than antibiotics to treat Lyme disease

A professor who has battled with the illness for 15 years, believes to have found a solution.  Dr Eva Sapi, an academic and researcher at the University of New Haven, conducted tests on the sweetener Stevia and found that it combats the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  "We did some research, and found out it's been used in Japan for centuries as a microbiotic agent."  The sugary substance has proven much more effective in killing the bacteria than antibiotics. Clinical trials are being conducted in Hyde Park, New York, by Dr Richard Horowitz, a doctor specializing in Lyme disease and curing patients with the illness. 

Geko 'wristwatch' may help speed up healing of leg injuries and aid patients who have surgery for broken bones

The neuromuscular electro-stimulation device reduces swelling in broken limbs.  Around 75 per cent of patients using Geko were treated successfully and went home in one or two days.

Rapidly expanding biofoam will save soldiers' lives.

Bleeding to death is the leading cause of fatalities on the battlefield.  Dubbed ResQ Foam, this remarkable biofoam rapidly expands inside the body (up to 35 times the original volume) and seals off the wound.  The foam which must be injected doesn’t repair the injury, but stabilizes the wounded, buying the patient about three more hours to get to a surgeon which can be the critical difference between life and death.

Silk patch that heals a burst eardrum

Called ClearDrum, the contact lens-sized implant is stitched over the hole in the eardrum and acts as a ‘scaffold’ on to which the patient’s own healthy new tissue can grow. It can also transmit sound just as a healthy eardrum would do. Trials on patients are due to begin in Australia within the next year and if these prove successful, ClearDrum could be widely available in three to five years.

The titanium 'butterfly' device which can cut the risk of a stroke after being placed in your neck

A tiny titanium ‘butterfly’ implanted in the neck could give hope to half a million British patients blighted by drug-resistant high blood pressure, dramatically reducing their risk of stroke, heart attacks and dementia.
In American trials, the baked-bean-size device – a featherlight, four-sided wire cage – has been able to improve patients’ prospects where medication had failed to do so.  Some, who still suffered high blood pressure despite being on the highest doses of medication, saw their readings drop to normal levels within months..... 

Dutch cardiologist Dr Jan van der Heyden, who has been using the device on patients, said: ‘We’ve been following patients for more than two years and have seen dramatic improvements....The implant remains in place permanently and the patient is unable to feel it.  Studies suggest that there is an initial effect within 24 hours, and that blood pressure continues to fall over three months and then remain stable.

Given European approval last year, the device, called MobiusHD, is now set to be offered to a select group of patients as part of a trial led by British experts. The procedure is set to go on trial at University College London Hospitals in a study expected to gain approval and begin recruiting later this year.

'Microneedle' Patch Promises Painless Flu Vaccine

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2017

Roundup of latest med research and tech: Pond-scum, science of diarrhea, real tans without sun, health-monitoring tattoos and more

How oxygen-producing pond scum could save your life after a heart attack

That’s because thee lowly bacteria in pond scum are capable of producing something a stricken heart desperately needs --- oxygen.  In fact, when Stanford scientists injected massive doses of cyanobacteria into the hearts of rats who suffered the equivalent of a “widow-maker” heart attack, oxygen levels ballooned by a factor of 25.

The results, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, suggest a truly original approach to reducing the damage done to heart muscle when it is suddenly deprived of oxygen.....Woo sees the new research as a “proof of principle” that photosynthesis, in some form, might someday be used as a bridge treatment for patients who have had blood flow cut off to any organ.

New study finds that diarrhea serves a purpose and flushes the body of certain infections

The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), looked at the immune mechanisms that drive diarrhea.  They conducted a study in mice to find out if diarrhea serves a purpose by  infecting mice with the human equivalent of E.coli and analyzing their stools.  They found the infected mice produced proteins that caused tiny leaks in their intestinal wall which allowed more water to enter the intestines, making the mouse poop looser and limiting disease severity.

MIT Has Developed Color-Changing Tattoo Ink That Monitors Your Health in Real Time

Using a liquid with biosensors instead of traditional ink, scientists want to turn the surface of the human skin into an "interactive display, say for diabetics.  "The Dermal Abyss creates a direct access to the compartments in the body and reflects inner metabolic processes in a shape of a tattoo," the team writes on the project website

Scientists Have Discovered a Chemical That Causes Any Skin Type to Tan

It's the complete package: a chemical that can trigger the release of dark pigment in any type of skin tone - even in redheads - while also boosting the body's natural defenses against skin cancer.The new compound, which would work in conjunction with sunscreen, offers a temporary boost in melanin production - the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. If it proves effective in human trials, it could see the end of bad fake tans, and give fair-skinned people better protection when out in the elements.

"It would not actually be a fake tan, it would be the real thing," one of the team, David Fisher from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, told The Guardian. "It would just be sunless."

New discovery could get everyone a tan without the sun damage

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered a compound that can darken the skin without the sun’s damaging UV rays, according to a new study published in Cell Reports. “Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer,” David Fisher, lead author of the study, told the BBC. “Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer – that would be really huge.”

The study notes that more safety testing is needed, especially when it comes to the MITF gene, which regulates skin pigment and could possibly cause cancer on its own if it’s messed around with. Fisher told Smithsonian magazine that it could be another three to five years before the product is close to hitting shelves. .... Fisher stressed that whatever form the eventual product takes, it wouldn’t be a replacement for sunscreen, merely an extra layer of protection.

The one drop flu blood test that could save your life 

The patented test, called The High-risk Influenza Screen Test (HIST), requires a drop of blood and a few hours to predict, with 91 per cent accuracy, which influenza patients are most as risk of deadly secondary infections such as pneumonia. The test was developed by Dr Bejamin Tang and his team, based at Australia's Westmead Institute for Medical Research, and runs on equipment available in most pathology laboratories.

'By using the High-risk Influenza Screen Test we're eavesdropping on the immune system to pick up when the body first mounts a defense against a serious, life-threatening, infection....'The early warning means we have a greater chance to treat the patient's infection before it overwhelms them and potentially kills them.'

A new drug that 'switches off' food cravings is on the horizon

Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard University used a tiny periscope to access part of brain not accessed before which allowed them to gain deeper understanding of how we react to food cues.

Certain hunger-promoting neurons can be artificially turned on even when full.  If these same neurons can be turned off to reduce food cravings, it could help obese people with a 'faulty' hard wiring that causes overeating.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2017

Medical Research and Technology: Ipsiihand, weak bladder, allergies, ovarian cancer, endometriosis and PTSD

"Ipsihand" lets 10 stroke patients regain control of their paralyzed hands

 Ipsihand

The technology called Ipsihand comprises a cap that contains electrodes to detect electrical signals in the brain, a computer that amplifies them and a movable brace that fits over the hand. The device detects the wearer's intention to open or close the paralyzed hand moving it in a pincer-like grip, with the second and third fingers bending to meet the thumb....The machine, developed by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, targets a small part of the brain that is needed to send the first 'movement signal' to our fingers.

After 12 weeks of using the device, 10 patients increased their grasp ability by 6.2 on the 57-point scale.  While it may sound like a small number, experts insist it was a huge step in stroke research. For some, it even provided enough strength to put on a pair of pants.  Neuroscientist Professor Eric Leuthardt said: 'An increase of six points represents a meaningful improvement in quality of life.

Found, the gene that causes a weak bladder:

One in four women suffer ‘stress incontinence’ associated with laughing, sneezing, coughing, exercising or movements that put pressure on the bladder.  In more than half of all cases, the problem appears to be inherited. This discovery leads to hope that existing drugs can be adapted to treat condition that affects millions.

Researchers studied 9,000 women from three groups in Finland and the UK. They found that the genes affecting incontinence were in a similar area to those connected with pulmonary hypertension and Raynaud’s syndrome – where spasms of the arteries reduce blood flow. Dr Cartwright said: ‘Previous studies had failed to confirm any genetic causes for incontinence.

Scientists make breakthrough that could lead to cure for ALL allergies with a single treatment

Researchers say a single treatment giving life-long protection from severe allergies such as asthma could be made possible by immunology research.  A team led by Associate Professor Ray Steptoe, at The University of Queensland in Australia, has been able to 'turn-off' the immune response which causes allergic reaction in animals.

'The challenge in asthma and allergies is that these immune cells, known as T-cells, develop a form of immune 'memory' and become very resistant to treatments. 'We have now been able to 'wipe' the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, desensitizing the immune system so that it tolerates the protein. Dr Steptoe said the findings would be subject to further pre-clinical investigation, with the next step being to replicate results using human cells in the laboratory. 

In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes to Human Intelligence

A team of European and American scientists announced on Monday that they had identified 52 genes linked to intelligence in nearly 80,000 people. These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule, the researchers said, suggesting that thousands more are likely to be involved and still await discovery. Just as important, intelligence is profoundly shaped by the environment.

Hope for thousands of women with ovarian cancer:

The first results from a landmark trial have found that the treatment dramatically shrank tumors in seven out of 15 women patients in the terminal stages of the illness, extending their lives by 6 months or more.  The team of doctors and scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research in London have described the results as ‘rare’ and ‘very promising’.

The drug BTG945 is given intravenously – as a drip – and patients have 12 doses every two weeks. It is able to penetrate tumors by disguising itself as folic acid – a naturally occurring vitamin that is particularly beneficial to pregnant women. Ovarian cancer tumors are particularly receptive to folic acid and the disguise enables the treatment to enter the cells and attack. This means the surrounding healthy cells are left alone, which is why the treatment causes so few side effects.

Cancer drugs that could help end the monthly agony of women with endometriosis:

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that normally forms the lining of the womb each month occurs elsewhere in the body. This can cause extreme pain, as every month the tissue is expelled at the time of menstruation, but has nowhere to go. It also triggers inflammation, which can lead to the development of scar tissue that sticks to internal organs, causing even more pain. If endometriosis forms around the reproductive organs, it can affect fertility.  The discovery that endometriosis cells behave in the same way could lead to new way to treat the condition

Can a Single Injection Conquer PTSD?

The U.S. Army has commissioned a study to determine whether an anesthetic injection to the neck alleviates symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder—a treatment that, if proven effective, could be a big step toward easing an affliction affecting hundreds of thousands of troops who have returned from combat.

The $2 million Army study constitutes the first large-scale randomized control research into use of the shots—called stellate ganglion blocks—to treat PTSD. The injections have been used for decades for arm pain and shingles.  Early clinical experience has produced promising results, with troops experiencing near-immediate relief of anxiety, hyper-vigilance, social withdrawal and other symptoms, said military doctors who have administered the treatment.
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“Once people have the shot, they get dramatically better immediately,” Dr. Lynch said. The shot isn’t a cure, he said, but eases symptoms enough to allow talk therapy, pharmaceuticals and other approaches to achieve long-term improvements.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:34 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2017

Living the Handmaid's Tale

The most interesting and penetrating commentary on the Handmaid's Tale is by Charlotte Allen
Living 'The Handmaid's Tale' — courtesy of the secular liberal elites of L.A

I’ve lost count of the articles I’ve read about Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” that used the word “timely.” Timely, that is, in the sense of the presidency of Donald Trump.....The idea, ... America has become — or will become terrifyingly soon — a militant Bible-based patriarchy.... in which women have no rights, especially no reproductive rights, and are divided into rigidly stratified social classes whose very names give their status away....

As the New Republic’s Sarah Jones, one of the “timely” crowd, explains, “Of course, we don’t divide women into classes of Marthas, Handmaids, Econowives, and Wives; we call them ‘the help,’ ‘surrogates,’ the working class, and the one percent.”....

Instead of seeing Atwood’s fictional Gilead as a near-future militant fundamentalist Christian elite dystopia, we should see it as the mostly secularist elite dystopia we live in right now....

Take those elite-class Wives..... the tech and finance billionaires, the media and entertainment moguls who cluster in expensive ZIP Codes...Those folks aren’t known for their church-going, and they vote in favor of liberal social and economic causes from abortion and immigration rights to sustainable energy to higher taxes. They contribute heavily to political campaign, and with their upper-middle-class epigones they run the culture, deciding who gets banned on Twitter, which kinds of “diversity” are allowed on campuses, and what television programs we’ll be allowed to see. Today’s overclass Wives typically hold Ivy League degrees, “lean in” to high-status careers, and stand with Planned Parenthood.....

We also have a rigidly defined caste of Marthas (and “Marthos,” their male counterparts), because the Wives and their high-earning husbands need them to mop their floors, care for their children, mow their lawns and trim their trees, all for bargain-basement wages. ...

Finally, the Handmaids. As in the fictional Gilead, real-life elite-class Wives have something of a fertility problem, although it’s related not to environmental degradation but delayed marriages and childbearing attempts of women who pursue high-power careers. Thanks to 30 years of advances in egg-transfer technology since Atwood published her novel, today’s gestational surrogates don’t have to get into embarrassing “threesome” sexual positions with the Commanders and their Wives in order to do their jobs. And they tend to be drawn not from the ranks of political dissidents, but from the financially strapped Econowife class.....

Still, as in Gilead, there is definitely a class of female pariahs on whom the elites heap condescension, contempt and, when they can, punishment for holding views at variance with what the elites deem correct. They’re not called Handmaids, of course. They’re called Deplorables
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2017

The Internet is rewiring your mind

If you find you're spending too much time on the Internet, there are 2 useful YouTube videos that will give you some motivation to wean yourself off your addiction.

How the Internet Redesigns your Mind for enhanced distractibility, 

'There's no need to "quit" it, just be aware of how it affects you."  "To reach enhanced levels of productivity and be successful in your professional or artistic pursuits, you really need to carve out long periods (2 hours) of time where you can work absolutely focused - no interruptions whatsoever."

How the Internet Ruins Productivity (by Design)

Content on the internet is purposely designed to be addicting. Simply changing the way we use the internet could be the productivity 'hack' that we're looking for.

“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”  – Cal Newport from the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

Instagram is the most detrimental social media platform to young people's mental health

Researchers from the Royal Society for Public Health in conjunction with the Young Health Movement published the report entitled #StatusOfMind, which looks at the positive and negative effects of social media on young people's health and well-being. Snapchat ranked the second worst for mental health of the sites reviewed in the report, followed by Facebook. On the plus side, YouTube topped the list as the most positive, with Twitter coming in after it.
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"Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people's mental health issues," Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said.  She noted that both Instagram and Snapchat "are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

The "erosion of privacy is a cancer of digital life"

Your Data Is Way More Exposed Than You Realize WSJ

To get a handle on your online privacy, first understand how much of your data is already out there, and how it can be weaponized.

Privacy wasn’t a concern for her until it was too late.....She suspected her ex of stalking her online, and posting her information to fuel harassment. “It is psychological torture,” she told me.....Her nightmare, which is ongoing, might not resemble your life or mine. But it’s a stark reminder that erosion of privacy is a cancer of digital life. And while we might not talk about privacy as often as the latest cool app, it’s only getting worse.

I hear this all the time: “I have nothing to hide.” The truth is, pretty much everybody does something online they have reason to keep private. You can’t see the future. The woman I spoke to said she never planned on getting into what she described as a terrible relationship.
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I have a theory: People would care a lot more about privacy if they realized how exposed they already are. So I invited a half-dozen volunteers I hadn’t met before into my lab to see how much extremely personal information I could find about each of them in under an hour.  I managed to shock every person. It wasn’t even very hard.
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Level one was calling up what’s out there and totally public. Lots of people have googled themselves, but fewer are familiar with “people search engines” like FamilyTreeNow.com and Spokeo, which pull together and cross-reference public data, such as property records and court reports, into one place. Anyone can use them to look for birth dates, current and former addresses, phone numbers, gobs of relatives—even ex-lovers and roommates.
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Level two in my privacy test was looking at data we willingly give to companies like Google. My volunteers brought their laptops and logged in. What we found provoked their most uncomfortable reactions.

Why privacy is so important

From  The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America by Jeffrey Rosen, a legal scholar

“Privacy protects us from being misdefined and judged out of context in a world of short attention spans, a world in which information can easily be confused with knowledge. True knowledge of another person is the culmination of a slow process of mutual revelation. It requires the gradual setting aside of social masks, the incremental building of trust, which leads to the exchange of personal disclosures. It cannot be rushed...In a world of short attention spans, privacy is necessary to protect citizens from the misjudgments that can result from the exposure of too much information as well as too little information. Filtered or unfiltered, information taken out of context is no substitute for the genuine knowledge that can only emerge slowly over time...

“Privacy is necessary for the formation of intimate relationships, allowing us to reveal parts of ourselves to friends, family members, and lovers that we withhold from the rest of the world. It is, therefore, a precondition for friendship, individuality, and even love. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera describes how the police destroyed an important figure of the Prague Spring by recording his conversations with a friend and then broadcasting them as a radio serial. Reflecting on his novel in an essay on privacy, Kundera writes, “Instantly Prochazka was discredited: because in private, a person says all sorts of things, slurs friends, uses coarse language, acts silly, tells dirty jokes, repeats himself, makes a companion laugh by shocking him with outrageous talk, floats heretical ideas he'd never admit in public, and so forth.”

“We are trained in this country to think of all concealment as a form of hypocrisy. But we are beginning to learn how much may be lost in a culture of transparency: the capacity for creativity and eccentricity, for the development of self and soul, for understanding, friendship, and even love. There are dangers to pathological lying, but there are also dangers to pathological truth-telling. Privacy is a form of opacity, and opacity has its values. We need more shades and more blinds and more virtual curtains. Someday, perhaps, we will look back with nostalgia on a society that still believed opacity was possible and was shocked to discover what happens when it is not.”

Google Is About To Start Tracking Your Offline Behavior, Too

It’s no secret that Google already monitors its users’ online shopping activity, but now it will follow them out of their homes and keep a close eye on every interaction they make. The tech giant announced a new system to track users’ in-store credit card purchases Tuesday in a statement published on the company’s official blog.

Top 9 Reasons to Stop Using Facebook... Now.

1. Facebooks creates false endorsements for products from you to your friends - and they never reveal this to you.....
3. They read your private messages and the contents of the links you send privately.....
4. They’ve introduced features that turn your phone’s mic on without telling you....
7.They’ve used snitching campaigns to trick people’s friends into revealing information about them that they chose to keep private.....
8.They use the vast amount of data they have on you, from your likes, things you read, things you type but don’t post, to make highly accurate models about who you are – even if you make it a point of keeping these things secret. There are statistical techniques, which have been used in marketing for decades, that find correlating patterns between someone’s behavior and their attributes. Even if you never posted anything, they can easily work out your age, gender, sexual orientation and political views. When you post, they work out much more. Then they reveal it to banks, insurance companies, governments, and of course, advertisers.
9. Facebook is demanding to track what you buy, and your financial information like bank account and credit card numbers. You’ve already agreed to it in the new Terms Of Service. It’s already started sharing data with Mastercard..
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:21 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2017

New medical research and technology: Cure for baldness and greying, breast milk substance, anorexia partially genetic, UpnRide vertical wheelchair and more

Skin cell discovery could spell cure for baldness and grey hair:

Researchers were investigating how certain tumors form when they discovered the identity of the cells that produce hair and turn it grey.  The study found the protein called KROX20, more commonly associated with nerve development, turned on in skin cells that become the hair shaft. These hair precursor, or progenitor, cells then produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) which is essential for hair pigmentation.

Dr Lu Le, professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Texas, said the chance discovery could lead to an effective treatment to cure baldness and stop greying.

Swedish scientists discover that breast milk contains a substance that kills cancer cells

Breast milk is being used to fight cancer after scientists accidentally discovered it contains a substance that kills tumor cells.Trials in patients with bladder cancer have already yielded promising results and researchers believe the compound breast milk contains – nicknamed Hamlet – will also help tackle bowel cancer and cervical cancer. They also say it homes in on cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed – so it has none of the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.

The substance attacks cancer cells in numerous ways – first evading the cell’s outer defenses, then targeting the ‘power station’ mitochondria and the ‘instruction manual’ nucleus. These actions cut off the cell’s energy source and ‘program’ it to commit suicide, in a process called apoptosis.

Professor Catharina Svanborg, who made the initial discovery, said last night: ‘There’s something magical about Hamlet’s ability to target tumor cells and kill them.’ She said human breast milk contained a protein called alpha-lactalbumin, which is transformed into a cancer-fighting agent when in the gut. An immunologist at Lund University in Sweden, she made the chance discovery that the substance kills tumor cells when working on antibiotics.

Early trials in patients with bladder cancer show those injected with Hamlet start shedding dead tumour cells in their urine within days. A full-scale trial pitting Hamlet against a placebo ‘dummy drug’ is now planned.

Anorexia is partly genetic and eating disorder risk could be passed on to children, study finds

An international collaboration of scientists found that many people who suffer from anorexia nervosa have mutated DNA on a particular chromosome.

Apple's watch really can save your live: Study finds its sensors can spot signs of a stroke with 97% accuracy

The Apple Watch has been found to detect a heart condition that affects some 2.7 million people in the US, a new study has revealed. By pairing the smartwatch's heart rate sensors with artificial intelligence, researchers developed an algorithm capable of distinguishing an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, from a normal heart rhythm - and with 97 percent accuracy. Atrial fibrillation, although easily treatable, has been difficult to diagnose.

CCM disease, a common hard-to-treat brain disease starts in the GUT, study reveals

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are clusters of dilated, thin-walled blood vessels in the brain that can cause stroke and seizures.  Tests on mice showed certain gut bacteria triggered the formation of clusters that cause these seizures. Looking at human models it seems the same is true for people. Currently there is not drug available to treat CCM. The only treatment option is surgical removal.

In 2016, Dr Mark Kahn, a professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, discovered the molecular mechanism in cells that underlies CCM formation. These studies identify an unexpected, direct link between the microbiome and a common cerebrovascular disease.'This suggests that treatments designed to block TLR4 signaling or alter the microbiome may be used to treat this disease,' Dr Kahn said.

Looks like a Segway, acts like a wheelchair

Introducing the UPnRIDE convertible wheelchair from the Israeli makers of the ReWalk robotic exoskeleton....UPnRIDE will enable many wheelchair users to be fully mobile in standing position anywhere, including in an urban environment.

As a category, the standing wheelchair is not a new product. These devices have been shown to improve circulation, elimination and bone density, and could also improve overall quality of life and independence among wheelchair users.  What’s different about the UPnRIDE?“The twist we bring here is the stabilization,” said says Oren Tamari, CEO of RehaMed Technologies.

A new laser imaging technique now allows for a real time look inside the the body of a small animal.

The technique, which uses light and ultrasound, provides enough resolution to see active organs, flowing blood, circulating melanoma cells and firing neural networks.  The researchers, based at the Duke University and The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), used a technique called 'single-impulse photoacoustic computed tomography (SIP-PACT)' to produce the images.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2017

Medical research and technology: Skin gun for burns, 'capsule robot', depression gene, tequila study and MRIs from newborns

Remarkable advance in treating burns with the 'magic' skin gun

Burns victims are making incredible recoveries thanks to a revolutionary ‘gun’ that sprays stem cells on to their wounds, enabling them to rapidly grow new skin. People who suffer extensive burns usually have to endure weeks or even months of treatment, with surgeons taking large sheets of skin from elsewhere on the body and grafting them. The process is painful, and patients are often left with permanent, unsightly scars.

Now, US doctors are using a new technique that allows patients to regrow a new layer of healthy skin in as little as four days. One man,  45, with horrific hot-water burns was sprayed with 17 million cells and within six days new skin had formed over whole wound and he was discharged;

 Skin Gun Before After-1

Patients who have benefited say their new skin is virtually indistinguishable from that on the rest of the body. Thomas Bold, chief executive of RenovaCare, the company behind SkinGun, said: ‘The procedure is gentler – and the skin that regrows looks, feels and functions like the original skin.’

Colonoscopy 'capsule robot' could make the diagnosis of bowel conditions more comfortable

Despite its potential to save lives, many people fear the discomfort of having a colonoscopy. But in the future, tiny robots could be deployed to search for pre-cancerous lesions and tumors in the bowel, resulting in less discomfort for patients. Researchers have shown an 18mm magnetized capsule colonoscope can perform intricate and sometimes autonomous movements inside the colon for the first time. The 'capsule robot' was guided by an external magnet attached to a robotic arm.

'Not only is the capsule robot able to actively maneuver  through the GI tract [digestive tract] to perform diagnostics, it is also able to perform therapeutic maneuvers, such as biopsies of tissue or polyp removal, due to the tether - something that other capsule devices are unable to do,' said Keith Obstein, the study's corresponding author and associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Scientists discover 'depression gene' that takes effect in childhood

Scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center found a gene linked to childhood depression that appears to be linked to variations that have long been linked to bipolar disorder. Studying children that had the gene, researchers found they were more prone to depression and had severe reactions to stressful situations.

Tequila study: Drinking tequila could be good for your bones and help fight osteoporosis:

At the Centre for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico, researchers conducted experiments with mice and found that substances from the tequila plant may help boost levels of calcium and magnesium, minerals that help keep your bones strong.  Dr Mercedes López, leader of the project, said 'The consumption of fructans contained in the agave, in collaboration with adequate intestinal micriobiota, promotes the formation of new bone, even with the presence of osteoporosis.'  ...Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to replace old bone with new. As a result, the skeleton becomes porous and weak.
The researchers hope to perform clinical studies on humans to prove that agave sugars can be used as a treatment.

Newborn MRI scans reveal the growth of TRILLIONS of neural connections

A ground-breaking project  has released its first images which researchers from around the world can download to study how the brain develops its wiring. The images could help scientists understand how conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficit disorders arise.

The Developing Human Connectome Project is a collaboration between researchers from King's College London, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford. It aims to make major scientific progress by creating the first 4-dimensional brain map of early life.  The goal of the project is to create a dynamic map of human brain connectivity from 20 to 44 weeks post-conceptional age, which will link together imaging, clinical, behavioral, and genetic information.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 AM | Permalink

This and that -The world today fabricates more transistors each year than the number of grains—not bushels, but grains—of wheat grown globally."

The world's most amazing achievement ever? How about the 78% percent reduction in extreme world poverty from 1981 to 2015.
— Mark J. Perry (@Mark_J_Perry) April 30, 2017
More at Global Extreme Poverty

 Aei Poverty Decline Chart

In energy terms, operating today’s global digital infrastructure surpasses the fuel demand of global aviation

The world today fabricates more transistors each year than the number of grains—not bushels, but grains—of wheat grown globally. And those silicon devices, along with a myriad other complex components from lasers to optical systems manifest not only in billions of consumer devices, but in megatons and trillions of dollars of hardware in the ‘hidden’ infrastructure of communications networks and warehouse-scale datacenters. The data coursing through the world’s wired and wireless networks is now countable north of two zettabytes, an incomprehensible number.

Organized crime “Illegally trafficked cigarettes now have a higher profit margin than cocaine, heroin, marijuana or guns,” a Virginia State Police official was quoted as saying by the state’s Crime Commission.

Landline Users Now a Minority in the U.S.

Gaming gone bust, tribe turns to marijuana farming

San Diego County, California.  The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel — which shuttered its 35,000-square-foot gaming hall in February 2014, buried under $50 million in debt — has transformed the vacant space into a high-tech medical marijuana operation, and is leasing part of the property to growers who cultivate and distribute the drug to legal dispensaries throughout the state.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 AM | Permalink

May 4, 2017

New Medical research and technology: Exercise in a pill, brain in a dish, robotic brain surgeon and more

Artificial 'brain in a dish'

Scientists have grown the first working 'mini-brains' in a dish which could provide future treatments for autism and epilepsy. The lab-grown organs have their own brain cells, formed into circuits similar to those of a two-month-old baby in the womb. Described as 'thrilling science', it is the first time a human forebrain has been seen in action outside the body. Scientists hope to use the mini-brains to watch in real time the triggers for epilepsy, when brain cells become hyperactive, and autism, where they are thought to form bad connections.

An artificial womb successfully grew baby sheep — and humans could be next

The lambs spent four weeks in the external wombs and seemed to develop normally
Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study, said the point of developing an external womb — which his team calls the Biobag — is to give infants born months too early a more natural, uterus-like environment to continue developing in.

The robotic brain surgeon will see you now: drill can perform complex procedures 50 times faster

Scientists have revealed a robotic drill that can cut the most sensitive brain surgery down from two hours to two and a half minutes. The machine, developed at the University of Utah, is being hailed as a potential breakthrough in survival for brain patients as the reduced time they spend in surgery will drastically cut the chances of infection....It has so far not been tested on a human patient.

One Day, a Machine Will Smell Whether You’re Sick

Each of us has a unique “odorprint” made up of thousands of organic compounds. These molecules offer a whiff of who we are, revealing age, genetics, lifestyle, hometown — even metabolic processes that underlie our health....
Researchers have been trying for decades to figure out how to build an inexpensive odor sensor for quick, reliable and noninvasive diagnoses. The field finally seems on the cusp of succeeding.  “You’re seeing a convergence of technology now, so we can actually run large-scale clinical studies to get the data to prove odor analysis has real utility,” ...

Scientists discover key genes that control our immune response to chlamydia

Scientists may be one step closer to discovering a cure for the silent but devastating sexually transmitted infection (STI) chlamydia...Often called the 'silent disease', as it rarely produces symptoms early on, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if untreated. ...

Switching off' two key genes makes immune cells more susceptible to infection. The genes could be a useful target for new chlamydia therapies, helping to combat antibiotic resistance that increasingly limits STI treatment options. The researcher's model demonstrates how chlamydia interacts with our immune system, which could also have important implications for other infections

Muscle-building 'exercise pill' one step closer, scientists say

A muscle-building “exercise pill” that could reduce visits to the gym has come a step closer with the publication of a new study focusing on a protein that keeps us weak. Scientists found that suppressing production of the protein myostatin increased muscle mass and led to significant improvements in markers of heart and kidney health. Although the research was conducted in mice, the team hopes that further down the road it will lead to human treatments.
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“A pill that inhibits myostatin could also have applications for muscle-wasting diseases, such as cancer, muscle dystrophy and Aids.”  Myostatin is known to be a powerful “brake” that holds back skeletal muscle growth.

“Exercise-in-a-pill” boosts athletic endurance by 70 percent

Salk Institute scientists, building on earlier work that identified a gene pathway triggered by running, have discovered how to fully activate that pathway in sedentary mice with a chemical compound, mimicking the beneficial effects of exercise, including increased fat burning and stamina. The study, which appears in Cell Metabolism on May 2, 2017, not only deepens our understanding of aerobic endurance, but also offers people with heart conditions, pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes or other health limitations the hope of achieving its benefits pharmacologically.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

April 25, 2017

New medical research and technology: malaria vaccine, at home DNA tests, smart gut pills and more

After Decades of Work, a Malaria Vaccine Is Here

Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will begin piloting the injectable vaccine next year with young children. The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures. The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether protective effects shown in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. The vaccine has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said.

Scientists uncover the possible cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Scientists may be one step closer to discovering a cure for the debilitating lifelong condition multiple sclerosis (MS). Researchers have shown MS sufferers have high levels of a certain protein in their brain cells, which is virtually nonexistent in healthy people. This protein alters the cells' energy supply, triggering the disabling symptoms.The finding may enable scientists to create protein-targeting treatments for the incurable disease.

Scientists at the Universities of Exeter and Alberta analysed human brain tissue samples.  They discovered high levels of a protein, known as Rab32, in MS patients. Rab32 is thought to cause the part of the brain cell that stores calcium to get too close to the cell's so-called energy supplier. This causes miscommunication within the cell, leading to brain cell damage. Although it is established that MS occurs due to nervous system damage, the cause of this was less clear. 

FDA Approves At-Home DNA Tests For Ten Diseases

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first home DNA tests Thursday that let people find out if they have a genetic risk for certain diseases. The FDA decision allows home DNA test company 23andMe to directly market its gene tests for 10 diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, celiac disease and some rare blood diseases. “It is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle”

Harvard study breakthrough on genetics of parenting behavior across species

Why is it that some species seem to be particularly attentive parents while others leave their young to fend for themselves? For years, scientists have believed one of the major drivers is experience — an animal raised by an attentive parent, the argument goes, is likely to be an attentive parent itself.

A Harvard study is challenging that idea, and breaking new ground by uncovering links between the activity of specific genes and parenting differences across species...the study found not only that different genes may influence behaviors in males and females, but also that the gene for the hormone vasopressin appears to be closely tied to nest-building behavior in parenting mice.

Guts and glory for RMIT smart pills

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have successfully completed phase one human trials of ingestible capsules that have the potential to revolutionize the prevention and diagnosis of gut disorders and diseases. The ingestible smart capsules (the size of a vitamin pill)  journey through and measure gas levels in the gastrointestinal tract. The ingestible technology has demonstrated several thousand -times more sensitivity to gut gases than alternative techniques.

"Currently, one of the only methods for diagnosing gut disorders, such as mal-absorption of carbohydrates, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammable bowel disease, is to measure hydrogen concentrations in the breath," Kalantar-zadeh said. "However, breath tests are mired by a lack of sensitivity and specificity and are unable to provide the necessary gold standard for diagnosis."

Co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean said: "Ingestible sensors also offer a reliable diagnostic tool for colon cancer, meaning that people won't have to undergo colonoscopies in future."  Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention," Berean said. An added advantage is that the capsules can be synched with smartphones, meaning results are easily accessible by users and doctors online.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:40 AM | Permalink

April 20, 2017

Roundup of medical research and technology:

Restoring the sense of touchSolar-Powered Graphene Skin Enables Prosthetics to Feel

Several products are in development, including this haptic system at Case Western Reserve University, which would enable upper-limb prosthetic users to, say, pluck a grape off a stem or pull a potato chip out of a bag. It sounds simple, but such tasks are virtually impossible without a sense of touch and pressure.

Now, a team at the University of Glasgow that previously developed a flexible ‘electronic skin’ capable of making sensitive pressure measurements, has figured out how to power their skin with sunlight. That renewable energy could be used to power an array of sensors to add feeling to an artificial limb, the authors describe this month in Advanced Functional Materials.


Organs on chips technology
The FDA just struck a deal that could replace animal testing with a tiny chip

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration inked a collaborative research and development agreement with Emulate, a company that makes "organs-on-chips" technology.  The hope is that instead of testing new drugs or supplements on animals, researchers can use Emulate's chips. Each chip is about the size of a human thumb, and contains tiny channels filled with living human cells that imitate the functions of different organs.
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To start, the collaboration between the FDA and Emulate will focus on the company's Liver-Chips, which are meant to show how an animal's liver might react to a certain drug. The liver is where most drugs get broken down on their way out of the body.

Cancer-detecting CHEWING GUM to replace blood tests:

A biotech company has created a chewing gum that detects cancer. Volatile organic compounds, unique to each type of cancer, are produced in the body. The gum traps the compounds, which will then be analyzed for different cancers. It could mean the end of blood tests, urine samples and biopsies. The gum absorbs what are called 'volatiles' in a person's saliva as they chew it - chemical compounds which are released by certain forms of cancer.  After it has been chewed for 15 minutes, the product is then analyzed to determine whether or not it contains these specific chemicals. So far, scientists at the Alabama-based firm Volatile Analysis have developed different types of gum can detect pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer

Synthetic Blood Is About To Go Through Human Trials

There have been decades of failure in making a usable blood substitute but now, scientists from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford have isolated and manipulated stem cells in labs to produce red blood cells.

Their goal is to make red cells for patients with complex blood types because it can be hard for them to find donors. In the future, lab-grown blood could revolutionize medical care by providing a far reaching solution to keeping people in need supplied with blood regardless of type or donor.

Paralyzed man moves his legs and STANDS for the first time

A man paralyzed from the waist down has moved his legs for the first time after doctors inserted an electrode sending an electrical current to the spinal cord. The electrode is connected to a computer-controlled device under the skin in the 28-year-old patient's abdomen. The electrical stimulation on his spinal cord, along with intense physical therapy, enabled him to move his legs, stand and make step-like motions for the first time in three years.....Mayo Clinic researchers, who tested the pioneering treatment, say these results offer further evidence that a combination of this technology and rehabilitation may help patients with spinal cord injuries regain control. 'We're really excited, because our results went beyond our expectations,' says neurosurgeon Kendall Lee, principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic's Neural Engineering Laboratory.

A blind man sobs as he sees his wife for the first time in decades - after having his TOOTH inserted into his eye

A blind man who had his sight restored earlier this year in an incredible procedure using one of his own teeth said the best part was being able to see his wife again, "Gorgeous"

The amazing procedure saw a lens inserted into one of his teeth, which was extracted and then placed into his cheek so tissue would grow around it, enabling its own blood supply...After three months surgeons removed the tooth and inserted it into Mr Ings' old cornea. Skin was then removed from his mouth and placed over the new cornea to seal it. An opening was made to allow the new lens to work. It was the first time the surgery, called osteo-odonto kerato-prosthesis, has been performed in Australia. Mr Ing damaged his right eye in a childhood accident, and gradually lost vision in the other over the past 16 years because of the herpes simplex virus.

Chinese doctors grow a new ear on a man's ARM and transplant it to his head

Mr Ji, whose age is unknown, lost his right ear in a traffic accident in 2015.  He yearned to have the organ back because he no longer 'felt complete'. A plastic surgeon took cartilage from the patient's ribs to build an artificial ear that was modeled with the help of 3D-printing technology. It was then attached to his forearm under a piece of expanded skin. There it was allowed to grow for several months until experts deemed it ready for the transplant.  Once fully grown, it was finally transplanted from his arm to his head.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

March 31, 2017

Roundup of new research and medical tech

Unprecedented HIV vaccine breakthrough as researchers discover 'on-off switch'

Scientists say they've engineered an 'on-off switch' into a weakened form of HIV, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of a potential vaccine for the virus. HIV needs a specific amino acid to replicate so researchers replaced the code that does this with a 'nonsense' version that halts amino acid production.  When the supply of amino acids stopped, so did the replication....HIV has killed 35 million people since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s.

A wheelchair that can climb STAIRS could hit the market by the end of next year Video at the link.

Scewo is the brainchild of a group of masters students from Switzerland. Rigid rubber tracks allow the chair to safely travel up and down staircases. Self-balancing technology also enables the chair to turn on the spot, as well as to mount curbs without getting stuck. Users will be able to control the chair with a joystick orsimply by shifting their body weight. The team hopes to launch a mass market version be the end of 2018

The 'triple threat' cancer capsule that can navigate itself towards tumors before exploding and releasing drugs

Researchers have designed tiny cancer-fighting microcapsules that can navigate themselves towards cancerous tumors in the body. The multilayer capsule contains an anti-cancer drug which can be released via an ultrasound trigger, working as a guided drug delivery system....The capsule, designed by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has three traits that have been difficult to achieve all together in a single cancer drug. They're easily detectable via low-power ultrasound, they can safely and efficiently encapsulate the cancer drug doxorubicin, and a dose of ultrasound can trigger the release of the drug. Doxorubicin is a chemotherapy drug that's used to treat several types of cancer. 

The new technology could offer a noninvasive alternative to cancer surgeries or chemotherapy. Next step - animal testing.

Speaking of animal testing - Tiny human liver-on-a-chip could help put an end to animal drug testing

Sleek microchip uses real organ tissue to mimic a liver in the human body that could be used to test drugs, eliminating the need for animal testingResearcher Dr Lawrence Vernetti, from the University of Pittsburgh developed the miniature human liver using  human liver cells that were taken from patients during medical procedures, or livers intended for organ donation that weren't used.....Missing however is a vital part of the organ - the bile duct. Bile is a fluid made in the liver that facilitates the digestion of fats in the small intestine.
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Mark Donowitz, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is working on an intestinal chip using human stem cells....One group, based at Harvard University's Wyss Institute in Boston, is adapting 'bone marrow on a chip' to study the effects of radiation....Researchers at Harvard University have been able to create kidneys, gut, bone marrow and lungs on a chip.

Dr Donald Ingber, a bioengineer at Harvard University's Wyss Institute who has been leading much of the work, said the idea was to mimic the chemical and mechanical function of the organs with little micro-engineered devices that are lined with human cells and reconstitute organ level functions.' 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2017

Roundup of Medical Technology: Robots in surgery, diagnosis and active aging companion, 'body on a chip' and heart tissue from a spinach leaf

Robot-assisted surgery is reaching an incredible level of precision!

Watch the video at the link and see for yourself how it peels a grape and then sews it back on!  It's astounding.

Robot Worm could be miniaturized to help doctors spot digestive issues

The robot that can move forwards or backwards in a wave-like motion is known as the single actuator wave-like robot (SAW) and was developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.

Artificial Intelligence Will Help the Elderly  Watch the video at the link to see how ElliQ works

For the past month or so, a small group of older adults in San Francisco has been learning to engage with a talking device named ElliQ. It’s more desk lamp than archetypal robot—think of the hopping light at the beginning of Pixar movies. But while ElliQ is meant to sit on a table or nightstand, it’s all about movement, or more accurately, body language.

 Elio Robot For Elderly

ElliQ talks. But it also moves, leaning toward the person with whom it’s speaking. It lights up, too, as another means of engagement, and uses volume and sound effects to distinguish its messages. “If ElliQ is shy, she will look down and talk softly, and her lights will be soft,” explains Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics, the Israeli company behind the device. “If she tries to get you to go for a walk, she will lean forward and take a more aggressive tone, and her lights will be bright....

ElliQ keeps learning...One of the first steps in establishing a relationship with this particular robot is to set some goals, such as how many times a week a person wants to go out for a walk or be reminded to see friends. Then, it’s up to ElliQ to determine the most effective way to do its job. In other words, it will learn that one person responds better to “It’s nice out, why don’t you go for a walk,” while another needs to be prodded more aggressively with “You’ve been on the couch watching TV for four hours. Time to get up and take a walk.”  “That’s where the emotive side kicks in,” he says. “ElliQ can set a whole different tone, and use different body language and gestures based on what works and what doesn’t work. The machine fine-tunes itself.”

“Mass-Produced” Blood Now Possible,

Researchers at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant....developed a method to freeze stem cells in their early development — while they are still replicating — which has the effect of “immortalizing” them such that scientists can produce infinitely more stem cells. They will harvest the excess stem cells to produce blood.  Right now the new method is cost-prohibitive. For the foreseeable future, it will mostly be used to provide hard-to-source blood for patients with rare blood types.

Spinach Leaf Transformed Into Beating Human Heart Tissue

Using the plant like scaffolding, scientists built a mini version of a working heart, which may one day aid in tissue regeneration.

Menstrual cycle recreated 'in a dish'

US scientists say they have made a mini working replica of the female reproductive tract using human and mouse tissue...to construct a palm-sized device that ooks nothing like a womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.  Researchers say it should help with understanding diseases of these organs and tissues and a novel way  to test new treatments.

The work is part of a project to create the entire human "body on a chip". The ultimate goal would be to take cells from any given individual in order to create a personalized model of their body to test drugs and treatments on.

We Were Wrong - the Testes Are Connected to the Immune System

Some parts of the body – including the tissues of the brain and testes – have long been considered to be completely hidden from our immune system....Last year scientists made the amazing discovery that a set of previously unseen channels connected the brain to our immune system; now, it appears we might also need to rethink the immune system's relationship with the testes...potentially explaining why some men are infertile and how some cancer vaccines fail to provide immunity.

An Unexpected New Lung Function Has Been Found - They Make Blood!  Video at the link shows how

In experiments involving mice, the team found that they produce more than 10 million platelets (tiny blood cells) per hour, equating to the majority of platelets in the animals' circulation. This goes against the decades-long assumption that bone marrow produces all of our blood components.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco also discovered a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells that makes this happen inside the lung tissue - cells that were incorrectly assumed to mainly reside in bone marrow....Scientists have now watched megakaryocytes functioning from within the lung tissue to produce not a few, but most of the body's platelets. So how did we miss such a crucial biological process this whole time?  The discovery was made possible by a new type of technology based on two-photon intravital imaging - a similar technique to one used by a separate team this week to discover a previously unidentified function of the brain's cerebellum.

10 Human Body Modifications You Can Expect in the next Decade

1. RFID Chips implanted in the body
2. Exoskeletons
3. Real-time Language Translation
4. Augmented Vision
5. Smart Contact Lenses
6. 3D Printed Body Parts
7. Smarter Drugs
8. Brain-computer Interfaces
9. Designer Babies
10. Enhanced Sexual Organs

UPDATE:  Paralyzed man moves his arm and hand with the power of his mind and a microchip

A cycling accident left Bill Kochevar unable to move from the shoulders down, but  he can now feed himself in his wheelchair, using a microchip in his brain. He is the first quadriplegic to have his movement restored by the system...
‘For somebody who’s been injured eight years and couldn’t move, being able to move just that little bit is awesome’...Researcher Dr Bob Kirsch said: ‘He’s really breaking ground for the spinal cord injury community. This is a major step toward restoring some independence.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2017

"The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea," Isak Dinesen

 Salt

Can Salted Doorknobs Prevent Superbug Infections?

It was a casual conversation with a former butcher that led Brayden Whitlock, a graduate student at the University of Alberta, to design a pilot study that put salt and copper head to head. Coupon-sized strips of pure, compressed sodium chloride were covered in an MRSA culture, alongside similar strips of antimicrobial copper and stainless steel. Whitlock found that salt killed off the bug 20 to 30 times faster than the copper did, reducing MRSA levels by 85 percent after 20 seconds, and by 94 percent after a minute.
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The salt-covered doorknobs, meanwhile, are already in the market. Doug Olson, the former butcher who first told Whitlock about the idea, has already received a patent for the technology in nine different countries, and registered the trade name Outbreaker. Prototypes have been built by local salt companies—the compression process is identical to how salt licks for livestock are made—and discreetly installed in a handful of settings around Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, over the past few years. Compressed and smooth, with a feel akin to ceramics, Whitlock says most users have no idea that what they’re really grabbing is a fistful of table salt.

From the website for Outbreaker

OUTBREAKER is a patented, self-sanitizing, antimicrobial surface made of compressed sodium chloride (CSC). This solid, durable, versatile surface can be installed on anything frequently touched by hands. The technology is simple, all natural, and completely safe and non-toxic, while remaining very cost effective.

OUTBREAKER  recently had a pilot study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection (October, 2016). In a parallel bacterial elimination study between OUTBREAKER and antimicrobial copper, OUTBREAKER eliminated the drug-resistant superbug MRSA 20-30 times faster.

OUTBREAKER is made by a specialized compression process that turns simple, safe and non-toxic salts into a versatile surface, using over 250 tons of pressure. The resulting product is strong and durable, and can take any shape.  This simple new product is amazingly effective.  Independent laboratory tests have shown that OUTBREAKER kills between 95% and 99.9% of common germs like E. coli and Salmonella in just one minute. It has recently been shown to be extremely effective against drug resistant superbugs like MRSA and VRE.

Salt kills microorganisms in three main ways: Recrystallization, dehydration and denaturation.

“Salt of the Earth”: Is science picking up on what the Church has long believed?

The ancient world used salt much as butchers today do, as a disinfectant, purifier, and preservative. These physical uses became ritualized in many early religions. In the Old Testament, the prophet Elisha uses salt to purify a polluted spring, both materially and spiritually. The ritual use of salt has been part of Catholic tradition since the earliest days.
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Blessed salt is a sacramental. It is used in the blessing of holy water and in the exorcism of evil spirits. (The folk custom of tossing spilled salt over one’s left shoulder to drive away the Devil is a popular superstition derived from the Rite of Exorcism.) A mixture of blessed salt, holy water, and wine is used to reconsecrate an altar that has been desecrated. Placing salt on the tongue of those to be baptized was a frequent part of the catechumenate at the time of St. Augustine, and it is still an optional part of the Rite of Baptism today.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2017

Digital brain disorders and tips for easy stress-relief

5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age

1. Nomophobia - the feeling of panic one has upon being separated from one's phone or tablet. In one U.K. survey, 73 percent of respondents felt panic when they misplaced their phone. And for another 14 percent, that panic spiraled into pure desperation.
2. Technoference - It could also be dragging down our relationships. In one 2014 study, more than half of the 143 participants said that tech devices interrupt their leisure time, conversations, and meals with their significant other. The researchers gave these interruptions a name: "technoference." Not surprisingly, higher technoference correlated directly with lower relationship and life satisfaction.
3. The phantom ring - Fauxcellarm, phantom ringing, and ringxiety are new to our lexicon, thanks to the universal presence of our buzzing, pinging smartphones. These terms refer to the perception that one's mobile device is ringing (or, more precisely, vibrating) when, in fact, it is not.
4. Cyberchondria - Hypochondria is not a new disorder, but the internet has taken it to the next level. In the broadest definition, cyberchondria refers to people who research and diagnose their own illnesses online. Sure, we've probably all done that — in fact, one in three American adults say they have used the internet to self-diagnose. But for some people who might already be prone to hypochondria, this can be detrimental.
5. Truman Show Delusion. Do you ever have that spooky feeling that someone's watching you? In the 1998 film The Truman Show, Truman Burbank had that feeling too, only his turned out to be true.---while it isn't directly caused by our digital devices, Truman Show Delusion is a product of our overly connected, reality-TV obsessed, social media–driven lifestyles that nurture our most narcissistic qualities.

The last one, #5, may not be a delusion at all given the latest Wikileaks drop, Vault #7, which show the CIA tapping just about everyone through our phones, smart TVs, and deliberately insecure software.                                                 

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Easy Rituals That Will Make You Stress-Free

1. Clench your facial muscles and relax them: (If you use Botox, just skip to the next tip.)

2. Take slow, deep breaths: If it gets Navy SEALs through Hell Week, it’ll get you through tax season.

3. Splash your face with cold water: Wakes you up, calms you down and cleans your mug. Now that’s efficiency.

4. Play some music and do a little dance: Add a “neuroscience” playlist to Spotify.

Even easier ways to  kill stress and be happier with almost no effort whatsoever.

Research shows that owning a dog reduces stress. In fact, the effect is so powerful that just watching a video of a cute animal reduces heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Watch nature documentaries to instantly boost your mood

A new study has found even watching small clips of shows such as Planet Earth II boosts people's emotions of awe, contentedness, joy and amusement.  It also can instantly help reduce anxiety, fear and tiredness.

Findings come from the BBC research, in collaboration with University of California, Berkeley.
Reviewing 150 further studies as part of the project, Berkeley's Professor Dacher Keltner found that our connection to nature enhanced our attention, cognitive performance and sense of calm. This made us more social and effective teamworkers and could even improve our physical health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2017

Round-up of new technologies in the field of medicine

Computers Turn Medical Sleuths and Identify Skin Cancer, Wall St Journal

When it comes to melanoma, early detection is a matter of life and death. But it takes a trained eye to distinguish a harmless blemish from cancer, and many people around the world lack ready access to a dermatologist...Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to get a computer, using its algorithm, to identify skin cancer as reliably as board-certified dermatologists can. The hope is that, eventually, scientists can get this to happen on a smartphone anywhere in the world.

Google's artificial intelligence can diagnose cancer faster than human doctors

The system is able to scan samples to determine whether or not tissues are cancerous...it's unlikely to replace human pathologists just yet. The software only looks for one thing - cancerous tissue - and is not able to pick up any irregularities that a human doctor could spot.

Scientists Have Stored a Movie, a Computer OS, and an Amazon Gift Card in a Single Speck of DNA
    "The highest-density data-storage device ever created."

Israeli technology revolutionizes heart attack detection with one drop of blood

Israeli technology has changed the face of heart attack detection with a kit so small it fits in the palm of your hand...

A health professional needs only one drop of blood to let a patient know if a heart attack has occurred. If two stripes appear on the kit, the result is positive and the patient must immediately receive additional care. The test is easy, noninvasive and takes less than 15 minutes to perform.

Many people believe they can identify classic heart attack symptoms, which include chest pain, dizziness, nausea, pain traveling particularly to the left arm, wheezing and extreme anxiety similar to a panic attack. In reality, these can be symptoms of heartburn, but until now, in order to find out, a patient would have to wait in an emergency room and undergo at least six hours of testing, including blood tests and an EKG.

On the other hand, less than 50 percent of heart attack victims experience classic symptoms. Many people have atypical symptoms such as shoulder or stomach pain or exhaustion. By the time they  have finished with the classic tests, precious hours will have passed, which can lead to unnecessary heart damage and even heart failure

A blood test for cancer? Simple liquid biopsy could identify where in the body a tumor exists

'Liquid biopsies' are hoped to revolutionize cancer treatment, by identifying people with slow-growing tumors and those most in danger. They work by detecting the DNA released by dying tumor cells. Now, for the first time, US scientists can also pinpoint the part of the body affected. That is because the normal cells killed off by cancer also release DNA into the bloodstream, which has its own unique signature. A team from the University of California San Diego have found the DNA patterns for 10 different types of tissue, including from the liver, lung and kidneys.  Next step is a clinical trial.

Scientists Reverse Sickle Cell Disease for the First Time Using Gene Therapy

While this is just one case study involving a single French teenager, the early signs are encouraging, and the therapy could eventually lead to an effective treatment for the millions of people with this crippling disease worldwide. Sickle-cell disease occurs when one of the proteins making up a type of hemoglobin we use to carry oxygen through our body takes a slightly different form. This small change is enough to make the red blood cells they occupy lose elasticity, deforming them into a curved 'sickle' shape and risking clumps of cells piling up as they struggle to slip through blood vessels.

But by using a virus to insert genes for the correct form of this protein into the bone marrow of a French teenager, researchers have been able to restore the elasticity to the patient's blood cells.  After 15 months of therapy, the patient is off medication, and while it's far too early to say he's been functionally cured, it's a case of 'so far so good' for this pioneering kind of treatment.

In this case scientists removed bone marrow stem cells from the teen's body and added a specially made virus, designed to recode the cells to produce normal hemoglobin again. The cells were then transfused back into the patient. Doctors are reporting that half the patient's red blood cells are now regular and healthy, and he hasn't needed any blood transfusions since three months after his first treatment.

Heart failure Breakthrough: Stem cells trial offers hope to millions.

A method of repairing damaged heart muscles that have been scarred as a result of disease or earlier heart attacks has been called the “biggest breakthrough since transplants”. British scientists have found a way to use stem cells to repair damaged tissue which could help millions living with heart failure. The data, presented at the European Society of Cell and Gene Therapy in Florence, showed an average of 40 per cent reduction in heart damage in those on the treatment.  Next year global trials involving 500 people will begin.

New 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid sends data straight to your phone while it works

A 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid will send health data from inside your body to your phone.  It is believed the tiny pill could revolutionize medicine by constantly monitoring your health and administering medicine.  The pill powers up when a zinc electrode interacts with stomach acid.  Small sensors continually monitor temperature and heart rate and it administers medicine. The creation was unveiled at the world's biggest science conference in Boston

Scientists at the University of Ottawa have developed a way of growing human cells and tissue on apples
    Video at the link shows how the biohacking was done and the new possibilities it opens.

Bad Hospital Design Is Making Us Sicker  Evidence-based medical care will require evidence-based hospital design.

It’s no secret that hospital-acquired infections are an enormous contributor to illness and death, affecting up to 30 percent of intensive care unit patients. But housing patients together very likely exacerbates the problem. Research suggests that private rooms can reduce the risk of both airborne infections and those transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. One study reported that transitioning from shared to private rooms decreased bacterial infections by half and reduced how long patients were hospitalized by 10 percent. Other work suggests that the increased cost of single-occupancy rooms is more than offset by the money saved because of fewer infections.  Installing easier-to-clean surfaces, well-positioned sinks and high-quality air filters can further reduce infection rates.

Falls in the hospital are another major problem, leading to serious injuries, longer hospital stays and significant costs. Trying to navigate the unfamiliar space of a hospital room, often while disoriented by pain and medications, makes many patients susceptible to falling. A number of design factors contribute: poorly lit areas, slippery floors, toilets that are too high or too low......And then there’s the problem of noise. The average noise level in hospitals far exceeds guideline-based recommendations, making it hard for patients to sleep. ....when it comes to recovering from illness, the more nature the better. But too often patients and physicians find themselves cooped up in dim rooms and sterile hallways with little access to natural light or views of nature: too much concrete, not enough jungle.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink