What if all drugs were totally legal?

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In this episode we discuss the history of drug laws, why some drugs are legal and others aren’t, and what would happen if we just let everybody lose to do whatever they want.

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Gonorrhea may soon be unbeatable

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Approximately 350,000 people in the US are diagnosed with gonorrhea each year. According to the CDC, it may soon be untreatable. Currently, the sexually-transmitted disease, not-so-fondly known as The Clap or The Drip, is treated with two antibiotics, azithromycin and ceftriaxone. Data is currently showing a rise in gonorrhea samples that are resistant to those drugs.

Companies are developing new antibiotics but could be "years away," says CDC medical epidemiologist Robert D. Kirkcaldy.

"We think … it’s a matter of when and not if with resistance,” he says. “This bug is so smart and can mutate so rapidly.”

(Scientific American) Read the rest

First case of female-to-male sexually-transmitted Zika reported, in NYC

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The Centers for Disease Control and Infection reported the first confirmed case of Zika transmitted from a woman to a man during sex. Previously, they thought that the disease was only likely to be sexually-transmitted from a male to female or male to male. The CDC will soon update their advisory "for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex." From CNN:

A non-pregnant woman in her 20s had unprotected vaginal sex with a male partner on the day she returned from travel to a country where Zika is circulating. The next day, she came down with Zika-like symptoms, including fever, rash, fatigue and muscle pain, along with numbness and tingling in her fingers and toes. On day three, she visited her primary care doctor, who took blood and urine samples, and sent them off to the NYC health department. Both tested positive for the virus.

On day seven after intercourse, her male partner, also in his 20s, began to show the same typical signs of Zika, such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, despite the fact that he had not traveled outside the United States for more than a year...

While this is the first documented case of female to male sexual transmission, it's not the first clue that the Zika virus might be hiding in the female genital tract. A case report published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal tells the story of a 27-year old Guadeloupean woman who came down with Zika in May.

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Amateur testicle surgeon confesses

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Allan George Matthews is a surgeon. He's not a proper one, per se. You might call him a gentleman amateur. And a surgery the 56-year-old Australian performed to remove another man's painful testicle has landed him in court, the BBC reports.

Police became aware of the case in June when the man attended hospital after the wound he suffered during the operation became infected. Officers raided Matthews' home and seized medical equipment, firearms and four bottles of what they suspected to be amyl nitrate. Prosecutors alleged that Matthews was not authorised to perform such a procedure as he was not a qualified or registered medical practitioner.

The victim had been kicked in the bollocks by a horse and could not afford professional care, adds the Syndey Morning Herald.

The charges stem from an incident in a motel room in Port Macquarie on May 16. Police allege Matthews met a 52-year-old man and surgically removed his left testicle. It is the crown's case that Matthews is not qualified or authorised to perform such a procedure, and is not a qualified or registered medical practitioner. The 52-year-old alleged victim attended the motel room after posting an advertisement online requesting assistance with a medical issue, police claim.
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Color illustrations of 16th C eye-diseases, including those caused by witchcraft

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16th century barber-surgeon Georg Bartisch began his barber-surgeon apprenticeship in 1548 in Saxony, and three years later, became an itinerant barber-surgeon in Saxony, Silesia, and Bohemia. Read the rest

Stunning drug ads from a 1930s French magazine

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Ridendo was a French medical and humor (!) magazine launched in the 1930s. Recently, illustrator Jérôme Dubois found his great-great-grandfather's collection of the magazine and shared some of the fantastic pharmaceutical ads that ran in its pages. See more at Flashbak.

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Very weird looking synthetic dog for surgical training

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Tampa, Florida company SynDaver Labs, makers of fake body parts for clinical training and studies (as seen on Mythbusters), has developed a synthetic canine to be operated on by veterinary students learning surgery.

"It bleeds, it breathes, it can even die,” veterinarian David Danielson told MyNews13.

From SynDaver Labs:

Thousands of shelter dogs are used each year in surgical training at veterinary colleges around the globe. Some of these animals are euthanized before delivery to the schools and some are delivered alive to be used in terminal labs, where the animals are euthanized after.

The SynDaver faux dog costs nearly $30,000 and the company has launched an Indiegogo campaign to donate the synthetic canines to vet colleges.

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Doctors perform first penis transplant in U.S.

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Thomas Manning, 64, is recovering after receiving the first penis transplant in the United States. Manning had his penis amputated in 2012 due to penile cancer. It took 15 hours for surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital to complete the transplant, medically known as a "gentitourinary vascularized composite allograft." The surgery involved "grafting the complex microscopic vascular and neural structures of a donor organ onto the comparable structures of the recipient." According to the surgeons, the procedure could someday be used for gender reconstruction. From CNN:

Dr. Dicken Ko, director of the hospital's Regional Urology Program, said the objectives of the surgery were primarily to reconstruct the genitalia so that it appeared natural, followed by urinary function and hopefully sexual function. However, Ko added that while sexual function is a goal, reproduction is not, because of a concern surrounding the ethical issues of who the potential father may be.

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Watch this brief history of LSD, and glimpse of its future

What a long, strange trip it's been, and continues to be. Just say know. (Retro Report)

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Watch Penn and Teller's anti-anti-vaccine rant

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Penn and Teller's classic takedown of anti-vax bullshittery. And if you don't know, now you know.

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Researchers demonstrate edible origami robot

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This mouthwatering morsel is an origami robot that once swallowed, unfolds itself in the gut and can be steered by magnets outside the body. According to the MIT researchers, patients may someday swallow similar robots to patch wounds or retrieve foreign objects. In a new test, the robot successfully removed a button battery lodged in a faux stomach and esophagus. Video below! Yum!

From MIT:

...The new robot consists of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that shrinks when heated. A pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer contracts....

In the center of one of the forward accordion folds is a permanent magnet that responds to changing magnetic fields outside the body, which control the robot’s motion. The forces applied to the robot are principally rotational. A quick rotation will make it spin in place, but a slower rotation will cause it to pivot around one of its fixed feet. In the researchers’ experiments, the robot uses the same magnet to pick up the button battery.

The researchers tested about a dozen different possibilities for the structural material before settling on the type of dried pig intestine used in sausage casings. “We spent a lot of time at Asian markets and the Chinatown market looking for materials,” Li says. The shrinking layer is a biodegradable shrink wrap called Biolefin.

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Safe Patient Project: searchable spreadsheet tells Californians whether their doc is on probation, and why

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State medical boards are hybrids: part independent regulator, part industry association. They are in charge of handing down professional probations against doctors who do wrong, but the details of which doctors are on probation, and why, are kept from patients. Read the rest

Chip implanted in paralyzed man's brain helps him regain use of his hand

Ian Burkhart can make isolated finger movements and perform six different wrist and hand motions. Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

Ian Burkhart lost all sensation in his hands and legs after a freak swimming accident five years ago. Today, doctors report that a chip in his brain has let him regain some control of his hand. The 24-year-old man has “regained control over his right hand and fingers, using technology that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles and bypasses his spinal injury.”

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See this bionic dog from 1959

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In 1959, physicians at New York's Maimonides Hospital implanted this dog with a radio receiver in its chest, part of an "auxiliary heart" system that would support a failing ticker. From the March 9, 1959 issue of LIFE:

The booster heart, developed by Drs. Adrian Kantrowitz and William McKinnon (of New York's Maimonides Hospital) is made by lifting up half of the diaphragm muscle and wrap it around the aorta, the body's main artery. Inside the chest a small radio receiver, part of an electronic system that detects and transmits the actual heart's beat, picks up the heart's rhythm and sends it by electric signals down a nerve to the diaphragm flap, making it squeeze the aorta rhythmically. This action, like a heartbeat, pumps the blood.

Kantrowitz, a pioneer in heart transplants, died in 2008.

(via Weird Universe) Read the rest

From cancer to body odor, the future uses of the microbiome

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Today we travel to a future where your microbiome becomes a key part of your identity. From health to your child’s kindergarten, here are all the ways knowing about your microbiome might impact your life.

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In this episode we talk about the possibilities and limitations of the microbiome — the trillions of bacterial cells that live in and on your body. There’s a lot of money going towards microbiome research right now, and a whole lot of claims about what the microbiome can do. We break down what we actually know, and where we’re probably going.

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The products most associated with emergency room visits

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Nathan Yau created an interactive visualization of Consumer Product Safety Commission data on emergency room visits spurred by product-related injuries. At the top are floor and stair injuries followed by various sports and bed injuries.

"Why People Visit the Emergency Room" (FlowingData) Read the rest

The people who reportedly never sleep. Ever.

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Vietnamese gentleman Thái Ngọc claims that ever since he suffered a terrible fever in 1973, he hasn't slept a wink. There's also Ines Fernandez who says she's been awake for decades. Of course, these curious individuals and others with similar stories may actually be suffering from a very strange sleep disorder called sleep state misperception (SSM) in which the individuals think they were up all night but actually slept just fine. At Mysterious Universe, Martin J. Clemens looks at SSM and the very scary rare disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI), presented as total insomnia that can last the rest of the person's life, which is usually only 18 months or so after the onset of symptoms. From Mysterious Universe:

FFI is a neurological condition caused by a misfolded protein in the DNA of the afflicted, of which there have been only about 100 cases. That protein, called a prion protein, is known as PrPSc (PrPC in non-FFI subjects). Essentially, the prion form of the protein causes a change in certain amino acids – due to the protein strand folding incorrectly – which, when combined with other genetic markers, then affects the brain’s sleep centers. FFI is genetic, and therefore hereditary, but there is an even rarer form known as Sporadic Fatal Insomnia (sFI) that occurs spontaneously, the cause of which is not understood. You may wish to know that PrPSc is the same protein that’s responsible for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as Mad Cow Disease.

"The Woman Who Stayed Awake for 30 Years…Or Did She? Read the rest

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