Pop-up wearable tent for COVID-19 protection in offices, schools, and medical facilities

A few years back, my brother Rick Pescovitz came up with Under The Weather Pods, single-person pop-up shelters. (You may have caught Rick on Shark Tank.) Rick was sick of getting soaked at his kids' soccer games and was inspired by a portable toilet he saw by the field. Under The Weather Pods are designed for watching sports, fishing, and other outdoor events where it's raining, windy, or cold, but you are either obligated to watch or having so much fun you don't want to leave.

When the pandemic began, my brother quickly made two new designs for hospitals and healthcare workers: The IntubationPod is a pop-up shield for medical procedures involving the head and neck area. It's apparently much less expensive than the rigid plastic boxes that are commonly used during intubation. Meanwhile, the ShieldPod enhances protection for physicians and nurses as they move through medical facilities treating patients. Both devices are now in use at several hospitals around the country. I'm proud of my brother Rick and his wife Kelly who is president of Under the Weather!

Schools, businesses, and air travelers are now reaching out to Rick about the ShieldPod for use in classrooms, office settings, and on flights. Stay safe everyone.

ShieldPod (Under the Weather)

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Vacuum and hand dryer maker Dyson designed a new ventilator for COVID-19 patients

British inventor James Dyson announced that his company has spent the last week designing a new ventilator for COVID-19 patients and will ship 10,000 of them early next month to support the UK's National Health Service. He's also donating 5,000 more of them to international initiatives. From CNN:

Dyson said the company had designed and built an entirely new ventilator, called the "CoVent," since he received a call 10 days ago from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.,P"This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume," Dyson added, saying that the new ventilator has been designed to "address the specific needs" of coronavirus patients....

"The core challenge was how to design and deliver a new, sophisticated medical product in volume and in an extremely short space of time," he added. "The race is now on to get it into production."

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FB group forms to open-source development of coronavirus-related medical hardware

A group has been formed on Facebook to help facilitate the open-source development of medical hardware (such as ventilators, filter masks, non-contact door openers, etc) to help fight the global coronavirus pandemic.

Here's the statement on their page:

COVID19 is currently spreading exponentially, in a mostly unchecked fashion, throughout the world. Infection doubling rates are as high as 2-3 days. Under simplistic models, such unchecked growth means the disease infects most of the world in months. Current statistics indicate that 15-20% of people who get it require hospitalization for respiratory failure for multiple weeks, and often need intense healthcare from medical professionals who are at severe risk treating these highly infectious patients. If infections proceed at their current pace across the globe, we will not have enough supplies like ventilators, respirators, PPE, etc. to meet demand.

This group is being formed to evaluate, design, validate, and source the fabrication of open source emergency medical supplies around the world, given a variety of local supply conditions.

This is an example of the sorts of projects being shared and discussed there:

And this, a 3D printable device for opening door handles without touching them.

Here is the link if you have something to contribute and want to join.

[H/t Goli Mohammadi]

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Florida man stored jars of preserved human tongues in his crawlspace

In Gainseville, Florida, a routine crawlspace inspection turned up jars of preserved human tongues that date back to the 1960s. Police are currently investigating whether the tongues were related to research conducted by the home's previous owner, Ronald A. Baughman, a University of Florida professor emeritus whose work focused on oral medicine and surgery. (WCJB)

More in this Reddit post by RandoSurfer77: "I found human remains today in a crawlspace under a home."

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It's ok for dead men to donate sperm, according to medical ethics study

A new study argues that it's "ethically permissible" for dead men to "register their desire to donate their sperm after death for use by strangers." Dr. Nathan Hodson of the University of Leicester and Dr. Joshua Parker of Manchester's Wythenshawe Hospital conducted their research as a response to a shortage of sperm donors in the United Kingdom. From CNN:

"If it is morally acceptable that individuals can donate their tissues to relieve the suffering of others in 'life-enhancing transplants' for diseases, we see no reason this cannot be extended to other forms of suffering like infertility, which may or may not also be considered a disease," the study says.

The mechanics of donating, they say, are entirely feasible through either electroejaculation or surgical methods.

Sperm would be cryopreserved following collection and thawed when chosen for reproduction, the authors said...

The process would address the ongoing shortage of donor sperm in the UK, argue the authors, which has led to Britain importing commercially donated sperm to cope with demand from couples struggling to conceive.

More: "The ethical case for non-directed postmortem sperm donation" (Journal of Medical Ethics)

image: "Sperm and ovum fusing" (public domain) Read the rest

What did we get stuck in our rectums in 2019?

In 1994, Cynsa, a member of the pioneering online community The WELL, thrilled us with her Rectal Foreign Bodies page all about the weird things people have put in their butts as reported by medical professionals tasked with removing the items. Barry Petchesky has continued this important online endeavor with his series of posts "chronicling our country's cavity misadventures." He posted his latest list, drawing from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database of emergency room visits, over at VICE in a delightful article titled "What Did We Get Stuck in Our Rectums Last Year?." Here is a sample:

• “PATIENT STATES HE STATES SLIPPED IN THE SHOWER AND LANDED ON A METAL AIR FRESHENER CAN AND IT WENT INTO RECTUM” • FOLDING KNIFE • PLASTIC TOY, “ABOUT 6 INCHES LONG” • TOOTHPICK • MATTRESS FOAM • TWO RAZOR BLADES • COAT HANGER, “PATIENT UNSURE HOW IT GOT THERE” • COINS • LIGHT BULB APPLE SAUCE CAN • “ACCIDENTALLY GOT A DILDO LODGED IN RECTUM & CUT THE END OF THE DILDO OFF” • CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT

Still curious? Try this book by three medical doctors: "Stuck Up!: 100 Objects Inserted and Ingested in Places They Shouldn’t Be" Read the rest

Chipotle CEO: If employees call in sick, a nurse might make sure they're not faking it

According to Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Brian Niccol, when their restaurant workers call in sick, they might have to talk to a nurse to make sure they're not fibbing.

"We have nurses on call, so that if you say, 'Hey, I've been sick,' you get the call into the nurse," CEO Brian Niccol said last week. "The nurse validates that it's not a hangover — you're really sick — and then we pay for the day off to get healthy again."

Later, a Chipotle spokesperson told the New York Post that Niccol's statement wasn't entirely accurate: “You don’t have to call a nurse if you’re taking a sick day... All employees who call off sick for any reason receive paid time off.”

After all, it isn't too tough to feign an illness over the phone.

From CBS News:

The CEO detailed steps taken to recover the trust of customers after a slew of high-profile safety scares that battered Chipotle's brand and led Niccol's predecessor, Steve Ells, to step down in late 2017...

Chipotle handles things differently these days in its 2,500 restaurants, acccording to Niccol. "We have a very different food-safety culture than we did two years ago," he said. "Nobody gets to the back of the restaurant without going through a wellness check."

Image: "The first Chipotle, near the campus of the University of Denver" by CW221 (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

Explosion at Russian lab that holds smallpox samples

There's been an explosion and fire at the Russian State Centre for Research on Virology and Biotechnology (Vector), a facility near Novosibirsk in Siberia that happens to hold live samples of smallpox. Vector officials say there's currently no risk of contamination. Vector and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the only two approved labs known to hold live samples of smallpox. The World Health Organization certified the eradication of smallpox in 1980 thanks to a global immunization effort. However, concern remains that the deadly virus could still be used as a bioweapon. From CNN:

In its statement, Vector said that no biohazard material was being stored in the room where the explosion took place. The city's mayor also insisted that the incident does not pose any biological or any other threat to the local population, according to TASS...

Dr. Joseph Kam, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases (CEID) told CNN that rules for storing viruses are very strict and highly dangerous diseases such as Ebola and smallpox would be stored in the highest "Level 4" laboratory.

Access to the samples would be limited, special containers are used and the storage mechanism is different from other laboratories, Kam said.

He added that while fire would be hot enough to destroy viruses, an explosion could risk spreading the virus and there would be a danger of infecting those in the room or contaminating the immediate area.

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Woman who had dramatic dream of swallowing her engagement ring actually did it

Jenna Evans had a dream that she and her fiancé were on a train when bad guys appeared. To protect her new 2.4 carat engagement ring, she swallowed it. In the dream. And in reality.

"I popped that sucker off, put it in my mouth and swallowed it with a glass of water," she wrote on Facebook.

From NBC:

"When I woke up in the morning, there was no ring on my finger," Evans told "Today." "I couldn't help but laugh at it, and then I had to wake my fiance up and tell him that I had swallowed my engagement ring."

Evans went to an urgent care clinic where doctors decided against letting the ring pass naturally through the 29-year-old's system, and instead referred her to a gastroenterologist...

Doctors found the engagement ring in Evans' intestines, just beyond her stomach. Evans said her fiancé returned the ring to her on Thursday.

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Rooster kills woman

A domestic rooster killed a 76-year-old woman on her rural property in Australia. The rooster pecked the woman, twice puncturing her skin, and she died. Unfortunately, she had preexisting conditions that caused her to bleed out very quickly. The physicians published the unusual case in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology. From the abstract:

The decedent’s past medical history included treated hypertension, hyperlipidemia, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and varicose veins... Two small bleeding lacerations were present, one of which was located immediately over a perforated large varix. Death was therefore due to exsanguination from bleeding varicose veins following an attack by a rooster. This case demonstrates that even relatively small domestic animals may be able to inflict lethal injuries in individuals if there are specific vascular vulnerabilities present.

image: Dgrady3 (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Scientists develop eye-on-a-chip to improve treatment of diseases

Approximately 14 percent of the world's population suffer from dry eye disease (DED) but treatments are limited because it's difficult to model the complex human eye for drug development. Now though, University of Pennsylvania bioengineers developed an "eye-on-a-chip" complete with a motorized blinking eyelid. The hope is that the artificial eye will lead to a deeper understanding of dry eye disease, enable drug screening, and even become a testbed for contact lens technology and eye surgery. Their technology also received the 2018 Lush Prize awarded for innovations that could help eliminate animal testing for shampoos and other beauty product. From Eurekalert:

In this study, (Dan) Huh and (Jeongyun) Seo focused on engineering an eye model that could imitate a healthy eye and an eye with DED, allowing them to test an experimental drug without risk of human harm.

To construct their eye-on-a-chip, Huh's team starts with a porous scaffold engineered with 3D printing, about the size of a dime and the shape of a contact lens, on which they grow human eye cells. The cells of the cornea grow on the inner circle of scaffolding, dyed yellow, and the cells of the conjunctiva, the specialized tissue covering the white part of human eyes, grow on the surrounding red circle. A slab of gelatin acts as the eyelid, mechanically sliding over the eye at the same rate as human blinking. Fed by a tear duct, dyed blue, the eyelid spreads artificial tear secretions over the eye to form what is called a tear film.

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Incredible ultra-high resolution 3D brain scan from 100 hour MRI

More than 100 hours of MIR scanning has generated an image of a whole human brain with unprecedented level of detail. Massachusetts General Hospital researchers and their colleagues used a 7 Tesla MRI machine, recently approved by the FDA, to scan the donated brain from a 58-year-old-woman. The image shows detail down to .1 millimeter. From Science News:

Before the scan began, researchers built a custom spheroid case of urethane that held the brain still and allowed interfering air bubbles to escape. Sturdily encased, the brain then went into a powerful MRI machine called a 7 Tesla, or 7T, and stayed there for almost five days of scanning...

Researchers can’t get the same kind of resolution on brains of living people. For starters, people couldn’t tolerate a 100-hour scan. And even tiny movements, such as those that come from breathing and blood flow, would blur the images...

These (new kinds of) detailed brain images could hold clues for researchers trying to pinpoint hard-to-see brain abnormalities involved in disorders such as comas and psychiatric conditions such as depression.

"7 Tesla MRI of the ex vivo human brain at 100 micron resolution" (bioRxiv.org) Read the rest

Short animations about how clicky health-claim headlines are often misleading

In these two excellent short animations, data science professor Jeffrey Leek of the Simply Statistics blog and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and his university colleague, postdoctoral research Lucy McGowan, explain how "in medicine, there’s often a disconnect between news headlines and the scientific research they cover."

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Microscopic robots carry stem cells through a mouse's body

The 1990s nanotechnology dream of tiny robots swimming through our blood stream to treat disease is moving (verrrry) slowly but surely toward reality. In a new milestone, researchers used an external magnetic field to steer microbots through a live mouse's body carrying therapeutic stem cells. From IEEE Spectrum:

..Delivering stem cells typically requires an injection with a needle, which lowers the survival rate of the stem cells, and limits their reach in the body. Microrobots, however, have the potential to deliver stem cells to precise, hard-to-reach areas, with less damage to surrounding tissue, and better survival rates, says Jin-young Kim, a principle investigator at DGIST-ETH Microrobotics Research Center, and an author on the paper.... The team fabricated the robots with 3D laser lithography, and designed them in two shapes: spherical and helical. Using a rotating magnetic field, the scientists navigated the spherical-shaped bots with a rolling motion, and the helical bots with a corkscrew motion. These styles of locomotion proved more efficient than that from a simple pulling force, and were more suitable for use in biological fluids, the scientists reported....

Kim says he and his colleagues are developing imaging systems that will enable them to view in real time the locomotion of their microrobots in live animals.

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Porcupine quills are sharp AF and inspiring a new kind of surgical staple

From Deep Look:

The quills of North American porcupines have microscopic backward-facing barbs on the tips. Those barbs make the quills slide in easy but very difficult to remove.

Researchers at Harvard are looking to porcupine quills for inspiration in designing a new type of surgical staple that would also use tiny barbs to keep itself lodged into the patient’s skin. This helps because traditional staples curve in under the skin to keep the staple in place. This creates more damage and can provide a place for bacteria to infect the wound.

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Do you suffer from latchkey incontinence?

In a recent scientific study on overactive urinary bladder syndrome, researchers used the term "latchkey incontinence" to describe "the loss of urine that occurs when one arrives home and puts the key in the lock of one’s front door." From MEL Magazine:

According to Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologist in Florida, peeing is a much more complex dance between the mind and body than you might think. “The ability to control how you urinate requires a balance between the muscles and your nerves around your bladder and your urethra working in synch,” he explains. “Some of these functions happen automatically, and some require manual control by the muscles that you naturally control. So when urine is filling up inside your bladder, your bladder naturally expands. When you go to the bathroom, your sphincter around your urethra will relax and your bladder will start to squeeze. This process sounds simple, but it does require the muscles around your urethra, which we call your pelvic floor, to all work and synch.”

He continues, “To keep your bladder healthy, I recommend my patients empty their bladder before they start having extreme ‘got-to-go’ feelings. There’s only so much the bladder can tolerate, and this process gets more complicated with the presence of a prostate, which naturally grows as men get older. All these processes can also be affected by diabetes, strokes, infections and many other medical problems.”

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Curious robotic syringe-in-a-pill completes successful human trial

The RaniPill is another syringe that you can swallow to deliver drugs to the bloodstream from the inside. It's triggered by an interesting and complex mechanism involving a chemical reaction that inflates a tiny polymer balloon to push the needle into the intestinal wall. Rani Therapeutics just completed a successful 20-person trial using a pill that shoots blanks. From IEEE Spectrum:

Working from the outside in, the RaniPill consists of a special coating that protects the pill from the stomach’s acidic juices. Then, as the pill is pushed into the intestines and pH levels rise to about 6.5, the coating dissolves to reveal a deflated biocompatible polymer balloon.

Upon exposure to the intestinal environment, a tiny pinch point made of sugar inside the balloon dissolves, causing two chemicals trapped on either side of the pinch point to mix and produce carbon dioxide. That gas inflates the balloon, and the pressure of the inflating balloon pushes a dissolvable microneedle filled with a drug of choice into the wall of the intestines. Human intestines lack sharp pain receptors, so the micro-shot is painless.

The intestinal wall does, however, have lots and lots of blood vessels, so the drug is quickly taken up into the bloodstream, according to the company’s animal studies. The needle itself dissolves...

Participants passed the remnants of the balloon within 1-4 days.

(Founder Mir) Imran calls the device a robot though it has no electrical parts and no metal. “Even though it has no brains and no electronics, it [works through] an interplay between material science and the chemistry of the body,” says Imran.

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