People with half a brain. Literally.

For some children with severe epilepsy, the best treatment may be a very rare surgical procedure in which a large portion -- even half -- of the child's brain is removed or disconnected. Amazingly, many of these individuals can relearn motor, language, and cognitive skills. How? The brain reorganizes itself and builds new connections. To better understand this incredible process, and hopefully inform new interventions and rehabilitation, Caltech neuroscientists conducted brain scans on six adults "all of whom received the surgeries as children and now have relatively normal cognitive abilities." From Caltech:

"Despite missing an entire brain hemisphere, we found all the same major brain networks that you find in healthy brains with two hemispheres," says Dorit Kliemann, lead author of the new report and a postdoctoral scholar who works in the laboratory of Ralph Adolphs (PhD '93), the Bren Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biology, and the director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center.

The brain scans also revealed an increased number of connections between the brain networks in the patients compared to healthy individuals. For example, the regions in the patients' brains that control the function of walking appeared to be communicating more with the regions that control talking than what is typically observed.

"It appears that the networks are collaborating more," says Kliemann. "The networks themselves do not look abnormal in these patients, but the level of connections between the networks is increased in all six patients...."

Says Kliemann, "It's truly amazing what these patients can do.

Read the rest

There is finally an approved vaccine for Ebola

The European Medicines Agency approved a vaccine for the deadly Ebola Virus Disease. The vaccine has already been administered to hundreds of thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, saving countless lives during an ongoing epidemic there. From Nature:

The decision by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to allow US pharmaceutical company Merck to market its vaccine means that the product can now be stockpiled and, potentially, distributed more widely, in particular in Africa. In 2015, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — a global health partnership that funds vaccine supplies in low-income countries — told Ebola-vaccine manufacturers that it would commit to purchasing vaccines once they had been approved by a “stringent health authority” such as the EMA...

“This is a vaccine with huge potential,” said Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi in Geneva, Switzerland, in a press release after the EMA decision. “It has already been used to protect more than 250,000 people in the DRC and could well make major Ebola outbreaks a thing of the past.”

Image: "Ebola virus virion" by CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith (Public Domain) Read the rest

Arizona elementary school kids rushed to ER after popping pills

Apparently a 6-year-old got ahold of someone's prescription medication and decided to experiment with her friends.

Arizona's ABC15 reports:

According to Phoenix Fire Department, four elementary school students took "what appears to be heart medication pills" on the school bus Thursday morning.

Phoenix police say a 6-year-old girl took the prescription pills from an adult family member and gave them to four other 6- and 7-year-olds while they were on the way to school.

A staff member at the school became aware of what happened, brought the kids to the nurse's office, and called 911.

Read the rest

Man's taste buds disappear

A 64-year-old man went to the doctor complaining of pain in his tongue and mouth. Upon examination, doctors found the patient's tongue to be missing taste buds. He was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, which is caused by an inability to absorb vitamin B-12, needed to make red blood cells.

The condition was reversed after weekly injections of B-12.

[via New England Journal of Medicine]

Image: National University of Singapore Read the rest

Diet and depression: what you eat impacts your mood

For years a friend has been telling my diet was hurting my general demeanor. Read the rest

Supercut of Wilford Brimley saying "Diabeetus" contrasted against other people saying "Diabetes"

Behold the master in enunciation outclass the mediocrities that surround him.

Previously in Diabeetus: Cat resembling Wilford Brimley skilled in art of playing "death by diabeetus" Read the rest

Mattel designed a Barbie doll honoring Eleni Antoniadou's accomplishments, but what are they?

Eleni Antoniadou's reported accomplishments were so impressive that Mattel designed a Barbie doll based on her as part of its International Women’s Day celebration.

But those "accomplishments" might all be nonexistent. Here's a partial list from the BBC as to suspicions raised:

Claim: She worked on the world's first artificial trachea that was successfully transplanted to a patient.

Counterclaim: She was a postgraduate student at UCL and was remotely involved with the surgery. The transplant ended with one of the biggest scandals in modern medicine, covered here by the BBC. The patient died after his body did not accept the transplant. Long after his death, Ms Antoniadou gave interviews in Greece saying how she had saved the patient's life and how the patient was living a normal life.

Claim: She has been working for a number of years as a researcher at Nasa.

Counterclaim: She attended a 10-week summer school there and took a lot of pictures around the US space agency's facilities wearing clothes with the Nasa logo. Nasa has denied she works directly for the agency, but has not excluded the possibility that she may be working as a sub-contractor.

The Telegraph is also investigating:

The NASA-ESA Outstanding Researcher Award does not appear to exist and Ms Antoniadou's name is not included in Nasa's record of its award winners.

(Via Ben Collins.) 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.

Read the rest

Ebola is now a treatable disease

Ebola is now a treatable disease. Read the rest

Big Pharma's origin: how the Chicago School and private equity shifted medicine's focus from health to wealth

Between 2010 and 2016, the FDA approved 210 new medicines and every single one was produced at public expense, part of a $1T US government investment project in medical research. Despite this massive public subsidy, the pharma industry has only grown more concentrated and rapacious, raising prices and diverting the profits to their execs and investors, who now pocket 99% of industry profits: the industry made $500B in profits between 2006 and 2015, and during that time, the US government pumped $33b/year into pharma research. 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.

Read the rest

Child had 500 extra teeth extracted and he's going to be fine

In Chennai, India, a 7-year-old boy went to the hospital with a swollen jaw and mouth pain. Turned out he had more than 500 extra teeth. According to Prathiba Ramani, the head of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at Saveetha Dental College and Hospital, the teeth were contained in a sac tucked inside his lower jaw. From CNN:

"There were a total of 526 teeth ranging from 0.1 millimeters (.004 inches) to 15 millimeters (0.6 inches). Even the smallest piece had a crown, root and enamel coat indicating it was a tooth," she said.

The boy was released three days after the surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, Ramani said.

Ramani said the boy was suffering from a very rare condition called compound composite odontoma. She said what caused the condition is unclear, but it could be genetic or it could be due to environmental factors like radiation.

"Doctors find 526 teeth in boy's mouth in India" (CNN) Read the rest

Wearable device amplifies your reaction time

Researchers from the University of Chicago and Sony are developing a wearable electrical muscle stimulation system that boosts your physical reaction time without making it feel like you've lost control of your body. The latter is particularly important when considering the development of exoskeletons and other systems that bring us physically closer to machines for augmenting human capabilities. The system essentially zaps your muscles into contracting at precisely the right time while making it seem as if you're still controlling the movement. From IEEE Spectrum:

The typical reaction time for a human is about 250 milliseconds—meaning it takes you about a quarter of a second after you see something to physically react to it. But the researchers explain that "our conscious awareness of intention takes a moment to arise, around 200 ms." In other words, it takes you about 200 milliseconds for your brain to turn sensory input into a decision to do something like move a muscle, and then another 50 or so milliseconds for that muscle to actually start moving. The researchers suggest that this 50-ish millisecond gap between intention and action is a window that they can exploit to make humans react more quickly while still feeling like the action they take is under their control.

The video below shows a series of experiments that demonstrate how reflexes can be usefully accelerated without decreasing the sense of control, or agency, that the user experiences. It turns out that an EMS-driven improvement in reflexes of up to 80 milliseconds is possible while still maintaining the user's sense of agency, which is the difference between success and failure in these particular experiments.

Read the rest

Color-changing tattoo shows blood glucose level

An experimental dermal implant changes color in the presence of high acidity or blood glucose, potentially allowing diabetics and other patients to monitor their wellbeing without taking samples. The implant material can be integrated into tattoo ink formulations, making them as discrete or ostentatious as the wearer wishes.

MedicalXPress:

As detailed in the journal Angewandte Chemie, a colorimetric analytic formulation was injected into the skin instead of tattoo ink. The pigmented skin areas varied their color when blood pH or other health indicators changed. ... The authors claim that such sensor tattoos could allow permanent monitoring of patients using a simple, low-cost technique. With the development of suitable colorimetric sensors, the technique could also extend to recording electrolyte and pathogen concentrations or the level of dehydration of a patient. Further studies will explore whether tattoo artwork can be applied in a diagnostic setting.

Read the rest

That next cocktail could burn you – literally

I spent a long time in Mexico this past winter. My wife and I traveled to Play Del Carmen and stayed there for months while she completed some rigourous scuba instructor training. While she was in the water, which was most days, I stayed ashore to write, drink and nosh. Many a chilled beverage was had on beach front patios (I was there for the WiFi, honest.) I squeezed lemons and limes into my drinks. They were amazingly fresh--like nothing I'd ever had up north. Apparently, I dodged a number of bullets.

From The CBC:

On a sunny day in June, Amber Prepchuk spent an afternoon by the lake making margaritas for a group of friends. The following morning she ended up with much more than she bargained for — a painful side effect entirely unrelated to tequila.

"I can handle pain, but I woke the next morning and I was in pain. I was crying my eyes out." she told CBC's Radio Active. "I was covered in little blisters."

Amber Prepchuk... learned the hard way the meaning of 'margarita burn,' when she juiced limes in the sun and the next morning woke up with blisters all over her hands.

 

Margarita burn. Never heard the tell of that. So, I looked it up. Oh my stars and garters.

Margarita burn, better known as margarita photodermatitis, is a condition which occurs in folks who are exposed to a photo-sensitizing agent (lime juice, for example,) and ultraviolet light (ye olde sunlight.) According to Wikipedia, those dinged by Margarita burn will notice the first symptoms of the ailment within 24 hours of exposure to the photo-sensitizing agent that they came into contact with and ultraviolet light. Read the rest

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

Why is the American Medical Association finally weighing to oppose anti-abortion bills

In the late 1800s, the American Medical Association invented the anti-abortion movement, but over time, its ceased to advocate on either side of the debate -- until a bizarre 1997 statement supporting a GOP bill banning late-stage abortions (later revealed to be a "blunder" on the part of the trustees), after which the group returned to silence. Read the rest

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