Giant blood clot shaped like the lung it came out of

A patient suffering from heart failure reportedly coughed up a huge blood clot that somehow retained the shape of the lung passages it had blocked. The Atlantic's Haley Weiss reports that "Doctors Aren’t Sure How This Even Came Out of a Patient"

In Wieselthaler’s case, blood eventually broke out of his patient’s pulmonary network into the lower right lung, heading directly for the bronchial tree. After days of coughing up much smaller clots, Wieselthaler’s patient bore down on a longer, deeper cough and, relieved, spit out a large, oddly shaped clot, folded in on itself. Once Wieselthaler and his team carefully unfurled the bundle and laid it out, they found that the architecture of the airways had been retained so perfectly that they were able to identify it as the right bronchial tree based solely on the number of branches and their alignment.

He died a few days later. I looked it up. Sorry. Read the rest

Sealing up wounds with a laser beam

OK, it's not quite Dr. Crusher's dermal regenerator (seen above), but Arizona State University researchers have demonstrated a laser system for sealing wounds. The system involves a sealing paste -- made from silk protein mixed with gold nanorods -- that bonds with skin when heated with a laser. From IEEE Spectrum:

To use a laser to seal skin, one must focus the heat of the light using some sort of photoconverter. (Chemical engineer Caushal) Rege’s lab opted for gold nanorods and embedded them in a silk protein matrix purified from silkworm cocoons. A silk protein called fibroin binds to collagen, the structural protein that holds together human skin cells. When near-infrared light hits the gold nanorods, they produce heat and activate the silk and skin to create bonds, forming a sturdy seal...

They are currently watching how the laser-activated seals hold up in living rats. If that goes well, they’ll move to pigs, and perhaps eventually, humans.

Read the rest

New 3D printed corneas could save millions of people's vision

Researchers have spent decades exploring methods to 3D print organs for transplant but progress is slow due to the complex structure of, say, a kidney or pancreas. Precise Bio, a startup founded by scientists from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, claim that the first real success will come from 3D-printed corneas. They've already conducted animal studies and are building a roadmap toward human trials. From IEEE Spectrum:

Corneas could be the first mainstream application of bioprinting, (Precise Bio CEO Aryeh) Batt says, in part because they have a layered structure that’s a good match for the technology. Each layer consists of different types of cells and fibers, which the printer could lay down in sequence, and these layers don’t contain blood vessels or nerves. What’s more, putting a new kind of transplant in the eye is inherently safer than implanting one deep in the body, since physicians could easily check for signs of trouble and could remove the tissue if anything seemed wrong.

There’s certainly a need for more corneas in the world, says Kevin Corcoran, president and CEO of the Eye Bank Association of America. In 2017, his members supplied nearly 51,000 transplantable corneas to patients in the United States, and also sent more than 26,000 abroad. Internationally, “there is a tremendous amount of unmet demand,” he says. “It’s estimated that 10 million people suffer from corneal blindness globally, primarily because they lack access to effective and affordable treatment.”

Part of Precise Bio’s proprietary approach is its printer, which uses a technique called laser-induced forward transfer to propel droplets of bioinks onto a surface.

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Swallow this vibrator to relieve constipation

Currently undergoing clinical trials, the Vibrant capsule is a tiny vibrator inside a capsule that you swallow to relieve constipation. Don't worry though because according to the web site, "the capsule is controlled by an algorithm." Whew. From Vibrant Ltd:

Constipation relief is achieved by the capsule’s vibrations on the large intestinal wall, consequently inducing natural peristaltic activity, generating additional spontaneous bowel movements.

The capsule is activated by a base unit that transfers the data to the capsule.

The capsule operates inside the large intestine and is washed out of the body with the bowel movement. It meets the highest safety standards, using biocompatible materials.

Read the rest

Johns Hopkins researchers recommend reclassifying magic mushrooms from schedule I to IV drug

Based on a new study of the safety and abuse potential of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic drug in magic mushrooms, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers recommend that "psilocybin should be re-categorized from a schedule I drug—one with no known medical potential—to a schedule IV drug such as prescription sleep aids, but with tighter control." Read the rest

Wheelchairs could one day be a relic of the past thanks to this amazing discovery

Being told that you've been injured in such a way that you'll never walk again must be absolutely horrific. Such a loss of mobility would mean not only a great loss of one's options in life, but also having to worry about the peripheral effects that the loss of mobility could have on your health, such as a loss of bone density or the weakening of your cardiovascular system. For those who have to pay for their own healthcare, it could mean bankruptcy. I wouldn't even want to consider the sort of stress it would place on an individual's psyche, not to mention the emotional toll it would have on their loved ones. However, a breakthrough in treating spinal cord injuries made by the University of Louisville could, one day, make paralysis a thing of the past.

From The Verge:

Thomas and Jeff Marquis, who was paralyzed after a mountain biking accident, can now independently walk again after participating in a study at the University of Louisville that was published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Thomas’ balance is still off and she needs a walker, but she can walk a hundred yards across grass. She also gained muscle and lost the nerve pain in her foot that has persisted since her accident. Another unnamed person with a spinal cord injury can now independently step across the ground with help from a trainer, according to a similar study at the Mayo Clinic that was also published today in the journal Nature Medicine.

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Meet Hal, the Pediatric Patient Simulator built to suffer

HAL is described as the "world's most advanced" Pediatric Patient Simulator. Hal simulates lifelike emotions through "dynamic facial expressions, movement and speech." Gaumard Scientific's video promises "amazed, transient pain, crying, and more." [via @3liza]

HAL not only looks like a boy, he behaves like one. He can track a finger with his eyes, answer questions, cry for his mother and experience anaphylactic shock. He can even breathe faster and/or urinate when scared. And he has also been built in a way that allows doctors and nurses in-training to perform a myriad of tests such as taking blood pressure, checking his pulse and monitoring breathing. Trainees can also use real medical equipment such as an EKG machine or a heart or blood pressure monitor—or tools such as a scalpel or breathing tubes—to perform realistic medical procedures.

Here's HAL's ad.

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Boy's head impaled by skewer after yellowjacket attack, and he's doing just fine

Xavier Cunningham, age 10 of Kansas City, Kansas, was climbing up to a tree house when yellow jackets attacked. Cunningham fell several feet from the ladder and impaled his head on a meat skewer. University of Kansas surgeons removed the skewer during a several hour operation. Cunningham is doing quite well and expected to be released in a few days. From Fox4KC:

"He was more upset about the yellow jackets than he was about the metal piece sticking out of his face," (Cunnigham's dad Shannon) Miller said.

"It missed his brain. It missed his brain stem. It missed the nerves, everything that`s valuable in your head. It missed everything," Xavier's dad said...

"Only God could have directed things to happen in a way that would save him like this," he said. "It really was a miracle."

Read the rest

Médecins Sans Frontières is on the front lines of the Mexican drug war

The northwestern Mexican state of Guerrero’s ocean side vistas, Mayan and Zapotec heritage and mountainous terrain would make it a postcard-pretty place to be—if it weren’t for all the murder and financial destitution.

Because of the extreme poverty in the region, the state has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the nation. According to the Guardian, close to 70% of the people who call Guerrero home, live in poverty. This misery experienced on a daily basis by those living in Guerrero is compounded by an ongoing turf war between cartels and the Mexican military resulting in one of the highest murder rates per capita, in the world. The violence is so extreme that most professionals who can afford to pick up and relocate, have done so. The loss of lawyers? Meh. However, having no Doctors or other medical staff to care for a population trapped in an already untenable situation is nightmare.

Thankfully, with little fanfare, Médecins Sans Frontières is on the scene, trying to make a difference.

From The Guardian:

Before patients are seen, the clinical team – three doctors, two psychologists and a nurse – explain that MSF is neutral, independent, free of charge and available to anyone as long as weapons are left outside.

This is the standard pep talk in the state of Guerrero, where MSF has taken over 11 primary health clinics that have closed or are limited by the security crisis in communities long neglected by the state.

In addition to regular clinics, MSF provides rapid response interventions in the aftermath of grave incidents like mass kidnappings, gun battles and massacres, which leave displaced or trapped communities in psychological turmoil.

Read the rest

How to tell if a comatose patient is actually conscious

Neurologist Steven Laureys is an expert on the mysteries of consciousness. A researcher and clinician at the Belgian National Fund of Scientific Research he's known for testing comatose patients for any hidden signs of consciousness. From Scientific American's interview with Laureys:

So how is it possible to study something as complex as consciousness?

There are a number of ways to go about it, and the technology we have at our disposal is crucial in this regard. For example, without brain scanners we would know much, much less than we now do. We study the damaged brains of people who have at least partially lost consciousness. We examine what happens during deep sleep, when people temporarily lose consciousness. We’ve also been working with Buddhist monks because we know that meditation can trigger alterations in the brain; connections that are important in the networks involved in consciousness show changes in activity. Hypnosis and anesthesia can also teach us a great deal about consciousness. In Lige, surgeons routinely operate on patients under hypnosis ( including Queen Fabiola of Belgium). Just as under anesthesia, the connections between certain brain areas are less active under hypnosis. And finally, we are curious to understand what near-death experiences can tell us about consciousness. What does it mean that some people feel they are leaving their bodies, whereas others suddenly feel elated?

Patients are brought to Lige from all over Europe to undergo testing. How do you determine whether they are conscious?

Well, of course, the physician will say, “Squeeze my hand”—but this time while the patient is in a brain scanner.

Read the rest

Smartphones enlisted in the war against tuberculosis

Tuberculosis was a disease that Doc Holliday died from; in old-timey novels, it’s often called consumption: a disease that sees those afflicted with it coughing delicately into hankies and later dying peacefully in bed. The truth is, the disease doesn’t afford a peaceful death, nor is it a relic of centuries past.

In 2016, 1.6 million people died after contracting tuberculosis – a disease that causes the cells of an infected individual to burst. It can take hold of multiple sites in your body, but most often it affects the lungs. As the cells in an infected individual's lungs burst, the walls of the lungs destabilize, replacing the space where air’s supposed to go. As the victim’s lungs slowly collapse, the body believes itself to be drowning, because it is. As a result, the infected individual hacks and coughs, trying to clear the obstruction and, in the process, coughing up wee bits of flesh, blood and particles small enough to go airborne in a sneeze or cough. When someone else breathes those airborne particles in? They get infected.

It’s scary shit, but it’s also treatable shit.

To handle the symptoms that come with a case of tuberculosis, it’s necessary to take medication on a daily basis. Doing so isn’t just necessary for someone infected with tuberculosis to live a relatively normal life: given how infectious the disease is, it’s also vital for keeping everyone around them safe from contracting the illness themselves. Because of this, those undergoing treatment for TB are closely monitored by healthcare professionals, to ensure that they’re taking their pills as required. Read the rest

There's an EpiPen shortage. Parents of kids with serious allergies prepare for back-to-school without the life saving medication.

The EpiPen is a widely used medical device that delivers emergency medication to prevent someone with a severe allergic reaction from going into anaphylactic shock. There's a shortage of EpiPens across the United States. Parents of kids with serious allergies are worried about sending their kids back to school without one. Read the rest

Bacteria shown to have built immunity to hand sanitizers

Good news everyone: those superbugs we’re all so afraid of? They’re evolving to be immune to a number of those popular alcohol-based hand sanitizers we all assumed would help to keep us from getting sick. Nature’s amazing!

Seriously though, the planet is totally trying to kill us for all the shit we do to it.

From Ars Technica:

Bacteria gathered from two hospitals in Australia between 1997 and 2015 appeared to gradually get better at surviving the alcohol used in hand sanitizers, researchers found. The bacteria’s boost in booze tolerance seemed in step with the hospitals’ gradually increasing use of alcohol-based sanitizers within that same time period—an increase aimed at improving sanitation and thwarting the spread of those very bacteria. Yet the germ surveillance data as well as a series of experiments the researchers conducted in mice suggest that the effort might be backfiring and that the hooch hygiene may actually be encouraging the spread of drug-resistant pathogens.

The more the bacteria drink, the higher their resistance to alcohol becomes. They’re just like us!

The bacteria that researchers are most concerned about becoming tolerant to current booze-based sanitation products is called enterococcus faecium: it’s responsible for the majority of infections that folks pick up in a hospital environment and has already proven to be resistant to a number of antibiotics. According to this report, bacterial tolerance to alcohol-based sanitizers could undermine the way that hospitals prevent the spread of bacteria and other ugly stuff, on a world-wide basis.

Happy Hump Day. Read the rest

Unregulated fertility technologies are being used to create babies

Mitochindrial replacement techniques, which produce "three-parent babies," promise to allow infertile couples to have babies, and even allow people with debilitating genetic disorders to have healthy babies. The largely unregulated tech is already producing babies despite the unknown long-term risks. Read the rest

Four Thieves Vinegar Collective: DIY epipens were just the start, now it's home bioreactors to thwart Big Pharma's price-gouging

When last we met the Four Thieves Vinegar collective -- a group of anarchist scientists who combine free/open chemistry with open source hardware in response to shkrelic gouging by pharma companies -- they were announcing the epipencil, a $30 DIY alternative to the Epipen, Mylan's poster-child for price-gouging and profiteering on human misery. Read the rest

Young gorilla does its own dental work

In this difficult economy, it's worth doing everything you can to keep from having to visit a doctor or dentist. This gorilla gets it: Instead of booking an appointment, which would cost its troop a boatload of money, it goes on ahead and extracts its own tooth, like a furry boss. Read the rest

Legendary Russian guitarist dies from flesh eating infection

Andrey Suchilin has long been regarded as one of Russia’s best guitarists and the progenitor of rock and roll in his country. It's a reputation that’s made his face and name famous to one degree or another in most of Eastern Europe. Like many celebrities, Suchilin’s notoriety makes it hard for him to find a quiet spot to wind downin while at home. To have anything resembling a vacation, he’d have to leave the east for a more exotic locale, like Pittsburgh or Gran Canaria, an Island off the coast of Northwest Africa. Last May, he opted for the latter.

After getting himself some sun, Suchilin hopped on a flight from Gran Canaria that’d see him through to Amsterdam where he’d change planes and make for home. There was just one problem: Suchilin had an odor coming off him that could drop a rhino a 50 yards.

Other passengers sitting near him on his flight complained. As his bouquet began to make its way throughout the airplane cabin’s recirculated air, some passengers passed out. Others puked. The commotion being caused by the stench issuing from the guitarist was such that the plane’s cabin crew decided that for everyone’s comfort, it would be best to confine Suchilin in one of the plane’s bathrooms. But, again, recirculated air, so no dice. Eventually, the plane’s captain made the decision request emergency landing privileges in Portugal: It was the only way to get the passengers the hell away from Suchilin. Landing early also afforded Suchilin the opportunity to find out what the hell was going on with his body. Read the rest

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