Frozen Rat Kidney Shipping Container: The incredibly bounty of the NIH's 3D printables repository

The National Institutes of Health maintain a 3D Print Exchange, a kind of miniature Thingiverse for open-licensed, 3D printable objects for teaching and practicing public health. Read the rest

Ebola keeps on keeping on

Hey gang, let's talk Ebola: Everyone's favorite viral boogeyman.

Over the weekend, the AFP News Agency reported that health professionals in the Democratic Republic of Congo have uncovered five new confirmed cases of Ebola: three cases in the Bikoro area and two in Wangata. This most recent outbreak of the disease in the country’s northwest has resulted in more than 50 confirmed cases and 25 deaths. These numbers, of course, only reflect the incidents of the disease that health agencies such as the World Health Organization and Medecins Sans Frontieres and DR Congo’s healthcare system are aware of.

As such, the push to track everyone who has come into contact with the disease and take appropriate precautions continues, albeit slowly. One of the biggest hurtles in tracking and containing Ebola is that, logistically, the rural regions of DR Congo are a pain in the ass. The roads are often so pocketed with potholes that the only way to reliable traverse them is with a motorcycle—and that’s if there are any roads at all. Many of the smaller villages surrounding Bikoro are packed away by dense jungle. Additionally, cellular coverage in the country’s northwestern region comes with massive holes. This makes doing important work, such as sending field operatives into areas of infection, shipping vaccines or sending collected data back for processing extremely difficult.

According to the New York Times, because of these difficulties, researchers are having a hard time piecing together how the current strain of the virus was transmitted. This, in turn, makes vaccinating the right people in the hopes of stopping the spread of the disease an uphill battle. Read the rest

PSA: Your birth control pills could be placebos

This one's for the ladies. According to Stat, Allegra is recalling 170,000 packs of their Taytulla birth control pills because the first four pills in each of the packs are placebos, instead of medicine that'll keep babies, severe cramping, and all the other things that the pills are typically prescribed for, at bay.

The sketchy packs are all from a single lot of pills that were doled out as samples to physicians. So if your doctor provided you with some free Taytulla birth control pills, you'll want to check their lot number.

From Allegra:

As a result of this packaging error, oral contraceptive capsules, that are taken out of sequence, may place the user at risk for contraceptive failure and unintended pregnancy. The reversing of the order may not be apparent to either new users or previous users of the product, increasing the likelihood of taking the capsules out of order. If patients have concerns regarding the possibility of an unintended pregnancy they should consult their physician.

This product is an oral contraceptive indicated for the prevention of pregnancy in women who elect to use oral contraceptives. The TAYTULLA  pill pack is a 28 count blister card that has 24 "active" pink softgel capsules (with hormones) with "WC" printed on the outer shell in white to be taken for 24 days, followed by 4 maroon softgel capsules (without hormones) also imprinted with "WC" on one side to be taken for the next four days. If you are a patient in the U.S.

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Two late-stage Ebola patients break quarantine, the number they may have infected is unknown

Last week, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak was confirmed to have spread to Mbandaka, a transportation hub, home to over one million people. As of the time that this post was written, 31 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the west African nation. Of those confirmed to have been afflicted, nine have died.

Oh, and three individuals confirmed to have contracted the disease, two of which who were showing significant symptoms, managed to escape quarantine and mingle with an unknown number of people.

From the Washington Post:

In a briefing in Geneva, Jean-Clement Cabrol, a doctor who had just returned from Congo, said "the patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting" when their families removed them from the hospital, put them on motorcycles, and took them to a religious gathering of 50 people. Ebola is contagious through bodily fluids, and both patients, who were at an acute phase of the illness, died within hours.

Those two were among the three Ebola patients who left a hospital isolation ward and reentered the general population, according to the Doctors Without Borders mission in the Congolese city of Mbandaka.

That two of the patients, at the height of their power to infect others, opted to leave the quarantine that they’d been put under reads like something monstrous. But it couldn’t be more human. In their final hours, the pair, knowing that death couldn’t have been closer, turned to the comfort of their families and their faith, hoping that it would be a balm against the unspeakable misery that they must have been in. Read the rest

Mouth sensor keeps tabs on your sodium intake

Approximately 36 million people in the United States have high blood pressure and many could do with reducing their sodium intake. But how do you even monitor your intake accurately? Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed a flexible sensor that goes in your mouth for real-time sensing of how much salt is in those french fries you're munching. It then sends the data to your phone to alert you of your sodium intake. From IEEE Spectrum:

W. Hong Yeo, an assistant professor of micro and nano engineering who led the research team, says it would also be possible to stick the sensor directly to the tongue or the roof of the mouth, or to laminate it onto a tooth. The soft retainer they used in this experiment was just phase one. “For the first prototype device, we wanted to offer easy handling and cleaning capability via the integration with a soft retainer,” he said.

Yeo says the biggest challenge was making the entire electronic device soft, flexible, and comfortable enough to wear in the mouth. So the team designed a chip that uses stretchable circuits mounted on an ultrathin porous membrane.

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BBC journalist has earwax cleaned out by hungry jungle grub

Will Millard visited the jungles of West Papua to hang out with the Korowai, a local group of hunters and gatherers late to the uncertain benefits of modernity. They reportedly use small grubs to clean their ears, and in this video Tribesman Markus offers him a hungry one.

In filming its new documentary, the BBC learned that earlier ones about the Korowai (including one of its own) contained fabricated elements.

Also:

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Amazing video of cells moving within an organism

Scientists combined multiple imaging technologies to deliver an unprecedented 3D view inside the body of crawling cancer cells, spinal cord circuit development, and immune cells traveling within a zebrafish (above). Nobel laureate Eric Betzig and his colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute integrate a technology called lattice light sheet microscopy with adaptive optics resulting in a very expensive, 10-foot-long microscope. From HHMI:

“It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster right now,” says Betzig, who is moving to the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall. His team is working on a next-generation version that should fit on a small desk at a cost within the reach of individual labs. The first such instrument will go to Janelia’s Advanced Imaging Center, where scientists from around the world can apply to use it. Plans that scientists can use to create their own microscopes will also be made freely available. Ultimately, Betzig hopes that the adaptive optical version of the lattice microscope will be commercialized, as was the base lattice instrument before it. That could bring adaptive optics into the mainstream.

“If you really want to understand the cell in vivo, and image it with the quality possible in vitro, this is the price of admission,” he says.

More videos here.

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Penis transplant successful

Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore successfully completed the world's first scrotum-included penis transplant last month, restoring cock and balls to a soldier maimed by an IED in Afghanistan.

The 14-hour operation took place March 26 and involved nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons, transplanting the penis, scrotum and partial abdominal wall from a dead donor.

The donor's testes were not transplanted due to ethical guidelines, as the new owner may otherwise produce offspring with the donor's genetics. The recipient will not be able to father children.

“We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man,” W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

The anonymous recipient is delighted with his new equipment: “When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal… [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence… like finally I’m okay now.”

Doctors from the same team also performed America's first bilateral arm transplant.

The technical term for the operation is a vascularized composite allotransplantation, rewiring skin, muscles and tendons, nerves, bone and blood vessels. The patient will require a regimen of immunosuppressant medication.

Genital mutilation is reportedly a common but rarely-discussed outcome of IED blasts, with 2013 U.S. Department of Defense figures recording 1,367 servicemen having suffered genito-urinary injuries since the invasion of Afghanistan and Johns Hopkins describing lost penises as "an unspoken injury of war."

The New York Times reports two other penis transplants, though neither included the scrotum. Read the rest

Why Indonesia's Bajau people can stay submerged under water longer than you or me

This is amazing. Read the rest

Woman plays flute while undergoing brain surgery

Musician Anna Henry suffered from essential tremor, a movement disorder that causes shaky hands. As the conditioned worsened, it interfered with her flute playing. So she underwent a surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation to cure it. The Texas Medical Center surgeons implanted a battery pack in her chest that delivers tiny voltages to the brain's thalamus, a key region responsible for controlling movement. She was kept awake during the operation, a common practice to test the device and avoid brain damage. The procedure worked. From the Texas Medical Center:

The result was like flipping a switch. Prior to the surgery, Henry’s neurologist, Mya Schiess, M.D., of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UTHealth, ran a few motor control tests. Henry could barely sign her name, let alone hold a pen. When handed a cup of water, her hand shook so intensely that the water splashed inside the cup.

But after the electrodes were placed in her brain and the thalamus was stimulated, Henry’s hand was still and stable, without a single detectable tremor. When she signed her name a second time, each pen stroke was smooth and clean. Her handwriting was legible for the first time in decades.

The surgical team handed Henry her flute to test if her hands were stable enough to play. As she remained on the operating bed, she lifted her flute to her mouth and treated everyone in the operating room not only to a sweet melody, but the joy of seeing her tremor disappear.

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Particle accelerator reveals ancient medical manuscript replaced with religious text

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California recently found a 6th century manuscript by Greek physician Galen, which had been scraped from its pages 500 years later and replaced with religious text. Who needs science when there are religious texts that need copying? Read the rest

Once-a-day birth control pills for men are one step closer to being a thing

I'm getting a vasectomy this summer. I'm 42 years old and neither I nor my wife want kids. It's time--at least for me. I know that going under the knife isn't the right choice for a lot of guys. The good news is that, according to Gizmodo, there's been a promising development in the area of male birth control.

It seems that research teams at UCLA and the University of Washington may have come up with a drug that's just as effective as the pills that many women have been popping on a daily basis for years. The drug compound, called dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU) could allow men to take responsibility for themselves and their partners beyond what a condom can offer:

Researchers gave DMAU to a hundred healthy adult volunteers from the ages of 18 to 50. Volunteers were given one of three varying doses of DMAU, and in one of two different formulations, in a capsule with either castor oil or powder. Five volunteers from each dosing group were randomized to receive a control placebo as well. The trial lasted for about a month, with each volunteer being told to take a daily pill with food. Eighty-three men finished the entire regimen.

By experiment’s end, the volunteers who took DMAU experienced a drop in their levels of testosterone and two other hormones involved in producing sperm, which was starkest in those who took the highest dose.

Best of all, those involved in the DMAU study suffered no adverse effects--at least in the short-term. Read the rest

Huge air bubble discovered in otherwise healthy dude's head

Brains are so overrated. Sure, they let us know when it's time to poop and help us to find our car keys, but that's not very impressive for an organ that takes up just about all of the space in a skull. You could totally get away with a smaller brain just fine. Check it out: according to The Washington Post, a seemingly healthy fella was found to have a 3.5" air bubble in his skull where a good chunk of his grey matter should be and he was still walking around, eating sandwiches and everything.

The 84-year-old gentleman's missing brains were discovered after he complained of taking frequent falls and a loss of sensation on one side of his body – symptoms commonly associated with a stroke. When he reported to the emergency room to get checked out, the ER doctors were gobsmacked to discover that their patient had a massive, pressurized air bubble – called a pneumatocoele – in his skull where brains should have been.

The empty head space was particularly surprising because the man arrived in the emergency department with afflictions otherwise common for his age. He had been complaining to his regular doctor about repeated falls and feeling unsteady in recent months. When the man added left-sided arm and leg weakness to the list of complaints, his doctor advised him to go to the emergency room, fearing a possible stroke.

But aside from the weakness and unsteadiness, the man was in good shape. In the case report, doctors noted that “there was no confusion, facial weakness, visual or speech disturbance… He was otherwise fit and well, independent with physical activities of daily living (PADLs) and lived at home with his wife and two sons.

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You need to drill a hole in your head like you need a hole in the head

Back in 1999, I wrote a Boing Boing Digital article called "Head Like A Hole," about trepanation, the intentional drilling of a hole in your skull for medical reasons or, according to its contemporary DIY practitioners, to achieve higher consciousness. But while trepanation has been around since ancient times, Katherine Foxhall argues that the commonly-held belief that the procedure was once used to cure migraines is just a myth. From Smithsonian:

In 1902, the Journal of Mental Science published a lecture by Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton, a London physician well-known for his work on pharmacology and ideas about migraine pathology. The lecture mixed neurological theory and armchair anthropology, and ranged over subjects including premonitions, telepathy, hypnotism, hallucinations, and epileptic and migrainous aura. In one notable passage, Brunton proposed that visions of fairies and the sound of their jingling bells were “nothing more” than the zigzags of migraine aura, and the aural results of nerve centre stimulation.

Brunton proposed that openings bored into ancient Stone Age skulls during life had been made to cure migraine. His suggestion followed considerable excitement during the 1870s when the French physician and anthropologist Paul Broca claimed that ancient skulls discovered in Peru and France had not only been opened surgically during life in order to release evil spirits, but that the patients had survived. To Brunton, it seemed obvious that the holes would have been made at the request of migraine sufferers in order to “let the headache out”.

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DARPA wants to slow down the human body to save lives

According to Engadget, America's futurist military think tank, DARPA, wants to figure out the means to slow down the biological functions of the human body to provide more time for medics and doctors to treat their wounded patients.

If the notion of biostasis sounds like the stuff of science fiction to you, that's because it totally is – at least for now. While some creatures are able to regulate the cells in their body to the point where they can survive long-term freezing or dehydration, humans are, comparatively, delicate little snowflakes. We bleed out, we die. By finding a way to slow down or freeze the functions of our bodies, combat-injured soldiers could have more time to make it to life-saving treatments away from the front lines. Were DARPA to find a way to do this for soldiers, the rest of us could likely wind up benefiting too. In the past, other medical technologies, antihemorrhagic compounds, like those found in QuikClot bandages, found their start on the battlefield, but have made their way into the civilian market.

If you're interested in seeing how DARPA's biostasis program pans out, you'd best get comfortable. DARPA won't even start answering the questions from companies looking to throw science at the problem until later this month.

Image via Military.com Read the rest

3D printed body parts for transplant

Anthony Atala, director of Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is developing techniques to 3D print human organs for transplant using an individual's own cells as the "ink." That way, the transplanted organ won't trigger the patient's immune system to reject it as a foreign body. From National Geographic:

(For example,) to create an ear, the printer lays down a pliable, porous scaffold made of hydrogel, a kind of polymer. The scaffold is covered with skin cells and cartilage cells, which grow and fill in the ear-shaped form. The hydrogel eventually biodegrades; after about six months the ear is composed entirely of human cells.

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Placing other people's poop in your person is a piss-poor plan

I can't believe I have to write this, but maybe jamming other people's shit up your ass isn't a great idea.

When done by medical professions, under very specific circumstances, a fecal transplant can mean the difference between life and death: implanting feces containing healthy gut microbiome into a patient's body has been used by doctors as a way to help fight antibiotic-resistant super bugs, like Clostridium difficile.  A lot of folks online have been blathering away about how research shows that the same sort of treatment could also act as a cure for obesity. As reported by The Guardian, on hearing this news, people are now shoveling other people's crap into their bodies without a doctor's supervision.

What's the problem, you say? Well, before the treatment is administered in a clinical setting, the fecal matter used is screened for disease and other nasties in an effort to make the transplant as safe as possible. Without proper screening, the risk of transferring diseases like Hepititus or HIV from one poo owner to another is pretty high. Additionally, a DIY fecal transplant conducted in the name of losing weight could have the opposite effect. A case study from a few years back illustrated that a woman who underwent a fecal transplant to deal with a drug resistant super bug ended up becoming obese as a result. Oops.

So, if you're feel that you could stand to lose a few pounds, take a look at your eating habits, exercise more or visit a doctor for help in losing weight before reaching for a bag of liquefied shit. Read the rest

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