Ebola is now a treatable disease. Read the rest
Ebola is now a treatable disease. Read the rest
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
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:
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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.
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.
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:
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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.
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.
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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.
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
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.
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
As part of research on how to make better prosthetic legs, Vanderbilt University engineers put people on a treadmill and made them stumble. Over and over. By better understanding peoples' stumble reflex, they hope to improve the computer-controlled stumble response in prosthetics. But to learn how people catch themselves, they had to trip them first. And that required building a stumble device into a treadmill. From Vanderbilt University:
Andrés Martínez strode briskly on the treadmill, staring straight ahead and counting backwards by seven from 898, a trick to keep his brain from anticipating the literal stumbling block heading his way: a compact 35 pounds of steel specifically designed to make him fall.
Special goggles kept him from looking down. Arrows on an eye-level screen kept him from walking off the sides. A harness attached to a ceiling beam kept him safe. Sure enough, when a computer program released the steel block, it glided onto the treadmill, and the Vanderbilt University PhD student struggled to stay on his feet...
“Not only did our treadmill device have to trip them, it had to trip them at specific points in their gait,” said Shane King, a PhD student and lead author on the paper. “People stumble differently depending on when their foot hits a barrier. The device also had to overcome their fear of falling, so they couldn’t see or feel when the block was coming.”
"A novel system for introducing precisely-controlled, unanticipated gait perturbations for the study of stumble recovery" (Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation) Read the rest
Fecal transplants are the hottest thing in emergent medicine, restoring balance to guts nuked by antibiotics and resistant infections, but there are risks. DIY is not the way to go...
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Two patients contracted severe infections, and one of them died, from fecal transplants that contained drug-resistant bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration reported on Thursday. As a result, the agency is halting a number of clinical trials until the researchers conducting them can demonstrate that they have procedures in place to screen donated stool for dangerous organisms, said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the agency’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. In an interview, he did not specify how many trials would be suspended, but said it was “not just a few.”
My late brother Mark was a transplant surgeon. He told me how sometimes he'd be woken up in the middle of the night to fly to a nearby city to retrieve, say, a kidney, from someone who had just died (frequently in a motorcycle crash), then carry the organ on a plane to another city where he'd install the kidney into a waiting patient, and then fly back home. (He felt it important to personally retrieve the organ that he'd then be transplanting.) I thought of that process while reading about the first drone delivery of a donated kidney that resulted in a successful transplant for a 40-year-old woman who had been on dialysis for 8 years. The drone delivery system was designed by researchers from the University of Maryland and organ donation nonprofit the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland. The kidney only traveled three miles but was a major step forward. From the New York Times:
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The team’s leader, Dr. Joseph R. Scalea, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said he pursued the project after constant frustration over organs taking too long to reach his patients. After organs are removed from a donor, they become less healthy with each passing second. He recalled one case when a kidney from Alabama took 29 hours to reach his hospital.
The drone used in this month’s test had backup propellers and motors, dual batteries and a parachute recovery system, to guard against catastrophe if one component encountered a problem 400 feet in the air.
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.
In the UK, the routine vaccination of young girls has virtually eradicated new cases of cervical cancer associated with human papilomavirus.
Researchers said the vaccine has nearly wiped out cases of cervical pre-cancer in young women since an immunisation programme was introduced 10 years ago. They found the vaccine had led to a 90% cut in pre-cancerous cells. And they said the effects of the programme had "exceeded expectations". Over the last decade, schoolgirls across the UK have routinely received the HPV vaccine when they are 12 or 13.
Boys are now vaccinated too.
HPV vaccination is very controversial in America and only a few states require it. Studies show that getting the vaccine doesn't increase risky sexual behavior among teens, but to be discussing it that way in the first place accepts a frame of reference that can never allow progress. Loudly, the arguments are about whether "risky sex" is worse than cancer. Quietly, the arguments are about God punishing those who have sex before marriage. To participate in debates like this is to instantly lose them. Read the rest
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:
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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.
Semi-identical twins -- a boy and girl who are identical on their mother's side but share only 78% of their father's genome -- have been identified in Brisbane, Australia. This is only the second known case, ever. From the BBC:
"The mother's ultrasound at six weeks showed a single placenta and positioning of amniotic sacs that indicated she was expecting identical twins," (said Prof Nicholas Fisk whose team at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospita cared for the children when they were born in 2014).
"However, an ultrasound at 14 weeks showed the twins were male and female, which is not possible for identical twins."
If one egg is fertilised by two sperm, it results in three sets of chromosomes, rather than the standard two - one from the mother and two from the father.
And, according to researchers, three sets of chromosomes are "typically incompatible with life and embryos do not usually survive".
The identity of the twins has not been revealed.
A scientific paper about these rare humans was published the New England Journal of Medicine: "Molecular Support for Heterogonesis Resulting in Sesquizygotic Twinning"
Biomedical engineers prototyped a pill that integrates a syringe to inject insulin into the floor of the stomach. From Science News:
The shape is designed to guide the device to rest, cap down, on the floor of the stomach. There, it sticks a needle tip composed almost entirely of insulin a few millimeters into the mucus membrane lining the stomach. Once the insulin needle tip dissolves, the device passes through the rest of the digestive system.
Thanks to the dearth of sharp pain receptors inside the stomach, the tiny injection “is unlikely to cause any discomfort,” says study coauthor Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and MIT.