Thursday, August 28, 2014

Burial Boys of Ebola

God Bless these courageous men and healthcare workers ...some of whom have contracted ebola and died: Link
Another link about these health workers: Link

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Seeing-Eye Robot Assists Visually Impaired, No Clean-Up Required

Two familiar items not usually paired: a robot and a cane. At the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Cang Ye and his engineering lab team have prototyped a robotic walking stick for the blind. This robot-cane combines the basic physics of a walking stick and the technological efficiencies of a computer system.
Link

Friday, August 08, 2014

WE JUDGE TRUSTWORTHY FACES IN A SNAP

Our brains are able to judge the trustworthiness of a face even when we cannot consciously see it.
“The results are consistent with an extensive body of research suggesting that we form spontaneous judgments of other people that can be largely outside awareness,” explains Jonathan Freeman, an assistant professor in New York University’s psychology department.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

One study estimated that on average, prior authorization requests consumed about 20 hours a week per medical practice

(..)
I’m all for controlling medical costs and trying to apply rational rules to our use of expensive medications and procedures. But in the current system, everything seems to be in service of the corporate side of medicine, not the patient. The clinical rationale and the actual patient — not to mention the doctors and nurses involved in the care — are at best secondary concerns.
In the end, we were able to keep Mr. V.’s blood pressure under control. My blood pressure, however, was a different story.
Link

Wireless Eye Implant Continuously Measures Intraocular Pressure (VIDEO)

Measuring a person’s intraocular pressure (IOP) can help diagnose and monitor glaucoma, but just like blood pressure it varies and can be subject to the “white coat effect.” Continuous monitoring of IOP to detect spikes is practically impossible when using a traditional tonometer, but a new eye implant from Germany’s Implandata Ophthalmic Products that makes this possible has been implanted in a first patient as part of a European clinical trial.
Link

Friday, August 01, 2014

Three Myths About the Brain

Good article not only about the brain but also about how scientific misinformation abounds in pop culture..
Uveal Blues

IN the early 19th century, a French neurophysiologist named Pierre Flourens conducted a series of innovative experiments. He successively removed larger and larger portions of brain tissue from a range of animals, including pigeons, chickens and frogs, and observed how their behavior was affected.
His findings were clear and reasonably consistent. “One can remove,” he wrote in 1824, “from the front, or the back, or the top or the side, a certain portion of the cerebral lobes, without destroying their function.” For mental faculties to work properly, it seemed, just a “small part of the lobe” sufficed.
Thus the foundation was laid for a popular myth: that we use only a small portion — 10 percent is the figure most often cited — of our brain. 
Link
Sitting around an outdoor table at the Red Crab, a restaurant on the tropical island of Grenada festooned with palm trees and fiery bougainvillea, a dozen aspiring doctors bashfully conceded that they had been, at best, near misses when it came to getting into medical school in the United States.
(..)
There are more than 70 medical schools across the Caribbean, about half of them catering to Americans. A handful — including St. George’s, Saba University, Ross University in Dominica and American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten, all of which are for-profit — have qualified for federal financial aid programs by demonstrating that their standards are comparable to those in the United States. And they report that high numbers of their test-takers — 95 percent or more — pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam Step 1, a basic science test.
But quality is all over the map in the Caribbean.
Link

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Three Questions for J. Craig Venter

Gene research and Silicon Valley-style computing are starting to merge.
Genome scientist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter is best known for being the first person to sequence his own genome, back in 2001.
This year, he started a new company, Human Longevity, which intends to sequence one million human genomes by 2020, and ultimately offer Web-based programs to help people store and understand their genetic data (see “Microbes and Metabolites Fuel an Ambitious Aging Project”).
(..)
But that’s going to require some massive data crunching. To get these skills, Venter recruited Franz Och, the machine-learning specialist leading Google Translate. Now Och will apply similar methods to studying genomes in a data science and software shop that Venter is establishing in Mountain View, California.
The hire comes just as Google itself has launched a similar-sounding effort to start collecting biomedical data (see “What’s a Moon Shot Worth These Days”). Venter calls Google’s plans for a biomedical database “a baby step, a much smaller version of what we are doing.”
What’s clear is that genome research and data science are coming together in new ways, and at a much larger scale than ever before. We asked Venter why.
Link

Prototype Display Lets You Say Goodbye to Reading Glasses

Researchers are developing technology that can adjust an image on a display so you can see it clearly without corrective lenses.
(..)
In addition to making it easier for people with simple vision problems to use all kinds of displays without glasses, the technique may help those with more serious vision problems caused by physical defects that can’t be corrected with glasses or contacts, researchers say. This includes spherical aberration, which causes different parts of the lens to refract light differently.
Link

Unexpected stem cell factories found inside teeth

Development is typically thought to be a one-way street. Stem cells produce cells that mature into specific types, such as the neurons and glia that compose nervous systems, but the reverse isn’t supposed to happen. Yet researchers have now discovered nervous system cells transforming back into stem cells in a very surprising place: inside teeth. 
Link

Retinal regeneration in zebrafish (w/ Video)

How is it that zebrafish can regenerate retinal cells and we can't?
Link

Friday, July 18, 2014

LOVE OR LUST? THE EYES TELL ALL

People tended to visually fixate on the face, especially when they said an image elicited a feeling of romantic love. However, with images that evoked sexual desire, the subjects’ eyes moved from the face to fixate on the rest of the body. The effect was found for male and female participants.
Link

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ORAL MED ‘WAKES UP’ RETINAL CELLS SO KIDS CAN SEE

Tests of a new oral medication show the drug can improve vision in children with an inherited disease that can cause complete blindness and is currently untreatable.
“This is the first time that an oral drug has improved the visual function of blind patients with LCA (Leber congenital amaurosis),” says Robert Koenekoop, professor of human genetics, pediatric surgery, and ophthalmology at McGill University. “It is giving hope to many patients who suffer from this devastating retinal degeneration.”
..
“Contrary to what was previously thought, children with LCA and defects in RPE65 or LRAT are not born with dead retinal cells; the cells can simply go dormant, and they can remain dormant for years before they eventually die. The oral drug we tested awakened these cells and allowed patients to see.”

Visually impaired Alexandria resident set to take on the Ironman world championship


“I still have light and shadow perception,” Ament said. “It’s sort of like running drunk.”
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It is grueling enough to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles, but imagine doing all of that when you can only see a blur of light ahead of you.
Kristina Ament, a 52-year-old federal prosecutor, has completed four Ironman triathlons under those exact conditions because of her Leber congenital amaurosis, a degenerative disease that causes acute vision loss.
Now the Alexandria resident is training for October’s world championshipin Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, as one of five winners of the Ironman lottery for physically challenged athletes.
..
Like Plaskon, Ament relies on other athletes to guide her through the competition. Every stroke or stride she takes is done while tethered at the waist or arm to someone who can see. It means Ament must find a rhythm with her guide, create a game plan ahead of time to stay in sync.

Google and Novartis Combine Expertise to Produce Smart Contact and Intraocular Lenses

Back in January of this year, Google unveiled an electronic contact lens that it’s been secretly developing by its X research group. The device is capable of measuring glucose levels in the wearer’s tears, a technology that may one day replace finger pricks for millions of diabetics. Additionally, there are plans to embed LED lights into the lens to automatically warn the user when glucose is outside of healthy levels. But Google is not a medical company, so it has partnered with Alcon, a division of Novartis, to turn the device into a real product.
Link

Monday, July 14, 2014

Key to Detecting Alzheimer's Early Could Be in the Eye

Scientists have found that certain biological changes in the retina and lens of the eye, and in the sense of smell, may help predict whether people with no or minor memory issues may go on to develop the progressive brain disease, according to findings presented here Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.
..
But amyloid plaques found in the brain also are known to be deposited in the eye. Two company-funded studies found that those deposits can be detected through noninvasive eye-imaging technology and are highly correlated with the amyloid results from brain imaging.
Cognoptix Inc., a closely held biotech company in Acton, Mass., focuses on amyloid detection in the lens of the eye. CSIRO Australia, the country's national science agency, and its Sacramento, Calif.-based partner, NeuroVision Imaging LLC, have been studying the retina, in the back of the eyes.
The retina is like a "piece of brain outside the brain," said Shaun Frost, a researcher at CSIRO Australia.
The first 40 patients in a 200-participant study showed that retina changes correlated strongly with amyloid plaque development in the brain. The full study will be completed this year, according to Dr. Frost.
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