Sunday, September 14, 2014

Training Dogs to Sniff Out Cancer

Since 2004, research has begun to accumulate suggesting that dogs may be able to smell the subtle chemical differences between healthy and cancerous tissue, including bladder cancer, melanomaand cancers of the lung, breast and prostate. But scientists debate whether the research will result in useful medical applications.

Dogs have already been trained to respond to diabetic emergencies, or alert passers-by if an owner is about to have a seizure. And on the cancer front, nonprofit organizations like the In Situ Foundation, based in California, and the Medical Detection Dogs charity in Britain are among a growing number of independent groups sponsoring research into the area.
..
The next step will be to build a mechanical, hand-held sensor that can detect that cancer chemical in the clinic. That’s where Charlie Johnson a professor at Penn who specializes in experimental nanophysics, the study of molecular interactions between microscopic materials, comes in.
He is developing what he calls Cyborg sensors, which include biological and mechanical components – a combination of carbon nanotubes and single-stranded DNA that preferentially bond with one specific chemical compound. These precise sensors, in theory, could be programmed to bind to, and detect, the isolated compounds that Dr. Otto’s dogs are singling out.
“We are effectively building an electronic nose,” said Dr. Johnson, who added that a prototype for his ovarian cancer sensor will probably be ready
in the next five years.
Some experts remain skeptical.
Link

Learning How to Exert Self-Control

PARIS — NOT many Ivy League professors are associated with a type of candy. But Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology at Columbia, doesn’t mind being one of them.
“I’m the marshmallow man,” he says, with a modest shrug.
I’m with Mr. Mischel (pronounced me-SHELL) in his tiny home office in Paris, where he spends the summer with his girlfriend. We’re watching grainy video footage of preschoolers taking the “marshmallow test,” the legendary experiment on self-control that he invented nearly 50 years ago. In the video, a succession of 5-year-olds sit at a table with cookies on it (the kids could pick their own treats). If they resist eating anything for 15 minutes, they get two cookies; otherwise they just get one.
..
Famously, preschoolers who waited longest for the marshmallow went on to have higher SAT scores than the ones who couldn’t wait. In later years they were thinner, earned more advanced degrees, used less cocaine, and coped better with stress. As these first marshmallow kids now enter their 50s, Mr. Mischel and colleagues are investigating whether the good delayers are richer, too.
..
Part of what adults need to learn about self-control is in those videos of 5-year-olds. The children who succeed turn their backs on the cookie, push it away, pretend it’s something nonedible like a piece of wood, or invent a song. Instead of staring down the cookie, they transform it into something with less of a throbbing pull on them.
Adults can use similar methods of distraction and distancing, he says. Don’t eye the basket of bread; just take it off the table. In moments of emotional distress, imagine that you’re viewing yourself from outside, or consider what someone else would do in your place. When a waiter offers chocolate mousse, imagine that a cockroach has just crawled across it.
“If you change how you think about it, its impact on what you feel and do changes,” Mr. Mischel writes.
He explains that there are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.
To do this, use specific if-then plans, like “If it’s before noon, I won’t check email” or “If I feel angry, I will count backward from 10.” Done repeatedly, this buys a few seconds to at least consider your options. The point isn’t to be robotic and never eat chocolate mousse again. It’s to summon self-control when you want it, and be able to carry out long-term plans.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Japanese woman is first recipient of next-generation stem cells



    Surgeons implanted retinal tissue created after reverting the patient's own cells to 'pluripotent' state.

    A Japanese woman in her 70s is the world's first recipient of cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, a technology that has created great expectations since it could offer the same advantages as embryo-derived cells but without some of the controversial aspects and safety concerns.
    In a two-hour procedure starting at 14:20 local time today, a team of three eye specialists lead by Yasuo Kurimoto of the Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, transplanted a 1.3 by 3.0 millimetre sheet of retinal pigment epithelium cells into an eye of the Hyogo prefecture resident, who suffers from age-related macular degeneration.

    Thursday, September 04, 2014

    8 Facts that Explain What's Wrong with American Healthcare

    Excellent article- worth the time to read in full .
    Uvealblues
    Link
    Some highlights:

    The reason that American health care is expensive is all about the price: when we go to the doctor, it costs more than when, say, someone in Canada goes to the doctor.
    Part of this is about the price per unit of health care in the United States. From prescription drugs to imaging scans, nearly everything costs more when it's prescribed in America. Take the heartburn medication Nexium: the exact same medication costs $215 here and $23 in the Netherlands.

    Most other countries have some form of price controls; the government negotiates with drug companies and device makers for lower prices, and the government has the power to win those negotiations. The United States doesn't do that. It leaves the negotiations up to individual insurers. And they tend to lose.

    There are more nuanced ways that our health-care prices are more expensive, too. Harvard University's David Cutler points out that we have much higher administrative costs than most other countries — and those costs get tacked onto the bill when we go to the doctor. The average American doctor spends All those extra billing specialists' salaries have to get paid somehow — and that gets worked into our prices.

    The National Institute for Health Care Management estimates that, in 2009, about half of health spending ($623 billion) went towards 5 percent of the population. On average, these are people who use $40,000 of health care annually.

    As to who makes the most money, it's mostly drug companies and device manufacturers — the people who make the things that insurance companies buy. They typically run profit margins around 20 percent.

    Friday, August 29, 2014

    MONITOR GLAUCOMA WITH AN EYE IMPLANT AND A PHONE

    Lowering a patient’s internal eye pressure is currently the only way to treat glaucoma. A tiny eye implant paired with a smart phone could help doctors measure and lower eye pressure.
    For the 2.2 million Americans battling glaucoma, the main course of action for staving off blindness involves weekly visits to eye specialists who monitor—and control—increasing pressure within the eye.
    Now, a tiny eye implant could enable patients to take more frequent readings from the comfort of home. Daily or hourly measurements of eye pressure could help doctors tailor more effective treatment plans.

    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
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