"Technology has seriously upped the ante when it comes to enabling patients to be informed and educated about their health. There are more than70,000 websites that disseminate health information. As exciting as this may sound, access to the general public is often hindered by design issues (poor navigation, writing at graduate level, and disorganization) and questionable quality and accuracy of information. We can do better."
Via Andrew Spong, Philippe Marchal/Pharma Hub, Lionel Reichardt / le Pharmageek, Chaturika Jayadewa
“ WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists have come up with a bright idea - literally - to repair teeth. And they say their concept - using laser light to entice the body's own stem cells into action - may offer enormous promise beyond just dentistry in the field of regenerative medicine. The researchers used a low-power laser to coax dental stem cells to form dentin, the hard tissue similar to bone that makes up most of a tooth, demonstrating the process in studies involving rats and mice and using human cells in a laboratory. They did not regenerate an entire tooth in part because the enamel part was too tricky. But merely getting dentin to grow could help alleviate the need for root canal treatment, the painful procedure to remove dead or dying nerve tissue and bacteria from inside a tooth, they said. "I'm a dentist by training. So I think it has potential for great impact in clinical dentistry," researcher Praveen Arany of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said on Friday. ”Arany expressed hope that human clinical trials could get approval in the near future.
Molly Crockett: The complexities of ethics and the brain make it difficult for scientists to develop a pill to enhance human morals. Could we create a "morality pill"? Once the stuff of science fiction, recent studies in neuroscience have shown that brain chemicals can subtly influence some aspects of moral judgments and decisions. However, science is very far from creating pills that can turn sinners into saints, as I have argued many times before. So imagine my surprise when I came across the headline, “‘Morality Pills’ Close to Reality, Claims Scientist”– referring to a lecture I gave recently in London. (I asked the newspaper where the reporter got his misinformation, but received no response to my query.) Sensationalist reports like this are not only inaccurate, but also neglect the rich complexities of the brain that make neuroscience so fascinating. It is these same complexities that will make it very difficult for scientists to develop a morality pill. First, let’s consider the evidence that drugs can influence morals. Laboratory studies typically compare the effects of a placebo pill with those of a drug treatment that alters the function of a specific brain chemical. After taking either the drug or placebo, healthy volunteers make a series of moral decisions or judgments. For example, they may consider whether to donate to charity, or cooperate with others, or judge whether it is permissible to harm one person in order to save many others. The key question is whether the drug alters people’s decisions and judgments, relative to placebo.
Fasting for three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable". Although fasting diets have been criticized by nutritionists, research suggests that starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing more white blood cells, which fight off infection. Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for those suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy. It could also help the elderly whose immune systems become less effective.
Via PAT NOVAK
All grit, no fluff. One of the best digital healthcare surveys I've seen from the University of Oxford's Lionel Tarrasenko. Note the emphasis on non-invasive sensors in digital health and data fusion in analytics. If you only watch one digital health video this year, make it this one.
Via Andrew Spong
“ While there are active members of the U.S. House Science Committee that openly deny evolution and climate change, we are fortunate that there are others in the world that realize it is the 21st cen...”
Via Beste Ozcan
“ Without a doubt, 2014 will be declared the year mobile became mighty in healthcare. No matter where in the world you live, whether you are talking about patients, consumers, or healthcare providers, mobile is revolutionising the future of healthcare – so much so, that it's worth taking a closer look at 10 powerful trends emerging throughout the mobile health space. We'll also be showcasing our findings on mobile health user experience at the Mighty Mobile seminar at the inauguralCannes Lions Health festival.”
Via Alex Butler, Rowan Norrie
“ A system that combines a mobile application and sensor to detect stress in parents has been developed by computer scientists. It delivers research-based strategies to help decrease parents' stress during emotionally charged interactions with their children. The system was initially tested on a small group of parents of children with ADHD.”
Via Allison Hermann, PhD
Supposedly, if you’re right-brained, you're more creative and artistic. If you’re left-brained, you’re more methodical and analytical. It turns out all this categorization is a myth. There's no evidence anyone uses one side of the brain more than the other or that either drives personality traits.
“ TTo level the playing field, some believe patients should be able to see what their doctor is writing about them. But note-sharing with mental health patients has been slower to develop. There’s a scene in the first season of comedian Louis C.K.’s FX series Louie where he tries to describe his feelings to his therapist. When he looks at his young daughter, he says, he often sees his mother. “So your mother, is she there?” asks the doctor. No, says the confused C.K, who expected the figurative nature of his statement to be obvious. He just “sees” her face. “Is she standing right in front of her?” the doctor asks. “Are you at your mother’s house?” C.K.’s standards for doctors might be questionable. But at the very least, the scene shows that understanding and communication between doctor and patient can always be helped along. The OpenNotes initiative, which seeks to enable easier access for patients to doctor’s notes, might have helped. The idea is that if doctor’s notes were more transparent, then a patient would become more involved in their own treatment. And the “playing field” between doctor and patient also is leveled somewhat. “We doctors hide from patients what we feel about them and what we think, and I think that it is a mistake,” said Tom Delbanco, professor of general medicine and primary care at Harvard Medical School. “There is absolutely no reason patients should not know what we are thinking about them and doing.” Delbanco said the use of OpenNotes—which he leads with Jan Walker, a registered nurse and researcher at Harvard Medical School—has grown from 13,500 patients to 3 million today. But note-sharing with patients with mental health problems has been slower to develop. Concerns exist over whether a patient’s mental condition could worsen after reading what a psychologist has written about them, or whether a patient could feel objectified and pathologized. “The instinct has been, ‘That’s different, mental health is different, don’t touch it’—I think that’s nonsense,” said Delbanco. “I think if you say you’re ill because your knee hurts, or I think you’re crazy because you think blue is green, you should be the first to know and my job would be to help you with that.” Patients participating in a pilot study at the Harvard Medical School teaching hospital Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center started note-sharing with their psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers in March this year. Because the pilot project is still in its infancy, the data aren’t there yet. But Delbanco predicts it will take off in the same way note-sharing with the earlier patients did. And it will go beyond the United States, he said. “The world is becoming more transparent. There are fewer secrets,” he said. “It really is an expression of that moving into medicine. I don’t see why this should be constrained by the Atlantic.” Outside the U.S., mental health-care professionals debate among themselves how much transparency can exist between themselves and patients. The discussion often is shaped by allegiances to particular schools of thought, such as Sigmund Freud’s concept of “therapeutic abstinence.” The idea that iron-clad barriers between therapist and patient must exist, and preclude such transparency, some would argue. Andreas Feher, a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist in private practice, said he has come up against this line of thinking many times in Germany. He doesn’t do note-sharing via a password-protected electronic patient portal but reads his notes from the previous session aloud to his patients. “My colleagues say, ‘Those are your notes, that is none of their business.’ They think I’m crazy—I don’t really understand it,” Feher said. “In any case, it isn’t really done here. I don’t know anyone who does it. But I don’t care, I do it anyway.” Asked why he did so if note-sharing was considered so unorthodox in Germany, he said it helped him remember what happened from sessions that could run up to two hours. In his experience, only about one in 15 patients ever has a problem with it, he said. Despite how useful he found note-sharing and how much patients seemed to like it, Feher said he was skeptical it would be widely adopted in the near future. “Here, the barriers are perceived so important,” he said. “I know therapists who won’t go to the cinema if they know a patient might be there.” To them, note-sharing involves breaking down barriers they don’t want broken down, Feher said. “ “It seems strange to me that other professionals—maybe those not even directly involved in the case—can potentially read some of these notes that the client can’t.” ” “It won’t happen in my lifetime,” he said. “It’s a shame. I would have found that good.” But cultural attitudes and prevailing schools of thought aren’t the only things tilting the debate. Bureaucratic challenges can sometimes play a role. In most countries—including the U.S., the U.K., and Germany—patients generally have a right to access their medical records. But requesting the notes that are part of the records is often a bureaucratic process, and the rules make it difficult for clinicians simply to offer to show their notes to patients, said David Harper, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of East London. “Most clinical psychologists work for the National Health Service (NHS). They are employees,” he said. “Therefore the notes you make don’t belong to you, technically, they belong to the secretary of state. As soon as you write them, they are NHS property.” Harper supports transparency as the default setting, he said. “In the U.K., care records are increasingly stored electronically, with different professionals able to read anyone’s notes,” he said. “It seems strange to me that other professionals—maybe those not even directly involved in the case—can potentially read some of these notes that the client can’t.” But of course, any sharing with mental health patients needs to be done carefully, he said. “If someone is feeling fairly stable mentally, and resilient, then they could read lots of different things and be OK with them,” said Harper. “But if they were feeling very vulnerable, there were some elements in the notes that might make them feel more vulnerable.” Charlotte Marshall, a privately practicing clinical psychologist in Adelaide, South Australia echoed Harper. Sharing notes could be “counterproductive” in situations where a client has symptoms of paranoia and plans of action and safety concerns are written in them, she said. “The clinical setting in which note-sharing is hypothetically occurring is important. For instance, notes taken in an inpatient psychiatric setting where [the client] might be detained would be quite different to notes from a private practitioner’s session on a client with an anxiety disorder,” she said. For her personal practice, she said she didn’t see the need to share her notes “as a matter of course” and that it wasn’t common practice in Australia. She does, however, generally tell her clients they are welcome to her notes any time, she noted. “But in my years of experience, nobody ever expressed particular interest,” she said. “I try to be as transparent as possible on my thoughts as to her thoughts on what may be going on with them. What is in my notes is unlikely to be of concern or surprise to my clients, so perhaps they don’t feel the need to see my notes.” Marshall said she didn’t think note-sharing was becoming the norm in Australia—and how it will fare in the rest of the world is not yet clear. However, Delbanco said the experiences of the original project have left him optimistic the movement will be taken up across the board. ”“If you had told me that we would go from 20,000 to 3 million note-sharing Americans in 18 months, I would have thought you were smoking marijuana,” he said. “But it happened. Mental health notes will spread just as rapidly because it is riding on the wave of transparency. This is a global phenomenon.” “ .”
Via Chaturika Jayadewa
“ University College London scientists produce the first map showing how the ability to feel pain varies across the body”The forehead and fingertips are the most sensitive parts to pain, according to the first map created by scientists of how the ability to feel pain varies across the human body. It is hoped that the study, in which volunteers had pain inflicted without touching them, could help the estimated 10 million people in the UK who suffer from chronic pain by allowing physicians to use lasers to monitor nerve damage across the body. This would offer a quantitative way to monitor the progression or regression of a condition. Lead author Dr Flavia Mancini, of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said: "Acuity for touch has been known for more than a century, and tested daily in neurology to assess the state of sensory nerves on the body. It is striking that until now nobody had done the same for pain." In the study, a pair of lasers were used to cause brief sensation of pinprick pain to 26 blindfolded healthy volunteers on various parts of their body without any touch, in order to define our ability to identify where it hurts, known as "spatial acuity". Sometimes only one laser would be activated, and sometimes both. The participants were asked whether they felt one sting or two, at varying distances between the two beams and researchers recorded the minimum distance between the beams at which people were able to accurately say whether it was one sting or two. "This measure tells us how precisely people can locate the source of pain on different parts of their body," said senior author Dr Giandomenico Iannetti, of the UCL department of neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology. "Touch and pain are mediated by different sensory systems."
“ A Stanford electrical engineer has invented a way to wirelessly transfer power deep inside the body, and then use this power to run tiny electronic medical devices such as pacemakers, nerve stimulators, or new sensors and gadgets yet to be developed.”
Via Rowan Norrie
“ According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 107 million blood donations are collected around the globe every year, most of which goes on to help save lives. However, while the need for blood is global, much of that which is donated is not accessible to many who need it, such as those in developing countries. And of the blood donated in industrialized countries, the amount often falls short of requirements. To help address this imbalance, scientists at the University of Essex are developing an artificial blood substitute that would provide a benign, virus-free alternative for blood transfusions. The artificial blood substitute being developed by the University of Essex's Haem02 project would be able to be stored at room temperatures for up to two years, which would allow it to be distributed worldwide without the need for refrigeration and make it immediately accessible at the site of natural disasters. Best of all, as a claimed universal blood replacement it could be administered to anyone, regardless of blood type. ”"It means we could overcome some of the inherent problems with transfusions as there would be no need for blood group typing and a longer shelf life means you are able to stockpile the supplies necessary for major disasters," explained Professor Cooper, a biochemist and blood substitute expert who is leading the research project. "It also offers the opportunity for routine transfusion support in ambulances or at remote inaccessible locations."
“Thousands of developers descended on San Fransisco recently to hear about Apple's big plans for the future. One of the highlights was confirmation, after long speculation, that the company would indeed be spreading into the health market.”