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Robot used for open-heart surgery-Da Vinci robot heart surgery at New Cross Hospital

Robot used for open-heart surgery-Da Vinci robot heart surgery at New Cross Hospital | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Surgeons carry out the first ever robotic open-heart operation in Britain at the New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton.
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UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos

UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The blueprint for life - DNA - has been altered in human embryos for the first time in the UK.

The team at the Francis Crick Institute are unravelling the mysteries of the earliest moments of life.

Understanding what happens after a sperm fertilises an egg could lead to ways of improving IVF or explain why some women miscarry.

The embryos were modified shortly after fertilisation and allowed to develop for seven days.

The researchers are exploring one of the most astounding of transformations.

We have all journeyed from a single fertilised egg to a human being - built from myriad different tissues ranging from bone to those needed to read this page.

The first few steps on that journey are as critical as they are poorly understood.

Breakthroughs in manipulating DNA have allowed the team at the Crick to turn off a gene - a genetic instruction - suspected to be of vital importance.

The easiest way of working out how something works is to remove it and see what happens.

So the researchers used the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 to scour the billions of letters of genetic code, find their genetic target and break the DNA to effectively disable it.

They were targeting a gene. You are unlikely to have heard of it, but OCT4 is a superstar in early embryo development.

Its complete role is not understood but it acts like an army general issuing commands to keep development on track.

The researchers used 41 embryos that had been donated by couples who no longer needed them for IVF.

After performing the genetic modification, the team could watch how the embryos developed without OCT4.
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The reason a calorie-restricted diet extends your lifespan is in your genes

You've probably seen some headlines in recent years heralding the correlation between a lowered caloric intake and increased lifespan. The topic has been a rich area of research for decades, but scientists have been unable to successfully explain the phenomenon. New research from a team at Temple University may have finally cracked the puzzle by revealing that epigenetic changes that occur with age can be slowed through a calorie-restricted diet.

The research focused on the process of DNA methylation, a chemical activity that essentially directs when a gene should or shouldn't be expressed. These methylation patterns were found to shift as an animal ages, increasing and decreasing in different genomic areas.

"Our study shows that epigenetic drift, which is characterized by gains and losses in DNA methylation in the genome over time, occurs more rapidly in mice than in monkeys and more rapidly in monkeys than in humans," says senior investigator Jean-Pierre Issa.

Using deep-sequencing technology the team first studied how age-related variations in DNA methylation were correlated with an animal's lifespan. It was discovered that the greater the epigenetic change from methylation, the shorter the animal's lifespan.

Knowing that a great deal of research has already shown how calorie restriction can increase lifespan, the focus of the study then moved on to examining whether reduced dietary calories had a direct effect on epigenetic drift.
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Massive Genetic Study Shows How Humans are Evolving

Massive Genetic Study Shows How Humans are Evolving | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A huge genetic study that sought to pinpoint how the human genome is evolving suggests that natural selection is getting rid of harmful genetic mutations that shorten people’s lives. The work, published in PLoS Biology, analysed DNA from 215,000 people and is one of the first attempts to probe directly how humans are evolving over one or two generations.

To identify which bits of the human genome might be evolving, researchers scoured large US and UK genetic databases for mutations whose prevalence changed across different age groups. For each person, the parents’ age of death was recorded as a measure of longevity, or their own age in some cases.

“If a genetic variant influences survival, its frequency should change with the age of the surviving individuals,” says Hakhamanesh Mostafavi, an evolutionary biologist at Columbia University in New York City who led the study. People who carry a harmful genetic variant die at a higher rate, so the variant becomes rarer in the older portion of the population.

Mostafavi and his colleagues tested more than 8 million common mutations, and found two that seemed to become less prevalent with age.
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Gut Microbes Could Actually Be Triggering Relapses of Multiple Sclerosis

Gut Microbes Could Actually Be Triggering Relapses of Multiple Sclerosis | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The role played by the millions of bacteria that live in our intestines is poorly understood, but the more we learn, the more complex it gets.

And, according to two new studies out this week, this microbiome could play a more significant part in multiple sclerosis than we thought.

Multiple sclerosis, which affects 2.5 million people around the world, is thought to be an autoimmune disease. During a relapse, or attack, immune cells breach the blood-brain barrier and enter the central nervous system, something that is highly restricted in healthy people.

These immune cells then attack the protective coating around nerve cells. This causes inflammation in the brain, which in turn causes scarring. These scars are responsible for the physical symptoms of MS.

No one knows what causes it, but a growing body of research is connecting it to the gut microbiome.

Several previous studies have identified microbiome differences between MS patients and healthy people, but new studies by teams at the University of California, San Francisco and the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany have identified how the different gut microbiome may play a role.

In the University of California study, led by geneticist Sergio Baranzini, two genera of bacteria, Acinetobacter and Akkermansia, were found to be four times more abundant in MS patients than healthy people.

They also showed that a genus of bacterium called Parabacteroides is four times more abundant in healthy people than MS patients.
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Fitbit's Ionic to offer glucose monitoring for diabetics

Fitbit's Ionic to offer glucose monitoring for diabetics | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Launched late last month, Fitbit's Ionic is the company's attempt at claiming some territory from smartwatch heavyweights like Apple and Garmin. Now the feature-packed wearable is set to gain a handy new piece of functionality, with the ability to display glucose levels on the user's wrist.
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Dual studies suggest high-fat, low-carb diet improves memory and lifespan

Dual studies suggest high-fat, low-carb diet improves memory and lifespan | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Are carbs the new fat? For much of the second half of the 20th century, doctors constantly suggested we avoid high-fat foods, but more recently a new target for our dietary scorn has emerged: carbohydrates. Two new companion studies are suggesting a ketogenic diet – high fat, low protein, and low carbohydrates – could enhance memory, improve physical strength and extend lifespan.

Whether you want to call it the Atkin's Diet, Paleo or simply "Keto," there have been plenty of variations on this way of eating. While some diets suggest no carbohydrates or sugars, many are underwritten by the same theory. The idea is that by severely restricting the body's intake of carbohydrates, a state known as ketosis is entered into. This forces the body to burn stored fats as fuel instead of carbohydrates.

A ketogenic diet certainly does result in weight loss, at least in the short term, but the long-term health effects of this kind of eating have long been cause for controversy among scientists.
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Sleep-boosting cells turn off neurons that keep us awake - Futurity

Sleep-boosting cells turn off neurons that keep us awake - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers have found a type of neuron in the brains of mice that appears to play a major part in promoting sleep by “turning off” other neurons meant to promote wakefulness.

The newly identified brain cells, located in a part of the hypothalamus called the zona incerta, the researchers say, could offer novel drug targets to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, caused by the dysfunction of sleep-regulating neurons.

A summary of the research, which appears in the journal Nature, describes neurons that express a gene called Lhx6. Lhx6-expressing cells had not been observed in this area of the brain before and appear to connect the zona incerta to areas of the brain that control sleep and wakefulness.

“Because the hypothalamus is an ancient system that was relatively well-conserved in evolution from fish to humans, understanding its genetics and chemistry in mice should advance our knowledge of what happens in people’s brains,” says Seth Blackshaw, a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s lead author.

Lhx6 is a gene that is essential for the formation of neurons that inhibit other neurons. “We know cells in other regions of the brain use Lhx6 and that the gene is vital for these areas to develop properly. For example, disrupting Lhx6 expression can result in many diseases, including severe epilepsy,” says Blackshaw. The known function of this gene in other cells led the researchers to study whether the Lhx6-expressing neurons played a role in inhibiting wake-promoting neurons.
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New camera can see through human body - BBC News

New camera can see through human body - BBC News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body.

The device has been designed to help doctors track medical tools, known as endoscopes, during internal examinations.

Until now, medics have had to rely on expensive scans, such as X-rays, to trace their progress.

The new camera works by detecting light sources inside the body, such as the illuminated tip of the endoscope's long flexible tube.

Prof Kev Dhaliwal, of the University of Edinburgh, said: "It has immense potential for diverse applications, such as the one described in this work.

"The ability to see a device's location is crucial for many applications in healthcare, as we move forwards with minimally invasive approaches to treating disease."
'Tissues and organs'

Early tests have shown the prototype device can track a point light source through 20cm of tissue under normal conditions.

Beams from the endoscope can pass through the body, but usually scatter or bounce off tissues and organs rather than travelling straight through.

That makes it problematic to get a clear picture of where the tool is.

The new camera can detect individual particles, called photons, and is so sensitive it can catch tiny traces of light passing through tissue.

It can also record the time taken for light to pass through the body, meaning the device is able to work out exactly where the endoscope is.

Researchers have developed the new camera so it can be used at the patient's bedside.
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Metformin could be the first FDA approved antiaging drug | NextBigFuture.com

Metformin could be the first FDA approved antiaging drug | NextBigFuture.com | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
For the last two decades, researchers started comparing the health of diabetics on metformin to those taking other diabetes drugs.

Metformin-takers tended to be healthier in all sorts of ways. They lived longer and had fewer cardiovascular events, and in at least some studies they were less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most surprising of all, they seemed to get cancer far less frequently—as much as 25 to 40 percent less than diabetics taking two other popular medications. When they did get cancer, they tended to outlive diabetics with cancer who were taking other medications.

Lewis Cantley, the director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, once put it, “Metformin may have already saved more people from cancer deaths than any drug in history.” Nobel laureate James Watson (of DNA-structure fame), who takes metformin off-label for cancer prevention, once suggested that the drug appeared to be “our only real clue into the business” of fighting the disease.

Metformin is from an ancient herb and the herb has been prescribed since medieval times. Metformin can cost 5 cents per pill.
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The concept of schizophrenia is coming to an end – here's why

The concept of schizophrenia is coming to an end – here's why | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The concept of schizophrenia is dying. Harried for decades by psychology, it now appears to have been fatally wounded by psychiatry, the very profession that once sustained it. Its passing will not be mourned.

Today, having a diagnosis of schizophrenia is associated with a life-expectancy reduction of nearly two decades. By some criteria, only one in seven people recover. Despite heralded advances in treatments, staggeringly, the proportion of people who recover hasn’t increased over time. Something is profoundly wrong.

Part of the problem turns out to be the concept of schizophrenia itself.

Arguments that schizophrenia is a distinct disease have been “fatally undermined”. Just as we now have the concept of autism spectrum disorder, psychosis (typically characterised by distressing hallucinations, delusions, and confused thoughts) is also argued to exist along a continuum and in degrees. Schizophrenia is the severe end of a spectrum or continuum of experiences.

Jim van Os, a professor of psychiatry at Maastricht University, has argued that we cannot shift to this new way of thinking without changing our language. As such, he proposes the term schizophrenia “should be abolished”. In its place, he suggests the concept of a psychosis spectrum disorder.
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Scientists Are Finally Set to Mass-Produce The Active Compound Found in Magic Mushrooms

Scientists Are Finally Set to Mass-Produce The Active Compound Found in Magic Mushrooms | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
For nearly 60 years scientists have known the chemical responsible for magic mushrooms' psychedelic reputation is a compound called psilocybin. What we haven't known is the biochemical pathway behind this famous hallucinogen.

Feel free to now tick that one off your chemistry bucket-list. German researchers have identified four key enzymes involved in making the chemical, potentially setting the stage for mass production of a promising pharmaceutical.

Psilocybin was first identified by the Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann way back in 1959, but has only recently re-entered the spotlight as a safe way to treat conditions related to anxiety, depression, and addiction.

As the evidence mounts, there could be a need for an efficient way to synthesise the compound for experimentation and mass production.

So a small team of researchers from Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany sequenced the genomes of the magic mushroom species Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe cyanescens to hunt for the biochemical components responsible for constructing this mind-bending molecule.

They had their suspicions, as early work on the molecule's biosynthesis using radioactive tags had already revealed the order of the steps required to turn a molecule of tryptophan - an essential amino acid - into a series of chemicals, ending up with psilocybin.

While the order is a little different than it first appeared, it turns out four enzymes are responsible for the entire process.

Knowing what these enzymes are as well as the genes that encode them is a boon for any future pharmacologist who might want to churn out buckets of the stuff, or tweak the secret recipe to suit their needs.

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One Drop: The data-driven approach to managing diabetes

One Drop: The data-driven approach to managing diabetes | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Diabetes is a data-driven disease, with patients suddenly finding themselves inundated with information that they need to measure, monitor and record to stay healthy. But in an age of algorithms that could lighten the load, diabetes care still largely relies on patients manually keeping track of everything themselves. The One Drop system is designed to let people manage their diabetes through an integrated app, smart meter and supplies service. New Atlas spoke to the company's founder, Jeffrey Dachis, to find out how it works.

At a glance, One Drop seems like what you'd expect diabetes care to be like in the modern day. It includes a lancet device to draw blood, a glucose meter that sends test results to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and an app that ties everything together. Users can sync information from fitness trackers, monitor their data over time, and easily share it with their doctor.

But as obvious as it sounds, this kind of modern data management system hadn't been applied to diabetes care before. Patients are generally expected to jot down their readings, or at best, enter them manually into an app. Managing the condition requires a lot of legwork, but time isn't the only thing diabetes drains from a person: as Dachis found out firsthand, it takes a massive mental toll that many doctors all but ignore.
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Fighting negative emotions can make you feel worse - Futurity

Fighting negative emotions can make you feel worse - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Embracing negative emotions can make you feel better, while pressure to be positive can actually make you feel worse, new research suggests.

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” says study senior author Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley.

At this point, researchers can only speculate on why accepting your joyless emotions can defuse them, like dark clouds passing swiftly in front of the sun and out of sight.

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention,” Mauss says. “And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The study, which appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tested the link between emotional acceptance and psychological health in more than 1,300 adults in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Denver, Colorado, metropolitan area.
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Why haven't we evolved immortality? The answer is in our genes

If evolution works by selecting for the most advantageous genes, it begs the question: why haven't we evolved immortality? According to a decades-old hypothesis, certain genes that promote reproductive success also promote aging later in life, and now a study from Johannes Gutenberg University has identified some of these genes. The team also found that switching off those genes dramatically extended the lifespan of worms.

Getting old and dying is a natural part of life, but that doesn't mean we aren't interested in slowing or stopping it. There's a huge body of science dedicated to fighting aging at the genetic level, to find ways to extend not just our lifespan but our "healthspan" – the percentage of our lives in which we enjoy good health. There's not much point living to 110 if we spend our last 30 years completely bedridden.

But why hasn't evolution already done the heavy lifting for us? Individuals with traits that help them live longer are more likely to pass on their genes, so in theory, aging should have been entirely weeded out by now. To explain this apparent contradiction, in the 1950s biologist George Williams proposed the theory of antagonistic pleiotropy (AP), which operates on the principle of "benefit now, pay later." Essentially, the idea goes that evolution would select for genes that improve an individual's reproductive success in youth, and ignore any negative repercussions later in life because the genes have already been passed onto the next generation.

Williams' theory has since been backed up mathematically, and its effects can be seen in nature, but direct evidence had proven elusive. To test the idea, the Johannes Gutenberg team screened the genes of a worm species called C. elegans, and identified 30 genes that seem to fit the AP bill, helping in youth but turning against the animals in old age.
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Walking DNA nanorobot could deliver a drug to a precise location in your body | KurzweilAI

Walking DNA nanorobot could deliver a drug to a precise location in your body | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

DNA nanorobot cargo carrier (artist's impression) (credit: Ella Maru Studio)


 Caltech scientists have developed a “cargo sorting” DNA nanorobot programmed to autonomously “walk” around a surface, pick up certain molecules, and drop them off in designated locations. The research is described in a paper in the Friday, September 15, 2017 issue of Science. The major advance in this study is “their methodology for designing simple DNA devices that work in parallel to solve nontrivial tasks,” notes Duke University computer scientist John H. Reif in an article in the same issue of Science. Such tasks could include synthesizing a drug in a molecular factory or delivering a drug only when a specific signal is present in bloodstreams, say the researchers. “So far, the development of DNA robots has been limited to simple functions,” the researchers note.

The DNA nanorobot, intended as a proof of concept, has a “leg” with two “feet” for walking, and an “arm” and “hand” for picking up cargo. It also has a segment that can recognize a specific drop-off point and signal to the hand to release its cargo. Each of these building blocks are made of just a few nucleotides (molecules that form DNA) within a single strand of DNA.* As the robot encounters cargo molecules tethered to pegs, it grabs them with its “hand” components and carries them around (with a 6-nm step size) until it detects the signal of the drop-off point.

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Getting up every 30 minutes could help you live longer

Research continues to show that sitting down all day is bad for our health (indeed, countless standing desks have launched on the back of this knowledge), but for many, sedentary periods are simply a fact of working life. A wide-ranging new study suggests that regularly splitting up this sitting time can make a difference, with those that do so experiencing a lower risk of death.

"We tend to think of sedentary behavior as just the sheer volume of how much we sit around each day," said Keith Diaz, PhD, associate research scientist in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and lead investigator of the study. "But previous studies have suggested that sedentary patterns – whether an individual accrues sedentary time through several short stretches or fewer long stretches of time – may have an impact on health."

To explore this theory further, Diaz and his fellow researchers tapped into data collected by hip-mounted activity trackers worn by 7,895 adults over the age of 45. The subjects were black and white and were taking part in a US-wide national investigation on racial and regional influences on stroke. This new study is said to be the largest objectively linking sedentary time and patterns with mortality risk.
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Breakthrough: Diagnosing Alzheimer's with diamonds

Breakthrough: Diagnosing Alzheimer's with diamonds | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
One of the most confounding aspects of Alzheimer's Disease is our inability to diagnose the condition with certainty until after death. Now, researchers at Lancaster University (LU) in England are claiming a breakthrough in identifying the disease, even in its early stages, using a sensor embedded with a diamond. The hope is that using the device for early detection will improve the quality and length of life for those afflicted by the disease.

In what the university is calling "the largest and most conclusive study of its kind," LU researchers built a sensor with a diamond core measuring about 2-ft (0.6 m) square, which was attached to a computer. They then analyzed about 550 blood plasma samples from healthy individuals as well as those diagnosed with Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Infrared light was passed first through the diamond and then through the sample while the researchers took note of the "fingerprint spectrum" that was produced.

LU professor Francis Martin, principal investigator of the study, explained to New Atlas that by observing the way in which light is absorbed in the sample, the diamond-based analysis could distinguish between various chemical bonds such as those indicative of lipids, proteins, DNA, glycogen, and more.
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Biologists beat back death in fruit flies. Humans next?

Biologists beat back death in fruit flies. Humans next? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have figured out a way to extend the life of female fruit flies by 20 percent by manipulating what the school has called a "cellular time machine." The biologists who carried out the work are hopeful that their findings will have implications for human aging and help fight off age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The researchers focused on mitochondria, tiny structures that act a bit like digestive organs inside our cells. These "cellular power plants" take the chemicals and oxygen in our systems provided through food and respiration, and convert them into a molecule known as ATP, which the cell can then use as food. When mitochondria age however, they can become damaged and build up in the body, creating a toxic environment conducive to disease formation.

In the research, UCLA biologists studied the mitochondria in fruit flies and figured out that as the insects reach middle age – which, for a fruit fly, is about one month old – their mitochondria change shape, making it tough for their cells to clear them out when the organelles are no longer functioning properly.
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'Pen' identifies cancer in 10 seconds - BBC News

'Pen' identifies cancer in 10 seconds - BBC News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A handheld device can identify cancerous tissue in 10 seconds, according to scientists at the University of Texas.

They say it could make surgery to remove a tumour quicker, safer and more precise.

And they hope it would avoid the "heartbreak" of leaving any of the cancer behind.

Tests, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest the technology is accurate 96% of the time.

The MasSpec Pen takes advantage of the unique metabolism of cancer cells.

Their furious drive to grow and spread means their internal chemistry is very different to that of healthy tissue.
How it works

The pen is touched on to a suspected cancer and releases a tiny droplet of water.

Chemicals inside the living cells move into the droplet, which is then sucked back up the pen for analysis.

The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer - a piece of kit that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second.

It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer.

The challenge for surgeons is finding the border between the cancer and normal tissue.

In some tumours it is obvious, but in others the boundary between healthy and diseased tissue can be blurred.

The pen should help doctors ensure none of the cancer is left behind.

Remove too little tissue, and any remaining cancerous cells will grow into another tumour. But take too much, and you can cause damage, particularly in organs such as the brain.

Livia Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin, told the BBC: "What's exciting about this technology is how clearly it meets a clinical need.

"The tool is elegant and simple and can be in the hands of surgeons in a short time."
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Why being aware of your mortality can be good for you

Why being aware of your mortality can be good for you | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Nobody likes to think about lying on their death bed. From health anxiety to midlife crises, it seems like thoughts about ageing and death can often unleash some level of neurosis. But is that the whole story? We have examined mortality awareness – the realisation that we are all one day going to die – and found that, although the prospect of death is often scary, it can also have positive effects.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research on death awareness so far has focused largely on the negative aspects of realising that we will eventually stop living. Indeed, until now, the dominant psychological theory has been “terror management theory”, which assumes that contemplating our demise invokes fear and anxiety. For example, studies using this framework have found that thinking about death can make us more punitive and prejudiced.

However, throughout the years, literature from various fields has offered other explanations. For example, “positive psychology” proposes concepts such as “post-traumatic growth” – the idea that people can grow psychologically through traumatic experiences. Thinking about the fact that we will die may be hard, but according to this theory it could also help us to get stronger psychologically.
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A Brilliant New Cancer Treatment That Re-Engineers Human Cells Just Got Approved

A Brilliant New Cancer Treatment That Re-Engineers Human Cells Just Got Approved | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a cutting-edge cancer therapy.

On Wednesday, the FDA approved Novartis's Kymriah, also known as tisagenlecleucel, a treatment for pediatric acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia.

"I think this is most exciting thing I've seen in my lifetime," Dr. Tim Cripe, an oncologist who was part of the FDA advisory committee panel that voted in favour of approving the drug in July.

The highly personalised treatment is called CAR T-cell therapy. It's a type of cancer immunotherapy — or a therapy that harnesses the body's immune system to take on cancer cells.

"We're entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient's own cells to attack a deadly cancer," FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

"New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses. At the FDA, we're committed to helping expedite the development and review of groundbreaking treatments that have the potential to be life-saving."

Short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, CAR-T treatment takes a person's own cells, removes them from the body, re-engineers them, and then puts the cells back in the body where they can attack cancer cells.
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99 percent of microbes in your body are completely unknown to science

99 percent of microbes in your body are completely unknown to science | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Whenever you feel lonely, just remember: you're always carrying several hundred trillion friends with you. A dizzying number of microbes call the human body home, and it turns out that science knows very little about most of them. In fact, a new Stanford survey of the foreign DNA fragments circulating in the human body has found that 99 percent of microbes inside us are completely unknown to science.

The discovery was initially made by accident, as a team investigated less invasive ways to predict whether a patient's body would reject a transplanted organ. Rather than the wholly unpleasant experience of having a tissue biopsy taken, the researchers were studying whether a simple blood sample would suffice. Essentially, the idea was that if they found fragments of the organ donor's DNA circulating in a patient's blood, it was a good indication that the body was rejecting the transplant.

Along with the patient's DNA and potentially that of the organ donor, the technique gives an insight into that person's microbiome – the trillions of bacteria, viruses and other microbes that live throughout the body. Of all the non-human DNA floating around in there, the team found that a staggering 99 percent didn't match anything in existing genetic databases.

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The Supplement Industry Is Barely Regulated And It's Endangering Actual Lives

The Supplement Industry Is Barely Regulated And It's Endangering Actual Lives | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
When Pouya Jamshidi, a resident at Weill Cornell Medical College, delivered his first baby, the doctor on call told him to take the newborn away from its mother.

The baby, a healthy girl with mocha-pink skin and a powerful set of lungs, was being quarantined.

In the middle of the pregnancy, her mother had come down with tuberculosis. She'd contracted the contagious lung infection in her teens, and the illness came back despite preventative antibiotics and regular screenings. The cause: a popular herbal supplement called St. John's wort.

"The trouble is most people don't consider it a medication because you don't need a prescription for it, and so she didn't tell us," Jamshidi told Business Insider.

St. John's wort is one of the most popular herbal supplements sold in the United States. But in 2000, the National Institutes of Health published a study showing that St. John's wort could severely curb the effectiveness of several important pharmaceutical drugs - including antibiotics, birth control, and antiretrovirals for infections like HIV - by speeding up their breakdown in the body.

"It basically overmetabolised the antibiotics so they weren't in her system in the correct dose," Jamshidi said.

The findings on St. John's wort prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to warn doctors about the herbal remedy. But that did little to stem public sale or consumption of it.
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The New Science of Sex and Gender

The New Science of Sex and Gender | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Sex is supposed to be simple—at least at the molecular level. The biological explanations that appear in textbooks amount to X + X = ♀ and X + Y = ♂. Venus or Mars, pink or blue. As science looks more closely, however, it becomes increasingly clear that a pair of chromosomes do not always suffice to distinguish girl/boy—either from the standpoint of sex (biological traits) or of gender (social identity).

In the cultural realm, this shift in perspective has already received a wide embrace. “Nonbinary” definitions of gender—transfeminine, genderqueer, hijra—have entered the vernacular. Less visible perhaps are the changes taking place in the biological sciences. The emerging picture that denotes “girlness” or “boyness” reveals the involvement of complex gene networks—and the entire process appears to extend far beyond a specific moment six weeks after gestation when the gonads begin to form.

To varying extents, many of us are biological hybrids on a male-female continuum. Researchers have found XY cells in a 94-year-old woman, and surgeons discovered a womb in a 70-year-old man, a father of four. New evidence suggests that the brain consists of a “mosaic” of cell types, some more yin, others further along the yang scale.
These findings have far-reaching implications beyond just updating the biology textbooks. They have particular bearing on issues of personal identity, health and the economic well-being of women. That is because arguments about innate biological differences between the sexes have persisted long past the time they should have been put to rest.
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Why we fell for clean eating

Why we fell for clean eating | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. “Not cool” was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a “gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan”. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a “wellness” blogger in New York City, one of thousands on Instagram (where she had 70,000 followers) rallying under the hashtag #eatclean. Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, Younger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day “cleanse” programme – a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.

But the “clean” diet that Younger was selling as the route to health was making its creator sick. Far from being super-healthy, she was suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an obsession with consuming only foods that are pure and perfect. Younger’s raw vegan diet had caused her periods to stop and given her skin an orange tinge from all the sweet potato and carrots she consumed (the only carbohydrates she permitted herself). Eventually, she sought psychological help, and began to slowly widen the repertoire of foods she would allow herself to eat, starting with fish. She recognised that the problem was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed on herself.

As Younger slowly recovered from her eating disorder, she faced a new dilemma. “What would people think”, she agonised, “if they knew the Blonde Vegan was eating fish?” She levelled with her followers in a blogpost entitled Why I’m Transitioning Away from Veganism. Within hours of announcing her new diet, Younger was receiving irate messages from vegans demanding money back from the cleanse programmes and T-shirts they had bought from her site (featuring slogans such as “OH KALE YES”).
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