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Exercise in a Pill? The Search Continues

Exercise in a Pill? The Search Continues | The future of medicine and health |

Two newly published studies investigate the enticing possibility that we might one day be able to gain the benefits of exercise by downing a pill, rather than by actually sweating. But while some of the research holds out promise for an effective workout pill, there remains the question of whether such a move is wise.

Via Szabolcs Kósa
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New 'light meter' discovered in the eye - Futurity

New 'light meter' discovered in the eye - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
The cornea is a light-sensitive tissue, according to new research. The findings add to past work proving the retina senses light as part of its role in synchronizing our body clocks to Earth’s cycle of light and darkness.

“Many interesting testable hypotheses follow from this finding,” says ophthalmologist Russell Van Gelder.

“Now we know that people have more photo sensors in their eye and body than was previously guessed, but the speculation of what comes next might be the most exciting aspect of this,” says Van Gelder, director of the University of Washington Medicine’s Eye Institute. He is a co-lead of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study’s most compelling finding is that neuropsin, a protein in the retina and cornea whose function in mammals was previously unknown, can sense light. Retinas and corneas kept in tissue culture could synchronize their daily rhythms to a light-dark cycle; retinas and corneas that lacked neuropsin could not do so.

This is an enticing result because neuropsin is also expressed in the skin and other parts of the body.
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Your body makes its own cannabis when you run (Wired UK)

Your body makes its own cannabis when you run (Wired UK) | The future of medicine and health |
Researchers have discovered that the "runner's high", usually attributed to endorphins -- the body's self-produced opiates -- may actually be caused by endocannabinoids, self-produced chemicals similar to those found in marijuana.

A new study by researchers at the University of Heidelberg medical school in Germany found that mice showed elevated levels of both endorphins and endocannabinoids after running, an activity they engage in for fun. The researchers also observed that mice were less sensitive to pain, less anxious and more tranquil after running, shown by their willingness to spend time in lighted areas of their cages rather than retreating to dark corners.

When the team used drugs to block the animals' endocannabinoid receptors, the mice were no longer relaxed after running, proving to be just as anxious as before their runs and very sensitive to pain. Blocking opioid receptors, on the other hand, didn't affect the creatures' post-run tranquillity.

But internal opioid receptors appear to play at least some role in the motivation to get on a treadmill or pound the pavement. A paper by a team from the University of Missouri describes findings which show that chemically activating the dopamine-releasing mu-opiod receptors of rats bred to love running makes them less inclined to exercise, demonstrating a direct link between the receptors and the urge to run. The team also found that shutting off the receptors entirely reduced activity in the rats, although not to the same degree.
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Gene magnifies the psychological impact of life events -- for better and for worse

Gene magnifies the psychological impact of life events -- for better and for worse | The future of medicine and health |
People with a certain type of gene are more deeply affected by their life experiences, a new study has revealed.

The findings challenge traditional thinking about depression, showing what might be considered a risk gene for depression in one context, may actually be beneficial in another.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne were interested in why some, but not all adults who have experienced sexual or physical abuse as children go on to develop long-term depression.

The research, published in British Journal of Psychiatry Open focussed on a particular gene, known as SERT, that transports the mood-regulating chemical, serotonin. Every person has one of three types of SERT gene, either the long-long (l/l), the short-long (s/l), or the short-short (s/s).

The team DNA tested 333 middle-aged Victorians of Northern and Western European ancestry. They recorded their depressive symptoms each year over a five-year period.

Those with the s/s genotype (23%) who had experienced sexual or physical abuse as a child were more likely to experience ongoing severe depressive symptoms in middle age. But, conversely, those with this same genotype but no history of abuse were happier than the rest of the population.

Researchers from the Departments of Psychiatry and General Practice at the University of Melbourne, say the findings challenge traditional thinking about depression.

In the future, the gene could signal a person’s susceptibility to depression, particularly if they have a history of child abuse. And it may help doctors identify patients who need extra assistance to recover from depression.

Lead investigator Dr Chad Bousman said while the relationship between the SERT gene and depression has been studied before, it has never been examined over time.

Tracking this relationship over five years provides insights on changes in depressive symptoms over time and evidence that these symptoms in some people are more affected by their life experiences.
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Scientists are working on an “exercise pill” so you never have to work out again

Imagine if, instead of sweating on the treadmill and forcing yourself through repetitive sit-ups, you could have the benefits of exercise without any of the effort. That scenario isn’t a ridiculous fantasy but a serious scientific goal, and researchers have recently published a major breakthrough: They have created a blueprint of the molecular reactions to exercise.

The findings, published in Cell Metabolism on Oct. 2, show that exercise causes 1,000 molecular changes in skeletal muscles. Dr. Nolan Hoffman, an author of the study and a research associate at the School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney, says that the goal is to identify the most important changes, so that these can be replicated using drugs.

“We’ve created an exercise blueprint that lays the foundation for future treatments, and the end goal is to mimic the effects of exercise,” he tells Quartz from Sydney. “It’s long been thought that there were many signals elicited by exercise, but we were the first to create this map and we now know the complexity.”

Researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Copenhagen worked together on the study, which used a technique called mass spectrometry to study the protein changes in skeletal muscle after exercise.

Four healthy males had a muscle biopsy before exercise, then rode an exercise bicycle as hard as they could for 10 minutes, and finally gave a second sample of muscle. Their samples were shipped to Sydney, where they were examined.

“We were definitely very thankful to these individuals, who not only gave their muscle samples to science but also before and after such a high intensity bout of exercise,” says Hoffman.
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Is the chilli pepper friend or foe? - BBC News

Is the chilli pepper friend or foe? - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
For thousands of years, humans have taken a masochistic pleasure from adding chilli to their food. Now research indicates that the spice that has undoubtedly made our lives more interesting may also make them longer.

There is only one mammal that enthusiastically eats chillies.

"Humans come into the Western hemisphere about 20,000 years ago," says Paul Bosland from New Mexico State University. "And they come into contact with a plant that gives them pain - it hurts them. Yet five separate times, chilli peppers were domesticated in the Western hemisphere because humans found some usefulness - and I think it was their medicinal use."

The potential for both health and harm has always been a defining characteristic of chilli peppers, and among scientists, doctors and nutritionists it remains a matter of some dispute which prevails.

A huge study, published this summer in the British Medical Journal, seemed to indicate that a diet filled with spices - including chillies - was beneficial for health.

A team at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences tracked the health of nearly half a million participants in China for several years. They found that participants who said they ate spicy food once or twice a week had a mortality rate 10% lower than those who ate spicy food less than once a week. Risk of death reduced still further for hot-heads who ate spicy food six or seven days a week.

Chilli peppers were the most commonly used spice among the sample, and those who ate fresh chilli had a lower risk of death from cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes.
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How Your Brain Is Wired Reveals the Real You

How Your Brain Is Wired Reveals the Real You | The future of medicine and health |
The brain’s wiring patterns can shed light on a person’s positive and negative traits, researchers report in Nature Neuroscience. The finding, published on September 28, is the first from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), an international effort to map active connections between neurons in different parts of the brain.

The HCP, which launched in 2010 at a cost of US$40 million, seeks to scan the brain networks, or connectomes, of 1,200 adults. Among its goals is to chart the networks that are active when the brain is idle; these are thought to keep the different parts of the brain connected in case they need to perform a task.

In April, a branch of the project led by one of the HCP's co-chairs, biomedical engineer Stephen Smith at the University of Oxford, UK, released a database of resting-state connectomes from about 460 people between 22 and 35 years old. Each brain scan is supplemented by information on approximately 280 traits, such as the person's age, whether they have a history of drug use, their socioeconomic status and personality traits, and their performance on various intelligence tests.
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These artificial teeth are as tough as real ones - Futurity

These artificial teeth are as tough as real ones - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Few structures in nature are more durable than teeth or seashells. The secret of these materials lies in their unique fine structure: They are composed of different layers in which numerous micro-platelets are joined together, aligned in identical orientation.

Now scientists have combined old and new technologies to construct artificial teeth that mimic the complex structure of natural teeth.

André Studart, a professor of complex materials at ETH Zurich, led the team that created the teeth using a technique called magnetically assisted slip casting (MASC).

“The wonderful thing about our new procedure is that it builds on a 100-year-old technique and combines it with modern material research,” says Studart’s doctoral student Tobias Niebel, coauthor of a paper describing the work published in the journal Nature Materials.
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Blindsight: the strangest form of consciousness

Blindsight: the strangest form of consciousness | The future of medicine and health |
When Daniel first walked into London’s National Hospital, ophthalmologist Michael Sanders could have had little idea that he would permanently alter our view of human consciousness.

Daniel turned up saying that he was half blind. Although he had healthy eyes, a brain operation to cure headaches seemed to have destroyed a region that was crucial for vision. The result was that almost everything to the left of his nose was invisible to him. It was as if he were looking out of a window, with the curtains drawn across half of his world.

And yet, as Sanders began testing him, he noticed something very strange: Daniel could reach out and grab Sanders’ hand, even when it must have fallen right behind his blind spot. It was as if some kind of “second sight” was guiding his behaviour, beyond his conscious awareness.

Intrigued, Sanders referred Daniel to the psychologists Elizabeth Warrington and Lawrence Weiskrantz, who confirmed the hunch with a series of clever tests. They placed a screen in front of Daniel’s blind spot, for instance, and asked him to point at a circle, when it appeared in different places. Daniel was adamant that he could not see a thing, but Weiskrantz persuaded him to just “take a guess”. Surprisingly, he was almost always right. Or Weiskrantz and Warrington would present a single line on the screen, and Daniel had to decide whether it was horizontal or vertical. Again, Daniel was adamant that nothing had appeared before his eyes, yet his accuracy was around 80%, much more than if he had been guessing randomly.
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To treat obesity, consider 100 trillion gut bugs - Futurity

To treat obesity, consider 100 trillion gut bugs - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A drug that appears to target specific intestinal bacteria in mice may lead to new treatments for obesity and diabetes in humans.

Mice fed a high-fat diet and provided tempol, an antioxidant drug that may also help protect people from the effects of radiation, were significantly less obese than those that did not receive the drug.

“The two interesting findings are that the mice that received tempol didn’t gain as much weight and the tempol somehow impacted the gut microbiome of these mice,” says Andrew Patterson, assistant professor of molecular toxicology at Penn State.

“Eventually, we hope that this can lead to a new line of therapeutics to treat obesity and diabetes.”

The microbiome is the biological environment of microorganisms within the human body.

Tempol reduces some members of a bacteria—a genus of Lactobacillus—in the guts of mice. When the Lactobacillus levels decrease, a bile acid—tauro-beta-muricholic acid—increases. This inhibits FXR, farnesoid X receptor, which regulates the metabolism of bile acids, fats, and glucose in the body.

“The study suggests that inhibiting FXR in the intestine might be a potential target for anti-obesity drugs,” says Frank J. Gonzalez, laboratory metabolism chief of the National Cancer Institute.

Tempol may help treat type 2 diabetes symptoms. In addition to lower weight gain, the tempol-treated mice on a high-fat diet had lower blood glucose and insulin levels.

“Previously, Dr. (James) Mitchell observed a significant difference in weight gain in mice on tempol-containing diet,” Patterson says. “He approached us to help figure out what was going on, and it had been an interesting journey wading through the complexities of the microbiome.”

Mitchell is radiation biology branch chief at the National Cancer Institute.

Other studies have hinted at the relationship between tempol, the gut microbiome, and obesity, but did not focus on why the drug seemed to control weigh gain, Patterson says.
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Fidgeting Can Cancel Out the Bad Effects of Sitting All Day

Fidgeting Can Cancel Out the Bad Effects of Sitting All Day | The future of medicine and health |
Finally, some good news for those of us who sit for a living

Sitting is basically the new smoking.

An ever-growing body of research is showing that being sedentary and sitting for long periods of time are linked to poor health consequences, including a laundry list of risks for conditions ranging from obesity to heart disease. Even exercising doesn’t make up for the negative health effects of being stuck in your seat.

But before you beg your boss for a standing desk, a new study suggests that moving a little throughout the day—also known as fidgeting—can actually counteract the problems that come with sitting for extended periods of time.

The new study, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that women who sat for long periods of time have a lower mortality rate if they considered themselves moderately to very fidgety, compared to women who said they only fidgeted occasionally. Women who sat for long periods of time without fidgeting had an increased risk of death that wasn’t seen among other groups. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, the researchers didn’t find a difference in mortality risk between women who sat more versus those who were more active—as long as the sitters were fidgety.
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Machine learning algorithms could predict breast cancer treatment responses

Machine learning algorithms could predict breast cancer treatment responses | The future of medicine and health |
Different patients with the same type of cancer can have different responses to the same medication, which leaves doctors in a tough spot: how do they know which treatment will have the best response? If they get it right, their patient may enter remission; but if they're wrong the patient's health will deteriorate. Now researchers at Western University might have the answer. They developed machine learning algorithms – a branch of artificial intelligence – that crunch genetic data to determine the most likely treatment response and allow more personalized treatment regimens.

"Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool for predicting drug outcomes because it looks at the sum of all the interacting genes," said lead researcher Peter Rogan. "The earlier we treat a patient with the most effective medication, the more likely we can effectively treat or possibly even cure that patient."

The researchers used a set of 40 genes that are found in 90 per cent of breast cancer tumors for their analysis of data from cell lines and tumor tissue samples from around 350 cancer patients who were treated with at least one of the two chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and gemcitabine.

They then set their computers to work crunching the data and identifying associations between the drug and patient genes. Their machine learning tool managed to predict gemcitabine resistance and paclitaxel sensitivity with 84 per cent accuracy, paclitaxel resistance with 82 per cent accuracy, and gemcitabine response (i.e. remission or not) with 62 to 71 per cent accuracy.

The researchers now plan to refine their algorithms and feed the system more data to improve the predictions.
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Stunning Map Shows Pathogens Hopping Between Species

Stunning Map Shows Pathogens Hopping Between Species | The future of medicine and health |
You and your adorable cat share not only hugs and kisses but also a few pathogens, according to a recent paper in Scientific Data. In this visualization, UK researchers mapped the overlapping relationships between infectious agents—parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi—and the hosts they mercilessly attack.

The bigger the dot, the more unique pathogens that attack only that species. So yeah, humans win that game. (Though it’s also likely that more pathogens have been identified for humans than for other species.) The lines connecting the dots shows that those species share at least one pathogen, and the thicker the line, the more they share.

In this case, the domestics—dogs, cats, cattle—seem to be the most generous with each other. And this map is yet more evidence that amphibians are complete aliens.
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Scientists seek permission to genetically modify embryos - BBC News

Scientists seek permission to genetically modify embryos - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
UK scientists are seeking permission to genetically modify human embryos for the first time.

Researchers at The Francis Crick Institute in London want to use a controversial genetic technique to carry out research into infertility.

The embryos would be destroyed after the research and not implanted into the womb.

The government's fertility watchdog said it had received the application, which would be looked at in due course.

In the UK, it is illegal to use gene editing of embryos in IVF treatment, but it is permissible for research purposes, under a licence.

"We have recently received an application to use Crispr/Cas9 (gene editing) in one of our licensed research projects, and it will be considered in due course," said a spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA).

When scientists in China announced they had genetically modified human embryos in a world first earlier this year, there was an outcry.

The embryos were never destined for use in IVF, but there were concerns the work could be a slippery slope towards designer babies.

The technique - known as gene editing - can make precise changes to DNA. But any alterations would be passed on to future generations if the embryos were ever to be used in human reproduction.

It would be illegal to do this under British law, although it is permissible to use the technique for research purposes, where the embryos are eventually destroyed. The Francis Crick Institute is the first to apply for a research license, making it something of a test case.

The researchers want to use the technique to look at the earliest stages of human development, in the hope of better understanding why some women have miscarriages.

The HFEA will now consider the application, but no decision is expected for some weeks or months. Most scientists agree that genome editing should not be used for reproductive purposes at present. But they say this is not a reason to block research.
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Open Bionics adds superhero appeal to prostheses for kids

Open Bionics adds superhero appeal to prostheses for kids | The future of medicine and health |
Historically, those born without a hand or have one amputated can choose prosthetic devices that focus on realism and, for a steeper price, fine motor control. Open Bionics has unveiled several new designs for the youngest of prosthesis owners, and paired small size with kid appeal. Swerving away from realism, these prostheses are literally modeled after superheroes. Calling these the world's smallest bionic hands, Open Bionics argues that for kids it transforms being different into being cool.

Yesterday, Open Bionics unveiled three LED-studded designs at Techstars' Disney Accelerator Demo Day. The Accelerator program offers capital to select startups, along with creative resources and royalty-free access to Disney characters.

A Jedi lightsaber hand was designed in collaboration with Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB and modeled by a 12-year-old boy. Two other designs emulated Tony Stark's signature bionic style and Elsa from Disney's Frozen with her characteristic baby blue sparkles.

The superhero prosthetic arm project is part of founder Joel Gibbard's larger vision of prostheses design. After he created the open source Open Hand Project, he began talking to prostheses users about what was most important to them in a prosthesis.

Through this process, he determined that people were more concerned with the weight and look of the prosthetic hand than the amount of fine motor control that it had. Many users additionally must rely on using a claw rather than a realistic hand due to the costs involved. This led him to change his focus to improving the aesthetics and reducing the weight of the artificial hand, envisioning a prosthesis as a tool or fashion accessory, rather than a literal interpretation of a human arm.

In this train of thought, a superhero prosthetic arm becomes the perfect accessory for a child. Gibbard relates seeing child amputees try to hide cosmetic hands (a prosthesis that isn't functional but merely decorative) because of a feeling of seeming different or refusing to wear one because of its heft. But a superhero-inspired prosthetic hand transforms a medical device into an imaginative statement.
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Chemistry Nobel: Lindahl, Modrich and Sancar win for DNA repair - BBC News

Chemistry Nobel: Lindahl, Modrich and Sancar win for DNA repair - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded for discoveries in DNA repair.

Tomas Lindahl and Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar were named as the winners on Wednesday morning at a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Their work uncovered the mechanisms used by cells to repair damaged DNA - a fundamental process in living cells and important in cancer.

Prof Lindahl is Swedish, but has worked in the UK for more than three decades.

The prize money of eight million Swedish kronor (£634,000; $970,000) will be shared among the winners.

"It was a surprise. I know that over the years I've occasionally been considered for a prize, but so have hundreds of other people. I feel lucky and proud to be selected today," Tomas Lindahl, from the UK's Francis Crick Institute, told journalists.

Claes Gustafsson, from the Nobel Committee, said the recipients had "explained the processes at the molecular level that guard the integrity of our genomes".
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Why Science Can’t Say When a Baby’s Life Begins

Why Science Can’t Say When a Baby’s Life Begins | The future of medicine and health |
Scott Gilbert was walking through the halls of Swarthmore when he saw the poster, from a campus religious group: “Philosophers and theologians have argued for centuries about when personhood begins,” it read. “But scientists know when it begins. It begins at fertilization.” What troubled Gilbert, who is a developmental biologist, was the assertion that “scientists know.” “I couldn’t say when personhood begins, but I can say with absolute certainty scientists don’t have a consensus,” he says.

When life begins is, of course, the central disagreement that fuels the controversy over abortion. Attacks on abortion rights are now more veiled and indirect—like secret videos pointing to Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donations, or state legislation that makes operating abortion clinics so onerous they have to shut down. But make no mistake, the ultimate question is, when does a fetus become a person—at fertilization, at birth, or somewhere in between?

Here, modern science offers no clarity. If anything, the past century of scientific advances have only made the answer more complicated. As scientists have peered into wombs with ultrasound and looked directly at sperm entering an egg, they’ve found that all the bright lines they thought existed dissolving.
The Quickening

Before ultrasounds and long before Roe v. Wade, it was obvious when life began. The “quickening,” the first time a woman felt her baby’s kick, was the moment the baby came alive, the moment it got a soul. When Henry VIII’s wife felt her quickening, it was cause for celebratory bonfires across London. In the 19th century, abortion in Britain was legal—until the quickening.

But the importance of the quickening—a concept that had been around since at least Aristotle—is now a relic. Before a mother can feel her baby kick, at around 20 weeks, she can already hear its heartbeat and see the blurry outline of its face with ultrasound. In a 2012 vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan explained his views on abortion by talking about seeing the bean shape of his unborn daughter on an ultrasound. He and his wife nicknamed her “Bean.” Ryan would later sponsor a bill for fetal personhood, which gives full legal rights to a zygote after fertilization.

In a way, science made possible the argument for fetal personhood. It’s only tenable because people can peer inside the womb, at one time a black box. Indeed, when American physicians began collecting humans embryos and charting embryonic development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they began considering fertilization as the beginning of fetal life. Around the same time, writes historian Sara Dubow in her book Ourselves Unborn: A History of the Fetus in Modern America, some physicians began to argue that abortion should be illegal. (Dubow declined to be interviewed for this story, citing concerns about being misquoted on abortion politics.)
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Cancer drug sharpens memory in rats - Futurity

Cancer drug sharpens memory in rats - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A drug commonly used to treat cancer may be a way to sharpen memory, make it easier to learn a language, and even help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers say when they gave the drug RGFP966 to rats, it made them more attuned to what they were hearing and more able to retain and remember information. The rats were also able to develop new connections that allowed memories to be transmitted between brain cells.

Their findings appear in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“Memory-making in neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease is often poor or absent altogether once a person is in the advanced stages of the disease,” says Kasia M. Bieszczad, assistant professor of behavioral and systems neuroscience at Rutgers University. “This drug could rescue the ability to make new memories that are rich in detail and content, even in the worst case scenarios.”
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3D printing lets surgeons learn to carve ears - Futurity

3D printing lets surgeons learn to carve ears - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
When surgical residents need to practice a complicated procedure to fashion a new ear for children without one, they typically grab a bar of soap, carrot, or an apple.

To treat children with a missing or under-developed ear, experienced surgeons harvest pieces of rib cartilage from the child and carve them into the framework of a new ear. They take only as much of that precious cartilage as they need.

That leaves medical residents without an authentic material to practice on, as vegetables are a pale substitute. Some use pig or adult cadaver ribs, but children’s ribs are a different size and consistency.

Now, researchers have used 3D printing to create a low-cost pediatric rib cartilage model that more closely resembles the feel of real cartilage and allows for realistic surgical practice. The innovation could open the door for aspiring surgeons to become proficient in the sought-after but challenging procedure.

Their results are described in an abstract presented this week at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery conference in Dallas, Texas.
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Russian scientist says he is stronger and healthier after injecting himself with 'eternal life' bacteria

Russian scientist says he is stronger and healthier after injecting himself with 'eternal life' bacteria | The future of medicine and health |
If injecting yourself with 3.5 million-year-old bacteria could keep you looking and feeling youthful and healthy without having to fork out for a gym membership, would you do it?

Russian scientist Anatoli Brouchkov, head of the Geocryology Department at Moscow State University, is looking for the key to eternal youth.

He has therefore become a human guinea pig for some bacteria that could perhaps hold the key to longevity.

The bacteria,named Bacillus F, is amazing because it has remained alive in the permafrost for millions of years.

Scientists have tested it on mice and human blood cells, but this wasn't enough for Mr. Brouchkov, who decided to inject himself with it.

"I started to work longer, I've never had a flu for the last two years," he said. "After successful experiments on mice and fruit flies, I thought it would be interesting to try the inactivated bacterial culture," he told The Siberian Times.

He didn't think there would be a danger, as the bacteria is actually in trace amounts in the water of the region.

The scientist said: "'Besides, the permafrost is thawing, and I guess these bacteria get into the environment, into the water, so the local population, the Yakut people, in fact, for a long time are getting these cells with water, and even seem to live longer than some other nations. So there was no danger for me."
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Can a 10-minute walk erase 6 hours of sitting? - Futurity

Can a 10-minute walk erase 6 hours of sitting? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Many office workers spend the majority of an eight-hour day sitting at their desks. New research suggests sitting for six straight hours can impair vascular function.

But walking for just 10 minutes can reverse the damage.

“It’s easy for all of us to be consumed by work and lose track of time, subjecting ourselves to prolonged periods of inactivity,” says Jaume Padilla, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri.

“However, our study found that when you sit for six straight hours, or the majority of an eight-hour work day, blood flow to your legs is greatly reduced. We also found that just 10 minutes of walking after sitting for an extended time reversed the detrimental consequences.”
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A Genomics Revolution: Evolution by Natural Selection to Evolution by Intelligent Direction - Singularity HUB

A Genomics Revolution: Evolution by Natural Selection to Evolution by Intelligent Direction - Singularity HUB | The future of medicine and health |
Humanity is moving from evolution by natural selection (Darwinism) to evolution by intelligent direction.

For most of human history, our average age was only about 26 years old.

We would procreate at age 13, live just long enough to help our children raise their children, and then, on average, die at age 26 (so we were no longer taking food from the mouths of our grandchildren).

It was through technological innovation — sanitation and germ theory — that we moved life expectancy from 26 to the mid 50s. Recently, because of modern medicine's progress in treating heart disease and cancer, we've bumped up today's global average human lifespan to 71 years.

But this is just the beginning.

Advances over the next 10 to 15 years will move life expectancy north of 100.

This post is about advances in reading, writing, and building elements of the human body.
Reading – Sequencing the Human Genome

Your genome is the software that runs your body.

It is composed of 3.2 billion "letters," or base pairs, that code for everything that makes you "you" — your hair color, your height, your personality, your propensity to disease, your lifespan, and so on.

Until recently, it's been very difficult to rapidly and cheaply "read" these letters and even more difficult to understand what they do.

In 2001, my friend and Human Longevity Inc. co-founder Dr. J. Craig Venter sequenced the first complete human genome. It took about a year and cost $100 million.

Since then, the cost to sequence a genome has been plummeting exponentially, outpacing Moore's Law by almost 3x (take a look at the graph below).
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The War Over Genome Editing Just Got a Lot More Interesting

The War Over Genome Editing Just Got a Lot More Interesting | The future of medicine and health |
If you want to drop some real DNA editing knowledge—like, I don’t know, at a party!—here’s a tip. Instead of calling the much hyped precise genome-editing tool CRISPR, call it CRISPR/Cas9. CRISPR, you see, just refers to stretches of repeating DNA that sit near the gene for Cas9, the actual protein that does the DNA editing.

Well, at least for now. Today, gene-editing scientists dropped some curious news: They’ve found a CRISPR system involving a different protein that also edits human DNA, and, in some cases, it may work even better than Cas9.

The discovery comes at a time when CRISPR/Cas9 is sweeping through biology labs. So revolutionary is this new genome editing technique that rival groups, who each claim to have been first to the tech, are bitterly fighting over the CRISPR/Cas9 patent. This new gene-editing protein called Cpf1—and maybe even others yet to be discovered—means that one patent may not be so powerful after all.

And there’s good reason to think more useful CRISPR proteins are out there. CRISPR sequences are a part of primordial immune systems, found in some 40 percent of bacteria and 90 percent of archaea. In a study published today in Cell, Feng Zhang (no relation to this writer) and colleagues trawled through bacterial genomes looking for different versions of Cpf1. They found two, from Acidominococcus and Lachnospiraceae, that can snip DNA when scientists insert them into human cells.

“There are definitely many more defense systems out there, and maybe some of them might even have spectacular applications like with the Cas9 system,” says John van der Oost, a microbiologist at Wageningen University who is a co-author on the paper. “We have the feeling it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
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Starving cancer cells of sugar could be the key to future treatment

Starving cancer cells of sugar could be the key to future treatment | The future of medicine and health |
All the cells in our bodies are programmed to die. As they get older, our cells accumulate toxic molecules that make them sick. In response, they eventually break down and die, clearing the way for new, healthy cells to grow. This “programmed cell death” is a natural and essential part of our wellbeing. Every day, billions of cells die like this in order for the whole organism to continue functioning as it is supposed to.

But as with any programme, errors can occur and injured cells that are supposed to die continue to grow and divide. These damaged cells can eventually become malignant and generate tumours. In order to avoid their programmed cell death in this way, cancer cells reorganise their metabolism so they can cheat death and proliferate indefinitely.

Cancer researchers have known for decades that tumours use a faster metabolism compared to normal cells in our body. One classic example of this is that cancer cells increase their consumption of glucose to fuel their rapid growth and strike against programmed cell death. This means that limiting glucose consumption in cancer cells is becoming an attractive tool for cancer treatments.
A new hope?

You may have seen articles or websites advocating that starving patients of sugar is crucial for getting rid of tumours or that eating less sugar reduces the risk of cancer. The story is not that simple. Cancer cells always find alternatives to fuel their tank of glucose, no matter how little sugar we ingest. There is not a direct connection between eating sugar and getting cancer and it is always advisable to talk to your doctor if you have doubt about your diet.
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Your Body Is Surrounded by Clouds of Skin and Fart Bacteria

Your Body Is Surrounded by Clouds of Skin and Fart Bacteria | The future of medicine and health |
Everywhere you go, in everything you do, you are surrounded by an aura of microbes. They drift down from your hair when you scratch your head, they fly off your hand when you wave to your friend, they spew out of your mouth when you talk. Even when you sit around doing nothing, you’re sitting in your own, personal microbial bubble.

Made up of millions, billions, trillions of bacteria, yeast, cells, and cell parts, this bubble is actually more like a cloud—a cloud, new research suggests, that is unique to you. And as gross as it is to imagine everyone around you shedding microbial bits and pieces into the air, studying those clouds can be useful for people like doctors tracking down disease outbreaks and cops tracking down criminals.

The gut microbiome, often invoked in expensive probiotic-heavy diets, is probably the hottest microscopic community right now. It’s the collection of microbiota, living inside you, that helps you break down food, fight disease, and control your hunger.

But your outer body has its own microbiome, too. Your body is covered in skin, and that skin is like a vast savannah populated with millions of exotic critters. They feed on the oils seeping from your skin, dead cells, bits of organic matter, and each other. “In a single centimeter of skin, you can find thousands of bacteria,” says James Meadow, former University of Oregon1 researcher and co-author of a microbiome paper published today in the journal PeerJ.
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According To This Sleep Expert, Work And School Shouldn't Start Until After 10am

According To This Sleep Expert, Work And School Shouldn't Start Until After 10am | The future of medicine and health |
Sleep is money for the brain, and young adults are accruing as much as 10 hours of sleep debt each week. According to sleep expert Paul Kelley, a sleep-deprivation crisis is burdening young adults in today's world.

“This is a huge issue for society,” Kelley, who works for the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, told the Guardian. “We are generally a sleep-deprived society but the 14-24 age group is more sleep-deprived than any other sector of society. This causes serious threats to health, mood performance and mental health.”

For school children, Kelley advocates age-based start times: 8:30 a.m. for eight to 10-year-olds, 10 a.m. lessons for 16-year-olds, and 11 a.m. starts for 18-year-olds.

While this might sound drastic, his approach does have scientific backing. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents don’t start releasing melatonin – a hormone that helps regulate our body clock – until nearly eleven o’clock at night. These secretions don’t stop pumping through their blood until much later in the morning, making it difficult to wake up early.

Despite this, in 42 American states more than 75% of schools start before 8:30 a.m., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The average start time is 8:03 a.m.

“At the age of 10 you get up and go to school and it fits in with our nine-to-five lifestyle,” Kelley said. “When you are about 55 you also settle into the same pattern. But in between it changes a huge amount and, depending on your age, you really need to be starting around three hours later, which is entirely natural.”

Sleep, or lack thereof, can affect scores on exams, mood during the day, and relationships with one’s family. It is a vital part of our existence on Earth, with one-third of our life spent snoozing.

“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance,” said Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Population Health, in a statement. “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”
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