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'Memories' pass between generations

'Memories' pass between generations | The future of medicine and health |

Behaviour can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory, animal studies suggest.

Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behaviour of subsequent generations.

A Nature Neuroscience study shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their "grandchildren".

Experts said the results were important for phobia and anxiety research.

The animals were trained to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom.

The team at the Emory University School of Medicine, in the US, then looked at what was happening inside the sperm.

They showed a section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent was made more active in the mice's sperm.

Both the mice's offspring, and their offspring, were "extremely sensitive" to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent, despite never having experiencing it in their lives.

Changes in brain structure were also found.

"The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations," the report concluded.

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'Pronoia' and other emotions you never knew you had

'Pronoia' and other emotions you never knew you had | The future of medicine and health |
In recent years, neuroscience has introduced a new way of thinking about our emotions. The scientists behind the latest brain-imaging studies say they can now pinpoint with precision where these feelings are located within our heads. In 2013, for instance, a team of psychologists published a study in which they claimed that they had found neural correlates for nine very distinct human emotions: anger, disgust, envy, fear, happiness, lust, pride, sadness, and shame.
This is an intriguing trend for academics like Tiffany Watt Smith, a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. "It's this idea that what we mean by 'emotion' has evolved," Smith tells Science of Us. "It's now a physical thing — you can see a location of it in the brain." And yet, of course, that's not all an emotion is; calling the amygdala the "fear center" of the brain offers little help in understanding what it means to be afraid.
It's exactly that — the subjective experience of emotions — that Smith explores in her charming new book, The Book of Human Emotions. It's a roundup of 154 words from around the world that you could call an exploration of "emotional granularity," as it provides language for some very specific emotions you likely never knew you had. "It's a long-held idea that if you put a name to a feeling, it can help that feeling become less overwhelming," she said. "All sorts of stuff that's swirling around and feeling painful can start to feel a bit more manageable," once you've pinned the feeling down and named it.
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In a bid for the perfect profile pic, young men are increasingly turning to steroids

In a bid for the perfect profile pic, young men are increasingly turning to steroids | The future of medicine and health |
The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that around 60,000 people are using steroids to gain muscle, to become leaner and fitter, or to get stronger. But academics and experts who work with steroid users believe the real figure is much higher – probably in the hundreds of thousands.

Needle-exchange clinics across the UK report that steroids users are a growing group and, in some cases, even exceed other illegal drug-using groups. Recently, Merchants Quay Ireland, the largest needle-exchange clinic in Ireland, reported that over the past two years 50% more people have come to the service for needles and other equipment to inject steroids.

What is even more alarming is that a significant number of young men are consuming a range of performance and image enhancing drugs, including steroids and human growth hormone. While the use of steroids has traditionally been limited to professional athletes, bodybuilders, soldiers and police, it is increasingly becoming a mainstream choice for young men looking to bulk up or lose weight.
Distorted body image

A rising number of young people are unhappy with the way they look. Although social pressure to conform to idealised beauty standards is nothing new, the growth of social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook has exacerbated this focus on appearance. Young people spend several hours a day using social media, interacting with and comparing themselves with their peers, often in the pursuit of the perfect profile picture or to increase their number of followers and “likes”.

While it is widely known that a distorted body image affects many females, there is growing evidence that males are under similar pressure – not to be thin but to be muscular. Television programmes such as “Obsessed with my body” and “Dying for a six pack” illustrate that there is a huge growth in male teenage vanity, from boys seeking to “get ripped” in the gym to men having invasive plastic surgery. For instance, the number of men opting for cosmetic surgery has almost doubled in the past decade in the UK, from 2,440 treatments in 2005 to 4,614 in 2015.
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This Is Your Brain on Silence - Issue 16: Nothingness - Nautilus

This Is Your Brain on Silence - Issue 16: Nothingness - Nautilus | The future of medicine and health |
One icy night in March 2010, 100 marketing experts piled into the Sea Horse Restaurant in Helsinki, with the modest goal of making a remote and medium-sized country a world-famous tourist destination. The problem was that Finland was known as a rather quiet country, and since 2008, the Country Brand Delegation had been looking for a national brand that would make some noise.

Over drinks at the Sea Horse, the experts puzzled over the various strengths of their nation. Here was a country with exceptional teachers, an abundance of wild berries and mushrooms, and a vibrant cultural capital the size of Nashville, Tennessee. These things fell a bit short of a compelling national identity. Someone jokingly suggested that nudity could be named a national theme—it would emphasize the honesty of Finns. Someone else, less jokingly, proposed that perhaps quiet wasn’t such a bad thing. That got them thinking.

A few months later, the delegation issued a slick “Country Brand Report.” It highlighted a host of marketable themes, including Finland’s renowned educational system and school of functional design. One key theme was brand new: silence. As the report explained, modern society often seems intolerably loud and busy. “Silence is a resource,” it said. It could be marketed just like clean water or wild mushrooms. “In the future, people will be prepared to pay for the experience of silence.”
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Seven Ways to Increase Your Insulin Sensitivity

Seven Ways to Increase Your Insulin Sensitivity | The future of medicine and health |
You can’t turn on the radio or flick through a magazine without hearing someone talking about the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is one of today’s hot topics and one of the biggest challenges to our health, as a key cause of diabetes, high blood fat levels and hypertension. The good […]
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Higher intake of whole grains associated with lower risk of major chronic diseases and death | KurzweilAI

Higher intake of whole grains associated with lower risk of major chronic diseases and death | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health |
A meta-analysis of 45 studies (64 publications) of consumption of whole grain by an international team of researchers, led by Dagfinn Aune, PhD, at Imperial College London, found lower risks of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease overall, as well as deaths from all causes and from specific diseases, including stroke, cancer, diabetes, infectious and respiratory diseases.

The researchers say these results “strongly support dietary recommendations to increase intake of whole grain foods in the general population to reduce risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality.”

The results have been published in an open-access paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The greatest benefit was seen for people who increased from no intake of whole grain to two servings per day, equivalent to 32 g/day, such as 32 g of whole grain wheat, or to 60 g product/day, such as 60 g of whole grain wheat bread.

Further reductions in risks were observed up to 7.5 servings a day, equivalent to 225 g/day of whole grain products, and suggest additional benefits at higher intakes.

Relation to specific types of disorders

A large body of evidence has emerged on the health benefits of whole grain foods over the last 10–15 years. Grains are one of the major staple foods worldwide and provide on average 56% of energy intake and 50% of protein intake.

But recommendations on the daily amount and types of whole grain foods needed to reduce risk of chronic disease and mortality have often been unclear or inconsistent. So the researchers carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of 45 published studies on whole grain consumption in relation to several health outcomes and all-cause mortality.*

They found reductions in the relative risk of coronary heart disease (19%), cardiovascular disease (22%), all cause mortality (17%), and mortality from stroke (14%), cancer (15%), respiratory disease (22%), infectious disease (26%), and diabetes (51%) per 90 g/day of whole grain product (one serving equals 30g of whole grain product).

Reductions in risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality were associated with intake of whole grain bread, whole grain breakfast cereals, and added bran, as well as total intake of bread and breakfast cereals.

There was little evidence of an association with intake of refined grains, white rice, total rice or other grains.
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Pacemaker for the tongue helps apnea patients breathe normally

Pacemaker for the tongue helps apnea patients breathe normally | The future of medicine and health |
For years, one of the primary ways to treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea was through the use of a device known as a continuous positive airway pressure – or CPAP – machine, which forces air through the nasal passages to interrupt dangerous pauses in breathing while sleeping. For people can't tolerate the machine, a new chest implant that sends electrical pulses to a nerve in the tongue promises healthier rest, as reported in a new University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) study.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition wherein the muscles in the throat relax so much during sleep that they block the airway and cause breathing to intermittently stop and start through the night, making it impossible to get a good night's rest. The condition can strain the cardiovascular system due to restricted oxygen intake, and can cause general daily fatigue according to the Mayo Clinic. Some cases of OSA can be cured with a mouthpiece or the CPAP machine, but in other cases, more serious intervention is called for – which is where the implant comes in.

First clinically trialed in 2010, and approved by the FDA in April 2014, the implant is from a company called Inspire and is basically a pacemaker for the tongue.
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Interview with the inventor: Nura's adaptive headphones turn our understanding of hearing on its head

Interview with the inventor: Nura's adaptive headphones turn our understanding of hearing on its head | The future of medicine and health |
Your perception of sound and mine are very, very different. That's why my favorite headphones sound tinny and awful to you, and yours sound woofy and messy to me. People's ears vary so much in physiology that it's like we each get a randomized graphic equalizer at birth, with up to 20 decibel swings each way as we go up and down the audible frequency spectrum. Even your left and right ear are different from one another. Nura's adaptive headphones measure these differences with a short test, then tune themselves so that they sound amazing for every listener. We had a chance to pass them around the Gizmag office and speak with Nura co-founder Kyle Slater. And while it wasn't a surprise that they sounded fantastic, what really blew us away was how terrible they sounded when we tried each other's sonic profiles.
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Obesity boom 'fuelling rise in malnutrition' - BBC News

Obesity boom 'fuelling rise in malnutrition' - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Malnutrition is sweeping the world, fuelled by obesity as well as starvation, new research has suggested.

The 2016 Global Nutrition Report said 44% of countries were now experiencing "very serious levels" of both under-nutrition and obesity.

It means one in three people suffers from malnutrition in some form, according to the study of 129 countries.

Being malnourished is "the new normal", the report's authors said.

Malnutrition has traditionally been associated with children who are starving, have stunted growth and are prone to infection.

These are still major problems, but progress has been made in this area.

The report's authors instead highlighted the "staggering global challenge" posed by rising obesity.

The increase is happening in every region of the world and in nearly every country, they said.

Hundreds of millions of people are malnourished because they are overweight, as well as having too much sugar, salt or cholesterol in their blood, the report said.
'Totally unacceptable'

Professor Corinna Hawkes, who co-chaired the research, said the study was "redefining what the world thinks of as being malnourished".

"Malnutrition literally means bad nutrition - that's anyone who isn't adequately nourished.

"You have outcomes like you are too thin, you're not growing fast enough… or it could mean that you're overweight or you have high blood sugar, which leads to diabetes," she said.
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I Quit Showering, and Life Continued

I Quit Showering, and Life Continued | The future of medicine and health |
12,167 hours of washing our bodies.

That’s how much life you use, if you spend 20 minutes per day washing and moisturizing your skin and hair (and you live to be 100, as we all surely will).

That adds up to nearly two entire years of washing every waking hour.

Not to mention water usage and the cost of cosmetic products—which we need, because commercials tell us to remove the oil from our skin with soap, and then to moisturize with lotion. Other commercials tell us to remove the oils from our hair, and then moisturize with conditioner.

That’s four products—plus a lot of water and time— and few people question whether it’s anything short of necessary.

It’s not just the fault of advertising, but also because most of us know from personal experience that if we go a few days without showering, even one day, we become oily, smelly beasts.

But what if you push through the oiliness and smelliness, embrace it, and just go forward?

Out of curiosity—not laziness—I tried it.

At first, I was an oily, smelly beast. The odor of bodies is the product of bacteria that live on our skin and feed off of the oily secretions from the sweat and sebaceous glands at the base of our hair follicles. Applying detergents (soaps) to our skin and hair every day disrupts a sort of balance between skin oils and the bacteria that live on our skin. When you shower aggressively, you obliterate the ecosystems. They repopulate quickly, but the species are out of balance and tend to favor the kinds of microbes that produce odor.

But after a while, the idea goes, your ecosystem reaches a steady state, and you stop smelling bad. I mean, you don’t smell like rosewater or Axe Body Spray, but you don’t smell like B.O., either. You just smell like a person.

Because, evolutionarily, why would we be so disgusting that we need constant cleaning? And constant moisturizing and/or de-oiling? If we do more to allow our oil glands and bacteria to equilibrate, the theory goes, skin should stop fluctuating between oily and dry.
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Most antidepressants not working for children and teenagers – study

Most antidepressants not working for children and teenagers – study | The future of medicine and health |
Most available antidepressants do not help children and teenagers with serious mental health problems and some may be unsafe, experts have warned.

A review of clinical trial evidence found that of 14 antidepressant drugs, only one, fluoxetine – marketed as Prozac – was better than a placebo at relieving the symptoms of young people with major depression.

Another drug, venlafaxine, was associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

But the authors stressed that the true effectiveness and safety of antidepressants taken by children and teenagers remained unclear because of the poor design and selective reporting of trials, which were mostly funded by drug companies.

They recommended close monitoring of young people on antidepressants, regardless of what drugs they were prescribed, especially at the start of treatment.

Professor Peng Xie, a member of the team from Chongqing Medical University in China, said: “The balance of risks and benefits of antidepressants for the treatment of major depression does not seem to offer a clear advantage in children and teenagers, with probably only the exception of fluoxetine.”

Major depressive disorder affects around 3% of children aged six to 12 and 6% of teenagers aged 13 to 18.

In 2004 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning against the use of antidepressants in young people up to the age of 24 because of concerns about suicide risk.
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New treatment can 'halt' multiple sclerosis, says study - BBC News

New treatment can 'halt' multiple sclerosis, says study - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Aggressive chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant can halt the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS), a small study has suggested.

The research, published in The Lancet, looked at 24 patients aged between 18 and 50 from three hospitals in Canada.

For 23 patients the treatment greatly reduced the onset of the disease, but in one case a person died.

An MS Society spokeswoman said this type of treatment does "offer hope" but also comes with "significant risks".

Around 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which is an incurable neurological disease.
'No relapses'

The condition causes the immune system to attack the lining of nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Most patients are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.

One existing treatment is for the immune system to be suppressed with chemotherapy and then stem cells are introduced to the patient's bloodstream - this procedure is known as an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT).
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New antimicrobial material joins fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

New antimicrobial material joins fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria | The future of medicine and health |
Last month, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance warned of a possible future in which emerging superbugs render current antibiotics ineffective, and called for more research into developing new drugs to help prevent that scenario. Thankfully, we've seen some promising developments in recent years and now scientists in Singapore have contributed to the effort with the creation of a new material that not only kills microbes quickly, but prevents antibiotic-resistant bacteria from growing in their place.

The material, which is called imidazolium oligomers, was developed by scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), a branch of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. Impressively, the compound has been shown to kill 99.7 percent of E. coli bacteria within 30 seconds.

But it's not just a quick killer, it's an effective one to boot. Thanks to a chain-like molecular structure, imidazolium oligomers is able to penetrate and destroy the cell membrane of bacteria, keeping new antibiotic-resistant strains from springing up. Other antibiotics will kill the microbes, but neglect to clean up after themselves.

Its effectiveness against other antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Candida albicans, was demonstrated as well, with the compound killing 99.9 percent of these microbes in under two minutes.
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'New era' of personalised cancer drugs, say doctors - BBC News

'New era' of personalised cancer drugs, say doctors - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Cancer is entering a "new era" of personalised medicine with drugs targeted to the specific weaknesses in each patient's tumour, say doctors.

Precision medicine is one of the big themes at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Doctors say "breath-taking" advances in the understanding of tumours are being used to unlock new treatments.

But there are also concerns that patients are not getting access to the precision medicines we already have.

The premise of precision medicine is that cancers are not all the same - even those in the same tissue - so a tailored approach is needed.

It is the same approach as in football - you modify your tactics to face Barcelona, Newcastle United or Skegness Town.
DNA clues

Cancers are normal cells that have become corrupted by mutations in their DNA that leads to uncontrolled growth.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy kill everything, including healthy tissue.

The idea of precision medicine is to test every patient's tumour, find the mutations that have become essential for it to survive and then select a targeted drug to counter-act the mutation - killing the tumour.

This concept is not new. Women with breast cancer already have their tumours analysed to decide on treatment.
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Broccoli sprout extract may block cancer's return - Futurity

Broccoli sprout extract may block cancer's return - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Potent doses of broccoli sprout extract activate a “detoxification” gene and may help prevent cancer recurrence in survivors of head and neck cancer, according to new research that confirms preliminary results released last year.

“With head and neck cancer, we often clear patients of cancer only to see it come back with deadly consequences a few years later,” says lead author Julie Bauman, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Unfortunately, previous efforts to develop a preventative drug to reduce this risk have been inefficient, intolerable in patients, and expensive. That led us to ‘green chemoprevention’—the cost-effective development of treatments based upon whole plants or their extracts.”

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and garden cress, have a high concentration of the naturally occurring molecular compound sulforaphane, which previously has been shown to protect people against environmental carcinogens.

For the study, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, Bauman and colleagues treated human head and neck cancer cells in the laboratory with varying doses of sulforaphane and a control, and compared them to normal, healthy cells that line the throat and mouth. The sulforaphane induced both types of cells to increase their levels of a protein that turns on genes that promote detoxification of carcinogens, like those found in cigarettes, and protect cells from cancer.
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Google eases the pain of online diagnosis

Google eases the pain of online diagnosis | The future of medicine and health |
No one likes going to the doctor, so the popularity of online medical sites should come as no surprise – this despite the fact an online diagnosis will usually elicit a rolling of the eyes and a biting of the tongue from the GP when you do eventually make the trip to the doctor's office. Now Google is making efforts to return more relevant and trustworthy search results when you punch in your symptoms.

For most people, the first port of call when struck down by a new ache or pain is the internet. The problem is, as is so often the case when it comes to the internet, is sorting the wheat from the chaff. Google is now making it easier to find a diagnosis based on the symptoms you describe, offering a simpler way for people to see what might be causing their head/heart/tooth ache, and what might be the best way to handle it.

According to the team at Google, about one percent of all searches conducted on the site are symptom-related. That mightn't sound like a lot, but one percent is still a lot of people when you consider the fact there are more than 50,000 Google searches made every second.

When you search for something reasonably specific like headache on one side, Google will provide you with a list of related conditions, potentially helping to identify whether you're suffering a regular headache, migraine, tension headache or the common cold. These conditions are accompanied by information about options for self-treatment, as well as a friendly push in the right direction if an appointment with a real life doctor is necessary.
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A low-cost ‘electronic nose’ spectrometer for home health diagnosis | KurzweilAI

A low-cost ‘electronic nose’ spectrometer for home health diagnosis | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health |
UT Dallas researchers have designed an affordable “electronic nose” radio-frequency front end for a rotational spectrometer — used for detecting chemical molecules in human breath for health diagnosis.

Current breath-analysis devices are bulky and too costly for commercial use, said Kenneth O, PhD, a principal investigator of the effort and director of Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE). Instead, the researchers used CMOS integrated circuits technology, which promises to make the device compact and affordable.

A rotational spectrometer generates and transmits electromagnetic waves over a wide range of frequencies, and analyzes how the waves are attenuated (absorbed) to determine what chemicals are present, as well as their concentrations in a sample. The system can detect low levels of chemicals present in human breath.

A breath test contains information about practically every part of a human body, but an electronic nose can detect gas molecules with more specificity and sensitivity than breathalyzers, which can confuse acetone for ethanol (the active ingredient of alcoholic drinks) in the breath, for example. This is important for patients with Type 1 diabetes, who have high concentrations of acetone in their breath.

The current research focuses on the design of a 200–280 GHz transmitter radio-frequency front end.
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Fiber in food may protect the gel in your gut - Futurity

Fiber in food may protect the gel in your gut - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Certain substances, like bacteria and dietary fiber, can change the structure of the protective gel that lines intestines, a recent study suggests.

The gel lets in nutrients and largely blocks out bacteria, preventing infections. It also regulates how some drugs are delivered elsewhere in our bodies.

Researchers had previously studied how the gel can be damaged, for instance when bacteria feed on the gut’s lining. The new study is the first to look at the structure of the gel and how it morphs in the presence of other substances naturally found in the gut.

Performing their experiments in mice, researchers tested the effects of polymers, which include dietary fiber as well as therapeutics such as medicines for constipation. The researchers fed some mice a diet rich in polymers and others (the controls) a polymer-free diet.
Apple a day?

Using a technique called confocal reflectance microscopy they measured the thickness of the gut gel and the degree to which the gel was compressed as a result of the consumed polymers. Mice given a high-polymer diet, they found, had a more compressed gel layer.

“The gel is like a sponge with holes that let material through,” says the paper’s lead author, Sujit Datta, a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology. “We are seeing that polymers, including dietary fiber, can compress the gel, potentially making the holes smaller, and we think that this might offer protective benefits.”
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Sensoria’s smart clothes send out an SOS if your ticker gets in trouble

Sensoria’s smart clothes send out an SOS if your ticker gets in trouble | The future of medicine and health |
Sensoria has announced a crowdfunding campaign to launch a new line of its heart-rate monitoring t-shirts and sports bras. A new app will also be launched which uses information from the smart clothing to identify if you might be about to suffer a cardiac arrest, and can even alert your nearest and dearest urging them to seek help.
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Gene Therapy Is Curing Hemophilia

Gene Therapy Is Curing Hemophilia | The future of medicine and health |
Earlier this spring, Bill Maurits sat in a waiting room in Philadelphia ready to have a trillion viruses dripped into his body through an I.V. “I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go. I can’t wait,’” he says.

Maurits has hemophilia B, which means his body doesn’t produce enough factor IX, a protein that clots blood. He’s at risk for bleeding and his joints are damaged from all the bruises. Since he was 10, he’s depended on injections of “ridiculously expensive” replacement protein. Lately, his left ankle has been killing him.

In April Maurits, an engineering designer, joined a study in which he was dosed with viruses packed with a correct version of the gene that codes for factor IX. Today at the European Hematology Association’s meeting in Copenhagen, the Philadelphia company that ran the gene-therapy study, Spark Therapeutics, is presenting results on four patients, him included.

In all four, factor IX activity has reached about 30 percent of average. That’s enough to prevent bleeding when you get hit by a baseball or twist your ankle. It’s also been enough to let Maurits go without factor IX replacements since April. “There’s no other explanation than ‘It worked,’” says Maurits.

Sure, gene therapy has been tried before. What’s different is that Spark’s therapy so far appears to work well every time it’s attempted—a consistency that’s eluded previous efforts. “Right now this looks very close to being as good as it gets,” says Edward Tuddenham, a hematologist at University College London, who led a competing study and consults with some of Spark’s rivals.
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Could a device tell your brain to make healthy choices? - Futurity

Could a device tell your brain to make healthy choices? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
New research suggests it’s possible to detect when our brain is making a decision and nudge it to make the healthier choice.

In recording moment-to-moment deliberations by macaque monkeys over which option is likely to yield the most fruit juice, scientists have captured the dynamics of decision-making down to millisecond changes in neurons in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex.

“If we can measure a decision in real time, we can potentially also manipulate it,” says senior author Jonathan Wallis, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “For example, a device could be created that detects when an addict is about to choose a drug and instead bias their brain activity towards a healthier choice.”

Located behind the eyes, the orbitofrontal cortex plays a key role in decision-making and, when damaged, can lead to poor choices and impulsivity.
While previous studies have linked activity in the orbitofrontal cortex to making final decisions, this is the first to track the neural changes that occur during deliberations between different options.
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Why do humans have an innate desire to get high?

Why do humans have an innate desire to get high? | The future of medicine and health |
It’s easy to explain the appeal of drugs like heroin and cocaine, which directly stimulate the brain’s reward centres. What’s less easy to explain is the appeal of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin that produce altered states of consciousness. After all, there’s no obvious reason why unusual patterns of thought and perception – typically, the symptoms of poisoning or illness – should be attractive. And yet, people not only pay money for these experiences, they even run the risk of being imprisoned or worse for doing so. Why is this?

One answer is that these drugs provide short cuts to religious and transcendental experiences that played an important role in human evolution. The logic behind this idea becomes clearer when we look at how human culture was shaped by religious ideas.

For some time, anthropologists have argued that religious people are more cooperative than nonreligious ones. For small groups, the effect of religion is negligible or even negative. However, as group size increases, it seems that religion plays an increasingly important role in creating bonds between strangers. In fact, some scholarship suggests that the emergence of the first city states in the Middle East nearly 12,000 years ago was made possible by belief in “Big Gods”, who supposedly oversaw all human action and guided human affairs.
Why does religion make people more cooperative? On the one hand, the belief that a morally concerned, invisible agent is always watching you makes you less likely to break rules for personal gain. This effect is quite powerful. Research shows that even something as trivial as a picture of a pair of eyes on an honesty box is enough to make people pay three times as much for their drinks.

On the other hand, religion connects people with a reality larger than themselves. This might be the social group that they belong to, it might be life after death, or it might even be the cosmos as a whole. The connection is important because it makes people more willing to cooperate when the results of doing so are not immediately beneficial. If I believe myself to be at one with my tribe, my church or the universe itself, it’s easier to accept others getting the benefits of my hard work.

It is probably this second aspect to religious cooperation than explains the appeal of psychedelic drugs. By simulating the effects of religious transcendence, they mimic states of mind that played an evolutionarily valuable role in making human cooperation possible – and with it, greater numbers of surviving descendants. This does not mean that humans evolved to take psychedelic drugs. But it does mean that psychedelic drug use can be explained in evolutionary terms as a “hack” that enables transcendent states to be reached quickly.
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High cholesterol 'does not cause heart disease' new research finds, so treating with statins a 'waste of time'

High cholesterol 'does not cause heart disease' new research finds, so treating with statins a 'waste of time' | The future of medicine and health |

cholesterol does not cause heart disease in the elderly and trying to reduce it with drugs like statins is a waste of time, an international group of experts has claimed.

A review of research involving nearly 70,000 people found there was no link between what has traditionally been considered “bad” cholesterol and the premature deaths of over 60-year-olds from cardiovascular disease.

Published in the BMJ Open journal, the new study found that 92 percent of people with a high cholesterol level lived longer.

The authors have called for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries, because “the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated”.

The results have prompted immediate scepticism from other academics, however, who questioned the paper’s balance.

High cholesterol is commonly caused by an unhealthy diet, and eating high levels of saturated fat in particular, as well as smoking.

It is carried in the blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins and has been traditionally linked to cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease and aortic disease.

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Air pollution now major contributor to stroke, global study finds

Air pollution now major contributor to stroke, global study finds | The future of medicine and health |
Air pollution has become a major contributor to stroke for the first time, with unclean air now blamed for nearly one third of the years of healthy life lost to the condition worldwide.

In an unprecedented survey of global risk factors for stroke, air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter ranked seventh in terms of its impact on healthy lifespan, while household air pollution from burning solid fuels ranked eighth.

Valery Feigin, director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at Auckland University of Technology, said that while he expected air pollution to emerge as a threat, the extent of the problem had taken researchers by surprise.

“We did not expect the effect would be of this magnitude, or increasing so much over the last two decades,” he said. “Our study is the first to demonstrate a large and increasingly hazardous effect of air pollution on stroke burden worldwide.”

The result is particularly striking because the analysis is likely to have underestimated the effects of air pollution on stroke, as the impact of burning fossil fuels was not fully accounted for. Emissions from fossil fuels are more harmful to the cardiovascular system than the fine particulate matter the team analysed, Feigin said.

Scientists in the field said the “alarming” finding, published in the journal Lancet Neurology, showed that harm caused by air pollution to the lungs, heart and brain had been underestimated.

About 15 million people a year suffer a stroke worldwide. Nearly six million die, and five million are left with permanent disabilities, such as loss of sight and speech, paralysis and confusion.
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SkinGun shoots burn victims with their own stem cells

SkinGun shoots burn victims with their own stem cells | The future of medicine and health |
Guns are often thought about for their destructive nature, but a new kind of gun is set to help heal rather than harm. Called the SkinGun, the device applies stem cells to the site of a burn in a novel way, helping increase both treatment and recovery time over standard methods. New tests show that it delivered a healing spray with 200 times more coverage than traditional methods.

When a patient is taken into an emergency room with burns, time is critical. Yet grafting procedures can often take hours and the recovery time can be lengthy and painful. Using stem cells to help a patient heal and regrow their own skin is steadily proving to be a better solution, but applying the stem cells properly is vital.

Tests on the SkinGun from RenovaCare carried out by scientists at the Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT), showed an extensive coverage area of the stem cells. In an 8-cm diameter surface area (about 3.15 inches), the SkinGun shot out over 20,000 droplets, versus only 91 by conventional methods, which involve depositing the cells using a syringe.

What's more, the SkinGun uses an extremely gentle spray method, so that cells aren't damaged as they're expelled from the device. According to RenovaCare, tests showed that 97.3 percent of the cells remained viable after being applied by the SkinGun.
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Dietary fiber has biggest influence on successful aging, research reveals | KurzweilAI

Dietary fiber has biggest influence on successful aging, research reveals | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health |
Eating the right amount of dietary fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits can help us avoid disease and disability into old age, according to an open-access paper published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences by scientists from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia.

Using data compiled from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that examined a cohort of more than 1,600 adults aged 50 years and older for long-term sensory loss risk factors and systemic diseases, the researchers found that out of all the factors they examined — including a person’s total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake — it was, surprisingly, fiber that made the biggest difference to what the researchers termed “successful aging.”

Successful aging was defined as including an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

Fiber, or roughage, is the indigestible part of plant foods that pushes through the digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements.

According to lead author of the paper, Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath, PhD, from the Institute’s Centre for Vision Research, “Out of all the variables that we looked at, fiber intake —- which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest — had the strongest influence,” she said. “Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability.”

While it might have been expected that the level of sugar intake would make the biggest impact on successful aging, Gopinath pointed out that the particular group they examined were older adults whose intake of carbonated and sugary drinks was quite low.

Although it is too early to use the study results as a basis for dietary advice, Gopinath said the research has opened up a new avenue for exploration. “There are a lot of other large cohort studies that could pursue this further and see if they can find similar associations. And it would also be interesting to tease out the mechanisms that are actually linking these variables,” she said.

This study backs up similar recent findings by the researchers, which highlight the importance of the overall diet and healthy aging.
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