The future of medicine and health
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One Doctor’s Quest to Save People by Injecting Them With Scorpion Venom | Magazine | WIRED

One Doctor’s Quest to Save People by Injecting Them With Scorpion Venom | Magazine | WIRED | The future of medicine and health |
Because it’s so late on a Monday afternoon, there is a listless vibe inside the University of Washington lecture hall where Jim Olson is about to speak...
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Implanting Stem Cells Into The Brain Might Extend Human Lifespan

Implanting Stem Cells Into The Brain Might Extend Human Lifespan | The future of medicine and health |
As far as brain regions go, the hypothalamus is something of a multi-tasker: it helps control our temperature, hunger, sleep, emotions, and sex drive.

But that's not all. A new study suggests it's also responsible for keeping us young, thanks to a supply of neural stem cells that regulate our ageing.

Sadly, these disappear with time – which could be why we get old – but tests with mice show that implanting new cells to replace them can actually extend lifespan.

"Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates ageing," says molecular pharmacologist Dongsheng Cai from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

"But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it's possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of ageing throughout the body."

Cai and his team discovered back in 2013 that the hypothalamus plays a role in ageing, and that by reducing inflammation in the brains of mice, the animals were able to live longer lives.

Now, in a follow-up study, the researchers think they've pinpointed the particular cells in the hypothalamus that matter here: neural stem cells, which serve to generate replacements for dead and damaged cells.

In mice, these cells start to disappear when the animals are about 10 months old (mice middle age), and are largely gone by the time they turn two (elderly).
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That Age-Old Advice to Finish Your Antibiotics Might Do More Harm Than Good

That Age-Old Advice to Finish Your Antibiotics Might Do More Harm Than Good | The future of medicine and health |
Medical experts from the UK have called for physicians and policy makers to stop instructing patients to complete courses of antibiotics, arguing that not only is the advice effectively baseless, but it might actually contribute to the superbug epidemic.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom dispensed by GPs for more than half a century, in most cases failing to take an entire course of antibiotics does not increase the risk of most common forms of infectious bacteria developing resistance.

Most of us have gone to the doctor with a killer sore throat or an ear ache that just won't quit and been prescribed an antibiotic with the sage direction to take all of the tablets, even after you start to feel better.

Even the World Health Organisation supports the idea that stopping antibiotics too early could be giving the remaining bacteria a helping hand.

"For example, in materials supporting Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016 WHO advised patients to "always complete the full prescription, even if you feel better, because stopping treatment early promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria," Martin Llewelyn from Brighton and Sussex Medical School and his colleagues explain.

The problem is the advice has never been based on research of any kind, instead arising out of an early hypothesis proposed by the Australian pharmacologist Howard Florey, who in the early 1940s carried out clinical trials on the newly discovered bacteria-killer, penicillin.
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Scientists discover how the brain's hypothalamus controls ageing – and manage to slow it down

Scientists discover how the brain's hypothalamus controls ageing – and manage to slow it down | The future of medicine and health |
If you are reading this and you don’t smoke, then your major risk factor for dying is probably your age. That’s because we have nearly eliminated mortality in early life, thanks to advances in science and engineering. But despite this progress, we still haven’t worked out how to eliminate the damaging effects of ageing itself.

Now a new study in mice, published in Nature, reveals that stem cells (a type of cell that can develop into many other types) in a specific area of the brain regulate ageing. The team even managed to slow down and speed up the ageing process by transplanting or deleting stem cells in the region.

Ageing poses an important challenge for society. By 2050, there will be as many old people (age 65+) as children (under 15) on Earth for the first time. This change is reflected in unprecedented stress on our health and social care systems. Understanding how we can keep ourselves in good health as we age is becoming increasingly important.

The mechanisms that keep organisms healthy are relatively few in number and conserved between species, which means we can learn a lot about them by studying animals such as mice. Among the most important are senescent cells – dysfunctional cells which build up as we age and cause damage to tissue – chronic inflammation and exhaustion of stem cells. These mechanisms are thought to be connected at the cell and tissue level. As with a ring of dominoes, a fall anywhere can trigger a catastrophic collapse.
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The diet paradox: why your subconscious makes you crave naughty foods

The diet paradox: why your subconscious makes you crave naughty foods | The future of medicine and health |
The UK’s diet industry is thriving to say the least. More than half of British adults try to lose weight by controlling their calorie intake each year. Unfortunately, losing weight is not as easy as turning down a biscuit, or opting for salad. And even those who have been successful in their dieting endeavours find it difficult to do.

So why is it that even when we have the best of intentions, dieting is so difficult? Why can’t we control those cravings?
1. Food cues

We’ve all done it: walked past a tasty-looking supermarket stand, or smelled something delicious and immediately started drooling over whatever treat is on display, regardless of calorie content or nutrition. Sensory food cues like these can be difficult to ignore and aren’t just triggered by taste or smell – advertising or brand logos can tempt us in too.

When we are hungry, the hormone gherlin stimulates the brain, which means that we notice food cues more. Researchers have also found that our brains pay more attention to cues for unhealthy foods – those which are high in sugar and fat – than healthy foods, when we are hungry. In studies where pictures of high-calorie foods were shown to participants, it was found that the cues elicited anticipatory appetite responses, such as salivation, cravings and a reported desire to eat.

All of this together means that the attention-grabbing properties of high-calorie foods are likely to present a significant challenge for individuals who are attempting to lose weight – particularly if their diet makes them feel hungry.

On a positive note, it may be possible to train ourselves to ignore tempting cues. One study has shown that participants who were taught to ignore high calorie food cues on a computer-based task consumed less snack foods than those who were trained to pay attention to them
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Study: Blood test for Alzheimer’s reveals harmful plaques in the brain

One key front in the battle against Alzheimer's is early detection of the disease. Breakthroughs in this area could open up more treatment options that are less imposing on the patient, and researchers have just reported a promising advance in the form of a blood test that could reveal signs of Alzheimer's long before more obvious symptoms appear.

A common characteristic of Alzheimer's disease is the buildup of sticky proteins in the brain called amyloid beta. The relationship between these brain plaques and the decline in cognitive function is still unclear, but their regular presence in Alzheimer's patients has provided scientists in pursuit of early diagnoses a highly promising lead.
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The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates | The future of medicine and health |
The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates — possibly toxic, probably worthless.

But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

Cantrell called Roy Gerona, a University of California, San Francisco, researcher who specializes in analyzing chemicals. Gerona had grown up in the Philippines and had seen people recover from sickness by taking expired drugs with no apparent ill effects.

“This was very cool,” Gerona says. “Who gets the chance of analyzing drugs that have been in storage for more than 30 years?”

The age of the drugs might have been bizarre, but the question the researchers wanted to answer wasn’t. Pharmacies across the country — in major medical centers and in neighborhood strip malls — routinely toss out tons of scarce and potentially valuable prescription drugs when they hit their expiration dates.

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.
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Did we evolve insomnia as a way to survive? - Futurity

Did we evolve insomnia as a way to survive? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A sound night’s sleep grows more elusive as people get older, but what some call insomnia may actually be an age-old survival mechanism.

For people who live in groups, differences in sleep patterns commonly associated with age help ensure that at least one person is awake at all times, a study of modern hunter-gatherers in Tanzania shows.

The findings suggest that mismatched sleep schedules and restless nights may be an evolutionary leftover from a time many, many years ago, when a lion lurking in the shadows might try to eat you at 2 am.

“The idea that there’s a benefit to living with grandparents has been around for a while, but this study extends that idea to vigilance during nighttime sleep,” says coauthor David Samson, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University at the time of the study.

The Hadza people of northern Tanzania live by hunting and gathering their food, following the rhythms of day and night just as humans did for hundreds of thousands of years before people started growing crops and herding livestock.

They live and sleep in groups of 20 to 30 people. During the day, men and women go their separate ways to forage for tubers, berries, honey, and meat in the savanna woodlands near Tanzania’s Lake Eyasi and surrounding areas. Then each night they reunite in the same place, where young and old alike sleep outside next to their hearth, or together in huts made of woven grass and branches.

“They are as modern as you and me. But they do tell an important part of the human evolutionary story because they live a lifestyle that is the most similar to our hunting and gathering past,” says coauthor Alyssa Crittenden, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“They sleep on the ground, and have no synthetic lighting or controlled climate—traits that characterized the ancestral sleeping environment for early humans.”
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Neurologists Have Made an Instrument You Can Play With Your Mind

Neurologists Have Made an Instrument You Can Play With Your Mind | The future of medicine and health |
An instrument that emits notes according to a person's brain signals is the latest example of mind-controlled technology helping those who have limited movement to engage with the world.

The device neurologists dubbed the Encephalophone won't be popping out Top 40 hits any time soon, but it could still eventually help those who have had a stroke or are restricted by paralysis to engage with music, a task that has been shown to have significant therapeutic benefits.

Marrying electronic tones with brain waves is far from new, with sound being used to observe brain activity barely a decade after electroencephalography – brain wave recording – was first developed.

What is novel in this innovation is the level of accuracy and precision volunteers have produced in the manipulation of specific notes in a musical scale.

Over the decades there have been a variety of attempts to use brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to produce music, with some success.

In 2011 researchers in the UK used a BCI to allow patients to select and alter the intensity of a pre-selected set of notes by focussing on icons on a screen.

But there's a world of difference using concentration to press a virtual button and accurately selecting notes on a scale.

Advances in BCI technology are enabling finer degrees of control over diverse technologies, making it possible for those who have lost control of limbs to walk, manipulate objects, or even drive again.
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Memory-enhancing drug reverses effects of traumatic brain injury in mice

Memory-enhancing drug reverses effects of traumatic brain injury in mice | The future of medicine and health |
Whether caused by a car accident that slams your head into the dashboard or repeated blows to your cranium from high-contact sports, traumatic brain injury can be permanent. There are no drugs to reverse the cognitive decline and memory loss, and any surgical interventions must be carried out within hours to be effective, according to the current medical wisdom. But a compound previously used to enhance memory in mice may offer hope: Rodents who took it up to a month after a concussion had memory capabilities similar to those that had never been injured.

The study “offers a glimmer of hope for our traumatic brain injury patients,” says Cesario Borlongan, a neuroscientist who studies brain aging and repair at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Borlongan, who reviewed the new paper, notes that its findings are especially important in the clinic, where most rehabilitation focuses on improving motor—not cognitive—function.

Traumatic brain injuries, which cause cell death and inflammation in the brain, affect 2 million Americans each year. But the condition is difficult to study, in part because every fall, concussion, or blow to the head is different. Some result in bleeding and swelling, which must be treated immediately by drilling into the skull to relieve pressure. But under the microscope, even less severe cases appear to trigger an “integrated stress response,” which throws protein synthesis in neurons out of whack and may make long-term memory formation difficult.
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Algorithm beats experts at diagnosing heart rhythm - Futurity

Algorithm beats experts at diagnosing heart rhythm - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A new algorithm can sift through hours of heart rhythm data generated by some wearable monitors to find sometimes life-threatening irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias.

The algorithm, which researchers explain in a paper on arXiv, performs better than trained cardiologists, and has the added benefit of being able to sort through data from remote locations where people don’t have routine access to cardiologists.

The researchers say their algorithm could bring quick, accurate diagnoses of heart arrhythmias to people without ready access to cardiologists.

“One of the big deals about this work, in my opinion, is not just that we do abnormality detection but that we do it with high accuracy across a large number of different types of abnormalities,” says Awni Hannun, a graduate student at Stanford University and co-lead author of the paper. “This is definitely something that you won’t find to this level of accuracy anywhere else.”
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Two British men become first to give birth after putting gender surgery on hold

Two British men become first to give birth after putting gender surgery on hold | The future of medicine and health |
Two British men have become the first in the country to give birth after putting their gender transitions on hold.

Hayden Cross, 21, and Scott Parker, 23, were both born women, but chose to have children before full surgery made it impossible.

In April Mr Parker gave birth to his daughter Sara who was conceived following a drunken one-night stand with a friend in August last year.

Last month Mr Cross delivered his daughter Trinity-Leigh via Caesarean section, after he found a sperm donor on Facebook and inseminated himself.

The pair are now planning to return to gender reassignment surgery as quickly as possible.

Mr Cross was born Paige but has been living legally as a man for more than three years and taking male ­hormones, which have given him facial hair and a deep voice.

He had asked the NHS to freeze his eggs before completing the transition in the hope that he might have children in later years. But the health service refused.

“I faced the prospect of not becoming the man I’m supposed to be, physically, or a dad,” he told The Sun newspaper.

"I found the donor on the internet. I looked on Facebook for a group and found one — it’s been shut down now. I didn’t have to pay.

“The man came to my house, he passed me the sperm in a pot and I did it via a syringe.

“I found I was pregnant two weeks after the sperm was inserted. I was happy but I also knew it would be backtracking on my transition.

“It’s a very female thing to carry a baby and it goes against everything I feel in my body.”

Mr Cross said he does not know the name of the biological father.

Mr Parker gave birth seven weeks before Mr Cross.

He had been living as a man for two years but put his transition on hold to have Sara.
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The weird power of the placebo effect, explained

The weird power of the placebo effect, explained | The future of medicine and health |
Over the last several years, doctors noticed a mystifying trend: Fewer and fewer new pain drugs were getting through double-blind placebo control trials, the gold standard for testing a drug’s effectiveness.

In these trials, neither doctors nor patients know who is on the active drug and who is taking an inert pill. At the end of the trial, the two groups are compared. If those who actually took the drug report significantly greater improvement than those on placebo, then it’s worth prescribing.

Researchers found when they started looking closely at pain drug trials in that an average of 27 percent of patients in clinical trials in 1996 reported pain reduction from the new drug compared to placebo. In 2013, it was 9 percent.

What this showed was not that the drugs were getting worse, but that “the placebo response is growing bigger over time,” but only in the US, explains Jeffrey Mogil, the McGill University pain researcher who co-discovered the trend. And it’s not just growing stronger in pain medicine. Placebos are growing in strength in antidepressants and anti-psychotic studies as well.

“The placebo effect is the most interesting phenomenon in all of science,” Mogil says. “It’s at the precise interface of biology and psychology,” and is subject to everything from the drug ads we see to our interactions with health care providers to the length of a clinical trial.

Scientists have been studying this incredibly complex interface in great detail over the past 15 years, and they’re finding that sugar pills are stranger and more useful than we’ve previously imagined. The new science of placebo is bringing new understanding to why alternative treatments — like acupuncture and reiki — help some people. And it could also potentially allow us to one day prescribe smaller doses of pain drugs to help address the opioid crisis currently ravaging America.

Most instructively, the science finds that since we can’t separate a medicine from the placebo effect, shouldn’t we use it to our advantage?
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Friends beat family for aging well - Futurity

Friends beat family for aging well - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Among older adults, friendships are actually a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members, research shows.

In a pair of studies involving nearly 280,000 people, William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, also found that friendships become increasingly important to one’s happiness and health across the lifespan.

“Friendships become even more important as we age,” says Chopik. “Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”

For the first study, Chopik analyzed survey information about relationships and self-rated health and happiness from 271,053 participants of all ages from nearly 100 countries. The second study looked at data from a separate survey about relationship support/strain and chronic illness from 7,481 older adults in the United States.

According to the first study, both family and friend relationships were linked to better health and happiness overall, but only friendships became a stronger predictor of health and happiness at advanced ages.

The second study also showed that friendships were very influential—when friends were the source of strain, participants reported more chronic illnesses; when friends were the source of support, participants were happier.
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How Nanoparticles And a Common Spice Are Killing Cancer Cells

How Nanoparticles And a Common Spice Are Killing Cancer Cells | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists have come up with a potential new way to treat neuroblastoma, the most common kind of cancer in infants, by targeting it with nanoparticles loaded up with an ingredient of the spice turmeric.

Turmeric is more often used to add flavour to curries, but the curcumin chemical it contains has shown promising progress in tests in destroying neuroblastoma tumour cells resistant to other drugs.

If scientists can work out how to adapt this into a full and safe treatment, it would have the benefit of being less toxic and unpleasant for patients than traditional alternatives like chemotherapy – which is especially important when you're dealing with young kids.

"High-risk neuroblastoma can be resistant to traditional therapy, and survival can be poor," says lead researcher Tamarah J. Westmoreland, from the University of Central Florida.

"This research demonstrates a novel method of treating this tumour without the toxicity of aggressive therapy that can also have late effects on the patient's health."

Using curcumin to fight cancer isn't a new idea, but it's difficult to get the chemical into drugs because of its low solubility and poor stability. Nanoparticles could fix that.
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Dramatic decline in Western sperm counts over past 40 years

Dramatic decline in Western sperm counts over past 40 years | The future of medicine and health |
A large-scale meta-analysis of 185 studies across 40 years has found a more than 50 percent decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The rate of decline was found to be consistent and is cause for significant concern if the trend continues.

Previous studies showing downward trends in global sperm counts have been criticized by scientists for a variety of factors. It has been argued that many prior fertility studies contained data that was skewed by selection bias and weren't representative of the broader population. Other researchers have also questioned the validity of historical sperm count estimates, claiming older studies were unreliable due to inaccurate measuring techniques.

This latest study attempts to correct for these limitations. Unlike earlier meta-analyses that included sample counts going as far back as 1931, this study only included data collected since 1973 so as to reduce the uncertainty in its results. Meta-regression models were also developed to account for variable factors such as age, abstinence and selection of the study population.
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The Science of Passionate Sex

The Science of Passionate Sex | The future of medicine and health |
Our culture is obsessed with sex. Everywhere you look is another article on how to have hot sex, harder erections, mind-bending orgasms, and ejaculations that go on for days. What people seldom realize, though-- and which the latest science backs up-- is that this is exactly the problem.

There's nothing wrong with desiring sex. I'm extremely sex positive. Rather, I believe it's the obsessive focus on the pragmatics and mechanization of sex-- in isolation from the rest of the person-- that is making us actually less satisfied with sex. We aren't integrating our sexual desires into the totality of our being, and our whole selves are suffering as a result.

In a series of clever studies, Frédérick Philippe, Robert Vallerand, and colleagues studied a concept they refer to as harmonious sexual passion: passion for sex that is well integrated and in harmony with other aspects of the self, creating minimal conflict with other areas of life. Harmonious integration of ones sexual desires frees one up to fully engage and enjoy sexual activity in an open, spontaneous, and nondefensive manner. Items measuring harmonious sexual passion include: "Sex is in harmony with the other things that are part of me," "Sex is well integrated in my life," and "Sex is in harmony with the other activities in my life."

In contrast, those who have obsessive sexual passion have not well integrated their sexuality into the totality of their being. Their sexual desires remain detached from other areas of their self as well as other domains in life. This leads to more narrow goals, such as immediate sexual gratification (e.g., orgasm), and leads to more of an urgent feeling of sex as a goal, compelling us to perform, instead of us being in control of our sexuality. This can significantly limit the full enjoyment of sex as well as life. Items measuring obsessive sexual passion include: "I have almost an obsessive feeling for sex," "Sex is the only thing that really turns me on," and "I have the impression that sex controls me."
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Schizophrenia Found to Be Caused by Faulty Helper Cells in The Brain

Schizophrenia Found to Be Caused by Faulty Helper Cells in The Brain | The future of medicine and health |
New research on mice has suggested the symptoms produced by schizophrenia could largely be the result of defective cells that play an important role in supporting and insulating the nerve cells.

The discovery challenges conventional thinking that has concentrated on the nerve cells themselves, and could potentially open new ways to detect and treat the condition.

The research by an international team of scientists was based on what are known as chimeric mice, which had brains colonised by glial cells from human donors.

Schizophrenia is a difficult disease to get to the roots of. The condition gives rise to a variety of cognitive and emotional challenges, including paranoia, disorganised thinking, hallucinations, and delusions.

21 million people worldwide have the condition, which has been shown to run in families.

Genetic studies have identified mutations that could be responsible, with recent research hinting at over-eager pruning mechanisms cutting back a few too many connections in the brain during formative years.

But as with many neurological conditions it's unlikely that there's a single cause responsible for producing the array of symptoms.

In this new research, it's not differences in the nerve cells that are to blame, but problems with their nanny cells.
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Yoga rivals P.T. for chronic low back pain - Futurity

Yoga rivals P.T. for chronic low back pain - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Yoga is as effective as physical therapy to treat mild to moderate chronic low back pain, research finds, including for some underserved patients with more severe functional disability.

A new study used a randomized trial of 320 predominantly low-income, racially diverse adults ages 18 to 64 with nonspecific chronic low back pain (cLBP). Participants took 12 yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits, or an educational book and newsletters about managing back pain, followed by a 40-week maintenance period with yoga drop-in classes or home practice for the yoga group, and physical therapy booster sessions or home practice for the physical therapy group.

The findings, reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, show that about one-half of participants in both the yoga and physical therapy groups reported reduced pain and disability, compared to about one-fifth of participants in the education group.

The yoga and physical therapy participants were about 20 percent less likely to use any pain medication at 12 weeks compared to the education group.
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Mental Illness Is Far More Common Than We Knew

Mental Illness Is Far More Common Than We Knew | The future of medicine and health |
Most of us know at least one person who has struggled with a bout of debilitating mental illness. Despite their familiarity, however, these kinds of episodes are typically considered unusual, and even shameful.

New research, from our lab and from others around the world, however, suggests mental illnesses are so common that almost everyone will develop at least one diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their lives. Most of these people will never receive treatment, and their relationships, job performance and life satisfaction will likely suffer. Meanwhile the few individuals who never seem to develop a disorder may offer psychology a new avenue of study, allowing researchers to ask what it takes to be abnormally, enduringly, mentally well.

Epidemiologists have long known that, at any given point in time, roughly 20 to 25 percent of the population suffers from a mental illness, which means they experience psychological distress severe enough to impair functioning at work, school or in their relationships. Extensive national surveys, conducted from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, suggested that a much higher percentage, close to half the population, would experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.
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Electrical stimulation can help people who are too weak to exercise

Electrical stimulation can help people who are too weak to exercise | The future of medicine and health |
Exercise can benefit people who have, or are recovering from, a serious illness, including cancer. The problem is, people who are very ill often have muscle weakness and other side effects that prevent them from being physically active. It’s a catch-22 situation.

Fortunately, there may be a technological solution, and it goes by the rather unattractive name of neuromuscular electrical stimulation – or NMES, for short. You may have seen this type of gadget advertised on TV, promising you a six pack without having to do a single sit-up. All you have to do is strap a belt, studded with electrodes, around your middle and let the electrical impulses do the work. Each time a shock is delivered, the muscles contract, as they would through regular exercise.

NMES may seem newfangled, but the concept is actually very old. The ancient Greeks and Romans were the first to identify the medical potential of electrical stimulation, using electrical fishes to generate shocks to help with pain relief. Pain treatment moved from natural electricity to man-made electricity in the 18th and 19th centuries with the development of the first NMES devices.

Nowadays, we don’t just use these devices for pain relief, but for rehabilitation too. Research shows that it may help minimise the loss of muscle mass and increase strength in the leg muscles when exercise isn’t possible.

A major benefit of these devices is that they can be used at home, without the supervision of an exercise specialist.
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New method can tell how old your cells really are - Futurity

New method can tell how old your cells really are - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A new system can consider a wide array of cellular and molecular factors in one comprehensive study to determine the functional age of cells.

The system could eventually help clinicians evaluate and recommend ways to delay some health effects of aging and potentially improve other treatments, including skin graft matching and predicting prospects for wound healing.

These researchers’ results show that the biophysical qualities of cells, such as cell movements and structural features, make better measures of functional age than other factors, including cell secretions and cell energy.

The team of engineers and clinicians examined dermal cells from just underneath the surface of the skin taken from both males and females between the ages of 2 to 96 years.

The researchers hoped to devise a system that through computational analysis could take the measure of various factors of cellular and molecular functions. From that information, they hoped to determine the biological age of individuals more accurately using their cells, in contrast to previous studies, which makes use of gross physiology, or examining cellular mechanisms such as DNA methylation.

“We combined some classic biomolecular hallmarks of aging, and sought to further elucidate the role of biophysical properties of aging cells all in one study,” says Jude M. Phillip, the lead author of the study, who conducted this research while completing his doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
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Personalized cancer vaccines successful in first-stage human trials

Personalized cancer vaccines successful in first-stage human trials | The future of medicine and health |
A cancer vaccine is one of the holy grails of modern medical research, but finding a way to stimulate the immune system to specifically target and kill cancer cells has proven to be a difficult task. Now two recent clinical trials that have produced encouraging results in patients with skin cancer are are providing hope for the development of personalized cancer vaccines tailored to individual patient's tumors.

Both studies focus on neoantigens, which are mutated molecules found only on the surface of cancer cells. Neoantigens prove to be ideal targets for immunotherapy as they are not present on healthy cells. A vaccine's challenge is to train the body's immune cells, known as T cells, to hunt and kill only those specific tumor cells that hold the target neoantigens.

In the first trial, at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, samples of tumors were taken from six patients with melanoma. The patients were identified as having a high risk for recurrence after first having their tumors removed by surgery. For each individual patient the researchers identified up to 20 neoantigens specific to a subject's tumor.
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It's time to inject some sense into the nonsense peddled by the anti-science crowd | Melissa Davey

It's time to inject some sense into the nonsense peddled by the anti-science crowd | Melissa Davey | The future of medicine and health |
Parents of infants could be forgiven for panicking if they read reports about “needle-like”, “potentially dangerous” and “toxic” nanoparticles in Australian infant formula products. Sounds pretty horrifying. There were calls to pull infant formula from shelves this week after the eco-activist group Friends of the Earth issued a media release saying it had ordered independent testing of formula products and had found the nanoparticles, which it said could cause kidney and liver damage. Many major Australian media outlets ran the story.

Here’s the thing. Nanoparticles are simply microscopic particles less than 100 nanometres in size. The nanoparticles being demonised by Friends of the Earth were calcium phosphate crystals, a normal and natural component of human tissue, teeth and bones. A look at the study Friends of the Earth based its scare campaign on reveals rats were injected with the nanoparticles through their abdominal cavity at extremely high concentrations, far greater than those found in baby formula, which is obviously ingested by babies, not injected into them. There is no way conclusions could be drawn between the rat study and the nanoparticles in the infant formula – which dissolve in digestive acids anyway – on supermarket shelves.

Getting it wrong can be dangerous.
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Chocolate Boosts Your Brain Power, New Study Finds

Chocolate Boosts Your Brain Power, New Study Finds | The future of medicine and health |
Italian scientists have found that a daily dose of cocoa acts as a dietary supplement to counteract different types of cognitive decline.

They found regularly eating cocoa was linked to improvements in working memory and visual information processing and cocoa could be particularly beneficial for certain people.

Cocoa, is the dried and fermented bean from the cocoa tree used to make delicious chocolate treats. Cocoa has been studied extensively because, well, who wouldn't want that job.

Over the years, it has been found that a range of naturally occurring chemicals in the cocoa bean have therapeutic effects.

For example, polyphenols in dark chocolate were found to increase calmness and contentedness and flavanols were able to reverse age-related memory decline.

Before you start using this an excuse to scoff as much chocolate as humanly possible, just remember that chocolate also contains theobromine, a toxic chemical. Though to be at risk of poisoning yourself, you'd have to eat about 85 full sized chocolate bars.

Despite the large number of claims about the health benefits of cocoa, there are only a limited number of randomised trials and the literature is a mixed bag of results.

In this study, the team looked through the literature for effects of acute and chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on brain activity and, more specifically, what happens if you do this over a long period of time.
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These Genius Fruit Labels Tell Us Why 'Chemical-Free' Is a Useless Term

These Genius Fruit Labels Tell Us Why 'Chemical-Free' Is a Useless Term | The future of medicine and health |
The idea that there is a difference between "natural" chemicals - like those in fruits and vegetables - and the synthetic version of those chemicals produced in a laboratory is a common misconception.

Marketers often feed off consumer concerns that "human-made" chemicals are bad. But the fact is that all foods, and everything around us, are made up of chemicals, whether they occur in nature or are made in a lab.

Australian chemistry teacher James Kennedy wanted to dispel the myth that chemicals are bad for us. He created an ingredient list for natural products, like the banana above, to show that there are many chemicals in our food's natural flavours and colours.

And some of them have long, scary-sounding names, too.

"There's a tendency for advertisers to use the words 'pure' and 'simple' to describe 'natural' products when they couldn't be more wrong," Kennedy writes on his blog.

"As a Chemistry teacher, I want to erode the fear that many people have of 'chemicals' and demonstrate that nature evolves compounds, mechanisms and structures far more complicated and unpredictable than anything we can produce in the lab."

You can see more "all-natural" posters below, and head over to Kennedy's blog to check out all of his great infographics, like a table of esters and their smells.
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