The future of medicine and health
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The future of medicine and health
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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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Technology can’t take the place of a doctor who listens to you

Data are everywhere. But in medicine, data aren’t everything.

From online symptom-checking websites to web-based professional medical resources, both patients and practitioners are able to answer many of their medical questions with the click of a mouse or touch of a screen. For those questions that require further investigation, new laboratory tests and high-tech medical imaging can help support (or refute) potential diagnoses.

Yet some diagnoses fall through the cracks of these modern investigative tools.

For example, a patient who walks in with abdominal discomfort and irregular bowel habits may ultimately walk out several visits later with a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)—a gastrointestinal disorder that may affect up to 10% of the global population. This syndrome is typically not associated with any abnormalities on x-rays, invasive procedures, or lab tests.
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We Can Rebuild Him: Patient Receives 3D Printed Titanium Ribs and Sternum - Singularity HUB

We Can Rebuild Him: Patient Receives 3D Printed Titanium Ribs and Sternum - Singularity HUB | The future of medicine and health |
It’s a bit like a Marvel superhero comic or a 70s sci-fi TV show—only it actually just happened. After having his sternum and several ribs surgically removed, a Spanish cancer patient took delivery of one titanium 3D printed rib cage—strong, light, and custom fit to his body.

It’s just the latest example of how 3D printing and medicine are a perfect fit.

The list of 3D printed body parts now includes dental, ankle, spinal, trachea, and even skull implants (among others). Because each body is unique, customization is critical. Medical imaging, digital modeling, and 3D printers allow doctors to fit prosthetics and implants to each person’s anatomy as snugly and comfortably as a well tailored suit.

In this case, the 54-year-old patient suffered from chest wall sarcoma, a cancer of the rib cage. His doctors determined they would need to remove his sternum and part of several ribs and replace them with a prosthetic sternum and rib cage.

Titanium chest implants aren’t new, but the complicated geometry of the bone structure makes it difficult to build them. To date, the typically used flat plate implants tend to come loose and raise the risk of complications down the road.

Now, we can do better. We have the technology.

Complexity is free with 3D printing. It’s as easy to print a simple shape as it is to print one with intricate geometry. And with a 3D model based on medical scans, it’s possible to make prosthetics and implants that closely fit a patient’s body.
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Self-control saps memory resources

Self-control saps memory resources | The future of medicine and health |
In an infamous set of experiments performed in the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel sat pre-school kids at a table, one by one, and placed a sweet treat – a small marshmallow, a biscuit, or a pretzel – in front of them. Each of the young participants was told that they would be left alone in the room, and that if they could resist the temptation to eat the sweet on the table in front of them, they would be rewarded with more sweets when the experimenter returned.

The so-called Marshmallow Test was designed to test self-control and delayed gratification. Mischel and his colleagues tracked some of the children as they grew up, and then claimed that those who managed to hold out for longer in the original experiment performed better at school, and went on to become more successful in life, than those who couldn’t resist the temptation to eat the treat before the researcher returned to the room.

The ability to exercise willpower and inhibit impulsive behaviours is considered to be a core feature of the brain’s executive functions, a set of neural processes - including attention, reasoning, and working memory - which regulate our behaviour and thoughts, and enable us to adapt them according to the changing demands of the task at hand.

Executive function is a rather vague term, and we still don’t know much about its underlying bran mechanisms, or about how different components of this control system are related to one another. New research shows that self-control and memory share, and compete with each other for, the same brain mechanisms, such that exercising willpower saps these common resources and impairs our ability to encode memories.
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This gene variant delays Alzheimer's by 10 years - Futurity

This gene variant delays Alzheimer's by 10 years - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
When researchers sequenced the genomes of more than 100 members of a Colombian family affected with early-onset Alzheimer’s, they discovered a mechanism that seems to delay the disease.

The family members have a rare gene mutation that leads to full-blown disease around age 49. However, in a few outliers, the disease manifests up to a decade later.

“We wanted to study those who got the disease later to see if they had a protective modifier gene,” says Kenneth S. Kosik, a biology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We know they have the mutation. Why are they getting it so much later when the mutation so powerfully determines the early age at onset in most of the family members?

“We hypothesized the existence of gene variant actually pushes the disease onset as much as 10 years later.”
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Lipid DNA origami may lead to advanced future nanomachines | KurzweilAI

Lipid DNA origami may lead to advanced future nanomachines | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health |
Kyoto University scientists in Japan have developed a method for creating larger 2-D self-assembling DNA origami* nanostructures.

Current DNA origami methods can create extremely small two- and three-dimensional shapes that could be used as construction material to build nanodevices, such as nanomotors, in the future for targeted drug delivery inside the body, for example. KurzweilAI recently covered advanced methods developed by Brookhaven National Laboratory and Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.
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Booze makes these neurons crave more booze - Futurity

Booze makes these neurons crave more booze - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Drinking alcohol changes the shape of “go” neurons, a part of the brain that makes you want to act—in this case, pour another drink—new research shows.

And binge drinking over time makes it easier for these neurons, called D1, to activate, which causes you to crave more booze.

“If these neurons are excited, you will want to drink alcohol,” says Jun Wang, an assistant professor in the neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “You’ll have a craving.”

That is to say, when neurons with D1 receptors are activated, they compel you to perform an action. This then creates a cycle, where drinking causes easier activation, and activation causes more drinking.
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Completely paralyzed man steps out in robotic exoskeleton

Completely paralyzed man steps out in robotic exoskeleton | The future of medicine and health |
Working with a team of UCLA scientists, a man with protracted and complete paralysis has recovered sufficient voluntary control to take charge of a bionic exoskeleton and take many thousands of steps. Using a non-invasive spinal stimulation system that requires no surgery, this is claimed to be the first time that a person with such a comprehensive disability has been able to actively and voluntarily walk with such a device.

Leveraging on research where the UCLA team recently used the same non-invasive technique to enable five completely paralyzed men to move their legs, the new work has allowed the latest subject, Mark Pollock, to regain some voluntary movement – even up to two weeks after training with the external electrical stimulation had ended.

Pollock, who had been totally paralyzed from the waist down for four years prior to this study, was given five days of training in the robot exoskeleton, and a further two weeks muscle training with the external stimulation unit. The stimulated and voluntary leg movements have not only shown that regaining mobility through this technique is possible, but that the training itself provides a range of health benefits in itself, especially in enhanced cardiovascular function and improved muscle tone.
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UK national sperm bank has just nine donors - BBC News

UK national sperm bank has just nine donors - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Just nine men are registered as donors a year after the opening of Britain's national sperm bank in Birmingham.

It is now planning a recruitment drive, with chief executive Laura Witjens saying that appealing to male pride may be an effective way to boost donations.

She has suggested a new campaign featuring a cartoon superhero, echoing a successful strategy in Denmark.

A change in UK law in 2005, removing anonymity for sperm donors, is thought to have led to a drop in volunteers.

Ms Witjens said she hoped adopting the "superman" message would help, but it could still take five years before the national sperm bank had enough donors.

She told the Guardian: "If I advertised saying 'Men, prove your worth, show me how good you are', then I would get hundreds of donors.

"That's the way the Danish do it. They proudly say, this is the Viking invasion, exports from Denmark are beer, Lego and sperm. It's a source of pride."
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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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How your brain quickly yells ‘Stop!’ - Futurity

How your brain quickly yells ‘Stop!’ - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Researchers have found the part of the brain that directs us to make split-second changes in actions—like when a driver slams on the brakes or a batter checks a swing when a pitch suddenly veers out of the strike zone.

Experiments with rats show that neurons in the basal forebrain—a zone that, not surprisingly, lies toward the bottom of the front of our brains—control that response.

“The study discovered a new role for basal forebrain neurons in the control of action,” says Michela Gallagher, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “This work opens the door to novel approaches focused on this circuit in certain neurological and psychiatric conditions that affect basic cognitive functions of the brain.”

The ability to rapidly stop a behavior is critical for everyday functioning, allowing pedestrians in a crosswalk, for instance, to freeze if a car surprises them and restraining people from grabbing their vibrating phones during a meeting.
Alzheimer’s and ADHD

A better understanding of the cognitive mechanics behind what’s known as reactive inhibition could help people suffering from neurological conditions where such control is diminished—everything from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and normal aging.

Scientists had assumed the self-control necessary to interrupt and reverse a planned behavior originated in the basal ganglia, a brain area responsible for a variety of motor control functions, including the ability to start an action. Gallagher’s study demonstrates, however, that the “stop” response happens in the nearby basal forebrain, a part of the brain best known for regulating sleep, but also recognized as a site for early neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.
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Heart 'in a box' could save more organs for transplant - Futurity

Heart 'in a box' could save more organs for transplant - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Medical programs are testing a new device that may improve the availability of donor hearts for transplants.

It’s an ex vivo (out-of-body) circulatory system that has come to be called “heart in a box.” (See a video of a heart in the device here.)

“The technological advance of this device is that it circulates blood into the aorta and the coronary arteries, and the heart will be beating again all the way to its new home,” says Jason Smith, a cardiothoracic surgeon and transplant specialist at the University of Washington Medical Center. The Regional Heart Center there is one of seven medical programs testing the device, which is made by TransMedics of Andover, Massachusetts.

When someone dies and their heart is made available for transplant, a four- to six-hour window exists between harvest and implant. That’s how long the organ can be packed in an icy saline slush in a hand-held cooler—the standard of care for decades—and still be reliably restarted.

That window of viability dictates the distance from which transplant centers accept donor hearts.

“The idea with heart in a box is that because blood is perfusing the heart, you can keep the organ out of the body considerably longer. In Europe, they’ve gone up to 11 hours on the machine and still had a successful transplant,” Smith says.
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How music can help relieve chronic pain

How music can help relieve chronic pain | The future of medicine and health |
As the 17th-century English playwright William Congreve said: “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” It is known that listening to music can significantly enhance our health and general feelings of well-being.

An important and growing area of research concerns how music helps to mitigate pain and its negative effects. Music has been shown to reduce anxiety, fear, depression, pain-related distress and blood pressure. It has been found to lower pain-intensity levels and reduce the opioid requirements of patients with post-operative pain.

Music has helped children undergoing numerous medical and dental procedures. And it has been demonstrated to work in a variety of other clinical settings such as palliative care, paediatrics, surgery and anaesthesia.

So what makes music so effective at making us feel better? The research has often drawn on theories around how nerve impulses in the central nervous system are affected by our thought processes and emotions. Anything that distracts us from pain may reduce the extent to which we focus on it, and music may be particularly powerful in this regard. The beauty is that once we understand how music relates to pain, we have the potential to treat ourselves.

Music attracts and holds our attention and is emotionally engaging, particularly if our relationship with the piece is strong. Our favourite music is likely to have stronger positive effects than tracks we don’t like or know. Researchers have demonstrated that the music we prefer has greater positive effects on pain tolerance and perception, reduces anxiety and increases feelings of control over pain. In older people with dementia, listening to preferred music has been linked with decreasing agitated behaviour.

Alongside the benefits of listening to what you prefer, the nature of the music has also been shown to be important in enhancing how emotionally engaging it is for patients. Recent research has demonstrated this in relation to dynamics, brightness, arousal levels and other acoustic attributes. Music which is bright, with low intensity and slower tempo has been shown to have the most positive effect on the degree of pain that we experience, for example.
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Nanomesh dressings may draw bacteria from chronic wounds

Nanomesh dressings may draw bacteria from chronic wounds | The future of medicine and health |
We've previously heard about wound dressings that kill bacteria, but now researchers at Australia's Swinburne University of Technology are taking a different approach. They're creating a dressing material that attracts bacteria out from within the wound, so that the material and the microbes can then just be pulled off and discarded.

Led by PhD candidate Martina Abrigo, the Swinburne team started by electrospinning polystyrene fibers that were up to 100 times thinner than a human hair. Meshes of these were then placed over films of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that frequently infects wounds.
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Gene Editing Is Now Cheap and Easy—and No One Is Prepared for the Consequences - Singularity HUB

Gene Editing Is Now Cheap and Easy—and No One Is Prepared for the Consequences - Singularity HUB | The future of medicine and health |
In April 2015, a paper by Chinese scientists about their attempts to edit the DNA of a human embryo rocked the scientific world and set off a furious debate. Leading scientists warned that altering the human germ line without studying the consequences could have horrific consequences. Geneticists with good intentions could mistakenly engineer changes in DNA that generate dangerous mutations and cause painful deaths. Scientists — and countries — with less noble intentions could again try to build a race of superhumans.

Human DNA is, however, merely one of many commercial targets of ethical concern. The DNA of every single organism — every plant, every animal, every bacterium — is now fair game for genetic manipulation. We are entering an age of backyard synthetic biology that should worry everybody. And it is coming about because of CRISPRs: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.

Discovered by scientists only a few years ago, CRISPRs are elements of an ancient system that protects bacteria and other single-celled organisms from viruses, acquiring immunity to them by incorporating genetic elements from the virus invaders. CRISPRs evolved over millions of years to trim pieces of genetic information from one genome and insert it into another. And this bacterial antiviral defense serves as an astonishingly cheap, simple, elegant way to quickly edit the DNA of any organism in the lab.
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Test shows how old your body really is - BBC News

Test shows how old your body really is - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists say they have developed a way of testing how well, or badly, your body is ageing.

They say it could help predict when a person will die, identify those at high-risk of dementia and could affect medicine, pensions and insurance.

The team at King's College London say looking at "biological age" is more useful than using a date of birth.

However, the work, published in Genome Biology, provides no clues as to how to slow the ageing process.

The test looks for an "ageing signature" in your body's cells by comparing the behaviour of 150 genes.

It was developed by initially comparing 54,000 markers of gene activity in healthy, but largely sedentary, 25 and 65-year-olds and then whittling them down to a final 150.

Prof Jamie Timmons, from King's College London, told the BBC News website: "There's a healthy ageing signature that's common to all our tissues, and it appears to be prognostic for a number of things including longevity and cognitive decline.

"It looks like from the age of 40 onwards you can use this to give guidance on how well an individual is ageing."
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Life expectancy climbs worldwide but people spend more years living with illness and disability | KurzweilAI

Life expectancy climbs worldwide but people spend more years living with illness and disability | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health |
The good news: as for 2013, global life expectancy for people in 188 countries has risen 6.2 years since 1990 (65.3 to 71.5). The bad news: healthy life expectancy (HALE) at birth rose by only 5.4 years (56.9 to 62.3), due to fatal and nonfatal ailments (interactive visualization by country here).

In other words, people are living more years with illness and disability. Ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections, and stroke cause the most health loss around the world.

That’s according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet on August 27, conducted by an international consortium of researchers working on the Global Burden of Disease study, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

“The world has made great progress in health, but now the challenge is to invest in finding more effective ways of preventing or treating the major causes of illness and disability,” said Professor Theo Vos of IHME, the study’s lead author.

For dozens of countries — including Botswana, Belize, and Syria — healthy life expectancy in 2013 was not significantly higher than in 1990. In some of those countries, including South Africa, Paraguay, and Belarus, healthy life expectancy has actually dropped (by as much as 10 years) since 1990.

Causes of health loss

The fastest-growing global cause of health loss between 1990 and 2013 was HIV/AIDS, which increased by 341.5%. But this dramatic rise masks progress in recent years; since 2005, health loss due to HIV/AIDS has diminished by 23.9% because of global focus on the disease. Ischemic heart disease, stroke, low back and neck pain, road injuries, and COPD have also caused an increasing amount of health loss since 1990.The impact of other ailments, such as diarrheal diseases, neonatal preterm birth complications, and lower respiratory infections, has significantly declined.

Across countries, patterns of health loss vary widely. The countries with the highest rates of DALYs are among the poorest in the world, and include several in sub-Saharan Africa: Lesotho, Swaziland, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, and Zimbabwe. Countries with the lowest rates of health loss include Italy, Spain, Norway, Switzerland, and Israel.

The number of DALYs due to communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders has declined steadily, from 1.19 billion in 1990 to 769.3 million in 2013, while DALYs from non-communicable diseases have increased steadily, rising from 1.08 billion to 1.43 billion over the same period.
mediadd's curator insight, September 3, 2015 12:37 PM

Nuestra esperanza de vida es mayor, pero con más discapacides y enfermedades

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GM embryos: time for ethics debate, say scientists

GM embryos: time for ethics debate, say scientists | The future of medicine and health |
Leading UK research funders are calling for an urgent national debate on the ethics of genetically modifying human embryos and other tissues to prevent serious diseases.

The plea has been prompted by scientists’ rapid progress in developing a powerful tool called genome editing, which has the potential to transform the treatment of genetic conditions by rewriting the DNA code of affected cells.

Although UK law bans genetic modification of embryos for clinical uses, it is permitted in research laboratories under licence from the fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) – provided the embryos are destroyed after 14 days.

In a position statement published on Wednesday, five leading biomedical funders declare support for genome-editing research and certain therapies that might follow, such as infusions of modified immune cells that are tailor-made to attack patients’ tumours.
But they add that altering the DNA of human sperm and eggs, known as “germ cells”, and human embryos should become the focus of a broad ethical debate that fully explores the potential benefits and pitfalls of the procedure.
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