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The future of medicine and health
all that concerns the rapid evolution of medicine and health
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Stethoscope set to be supplanted by new technology

Stethoscope set to be supplanted by new technology | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Heart experts predict pocket-sized ultrasound machines will improve diagnostic accuracy and reduce complications

A doctor's most important accessory, the stethoscope, may be heading for the scrap heap after 200 years, it has been claimed.

The development of new, more accurate and compact ultrasound devices could soon consign the Victorian stethoscope to medical history, two US heart experts predicted.

Professor Jagat Narula and Dr Bret Nelson, both from Mount Sinai school of medicine in New York, said several manufacturers already made hand-held ultrasound machines that were slightly larger than a deck of cards. Evidence suggests that, compared with the stethoscope, the devices can reduce complications, assist in emergencies and improve diagnostic accuracy.

Currently even a top-of-the-range stethoscope costs only a fraction of the several thousand dollars needed to buy the cheapest ultrasound device.

But according to the experts, the falling price of new technology and changes in medical training could eventually see the stethoscope supplanted by pocket-sized ultrasound probes.

The simple listening tube for monitoring abnormal heartbeats and wheezing lungs has been a common sight around the necks of doctors since its invention in 1816.

Writing in the journal Global Heart, of which Narula is editor-in-chief, the authors conclude: "Certainly the stage is set for disruption; as LPs were replaced by cassettes, then CDs and MP3s, so too might the stethoscope yield to ultrasound.

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Richard Platt's curator insight, February 4, 2014 1:58 PM

Stethoscope to be replaced

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GEN | Insight & Intelligence™: Nanotechnology: Is the Magic Bullet Becoming Reality?

GEN | Insight & Intelligence™: Nanotechnology: Is the Magic Bullet Becoming Reality? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers at a recent New York conference discuss what the future of nanomedicine may hold.
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How Inactivity Changes the Brain-And this is your brain on the couch.

How Inactivity Changes the Brain-And this is your brain on the couch. | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Being sedentary appears to alter the brain in ways that may affect heart health, a new study found.

A number of studies have shown that exercise can remodel the brain by prompting the creation of new brain cells and inducing other changes. Now it appears that inactivity, too, can remodel the brain, according to a notable new report.

The study, which was conducted in rats but likely has implications for people too, the researchers say, found that being sedentary changes the shape of certain neurons in ways that significantly affect not just the brain but the heart as well. The findings may help to explain, in part, why a sedentary lifestyle is so bad for us.

Until about 20 years ago, most scientists believed that the brain’s structure was fixed by adulthood, that you couldn’t create new brain cells, alter the shape of those that existed or in any other way change your mind physically after adolescence.

But in the years since, neurological studies have established that the brain retains plasticity, or the capacity to be reshaped, throughout our lifetimes. Exercise appears to be particularly adept at remodeling the brain, studies showed.

But little has been known about whether inactivity likewise alters the structure of the brain and, if so, what the consequences might be.

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Read This Before Zapping Your Brain - Wired Science

Read This Before Zapping Your Brain - Wired Science | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Have you bought your transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) head-set yet? You've heard of this, right? It's a device with electrodes that zap your brain through your skull, using mild electrical currents to make you smarter.The man in the picture above sports one of the first commercially available devices. Produced by Foc.us, it’s available for $249, and also comes in black. This technology is far from new – Roman physician Galen was on to something similar when he slapped electric fish on his patients’ heads. But tDCS is now in the process of going mainstream: there are DIY brain-zapping enthusiasts on YouTube; last year MTV editor Mary H K Choi wrote an amusing but inconclusive tDCS self-experimentation piece for Aeon; and just the other day, Oliver Burkeman included tDCS in his roundup of new brain-enhancing technologies for The Guardian.The manufacturers claim that the tDCS headset will “overclock your brain”, increase your brain’s plasticity and “make your synapses fire faster”. Overclocking sounds a bit dangerous, and rather than your synapses, wouldn’t it be better to make your neurons fire faster? Synapses are the junctions between neurons. We usually say it’s neurons that “fire” and their message is passed across one or more synapses to other neurons using chemicals. Unless the marketing people were talking specifically about electrical synapses? But sorry, I’m rambling. Must focus. “Foc.us”. Need more electric current. Hang on …

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Tiny swimming bio-bots boldly go where no bot has swum before | e! Science News

The alien world of aquatic micro-organisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots.

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The alien world of aquatic micro-organisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots. A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own. Led by Taher Saif, the University of Illinois Gutgsell Professor of mechanical science and engineering, the team published its work in the journal Nature Communications.

"Micro-organisms have a whole world that we only glimpse through the microscope," Saif said. "This is the first time that an engineered system has reached this underworld."

The bio-bots are modeled after single-celled creatures with long tails called flagella -- for example, sperm. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells near the junction of the head and the tail. The cells self-align and synchronize to beat together, sending a wave down the tail that propels the bio-bot forward.

This self-organization is a remarkable emergent phenomenon, Saif said, and how the cells communicate with each other on the flexible polymer tail is yet to be fully understood. But the cells must beat together, in the right direction, for the tail to move.

"It's the minimal amount of engineering -- just a head and a wire," Saif said. "Then the cells come in, interact with the structure, and make it functional."

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Donating Orgasms to Science-A day in the life of a sex researcher

Donating Orgasms to Science-A day in the life of a sex researcher | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

As I drive the five miles from my house in suburban New Jersey to Rutgers University Brain Imaging Center, I take a mental inventory of my data. So far, I have collected 13 self-stimulation orgasms but only 6 orgasms brought about through partner stimulation. The goal is to have an equal number of both.

I feel the familiar wash of anxiety about to launch me into the low-level panic typical of a graduate student in her dissertation year. Except I am no typical graduate student—I am a 56-year-old sex therapist turned cognitive neuroscientist whose day job is to study the human sexual response, and my dissertation is on genital stimulation and female orgasm.

Pulling into the parking lot, I brace for the day. There is much to do to prepare for the study scheduled for 1 p.m. The participant and her partner will arrive at 9:30 a.m. They will need to complete a stack of paperwork—consent forms, MRI safety checklists, and an additional form that verifies that the female participant is not pregnant—and then will have to be carefully trained in the protocol for the study.

I wear a number of hats in the lab. As a therapist with three decades of clinical experience, I am foremost a people-person. My job requires that I make our participants comfortable and keep them safe as they go about the unusual business of donating orgasms to science. My other role—as the principal investigator of my dissertation study—means that I am responsible for making sure that the technical aspects of the study are properly executed and all the details necessary for a smooth study come together simultaneously. And then I must be the one to analyze the data afterwards, a laborious, pain-staking process that has taken years to learn.

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Leukemia treatment given shot in the arm by artificial bone marrow development

Leukemia treatment given shot in the arm by artificial bone marrow development | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

European researchers have announced a breakthrough in the development of artificial bone marrow which expands the ability of scientists to reproduce stem cells in the lab and could lead to increased availability of treatment for leukemia sufferers.

One of the main treatments for the blood cancer is the injection of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). These HSCs can either be harvested from a compatible donor or cultivated from the patient’s own bone marrow in the lab.

The greatest challenges in producing HSCs in the lab has been their limited longevity outside of the bone marrow environment. This problem may soon be circumvented with the creation of an artificial bone marrow by the Young Investigators Group for Stem Cell– Material Interactions.

Headed by Dr. Cornelia Lee-Thedieck the group consists of scientists from the KIT Institute of Functional Interfaces (IFG), the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart, and Tübingen University.

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Eye Cells Made with Ink-Jet Printer | MIT Technology Review

Eye Cells Made with Ink-Jet Printer  | MIT Technology Review | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The ability to print retinal cells could lead to new therapies for retinal disorders such as macular degeneration.

Ink-jet printing technology could be a way to build new tissue meant to restore vision to people suffering from common forms of blindness due to retinal degeneration.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge used a standard ink-jet printer to form layers of two types of cells taken from the retinas of rats, and showed that the process did not compromise the cells’ health or ability to survive and grow in culture. Ink-jet printing has been used to deposit cells before, but this is the first time cells from an adult animal’s central nervous system have been printed.

The group hopes to develop the technology into a tool for generating new tissues that can be grown outside the eye and implanted in patients with retinal damage. Alternatively, the technique could potentially be used to insert cells directly into damaged retinas during ocular surgery, says Keith Martin, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Cambridge, who led the research.

Scientists can grow single layers of cells in cultures, but printing may be a more effective way to engineer new tissues and organs, which are made of multiple different cell types positioned in intricate three-dimensional orientations. The retina, for example, is a highly organized, multilayered structure composed of various types of neurons and non-neuronal cells. The new ink-jet technique makes it possible to place retinal cells in “very precise and special arrangements,” says Martin.

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Harvard scientists control cells following transplantation, from the inside out | e! Science News

Harvard scientists control cells following transplantation, from the inside out | e! Science News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Harvard stem cells scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital and MIT can now engineer cells that are more easily controlled following transplantation, potentially making cell therapies, hundreds of which are currently in clinical trials across the United States, more functional and efficient. Associate Professor Jeffrey Karp, PhD, and James Ankrum, PhD, demonstrate in this month's issue of Nature Protocols how to load cells with microparticles that provide the cells cues for how they should behave over the course of days or weeks as the particles degrade.

"Regardless of where the cell is in the body, it's going to be receiving its cues from the inside," said Karp, a Harvard Stem Cell Institute Principal Faculty member at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "This is a completely different strategy than the current method of placing cells onto drug-doped microcarriers or scaffolds, which is limiting because the cells need to remain in close proximity to those materials in order to function. Also these types of materials are too large to be infused into the bloodstream."

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Research confirms Mediterranean diet is good for the mind - University of Exeter

Research confirms Mediterranean diet is good for the mind - University of Exeter | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

The first systematic review of related research confirms a positive impact on cognitive function, but an inconsistent effect on mild cognitive impairment.

Over recent years many pieces of research have identified a link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and a lower risk of age-related disease such as dementia.

Until now there has been no systematic review of such research, where a number of studies regarding a Mediterranean diet and cognitive function are reviewed for consistencies, common trends and inconsistencies.

A team of researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School, supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC), has carried out the first such systematic review and their findings are published in Epidemiology.

The team analysed 12 eligible pieces of research, 11 observational studies and one randomised control trial. In nine out of the 12 studies, a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, results for mild cognitive impairment were inconsistent.

A Mediterranean diet typically consists of higher levels of olive oil, vegetables, fruit and fish. A higher adherence to the diet means higher daily intakes of fruit and vegetables and fish, and reduced intakes of meat and dairy products.

The study was led by researcher Iliana Lourida. She said: "Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the ageing brain by reducing the risk of dementia. While the link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and dementia risk is not new, ours is the first study to systematically analyse all existing evidence."

She added: "Our review also highlights inconsistencies in the literature and the need for further research. In particular research is needed to clarify the association with mild cognitive impairment and vascular dementia. It is also important to note that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence we now need randomized controlled trials to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia."

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Could A Dopamine Gene Be the Answer to a Longer Life? | TIME.com

Could A Dopamine Gene Be the Answer to a Longer Life? | TIME.com | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

A gene linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addiction might also help you live to be 100.

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that a version of a gene coding for a receptor for the brain chemical dopamine was 66% more common among people who lived to be 90 or older than among a group of younger people who were otherwise similar.  The variant leads to a weaker response to the neurotransmitter, lowering the activity of the dopamine system that is responsible for generating feelings of pleasure, desire and reward, as well as for regulating movement.

The study included over 1000 people aged 90 to 109 who lived in the Leisure World retirement community in Laguna Woods, California.  They were part of a group of nearly 14,000 highly educated people of mostly European ancestry who were initially studied in 1981.

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How a retrovirus can kick-start brain repair - Futurity

How a retrovirus can kick-start brain repair - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A retrovirus regenerates neurons after a brain injury and in Alzheimer's models. The method may lead to therapies for an array of neurological disorders.

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Researchers used a retrovirus to regenerate neurons after a brain injury and in Alzheimer’s models. The method may lead to therapies for an array of neurological disorders.

Gong Chen, a professor of biology, the Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences at Penn State, and the leader of the research team, calls the method a breakthrough in the long journey toward brain repair.

“This technology may be developed into a new therapeutic treatment for traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders,” Chen says. The research appears in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

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Zapping the brain can help to spot-clean nasty memories

Zapping the brain can help to spot-clean nasty memories | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers use electroconvulsive therapy to disrupt recall of specific events.

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In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, unhappy lovers undergo an experimental brain treatment to erase all memories of each other from their minds. No such fix exists for real-life couples, but researchers report today in Nature Neuroscience that a targeted medical intervention helps to reduce specific negative memories in patients who are depressed1.

"This is one time I would say that science is better than art," says Karim Nader, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved in the research. "It's a very clever study."

The technique, called electroconvulsive (ECT) or electroshock therapy, induces seizures by passing current into the brain through electrode pads placed on the scalp. Despite its sometimes negative reputation, ECT is an effective last-resort treatment for severe depression, and is used today in combination with anaesthesia and muscle relaxants.

Marijn Kroes, a neuroscientist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and his colleagues found that by strategically timing ECT bursts, they could target and disrupt patients' memory of a disturbing episode.

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Some reasons why you should avoid sleeping pills

Some reasons why you should avoid sleeping pills | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
We’ve known for a long time that hypnotic drugs are not good to take for more than one to three weeks because they are habit-forming and increase the risk of accidents.
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Just thinking you had a good night's sleep can improve cognitive skills

Just thinking you had a good night's sleep can improve cognitive skills | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Just thinking you had a better night sleep creates a placebo effect that can improve your cognitive abilities, a new study has found.

Researchers at Colorado College found students who were told they had a good night’s sleep, even if they did not, performed better on attention and memory skill tests than those who had been informed they had slept badly.

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The unexpected power of baby math: Adults still think about numbers like kids

The unexpected power of baby math: Adults still think about numbers like kids | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Children understand numbers differently than adults. For kids, one and two seem much further apart then 101 and 102, because two is twice as big as one, and 102 is just a little bigger than 101It's only after years of schooling that we're persuaded to see the numbers in both sets as only one integer apart on a number line.

Now Dror Dotan, a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University's School of Education and Sagol School of Neuroscience and Prof. Stanislas Dehaene of the Collège de France, a leader in the field of numerical cognition, have found new evidence that educated adults retain traces of their childhood, or innate, number sense—and that it's more powerful than many scientists think.

"We were surprised when we saw that people never completely stop thinking about numbers as they did when they were children," said Dotan. "The innate human number sense has an impact, even on thinking about double-digit numbers." The findings, a significant step forward in understanding how people process numbers, could contribute to the development of methods to more effectively educate or treat children with learning disabilities and people with brain injuries.

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Changing brains: why neuroscience is ending the Prozac era-@Vaughan Bell

Changing brains: why neuroscience is ending the Prozac era-@Vaughan Bell | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The big money has moved from developing psychiatric drugs to manipulating our brain networks, writes Vaughan Bell

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The psychiatric drug age may have reached its peak. Although mind-altering medications are being prescribed in record numbers, signs of a radically new approach to understanding and treating mental illness are emerging from the deep waters of neuroscience. No longer focused on developing pills, a huge research effort is now devoted to altering the function of specific neural circuits by physical intervention in the brain.

The starkest indication that drugs are increasingly being thought of as yesterday's cutting-edge comes from the little mentioned fact that almost all the major drug companies have closed or curtailed their drug discovery programmes for mental and neurological disorders. The realisation that there has been little in the way of genuine innovation since the major classes of psychiatric drugs were discovered in the 1950s has made future sales look bleak. New drugs have regularly appeared since then, often with fewer side effects, but most are little better in terms of effectiveness.

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Do 'superfoods' really exist?-experts' opinions have now shifted to a more complex view

Do 'superfoods' really exist?-experts' opinions have now shifted to a more complex view | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
From blueberries to nuts and whole grains, antioxidant-rich miracle foods were, we were told a decade ago, the key to combating stress, disease and infection. But, inevitably perhaps, experts' opinions have now shifted to a more complex view

In the early 1990s, a cookbook called Superfoods appeared in the bookshops. It was co-written by the alternative medicine practitioner, Michael Van Straten, who is one of a handful of people said to have coined what has become one of the most spuriously bandied-about marketing terms of our times.

The book revealed Straten's "four-star superfoods", which "supply the vital bricks that build your body's resistance to stress, disease and infection". The list held few surprises, consisting of, you know, stuff that's good for you: common fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts. Foods we're especially keen on eating in January, as an antidote to Christmas excesses. Wouldn't these foods be more accurately described as simply "food" (as opposed to junk food)? Nevertheless, the notion of superfoods was, and still is appealing. Except this century, the term is now used to assign near-magical powers to overpriced, exotic foodstuffs. It's promotional potency went into turbo boost when the theories about antioxidants – probably the most successful "the science bit" spiel of all time – hit the public consciousness. Ever since, food sellers have clambered to keep "discovering" novel, unparalleled sources of "extraordinary nutrients". Waitrose recently introduced yuzu juice to stores as a gourmet ingredient/superfruit. Coffee fruit is the next big super, along with monk fruit, which is sweeter than sugar but with less calories. Both promise antioxidants in abundance.

As anyone who has taken a passing interest in superfoods, or "anti-aging" skincare will know, antioxidants fight evil free radicals which make us old and ill. I shudder to think how many zillions of units this line has shifted in recent years. I started to doubt the validity of this claim when it was applied to dark chocolate and red wine, simply because it started to feel as though it was pretty hard to find a food that wasn't full of antioxidants. Could your average well-fed westerner really have a deficiency?

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Gene therapy saves man from blindness

Gene therapy saves man from blindness | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Surgeons in Oxford have used a gene therapy technique to improve the vision of six patients who would otherwise have gone blind.

The operation involved inserting a gene into the eye cells, a treatment that revived light-detecting cells.

The doctors involved believe that the treatment could in time be used to treat common forms of blindness.

Prof Robert MacLaren, the surgeon who led the research, said he was "absolutely delighted" at the outcome.

"We really couldn't have asked for a better result," he said.

BBC News exclusively reported on the start of the trial two years ago. The first patient was Jonathan Wyatt, who was 63 at the time.

Mr Wyatt has a genetic condition known as choroideremia, which results in the light-detecting cells at the back of the eye gradually dying.

Improved vision

Mr Wyatt was still just about able to see when he had the operation. His hope was that the procedure would stop further deterioration and save what little sight he had left.

He, like another patient in Professor MacLaren's trial, found that not only did the operation stabilise his vision - it improved it. The other subjects, who were at earlier stages in their vision, experienced improvements in their ability to see at night.

Mr Wyatt is now able to read three lines further down in an optician's sight chart.

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Womb transplants hailed as success in pioneering Swedish project

Womb transplants hailed as success in pioneering Swedish project | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Doctor says nine women have received wombs from relatives and will soon try to get pregnant

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Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives and will soon try to become pregnant, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed.

The women were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer. Most are in their 30s and are part of the first major experiment to test whether it is possible to transplant wombs into women so they can give birth to their own children.

Life-saving transplants of organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys have been done for decades and doctors are increasingly transplanting hands, faces and other body parts to improve patients' quality of life.

There have been two previous attempts to transplant a womb, in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but both failed to produce babies. Scientists in Britain, Hungary and elsewhere are also planning similar operations but the efforts in Sweden are the most advanced.

"This is a new kind of surgery," Dr Mats Brannstrom said in an interview from Gothenburg. "We have no textbook to look at."

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Goodnight. Sleep Clean.As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor

Goodnight. Sleep Clean.As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Why do we have to rest? Meet your brain’s janitorial staff.

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In a series of new studies, published this fall in the journal Science, the Nedergaard lab may at last be shedding light on just what it is that would be important enough. Sleep, it turns out, may play a crucial role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking.

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Vapor 'nanobubbles' detect malaria through skin - Futurity

Vapor 'nanobubbles' detect malaria through skin - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

A noninvasive technology can accurately detect even low levels of malaria infection through the skin in seconds with a laser scanner that requires no dyes, diagnostic chemicals, or needles.

As reported in a preclinical study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the technology detected a single malaria-infected cell among a million normal cells with zero false-positive readings.

The technology uses a low-powered laser that creates tiny vapor “nanobubbles” inside malaria-infected cells. The bursting bubbles have a unique acoustic signature that allows for an extremely sensitive diagnosis.

“Ours is the first through-the-skin method that’s been shown to rapidly and accurately detect malaria in seconds without the use of blood sampling or reagents,” says lead investigator Dmitri Lapotko, a faculty fellow in biochemistry and cell biology and in physics and astronomy at Rice University who invented the vapor nanobubble technology.

The diagnosis and screening will be supported by a low-cost, battery-powered portable device that can be operated by nonmedical personnel. One device should be able to screen up to 200,000 people per year, with the cost of diagnosis estimated to be less than 50 cents, he says.

Malaria, one of the world’s deadliest diseases, sickens more than 300 million people and kills more than 600,000 each year, most of them young children. Despite widespread global efforts, malaria parasites have become more resistant to drugs, and efficient epidemiological screening and early diagnosis are largely unavailable in the countries most affected by the disease.

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A.D.H.D. Experts Re-evaluate Study’s Zeal for Drugs

A.D.H.D. Experts Re-evaluate Study’s Zeal for Drugs | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Some authors of a 1990s study worry that it oversold the long-term benefits of medication, discouraging important therapy.

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Twenty years ago, more than a dozen leaders in child psychiatry received $11 million from the National Institute of Mental Healthto study an important question facing families with children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Is the best long-term treatment medication, behavioral therapy or both?

The widely publicized result was not only that medication like Ritalin or Adderall trounced behavioral therapy, but also that combining the two did little beyond what medication could do alone. The finding has become a pillar of pharmaceutical companies’ campaigns to market A.D.H.D. drugs, and is used by insurance companies and school systems to argue against therapies that are usually more expensive than pills.

But in retrospect, even some authors of the study — widely considered the most influential study ever on A.D.H.D. — worry that the results oversold the benefits of drugs, discouraging important home- and school-focused therapy and ultimately distorting the debate over the most effective (and cost-effective) treatments.

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Human brain development is a symphony in three movements

Human brain development is a symphony in three movements | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

(Medical Xpress)—The human brain develops with an exquisitely timed choreography marked by distinct patterns of gene activity at different stages from the womb to adulthood, Yale researchers report in the Dec. 26 issue of the journal Neuron.

The Yale team conducted a large-scale analysis of gene activity in cerebral neocortex —an area of the brain governing perception, behavior, and cognition—at different stages of development. The analysis shows the general architecture of brain regions is largely formed in the first six months after conception by a burst of genetic activity, which is distinct for specific regions of the neocortex. This rush is followed by a sort of intermission beginning in the third trimester of pregnancy. During this period, most genes that are active in specific brain regions are quieted—except for genes that spur connections between all neocortex regions. Then in late childhood and early adolescence, the genetic orchestra begins again and helps subtly shape neocortex regions that progressively perform more specialized tasks, a process that continues into adulthood.

The analysis is the first to show this "hour glass" sketch of human brain development, with a lull in genetic activity sandwiched between highly complex patterns of gene expression, said Nenad Sestan, professor of neurobiology at Yale's Kavli Institute for Neuroscience and senior author of the study. Intriguingly, say the researchers, some of the same patterns of genetic activity that define this human "hour glass" sketch were not observed in developing monkeys, indicating that they may play a role in shaping the features specific to human brain development.

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Researchers, Startups Hope One Drop of Blood Could Diagnose All Types of Cancer

Researchers, Startups Hope One Drop of Blood Could Diagnose All Types of Cancer | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
As genetics reveals the incredible diversity among cancer cells, researchers have largely given up pursuing a silver bullet to cure all types of cancer.
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