"India's supreme court has ruled against Swiss drug giant Novartis in a landmark case that activists say will protect access to cheap generic drugs in developing nations." [more inside]
Science Fiction Comes Alive as Researchers Grow Organs in Lab
1997 -- Charles Vacanti of University of Massachusetts Medical Center and Robert Langer of Massachusetts Institute of Technology report the growing of a cartilage structure – in the shape of a human ear – on a mouse’s back. 2008 -- Doris Taylor at the University of Minnesota and colleagues grow a beating rat heart in the lab. 2008 --Surgeons in Spain transplant a new windpipe into a patient. The organ is made from a cadaver windpipe stripped of its original cells and reseeded with the patient’s own cells. 2010 -- Researchers at Mass General Hospital grow a rat liver. 2010 -- Yale University scientists grow a functioning rat lung. 2010 -- Alex Seifalian in London transplants a lab-made tear duct into patient 2011 -- Dr. Seifalian makes a windpipe from nanocomposite materials plus a patient’s own stem cells; the new windpipe replaces the patient’s cancerous one, saving his life. In a separate procedure, an artery made at Dr. Seifalian’s lab is transplanted into a patient. 2012 -- Surgeons in Sweden transplant a major blood vessel into a 10-year-old girl. The vein was taken from a dead man, stripped of its tissue, then reseeded with the girl’s own cells. 2013 -- Scientists from Cornell University report the making of a human ear using living cartilage cells.
What do 3D printing, jelly, liver transplants, chainmail, dental fillings, ferrofluids, and the Six Million Dollar man have to tell us about our future? Materials scientist and engineer Mark Miodownik lets us know in this Royal Institution lecture.
Ayurveda: Hoax or Science? "'Western science identifies these systems as folklore. They don’t see it as an organised system of knowledge—this is an alien epistemology to them because their medical traditions only go as far back as the medieval times and renaissance.' There is also the very real problem of complexity in natural-product research. It is harder to develop a drug from Ayurveda than it is to build a synthetic molecule, because of the large number of compounds in each Ayurvedic herb. All these factors are responsible for the state of Ayurvedic medicine today."
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us. Summary: Inside the Cover Story. Related video: The Exorbitant Prices of Health Care [more inside]
“The gap between what patients and doctors expect from these procedures, and the benefit that they actually provide, shows the profound impact of a certain kind of mechanical logic in medicine,” he explains. “Even though doctors value randomized clinical trials and evidence-based medicine, they are powerfully influenced by ideas about how diseases and treatments work. If doctors think a treatment should work, they come to believe that it does work, even when the clinical evidence isn’t there.” [more inside]
A series of simulations demonstrating disease spreading through a population and the benefits of herd immunity
100 Really, REALLY Useful Web Sites for Nurses | 100 Educational Twitter Feeds for Med Students | What Really Happens on a Hospital Night Shift? | 10 Hotel Health Traps You Should Really Beware Of |The ABCs of Vitamins and much more.
The (New) Daily Mail Oncological Ontology Project tumblr, (previously) "an ongoing quest to track the Daily Mail's classification of inanimate objects into two types: those that cause cancer, and those that cure it." Inspired by The Daily Mail Oncological Ontology Project, now defunct.
The New Yorker's take on Dr Mehmet Oz.
The Norovirus: A Study in Puked Perfection, "Each norovirus carries just nine protein-coding genes (you have about 20,000). Even with that skimpy genetic toolkit, noroviruses can break the locks on our cells, slip in, and hack our own DNA to make new noroviruses. The details of this invasion are sketchy, alas, because scientists haven’t figured out a good way to rear noroviruses in human cells in their labs. It’s not even clear exactly which type of cell they invade once they reach the gut. Regardless of the type, they clearly know how to exploit their hosts. Noroviruses come roaring out of the infected cells in vast numbers. And then they come roaring out of the body. Within a day of infection, noroviruses have rewired our digestive system so that stuff comes flying out from both ends." [more inside]
Jennie Linn McCormack "isn’t the only woman in recent years to be prosecuted for ending her own pregnancy. But her case could change the trajectory of abortion law in the United States": The Rise of DIY Abortions. [more inside]
“So when I was pregnant and about to give birth, I was expecting kindness, understanding, love. But, by god, was I wrong. They were torturers. They didn’t care. I was a thing. An experiment.” [more inside]
Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality [FULL TEXT HTML]: "We used data from a very large study, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)–AARP Diet and Health Study (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00340015), to determine whether coffee consumption is associated with total or cause-specific mortality. The current analysis, involving more than 400,000 participants and 52,000 deaths, had ample power to detect even modest associations and allowed for subgroup analyses according to important baseline factors, including the presence or absence of adiposity and diabetes, as well as cigarette-smoking status." [more inside]
This past August, producer Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) launched a new digital series: H+. The premise: in the near future, 33% of humanity has retired their smartphones, tablets and computers in favor of an implanted computer system, H+, which connects them directly to the internet 24/7. The story begins as a computer virus attacks the implants, killing billions. In intersecting storylines across four continents (told in part through flashbacks,) the series then unravels what happened, who caused it and why. [more inside]
Feeling a little bit worn? Need to upgrade your body? We've been doing it for a long time. An overview of more recent advances (PDF) and a near-future timeline. [more inside]
291 diseases and injuries + 67 risk factors + 1,160 non-fatal complications = 650 million estimates of how we age, sicken, and die
As humans live longer, what ails us isn't necessarily what kills us: five data visualizations of how we age, sicken, and die. Causes of death by age, sex, region, and year. Heat map of leading causes and risks by region. Changes in leading causes and risks between 1990 and 2010. Healthy years lost to disability vs. life expectancy in 1990 and 2010. Uncertainties of causes and risks. From the team for the massive Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. [more inside]
Global Trends 2030 Alternate Worlds is the latest quadrennial report from The US National Intelligence Council (NIC). (Report: PDF / Talking Points: PDF.) Similar to its predecessors, '2030' attempts to predict 'alternate visions of the future.' An official blog discusses their speculations. The Atlantic Council has published a "companion publication": "Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World." [more inside]
On November 30, the Tampa Bay Times published a sympathetic profile of Spring Hill, FL resident Gretchen Molannen: "Persistent genital arousal disorder brings woman agony, not ecstasy." Her condition, also known as PGAD, is a rare sexual disorder (not recognized by the DSM,) 'characterized by spontaneous, persistent, unwanted sexual arousal unrelated to feelings of sexual desire.' The Times reported that Ms. Molannen's condition had virtually destroyed her personal and professional life and led to several suicide attempts. One day after the article was published, she successfully committed suicide. [more inside]
Susannah Cahalan has a month-long gap in her memory from when she was struck by the little known disease anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Cahalan, a New York Post journalist, wrote an account of her ordeal shortly after it happened, and went on the Today Show to talk about it. Now she has written a book on her experience called Brain on Fire and wants to make people aware of the disease, and that was the subject of a follow-up segment on the Today Show. She is not the only person to have been afflicted. There is more information about the disease and the book on Cahalan's website. She was interviewed at length on NPR's Fresh Air earlier this month. Novelist and essayist Leslie Jamison has a well-written review of Brain on Fire and puts it in its literary context.
Can’t get enough of these videos from AsapSCIENCE. Here’s an earlier one from the Your Brain On Drugs series entitled marijuana. I was pretty stoned when watching it and ended up cracking up at the funny cats – total highlight for me. Can’t remember the gist, but you should definitely check it out. (Text Via) (slyt)
But back in 1996, users of the proto-Web community Usenet got spammed with messages that reached an almost transcendent level of bizarre—a weirdness so precise it implied the influence of a very human intelligence. “Markovian Parallax Denigrate,” read the title of each post, followed by a mountain of seemingly meaningless word spew:Unraveling the Internet’s oldest and weirdest mystery
Nanoparticles covered in proteins trick immune system. A breakthrough new experimental treatment that uses nanoparticles covered with proteins to trick the immune system, managed to stop it attacking myelin and halt disease progression in mice with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS). The researchers say the approach may also be applicable to other auto-immune diseases such as asthma and type 1 diabetes.
"Why do parasites harm their hosts? Conventional wisdom holds that because parasites depend on their hosts for survival and transmission, they should evolve to become benign, yet many parasites cause harm. Theory predicts that parasites could evolve virulence (i.e., parasite-induced reductions in host fitness) by balancing the transmission benefits of parasite replication with the costs of host death. This idea has led researchers to predict how human interventions—such as vaccines—may alter virulence evolution, yet empirical support is critically lacking." Two papers demonstrate empirical evidence for related models predicting the origin of virulence: [more inside]
Heaven is Real: A Doctor's Experience of the Afterlife. As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences...In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
You're about to be the base doctor at Halley Research Station in Antarctica for a year. For ten months, no one gets in or out. Fourteen lives are in your hands, including your own. What do you put in your medical kit? And how do your choices differ from those of your predecessors (Eric Marshall and Edward Wilson) a century ago?
The drugs don't work : a modern medical scandal - "The doctors prescribing the drugs don't know they don't do what they're meant to. Nor do their patients. The manufacturers know full well, but they're not telling."
Drug-resistant and "extensively" resistant strains make containment and treatment of tuberculosis ever more difficult. Fortunately, researchers based in Switzerland have (re-)discovered a naturally-made antibiotic called pyridomycin, which will kill isoniazid-resistant M. tuberculosis bacteria.
First published in 1997, Anne Fadiman's book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a chronicle of a Hmong refugee family's interactions with the American medical system in the face of a child's devastating illness, has become highly recommended, if not required, reading for many medical students and health care professionals, over the past 15 years quietly changing how young doctors approach patients from different cultures. On August 31, with little publicity, Lia Lee, the young girl who inspired the book, after living most of her life in a persistent vegetative state, quietly died [NYT obit].
20% of Anorexics Are Men. And that number is reportedly rising. "Diagnosis is hard. Finding treatment is even harder. Many residential centers don't admit men, out of a belief that treatment should be sex-specific." Article contains images and descriptions that may be disturbing to those with eating disorders. Single page version here.
The Medical School at the University of California, San Francisco “presents Mini Medical School for the Public, a series of programs providing an opportunity to learn about health and the health sciences directly from UCSF faculty members and other nationally-recognized experts.” Videos particularly geared toward integrative medicine and healthy living can be found here. (Most of the videos are between sixty and ninety minutes long.) [more inside]
"How, I wonder, can a young woman who has grown up in this harsh environment, waking up early to fetch water, cook, clean, farm till late in the day, be suffering from depression? ... People don't get depressed in Nigeria."
Sudden death suddenly becomes a lot less pressing. A team of scientists at the Boston Children’s Hospital have designed a microparticle that can be injected into the bloodstream which rapidly oxygenates blood, capable of keeping a person alive for up to 30 minutes after respiratory failure. This will even work if the ability to breathe has been restricted, or cut off entirely. Here's how it works, in greater detail. This finding has the potential to save millions of lives every year, and can buy emergency medical personnel a significant amount of time to address what would otherwise be fatal emergencies. It also has numerous potential applications for the Defense Department, which is funding part of the research.
A new model for the American health care system: The Cheesecake Factory
Two-year-old Emma wanted to play with blocks, but a condition called arthrogryposis meant she couldn't move her arms. So researchers at a Delaware hospital 3D printed a durable custom exoskeleton with the tiny, lightweight parts she needed.
"The business of recycling dead humans into medical implants is a little-known yet lucrative trade. But its practices have roused concerns about how tissues are obtained and how well grieving families and transplant patients are informed about the realities and the risks." After an eight month international investigation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has published an extensive four-part exposé into the black market for cadavers and human tissue: Skin and Bone: The Shadowy Trade in Human Body Parts (Via) [more inside]
Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) is a new advocacy group of senior medical practitioners and researchers seeking to drive "complementary and alternative medicines" from universities around Australia, and to make non-evidence based therapies ineligible for private health insurance. Naturally, this has caused a fair degree of outrage and pushback from the CAM sector.
Earlier this year, six scientists and doctors filed a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration alleging that the FDA had secretly monitored their personal e-mail accounts after they (legally) warned Congress that the "agency was approving medical devices that they believed posed unacceptable risks to patients." The agency said it had done so to "investigate allegations that the employees had leaked confidential information to the public." At the time, the FDA indicated their computer monitoring was limited to five scientists. But now, the New York Times is reporting that "what began as a narrow investigation" "quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process.". [more inside]
In June of 1973, spurred on by the recent discovery of a dying bird in his garden, 9-year-old Anthony Hollander wrote to the presenters of Blue Peter — the BBC's much-loved children's television show — and asked for assistance in his quest to "make people or animals alive."
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
"Adrian Owen still gets animated when he talks about patient 23. The patient was only 24 years old when his life was devastated by a car accident. Alive but unresponsive, he had been languishing in what neurologists refer to as a vegetative state for five years, when Owen, a neuro-scientist then at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues at the University of Liège in Belgium, put him into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and started asking him questions. Incredibly, he provided answers."
Since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against screening for prostate cancer, the debate has been furious. In fact, screening rates are likely to remain high, because most urologists disagree with the recommendations. One argued, "If you don’t do it, it’s negligent." (The debate is not new. Previously on Metafilter.) [more inside]
A new video processing technique can amplify subtle changes in color and faint movements to show previously barely perceptible changes - like a heartbeat.
"Fairly predictive tests for Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, depression, some malignancies, heart disease, and most of the rest of the major killers and disablers will probably be in place by 2000 to 2010. Many if not most of these ailments will be assessable in terms of a very sophisticated genetic risk profile which it will be possible to generate in infancy or childhood (or in utero)." In 1987, cryonics advocate Mike Darwin wrote about the next twenty years of medicine.
Scientists investigate the use of psychedelic drugs in end of life therapy "Grob and his colleagues are part of a resurgence of scientific interest in the healing power of psychedelics. Michael Mithoefer, for instance, has shown that MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. Halpern has examined case studies of people with cluster headaches who took LSD and reported their symptoms greatly diminished. And psychedelics have been recently examined as treatment for alcoholism and other addictions. "
First Gene Therapy Successful Against Aging-Associated Decline: Mouse Lifespan Extended Up to 24% With a Single Treatment A new study consisting of inducing cells to express telomerase, the enzyme which -- metaphorically -- slows down the biological clock -- was successful. The research provides a "proof-of-principle" that this "feasible and safe" approach can effectively "improve health span." [article]
The emergence of a citation cartel. "Cell Transplantation is a medical journal published by the Cognizant Communication Corporation of Putnam Valley, New York. In recent years, its impact factor has been growing rapidly. In 2006, it was 3.482. In 2010, it had almost doubled to 6.204. When you look at which journals cite Cell Transplantation, two journals stand out noticeably: the Medical Science Monitor, and The Scientific World Journal. According to the JCR, neither of these journals cited Cell Transplantation until 2010. Then, in 2010, a review article was published in the Medical Science Monitor citing 490 articles, 445 of which were to papers published in Cell Transplantation. All 445 citations pointed to papers published in 2008 or 2009 — the citation window from which the journal’s 2010 impact factor was derived. Of the remaining 45 citations, 44 cited the Medical Science Monitor, again, to papers published in 2008 and 2009. Three of the four authors of this paper sit on the editorial board of Cell Transplantation. Two are associate editors, one is the founding editor. The fourth is the CEO of a medical communications company." (from Scholarly Kitchen, via Andrew Gelman.)
Are bias and fraud damaging the existing public trust in scientific and medical research? (previously) [more inside]