The NHS Behind the Headlines site gives the scientific facts behind the medical stories making the news.
Joseph Casias recently decided, after 10 years, to alleviate the pain of his sinus cancer with medical marijuana--which is legal with a doctor's recommendation in Michigan. A commended Wal-Mart employee for five years, Casias was promptly fired by the company after failing a drug test. Now, Wal-Mart is working to deny Casias unemployment benefits.
The FDA has yet to approve stem cell therapies for general use in medicine, but that hasn’t stopped doctors in Colorado from providing them anyway. [more inside]
The "Still Face" Paradigm (YT video) designed by Dr. Edward Tronick of Harvard and Childrens Hospital’s Child Development Unit, is an experiment which shows us how a 1-year old child will react to a suddenly unresponsive parent. It allows us to understand how a caregiver's interactions and emotional state can influence many aspects of an infant's social and emotional development. [more inside]
Detecting a handful of diseases with comic book ink and a postage stamp (well, not quite, but the technology is related to the ink and it's on a postage stamp sized piece of paper). What's best is that the result is a simple visual that can be sent to doctors far away for recognition.
Paul Stamets profile in Mother Jones... humans and fungi still have nearly half of their DNA in common and are susceptible to many of the same infections. (Referring to fungi as "our ancestors" is one of the many zingers that Stamets likes to feed audiences.) [more inside]
Atul Gawande offers a way for health care to be improved through experimentation and pilot programs, much as agriculture was in 20th century
Mercenary Epidemiology: Data Reanalysis and Reinterpretation for Sponsors With Financial Interest in the Outcome. (.pdf link) When should scientists be required to release their raw data for (potentially hostile) re-analysis? A letter to the editors of Annals of Epidemiology from David Michaels, Ph.D., MPH, public health blogger, author of the book Doubt Is Their Product, and, as of December 2009, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, unanimously confirmed by the Senate despite the dismay of some. Michaels interviewed at Science Progress about Doubt Is Their Product (podcast, with transcript.)
Vegetated State conversations: To find out whether a simple conversation was possible, the researchers selected one of the four - a 29-year-old man who had been in a car crash. They asked him to imagine playing tennis if he wanted to answer yes to questions such as: Do you have any sisters? Is your father's name Thomas? Is your father's name Alexander? And if the answer to a question was no, he had to imagine moving round his home.
Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) provides access to nearly 70,000 images in the collections of the History of Medicine Division (HMD) of the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM). Their collection includes thousands of really fascinating images from warnings about winter driving to instructions about how to keep your privy clean. [more inside]
"You're in love with Dr. Miracles!" "No, I'm in love with saving lives!" Dr. Miracles saves former President George Bush, Starbucks and Santa Claus by administering highly unorthodox medical treatments (NSFW)
Malcolm Gladwell did an article about this in the New Yorker, but this GQ article shows the opposition the researchers who discovered CTE faced from the NFL.
Cracking the Cancer Code: We already know that all cancers are caused by DNA mutations acquired during a person's lifetime. But what mutations actually cause cancer? We may be one step closer to finding out. International research teams led by the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have now mapped the entire genetic code of two of the most common human cancers: lung and skin (malignant melanoma). Their findings have the potential to revolutionize preventative and treatment therapies as well as pave the way for new early detection tests. More. [more inside]
Interesting developments in med-tech: gene testing machines for doctors, a plan to engineer stem cells to kill HIV, a new way to repair damaged nerves, the next generation of retinal implants, and the first bionic fingers up for sale. (Bonus for those uninterested in medicine: the newest take on a Minority Report-style interface, courtesy of MIT.)
"We were concerned that the study would raise a lot of controversy and be misused," Pardo said. "We were right." Some practitioners treat autistic children with the anti-inflammatory intravenous immunoglobulin, citing a study by Carlos Pardo, et al. showing inflammation in the brains of deceased autistic patients. Pardo: "modulators of immune reactions (e.g. intravenous immunoglobulins, IVIG) WOULD NOT HAVE a significant effect." Others, following the work of Simon Baron-Cohen on autism and the male brain, treat autistic children with testosterone inhibitors, a prospect which Baron-Cohen says "fills me with horror." Another anti-inflammatory treatment, hyperbaric therapy, is supported by one recent clinical trial, but looks bad in another. Side effects include horrible death by fire. (via the Chicago Tribune)
Wired profiles pediatrician Paul Offit, co-creator of the RotaTeq rotavirus vaccine and a primary target of the anti-vaccination movement. Dr. Offit published a book,“Autism’s False Prophets” in 2008 but didn't tour, because he had received too many death threats. [more inside]
Practical gene therapy treatment emerges. Prosthetics that feel. Circumventing paralysis with brain implants.
"The Kindest Cut" A Colorado surgeon is helping to restore sensation, biological structure and self-esteem to victims of female genital mutilation. She's "Trinidad's Transgender Rock Star"
Bowers performs the surgery free of charge, and the hospital caps its fees at $1,700. "...you cannot charge money to reverse a crime against humanity," she says. "Sexuality is a right."[more inside]
Does american football unavoidably lead to brain damage over time? Does a culture favoring perseverance at the expense of well being begin in high school?
“The psychoanalytic mystique was overwhelming. It was a little bit like the evangelical movement.” How Aaron Beck and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helped increase empiricism in psychotherapy.
In response to an incest case in which a man imprisoned, raped and fathered two children with his own daughter, Poland's Lower House of Parliament has approved an amendment to their penal code which makes chemical castration of pedophiles mandatory in certain cases. [more inside]
"But after five months, something clicked. The monkeys picked out red and green, again and again." UW researchers use gene therapy to give squirrel monkeys trichromatic vision. “Not only might we be able to cure disease, but we might engineer eyes with remarkable capabilities. You can imagine conferring enhanced night vision in normal eyes, or engineering genes that make photopigments with spectral properties for whatever you want your eye to see.”
The Sheffield Museum of Anaesthesia presents its collection of mysterious, terrifying antique items once used to render people unconscious.
The practical possiblility of augmented reality contact lenses. Contact lenses that reshape the eye. Bone-anchored hearing aids. Voice box transplant plans.
Was it triage or murder? A disturbing NY Times story about the choices made by certain medical staff at a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina. Long and not easy reading.
The Deadly Cost of Swooping In to Save a Life (single-page version): Deregulation and America's health care system combine to make medical helicopters increasingly dangerous.
How American Health Care Killed My Father After the needless death of his father, the author, a business executive, began a personal exploration of a health-care industry that for years has delivered poor service and irregular quality at astonishingly high cost. It is a system, he argues, that is not worth preserving in anything like its current form. And the health-care reform now being contemplated will not fix it. Here’s a radical solution to an agonizing problem. (via mr) [more inside]
A simple question shows how complex the issue is. Chris at "Cynical C" asks his fellow citizens where they get thier health care (insurance) from and the incredible diversity of the current options and situations is immediately apparent. Quite spontaneously (but surely not unexpectedly), the question of "How much does it cost you?" becomes an essential part of the answers. Outsiders opine and tell stories and commiserate. [more inside]
When it was found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, it looked fresh - so somebody tasted it. Honey can last thousands of years without spoiling, a remarkable feat for a foodstuff. These antibacterial and antioxidant qualities of honey have been applied to food preservation for years, but the medical community is just beginning to look closely at how this can be used to assist in healing. In particular, Honey from Australia and New Zealand seems most successful in helping large wounds heal without infection. This is due to particular plants that the bees frequent, which provide greater antibacterial qualities to the honey. The FDA has even approved honey-infused bandages for use in healing. After the buzz of medicinal leeches and medical maggots, I'm glad there's a natural therapy that doesn't creep people out.
Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices. "An increasing number of neural implantable devices will become available in the near future due to advances in neural engineering. This discipline holds the potential to improve many patients' lives dramatically by offering improved—and in some cases entirely new—forms of rehabilitation for conditions ranging from missing limbs to degenerative cognitive diseases. The use of standard engineering practices, medical trials, and neuroethical evaluations during the design process can create systems that are safe and that follow ethical guidelines; unfortunately, none of these disciplines currently ensure that neural devices are robust against adversarial entities trying to exploit these devices to alter, block, or eavesdrop on neural signals. The authors define 'neurosecurity'—a version of computer science security principles and methods applied to neural engineering—and discuss why neurosecurity should be a critical consideration in the design of future neural devices." [Via Mind Hacks]
Canadian War Poster Collection at McGill University. And if that doesn't strike your fancy, the list of digital collections include such time-honoured favourites as Expo '67, and the award-winner for unexpected collection, Gynaecology in Traditional Chinese Medicine. (previously)
We've discussed trepanation, the boring of holes in the head as practiced in antiquity and by a fringe do it yourself-ers, before. There now seems to be research indicating that the procedure may have medical merit, and even help stave off age related cognitive decline. This curious research brought to you by the Beckly Foundation which "promotes the investigation of consciousness and its modulation from a multidisciplinary perspective" and has a sweet logo.
Rose bengal is a red dye that has been used for decades to identify eye and liver damage. A company, Provectus Pharmaceuticals, has developed a drug based on this compound, which clinical trials show may be able to destroy advanced melanoma with minimal risks. Melanoma is an extremely dangerous form of skin cancer. The company hopes to extend this drug to other cancers as well as to other skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, for which poor treatment solutions exist. Claims such as these inspire skepticism, but the melanoma trials have been conducted by some of the most eminent names in the melanoma community. Does this drug hold potential, or is the whole thing snake oil?
The day pain died. "The date of the first operation under anesthetic, Oct. 16, 1846, ranks among the most iconic in the history of medicine. It was the moment when Boston, and indeed the United States, first emerged as a world-class center of medical innovation. The room at the heart of Massachusetts General Hospital where the operation took place has been known ever since as the Ether Dome, and the word 'anesthesia' itself was coined by the Boston physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes to denote the strange new state of suspended consciousness that the city's physicians had witnessed. The news from Boston swept around the world, and it was recognized within weeks as a moment that had changed medicine forever." [Via]
Dr. Virginia Apgar was born 100 years ago today. Although she is best known for her scoring system for assessing the health of newborn infants, she was a remarkable person in many other ways. [more inside]
Although a cellphone is about as close to a Star Trek communicator as you can get, something more practical has come along to make you feel like you're finally living in the future. The Standoff Patient Triage Tool (SPTT) is nearly a Starfleet medical tricorder: it can detect pulse, body temperature, and respiration from an injured person at a distance of forty feet, allowing first responders to identify the injured before setting foot into a dangerous situation.
The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care. Via Musings of a Distractible Mind.
How a Civil War Amputation Was Performed NSFS [not safe for the squeamish]
On behalf of medical organizations, universities, & individual patients, pathologists and genetics researchers, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Myriad holds the US patents to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, associated with hereditary causes of breast and ovarian cancers. Their patents guarantee the company the right to prevent anyone else from testing or studying those genes, which the ACLU says is unconstitutional and inhibits researchers from finding treatments and cures. [more inside]
Behind Chinese medicine, feng shui, acupuncture, diet, music and cosmology itself is the concept of Wu Xing. [more inside]