I’ve studied all the body’s fluids and used each in diagnosing disease, and urine stands out in the wealth of information it grants about a patient’s condition. (WaPo) Conceived in the kidneys — a pair of bean-shaped organs tucked away in the abdomen’s rear — urine runs down the ureters and is conveniently stored in the bladder, from which it is gathered in plastic cups for testing. Urine analysis is performed frequently enough by physicians to have earned the shorthand “urinalysis” — no other bodily fluid can claim to be on a nickname-basis with the medical profession. (alternate link for non-subscribers, but no stock photo of a pee cup) [more inside]
Engineers Create The First Dust-Sized Wireless Sensors That Can Be Implanted Into The Human Body. Relevant paper here.
Maia Szalavitz [mefi's own maias] talks about her new book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction on Fresh Air with Terry Gross (transcript) - "We have this idea that if we are just cruel enough and mean enough and tough enough to people with addiction, that they will suddenly wake up and stop, and that is not the case."
The anatomical Venus re-examined. “One of the things that makes the Venus so hard for us to understand is that we’ve now divided up all those things in ways that wasn’t divided in the time that it was made... We have this division between art and science, and between religion and medicine, that didn’t exist at that time.” (Photos of nude wax anatomical models that may be NSFW or disturbing to some.)
Magic Mushroom Drug Lifts Depression in Human Trial - "The findings show that more research in this field is now needed. 'This is the first time that psilocybin has been investigated as a potential treatment for major depression', says lead author Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Imperial College London."
Scurvy Dogs - A brief overview of the history of the scurvy, brought to you by naval cartoonist Lucy Bellwood
Transplantable human bone and cartilage made with 3D printer that creates a matrix in the desired shape and injects cells that can integrate with the patient's blood vessels on implant
The New York State attorney general’s office accused four major retailers on Monday of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves. The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies. [NYTimes], [WaPo] [more inside]
The rats who sniff out tuberculosis. by Emma Young [The Guardian] The African giant pouched rat can be trained to sniff out tuberculosis more accurately than most lab tests. So why is the medical profession still sceptical? [more inside]
A Colleague Drank My Breast Milk And Other Wall Street Tales I kept the conversation light. I shared a funny story about my first day on Wall Street, when I opened up a pizza box to find condoms instead of pepperoni slices. Unwrapped. I was “the new girl,” and the guys just wanted to see me blush. I did blush, and I lived. “It’s not that bad anymore,” I said with a laugh. [more inside]
Dr. Henry Marsh has performed 400 "awake craniotomies" -- a surgical procedure he helped pioneer -- in which a specific kind of brain tumor that looks just like the brain itself is identified through electric stimulation and removed. Without surgery, 50 percent of patients die within 5 years; 80 percent within 10 years, and the operation can prolong their lives by 10 to 20 years or more. He was profiled in a 2007 documentary: The English Surgeon as well as this article by Karl Ove Knausgaard: The Terrible Beauty of Brain Surgery. Images in some links in this post may be disturbing to some viewers.
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
One of the most distinctive masks worn during the Carnival of Venice is “Il Medico della Peste,” or “The Plague Doctor.” But the distinctive bone-white mask and black clothing was actually the 17th century equivalent of a biocontainment suit. Albeit one based on very shaky science.
The Lost Girls: 'Misdiagnosed, misunderstood or missed altogether, many women with autism struggle to get the help they need.' Part of Spectrum's Sex/Gender in Autism special report. [more inside]
What it’s like to earn a living as a research subject in clinical trials Today, Stone no longer relies on strangers in bars—instead, he’s a part of a small community that shares info about study opportunities. Stone says he sends mass texts whenever he sees a new study online. In exchange, the group does the same for him. The members of this group call themselves guinea pigs, or lab rats. They also call themselves professionals.
Earlier this month, Youyou Tu was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for her discovery of artemisinin, also known as qinghaosu. She is the first Chinese Nobel recipient for work that was done in mainland China. Dr. Tu's studies were done in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, a politically precarious time for Chinese academics, which adds a layer of historical complexity to her work. It is difficult to overstate the importance of artemisinin to anti-malarial efforts. Unfortunately, artemisinin-resistant strains of malaria are already beginning to appear only thirty years after the drug was introduced.
A study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that measures currently afoot in nearly every area of science to increase the transparency requirements for research will mean we can expect to see more of these seemingly dull results in the future -- and that's a good thing. Far from boring, those trials that find a drug doesn't do what we hoped can be equally as important -- or even more so -- than the ones that do.
New Ebola vaccine shows 100% success rate in clinical trial. Today the World Health Organization has announced that the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine had a 100% success rate in preventing onset of the disease if administered within 10 days of exposure (n=4,000). In response to the current outbreak in West Africa that has afflicted over 27,000 and killed over 11,000, this collaborative effort led by the WHO pushed the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months. Official paper from The Lancet here (pdf).
"Humans as Superorganisms: How Microbes, Viruses, Imprinted Genes and Other Selfish Entities Shape Our Behavior" by Peter Kramer and Paola Bressan discusses the idea that an individual homo sapiens is only one component of the human superorganism we call a person, focusing on the psychological and psychiatric ramifications thereof. (Paola Bressan previously.)
"The limb, developed by Professor Hubert Egger of the FH Upper Austria (University of Applied Sciences), allows wearers to tell which surface they are walking on and dramatically improves amputee's balance and coordination. The development could wipe out the phenomenon of phantom pain, where amputees can experience severe discomfort as the brain receives no neural feedback from their missing limb." [more inside]
The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
Fish oil: it's been touted as a solution to heart health, dementia, glaucoma, and a host of other ailments. Unfortunately, it turns out that most of the evidence for its benefits is equivocal at best. And it turns out that fish oil isn't particularly useful for our pets, either. Worse, it turns out that the foundational study that kicked off interest in fish oil as a supplement is not quite as promising for fish oils as it is usually construed and cited. Given that fish oil can induce strokes in high quantities (and may interfere with treatments like chemotherapy), is poorly regulated, and is expensive, should we be promoting fish oil supplements as strongly as we do?
Every day, news sources report on medical studies that describe promising new treatments. Most of them don't pan out in the end. Julia Belluz reports on "why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study." Her article includes a figure showing which foods are reported to cause cancer and which ones are reported to prevent it. (Spoiler: they're the same foods.)
Douglas Starr, in Blood, quotes the British Secretary of War, asked in 1937 what the nation proposed to do about a mass blood supply. The secretary was dismissive. Blood could not be stored for long or in great quantities, he said. On the hoof was better. “It was more satisfactory to store our blood in our people.” Janet Vaughan did not agree, and Janet Vaughan did something about it. Her medical director gave her £100, and she sent off her assistants in taxis to find all the tubing that London shops could provide.Longreads profiles Janet Vaughan, a British scientist who found better treatments for anemia than arsenic using herself as a test subject, was a major force in creating London's first blood banks using cheap tubing and ice cream trucks, studied emergency nutrition in a post-liberation concentration Nazi death camp, and continued active research into blood and radiation into her eighties, while occasionally serving as a model for Virginia Woolf characters.
"Dying to be free : there’s a treatment for heroin addiction that actually works. Why aren’t we using it?" -- A long-form article, focusing on heroin addiction and its "treatment" in Kentucky, by Jason Cherkis. (Huffington Post Projects) [more inside]
Locked-In Man - "Martin Pistorius spent more than a decade unable to move or communicate, fearing he would be alone, trapped, forever. NPR's new show Invisibilia tells how his mind helped him create a new life."
How Tripping On Mushrooms Changes The Brain - "New research [pdf] suggests that psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, sprouts new links across previously disconnected brain regions, temporarily altering the brain's entire organizational framework." [more inside]
Black laboratory technician Vivien Thomas was paid a janitor's wage, never went to college or medical school, and was one of the pioneers of open heart surgery.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” However, that’s not what the epidemiology of the disorder suggests. By age 35, half of all people who qualified for active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer do, according to a study of over 42,000 Americans in a sample designed to represent the adult population.
Only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.Metafilter's own maias on myths surrounding the disease(?) of substance addiction, and their impact on medicine and policy.
A timeline of diseases and vaccines [warning: graphic photo of cutaneous diphtheria at year 1975]. Categories are: diphtheria, measles, polio, smallpox, yellow fever, and 'others'. You can select one keyword to view only that subject's timeline. From the History of Vaccines website (about page | FAQ). Similar timelines at the same site for pioneers, science and society, and there's an En Español timeline, too. [more inside]
Four women have had new vaginas grown in the laboratory and implanted by doctors in the US. "A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match. They all reported normal levels of "desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction" and painless intercourse. Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine. "
Scientists Progress in Quest to Grow Muscle Tissue in Labs - "The researchers are now working on optimizing the growth of human muscle tissue, including finding a way to get blood flow to the tissue, the best source of cells and the best growing medium for the cells."
There's been an ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With 122 cases so far, this is the worst outbreak since 2007's 264-case outbreak. The worst outbreak was 2000-2001's 425 cases. What makes this one different is the way it has spread so widely. [more inside]
A new 3D printed membrane acts like an artificial pericardium to continuously monitor and regulate the heart's beating
Here are some links to online galleries that combine science, medicine, and art in some way. (previously: psychiatry and art)
or the inner Grotesque and Gorgeous, and outer fantastic world of The End of Times: The Apocalyptic Book revealed, as it was imagined "couple" years ago. To be seen with your morning coffee.
This Video Will Hurt
A detailed explanation of a fascinating field of science and medicine by the always interesting C.G.P. Grey.[more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
Five years after my great-uncle’s death, penicillin changed medicine forever. Infections that had been death sentences—from battlefield wounds, industrial accidents, childbirth—suddenly could be cured in a few days. So when I first read the story of his death, it lit up for me what life must have been like before antibiotics started saving us. -- Lately, though, I read it differently. In Joe’s story, I see what life might become if we did not have antibiotics any more.
Spider webs are incredibly strong and flexible. It’s no surprise, then, that spider silk proteins may someday form durable artificial ligaments for people who have injured their knees or shoulders. Six different kinds of silk are produced by orb-web weaving spiders. These silk fibers have very different mechanical properties that are so effective they have changed very little over millions of years. How to synthetically develop these silks is one focus of Lewis’ research. The secret to producing large quantities of spider silk is to use “factories” designed to manufacture spider silk proteins that are easily scale-able and efficient. Lewis uses transgenic goats, E.coli bacteria, transgenic alfalfa and transgenic silk worms to produce the spider silk proteins used to create spider silk. Spider silk is 100 times stronger than natural ligaments and 10 times stronger than natural tendons; it is stronger than Kevlar and more elastic than nylon.
A 6min brief on the work being done in Laramie, WY whereby spider silk is being spun from goat milk. SPIDERGOATS[more inside]
"On a sunny day in 1998, Maura Gillison was walking across the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, thinking about a virus. The young oncologist bumped into the director of the university's cancer centre, who asked politely about her work. Gillison described her discovery of early evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) — a ubiquitous pathogen that infects nearly every human at some point in their lives — could be causing tens of thousands of cases of throat cancer each year in the United States. The senior doctor stared down at Gillison, not saying a word. “That was the first clue that what I was doing was interesting to others and had potential significance,” recalls Gillison."
Human papillomavirus is causing a new form of head and neck cancer— leaving researchers scrambling to understand risk factors, tests and treatments.[more inside]
The Nazi Anatomists. "How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics."
In March 2012, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture uncovered a problem in Elgin, Texas. Beef sausage from a small family-run meat processor appeared to have been contaminated with a nasty bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. The bug can make people sick and, in rare cases, be deadly. The processor had to recall more than a ton of sausage. It’s the kind of story that strikes terror in the hearts of other sausage peddlers, including Mike Satzow, so he uses phages to keep his small company's sausages safe to eat.