Recently in Medical Technology Category

IBM's Watson technology is being used in medicine. From Business Insider:

How IBM Watson saved the life of a woman dying from cancer, exec says

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has called health care IBM’s “moonshot.”
IBM has spent years training its super-smart, learning, reasonsing computer service Watson to do things like analyze massive amounts of data to help improve the patient diagnosis.

One such story:

“There’s a 60-year-old woman in Tokyo. She was at the University of Tokyo. She had been diagnosed with leukemia six years ago. She was living, but not healthy. So the University of Tokyo ran her genomic sequence through Watson and it was able to ascertain that they were off by one thing. Actually, she had two strains of leukemia. The did treat her and she is healthy.”

He added, “That’s one example. Statistically, we’re seeing that about one third of the time, Watson is proposing an additional diagnosis.”

Very cool technology - it is something that can be operated in the cloud - upload the data and get your results. No need to have the diagnostic computer at the hospital. This way, as more and more cases are presented, it can learn. Faster please!

From McGill University in Montreal, Quebec:

Legions of nanorobots target cancerous tumours with precision
Researchers from Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Montréal and McGill University have just achieved a spectacular breakthrough in cancer research. They have developed new nanorobotic agents capable of navigating through the bloodstream to administer a drug with precision by specifically targeting the active cancerous cells of tumours. This way of injecting medication ensures the optimal targeting of a tumour and avoids jeopardizing the integrity of organs and surrounding healthy tissues. As a result, the drug dosage that is highly toxic for the human organism could be significantly reduced.

This scientific breakthrough has just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology in an article titled “Magneto-aerotactic bacteria deliver drug-containing nanoliposomes to tumour hypoxic regions.” The article notes the results of the research done on mice, which were successfully administered nanorobotic agents into colorectal tumours.

“These legions of nanorobotic agents were actually composed of more than 100 million flagellated bacteria – and therefore self-propelled – and loaded with drugs that moved by taking the most direct path between the drug’s injection point and the area of the body to cure,” explains Professor Sylvain Martel, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Medical Nanorobotics and Director of the Polytechnique Montréal Nanorobotics Laboratory, who heads the research team’s work. “The drug’s propelling force was enough to travel efficiently and enter deep inside the tumours.”

Ho. Li. Crap. They are engineering motile bacteria, giving it a chemical payload and then using an external magnetic field to steer them through blood vessels and capillaries into the heart of the tumor. More at the site. This is not only amazing, it opens doors for other therapies. Nobel Prize anyone?

I had a hip replacement eight years ago and love it - the joint was bone on bone and I tried alternative healing but nothing worked. Acupuncture was great for pain management but the medicines did nothing to regrow the joint. Titanium is the metal of choice for replacement joints - it is bio-compatible and bone tissue will grow on it so after a month or two of healing, the joint is as strong as the original. Now this - from Rice University:

Titanium + gold = new gold standard for artificial joints
Titanium is the leading material for artificial knee and hip joints because it’s strong, wear-resistant and nontoxic, but an unexpected discovery by Rice University physicists shows that the gold standard for artificial joints can be improved with the addition of some actual gold.

“It is about 3-4 times harder than most steels,” said Emilia Morosan, the lead scientist on a new study in Science Advances that describes the properties of a 3-to-1 mixture of titanium and gold with a specific atomic structure that imparts hardness. “It’s four times harder than pure titanium, which is what’s currently being used in most dental implants and replacement joints.”

Morosan, a physicist who specializes in the design and synthesis of compounds with exotic electronic and magnetic properties, said the new study is “a first for me in a number of ways. This compound is not difficult to make, and it’s not a new material.”

In fact, the atomic structure of the material — its atoms are tightly packed in a “cubic” crystalline structure that’s often associated with hardness — was previously known. It’s not even clear that Morosan and former graduate student Eteri Svanidze, the study’s lead co-author, were the first to make a pure sample of the ultrahard “beta” form of the compound. But due to a couple of lucky breaks, they and their co-authors are the first to document the material’s remarkable properties.

The paper can be found at the AAAS Science Advances: High hardness in the biocompatible intermetallic compound β-Ti3Au

More faster please - treating cancer

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From England's Great Ormond Street Hospital:

World first use of gene-edited immune cells to treat ‘incurable’ leukaemia
A new treatment that uses ‘molecular scissors’ to edit genes and create designer immune cells programmed to hunt out and kill drug resistant leukaemia has been used at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

The treatment, previously only tested in the laboratory, was used in one-year-old, Layla, who had relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). She is now cancer free and doing well.

This breakthrough comes from GOSH and UCL Institute of Child Health’s (ICH) pioneering research teams, who together are developing treatments and cures for some of the rarest childhood diseases.

Chemotherapy successfully treats many patients with leukaemia but it can be ineffective in patients with particularly aggressive forms of the disease where cancer cells can remain hidden or resistant to drug therapy. Recent developments have led to treatments where immune cells, known as T-cells, are gathered from patients and programmed using gene therapy to recognise and kill cancerous cells. Multiple clinical trials are underway, but individuals with leukaemia, or those who have had several rounds of chemotherapy, often don’t have enough healthy T-cells to collect and modify meaning this type of treatment is not appropriate.

A bit more about the nuts and bolts of the treatment:

The treatment works by adding new genes to healthy donor T-cells, which arm them against leukaemia. Using molecular tools (TALEN®) that act like very accurate scissors, specific genes are then cut in order to make the T-cells behave in two specific ways. Firstly, the cells became invisible to a powerful leukaemia drug that would usually kill them and secondly they are reprogrammed to only target and fight against leukaemia cells.

The team at GOSH and the UCL ICH, along with investigators at University College London and biotech company Cellectis, had been developing ‘off-the-shelf’ banks of these donor T-cells and the first of which was due to be used for final stage testing ahead of clinical trials. But, after hearing about this infant, the team received special permission to try the new treatment early.

Very clever two-pronged attack - the off-the-shelf banks of cells is wonderful too. They can culture them as needed.

Now this will be interesting to follow

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There are a lot of different systems to integrate but it is an interesting start. From The Toronto Star:

New fully digital Humber River Hospital aims to be a model
It’s hard to be envious of anyone stuck in a hospital bed, but the new Humber River Hospital draws more comparisons to a swanky hotel than a gloomy facility reeking of antiseptic and teeming with nerves.

Step through the doors of the state-of-the-art hospital and you’ll find robots that mix drugs and transport goods, bedside touchscreens that allow patients to video-chat with doctors, and machines that process blood samples in minutes, automatically entering results into electronic records.

All of that catapults the facility, set to open Sunday at Keele St. and Highway 401, light years ahead of its former digs, which were desperate for an upgrade.

Definitely the way of the future - still, I would like to have it get a few years under their belt before I check in for anything. Never run Version 1.0 of anything...

VetiGel - quite the breakthrough

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From Bloomberg:

 

More. Faster. Hat tip to Peter for the link.

When this becomes available to Veterinarians, I'll buy some "for the farm animals" just to have in case.

An Ebola vaccine?

From NBC News:

Nose Spray Ebola Vaccine Protects Monkeys
A needle-free Ebola vaccine protects monkeys 100 percent of the time from the virus, even a year after they’ve been vaccinated, researchers reported Monday.

The vaccine uses a common cold virus genetically engineered to carry a tiny piece of Ebola DNA. Sprayed up the nose, it saved all nine monkeys tested for infection.

But now the research is dead in the water without funding, Maria Croyle of the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy said.

“Now we are at the crossroads, trying to figure out where to get the funding and resources to continue,” Croyle told NBC News.

It’s only a small study, but the results are encouraging, said Croyle, whose findings are published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics and being discussed at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists meeting in San Diego this week.

It has been successful for one year and yet, they are scrambling for funding? Sample size is too small and there have been no human trials but still...

More. Faster. Please.

A heartening story - Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts runs the excellent award-winning climate website Watts Up With That

Over the years, he alluded to some hearing problems but never dwelled on it. Today, he posted a wonderful story about how he has now regained almost all of his hearing. Something to forward to anyone you know with hearing problems. A great read.

From Anthony:

How I got my life back – my hearing has been restored to near-normal
This is an extremely personal note, and I have been waiting a week to write to see if in fact the results were real and lasting. I’m happy to report that they are and I am a changed person as a result of this transformation. Let me tell you a story about my struggle and how I suffered with for years now my family and my friends in my career and everything suffered along with it and what I did to solve it.

Many of you that read WUWT and have met me in person at conferences, speaking engagements, and over the telephone realize what a struggle everyday life has been for me with an 85% hearing loss. The story begins when I was an infant – I had a series of infections which our local doctor treated with tetracycline, an antibiotic that at the time they did not know would cause long-term hearing loss. It also causes discoloring of your adult teeth in later life. Like with so many drugs, no one quite knew at the time what long-term effects it might have. The product is now [mostly] off the market, however the effect remained with me and many other people.

Anthony finds a clinic that deals with his problem:

This section of the campus at the Starkey Laboratories is called the Center for Excellence and indeed it is, because this is where miracles are performed every day by a staff of caring and talented people that exist nowhere else in the world.

The walls are lined with photographs, autographs, and letters from heads of state, celebrities, astronauts, the Pope, and even a letter from Mother Teresa thanking the man that formed this company and the miracle that it produces for restoring their hearing.

And the results are excellent in even the worst conditions (lots of ambient noise and other people talking):

This was a moment I’ll remember forever. All of a sudden the tables were turned, and I was thrilled beyond imagination to be able to repeat something for someone else. I knew then that a transformation that occurred and I made it short and simple post to my Facebook page. It read:

20141105-epic_hearing-fb.png

And to my amazement dozens and then hundreds of accolades and comment started pouring in while I was sitting there at the bar. I began to cry and tears were streaming down my face. I was so happy and I couldn’t stop it because the weight and pain of the last 40 years were suddenly lifted from me. It truly was epic.

There were two people sitting at the end corner of the bar who looked at me and asked with concern, “Sir, are you okay?”  I proceeded to tell them what happened and I had a glorious conversation with two people who I had never met and I understood every word. They were thrilled for me.

I can’t begin to tell you what that felt like. And it kept getting better as I learned to be able to tune these new hearing aids to situations and it made comprehension even easier. The next day I posted this on my Facebook page:

20141105-epic_hearing-fb2.png

I had feared that maybe this was just the temporary gain, but now nearly a week later my comprehension gains continue, and I am healed in more ways than one.

You see, the inability to hear on a daily basis during normal simple everyday things like ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks or going through a drive through the order food to take on the my family were challenges that I often failed and it made me frustrated and angry all the time. This affected people around me and especially the people I hold most dear; my own family. Now all of that is gone and I’m like an entirely new person because of this transformation.

My ability to hear and the telephone has been transformed too. These new hearing aids have direct Bluetooth connections and so I am able to carry on a conversation using both ears with my cell phone. The fidelity is phenomenal and my comprehension is now nearly perfect where maybe before I could pick up 50% on a good day. This new technology is beyond what I could have imagined.

The place that Anthony went to is the Starkey Hearing Foundation - amazing people, amazing work.

More faster please

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This is huge - from the Beeb:

Whole organ 'grown' in world first
A whole functional organ has been grown from scratch inside an animal for the first time, say researchers in Scotland.

A group of cells developed into a thymus - a critical part of the immune system - when transplanted into mice.

The findings, published in Nature Cell Biology, could pave the way to alternatives to organ transplantation.

Experts said the research was promising, but still years away from human therapies.

Say bye-bye to immune response and tissue rejection problems. This is a long long way from being able to grow a new heart or liver or kidneys but still, a step in the right direction.

Cool new technology for Cataracts

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I had cataract surgery five years ago - a mis-spent youth hiking ice fields and sailing without wearing protective eyeglasses caused the damage.

I now have two lenses made from plastic where my original equipment used to be.  The surgery is quick and painless and I was using the eye the next day (vision was blurry but usable). The downside is that the range of focusing was reduced.  The option was for great distance vision and needing reading glasses or great closeup vision and needing corrective lenses for distance. Considering that I can get a great pair of 2X readers at WalMart for about $10, I chose the first option. Generic distance glasses are not a commercial product.

Ran into this story today at Fox News:

Researchers regrow corneas using adult human stem cells
Boston researchers have successfully regrown human corneal tissue – a feat that could potentially restore vision in the blind.

The achievement also marks one of the first times that scientists have constructed tissue using adult-derived human stem cells.

The article goes into a lot of detail - fascinating reading.

More! Faster!

Very cool medical technology

From MedGaget:

Custom 3D Printed Kidneys Help Surgeons Remove Tumors
20140424-3d-printed-kidney.jpg
Removing a tumor from an organ can be a challenge when it's located in a hard to reach spot surrounded by fragile tissue, such as in the retroperitoneal space. Surgeons typically review CT scans prior to the operation, planning what approach they'll take in their minds. Now researchers at Kobe University in Japan are offering surgeons 3D-printed recreations of their patients' own kidneys, including the tumor and surrounding vasculature, to analyze and practice on.

The team uses pre-op CT scans to create 3D models of the kidneys, which are then transferred to the printer. The kidney is then printed out of two different materials so that the tumor and vasculature stand out from the rest of the organ. This allows the surgeons to initially see the tumor and vessels that will be much harder to spot during actual surgery.

What a wonderful idea -- you can 3D print with a huge range of materials so picking something that looks right and has the right consistency is a no-brainer.

Plastic surgery

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It seems that people from China and Japan are heading to South Korea for plastic surgery. The Doctors are so good that there is often a problem getting back home. From Neatorama:
South Korean Plastic Surgeons Are Too Good At Their Job
20140421-korea-plastic.jpg
People who get plastic surgery claim they do it to better themselves, making themselves look and feel better, but plastic surgery can also complicate your life and make it hard to re-enter your home country when your new face doesn't match the one in your passport photo.

Women heading from China and Japan to South Korea in order to undergo extensive plastic surgery are finding the operations so successful that customs agents don't believe they're the same person.

It has become such a problem that some Korean hospitals are now issuing "plastic surgery certificates" to their patients so they can go home again.
Looking at the picture I can see why. Maybe some kind of biometric scanner - fingerprint or retinal scan.

Very cool news - growing your own kidney

From the UK Guardian:
Kidney grown in lab successfully transplanted into rat
Scientists have grown a kidney in a laboratory and shown that it works when implanted into a living animal. The work is an important step towards the longer-term goal of growing personalised replacement organs that could be transplanted into people with kidney failure.
A bit more:
In the latest work, Harald Ott of Massachusetts General hospital led a team of scientists who grew a kidney by using an experimental technique that has previously been used to create working hearts, lungs and livers.

Ott first took a rat kidney and stripped out its functional cells using a solution of detergent. That left behind a white cellular matrix, the collagen scaffold that gives the organ its three-dimensional structure.

His team then introduced kidney and blood vessel cells from newborn rats onto the scaffold and cultured the growing organ for 12 days, until the cells had grown to cover the scaffold. The team then implanted the organ into a living rat, where it successfully filtered the animal's blood and produced urine. The work is published on Sunday in Nature Medicine.

It builds on methods pioneered by the American bioengineer Doris Taylor, who first used it in 2008 to grow whole, beating hearts. She described the collagen structure left behind after the bleach had done its work as being like the "gristle" in a steak.
As soon as we can do this without requiring a stripped-down kidney for a support matrix, the faster we can be able to grow replacement organs for individuals. Although my artificial hip is fantastic, I would much rather have a replacement bone and cartelidge joint. More. Faster...
Wonderful long article at the New Yorker regarding some changes being made at Hospitals. Changes that are very similar to kitchen operations at the Cheesecake Factory. From Atul Gawande writing at The New Yorker:
Big Med
It was Saturday night, and I was at the local Cheesecake Factory with my two teen-age daughters and three of their friends. You may know the chain: a hundred and sixty restaurants with a catalogue-like menu that, when I did a count, listed three hundred and eight dinner items (including the forty-nine on the �Skinnylicious� menu), plus a hundred and twenty-four choices of beverage. It�s a linen-napkin-and-tablecloth sort of place, but with something for everyone. There�s wine and wasabi-crusted ahi tuna, but there�s also buffalo wings and Bud Light. The kids ordered mostly comfort food�pot stickers, mini crab cakes, teriyaki chicken, Hawaiian pizza, pasta carbonara. I got a beet salad with goat cheese, white-bean hummus and warm flatbread, and the miso salmon.

The place is huge, but it�s invariably packed, and you can see why. The typical entr�e is under fifteen dollars. The d�cor is fancy, in an accessible, Disney-cruise-ship sort of way: faux Egyptian columns, earth-tone murals, vaulted ceilings. The waiters are efficient and friendly. They wear all white (crisp white oxford shirt, pants, apron, sneakers) and try to make you feel as if it were a special night out. As for the food�can I say this without losing forever my chance of getting a reservation at Per Se?�it was delicious.

The chain serves more than eighty million people per year. I pictured semi-frozen bags of beet salad shipped from Mexico, buckets of precooked pasta and production-line hummus, fish from a box. And yet nothing smacked of mass production. My beets were crisp and fresh, the hummus creamy, the salmon like butter in my mouth. No doubt everything we ordered was sweeter, fattier, and bigger than it had to be. But the Cheesecake Factory knows its customers. The whole table was happy (with the possible exception of Ethan, aged sixteen, who picked the onions out of his Hawaiian pizza).

I wondered how they pulled it off. I asked one of the Cheesecake Factory line cooks how much of the food was premade. He told me that everything�s pretty much made from scratch�except the cheesecake, which actually is from a cheesecake factory, in Calabasas, California.

I�d come from the hospital that day. In medicine, too, we are trying to deliver a range of services to millions of people at a reasonable cost and with a consistent level of quality. Unlike the Cheesecake Factory, we haven�t figured out how. Our costs are soaring, the service is typically mediocre, and the quality is unreliable. Every clinician has his or her own way of doing things, and the rates of failure and complication (not to mention the costs) for a given service routinely vary by a factor of two or three, even within the same hospital.

It�s easy to mock places like the Cheesecake Factory�restaurants that have brought chain production to complicated sit-down meals. But the �casual dining sector,� as it is known, plays a central role in the ecosystem of eating, providing three-course, fork-and-knife restaurant meals that most people across the country couldn�t previously find or afford. The ideas start out in �lite, upscale restaurants in major cities. You could think of them as research restaurants, akin to research hospitals. Some of their enthusiasms�miso salmon, Chianti-braised short ribs, flourless chocolate espresso cake�spread to other high-end restaurants. Then the casual-dining chains re�ngineer them for affordable delivery to millions. Does health care need something like this?
And the answer? YES! Dr. Gawande (an Md.) goes on to describe several examples of the factory management techniques being implemented in some hospital chains and their results. Yes, every person is different but there is a lot that can be standardized. The documentation shows that the patient experience improved, the cost of medical care decreased and the recovery was faster. A fun read. Dr. Gawande closes with this observation:
The critical question is how soon that sort of quality and cost control will be available to patients everywhere across the country. We�ve let health-care systems provide us with the equivalent of greasy-spoon fare at four-star prices, and the results have been ruinous. The Cheesecake Factory model represents our best prospect for change. Some will see danger in this. Many will see hope. And that�s probably the way it should be.
From The Washington Post:
Kidney donation saga takes another grim turn for NYC man who lost sister during surgery
Two weeks ago, Roberto Medina�s sister died while undergoing surgery to give him one of her kidneys. Now, the ailing New York City man is leaving the hospital feeling traumatized � again.

Medina told reporters he was summoned to Montefiore Medical Center on Wednesday and told that a new kidney had been found to replace the one lost in the botched surgery on his sister, Yolanda.

People normally wait years for a transplant. But Medina said doctors told him he was rushed to the top of a waiting list out of sympathy.

On Friday, he was discharged with bad news: The agency that oversees transplants doesn�t allow people to skip to the head of the line unless it is a medical emergency.
Unreal -- the doctors botch the surgery on his sister -- killing her -- they then botch the surgery on him -- necessitating a new kidney, they promise him a replacement and then break that promise. One or two of these events would be tragic but this borders on the incompetent. Welcome to Obamacare. Strange too as Montefiore Medical Center is a very big hospital and is rated as being one of the best although in this same rating, 8% of respondents would Probably or definitely not recommend the hospital to friends and family while the national average for all US hospitals is only 5%...

Learned a new word today

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The word is Ballistocardiography <-- this link is to the Wikipedia definition. Here is a paper describing a Ballistocardiograph. An excerpt:
A BCG suspension table for displacement or force recording was designed and built in our Department of Physiological Sciences. A rigid, rectangular, metallic framework taken from an old clinical examination bed was used. Four nylon cords (80-kg load capacity each) were affixed to the upper framework at its four corners by means of four adjustable screws for a final suspension distance of 60 cm. A wood table (200 � 40 � 2 cm) was hung by the four nylon cords and perfectly balanced and leveled in the horizontal plane by the adjustable screws. All four nylon suspension cords were placed strictly perpendicular to the table. To reduce the bulk that will be impelled by the force vectors the wood table must be light enough, ≥10 times less than body weight; in the present case, the table was 3.8 kg. The surface of the BCG table must also be rough enough to ensure that the body impulse generated by the cardiac force vectors will be totally transmitted to the table without the body sliding. The surface of the table can be made rough enough by sandpapering.
Cool idea!
From Canadian journal The Walrus:
A Political Meltdown
If you�ve ever had a cardiac perfusion test to see how the blood was flowing in and around your heart or a bone scan to determine whether your cancer had metastasized, then you, like some thirty million people around the globe every year, have been the beneficiary of medical isotopes. What makes these unstable atoms so handy is that they can be injected, swallowed, or inhaled, and once inside the body they emit radiation from predetermined places. From there, their radioactivity can be used to kill off cancer cells or, far more often, to etch a detailed picture of your innards.

Canada is the world�s largest single producer of medical isotopes. In fact, they were practically invented here. Most of the world�s isotopes are made inside nuclear reactors. In Canada, they�re produced in one in particular, at the Chalk River Laboratories nuclear facility, northwest of Ottawa. And when, in November 2007, that reactor was unexpectedly shut down, large parts of the world faced their first real �isotope crisis.� Their entire supply had suddenly been cut off.

This was when isotopes punctured the national consciousness. Doctors offered daily updates like sports scores about the thousands of patients who would be forced to forgo tests and what dire consequences this might have. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said the reactor, which is owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, couldn�t be turned back on until a coolant pump was installed. Then parliamentarians stuck their noses in and voted unanimously to restart the reactor without the pump, overruling the nuclear regulator.

The government carefully framed the crisis as a medical calamity brought on by an overly persnickety regulator. The reactor was restarted in mid-December, and soon the hysteria died down. On the surface, everything went back to normal. But just a few months later, AECL abandoned two new nuclear reactors that had been built exclusively to produce medical isotopes. A year after that, Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared that Canada was getting out of the isotope business altogether. �For whatever reason,� he said, �Atomic Energy was not able to make that project work.�

To many of us who�d been following the saga, that announcement felt like craziness. We were turning our backs on one of the best gigs going. Demand for isotopes is growing, and it�s a niche business: churning them out in mass volume requires a reactor. Perhaps best of all, isotopes seem distinctly Canadian � a feel-good by-product of an unpopular technology, a sort of peacekeeper of the nuclear world.

But in time, what I learned is that our isotope fiasco wasn�t really the result of an overly strict regulator or incompetent engineers. The new reactors were shuttered, and the industry was dispensed with, because it was far from being the lucrative money spinner many presumed it to be, and Harper knew the truth: that isotopes were hemorrhaging millions of dollars from the public coffers every month. It turns out that the lust to privatize federal assets some quarter century ago drove us to make a deal so bad that it put Canada�s future producing isotopes in jeopardy. A deal so bad that it made better economic sense to forfeit the whole industry than to pony up and fix it.
A long article with lots of history and back-stories. Basically an all too common tale of corporate malfeasance and government incompetence.

A very clever hack

From Eureka Alert:

Nude-colored hospital gowns could help doctors better detect hard-to-see symptoms
Troy, N.Y. Changing the hue of hospital gowns and bed sheets to match a patient's skin color could greatly enhance a physician's ability to detect cyanosis and other health-related skin color changes, according to a new study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

"If a doctor sees a patient, and then sees the patient again later, the doctor will have little or no idea whether the patient's skin has changed color," said neurobiologist and study leader Mark Changizi, assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer. "Small shifts in skin color can have tremendous medical implications, and we have proposed a few simple tools - skin-colored gowns, sheets, and adhesive tabs - that could better arm physicians to make more accurate diagnoses."

Human eyes evolved to see in color largely for the purpose of detecting skin color changes such as when other people blush, Changizi said. These emotive skin color changes are extremely apparent because humans are hard-wired to notice them, and because the background skin color remains unchanged. The contrast against the nearby "baseline" skin color is what makes blushes so noticeable, he said.

Human skin also changes color as a result of hundreds of different medical conditions. Pale skin, yellow skin, and cyanosis - a potentially serious condition of bluish discoloration of the skin, lips, nails, and mucous membranes due to lack of oxygen in the blood - are common symptoms. These color changes often go unnoticed, however, because they often involve a fairly universal shift in skin color, Changizi said. The observer in most instances will just assume the patient's current skin color is the baseline color. The challenge is that there is no color contrast against the baseline for the observer to pick up on, as the baseline skin color has changed altogether.

Very very clever!

Hat tip to Neatorama for the link...

Heh -- a bit of a hard time for Homeopathy

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About time -- from the UK Guardian:

MPs deliver their damning verdict: Homeopathy is useless and unethical
Today the Science and Technology Select Committee delivered its verdict on homeopathy and it was devastating. The committee has called for the complete withdrawal of NHS funding and official licensing of homeopathy.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who witnessed the almost farcical nature of the proceedings, with the elite of homeopathy mocked by their own testimony. Peter Fisher, director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, spewed forth the sort of dialogue that wouldn't look out of place in a Terry Pratchett novel. As the report drily observes:
"Dr Fisher stated that the process of 'shaking is important' but was unable to say how much shaking was required. He said 'that has not been fully investigated' but did tell us that 'You have to shake it vigorously [...] if you just stir it gently, it does not work'.
Quite. It's hard to say which is more ridiculous: the sight of a grown man speaking this nonsense, or the fact that after 200 years homeopaths apparenly haven't bothered to "fully investigate" how much shaking is required for their remedies to work. And yet, bizarrely, these people expect to be taken seriously.

In this they have failed spectacularly. The select committee report has brutally inflicted the 21st, 20th and 19th centuries on this 18th century magic ritual, and under inspection it has fallen apart.

The belief system that homeopaths operate under is bizarre -- the idea that it would have its group of followers now is unreal when you examine the basic tenants.

If so, Kerry Mullis may be doing just this. Excerpted from MedGaget:

The next person to keep the morning excitement going was Kary Mullis, who won the Noble prize in chemistry for developing PCR.
He discussed updates to his latest project (that was previously highlighted at TED; see video below) that involves taking randomly generated 30 base pair DNA oligonucleotide aptamers, or more simply, random lengths of DNA that have binding affinity to a variety of molecular substrates.
The idea is that it is relatively easy to create a massive library of aptamers that bind to almost anything at a highly selective level. So, if you've got a microbe you want to kill, you figure out which unique surface proteins it's got that you'd like to target and select an aptamer that binds to it.
Then, you take this aptamer and attach it to something that the body has a strong innate immune response to. This combination means that the aptamer binds to the microbe but is attached to a giant flag that tells your immune system to come over and eat up whatever the aptamer is bound to. The technology has been proven to completely eliminate anthrax in animal models and we're quite excited to see where it goes over the coming years.

Dr. Mullis' home page here and the page for his Altermune Project Talk about next generation...

Another look at Socialized Medicine

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Some people in the USA are clamoring for a Socialized health system much like that of Canada or England despite the fact that many of these patients are traveling to other countries to get health care as they cannot spend the months and years to wait for diagnosis and treatment. Talk about unintended consequences. Here is one metric that really drives home the disparity:
canada_MRI_CT.jpg
Here is a story of how an MRI correctly diagnosed an ailment that had been incorrectly diagnosed, treated with major surgery and the problem was never fixed. After two years, the English patient finally had an MRI done... In Japan... From the UK Telegraph:
Man who suffered hiccups for two years diagnosed with cancer
Christopher Sands, who has suffered from a constant bout of the hiccups for more than two years, has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, it has been disclosed.

Mr Sands, of Timberland near Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, hiccups persistently every two seconds when his condition is at its worst.

The musician, who is 25, has tried every cure possible, including hypnotherapy, Reiki and yoga.

A backing singer in a band, he has even had an operation to try to cure his hiccups, which at times have prevented him from sleeping and eating properly.

Experts at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham have previously said his condition was down to a damaged valve which had caused an acid reflux condition.

Doctors have managed to create a new valve linking his oesophagus and stomach to try to alleviate the problem.

But Mr Sands now thinks a Japanese doctor has found the cause of the problem - a 12mm tumour at the back of his brain.

The discovery came to light during an MRI scan in Tokyo after Mr Sands was flown out to Japan by a television station to see a hiccup specialist.
Baby Jebus -- I am not a Doctor but I have had a bunch of biology in college and even I can tell you that there can be multiple causes for a given symptom. If there is something reflexive like a hiccup, it can be neurological or it can be a physical irritation. If I were attending this person, I would stuff him to the gills with Prilosec for a week or two to eliminate any chance of GERD and then take a look at the brain. I found another article dated from March of this year; same poor soul, same Fscking Hiccups (which started in February 2007), same brain tumor. He was being admitted into surgery soon after the article's publication. Talk about incompetent diagnosis. There is no mention of what television station sponsored Mr. Sand's trip. Take the soul of the Department of Motor Vehicles with the efficiency of Amtrak and the speed of the Post Office and you tell me that you want the same people handling your Medical care?

Medical Masks

I love these -- I would so sell them in the store if I could get them cheap enough.

carpe_diem_pig_mask.jpg

carpe_diem_jaguar_mask.jpg

Hat tip Mark Perry at Carpe Diem Product here: Studio Samira Boon Online USA sale ($10 each) here: Compact-Impact

She blinded me with Science

Interesting use for stem cells -- from the London Times:
Stem cells to grow bigger breasts
A stem cell therapy offering "natural" breast enlargement is to be made available to British women for the first time.

The treatment could boost cup size while reducing stomach fat. It involves extracting stem cells from spare fat on the stomach or thighs and growing them in a woman's breasts. An increase of one cup size is likely, with the potential for larger gains as the technique improves.

A trial has already started in Britain to use stem cells to repair the breasts of women who have had cancerous lumps removed. A separate project is understood to be the first in Britain to use the new technique on healthy women seeking breast enlargement.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, a consultant breast surgeon at the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace hospital, who is in charge of the project, will treat 10 patients from May. He predicts private patients will be able to pay for the procedure within six months at a cost of about €6,500.
Interesting... The use for reconstruction after cancer surgeries is awesome.

Our horrible medical system

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The Medical system in the US is horrible. From the National Center for Policy Analysis:
10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care
Medical care in the United States is derided as miserable compared to health care systems in the rest of the developed world. Economists, government officials, insurers and academics alike are beating the drum for a far larger government r�le in health care. Much of the public assumes their arguments are sound because the calls for change are so ubiquitous and the topic so complex. However, before turning to government as the solution, some unheralded facts about America's health care system should be considered.

Fact No. 1: Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.

Fact No. 2: Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.

Fact No. 3: Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.

Fact No. 4: Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.

Fact No. 5: Lower income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians.
Complete with lots of links and references to the facts. Hat tip to Mark Perry at Carpe Diem for the link.

Single Payer Medical Care in Canada

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A five minute YouTube video outlines why Single Payer is not the way to go.
From Free Market Cure Check out the primary website here. Lots of good reading (with links) and more videos.
An interesting report from the UK Daily Mail:
Copper door handles and taps kill 95% of superbugs in hospitals
Making door handles, taps and light switches from copper could help the country beat superbugs, scientists say.

A study found that copper fittings rapidly killed bugs on hospital wards, succeeding where other infection control measures failed.

In the trial at Selly Oak hospital, in Birmingham, copper taps, toilet seats and push plates on doors all but eliminated common bugs.

It is thought the metal 'suffocates' germs, preventing them breathing. It may also stop them from feeding and destroy their DNA.

Lab tests show that the metal kills off the deadly MRSA and C difficile superbugs.

It also kills other dangerous germs, including the flu virus and the E coli food poisoning bug.

Although the number of cases of MRSA and C difficile is falling, the two bugs still claim thousands of lives a year.

During the ten-week trial on a medical ward, a set of taps, a lavatory seat and a push plate on an entrance door were replaced with copper versions. They were swabbed twice a day for bugs and the results compared with a traditional tap, lavatory seat and push plate elsewhere in the ward.

The copper items had up to 95 per cent fewer bugs on their surface whenever they were tested, a U.S. conference on antibiotics heard yesterday.

Professor Tom Elliott, the lead researcher and a consultant microbiologist at the hospital, said: 'The findings of 90 to 95 per cent killing of those organisms, even after a busy day on a medical ward with items being touched by numerous people, is remarkable.

'I have been a consultant microbiologist for several decades. This is the first time I have seen anything like copper in terms of the effect it will have in the environment.

'It may well offer us another mechanism for trying to defeat the spread of infection.'

Researcher Professor Peter Lambert, of Aston University, Birmingham, said: 'The numbers decreased always on copper but not on the steel surfaces.'

If further hospital-based trials prove as successful, the researchers would like copper fixtures and fittings installed in hospitals around the country.
Very cool -- the steel can be copper plated and even pure copper is about as expensive as Stainless Steel so making the items from solid copper would not be cost prohibitive. It makes a lot of sense as Silver has strong anti-microbial action as well. Wonder what other metals work well -- talk about a kick-ass and simple to do experiment for some high-school science fair...

From the UK Telegraph:

French surgeons destroy brain tumour on conscious patient in world first
French brain surgeons have conducted a world first by destroying a brain tumour on a conscious patient using keyhole laser surgery, it has emerged.

The team from Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris drilled a 3mm hole into the skull of a patient under local anaesthetic, inserting a tiny fibre-optic cable armed with a laser.

The doctors were then able to "see" the metastatic tumour and steer the cable thanks to a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, which uses magnetic and radio waves.

Once inside the skull, they carried out a computer simulation of the treatment. Then they activated the laser, which heated and killed the tumour tissue for up to two minutes. The MRI scan allowed them to modify the exact energy output needed from the laser.

The patient remained wide awake throughout and was said to have felt nothing. Once all the cancer cells were dead, the cable was removed and the patient allowed to return home the same day.

I'm surprised to see that this has not been done before -- we have had the technology for at least ten years. Cool idea though!

From MedGadget comes this story of something very cool that could be a potential major fustercluck:
Practice Fusion Wants to Disrupt EMR Market
Practice Fusion is a new web-based electronic medical records and practice management software available to all US physicians. Unlike other EMR solutions that often cost thousands of dollars to install and maintain (on top of being proprietary and bulky), Practice Fusion is free, thanks to its ad-supported business model.

Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, explains to Medgadget:
The offering is unique in the marketplace, because it is completely free and web-based, eliminating all of the risks for physicians, making Practice Fusion one of the fastest growing medical professional communities in the country.

We generate revenue by embedding advertising, including pharmaceutical products, into our physician tools.
And then Ron drops this little bomb into the picture:
We also incur revenue through the sale of anonymized patient data to research groups, pharmaceuticals, and health plans.
So yes, MDs get a comprehensive package for free comparable to dedicated software that could cost several thousands in licensing and maintenance fees; and yes, Medical companies get the inside track to pushed advertising; and yes, the research groups and pharma and health plans have access to up to the second data (and not some survey conducted three years ago that everyone else has data-mined to oblivion)... But... The potential for abuse is incredible. A software glitch, an employee susceptible to bribery, a set of backup tapes left on the seat of a car and whammo -- you have a huge opportunity for breach of confidence. Clever idea on one hand but rather not on the other. Plus, if a construction excavator severs the fiber optic line for your area, you are down for the count. For days. This happened earlier this year in parts of Bellingham. At the store, I have Comcast Business Service (premium broadband Terms Of Service) and we are still down for a couple hours, couple times/year. With installed software, you can continue working with a battery backup.

Very clever idea -- from CNN:

Amputee vets see eye-to-eye on Segways
U.S. Army Sgt. Jacque Keeslar lost both legs in Iraq nearly two years ago. To get around, he relies on a wheelchair and a pair of artificial legs, which help him walk in short bursts.

"If I have to do a half mile or mile of walking, it just exhausts me," Keeslar said.

Now, thanks to a specially designed Segway, the battery-powered transporter, Keeslar says he can ditch his wheelchair and get around without people looking down on him.

Keeslar was among 30 vets who received their own modified Segways this week, courtesy of Disability Rights Advocates for Technology.

The nonprofit group presented its latest batch of Segways to the veterans in a ceremony Wednesday at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia. That brings the number of Segways they have donated to vets to about 150.

A perfect example of appropriate technology.

Interesting article at Newsweek regarding some potential serious problems with heavy Botox users.

A New Reason to Frown
Does Botox get into the brain? Troubling research contradicts earlier findings about the treatment

The way it usually works is, the rats and mice die first. Or at least get sick first. Or at the very least, show some adverse effect first - as in, before people do. The reason countless lab animals have given their lives during the testing of experimental drugs is to allow manufacturers and regulators to see that a compound might be toxic, even deadly, before millions of people use it. And if the compound does look a little dodgy, the lab-animal tests uncover the reason - how the compound affects the liver, say, or reaches the brain. Not surprisingly, these "preclinical tests" (that is, those performed before testing on humans) were especially rigorous for botulinum. One of the deadliest poisons in nature and a possible bioterrorism agent, this neurotoxin reached the market, in very dilute doses, starting in 1989 as Botox. A big reason Botox and its cousins, such as Myobloc, were OK'd was that preclinical testing showed that after being injected, they did not travel along the body's highways 'nerve cells' to the brain and spinal cord. Yes, there was some evidence the toxin slipped into the bloodstream or the lymph system, but Botox in the bloodstream cannot enter the brain, says its manufacturer.

Oops. In a reversal of the usual sequence in science, researchers have discovered, after millions of people have received the drug, something fundamental about how Botox can act. Contrary to what turned up in preclinical testing, botulinum toxin can travel along neurons from the injection site into the brain, at least in lab animals. Researchers at Italy's Institute of Neuroscience injected rats and mice with botulinum neurotoxin A in doses comparable to those used in people. (Strains are named A, B and E, depending on where the common soil bacteria that produce them live; A is Botox, B is Myobloc, which is used for severe back pain.) Neurons at the injection site the whisker muscles absorbed some of the toxin and passed it along to other neurons they connected to, the researchers report this month in The Journal of Neuroscience. Within three days, the toxin had migrated from the whisker muscles to the brainstem, where it disrupted neuronal activity. "The discovery was quite serendipitous ... and surprising," Matteo Caleo, who led the study, told the journal Science. "A significant portion of the toxin is active where it's not intended to be."

"migrated from the whisker muscles to the brainstem, where it disrupted neuronal activity" Just wonderful -- maybe this explains why there are so many "troofers" and political loonies out in Hollywood...

The common knowledge is that for older people, taking a small dose (81mG/day) of Aspirin will greatly reduce the chance of your having either a full-on stroke or a Transient Ischemic Attack.

This information is very near and dear to my heart as I had a TIA a year ago last February, 2007.

Found this little gem while reading the intarwebs -- from Science Daily:

Ibuprofen Destroys Aspirin's Positive Effect On Stroke Risk, Study Shows
Stroke patients who use ibuprofen for arthritis pain or other conditions while taking aspirin to reduce the risk of a second stroke undermine aspirin's ability to act as an anti-platelet agent, researchers at the University at Buffalo have shown.

In a cohort of patients seen by physicians at two offices of the Dent Neurologic Institute, 28 patients were identified as taking both aspirin and ibuprofen (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID) daily and all were found to have no anti-platelet effect from their daily aspirin.

Thirteen of these patients were being seen because they had a second stroke/TIA while taking aspirin and a NSAID, and were platelet non-responsive to aspirin (aspirin resistant) at the time of that stroke.

The researchers found that when 18 of the 28 patients returned for a second neurological visit after discontinuing NSAID use and were tested again, all had regained their aspirin sensitivity and its ability to prevent blood platelets from aggregating and blocking arteries.

And it seems to not be new knowledge -- unfortunately, it seems to have been swept under the covers:

"This interaction between aspirin and ibuprofen or prescription NSAID's is one of the best-known, but well-kept secrets in stroke medicine," said Francis M. Gengo, Pharm.D., lead researcher on the study.

"It's unfortunate that clinicians and patients often are unaware of this interaction. Whatever number of patients who have had strokes because of the interaction between aspirin and NSAIDs, those strokes were preventable."

Well crap -- it would have been good to know about this as I have a problem with my hip that is causing some pain and I have been using Ibuprofen to control it.

Time to go back to the Tramadol. It has been such a fun year or two...

An alternative 'therapy'

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Wonderful stuff coming out of Africa these days. The Ugandans seem to have a new therapy for AIDS From allAfrica.com:
Uganda: Ugandans Turn to Lizard Blood for Aids Cure
Desperate people living with the HIV/Aids virus in Yumbe district, northwestern Uganda, have resorted to an ominous therapy - that of injecting themselves with blood drawn from an uncommon type of lizard.

Natives believe the reptile, locally called Lepe is a panacea for Aids ailment.

Mr Isaac Anguyo, the director of the West Nile-based Here is Life Christian organisation, exposed the disturbing story during a recent HIV/Aids Stake holder's meeting in Yumbe.

Veterinary experts at Makerere University, who studied photographs of the said reptile, identified it as the White-throated monitor lizard or Varanus albigularis albigularis - known for its medicinal content.

Mr Anguyo, during the assembly with Yumbe leaders, showed video footage of testimonies of some people living with the deadly virus who claim they made stunning recovery after being injected with lizard blood!

In a segment of the recording, a man, his two wives and a daughter - all self-confessed persons living with the Aids virus - assert that they felt better once blood of the cold-blooded reptile was introduced to their bodies. The family claim the brawny and scaly lizard is a nice delicacy too.
Delusion is a very powerful drug but the cure is not permanent. These poor souls are looking at everything except the one place that would work. Sex education and proper condom use...
A gorgeous collection of antique medical instruments. Hat tip to Medgadget

Cool medical technology

Hat tip to Wretchard at The Belmont Club for the link to this: The Java 3D-enabled CAVE at the Sun Center of Excellence for Visual Genomics

There really isn't a good description on their site -- it is a 3D imersive room -- a holodeck if you will. They loaded a human model with detail down to the cellular level and visitors can wander through the 3D projection. Looks like a lot of fun!

cave_medical_holodeck.jpg
Yet another use for Stem Cells. From the UK Daily Mail:
45-minute operation to restore sight to millions
A revolutionary technique being developed by British scientists could cure blindness in millions of people around the world.

The first 45-minute operations could take place within five years and could be as commonplace as cataract surgery in a decade.

The improvement is likely to be great enough to transform lives, allowing the blind to regain the ability to carry out everyday tasks such as reading or driving.

The pioneering stem cell surgery tackles age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in the elderly. There are about 300,000 sufferers in this country and the number is expected to treble in the next 25 years to around one million as the population ages.

AMD, which affects a quarter of over-60s in the UK and more than half of over-75s to some degree, occurs in two forms. While the "wet" form can be combated with drugs, there is no treatment for the "dry" form which accounts for 90 per cent of cases.

The treatment centres on human embryonic stem cells grown in a laboratory. These are "blank" cells with the power to turn into different cell types and are used to create small patches identical to the cells damaged in the eyes of AMD sufferers.

Packaged into a syringe, the patch is injected into the back of the eye where it replaces damaged cells and restores sight.

The technique is being developed by scientists and doctors from University College London, Moorfields Eye Hospital, also in London, and Sheffield University, working together in the London Project to Cure Blindness.

Their work has been boosted by a �4million donation from an anonymous American benefactor.
Very cool if this works out.

Cool technology - robot surgeons

I for one welcome our new ROBOT overlords. These are built with zero electronics or ferrous metals so they can be used inside an operating MRI machine so the controlling Surgeon can operate on tumors that cannot otherwise be seen. From the University of Calgary:
U of Calgary surgical robot brings new meaning to 'picking your brain'
It's not rocket science - but it is brain surgery.

Wait a minute, it's a bit of both.

On Tuesday researchers at the University of Calgary unveiled the NeuroArm - a new surgical robot they developed with help from the people who built the Canadarm for NASA's space shuttles.

This robot bears little resemblance to R2-D2 from Star Wars fame but it does come with high-definition cameras and bright lights. It also has two arms that wield operating tools with the skill of a surgeon.

In a demonstration for journalists, a white Styrofoam head was placed on the operating table to simulate a patient. In the room next door, an operator, peering into what appeared to be a microscope, operated the robot's controls. The tiny tools on its hands began busily tying rubber bands into knots.

Dr. Garnette Sutherland worked for six years to create the robot to aid in complex neurosurgery. The device is controlled from a computer workstation and provides real-time magnetic resonance imaging, giving the surgeon a ready view of how the brain is reacting.

"The robot can pick up a micro-scissors or other tools that neurosurgery uses and actually open and close them in much the same way that surgeons use their hands," said Sutherland, a professor of neurosurgery.

"Sensory feedback is a very important component of NeuroArm, and it has a sense of touch."

It could also result in safer surgery for patients.

"The feedback provides the surgeon the ability to quantify the forces involved in handling delicate tissue," Sutherland explained. "It would be wonderful to know the pressure that one is exerting on a blood vessel before it breaks."

Advanced surgical testing of NeuroArm is currently underway, and with the blessing of Health Canada it could be used on its first patient this summer.
The arm currently costs $27M CDN -- a bit steep but this is the first of many so the price should plummet. Very cool technology.

Tears of Joy

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Seems that human tears are not just neutral saline. From PhysOrg:
Tears reveal some of their deepest secrets to researchers
It's no secret why we shed tears. But exactly what our tears are made of has remained a mystery to scientists.

A new study sheds some light on the complex design of tears. What we think of as tears, scientists call tear film, which is made up of three distinct, microscopic layers. The middle, watery layer � what we normally think of as tears when we cry � is sandwiched between a layer of mucus and an outer layer of fatty, oily substances collectively called meibum.

It's in this outer layer that researchers describe, for the first time, a new class of lipids � a type of fat � that make up part of the film. They also identified one of these lipids, oleamide, which had not been known to be a part of tears before.

With each blink, meibum spreads over the surface of the eye. It keeps the watery middle layer in place, ensuring that our eyes stay moist.

Finding these lipids may help scientists better understand the causes of eye-related disorders such as dry eye disease, which affects anywhere from 12 to 14 million Americans, said Kelly Nichols, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of optometry at Ohio State University.

"The lack of certain compounds in the tear film may result in a number of different eye-related disorders, including dry eye," she said. "The amount of oleamide and related lipids in tear film may be related to these disorders."

Dry eye is really a collection of irritating symptoms that includes microscopic damage to the front of the eye. The eyes may ache, burn, feel extremely dry or excessively tear.

The researchers report their findings in the current issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.
The Journal abstract is here: Identification of Fatty Acids and Fatty Acid Amides in Human Meibomian Gland Secretions Very cool -- just when we think we "know everything", something as simple as a teardrop reveals itself to be something elegant and complex.

Move over H5N1

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This makes Bird Flu look like a springtime walk in the meadow. From The Guardian:
Bacteria tests reveal how MRSA strain can kill in 24 hours
Scientists have unravelled the workings of a deadly superbug that attacks healthy young people and can kill within 24 hours.

PVL-producing MRSA, a highly-virulent strain of the drug-resistant superbug, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, has spread around the world and caused deaths in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia. PVL or panton-valentine leukocidin toxin destroys white blood cells and usually causes boils and other skin complaints. But if it infects open wounds it can cause necrotising pneumonia, a disease that rapidly destroys lung tissue and is lethal in 75% of cases.

Thousands of infections have been recorded across the US, but scientists believe the number is likely to rise in Britain.

In 2004 the bug claimed the life of Richard Campbell-Smith, a fit 18-year-old Royal Marine, who died three days after scratching his legs on gorse during a training exercise in Devon. In December an outbreak at Norfolk and Norwich University hospital killed a baby and infected five others. According to the Health Protection Agency there were 106 cases of PVL-MRSA in England and Wales in 2005 and one confirmed death from necrotising pneumonia caused by the infection.

Scientists at the University of Texas in Houston and Lyon University in France conducted experiments into PVL to work out why it was so lethal. They took two batches of normal staphylococcus aureus bacteria and modified one of them to produce the PVL toxin.

The researchers exposed mice to the different groups of bacteria, to see if they developed lung infections. Animals that inhaled the normal staphylococcus were unaffected, but those that inhaled the PVL-producing staphylococcus quickly developed necrotising pneumonia, with some dying within 48 hours. Further tests on the PVL-producing bacteria showed they also produced higher levels of proteins that caused massive inflammation and made the bacteria more "sticky", helping microbes cling to people's skin and making it more easy to spread.
Needs early diagnosis that someone thinking "it's just an infection" might ignore. So far it seems to not be that prevalent but no telling what might happen. We had a recent case of Necrotizing Fascitis in a young boy from the Bellingham area -- he is recovering nicely but will need a lot of plastic surgery before this is all over.

A pinprick

Fantastic if it works out. From The Daily Mail:

The vaccine to cure every strain of flu
British scientists are on the verge of producing a revolutionary flu vaccine that works against all major types of the disease.

Described as the 'holy grail' of flu vaccines, it would protect against all strains of influenza A - the virus behind both bird flu and the nastiest outbreaks of winter flu.

Just a couple of injections could give long-lasting immunity - unlike the current vaccine which has to be given every year.

The brainchild of scientists at Cambridge biotech firm Acambis, working with Belgian researchers, the vaccine will be tested on humans for the first time in the next few months.

A similar universal flu vaccine, being developed by Swiss vaccine firm Cytos Biotechnology, could also be tested on people in 2007 - and the vaccines on the market in around five years.

Importantly, the vaccines would also be quicker and easier to make than the traditional jabs, meaning vast quantities could be stockpiled against a global outbreak of bird flu.

Martin Bachmann, of Cytos, said: "You could really stockpile it. In the case of a pandemic, that would be a huge advantage.

Still has to pass all sorts of tests for human use but...

Here are the websites for Acambis and Cytos mentioned in the article.

Medical Terminology

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Wonderful canonical list of medical terminology and acronyms. Definitely not politically correct... A few examples:
Acades vulgaris - medical students.
Acute Lead Poisoning - Gunshot wound
Bones and Groans - non-specialist general hospital
Brothel Sprouts - Genital warts
CLL - chronic Low Life
Dunlap Syndrome - belly done lapped over the waistband; obese
Eating In - Intravenous feeding
Faecal Encephalopathy - Sh*t for brains
GROLIES - (UK) Guardian Reader Of Low Intellect In Ethnic Skirt
You get the general idea.

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