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Medicine

Research Suggests That Saunas Help You Live Longer 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the sweat-it-out dept.
jones_supa writes A study of Finnish men suggests that frequent sauna baths may help you live longer. Previous research has suggested that saunas might improve blood vessel function and exercise capacity, or even lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. The new study links long, hot sauna baths with more benefits, including fewer deaths from heart attacks, strokes, various heart-related conditions and other causes. The study tracked 2315 Finnish men for nearly 20 years on average. Most participants used saunas at least once weekly. Those who used them four to seven times weekly received the greatest benefits. The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine wraps up by saying that further studies are warranted to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and the aforementioned cardiovascular benefits.
Medicine

Banned Weight-loss Drug Could Combat Liver Disease, Diabetes 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the things-that-were-good-but-then-bad-but-then-good dept.
sciencehabit writes: A drug the U.S. government once branded "extremely dangerous and not fit for human consumption" deserves a second chance, a study of rats suggests. Researchers report (abstract) that a slow-release version of the compound reverses diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an untreatable condition that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Medicine

Surgeon: First Human Head Transplant May Be Just Two Years Away 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new-chassis dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Michelle Star writes at C/net that Surgeon Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, believes he has developed a technique to remove the head from a non-functioning body and transplant it onto the healthy body. According to Canavero's paper published in Surgical Neurology International, first, both the transplant head and the donor body need to be cooled in order to slow cell death. Then, the neck of both would be cut and the major blood vessels linked with tubes. Finally, the spinal cords would be severed, with as clean a cut as possible. Joining the spinal cords, with the tightly packed nerves inside, is key. The plan involves flushing the area with polyethylene glycol, followed by several hours of injections of the same, a chemical that encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh. The blood vessels, muscles and skin would then be sutured and the patient would be induced into a coma for several weeks to keep them from moving around; meanwhile, electrodes would stimulate the spine with electricity in an attempt to strengthen the new nerve connections.

Head transplants has been tried before. In 1970, Robert White led a team at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, US, that tried to transplant the head of one monkey on to the body of another. The surgeons stopped short of a full spinal cord transfer, so the monkey could not move its body. Despite Canavero's enthusiasm, many surgeons and neuroscientists believe massive technical hurdles push full body transplants into the distant future. The starkest problem is that no one knows how to reconnect spinal nerves and make them work again. "This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely," says Harry Goldsmith."
Biotech

Xeroxed Gene May Have Paved the Way For Large Human Brain 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-the-big-brain-on-test-subject-35 dept.
sciencehabit writes Last week, researchers expanded the size of the mouse brain by giving rodents a piece of human DNA. Now another team has topped that feat, pinpointing a human gene that not only grows the mouse brain but also gives it the distinctive folds found in primate brains. The work suggests that scientists are finally beginning to unravel some of the evolutionary steps that boosted the cognitive powers of our species. "This study represents a major milestone in our understanding of the developmental emergence of human uniqueness," says Victor Borrell Franco, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, who was not involved with the work.
Medicine

The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics 243

Posted by samzenpus
from the killing-bugs dept.
HughPickens.com writes Every year at least two million people are infected with bacteria that can't be wiped out with antibiotics but the number of F.D.A.-approved antibiotics has decreased steadily in the past two decades. Now.Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes at the NYT that the problem with the development of new antibiotics is profitability. "There's no profit in it, and therefore the research has dried up, but meanwhile bacterial resistance has increased inexorably and there's still a lot of inappropriate use of antibiotics out there," says Ken Harvey. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time so profits have to be made on brief usage. "Even though antibiotics are lifesaving, they do not command a premium price in the marketplace," says Emanuel. "As a society we seem willing to pay $100,000 or more for cancer drugs that cure no one and at best add weeks or a few months to life. We are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for knee surgery that, at best, improves function but is not lifesaving. So why won't we pay $10,000 for a lifesaving antibiotic?"

Emanuel says that we need to use prize money as an incentive. "What if the United States government — maybe in cooperation with the European Union and Japan — offered a $2 billion prize to the first five companies or academic centers that develop and get regulatory approval for a new class of antibiotics?" Because it costs at least $1 billion to develop a new drug, the prize money could provide a 100 percent return — even before sales. "From the government perspective, such a prize would be highly efficient: no payment for research that fizzles. Researchers win only with an approved product. Even if they generated just one new antibiotic class per year, the $2-billion-per-year payment would be a reasonable investment for a problem that costs the health care system $20 billion per year." Unless payers and governments are willing to provide favorable pricing for such a drug, the big companies are going to focus their R&D investments in areas like cancer, depression, and heart disease where the return-on-investments are much higher.
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars-Style "Bionic Hand' Fitted To First Patients 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-quite-a-grip dept.
schwit1 writes "Three Austrians have replaced injured hands with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs. The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as "bionic reconstruction," which includes a voluntary amputation, the transplantation of nerves and muscles and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand. Previously, people with bionic hands have primarily controlled them with manual settings."
Robotics

Should a Service Robot Bring an Alcoholic a Drink? 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-will-feed-you-booze-until-you-pass-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've come to a point where care robots are being used to assist people with illnesses and mobility problems. They can bring medicine, a glass of water, food, and other items that a person may have trouble getting to on their own. But what limits should we set on these robots? Should they be able to deliver alcoholic beverages? If so, should they refuse to serve them to certain people, like children or alcoholics? The issue is complicated further because these robots may have been purchased by the patient, by the doctor or hospital (which sent it home with the patient to monitor their health), or by a concerned family member who wants to monitor their relative. The latest poll research by the Open Roboethics Initiative looked at people's attitudes about whether a care robot should prioritize its owner's wishes over those of the patient.
Medicine

Giant Asian Gerbils May Have Caused the Black Death 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the adorable-ways-to-die dept.
Dave Knott writes: Rats, long believed to be the scourge that brought the Black Death to 14th-century Europe, may not be the disease-bearing scoundrels we thought they were. Scientists have shifted blame for the medieval pandemic responsible for millions of deaths to a new furry menace: giant gerbils from Asia. University of Oslo researchers, working with Swiss government scientists, say a "pulse" of bubonic plague strains arrived sporadically from Asia. They posit the Yersinia pestis bacterium was likely carried over the Silk Road via fleas on the giant gerbils during intermittent warm spells. The fleas could have then transmitted the disease to humans. The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 200 million people in Europe. Though very rare today, cases of the plague still arise in Africa, Asia, the Americas and parts of the former Soviet Union, with the World Health Organization reporting 783 cases worldwide in 2013, including 126 deaths.
Medicine

Study: Peanut Consumption In Infancy Helps Prevent Peanut Allergy 239

Posted by Soulskill
from the reasons-to-force-feed-your-child-peanuts dept.
Mr D from 63 writes: According to a report from the Associated Press, "For years, parents of babies who seem likely to develop a peanut allergy have gone to extremes to keep them away from peanut-based foods. Now a major study suggests that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Here's the published paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. It's interesting how this peanut allergy fear is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The situation involves a complete misconception of risk by many parents, and probably it doesn't stop at peanuts. Is there a bigger underlying problem here?
Medicine

Brain Imaging Shows Abnormal White Matter Areas In the Brains of Stutterers 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the bonus-smarts dept.
n01 writes: Stuttering — a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables or words are repeated or prolonged — affects more than 70 million people, or about 1% of the population, worldwide. Once treated as a psychological or emotional condition, stuttering can now be traced to brain neuroanatomy and physiology. Two new studies from UC Santa Barbara researchers provide insight into the treatment of the speech disorder as well as understanding its physiological basis. The first paper, published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, finds that the MPI stuttering treatment program, a new treatment developed at UCSB, was twice as effective as the standard best practices protocol. The second study, which appears in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, uses diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) in an MRI scanner to identify abnormal areas of white matter in the brains of adult stutterers. According to co-author Janis Ingham, a professor emerita of speech and hearing sciences at UCSB and co-author of both papers, the two studies taken together demonstrate two critical points: A neuroanatomic abnormality exists in the brains of people who stutter, yet they can learn to speak fluently in spite of it.
Medicine

Researchers: Alcohol Health Risks Underestimated, Marijuana Relatively Safe 397

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-bad-after-all dept.
schwit1 writes Compared to other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance (abstract), followed by heroin and cocaine.
Medicine

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You 147

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-sick dept.
merbs writes When we feel sick, fear disease, or have questions about our health, we turn first to the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project, 72 percent of US internet users look up health-related information online. But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns—confidentially, we assume—are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores.
Medicine

Rapid Test For Ebola Now Available 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-when-you-might-have-ebola-on-the-go dept.
sciencehabit writes: The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the first rapid diagnostic test for Ebola. The test needs no electricity, requires just a few drops of blood from a finger prick, and can return results in 15 minutes. That will be a huge help to health workers in remote areas. Current PCR-based tests require a blood sample taken by needle, secure transport of the blood to a properly equipped laboratory with trained staff, and at least several hours to return results. Depending on how far away a suspected case is from a testing laboratory, it can take more than a day to receive test results.
Medicine

Resistant Bacterial Infection Outbreak At California Hospital 132

Posted by timothy
from the lord-have-mrsa dept.
puddingebola writes From the article: "A potentially deadly "superbug" resistant to antibiotics has infected seven patients, including two who died, and more than 160 others were exposed at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center through contaminated medical instruments, the hospital revealed. The drug-resistant superbug known as CRE was likely transmitted to the Los Angeles patients by contaminated medical scopes during endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January 2015, a university statement said. " UCLA says the infections occurred via contaminated endoscopes that were sterilized according to the manufacturer's specifications. (Note: beware autoplaying video ad; adjust your volume accordingly.)
Medicine

Two New Male Birth Control Chemicals In Advanced Stages 369

Posted by samzenpus
from the man-pills dept.
BarbaraHudson writes Researchers at the University of Kansas and Harvard are working to give men more choices for avoiding unwanted pregnancies. From the article: "H2-gamendazole keeps sperm from maturing. The unfinished sperm fragments are then reabsorbed into the testis, never ending up in the semen. 'If there's no sperm, the egg's not going to get fertilized,' says Joseph Tash, a reproductive biologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Almost two years ago, the FDA reviewed the compound, and now the agency wants Tash to investigate if the compound remains in the semen and whether that would harm a woman if it ends up in the vagina. Jay Bradner, working with other anti-cancer researchers at Harvard, discovered that the JQ1 molecule blocked a bromodomain in cancer cells, causing them to forget how to be cancer. One side effect is that JQ1 also obstructed a testicle-specific bromodomain called BRDT, making the sex cells that would otherwise produce sperm non-functional — mice treated with JQ1 can hump with abandon yet generate zero mouselings. Researchers are looking for a version of the molecule that works on the testicle protein only, to avoid any weird side effects."
Medicine

Researcher Developing Tattoo Removal Cream 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the wipe-it-off dept.
BarbaraHudson writes During tattooing, ink is injected into the skin, initiating an immune response, and cells called "macrophages" move into the area and "eat up" the ink. The macrophages carry some of the ink to the body's lymph nodes, but some that are filled with ink stay put, embedded in the skin. That's what makes the tattoo visible under the skin. Dalhousie Uiversity's Alec Falkenham is developing a topical cream that works by targeting the macrophages that have remained at the site of the tattoo. New macrophages move in to consume the previously pigment-filled macrophages and then migrate to the lymph nodes, eventually taking all the dye with them. "When comparing it to laser-based tattoo removal, in which you see the burns, the scarring, the blisters, in this case, we've designed a drug that doesn't really have much off-target effect," he said. "We're not targeting any of the normal skin cells, so you won't see a lot of inflammation. In fact, based on the process that we're actually using, we don't think there will be any inflammation at all and it would actually be anti-inflammatory."
Medicine

Smoking Is Even Deadlier Than Previously Thought 365

Posted by timothy
from the and-that's-saying-something dept.
HughPickens.com writes Who still smokes?" as Denise Grady reports at the NYT that however bad you thought smoking was, it's even worse. A new study has found that in addition to the well-known hazards of lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, chronic lung disease and stroke, researchers found that smoking was linked to significantly increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease caused by inadequate blood flow, and heart and lung ailments not previously attributed to tobacco. "The smoking epidemic is still ongoing, and there is a need to evaluate how smoking is hurting us as a society, to support clinicians and policy making in public health," says Brian D. Carter, an author of the study. "It's not a done story." Carter says he was inspired to dig deeper into the causes of death in smokers after taking an initial look at data from five large health surveys being conducted by other researchers. As expected, death rates were higher among the smokers but diseases known to be caused by tobacco accounted for only 83 percent of the excess deaths in people who smoked. "I thought, 'Wow, that's really low,' " Mr. Carter said. "We have this huge cohort. Let's get into the weeds, cast a wide net and see what is killing smokers that we don't already know." The researchers found that, compared with people who had never smoked, smokers were about twice as likely to die from infections, kidney disease, respiratory ailments not previously linked to tobacco, and hypertensive heart disease, in which high blood pressure leads to heart failure. "The Surgeon General's report claims 480,000 deaths directly caused by smoking, but we think that is really quite a bit off," concludes Carter adding that the figure may be closer to 540,000.
Medicine

Low Vaccination Rates At Silicon Valley Daycare Facilities 580

Posted by timothy
from the they-like-contagious-ideas dept.
Vaccination rates across the U.S. don't neatly correlate with religiosity or wealth; Wired reports that one conspicuous pocket of low vaccination rates, according to California's state database of daycare records, is a place where you might not expect it: Silicon Valley — specifically, the daycare centers at some large tech companies. A WIRED investigation shows that some children attending day care facilities affiliated with prominent Silicon Valley companies have not been completely vaccinated against preventable infectious diseases. At least, that’s according to a giant database from the California Department of Public Health, which tracks the vaccination rates at day care facilities and preschools in the state. We selected more than 20 large technology and health companies in the Bay Area and researched their day care offerings. Of 12 day care facilities affiliated with tech companies, six—that’s half—have below-average vaccination rates, according to the state’s data. ... And those six have a level of measles vaccination that does not provide the “herd immunity” critical to the spread of the disease. Now, this data has limitations—most critically, it might not be current. But it also suggests an incursion of anti-science, anti-vaccine thinking in one of the smartest regions on Earth.
Google

Paramedics Use Google Translate While Delivering Baby 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the quick-thinking dept.
First time accepted submitter myatari writes Irish paramedics transporting a pregnant Congolese woman to a maternity hospital in Cork had to use some quick thinking when the mum-to-be went into labor en-route. The two paramedics (neither of whom speak Swahili) fired up Google Translate to communicate via English-Swahili and successfully delivered baby girl "Brigid" (named after an Irish Saint no less!).
Medicine

Alcohol's Evaporating Health Benefits 305

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-much-for-that-justification dept.
New submitter Heart44 writes: A study in the British Medical Journal shows that consuming alcohol — any volume, any type — does not increase life expectancy. The full academic paper is not paywalled. From its conclusions: "Beneficial associations between low intensity alcohol consumption and all cause mortality may in part be attributable to inappropriate selection of a referent group and weak adjustment for confounders. Selection biases may also play a part." The associated editorial adds, "Firstly, in health as elsewhere, if something looks too good to be true, it should be treated with great caution. Secondly, health professionals should discourage suggestions that even low level alcohol use protects against cardiovascular disease and brings mortality benefits. Thirdly, health advice should come from health authorities, not from the alcohol industry, and, finally, the alcohol industry and its organizations should remove misleading references to health benefits from their information materials."