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The Curse of a ‘None of the Above’ Disease

July 24, 2017

(Undark) – “We need to appreciate just how muddled the concept of medically unexplained symptoms is,” said James Coyne, a professor of health psychology at University Medical Center, Groningen, in the Netherlands. It’s meant to serve as a placeholder for patients who complain of vague health issues that can’t be verified through routine testing or whose cause remains uncertain. But often, Coyne said, there’s a degree of mistrust involved, as many health care professionals prefer psychosomatic explanations for these nebulous ailments.

Companies Rush to Develop ‘Utterly Transformative’ Gene Therapies

July 24, 2017

(New York Times) – The approval of gene therapy for leukemia, expected in the next few months, will open the door to a radically new class of cancer treatments. Companies and universities are racing to develop these new therapies, which re-engineer and turbocharge millions of a patient’s own immune cells, turning them into cancer killers that researchers call a “living drug.” One of the big goals now is to get them to work for many other cancers, including those of the breast, prostate, ovary, lung and pancreas.

Protecting Interns and Other Physicians from Depression and Suicide

July 24, 2017

(STAT News) – This month, more than 25,000 medical school graduates will begin working at hospitals and medical centers across the United States. By the end of September, nearly one-third of these new doctors could become depressed and 24 percent could have thoughts of suicide. First-year interns often move away from family and friends to start the next chapter of intensive training. It is an exciting time, but also a difficult time. A recent study in Academic Medicine confirms that their suicide risk is highest in the early months of training.

Indian Musician Plays Guitar as Doctors Perform Brain Surgery

July 21, 2017

(Reuters) – Musician Abhishek Prasad strummed his guitar throughout his neurosurgery to help doctors zero in on the part of the brain being operated on during the first such procedure in India.  The 37-year-old had been suffering from musician’s dystonia, a neurological movement disorder which leads to involuntary muscle contractions. Prasad had to be kept conscious during the surgery as the doctors needed continuous feedback to work out exactly which parts of the brain were to be targeted to stop the cramps affecting the three fingers on his left hand.

When Life Is a Fate Worse than Death

July 21, 2017

(The Guardian) – Karen Ann Quinlan lived two lives. Her first life was that of a regular middle-class girl in Scranton, Pennsylvania: she swam, she skied, she dated, she attended mass with her family, she went to high school, and she worked at a local ceramics company. However, this life changed after she was laid off from her job. Soon after, she found herself moving from job to job, and increasingly found comfort in sedative pills and alcohol.

Researchers Identify Critical Need for Standardized Organ Donation Metrics

July 21, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – Across the country, there are 58 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO), which are responsible for recovering and distributing organs and tissues for life-saving and life-enhancing transplants. Each OPO is designated to serve a specific geographic area and works with the transplant centers in their area to match donors with recipients. With more than 117,000 people awaiting a lifesaving organ transplant, these OPOs work very hard to identify as many organ donors as possible to help save these lives. But according to a study published today in the American Journal of Transplantation, there seem to be significant differences in the results of these efforts.

Google’s AI Guru Says That Great Artificial Intelligence Must Build on Neuroscience

July 21, 2017

(MIT Technology Review) – Currently, most AI systems are based on layers of mathematics that are only loosely inspired by the way the human brain works. But different types of machine learning, such as speech recognition or identifying objects in an image, require different mathematical structures, and the resulting algorithms are only able to perform very specific tasks.

Adderall Might Improve Your Test Scores–But So Could a Placebo

July 20, 2017

(New Scientist) – Students who take Adderall to improve their test scores may get a slight benefit, but it’s mainly a placebo effect. The drug Adderall is a combination of the stimulants amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But it’s growing in popularity as a study drug in the US, where around a third of college students are thought to try using prescription stimulants for non-medical reasons. But does it work? Rachel Fargason, a psychiatrist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, says the idea of stimulants as cognitive enhancers didn’t tally with her experience of patients who were diagnosed incorrectly.

HIV Drug Resistance Could Undermine Progress in AIDS Battle: WHO

July 20, 2017

(Reuters) – Rising levels of resistance to HIV drugs could undermine promising progress against the global AIDS epidemic if effective action is not taken early, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.  Already in six out of 11 countries surveyed in Africa, Asia and Latin America for a WHO-led report, researchers found that more than 10 percent of HIV patients starting antiretroviral drugs had a strain resistant to the most widely-used medicines.

Soft Artificial Hearts

July 20, 2017

(Quartz) – Swiss researchers have come a step closer to building to a better artificial heart. It’s a squishy prototype that’s 3D-printed from silicone. This soft artificial heart also has a chamber that fills up and deflates, mimicking the muscle contractions of a human heart.

Could Cows Be the Vaccine of the Future?

July 20, 2017

(STAT News) – Famously, the word vaccine comes from the Latin word for cow — a namesake that traces back to the late 1700s. Now cows are once again at the cutting edge of vaccine science. Thanks to a quirk of how cows make antibodies, they are helping researchers understand human immunity. Someday, cows could serve as testing grounds for whether vaccines are well-designed. And it’s possible that cow antibodies could treat everything from autoimmunity to infectious disease.

First Double Hand Transplant Involving a Child Declared a Success

July 20, 2017

(The Guardian) – After almost 11 hours of surgery involving four teams of doctors, Zion Harvey had earned his place in medical history. The eight-year-old had become the first child in the world to receive two new hands in a procedure that seemed to herald a revolution in transplant medicine. Two years on, the sports-mad boy from Baltimore, Maryland, is enjoying the freedom and independence his new hands have given him. In the first medical journal report of Zion’s pioneering treatment, published on Wednesday, the experts involved declare the operation a success and say other children could benefit from the knowledge gained.

AI Could Revolutionize War as Much as Nukes

July 20, 2017

(Wired) – In 1899, the world’s most powerful nations signed a treaty at The Hague that banned military use of aircraft, fearing the emerging technology’s destructive power. Five years later the moratorium was allowed to expire, and before long aircraft were helping to enable the slaughter of World War I. “Some technologies are so powerful as to be irresistible,” says Greg Allen, a fellow at the Center for New American Security, a non-partisan Washington DC think tank. “Militaries around the world have essentially come to the same conclusion with respect to artificial intelligence.”

Chile Moves Towards Legalizing Abortion in Limited Cases

July 20, 2017

(BBC) – Senators in Chile have voted in favour of a proposal which would end the country’s total ban on abortions. The measure would allow abortion in cases of rape, if the mother’s life was at risk or if the foetus would not survive the pregnancy. Currently, women can be prosecuted if they have an abortion. The bill, which has the backing of President Michelle Bachelet, will now go back to the Chamber of Deputies for approval.

At Clinicatrials.gov Untested Stem Cell Clinics Advertise for Free!

July 19, 2017

(Wired) – Advocates of the therapy say that’s just the cost of doing cutting-edge medicine. Except, any proof they have that it is effective comes from data collected on patients who pay thousands of dollars for the treatment. Usually people pay money for medicine after there’s proof it works. In the last few years, some of these stem cell clinicians have begun posting large-scale studies on a government-run website called ClinicalTrials.gov, even though they’re often not up to medical research standards or even in compliance with federal regulations. This allows them to masquerade their pay-to-participate studies as legit science.

Belgian Doctors Pin Hope on Large Brain Collection to Treat Diseases

July 19, 2017

(Reuters) – A psychiatric hospital in Belgium is home to one of the world’s largest collections of human brains, which researchers say could hold the key to developing new treatments for diseases such as psychosis, schizophrenia and severe depression.  The Duffel Psychiatric Hospital’s more than 3,000 brains of diseased psychiatric patients had been part of an even larger brain collection started more than 40 years ago by British neuropathologist John Corsellis.

At a Growing Number of Schools, Sick Kids Can Take a Virtual Trip to the Doctor

July 19, 2017

(STAT News) – School nurses offer far more than just Band-Aids these days. As the prevalence of childhood conditions like asthma and diabetes have risen, nurses treat a wide range of problems. Still, only an estimated 40 percent of U.S. schools have a full-time nurse, according to the National Association of School Nurses. But now telemedicine — virtual doctor visits over video — is increasingly helping nurses do their jobs. Telemedicine programs are making inroads in schools, where a student referred to the nurse can be plopped in front of a screen and connected with a physician. Special computer-connected otoscopes and stethoscopes allow doctors to check ears, noses, throats, and heartbeats from afar.

Why Zika Is Especially Hard on the Women of Brazil

July 19, 2017

(NPR) – Did the Zika virus put a heavier burden on women than it did on men when the virus swept through Brazil? A new report by Human Rights Watch argues that the answer is yes. It started with the task of keeping mosquitoes at bay — a task that often fell to the women and girls in a family. And it continues today with women shouldering much of the care for babies born with congenital Zika syndrome, which includes microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by a smaller than normal head and brain damage. The government has not given women the support they need, says Margaret Wurth, a children’s rights researcher who worked on the study.

‘Incredibly Exciting’: CAR T Cells as ‘Living Drugs’

July 19, 2017

(Medscape) – “Incredibly exciting” is how experts are describing the new development with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells, as the first of these novel therapies approaches the market. After last week’s unanimous vote in favor of recommending approval by the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it now seems likely the first of these products will be on the market before the end of the year. That product is tisagenlecleucel-T (previously known as CTL019). It was initially developed at the University of Pennsylvania and was subsequently licensed to Novartis. It will be indicated for pediatric relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Stem Cell Therapy for Heart Failure Gets a Gold-Standard Trial

July 19, 2017

(Scientific American) – A cadre of scientists and companies is now trying to prevent or reverse cardiac damage by infusing a cocktail of stem cells into weakened hearts. One company, Melbourne, Australia–based Mesoblast, is already in late-stage clinical trials, treating hundreds of chronic heart failure patients with stem cell precursors drawn from healthy donors’ hip bones. A randomized trial that includes a placebo group is scheduled to complete enrollment next year.

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