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April 17, 2014

Just Say Yes? The Rise of ‘Study Drugs’ in College

(CNN) – Around this time of year, you’re more likely to find college students in the library cramming for final exams than out partying. In an environment where the workload is endless and there’s always more to be done, a quick fix to help buckle down and power through becomes very tempting. Prescription ADHD medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse are becoming increasingly popular for overworked and overscheduled college students — who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD.

Artificial Eyes, Plastic Skulls: 3-D Printing the Human Body

(CNN) – The 21st century has seen the growth of 3-D printing, with well-known applications in architecture, manufacturing, engineering, and now increasingly in medicine. The birth of 3-D scanning technologies combined with organic inks and thermoplastics has enabled the “bioprinting” of a range of human body parts to accommodate a wide range of medical conditions. Let’s start form the top.

What It’s Like to Spend 20 Years Listening to Psychopaths for Science

(Wired) – Kiehl recounts the story in a new book about his research, The Psychopath Whisperer. He has been interviewing psychopaths for more than 20 years, and the book is filled with stories of these colorful (and occasionally off-color) encounters. (Actually, The Psychopath Listener would have been a more accurate, if less grabby title.) More recently he’s acquired a mobile MRI scanner and permission to scan the brains of New Mexico state prison inmates. So far he’s scanned about 3,000 violent offenders, including 500 psychopaths.

A Fine Balance: Disability, Discrimination, and Public Safety

(The Conversation) – A recent discrimination case has highlighted the difficulty of balancing the rights of disabled medical students with the rights of the community to safe medical and health care. In the BKY v The University of Newcastle, a New South Wales tribunal found the university had discriminated against a medical student by refusing her an extension to complete the five-year medical course beyond the usual maximum of eight years.

The Antidepressant Generation

(New York Times) – Are we using good scientific evidence to make decisions about keeping these young people on antidepressants? Or are we inadvertently teaching future generations to view themselves as too fragile to cope with the adversity that life invariably brings?

Should Drug Firms Make Payments to Doctors?

(BBC) – Gifts and payments to US doctors from drug firms are seen by some as encouraging unnecessary prescriptions. Do such transfers make any difference and will President Obama’s healthcare reform help, by forcing companies to disclose them? Prescribe enough drugs and – as detailed in 1974 Senate hearings – a doctor could accumulate points to exchange for a wide range of consumer desirables – colour TVs, watches, microwave ovens, lawnmowers, golf clubs.

For Diabetics, Health Risks Fall Sharply

(New York Times) – Federal researchers on Wednesday reported the first broad national picture of progress against some of the most devastating complications of diabetes, which affects millions of Americans, finding that rates of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and amputations fell sharply over the past two decades. The biggest declines were in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, which dropped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 2010, the period studied.

Former Hospital Technician Behind Bogus Mammogram Results Gets Jail Time

(CNN) – A former Georgia hospital technician was sentenced to up to six months in prison after pleading guilty to manipulating the mammogram records of 1,289 patients. Ten of those women were given false negatives, and two of them are now dead, a prosecutor says. Rachael Rapraeger told the patients at Perry Hospital that their mammograms yielded negative results when a doctor had never reviewed them, according to court documents.

The Rise of ‘Social’ Surrogacy: The Women Choosing Not to Carry Their Own Babies for Fear of Hurting Their Careers or Ruining Their Bodies

(Daily Mail) – It used to be that surrogacy was considered an option exclusively for infertile couples, but it appears more and more women are doing it for less medically urgent reasons. According to Elle Magazine, ‘social surrogacy’ is on the rise, with mothers choosing not to carry their baby themselves in order not to upset their work life or ‘ruin’ their bodies. ‘I call these cases designer surrogacy,’ said San Diego-based fertility doctor Lorni Arnold, whose patients have included a socialite ‘who didn’t want to get fat’ and a runner about to do a marathon.

Modified Stem Cells May Offer Way to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

(Medical News Today) – A new study suggests genetically modified stem cells may offer a new way to treat Alzheimer’s disease. When implanted in mice bred to have symptoms and brain hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, they increased connections between brain cells and reduced the amyloid-beta protein that accumulates to form plaques that clog up the brain.

Stem-Cell Treatment for Blindness Moving through Patient Testing

(MIT Technology Review) – A new treatment for macular degeneration is close to the next stage of human testing—a noteworthy event not just for the millions of patients it could help, but for its potential to become the first therapy based on embryonic stem cells. This year, the Boston-area company Advanced Cell Technology plans to move its stem-cell treatment for two forms of vision loss into advanced human trials. The company has already reported that the treatment is, although a full report of the results from the early, safety-focused testing has yet to be published. The planned trials will test whether it is effective.

Fertility Mystery Solved: Protein Discovered that Joins Sperm with Eggs

(The Guardian) – A fundamental key to fertility has been uncovered by British scientists with the discovery of an elusive protein that allows eggs and sperm to join together. The molecule – named Juno after the Roman goddess of fertility – sits on the egg surface and binds with a male partner on a fertilising sperm cell. Japanese researchers identified the sperm protein in 2005, sparking a decade-long hunt for its “mate”.

US Judge Overturns 6-Week Abortion Ban

(Associated Press) – A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a North Dakota law that bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before many women know they’re pregnant. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said the law is “invalid and unconstitutional” and that it “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.” The state attorney general said he was looking at whether to appeal the decision by the Bismarck-based judge.

WHO Issues New Guidelines to Ensure Contraception as a Human Right

(JAMA, by subscription) – The World Health Organization (WHO) released a set of guidelines on how countries can provide better information on contraception and easier access to services in ways that ensure the respect and protection of women’s human rights. The WHO estimates that 222 million girls and women who do not want to get pregnant are not using any method of contraception. The girls and women who are most in need of modern contraception include adolescents, those living in poor or rural areas, individuals living with HIV, and internally displaced people. The need is of particular concern where women are at high risk of maternal mortality.

Americans Say It’s Immoral to Have an Affair and Moral to Use Contraception

(Washington Post) – Americans agree: It’s immoral to have an affair. Drinking alcohol or using contraception, on the other hand? Nobody cares. That’s according to the results of a new Pew Research Center survey. Interestingly, infidelity was the only category on that list deemed morally unacceptable by a majority of Americans.

Physicists Create New Nanoparticle for Cancer Therapy

(Phys.org) – A University of Texas at Arlington physicist working to create a luminescent nanoparticle to use in security-related radiation detection may have instead happened upon an advance in photodynamic cancer therapy. Wei Chen, professor of physics and co-director of UT Arlington’s Center for Security Advances Via Applied Nanotechnology, was testing a copper-cysteamine complex created in his lab when he discovered unexplained decreases in its luminescence, or light emitting power, over a time-lapse exposure to X-rays.

Nanotechnology Researchers Produce New Anti-Cancer Drug from Turmeric

(Nanowerk News) – Nanotechnology researchers from Tarbiat Modarres University produced a new drug capable of detecting and removing cancer cells using turmeric (“Dendrosomal curcumin nanoformulation downregulates pluripotency genes via miR-145 activation in U87MG glioblastoma cells”). The compound is made of curcumin found in the extract of turmeric, and has desirable physical and chemical stability and prevents the proliferation of cancer cells.

April 16, 2014

Digital Mirror Reveals What Lies Under Your Skin

(New Scientist) – Maître and his collaborators built the digital mirror to explore philosophical questions about how we relate to our body. But in the future, they say they could imagine doctors using a similar system to help people explore a particular part of their body or prepare for an upcoming operation. Other researchers have already started exploring how augmented reality can help medicine.

UK ‘Has Fewer Hospital Beds Per Person Than Most European Countries’

(The Guardian) – There are fewer hospital beds per person in Britain than most other European countries, with less than half the number of many, a report has found. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK had three hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2011, with Ireland having the same number. This was far behind the majority of other countries on the continent, with Germany having 8.3 per 1,000 people, Austria 7.7, Hungary 7.2, Czech Republic 6.8 and Poland 6.6.

PET Scans Offer Clues on Vegetative States

(New York Times) – A new study has found that PET scans may help answer these wrenching questions. It found that a significant number of people labeled vegetative had received an incorrect diagnosis and actually had some degree of consciousness and the potential to improve. Previous studies using electroencephalogram machines and M.R.I. scanners have also found signs of consciousness in supposedly vegetative patients.

Scientists Embark on Unprecedented Effort to Connect Millions of Patient Medical Records

(Washington Post) – Inside an otherwise ordinary office building in lower Manhattan, government-funded scientists have begun collecting and connecting together terabytes of patient medical records in what may be one of the most radical projects in health care ever attempted. The data — from every patient treated at one of New York’s major hospital centers over the past few years — include some of the most intimate details of a life. Vital signs. Diagnoses and conditions. Results of blood tests, X-rays, MRI scans. Surgeries. Insurance claims. And in some cases, links to genetic samples.

 

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