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Medicine

Mimicking Vesicle Fusion To Make Gold Nanoparticles Easily Penetrate Cells 18

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the golden-hypospray dept.
rtoz (2530056) writes A special class of tiny gold particles can easily slip through cell membranes, making them good candidates to deliver drugs directly to target cells. A new study from MIT materials scientists reveals that these nanoparticles enter cells by taking advantage of a route normally used in vesicle-vesicle fusion, a crucial process that allows signal transmission between neurons. MIT engineers created simulations of how a gold nanoparticle coated with special molecules can penetrate a membrane. Paper (abstract; full text paywalled).
Biotech

Genetically Modifying an Entire Ecosystem 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the evolve-big-or-evolve-home dept.
New submitter structural_biologist writes: Genes normally have a 50-50 chance of being passed from parent to offspring, but scientists may have figured out a way to create genes that show up in offspring with a much higher frequency. "One type of gene drive influences inheritance by copying itself onto chromosomes that previously lacked it. When an organism inherits such a gene drive from only one parent, it makes a cut in the chromosome from the other parent, forcing the cell to copy the inheritance-biasing gene drive—and any adjacent genes—when it repairs the damage." When introduced into the wild, organisms containing gene drives would breed with the population, quickly spreading the modified genes throughout the ecosystem. While the technology could help prevent the spread of malaria and manage invasive species, many scientists worry about the wide-ranging effects of such a technology and are calling for its regulation.
Medicine

Gene Therapy Converts Heart Cells Into "Biological Pacemakers" 26

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tick-tock dept.
Zothecula (1870348) writes Pacemakers serve an invaluable purpose, by electrically stimulating a recipient's heart in order to keep it beating at a steady rate. The implantation of a pacemaker is a major surgical procedure, however, plus its presence in the body can lead to complications such as infections. Now, for the first time, scientists have instead injected genes into the defective hearts of pigs, converting unspecialized heart cells into "biological pacemakers." Research Paper (abstract, full text paywalled).
Medicine

New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-shot-and-your-done dept.
multicsfan writes Researchers have found that an injection of protein FGF1 stops weight induced diabetes in mice, with no apparent side effects. However, the cure only lasts 2 days at a time. Future research and human trials are needed to better understand and create a working drug. From the story: "The team found that sustained treatment with the protein doesn't merely keep blood sugar under control, but also reverses insulin insensitivity, the underlying physiological cause of diabetes. Equally exciting, the newly developed treatment doesn't result in side effects common to most current diabetes treatments."
The Almighty Buck

Taking Great Ideas From the Lab To the Fab 19

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the everyone-loves-funding dept.
aarondubrow (1866212) writes The "valley of death" is well-known to entrepreneurs — the lull between government funding for research and industry support for prototypes and products. To confront this problem, in 2013 the National Science Foundation created a new program called InTrans to extend the life of the most high-impact NSF-funded research and help great ideas transition from lab to practice. Today, in partnership with Intel, NSF announced the first InTrans award of $3 million to a team of researchers who are designing customizable, domain-specific computing technologies for use in healthcare. The work could lead to less exposure to dangerous radiation during x-rays by speeding up the computing side of medicine. It also could result in patient-specific cancer treatments.
Medicine

More Forgotten Vials of Deadly Diseases Discovered 55

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the keep-a-few-handy dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes FDA officials now admit that when they discovered six undocumented vials of smallpox in a facility in Maryland they also found 327 additional vials that contained dengue, influenza, and rickettsia. "FDA scientists said they have not yet confirmed whether the newly disclosed vials actually contained the pathogens listed on their labels. The agency is conducting a nationwide search of all cold storage units for any other missing samples. Investigators destroyed 32 vials containing tissue samples and a non-contagious virus related to smallpox. Several unlabeled vials were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing and the remaining 279 samples were shipped to the Department of Homeland Security for safekeeping." The FDA's deputy director is quoted with what might be the understatement of the year. "The reasons why these samples went unnoticed for this long is something we're actively trying to understand."
Medicine

Biofeedback Games and The Placebo Effect 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the machine-knows-I'm-happy dept.
vrml writes In medicine, it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes produce the same effects as real drugs (Placebo Effect). But could that happen with computers too? The first scientific study of the Placebo Effect in computing, just published by the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies , gives an affirmative answer. The experiment considered affective computing, that is those fancy applications that claim to know user's emotions by detecting physiological parameters with sensors. Researchers took two well-known affective computing systems and used them to control in real-time the state of an avatar that looked more and more nervous as users' stress level increased, and more and more relaxed as it decreased. But they also considered a third system in which, unbeknown to users, the sensors were disconnected from the computer and the avatar state was controlled by a random stream of physiological data instead of the real user's data. Results show that participants believed that the sham application was able to display their stress level. Even worse, only one of the two (costly) affective computing systems produced better results than the placebo. This suggests that evaluations of such novel computer applications should include also a placebo condition, as it is routinely done in medicine but not yet in computer science.
Biotech

Biohackers Are Engineering Yeast To Make THC 158

Posted by timothy
from the really-great-bread-man dept.
meghan elizabeth writes How do you get weed without the weed? By genetically engineering yeast to produce THC, of course. Once theorized in a stoner magazine column more than a decade ago, a biotech startup working in Ireland is actively trying to transplant the genetic information that codes for both THC and another cannabinoid called CBD into yeast so that "marijuana" can be grown in a lab—no plants necessary.
Medicine

Another Dementia Test Oversold 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the basic-statistics-claims-another-victim dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Many prominent news organizations, including the BBC, are reporting on a study (PDF) that claims a new blood test is 87% accurate in predicting which patients will develop cognitive impairment. It's hailed as a major step forward in efforts to fight dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, reality isn't quite so impressive. An article at MedPage Today explains all of the statistical facts that the mainstream press glosses over: "Only about 10% of patients of patients with MCI convert to clinical dementia per year. With nearly 30% of positive results false (remember, the specificity was 71%) as well as 15% of negative results false, most of the positive results in such a group will be false. Yes, it's time once again for a tutorial in positive predictive values. If we have 100 MCI patients and a 10% conversion rate, then 10 of them will develop dementia. These are the true positives. There will be 90 true negatives — the ones who don't convert. But with a specificity of 71%, the test will falsely identify 29% of the 90 true negatives, or 26, as positive. Meanwhile, with a false negative rate of 15%, only nine (rounding up from 8.5) of the 10 true positives will be correctly identified. ... It's easy to get a high negative predictive value when the annual event rate is 10%. If I simply predict that no one will convert, I'll be right 90% of the time."
Privacy

Blue Shield Leaks 18,000 Doctors' Social Security Numbers 74

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the measure-twice dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "The Social Security numbers of roughly 18,000 California physicians and health-care providers were inadvertently made public after a slip-up at health insurance provider Blue Shield of California, the organization said Monday. The numbers were included in monthly filings on medical providers that Blue Shield is required to make to the state's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC). The provider rosters for February, March and April 2013 included the SSNs and other sensitive information and were available under the state's public records law." Ten copies were requested under the public records law.
United States

FDA: We Can't Scale To Regulate Mobile Health Apps 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the hard-work-is-hard dept.
chicksdaddy writes Mobile health and wellness is one of the fastest growing categories of mobile apps. Already, apps exist that measure your blood pressure and take your pulse, jobs traditionally done by tried and true instruments like blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes. If that sounds to you like the kind of thing the FDA should be vetting, don't hold your breath. A senior advisor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that the current process for approving medical devices couldn't possibly meet the challenge of policing mobile health and wellness apps and that, in most cases, the agency won't even try. Bakul Patel, and advisor to the FDA, said the Agency couldn't scale to police hundreds of new health and wellness apps released each month to online marketplaces like the iTunes AppStore and Google Play.
Biotech

Researchers Create Walking, Muscle-Powered Biobots 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the franken-bot dept.
Zothecula writes If you're going to deploy robots in biological settings – for example, inside the body – it makes a lot of sense to build those robots out of actual biological body parts. Muscle, for example, is a very effective, biodegradable replacement for an electric actuator that can run in a nutrient-rich fluid without the need for any other power source. Bio-robotics experts in Illinois have demonstrated a bio-bot built from 3-D printed hydrogel and spinal muscle tissue that can "walk" in response to an electrical signal. Their next step will be trying to incorporate neurons that can get the bot walking in different directions when faced with different stimuli.
Medicine

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception 1330

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the should-have-gone-with-commie-care dept.
An anonymous reader writes In a legislative first, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that for-profit companies can, in essence, hold religious views. Given the Supreme Court's earlier decisions granting corporations the right to express political support through monetary donations, this ruling is not all that surprising. Its scope does not extend beyond family-owned companies where "there's no real difference between the business and its owners." It also only applies to the contraception mandate of the health care law. The justices indicated that contraceptive coverage can still be obtained through exceptions to the mandate that have already been introduced to accommodate religious nonprofits. Those exceptions, which authorize insurance companies to provide the coverage instead of the employers, are currently being challenged in lower courts. The "closely held" test is pretty meaningless, since the majority of U.S. corporations are closely held.
Medicine

Company Uses 3D Printing and Design To Change the Way We Look At Prosthetics 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the adding-some-flare dept.
An anonymous reader writes UNYQ (pronounced: unique), a start-up based in San Francisco and Seville, has set out to change the way we look at prosthetics by selling affordable 3D printed prosthetic leg covers, known as "fairings," directly to consumers. The company was co-founded by Eythor Bender, who is best known for developing a prototype bionic exoskeleton that allows paraplegics to walk again. Bender, who has worked with the disabled for over 20 years, was frustrated by the lack of consideration of style in the medical device development process. Despite all the progress made in other areas, the devices still look more or less like a "wooden stick." Bender wants to challenge what we think is possible with prosthetics.
Medicine

Hospitals Begin Data-Mining Patients 162

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the records-indicate-you-don't-deserve-care dept.
schwit1 (797399) sends word of a new and exciting use for all of the data various entities are collecting about you. From the article: You may soon get a call from your doctor if you've let your gym membership lapse, made a habit of ordering out for pizza or begin shopping at plus-sized stores. That's because some hospitals are starting to use detailed consumer data to create profiles on current and potential patients to identify those most likely to get sick, so the hospitals can intervene before they do. Acxiom Corp. (ACXM) and LexisNexis are two of the largest data brokers who collect such information on individuals. They say their data are supposed to be used only for marketing, not for medical purposes or to be included in medical records. While both sell to health insurers, they said it's to help those companies offer better services to members.
Medicine

What Happens If You Have a Heart Attack In Space? 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the dr.-mccoy-will-fix-it dept.
An anonymous reader sends this story about medical research in zero-gravity environments. Many earth-based treatments need to be adapted for use in space, and anatomical behaviors can change in subtle and unpredictable ways as well. This research aims to protect astronauts and future generations of space-goers from conditions that are easily treatable on the ground. The ultrasound machine the students are testing would be well suited for space missions. It is light and compact, requires very little medical training to use, and the probe can stay in the body for 72 hours at a time. But the technology has only ever been used on Earth, and no one knows whether it would function correctly in zero gravity. The most significant concern is that microgravity will cause the probe to drift out of position. The team's mentor, cardiac surgeon and space medicine specialist Peter Lee, tells me that an ultrasound probe that sits in the esophagus is an ideal diagnostic tool for extended spaceflights. "If an astronaut far from Earth were to have a cardiovascular event, or for some reason became incapacitated and had to be on a ventilator, there's no imaging currently available [in space] that provides continuous images of the heart," he says. "You can use [external] ultrasound, but the technician has to be there the whole time to hold it on the chest."
Medicine

Otherlab Working on a 'Fundamental Jump' in Technology for Exoskeletons (Video) 36

Posted by Roblimo
from the was-it-a-man-or-was-it-a-robot? dept.
"Otherlab," says their projects page, "is a private Research and Development company with a number of core competencies. We welcome industrial partnerships and commercialization partners. We have worked with dozens of companies globally from small start-ups to multi-nationals and Fortune 500 businesses. We develop enabling new technologies through an emphasis on prototyping coupled to rigorous physics simulation and mathematical models. We develop our own design tools because it's lonely at the frontier and to create new things and ideas, you often have to create the tools to design them." | One of their projects is building low-cost, inflatable exoskeletons that can be used as prosthetics or -- one presumes -- as strength multipliers for people who have working limbs. This is the project today's interviewee, Tim Swift, is working on. (Alternate Video Link)
Supercomputing

Computing a Cure For HIV 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the petaflops-for-science dept.
aarondubrow writes: The tendency of HIV to mutate and resist drugs has made it particularly difficult to eradicate. But in the last decade scientists have begun using a new weapon in the fight against HIV: supercomputers. Using some of the nation's most powerful supercomputers, teams of researchers are pushing the limits of what we know about HIV and how we can treat it. The Huffington Post describes how supercomputers are helping scientists understand and treat the disease.
Biotech

Scientists Successfully Grow Full Head of Hair On Bald Man 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-for-patrick-stewart dept.
realized writes: "A man with almost no hair on his body has grown a full head of it after a novel treatment by doctors at Yale University. The patient had previously been diagnosed with both alopecia universalis, a disease that results in loss of all body hair, and plaque psoriasis, a condition characterized by scaly red areas of skin. The only hair on his body was within the psoriasis plaques on his head. He was referred to Yale Dermatology for treatment of the psoriasis. The alopecia universalis had never been treated.

After two months on tofacitinib [an FDA-approved arthritis drug] at 10 mg daily, the patient's psoriasis showed some improvement, and the man had grown scalp and facial hair — the first hair he'd grown there in seven years. After three more months of therapy at 15 mg daily, the patient had completely regrown scalp hair and also had clearly visible eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair, as well as armpit and other hair, the doctors said."
Medicine

Smartphones To Monitor Schizophrenics 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the is-the-phone-watching-me? dept.
the_newsbeagle writes Psychiatrists have realized that they can collect vast amounts of data about their patients using smartphone apps that passively monitor the patients as they go about their daily business. A prototype for schizophrenia patients is being tested out now on Long Island. The Crosscheck trial will look at behavior patterns (tracking movement, sleep, and conversations) and correlate them with the patient's reports of symptoms and moods; researchers hope the data will reveal the "signature" of a patient who is about relapse and therefore needs help.

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