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Medicine

Common Medications Sway Moral Judgment 104 104

sciencehabit sends news that two commonly-prescribed drugs have been shown to influence how the human brain makes moral decisions. Citalopram is an SSRI used to treat depression, and levodopa is often used to combat Parkinson's disease. A new study (abstract) asked subjects to set a monetary value on receiving painful electric shocks — for themselves and for others (e.g. "Would you rather endure seven shocks to earn $10 or 10 shocks to earn $15?"). The study found that subjects on citalopram (which affects serotonin levels) were willing to give up more money to reduce shocks, both for themselves and others. Those on levodopa (which affects dopamine levels) made people just as willing to shock others as they were to shock themselves, when those on a placebo tended to be more reluctant to shock others. [Neuroscientist Molly] Crockett says those effects could suggests multiple underlying mechanisms. For example, excess dopamine might make our brain's reward system more responsive to the prospect of avoiding personal harm. Or it could tamp down our sense of uncertainty about what another person is experiencing, making us less hesitant to dole out pain. Serotonin, meanwhile, appeared to have a more general effect on aversion to harm, not just a heightened concern for another person. Such knowledge could eventually develop drugs that address disorders of social behavior, she says.
Medicine

The Epidemic May be Over, But Liberia Has New Ebola Cases 11 11

Three new cases of Ebola have been reported in Liberia. Reuters reports that despite the declared end to the Ebola outbreak in that country in May, the medical community is speculating that a cluster of infectious carriers somehow survived longer than was previously believed possible, or that there is a previously unknown means of transmission. Health officials "were monitoring 175 people believed to have come into contact with the three cases, though none had yet exhibited symptoms of the disease." The report notes that "A U.S. military operation aimed at helping Liberia's government counter the outbreak has mostly withdrawn. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a U.S. health body, said it was working with local authorities to study the origin of the cases and stop the virus spreading."
Businesses

Depression: The Secret Struggle Startup Founders Won't Talk About 176 176

mattydread23 writes: In May, Cambrian Genomics CEO Austen Heinz committed suicide. The news stunned friends and family, and sparked a conversation about the growing problem of depression among startup founders. Some estimates say 30% of startup founders suffer from depression, but many are reluctant to talk about their struggle for fear of alienating investors and employees. This feature by Business Insider includes conversations with a friend of Heinz, plus many investors and other startup founders who are starting to talk about the problem and figure out how to make things better.
Medicine

Pass the Doritos, Scientists Develop Computer Game Targeted At Healthy Choices 81 81

MojoKid writes: Psychologists at the University of Exeter and Cardiff University have published a study that demonstrates how a simple computer game can help people lose weight. Participants in the study who played the specialized game lost and average of 1.5 pounds in the first seven days, and 4.5 pounds after six months. They also reduced their daily caloric consumption by 220 calories. Dr. Natalia Lawrence led the team of researchers that developed the computer game for the study. It was designed to train people to resist unhealthy food snack foods through a "stop versus go" process. Participants sat in front of a Pentium 3 PC running Matlab software on a 17-inch monitor. They were then instructed to press certain keys when images of things like fruits and clothes would appear, indicating a "go." But for images of calorie-dense foods (chips and cake, for example) they were instructed not to do anything, indicating a "stop" action.
Government

Despite Regulatory Nod, Cheap Ebola Test Still Undeployed 24 24

According to an article in Nature, the researchers who developed an inexpensive, reliable field test for the Ebola virus are frustrated by the delay they've seen in actually having that test deployed. Known as the Corgenix test after the company which developed it, this diagnostic tool "could not replace lab confirmation, but it would allow workers to identify infected people and isolate them faster, greatly reducing the spread of disease," according to infectious-diseases physician Nahid Bhadelia. However, though it's been approved both by the US FDA (for emergency use) and the World Health Organization, its practical use has been hampered by country-level regulations. Just why is unclear; the test seems to be at least as effective as other typical tests, and in some ways better. One concern was that the test might fail to detect the virus in some cases of Ebola. But the independent field-validation1 (in Sierra Leone) shows that the kit was as sensitive at catching cases as the gold-standard comparison — a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test that amplifies and detects genetic sequences that are specific to Ebola in blood and other bodily fluids.
Government

Is the End of Government Acceptance of Homeopathy In Sight? 668 668

cold fjord writes: It looks like homeopathy is in for a rough stretch ahead as shown in a chart and noted by Steven Novella at NEUROLoOGICAblog, "Homeopathy is perhaps the most obviously absurd medical pseudoscience. It is also widely studied, and has been clearly shown to not work. Further, there is a huge gap in the public understanding of what homeopathy is; it therefore seems plausible that the popularity of homeopathy can take a huge hit just by telling the public what it actually is. ... In 2010 the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee completed a full report on homeopathy in which they concluded it is witchcraft – that it cannot work, it does not work, and support for homeopathy in the national health service should be completely eliminated. In 2015 the Australian government completed its own review, concluding that there is no evidence that homeopathy works for anything. Homeopathy is a placebo. ... The FDA and the FTC in the United States are now both receiving testimony, questioning their current regulation of homeopathy. ... There is even a possibility that the FDA will decide to do their actual job – require testing of homeopathic products to demonstrate efficacy before allowing them on the market. If they do this simple and obvious thing, the homeopathic industry in the US will vanish over night, because there is no evidence to support any homeopathic product for any indication." — More on the FDA hearings at Science-Based Medicine.
Medicine

Triggering a Mouse's Happy Memories With Lasers Gives It the Will To Struggle On 66 66

the_newsbeagle writes: With optogenetics, scientists can tag neurons with light-responsive proteins, and then trigger those neurons to "turn on" with the pulse of a light. In the latest application, MIT researchers used light to turn on certain neurons in male mice's hippocampi that were associated with a happy memory (coming into contact with female mice!), and then tested whether that artificially activated memory changed the mice's reactions to a stressful situation (being hung by their tails). Mice who got jolted with the happy memory struggled to get free for longer than the control mice. This tail-suspension test was developed to screen potential antidepressant drugs: If a rodent struggles longer before giving up, it's considered less depressed.
Medicine

Researchers Claim a Few Cat Videos Per Day Helps Keep the Doctor Away 59 59

bigwophh writes: A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior suggests that watching videos of cats may be good for your health. The study pinged nearly 7,000 people and asked them how viewing cat videos affected their moods. Of those surveyed, over a third (36 percent) described themselves as a "cat person" and nearly two-thirds (60 percent) said they have an affinity for both dogs and cats. Survey subjects noted less tendencies towards feeling anxious, sad, or annoyed after watching cat videos, including times when they viewed the videos while at work or trying to study. They also reported feeling more energetic and more positive afterwards. There may have been some guilt from putting off work or studying to watch Internet videos, but the amusement they got from seeing the antics of cats more than made up for it.
Stats

CDC: Americans Getting Heavier, Average Woman Weighs As Much As 1960s Man 409 409

schwit1 writes: New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the average American has packed on the pounds in the past 50 years. Both men and women have gained a considerable amount of weight since 1960, with the average American woman now weighing 166.2 pounds — nearly identical to what American men weighed in the 1960s. U.S. men have been getting bigger too, gaining nearly 30 pounds from the 1960s to 2010 — 166.3 pounds to 195.5 pounds today. The good news is that both sexes have gained almost an inch in height since then, so that accounts for some of the overall weight gain.
Medicine

Monitoring Brain Activity With Mesh Electronics 31 31

An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers have long known that bioelectronics could substantially improve patient diagnosis and treatment, but the difficulty in putting that circuitry into place kept more traditional options at the forefront. Now, a team of scientists has found a clever way to deliver flexible electronic meshes via syringe, which could make it easier to monitor complex brain activity without dangerous surgery. "The scientists demonstrated they could inject a 2mm wide sample of the mesh through a glass needle with an inner diameter of only 95m. During injection, the mesh structure continuously unfolds as it exits the needle. Injection of the mesh through a needle with a 600m inner diameter produced similar results." The team has already tested the technique on rodents, and found minimal response from astrocytes, cells involved in repairing damaged brain tissue. They were able to record the rodents's brain activity as well.
Medicine

Man With the "Golden Arm" Has Saved Lives of 2 Million Babies 97 97

schwit1 writes: James Harrison, known as "The Man with the Golden Arm," has donated blood plasma from his right arm nearly every week for the past 60 years. Soon after Harrison became a donor, doctors called him in. His blood, they said, could be the answer to a deadly problem. Harrison was discovered to have an unusual antibody in his blood and in the 1960s he worked with doctors to use the antibodies to develop an injection called Anti-D. It prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy. "In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why, and it was awful," explains Jemma Falkenmire, of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. "Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage." It was the result of rhesus disease — a condition where a pregnant woman's blood actually starts attacking her unborn baby's blood cells. In the worst cases it can result in brain damage, or death, for the babies. Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor with this antibody, so it was quite revolutionary at the time. Last year we ran a story about another person with "golden blood" named Thomas.
Medicine

Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist Criticizes Role of Women In Labs 412 412

An anonymous reader writes: Tim Hunt is an English biochemist most notable for winning the 2001 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine. Today he's become notable for something else entirely — at the World Conference of Science Journalists, Hunt suggested science labs should be segregated by gender. He said, "Let me tell you about my trouble with girls three things happen when they are in the lab You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry." As you might expect, this set off a firestorm of criticism. Many asked Hunt to treat women in labs with the same respect he is afforded, and others held it up as an explicit example of the sexism that pervades the scientific community. Hunt later issued an apology, saying, "I'm very sorry that what I thought were light hearted ironic remarks were taken so seriously, and I'm very sorry if people took offence. I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather be honest about my own shortcomings."
Robotics

Robotic Assistive Devices For Independent Living 17 17

Hallie Siegel writes: Kavita Krishnaswamy has extreme physical disabilities that severely limit her mobility. She also has drive and a keen mind. I met her last month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), where she attended via BEAM. In this article, Kavita shares her Phd research to develop robotic assistive devices that give independence to people with severe disabilities. Interesting work on the need for 'multi-modal' interfaces — ie. interfaces that allow the users to interact with the assistive device in different ways, including speech recognition and brain-computer interface.
Security

Report: Evidence of Healthcare Breaches Lurks On Infected Medical Devices 42 42

chicksdaddy writes: Evidence that serious and widespread breaches of hospital- and healthcare networks is likely to be hiding on compromised and infect medical devices in clinical settings, including medical imaging machines, blood gas analyzers and more, according to a report by the firm TrapX. In the report, which will be released this week, the company details incidents of medical devices and management stations infected with malicious software at three, separate customer engagements. According to the report, medical devices – in particular so-called picture archive and communications systems (PACS) radiologic imaging systems – are all but invisible to security monitoring systems and provide a ready platform for malware infections to lurk on hospital networks, and for malicious actors to launch attacks on other, high value IT assets.

Malware at a TrapX customer site spread from a unmonitored PACS system to a key nurse's workstation. The result: confidential hospital data was secreted off the network to a server hosted in Guiyang, China. Communications went out encrypted using port 443 (SSL), resulting in the leak of an unknown number of patient records. "The medical devices themselves create far broader exposure to the healthcare institutions than standard information technology assets," the report concludes. One contributing factor to the breaches: Windows 2000 is the OS of choice for "many medical devices." The version that TrapX obtained "did not seem to have been updated or patched in a long time," the company writes.
Medicine

South Korea Tracks Mobile Phones Over MERS Outbreak 20 20

An anonymous reader tips news that South Korea has stepped up its efforts to fight an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) after the number of known cases keeps increasing rapidly. World health officials are not recommending general travel restrictions, but members of the public are being advised not to do so. Nearly 2,000 schools have been closed, and 2,300 people are in quarantine. The South Korean government is also taking the unusual step of using mobile phones to track which citizens may have been in contact with confirmed MERS patients. The outbreak in South Korea has been traced back to a man who went to multiple medical centers in mid-May seeking treatment for his symptoms. The government is apologizing for its slow response to the situation, and hoping the economic damage won't be too bad.
China

Chinese Doctor Performs Head Transplants On Mice 203 203

An anonymous reader writes: Xiaoping Ren, a Chinese surgeon, has performed roughly 1,000 head transplants on mice since 2013 and says that monkeys are next. Some of the mice have lived as long as a day after the operations according to Ren and he hopes to have similar success with primates. With $1.6 million of funding so far, he says, "We want to do this clinically, but we have to make an animal model with long-term survival first. Currently, I am not confident to say that I can do a human transplant."
Medicine

Rare 9-way Kidney Swap a Success 130 130

Okian Warrior sends news that a complex set of 18 surgeries has been successfully completed at California Pacific Medical Center and the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center that resulted in nine donors sending kidneys to recipients in need. This web of kidney swaps arose because many of the people with failing kidneys had donors willing to help them, but weren't a biological match. Rather than give up on the transplant altogether, doctors were able to arrange the willing donors in a way such that each patient who needed a kidney was able to get one. "Software matching programs have been driving the trend. The programs use blood type and other patient data from medical tests to connect people who are compatible."
Medicine

New Test Could Reveal Every Virus That's Ever Infected You 74 74

sciencehabit writes: A new blood test can find almost every virus you ever caught—in a single drop of blood. Called VirScan, the test surveys the antibodies present in the bloodstream to reveal a history of the viruses you've been infected with throughout your life. Besides diagnosing current illnesses, the new test could be an important tool in developing vaccines and studying links between viruses and chronic disease.
Medicine

Tiny Fantastic Voyage Inspired Robots Are Starting To Get Reasonably Mature 27 27

szotz writes: No shrinking machine in an underground military lab (as far as we know). And no Raquel Welch. Still there is a growing microrobotics movement underway, looking at ways that tiny, untethered robots might be used to perform medical interventions in the human body. There have been piecemeal reports for years now of various designs, such as microscallops that can swim through the eye and bots that can be pushed around by bacteria flagella. This article in IEEE Spectrum gives a round-up of recent progress and looks at some of the difficulties that arise when you try to make things tiny and still have them retain a modicum (or give them more than a modicum) of function.
Robotics

Florida Hospital Shows Normal Internet Lag Time Won't Affect Remote Robotic Surgeries 125 125

Lucas123 writes: Remote robotic surgery performed hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the physician at the controls is possible and safe, according to the Florida Hospital that recently tested Internet lag times for the technology. Roger Smith, CTO at the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center in Celebration, Fla., said the hospital tested the lag time to a partner facility in Ft. Worth, Texas and found it ranged from 30 to 150 milliseconds, which surgeons could not detect as they moved remote robotic laparoscopic instruments. The tests, performed using a surgical simulator called a Mimic, will now be performed as if operating remotely in Denver and then Loma Linda, Calif. The Mimic Simulator system enables virtual procedures performed by a da Vinci robotic surgical system, the most common equipment in use today; it's used for hundreds of thousands of surgeries every year around the world. With a da Vinci system, surgeons today can perform operations yards away from a patient, even in separate but adjoining rooms to the OR. By stretching that distance to tens, hundreds or thousands of miles, the technology could enable patients to receive operations from top surgeons that would otherwise not be possible, including wounded soldiers near a battlefield. The Mimic Simulator was able to first artificially dial up lag times, starting with 200 milliseconds all the way up to 600 milliseconds.