Tag Archives | medical science

Google’s New Moonshot Project: the Human Body

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A brave new world beckons as Google boldly goes towards a new frontier… From the Wall Street Journal:

Google Inc. has embarked on what may be its most ambitious and difficult science project ever: a quest inside the human body.

Called Baseline Study, the project will collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people—and later thousands more—to create what the company hopes will be the fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be.

The early-stage project is run by Andrew Conrad, a 50-year-old molecular biologist who pioneered cheap, high-volume tests for HIV in blood-plasma donations.

Dr. Conrad joined Google X—the company’s research arm—in March 2013, and he has built a team of about 70-to-100 experts from fields including physiology, biochemistry, optics, imaging and molecular biology.

Other mass medical and genomics studies exist. But Baseline will amass a much larger and broader set of new data. The hope is that this will help researchers detect killers such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, pushing medicine more toward prevention rather than the treatment of illness.

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How To Bring the Dead Back to Life

US Navy 061201-N-4133B-115 Cmdr. George Linville and hospital corpsman Kevin Wothrich perform a procedure in the operating room aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)Can it really be this easy? BBC Future explores a new way to bring back dead – or at least almost dead – humans to life:

A radical procedure that involves replacing a patient’s blood with cold salt water could retrieve people from the brink of death, says David Robson.

“When you are at 10C, with no brain activity, no heartbeat, no blood – everyone would agree that you’re dead,” says Peter Rhee at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “But we can still bring you back.”

Rhee isn’t exaggerating. With Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland, College Park, he has shown that it’s possible to keep bodies in ‘suspended animation’ for hours at a time. The procedure, so far tested on animals, is about as radical as any medical procedure comes: it involves draining the body of its blood and cooling it more than 20C below normal body temperature.

Once the injury is fixed, blood is pumped once again through the veins, and the body is slowly warmed back up.

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Women and Black People Have Lower Pain Tolerance

In Line at the Medical Centre (7989958032)Lower pain tolerance than who you might well ask. Why white males, of course, the people that the medical and pharmaceutical industries serve. The Boston Globe reports that “Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from migraines; African-Americans were 1.4 times as likely as whites to report recent pain that interfered with their lives; both white and black test subjects rate blacks’ pain as less intense than whites; women are up to 25 percent less likely than men to receive opiod painkillers when they come to the ER with acute abdominal pain”:

If you stopped the average person in an emergency room and asked why she’s there—not just her guess at the problem, but what really motivated her to show up—the number one answer would be “pain.”

For all that modern medicine has learned about disease and treatment, it’s alleviating pain that still lies at the heart of the profession.

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Human Hibernation

Sleeping InsuenoThe thinking goes, if animals can hibernate, humans should be able to and hence we can avoid death and move towards immortality. Frank Swain reports on scientists’ progress in the hunt for human hibernation for BBC Future:

…Suspended animation, the ability to set a person’s biological processes on hold, has long been a staple of science fiction. Interest in the field blossomed in the 1950s as a direct consequence of the space race. Nasa poured money into biological research to see if humans might be placed in a state of artificial preservation. In this state, it was hoped, astronauts could be protected from the dangerous cosmic rays zapping through space. Sleeping your way to the stars also meant carrying far less food, water and oxygen, making the ultimate long-haul flight more practical.

One recipient of that funding was a young James Lovelock. The scientist would dunk hamsters into ice baths until their bodies froze.

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Fecal (Poo) Transplants on the Rise

Digestive system diagram enWe’ve covered what Mosaic calls “Medicine’s dirty secret” before, but the idea of using someone else’s feces to cure an ailment is apparently growing fast, including instructions for trying it at home:

This is how far a mother will go.

Your daughter has been sick for more than four years with a severe autoimmune disease that has left her colon raw with bloody ulcers. After multiple doctors and drugs have failed, you are frantic for her to get better. Then you send her disease into remission, virtually overnight, with a single act of love. “Who wouldn’t do that for their daughter?” you say. It’s like a miracle, you say. “An overnight magic wand.”

You’ve agreed to do it again – twice – for strangers. You’ve seen first-hand how effective it can be and you felt so badly for the patients and their families. Had you donated blood or plasma, no one would blink.

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The Orgasmatron is Finally Here

Manu (CC)

Manu (CC)

The Independent reports on an accidentally invented orgasm machine that delivers climax at the push of a button:

Scientists have devised a machine that can help women achieve ‘emphatic’ orgasms at the push of a button.

Slightly smaller than a packet of cigarettes, the device uses electrodes attached to the patients spine, with orgasms being triggered by a remote control.

The machine is not intended for a mass market looking to spice up their day at whim or expedite their sexual encounters however, but for women who normally struggle to achieve orgasm.

North Carolina surgeon Stuart Meloy told New Scientist how he conjured up the idea while performing a procedure on a female patient.

“I was placing the electrodes and suddenly the woman started exclaiming emphatically,” he said. “I asked her what was up and she said, ‘You’re going to have to teach my husband to do that’.” Spinal implant is controlled via remote control (Picture: New Scientist)

Clinical trials of the machine are due to commence later in the year, with Meloy adding that it could help couples with withering sex lives.

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LSD Reconsidered for Therapy

William Rafti (CC)

William Rafti (CC)

Strange as it may seem in what in many cases is an extremely reactionary period of time, the war on some drugs has loosened up considerably and not just in the burgeoning mariajuana legalization movement. Research into the medical benefits of psychedelic drugs has resumed and appears to be making significant headway. The New York Times reports on the comeback of LSD in psychiatric treatment:

He heard about the drug trial from a friend in Switzerland and decided it was worth volunteering, even if it meant long, painful train journeys from his native Austria and the real possibility of a mental meltdown. He didn’t have much time, after all, and traditional medicine had done nothing to relieve his degenerative spine condition.

“I’d never taken the drug before, so I was feeling — well, I think the proper word for it, in English, is dread,” said Peter, 50, an Austrian social worker, in a telephone interview; he asked that his last name be omitted to protect his identity.

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Science Can Use Your Blood To Determine If Your Death Is Imminent

Blood testDo you really want to know that you’re about to die? If so, this test is for you. Report from GeekoSystem:

You know how you’re supposed to live life to the fullest because any moment could be your last? Turns out, science may have figured out a way to pin that time-frame down a bit for you. With new blood tests, researchers from Finland and Estonia think they can tell whether or not you’re going to live beyond the next five years.

Using a technique called NMR Spectroscopy, these researchers screened 17,000 blood samples, searching for any biomarkers that occurred frequently in the blood of people who died soon after their blood was taken. What they discovered and published in PLOS Medicine journal was that people with elevated levels of four particular biomarkers in their blood (plasma albumin, alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particle size, and citrate) had a super-high chance of dying within five years.

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The Crumbling Ancient Texts That May Hold Life-Saving Cures

Loc timbuktu manuscripts amm0001rsAstonishing lost medical science being unearthed from ancient texts smuggled out of Timbuktu to avoid Al-Qaeda? It may sound like the plot of a Dan Brown potboiler but it appears to be true based on this first hand report by Amy Maxmen who went to Mali for Nautilus:

…Subjects in the collections, spanning the 13th through 17th century, include the Koran, Sufism, philosophy, law, medicine, astronomy, and more. Haidara stresses the need for climate-controlled safe-houses for the manuscripts, so that academics can begin to study the books to learn about African history. He thinks the books might also contain information about cures for maladies that persist today. “Every book has answers, and if you analyze them you can learn solutions,” he says. “Everything that exists now, existed before now.” One prime example of this constancy is a plague that has afflicted humans at least since ancient times and currently kills approximately 1.2 million people per year: malaria.

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The Unstoppable Rise Of Antibiotic-Resistant Organisms

Antibiotic selectionAlthough doctors and scientists have been warning that the so-called “golden age” of antibiotics is rapidly waning, we just don’t listen and now it may be too late. Fergus Walsh, medical correspondent for BBC News reports:

We cannot say we weren’t warned. The growing threat of antibiotic resistant organisms is once again in the spotlight.

Prof Jeremy Farrar, the new head of Britain’s biggest medical research charity the Wellcome Trust said it was a “truly global issue”.

In his first major interview since taking up his post, Prof Farrar told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that the golden age of antibiotics could come to an end unless action is taken.

His comments echo those of England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

Last year she described the growing resistance to antibiotics as a “ticking time bomb”, and said the danger should be ranked alongside terrorism on a list of threats to the nation.

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