Medicine

Can This New Treatment Stop the Common Cold? (fortune.com) 66

"Researchers may have identified a compound that can stop some of the most common cold viruses, the rhinovirus, in its tracks, according to a new report published in the journal Nature." An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The scientists' work is early-stage. But the mechanism it uses to tackle colds is striking. Developed at the Imperial College London, the molecule targets a protein in human cells that cold viruses use in order to replicate and conquer. By targeting this specific pathway, the compound could theoretically be used to thwart most viruses (and since it focuses on human proteins, it may not cause the virus to mutate its way away from danger)...

"The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us, but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and [chronic lung disease]," said lead researcher Ed Tate in a statement. "A drug like this could be extremely beneficial if given early in infection, and we are working on making a version that could be inhaled, so that it gets to the lungs quickly."

Medicine

Scientists Find Physically Demanding Jobs Are Linked To Greater Risk of Early Death (metro.co.uk) 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Metro: Researchers in the Netherlands claim that a "physical activity paradox" exists, where exercise may only be good for you if it's done outside of your job. Manual laborers may be physically active all day but that doesn't actually help them. In fact, the research claims that it might actually increase their risk of dying early. "While we know leisure-time physical activity is good for you, we found that occupational physical activity has an 18% increased risk of early mortality for men," says Pieter Coenen, public health researcher at UV University medical centre in Amsterdam. "These men are dying earlier than those who are not physically active in their occupation."

He says that it's all down to the type of exercise you do in your spare time, versus occupational physical activity. When you choose to exercise, you can take rest periods when you want -- something that often may not be available to you if you're working on a building site (for example). The research combined results from 17 studies, dated between 1960 and 2010 -- looking at data on almost 200,000 people.
The study has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Medicine

California Study To Examine the Influence of a Healthy Diet On Patients (nytimes.com) 242

"According to The New York Times, the state of California is funding an experiment through The Ceres Community Project to test the influence of a healthy diet on the recovery of state Medicaid patients with long-term serious illnesses," writes Slashdot reader MonteCarloMethod. From the report: Over the next three years, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford will assess whether providing 1,000 patients who have congestive heart failure or Type 2 diabetes with a healthier diet and nutrition education affects hospital readmissions and referrals to long-term care, compared with 4,000 similar Medi-Cal patients who don't get the food.

The California study will build on more modest and less rigorous earlier research. A study in Philadelphia by the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance retroactively compared health insurance claims for 65 chronically ill Medicaid patients who received six months' of medically tailored meals with a control group. The patients who got the food racked up about $12,000 less a month in medical expenses. Another small study by researchers at U.C.S.F. tracked patients with H.I.V. and Type 2 diabetes who got special meals for six months to see if it would positively affect their health. The researchers found they were less depressed, less likely to make trade-offs between food and health care, and more likely to stick with their medications.

The Internet

Top-Level Domain .App Is Now Open For General Registration (googleblog.com) 82

Christina Chiou Yeh, writing for Google Registry: On May 1 we announced .app, the newest top-level domain (TLD) from Google Registry. It's now open for general registration so you can register your desired .app name right now. We begin our journey with sitata.app, which provides real-time travel information about events like protests or transit strikes. Looks all clear, so our first stop is the Caribbean, where we use thelocal.app and start exploring. After getting some sun, we fly to the Netherlands, where we're feeling hungry. Luckily, picnic.app delivers groceries, right to our hotel. With our bellies full, it's time to head to India, where we use myra.app to order the medicine, hygiene, and baby products that we forgot to pack. Did we mention this was a business trip? Good thing lola.app helped make such a complex trip stress free. Time to head home now, so we slip on a hoodie we bought on ov.app and enjoy the ride.
Medicine

James Harrison, Who Has Helped Save Lives of More Than 2.4 Million Australian Babies, Retires (cnn.com) 97

Most people, when they retire, get a gold watch. James Harrison deserves so much more than that. From a report: Harrison, known as the "Man With the Golden Arm," has donated blood nearly every week for 60 years. After all those donations, the 81-year-old Australian man "retired" Friday. The occasion marked the end of a monumental chapter. According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, he has helped saved the lives of more than 2.4 million Australian babies. Harrison's blood has unique, disease-fighting antibodies that have been used to develop an injection called Anti-D, which helps fight against rhesus disease. This disease is 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.
Medicine

Potential New Cure Found For Baldness (bbc.com) 132

A potential new cure for baldness has been discovered using a drug originally intended to treat osteoporosis. BBC reports: Researchers found the drug had a dramatic effect on hair follicles in the lab, stimulating them to grow. It contains a compound which targets a protein that acts as a brake on hair growth and plays a role in baldness. Project leader Dr Nathan Hawkshaw told the BBC a clinical trial would be needed to see if the treatment was effective and safe in people. Only two drugs are currently available to treat balding (androgenetic alopecia): minoxidil, for men and women, and finasteride, for men only. Neither is available on the NHS, the national healthcare system for England, and both have side-effects and are not always very effective, so patients often resort to hair transplantation surgery instead.
Medicine

'Biohacker' Who Injected Himself With DIY Herpes Treatment Found Dead (livescience.com) 251

Long-time Slashdot reader Okian Warrior quotes Live Science: The CEO of a biomedical startup who sparked controversy when he injected himself with an untested herpes treatment in front of a live audience in February has died, according to an email sent to Live Science. Aaron Traywick, the CEO of Ascendance Biomedical, was found dead at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday (April 29) in a spa room in Washington, D.C., according to a statement provided to Live Science by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of the District of Columbia. Traywick was 28 years old. According to the website News2Share.com, Traywick was found in a flotation tank. Flotation tanks are soundproof pods filled with body-temperature saltwater that are used to promote "sensory deprivation."
Vice News reports that Traywick had "lost touch" with co-workers at his company more than four weeks ago, adding that "Disagreements over the company's direction and philosophical differences over how to best distribute its creations split the small startup."

MIT Technology Review reports that Traywick, "who had no formal medical training, was also planning to test an experimental lung cancer treatment that supposedly involved the gene-editing tool CRISPR. The therapy was to be offered at a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, just a few miles over the U.S. border... An employee at the Tijuana clinic, International BioCare Hospital & Wellness Center, confirmed in a phone interview that doctors there were working with Traywick to set up the trial but won't be moving forward with it after his death...

"In December, the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy issued a statement warning patients about unregulated gene therapies, saying such procedures are potentially dangerous and unlikely to provide any benefit."
Medicine

Lightning Struck Her Home. Then Her Brain Implant Stopped Working. (nytimes.com) 68

Can lightning have an impact on people with electrodes implanted in their brains? A new study shares a case study. From a report: Lightning had struck the building. But the appliances were not the only things affected. After about an hour, the woman, who had had the electrodes put in five years before to help with debilitating muscle spasms in her neck, noticed her symptoms coming back. When she went to see her doctors the next day, they found that the pacemaker-like stimulator that powered the electrodes had switched itself off in response to the lightning strike.

In a study describing these events published Tuesday in the Journal of Neurosurgery, her doctors suggest that physicians and medical device companies add lightning strikes to the list of things patients with electrodes implanted in their brains should watch out for. It may sound futuristic, but deep brain stimulation, or D.B.S., has a fairly long history. Surgeons operating on epileptic patients in the 1930s and 1940s found that removing small portions of the brain could quiet seizures. Later, researchers found that stimulating certain brain areas, instead of cutting them out, could quell the involuntary movements characteristic of Parkinson's and other disorders.

Youtube

YouTube Is Removing Some Nootropics Channels (vice.com) 243

According to Wikipedia, nootropics are drugs, supplements, and other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. Many of them are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and some have reported addiction and harm, as well as uncomfortable side effects. These concerns may be behind YouTube's recent decision to delete at least three nootropics channels over the past three days. Motherboard reports: The nootropics YouTubers don't know why YouTube penalized them. YouTube's community guidelines prohibit harmful or dangerous content, including "hard drug use," which seems like the most likely reason. [Ryan Michael Ballow, a YouTuber whose channel "Cortex Labs Nootropics" was deleted] believes it's either "pharmaceutical industry influence" or some other elements within YouTube's leadership decided to target nootropics specifically. "It's all extremely fishy, and demonstrates a continued censorship trend with YouTube," he said in an email. [Jonathan Roseland, another YouTube that recently had their channel "Limitless Mindset" deleted] guessed his channel got flagged because he made videos about kratom, an opioid-like substance that has been linked to deaths and is coming under increased government regulation. Other kratom videos have apparently been removed. But Ballow said he's never posted a video about kratom, and a search for "kratom" on YouTube pulls up countless results, including reviews. Similarly, searching for nootropics, magnesium, aniracetam, oxiracetam, and Modafinil showed no shortage of videos, including reviews.

It's hard to know why the channels were removed since YouTube declined to clarify specifics with the creators and did not respond to a request for comment. YouTube allows creators to appeal enforcement decisions, but Ballow's appeal was rejected. The rejection notice did not clearly state which guidelines were violated, but it pointed to another potential violation. YouTube "included a paragraph that states that if the sole purpose of your YouTube videos is to drive people off of the platform, said videos break the rules," Ballow said. He interpreted this to mean the fact that his videos directed viewers to other websites to buy products.

Medicine

Can A New HIV Drug Kill The Virus That Causes AIDS? (scmp.com) 73

"A team led by scientists from the University of Hong Kong has developed a new antibody drug that will not only protect people from contracting HIV but also serve as a long-acting treatment for the virus, unlike current medication that must be taken daily." Slashdot reader hackingbear shared this article from the South China Morning Post: There will need to be a further battery of tests before the drug, named "BiIA-SG", can be part of the global battle against the virus, which causes Aids. The research team has so far only tested the drug on mice but is now looking to experiment on larger animals such as monkeys, before conducting clinical trials on humans. Still, Professor Chen Zhiwei, the team leader and director of HKU's Aids Institute, stressed the scientific discovery had yielded "one of the most potent and effective antibody drugs". This is because the study showed that mice given the drug before being infected with HIV were protected from the virus for about a week.

In addition, the experiments, which also involved experts from mainland medical and research institutions, found that when mice were infected with HIV before being treated, 42 per cent had an "undetectable level" of the virus for at least four weeks after one injection of antibodies... The tests found that the drug was effective against 124 strains of HIV, including those that are commonly found in infected people from Hong Kong and mainland China.

Education

Bill Gates: U.S. Education Harder to Improve Than Infant Mortality Rates (xconomy.com) 252

gthuang88 writes: In a Q&A with Harvard students, Bill Gates said his foundation's work on K-12 education in the U.S. has had little impact, at least compared to its success in reducing infant mortality in developing countries. The challenge with education, he said, is that it is "essentially a social construct" that depends on creating the right culture of accountability and interactions -- and funding, of course. Gates said if he had a magic wand for the U.S., he would fix education, and for the rest of the world, nutrition.

He also said if he were a college student now, he would study artificial intelligence -- and that he was jealous that someone in the room could solve the problem of creating an AI that can read a book and pass an AP exam.

Gates predicted this generation of graduates will "solve" cancer, as well as the pesky problem of infectious diseases.

And even though his foundation's 20-year effort has failed to improve educaion -- "we'll keep going."
Medicine

In First, Doctors Treat Rare Genetic Disorder With an Injection In Utero (arstechnica.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Three babies with a rare genetic disorder have been spared the worst effects of their condition thanks to an experimental injection they received in utero, researchers report this week in The New England Journal of Medicine. The success marks the first time a genetic disorder has been partially reversed by such a treatment prior to birth. The in utero injections treated a rare, recessive genetic condition called X-linked hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (XLHED), which affects the development of skin, hair, nails, and teeth. People with the disorder have sparse body and head hair, dry eyes, mouths, and airways, and few teeth, which are usually pointy. But most dangerously, the condition also disrupts development of sweat glands throughout the body. People with XLHED have fewer sweat glands and/or poorly functioning ones. This leaves individuals vulnerable to high fevers and over-heating (hyperthermia), which can be life-threatening and lead to medical complications.

For the new experimental treatment, the researchers realized that it all came down to timing. Humans develop sweat glands much earlier in their development, generally between the 20th and 30th week of pregnancy. To prevent XLHED from wreaking havoc, the researchers needed to deliver the protein prior to birth. After testing the idea for safety and efficacy in mice and monkeys, doctors in Germany got a compassionate-use approval to try it in a 38-year-old pregnant woman. She had a family history of XLHED, a young son with the condition, and was found to be carrying twin boys with it, too. [...] The researchers will track the babies' development to see if the effects are permanent, but data from animals suggests that they will be.

Medicine

Doctors Tried To Lower $148K Cancer Drug Cost; Makers Tripled Its Price (arstechnica.com) 384

Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar writes: Imbruvica, a compound that treats white blood cell cancers, has until now been a bargain at $148,000 per year. Until now, doctors have been able to optimize dosage for each patient by prescribing up to four small-dose pills of it per day.

But after results from a recent small pilot trial indicated that smaller doses would for most patients work as well as the large ones, its manufacturer, Janssen and Pharmacyclics, has decided on the basis of the doctors' interest in smaller dosages to reprice all sizes of the drug to the price of the largest size. This has the effect of tripling the price for patients, and doctors have now put off any plans for further testing of lower dosages.

The researchers are retaliating by urging clinical investigators to test whether the expensive pill could be safely given every other day -- and by calling on America's public health regulators to investigate the drug's pricing.
Medicine

Researchers Find Genetic Cause For Alzheimer's, Possible Method To Reverse It (upi.com) 113

schwit1 quotes UPI: Scientists at an independent biomedical research institution have reported a monumental breakthrough: The cause of the primary genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, and a possible cure for the disease. Researchers at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco identified the primary genetic risk factor for the disease, a gene called apoE4... Their findings were published this week in the journal Nature Medicine... By treating human apoE4 neurons with a structure corrector, it eliminated the signs of Alzheimer's disease, restored normal function to the cells and improved cell survival.
The study's senior investigator says he's already working with a San Francisco pharmaceutical startup to develop the approach and move towards clinical trials, adding that "we are working to accelerate the timeline as much as possible."
Medicine

'Is Curing Patients a Sustainable Business Model?' Goldman Sachs Analysts Ask (arstechnica.com) 368

In an April 10 report for biotech clients, Goldman Sachs analysts noted that one-shot cures for diseases are not great for business as they're bad for longterm profits. The investment banks' report, titled "The Genome Revolution," asks clients: "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" The answer may be "no," according to follow-up information provided. Slashdot reader tomhath shares the report from Ars Technica: Analyst Salveen Richter and colleagues laid it out: "The potential to deliver 'one shot cures' is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies... While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow."

For a real-world example, they pointed to Gilead Sciences, which markets treatments for hepatitis C that have cure rates exceeding 90 percent. In 2015, the company's hepatitis C treatment sales peaked at $12.5 billion. But as more people were cured and there were fewer infected individuals to spread the disease, sales began to languish. Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that the treatments will bring in less than $4 billion this year. [Gilead]'s rapid rise and fall of its hepatitis C franchise highlights one of the dynamics of an effective drug that permanently cures a disease, resulting in a gradual exhaustion of the prevalent pool of patients," the analysts wrote. The report noted that diseases such as common cancers -- where the "incident pool remains stable" -- are less risky for business.

Science

Late To Bed, Early To Die? Night Owls May Die Sooner (livescience.com) 217

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bad news for "night owls": Those who tend to stay up late and sleep in well past sunrise are at increased risk of early death, a new study from the United Kingdom suggests. The research, which involved nearly half a million people, found that self-described "evening people" were 10 percent more likely to die over a 6.5-year period, compared with self-described morning people. The findings add to a growing body of research that suggests that being a night owl could have negative effects on health. Many of these effects may be attributable to a misalignment between a person's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and the socially imposed timing of work and other activities, the researchers said. "'Night owls' trying to live in a 'morning lark' world may have health consequences for their bodies," study co-author Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.
Medicine

FDA Worried Drug Was Risky; Now Reports of Deaths Spark Concern (cnn.com) 183

Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, writing for CNN: Two years ago, Brendan Tyne pleaded with the Food and Drug Administration to approve a drug that he was hopeful could finally bring his mother some peace. She could no longer move without assistance and had fallen victim to the debilitating and frightening psychosis that haunts many people with Parkinson's disease. "She thinks there are people in the house and animals are trying to get her," he told an FDA advisory committee. He believed that a new medication called Nuplazid, made by San Diego-based Acadia Pharmaceuticals, was the answer.

Nuplazid's review was being expedited because it had been designated a "breakthrough therapy" -- meaning that it demonstrated "substantial improvement" in patients with serious or life-threatening diseases compared to treatments already on the market. Congress created this designation in 2012 in an effort to speed up the FDA's approval process, which has long been criticized for being too slow. Around 200 drugs have been granted this designation since its creation. [...] The committee voted 12-2 and recommended that the FDA approve Nuplazid for the treatment of Parkinson's disease psychosis based on a six-week study of about 200 patients. It hit the market in June 2016. As caregivers and family members rushed to get their loved ones on it, sales climbed to roughly $125 million in 2017

[...] In November, an analysis released by a nonprofit health care organization, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, warned that 244 deaths had been reported to the FDA between the drug's launch and March 2017. [...] Since the institute released its analysis, FDA data shows that the number of reported deaths has risen to more than 700. As of last June, Nuplazid was the only medication listed as "suspect" in at least 500 of the death reports.

Medicine

Hot-Air Dryers Suck In Nasty Bathroom Bacteria, Shoot Them At Your Hands (arstechnica.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Hot-air dryers suck in bacteria and hardy bacterial spores loitering in the bathroom -- perhaps launched into the air by whooshing toilet flushes -- and fire them directly at your freshly cleaned hands, according to a study published in the April issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The authors of the study, led by researchers at the University of Connecticut, found that adding HEPA filters to the dryers can reduce germ-spewing four-fold. However, the data hints that places like infectious disease research facilities and healthcare settings may just want to ditch the dryers and turn to trusty towels. Indeed, in the wake of the blustery study -- which took place in research facility bathrooms around UConn -- "paper towel dispensers have recently been added to all 36 bathrooms in basic science research areas in the UConn School of Medicine surveyed in the current study," the authors note. The researchers speculated that "one reason hand dryers may disperse so many bacteria is the large amount of air that passes through hand dryers, 19,000 linear feet/min at the nozzle. The convection generated by high airflow below the hand dryer nozzles could also draw in room air."
Medicine

Drug-Resistant 'Nightmare Bacteria' Pose Growing Threat (statnews.com) 87

"Nightmare bacteria" with unusual resistance to antibiotics of last resort were found more than 200 times in the United States last year in a first-of-a-kind hunt to see how much of a threat these rare cases are becoming, health officials said this week. From a report: That's more than they had expected to find, and the true number is probably higher because the effort involved only certain labs in each state, officials say. The problem mostly strikes people in hospitals and nursing homes who need IVs and other tubes that can get infected. In many cases, others in close contact with these patients also harbored the superbugs even though they weren't sick -- a risk for further spread. Some of the sick patients had traveled for surgery or other health care to another country where drug-resistant germs are more common, and the superbug infections were discovered after they returned to the U.S.
Science

X-ray 'Ghost Images' Could Cut Radiation Doses (sciencemag.org) 21

Sophia Chen, writing for Science magazine: On its own, a single-pixel camera captures pictures that are pretty dull: squares that are completely black, completely white, or some shade of gray in between. All it does, after all, is detect brightness. Yet by connecting a single-pixel camera to a patterned light source, a team of physicists in China has made detailed x-ray images using a statistical technique called ghost imaging, first pioneered 20 years ago in infrared and visible light. Researchers in the field say future versions of this system could take clear x-ray photographs with cheap cameras -- no need for lenses and multipixel detectors -- and less cancer-causing radiation than conventional techniques.

"Our system is much smaller and cheaper, and it could even be portable if you needed to take it into the field," says Wu Ling-An, a physicist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing whose work with her colleagues was published on 28 March in Optica. The researchers' system still isn't ready to be used in medicine. But they have lowered the x-ray dose by about a million times compared with earlier attempts, says Daniele Pelliccia, who in 2015 made some of the first x-ray ghost images.

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