Monday, December 30, 2013

Which Gender Needs More Sleep and Why?

My opinion:  There seems to be some information missing here.  One of the main reasons women need more sleep than men is supposedly because women are more mentally active.  However, even in cases where men are just as active, they wouldn't need quite as much sleep.  So what could be some biological factors that account for this?  Funnily enough, it could be that women simply prefer to sleep more than men do, but I think this is an oversimplification.  I will say that women seem to have sleep related disorders more often then men do, for example, chronic fatigue syndrome.  Perhaps these illnesses relate back to the findings presented here.  Aside from the biological aspects, one can be sure that the stereotype of angry, hostile women in the morning will penetrate deeper into our society.  Let's hope it doesn't become too strong, although I also hope women realize their potential disposition to the morning blues.   

Why Women Need More Sleep Than Men: Research Shows Stronger Mental, Physical Response To Inadequate Rest

woman sleeping
(Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock On average, women experience more consequences from inadequate sleep compared to men.
Women need more sleep than men, according to a recent study. Researchers from Duke University have discovered that, compared to men, women experience more mental and physical consequences from inadequate rest. Besides giving half the population a legitimate reason to sleep in, the findings could also inspire new health recommendations for women at greater risk of heart disease, depression, and psychological problems.
The study, which was led by clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael Breus, estimated men and women’s respective needs for sleep by assessing their ability to deal with insufficient rest. According to Breus, the experiment suggested a sharp difference between genders. "We found that women had more depression, women had more anger, and women had more hostility early in the morning," he told reporters.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Glowing Worms Could Lead To Huge Medical Advancements

My opinion:  We read daily of strange medical problems that you think would be easily avoided.  For example, the woman who was given a c-section with no baby inside.  I was also just reading about a woman who had a towel lodged near her lung for seven years after doctors forgot to remove it after a surgery.  This article suggests that there are many more ways to see inside the body than we currently have, which could alleviate diagnostic techniques.  Later in the article, it mentions that this new glowing compound is stable in areas without oxygen.  Hence, doctors may be able to examine more tissues where oxygen isn't present to detect cancers and other diseases.  Not to mention that a tremendous number of researchers rely on bioluminescence, making this discovery even more crucial.  Are there any other ways to see through the body, like new types of imaging?  Feel free to comment.

The Strange Glow of a Common Worm Could Lead to New Medical Technologies

Scientists estimate that 30 to 40 bioluminescent chemical compounds exist in living organisms such as beetles and bacteria. Of those, we only have good knowledge of about five, says Dimitri Deheyn, a marine biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Recently Deheyn and a team of researchers, including three from Connecticut College, took on the challenge of studying the mysterious luminescent mechanisms behind a common marine worm that hasn’t been studied in more than 50 years. The “parchment tube worm,” or Chaetopterus variopedatus, fluoresces a green glow when stimulated by ultraviolet light. It also releases puffs of mucus that give off a long-lasting blue glow. The worm spends its life in a self-made sediment tube, and its habitat ranges across most of the world’s oceans.
The mucus is unique partly because of its longevity and partly because of its color. In the sea water in which the segmented worms live, bioluminescence from other organisms usually appears in fleeting green flashes. In contrast, the glow of the mucus can last up to several hours. And it glows blue.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pet Dogs May Reduce Asthma and Allergies

My opinion:  So now we have yet another reason to love pets!  As the article mentions, the evidence  is pretty clear that dogs can help prevent asthma and some allergies.  However, there are still some points missing.  The effect that the researchers observed in mice may not be the same as in humans.  Also, we don't know if this effect works for adults, and if it does, to what extent?  Finally, does the same thing occur with cats?  After all, not all people looking for this benefit would want dogs.  Ultimately, I'm thinking that dog exposure helps build immunity, but it would be nice to know if this also happens in other situations.  Feel free to write any comments.


Dogs in the house protect against asthma, infection

Saturday 21 December 2013 - 12am PST

There have been several studies suggesting that when exposed to a dog regularly in early infancy, children's risk for developing allergies and asthma decreases. And now, researchers point to changes in gut microbes as the mechanism behind this safeguard.
The researchers, from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of Michigan, published the results of their mouse study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
They explain that when mice were exposed to dust from houses in which dogs lived, the community of microbes in their gut - known as the gastrointestinal microbiome - was "reshaped."
This also resulted in decreased reactivity by the immune system to common allergens, they say.
In the study, the investigators introduced cockroach or protein allergens to the mice and found that inflammatory responses in the lungs - which are associated with asthma - were significantly reduced in mice that had been exposed to dust associated with dogs, compared with those who were exposed to dust from dogless homes.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is Heat or Ice Better for Treatment?

My opinion:  I think that most of the time, when unsure how to treat pain, most people use ice packs instead of heat.  As the article says, this usually helps - heat is more for increasing blood vessel size when energy is needed, like before exercising.  So if trying to heal bleeding, cold ice is probably better.  The most important take away is not to put the ice directly on the skin, though - this is something I think people could do more often.  Also, I'm still unsure of one thing.  What if you feel nauseous?  I was always told to use heat in these situations, but the article doesn't indicate if this is right.  Any ideas?  Feel free to comment.

Treating Injury and Pain: Ice or Heat?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 5, 2013

Often when someone gets injured or feels pain, they wonder whether to treat it with cold or heat.
Today’s medical information comes from Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and recently appointed Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and Kaitlyn Whitlock, PA-C, physician assistant in the Women’s Sports Medicine Program.
Often when someone gets injured or feels pain, they wonder whether to treat it with cold or heat. Below are a few simple guidelines to help you determine which approach to take.

What should you do if you get injured from a fall or collide with something/someone?

The answer is ICE. Injuries that occur after a twist, fall, or collision may produce localized swelling and bleeding. Treating the affected area(s) immediately with ice will work as a vasoconstrictor (narrowing blood vessels), limiting the amount of bleeding and decreasing inflammation. Decreasing inflammation also will decrease pain. Heat, on the other hand will expand the blood vessels, causing more bleeding and pain.

What if there was no specific injury? 

If, for example, you are experiencing worsening shoulder or knee pain, the answer is still ICE. Overuse, poor biomechanics (not using your muscles correctly or poor posture), arthritis, or anatomical variations (the way the bones line up) often cause inflammation. Ice will decrease this inflammation and should be applied daily or when sore.
In general, ice is preferred over heat for most pain and immediate injuries. When using ice to treat a part of your body, it is important to not apply it directly to the skin. Direct contact can damage your skin, and in more extreme cases, it may also damage underlying nerves. Place a towel or cloth between the ice and skin. Also, ice should be applied for only fifteen to twenty minutes at any given time.

When should I use heat?

Applying heat is a good option for tight or stiff muscles, especially before exercise. This will increase blood flow to the muscles, making exercise more tolerable. After exercise, apply ice. As with using ice, do not apply heat directly to the skin. Place a towel or cloth between the heat pack and skin to prevent burns. NEVER go to sleep with a heat pack applied.
*Some injuries are more serious than others. If your pain is unbearable or not improving within a couple of days, see your health care provider.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Imagining light/dark Can Change Pupil Size

My opinion:  I think this research may be applicable to more than at first glance. Perhaps if we can imagine certain situations, we can also physiologically affect other parts of our body besides the pupils.  We might use our imagination more often than we realize.  If we are exposed to a particularly bad scenario, we may imagine it becoming worse, thus sending us spiraling downhill.  For example, say it is very cloudy outside.  A person in the area, lacking light exposure, will experience a decrease in the size of his or her pupils.  But if the lack of light is depressing, then he or she may imagine the weather as even worse, further decreasing the pupils' size.  This in turn leads to less light absorption, pysiologically contributing to depression.  Any other examples of this effect?  Or am I just making incorrect guesses with this one?  Feel free to comment.

Pupil size adjusts when we imagine light or dark settings

Saturday 7 December 2013 - 12am PST

It is common knowledge that our pupils adjust in size when exposed to light or dark enviornments. But new research published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the size of our pupils also changes when we imagine these surroundings, even when our eyes are not directly exposed to light and dark.
Researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway say their findings may be useful in studying the mental experiences of patients who suffer from severe neurological disorders.
To reach their findings, the investigators monitored pupil diameters of study participants by using an infrared eye tracker throughout a series of experiments.
The first experiment required participants to look at a screen that showed triangles with various brightness levels. They were then asked to actively imagine the triangles.
Results of this experiment revealed that the subjects' pupils varied in size, depending on the brightness of the triangle they were imagining. When they imagined brighter triangles, their pupils were smaller but enlarged as they imagined darker triangles.
Female eye
Experiments showed that pupil size adjusts when we actively imagine light or dark images or settings, suggesting that pupil size is linked to a subjective sense of brightness.
Another experiment required participants to imagine different scenery that had various levels of brightness. This included a sunny sky, a dark room or a face in the sun, compared with a face in the shade. Results showed that subjects' pupils changed in diameter with each scene.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Players of Violent Video Games Experience Behavioral Issues, Both Genders Affected, Study Suggests

My opinion:  I'm glad that this is finally being researched.  People often assume that things like toy guns or violent video games may be malevolent, but it it is important to investigate before coming up with a more firm conclusion.  That being said, though I like most of the methods used in the study, I have a problem with one.  We don't know whether the students tested are or aren't already players of violent video games.  If so, this could potentially skew the results.  Also, even if this is not an issue, we still don't know the long term effects.  On another note, one of my favorite parts of the study shows that girls and boys respond similarly to these games, although the affect on the boys is greater.  It would be interesting to see the affect on different races, if there is any.  Questions?  Feel free to comment. 

Violent video games reduce teens' self-control, study shows

Friday 29 November 2013 - 12am PST

Gone are the days of teenagers being content with climbing trees and playing basketball in their free time. Nowadays, they are more likely to be found playing video games. But new research suggests that teenagers who play violent video games are more likely to cheat, experience increased aggression and have reduced self-control.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving: Gaining Weight from Political Correctness?

My opinion:  The take home point of this article seems to be that if you are serving for yourself and someone else, you are more likely to put the same type and amount of food on both plates.  For example, if you are getting food for yourself and someone who is overweight, you might like to give healthy food to your guest, but if the guest saw you eating unhealthy food, it might make him or her jealous.  Therefore, you may want to choose healthy food for yourself.  Similarly, if you choose unhealthy food for your guest, he or she might feel uncomfortable eating it unless everyone else is doing the same, so you would give yourself the unhealthy food.  

I think this could be avoided by asking the guests to go get food for themselves, or, if one of them is unable to stand, they may be asked exactly what they want and how much of it.  I know that at my family gatherings, if someone else is getting food, the guests usually ask for certain portion sizes.  So does this study apply to all families?  Can you think of any example of this effect?  Feel free to comment.

Political Correctness Could Affect Holiday Weight Gain

Nov. 22, 2013 — It's that time of year when Americans start focusing on holiday celebrations, many of which will involve high-caloric food. As the festivities proceed, so do countless tips for keeping off extra weight this season.

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But, there is one factor most people likely won't consider -- political correctness.
Research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business suggests you could be choosing unhealthy options to serve your guests because you don't want to offend someone else.
Marketing doctoral student Peggy Liu and Fuqua marketing professor Gavan Fitzsimons led a team that conducted multiple experiments into how people choose between healthy and unhealthy food options when they are picking for both themselves and another person.
"We wanted to understand if food choices would change if they were picking a dish or snack for themselves and an average-sized person versus themselves and an overweight person," Liu said.
Their findings, "Matching Choices to Avoid Offending Stigmatized Group Members," are published in the November 2013 issue of the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What Aging Population? More People Are Capable of Living Independently, Study Suggests

My opinion:  In the medical industry, as well as many others, there may always be differences in statistical studies.  Actually, relatively often, I read articles that refute previous studies entirely, even if those were very well established.  Perhaps we may never know which statistical method is the best, but one thing is for sure about this article - I now understand how these calculations are performed, rather than simply understanding the result of them.  I think that, as news readers, if we looked more closely at the actual process than just the answers, we would have better opinions of the statistics.  Furthermore, it would also be a good idea to look at the definitions.  According to this article, the number of predicted people over 65 wouldn't change, but their ability to take care of themselves would.  Hence, while the demographic numbers may always have been correct, the affect of the elderly on the economy changes with this study, which is perhaps the most important information to consider.  Any other thoughts?  Feel free to comment.   

Standard aging indicator 'inaccurate'

But the researchers say that we should not "assume" increases in population aging will have such a detrimental impact, adding that the standard indicator of the aging population is "inaccurate."
At present, population aging and its impact is estimated using the old age dependency ratio (OADR). This model looks at the number of people who are deemed as "dependent" (aged 65 and over) and those classed as "economically productive" (aged between 20 and 64).
The dependent population is then divided by the economically productive population, and it is estimated how many older people there are relative to the number of younger people who have to pay for them.
Explaining the "inaccuracy" of the OADR model, the researchers say it deems all people aged 65 and over as dependent, not taking into consideration their economic, social or medical circumstances.
They say that this means the model "overlooks" the fact that the increasing life expectancy means older people are now healthier and fitter, compared with older people included in previous cohorts. For example, in 1900, a 65-year-old woman in England and Wales would have an average life expectancy of 11 years, compared with 21 years today, they add.

New calculations reveal 'population is getting younger'

Because of these "flaws" the researchers found in the OADR, they decided to calculate the aging population using a new model - the real elderly dependency ratio.
This model uses the sum of men and women with a remaining life expectancy of up to 15 years. This number is then divided by the number of people in employment, regardless of their age.
From this, the study authors found that the number of older people classed as dependent in the UK have reduced by one-third over the past 40 years. Furthermore, they found that old age dependency is likely to stabilize at the current level, and this was the same in many other countries.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Engineeringcare? New IDEA Fosters Interaction with Healthcare and Engineering

My opinion:  Though I don't have anywhere near as much engineering experience as many of my peers, from the few engineering classes I have taken, I must say this is a simple, yet very much needed forum.  One of the hardest parts about engineering is figuring out where the faults are.  Without knowing this, nothing can be accomplished.  But since engineers aren't actively in medical facilities, it is probably difficult for them to perceive what these problems are.  Perhaps they find out from reading articles and asking around, but there may still be some problems that evade the engineers.  Ultimately, this program accelerates the engineering process, if not enhancing it altogether.  I wonder if the medical industry could do similar forums with other groups.  For example, they could get feedback from people who lack healthcare access, or doctors from other departments.  Any more ideas?  Feel free to comment.

IDEA Labs bridges medical, engineering gap

Students, faculty work together to solve clinical problems
By Allison Braun

Allison Braun
Chien-Huan Chen, MD, PhD, talks with students interested in devising new technology to help explore the small intestine. He discussed concerns with current tools at IDEA Labs’ inaugural “Problem Day” earlier this month.

One doctor wants a better chair to position patients during lumbar puncture procedures. Another wants a more accurate tool for small bowel exploration. And another wants to access patients’ medical information with the swipe of a card. These were among about 20 ideas presented by faculty during IDEA Labs’ inaugural “Problem Day” Oct. 11 in hopes that the 83 undergraduate, medical and graduate students who attended might be able to devise solutions.
IDEA Labs is a bioengineering design incubator founded last fall at Washington University in St. Louis as a joint venture of the schools of Medicine and Engineering & Applied Science and the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences (DBBS). The program’s goal is to tackle unmet needs in health-care delivery and clinical medicine by fostering collaboration between students and faculty.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Researchers Can Re-Create Sense of Touch

My opinion:  Though I think this is great for people who have lost their sensory abilities, I'd also like to look at some of the alternative consequences of this researchers.  Does this also mean that scientists are on their way to making robots that can actually have senses?  Though this is an issue that may be a while off, I can see some people discouraging this kind of research because they would prefer to keep robots lesser than human.  Also, why were monkeys used in this study?  Perhaps they are the most similar to humans, but the article doesn't say exactly how the electrodes were implanted in their brains and what the consequences were.  It is unlikely that this was safer in the monkeys, so I'm guessing that some of them may have become ill or disabled afterward.  The most important question may be: Is there some way to do this without going through rigorous surgery?  Maybe with time, the electrodes will become smaller and this issue will be resolved.  Any thoughts?  Feel free to comment.

Researchers fake sense of touch in monkey brains, hope to build a better prosthetic

Medical prosthetics have come a long way in recent years, but with a few exceptions, artificial limbs still lack the tactility of their fleshy counterparts. Scientists at the University of Chicago are looking to plug those sensory gaps by researching how to simulate touch sensations within the brain, via electrical impulses. By implanting electrodes into the area of the brain that governs the five senses, scientists used electrical stimulation to artificially create feelings of touch and pressure in test monkeys. The Phoenixes posit that this could increase the dexterity of upper-limb neuroprosthetics without extensive patient training and that this is an important step toward restoring touch to those who've lost it, like those with spinal cord injuries. While the scientists realize these operations require incredibly invasive surgery, they believe the procedure's potential could eventually justify the risk for those who don't have other options.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Doctor Cures Man of Double Vision: How Some Doctors Don't Let Their Patients Down

Article Link At Bottom

My thoughts:  As happy as I am to see this man cured of double vision, I'd like to focus on how he was cured.  Considering that so many doctors were unable to diagnose his condition, it frankly makes pre-meds like me afraid that we will let some patients down.  This may be inevitable, but how can we fail less often?  For one thing, I just read another article about another man with an "untreatable" condition.  One doctor, though, instead of asking the patients questions right from the get-go, let him speak his mind and waiting to ask questions after he finished explaining his condition.  This was the same doctor who was finally able to diagnose and treat him condition accurately.  So perhaps this is a start.  I'm also wondering if doctors can do more research to find what might be closely related to the described condition, even if they don't know exactly what it is.  And at the very least, if all else fails, maybe they could provide references to other doctors who may more closely specialize in particular treatments.  Are there any ideas you can come up with?  Or, if you're a doctor, have you often been in situations like this?  Feel free to comment.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Want Hair? Baldness May Soon Be a Thing of the Past

My opinion:  I think that the research done here offers a fine approach for other researchers working on the same or similar topic.  Here, they discovered that it is not just the hair follicles that make the hair, its the cells beneath them, too!  Even in my biology class, we were just studying how specific cells carry out certain functions that others can't.  In this case, the cells probably provide the resources needed to grow hair, and other cells are incapable of doing so, at least at the same strength.  I hope that the this method proves to be effective, and that other researchers consider experimenting with cells that may aid their ultimate goal.  With that, I'd like to ask a question about baldness.  How necessary is it to recover hair?  Does this provide significant protection from the sun's harmful rays, and what are the psychological benefits?  Feel free to comment.

Closer to a Cure for Baldness

Getty Images
Turning hair growth on its head — by transplanting hair follicles upside down — may provide hope for receding hairlines.
It’s one of the more vexing problems in medicine — about half of men and women over age 50 experience hair loss, from thinning of their scalp to male pattern baldness. Their options, however, are few. Medications can only slow the rate of loss, without generating lush new growth, while surgical strategies essentially move hair-growing cells from one part of the scalp to another, with varying success.
The ideal solution would be one that prompts defective hair follicles to sprout new hair, or that allows transplanted follicles to have a greater chance of laying down roots. And in new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists led by a team at Columbia University Medical Center reveal one potentially robust way of accomplishing this feat.
Working from the knowledge that hair follicles may need just the right cellular and molecular environment to do their job, the scientists transplanted not just the hair follicles, which serve as the root for new hair growth, but the dermal papilla cells that accompany them. The key was to transplant them in a three-dimensional sphere of cells — and upside down — so that all of the cells could communicate and interact with one another to send the right signals to prompt hair growth. To test the strategy, the researchers grew dermal papilla cells from seven human donors and cloned the cells in tissue culture. After several days, they transplanted the cultured papillae between the dermis and epidermis layers of human-skin samples. The human skin was then grafted onto the back of mice. Five of the seven transplants led to hirsute patches that lasted for at least six weeks.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Fire Releases Medical Waste, Sickens Detroit Community

My opinion:  I think this situation is actually only a small example of the potential dangers of medical waste and germs.  Perhaps medical waste is not carefully regulated enough by certain facilities.  Or, it is possible that some people who generate waste as a part of their treatment do not dispose of it properly.  In addition, this brings up the topic of passing germs that do not originate from medical waste.  In hospitals, though there are many regulations, there may be an exchange of a few items between patients and other people, whether they be medical staff or visitors.  And sometimes hand sanitizer doesn't do the trick to kill germs.  So how can waste be better stored?  Many waste containers are already fireproof.  According to the article, there are not enough regulations that track waste disposal.  So would this be enough, or should all facilities with medical waste containers be better trained beforehand on how to use them?  Feel free to comment or add suggestions.   

People who work by fire at Detroit warehouse filled with medical waste report medical problems

Posted: 10/17/2013
By: Kim Russell
Detroit (WXYZ) - Just as Seven Action News was about to expose the fact that someone was storing boxes of medical waste in an unsecured Detroit warehouse, the warehouse went up in flames.
Now people who work nearby say since the fire on September 26, they are getting sick. 
“I’ve never had asthma, and I couldn’t breathe,” said Vaughnia Vega, who says she has been sick since the fire.
She isn’t the only one. Bridging Communities Executive Director Phyllis Edwards says Vega is only one of several workers who got sick with blisters, cellulitis, or respiratory problems right after the fire.   
“Something needs to be done,” said Edwards.
One doctor said a worker had symptoms associated with breathing in formaldehyde vapors.
“We want to know what was in that building.  What exactly was being stored there?  Would this be allowed in another community?” asked Edwards.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Guess What May Cause Throat Cancer? Your Belt

My opinion: This study appears to point out some other factors that would lead to the same consequences as a tight belt.  For example, I could see this happening in people who suck in their stomachs a lot or who wear tummy-tuckers.  What's more, the risk of throat cancer probably increases if people constrict their stomachs while eating.  Maybe these belts aren't the most necessarily, but for those who want to wear them, perhaps it is best to take them off or replace them during meals?  Any other potential solutions?  Feel free to comment.

Tight Belts Linked To Increased Throat Cancer Risk: Constricted Waistbands Can Lead To Acid Reflux, Damage Cells

Woman wearing tight belt
(Colin Rose, CC BY-SA 2.0)  Tight belts and constricting waistbands may increase your risk of throat cancer.
Whether you wear a belt to make your pants fit or to make a fashion statement, wearing a tight belt is found to increase your risk of throat cancer, according to a recent study. Researchers from Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities and Southern General Hospital in Scotland examined how abdominal pressure from wearing a tight belt or waistband increases the odds of acid reflux after food consumption.
Twenty-four participants, half with normal waist sizes and half who were overweight, were the sample size for the small study. The participants had no prior history of acid reflux and were overall healthy. The researchers asked the participants to swallow a specially designed probe that took measurements both before and after each participant had eaten a meal. The measurements were taken while the volunteers were wearing a tight belt and when they were not wearing a belt.
All of the participants involved in the study reported experiencing a partial hiatus hernia and acid reflux, according to the Daily Record. “Wearing a tight belt, especially if you are overweight, puts strain on the valve between the stomach and the gullet,” Kenneth McColl, lead researcher of the study and professor at Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, told the Daily Record. The added pressure on the valve causes the stomach acid to leak upwards into the throat and ultimately produces acid reflux.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chemical From Beaver Butts Used in Vanilla Production: What This Means About Food

My opinion:  Never, ever would I have guessed this!  What makes this even more interesting, though, is that the chemical used for vanilla, or castoreum, is often mixed with beaver excrement.  The article offers no suggestion as to how the castoreum is separated from everything else.  What's more, since the FDA doesn't require that castoreum be labeled as a specific ingredient, how would the public know of this entire process to begin with?  I think this article serves as an example that some everyday foods are made in bizarre manners, some of which may or may not be detrimental.  I remember once when my kitchen was filling up with worms - no one knew where they were coming from.  Then, one day, as I was cleaning out the cereal cabinet, I noticed a box of cereal that had never been opened.  When I tore the seal, I saw that the plastic bag inside with the cereal was full of black fly-like bugs, as well as the worms.  This was because the cereal was very old, and apparently insect eggs sometimes come in organic, natural cereals, but never hatch because we eat them before they can.  I just wish the public was at least more aware of things like this just in case there are negative consequences of utilizing these ingredients, someday. Any thoughts?  Feel free to comment.


Beaver butts emit goo used in vanilla flavored foods

  • beavernatgeo.jpg
    Beavers are among the largest of the rodents. (Joel Sartore/National Geographic)
Next time you pick up a vanilla candy, think twice. A chemical compound used in vanilla flavored foods and scents comes from the butt of a beaver.
Castoreum comes from a beaver's castor sacs, located between the pelvis and base of the tail. Due to its proximity to the anal glands, the slimy brown substance is often mixed with gland secretions and urine.
"I lift up the animal's tail," Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University told National Geographic. "I’m like, 'Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum.'"
"People think I'm nuts," she added. "I tell them, 'Oh, but it's beavers; it smells really good.'"
Beavers use the brown slime, often compared to a thinner version of molasses, to mark their territory. The musky, vanilla scent is attributed to a beaver's diet of bark and leaves.
Manufacture have been using castoreum as an additive in foods and perfumes for at least 80 years, according to a 2007 study in the International Journal of Toxicology.
But getting a beaver to emit castoreum is not easy. Foodies are willing to "milk" the animals in order to get their hands on the gooey substance.
"You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid," Crawford said. "You can squirt [castoreum] out. It's pretty gross."
Only 292-pounds per year is collected because the milking method is unpleasant for all parties involved.
And the worst part? The FDA-approved castoreum is not required to be listed as an ingredient on food items. Manufacturers may list "natural flavoring" instead.
Perhaps a bit too natural for us.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some People Can Make Beer In Their Guts - How Doctors Diagnose Strange Conditions

My opinion:  I must say, this case is truly bizarre.  I never would have guessed that it is possible to become drunk just by eating regular foods, although the article's explanation for this phenomena does make sense.  So what I'm wondering is this:  How do doctors manage to diagnose rare and even strange conditions?  Certainly, most doctors would suspect that this man was drinking and not admitting it.  And it is quite likely that a doctor may come across at least a few rare cases over his or her career.  The sad part is that, if the doctor cannot diagnose the illness correctly, then the patient might die. Perhaps being a doctor involves reconsidering treatments.  If the treatment for the first diagnosis doesn't work, then maybe the second one will.  And if the person is an outpatient, then he or she may become an inpatient so the doctor can monitor exactly what happens, like in this case.  Any other ideas?  Feel free to comment.


Auto-Brewery Syndrome: Apparently, You Can Make Beer In Your Gut

Most of us prefer drinking fermented beverages,€” not producing them in our gut.
Most of us prefer drinking fermented beverages,€” not producing them in our gut.
Morgan Walker/NPR
This medical case may give a whole new meaning to the phrase "beer gut."
A 61-year-old man — with a history of home-brewing — stumbled into a Texas emergency room complaining of dizziness. Nurses ran a Breathalyzer test. And sure enough, the man's blood alcohol concentration was a whopping 0.37 percent, or almost five times the legal limit for driving in Texas.
There was just one hitch: The man said that he hadn't touched a drop of alcohol that day.
"He would get drunk out of the blue — on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime," says , the dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage, Texas. "His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer."
Other medical professionals chalked up the man's problem to "closet drinking." But Cordell and Dr. Justin McCarthy, a gastroenterologist in Lubbock, wanted to figure out what was really going on.
So the team searched the man's belongings for liquor and then isolated him in a hospital room for 24 hours. Throughout the day, he ate carbohydrate-rich foods, and the doctors periodically checked his blood for alcohol. At one point, it rose 0.12 percent.
Eventually, McCarthy and Cordell pinpointed the culprit: an overabundance of brewer's yeast in his gut.
That's right, folks. According to Cordell and McCarthy, the man's intestinal tract was acting like his own internal brewery.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Case Western Researchers Devise Quicker Diagnosis for MS

My opinion:  I think the most important part about this discovery is that the earlier diagnosis leads to earlier treatment, which would actually slow the disease down.  What I'm wondering is if biological markers, such as MeDAS, aren't studied or produced enough.  All the hype seems to be around treatment.  Though obviously this is extremely important, too, perhaps early diagnosis is even better in some scenarios.  I've heard stories of certain diseases that, early on, were quite treatable, but because they were not examined by a doctor, they eventually became too difficult to cure.  So should more research be focused on diagnostic techniques rather than direct treatment?  Feel free to comment.

School of Medicine breakthrough offers first direct measurement of spinal cord myelin in MS

Real-time imaging technique provides essential molecular picture of protective nerve sheath

Researchers have made a major breakthrough, developing a first-of-its-kind imaging tool to examine myelin damage in multiple sclerosis (MS). An extremely difficult disease to diagnose, the tool will help physicians diagnose patients earlier, monitor the disease’s progression and evaluate therapy efficacy.
School of Medicine scientists have developed a novel molecular probe detectable by positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. The new molecular marker, MeDAS, offers the first non-invasive visualization of myelin integrity of the entire spinal cord at the same time, as published in an article in the Annals of Neurology.
“While MS originates in the immune system, the damage occurs to the myelin structure of the central nervous system. Our discovery brings new hope to clinicians who may be able to make an accurate diagnosis and prognosis in as little as a few hours compared to months or even years,” said Yanming Wang, senior author of study and associate professor of radiology.  “Because of its shape and size, it is particularly difficult to directly detect myelin damage in the spinal cord; this is the first time we have been able to image its function at the molecular level.”


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Are Hospitals Too Much Like Hotels? How to Better Spend Funds

My opinion: I think there may be some ways to make hospitals look nicer without spending so many funds on them.  First of all, for hospitals to have things like nail salons probably isn't necessary.  Instead, urban planners may be able to build such places around the hospital or vice versa.  Also, many people complain that there is lack of artwork in hospitals, with their white walls mesmerizing visitors and patients.  There are probably some artists who are willing to donate some of their creations to make the hospital environment more lively.  Though this may help improve the quality of the hospital experience, these techniques can only do so much.  Ultimately, though, I don't believe that cutting back on the hospital features will reduce the cost of healthcare by that much.  Other articles of mine have stressed that the cost of medication/surgical parts are much higher than in Europe, and these probably cannot be correlated with the cost of the building.  While this is one factor that may contribute to the financial situation in the healthcare industry, it doesn't play a main role in determining cost.  Feel free to comment.


Is This a Hospital or a Hotel?

As the new St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland, Ill., prepared to open in August, its chief executive exulted, “You feel like you could be at the Marriott.”
In the $63 million community hospital, patients all enjoy private rooms, with couches, flat-screen TVs and views of nature. Its lobby features stone fireplaces and a waterfall.
Some hospitals in the United States, like Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, have long been associated with deluxe accommodations, and others have always had suites for V.I.P.’s. But today even many smaller hospitals often offer general amenities, like room service and nail salons, more often associated with hotels than health care.
In the current boom of hospital construction, private rooms have become the norm. And some health economists worry that the luxury surroundings are adding unneeded costs to the nation’s $2.7 trillion health care bill.
There are some medical arguments for the trend — private rooms, for example, could lower infection rates and allow patients more rest as they heal. But the main reason for the largess is marketing.
In a highly competitive field, patients — sometimes now referred to as “guests” — appreciate amenities. The tactic works. “We found that patient demand correlates much better to amenities than quality of care,” said Dr. John Romley, a research professor at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics of the University of Southern California, who has studied the trend. That means that hospitals can improve their bottom line and their reputation by focusing more on hospitality than health care — offering organic food by a celebrity chef rather than lowering medication errors, for example.
As a result, American hospitals are looking less and less like their more utilitarian counterparts in Europe, where the average hospital charges per day are often less than a quarter of those in the United States, according to the International Federation of Health Plans. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Would You Name A Hospital ER After A Clothing Company?

My opinion:  Have an emergency medical condition?  How about visiting Abercrombie and Fitch?  No, not the clothing store, the Emergency Room!  Though I have heard of many companies rather than individual people donating to certain facilities and pavilions, this company seems rather unrelated to medical practice.  Furthermore, I'm wondering if there are any unintended consequences that would go with this.  For example, will younger people with medical conditions be tempted to visit this ER rather than others, or will some avoid it because of the recent scandal surrounding the company.  Again, maybe it's just me being ridiculous, but I still think there's a possibility that this name will influence which patients come and which ones avoid the ER.  Any thoughts?  Feel free to comment.

Ohio State may name hospital emergency room after Abercrombie & Fitch

Ohio State University plans to name the new emergency department at its medical center after the Abercrombie & Fitch clothing company, a year after another Columbus hospital named its emergency center after the brand.
The Ohio State Board of Trustees is to vote Friday on a proposal to create the Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency Department, which will be twice the size of the department now housed at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center when it opens in 2014.
The name is a nod to the more than $10 million the New Albany-based company has given the medical center in recent years, said Bob Mackle, a medical center spokesman, and for helping to create the Abercrombie & Fitch Chair in Inflammatory Bowel Disease faculty position.
“As a nonprofit health system, we value and recognize the benefits of philanthropic support to our endeavors to improve health care in our community,” Mackle wrote in a statement.
The new emergency department is part of a $1.1 billion expansion of the medical center, including a new cancer hospital and research institute.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Brain Scans Reveal Who May Continue Committing Crimes

My opinion: As much as I like these advancements, there are still many issues that need to be resolved.  First of all, the obvious is that this study must be compared to others to see if there are correlations between research groups.  Second, it may be a good idea to attempt to classify the types of crimes that the subjects are most likely to commit, as well as their severity.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, we need to figure out how these people can get help.  Without this last factor, the brain scans are meaningless.  Also, I think this is a good step to figuring out which people are high-profile murderers, but it may require the researchers to study other parts of the brain as well.  Since there are so few of these people who are available for study (since many die in the process), maybe researchers can try to compare them to a larger number of similar criminals.  Any other thoughts for progressing this research?  Feel free to comment.

Brain scans may show which criminals are more likely to continue life of crime

Can a criminal's brain scan reveal if he or she is more likely to commit another crime?
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 27 revealed that convicts with low-activity in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) were more likely to be arrested again.
The ACC is a small area in the front of the brain that controls motor function and executive functioning, which are skills required for planning, organization and self-control. Researchers looked at 96 male prisoners right before they were released. The subjects' brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they were instructed to do computer tasks where they had to make quick decisions and rely on their impulses. Then, the researchers followed the subjects for four years.
Men who had lower ACC activity had a 2.6 times higher rate of rearrest for all crimes and a 4.3 times higher rate arrest for non-violent crimes.
The authors, however, said that the method isn't reliable for predicting crimes, warning that scanning brains might only mark high-risk felons, leaving the majority of low-risk ones alone. Also, the test hasn't been compared to other written tasks that have been created to try and determine the likelihood a person will commit a crime again. The researchers have scanned 3,000 inmates in New Mexico state prisons and hope to expand their tests.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Do men with smaller testicles make better fathers?

My opinion:  At first I thought this study may have correlated with hormones, but as it turns out, it doesn't.  Testicular size doesn't appear to affect the amount of testosterone and semen volume.  If it did, then perhaps these particular fathers would have acted, in some regards, more involved like mothers because of a higher estrogen to testosterone ratio.  But it is more likely a matter of evolutionary factors, that is, men who have smaller testicles may not mate as much, and therefore may have more time to help raise children.  It would be interesting to see if these fathers are having fewer children than those with bigger "materials."  If so, then the fathers may be more involved simply because they don't have as many kids on their hands, rather than spending their time trying to mate.  Any other thoughts on this bizarre study?  Feel free to comment.


Study: Smaller testicles, more-involved dads?

By Josh Levs, CNN
updated 5:23 PM EDT, Mon September 9, 2013
Ball size only matters when you're playing catch with your kids, Josh Levs says.
Ball size only matters when you're playing catch with your kids, Josh Levs says.
  • Study suggests that dads with smaller testicles are more nurturing
  • Research doesn't claim size of a man's genitals determines how good of a dad he'll be
  • Previous studies suggested less testosterone leads to less mating, more parenting
Editor's note: CNN's Josh Levs covers a wide range of topics and offers his personal take on fatherhood. He describes parenthood as part of the ultimate dream in his TEDx talk, "Breaking the System to Achieve the Impossible." Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
(CNN) -- Oh, boy.
Here's a scientific study that might send a bout of collective laughter across humanity.
Followed by some obscure measuring.
And as much as I'd like to type just about anything else, CNN has deemed me the one to share this with you. So, here goes.
A new study suggests that dads with smaller testicles are more likely to be nurturing to their infants.
OK then.
Josh Levs
Josh Levs
It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which goes by the acronym PNAS (Yes, that's chuckle-worthy in this context, so go ahead and laugh).
Researchers at Emory University used an MRI to measure the gonads of 70 lucky biological fathers, age 21 to 43, in the Atlanta area. (Yes, they got paid for this.)
The scientists also studied each dad's brain pattern as he viewed photos of his child, a stranger's child or an adult stranger.
They were looking for activity in a part of the brain believed to be "involved in the motivation to approach and nurture offspring," said Emory anthropologist James Rilling, one of the study authors.
Meanwhile, the men's partners answered questions about how involved they were in taking care of their infant children. Do they take them to doctor visits or put them to bed?
The researchers then crunched -- sorry, bad choice of verbs -- the data.
"Fathers' testicular volume and testosterone levels were inversely related to parental investment," the study says, "and testes volume was inversely correlated with nurturing-related brain activity when viewing pictures of their own child."


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Could Ear Protein Help Cure ADHD?

My opinion:  This provides a good example of how bizarre bodily functions can sometimes affect entirely different parts of the body.  Just as the lack of ear protein may contribute to hyperactivity, I wonder if other proteins, like those made in the eyes, affect the same issue.  Though it would probably take researchers a while to make any new discoveries, I think these findings may help advance the treatment of ADHD.  Instead of giving our children medications which temporarily relieve the problem, a new medication that fixes this protein issue may directly address the root cause.  Of course, I'm sure many who have ADHD aren't lacking this ear protein.  But it does go to show that, for conditions that are very broadly based, a wide variety of diagnostic techniques and treatments are needed in order to eliminate the problem at hand.  Any other research that may prove useful for ADHD?  Feel free to comment.

Inner ear defects linked to hyperactivity, study finds

What causes hyperactivity? The answer may lie not only between your ears, but inside them.
A genetic defect in the inner ear has been shown to cause hyperactive behavior in mice. The mutation ramps up proteins that regulate signaling in the brain, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science.
These findings may explain why children with severe hearing loss also tend to exhibit hyperactive behavior. Earlier explanations have focused mainly on social and environmental factors, which can be hard to identify. Now, scientists have evidence of “a neurobiological basis for hyperactive behaviors,” said Jean Hébert, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “That opens new ways to treat these behaviors.”
Hébert and his colleagues began studying hyperactivity in their mice when they noticed some of them acting strangely: They moved wildly in their cages, running “round and round in little circles” and “jerking their heads chaotically,” Hébert said.
When the researchers later dissected the animals, they noticed that their inner ears were damaged. To investigate whether genetics played a role, the team examined three genes known to be important for inner ear development. One of the genes, called Slc12a2, was missing in the hyperactive mice.
The protein encoded by Slc12a2 produces endolymph, a fluid that bathes the inner ear and is important for maintaining balance. But Slc12a2 is also expressed in the brain, where it controls neuron activity.