Health & Wellness

Magic Wand

Technology, Biology Turn Thought Into Action

Using computers for checking e-mail, drawing images and playing games seem like common tasks for most people. For the severely paralyzed, however, these undertakings can be beyond their reach.

Neurotechnology -- using technology to study the brain -- relies on methods such as CAT (computed axial tomography) scans and deep brain stimulation. In deep brain stimulation, medical devices are placed on the brain in an effort to control brain activity and aid another part of the body.

Comment: Though the article states the benefits this technology provides for injured people, keep in mind that it can be used for the purpose of social control as well.


Laser Brain Treatment for Troops with Brain Injuries

There is a new medical breakthrough that helps troops suffering from brain injuries and stroke patients.

Saliva Can Help Diagnose Heart Attack, Study Shows

Early diagnosis of a heart attack may now be possible using only a few drops of saliva and a new nano-bio-chip, a multi-institutional team led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin reported at a recent meeting of the American Association for Dental Research.

The nano-bio-chip assay could some day be used to analyze a patient's saliva on board an ambulance, at the dentist's office or at a neighborhood drugstore, helping save lives and prevent damage from cardiac disease. The device is the size of a credit card and can produce results in as little as 15 minutes.

"Many heart attack victims, especially women, experience nonspecific symptoms and secure medical help too late after permanent damage to the cardiac tissue has occurred," says John T. McDevitt, principal investigator and designer of the nano-bio-chip. "Our tests promise to dramatically improve the accuracy and speed of cardiac diagnosis."

The oldest Americans are also the happiest, research finds

It turns out the golden years really are golden.

Eye-opening new research finds the happiest Americans are the oldest, and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely senior suggests. The two go hand-in-hand: Being social can help keep away the blues.

"The good news is that with age comes happiness," said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. "Life gets better in one's perception as one ages."

How "artificial sperm" could help infertile couples

In the 30 years since Louise Brown became the first test- tube baby, fertility treatment has come so far that it now accounts for one UK birth in 100. Yet there are still patients for whom it can do little. Men who make no sperm, and women with no eggs, must rely on adoption, donor conception or surrogacy if they want to start a family. That situation, however, may soon change because of advances in stem cell research. Sperm grown from embryonic stem cells have already been used to produce mouse pups, and scientists are trying to use similar techniques to make human reproductive cells, or gametes. This week, the Hinxton group - a panel of stem cell experts - predicted that success could be as little as five years away.
Arrow Down

Cholera kills 67 in Kenya, fungus wipes out rice - UN

Geneva - A cholera outbreak in Kenya has killed 67 people so far this year, while a fungus has wiped out up to 20 percent of the country's annual rice production, United Nations agencies said on Friday.

Nearly 1,300 cases of cholera, a virulent water-borne disease, have been reported in the east African country since January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Comment: Cholera outbreaks have been recently reported also in Vietnam, Congo and Iraq.

Evil Rays

Electrical implant may help fight obesity

There may be new hope for people struggling with obesity.

It's called VBLOC therapy and it works by stopping the impulse to overeat by blocking the vagal nerves. Those nerves communicate feelings of hunger and fullness from the brain to the stomach.

With the new approach, doctors insert a VBLOC device just beneath the skin. It's a receiver. Electrodes are hooked up to the vagal nerves. And the patient wears a belt that transmits electronic impulses to confuse or block the nerves' signals. The desired result - pangs of hunger are reduced, and patients eat less.

Comment: This seems to be yet another attempt to acclimatise us to being 'chipped'. Is this really such a good idea?


'Pacemaker for the brain' being studied

Brenda Talavera was pretty matter-of-fact when her doctor suggested that they implant a stimulator the size of a small cell phone inside her brain.

"If it was going to make me better, do it," the Seattle woman said while standing in her living room filled with hockey memorabilia. "If it didn't work, they could remove it."

©Andy Rogers / P-I
Brenda Talavera uses a tethered wand to collect information about her epileptic seizures that's stored on the device implanted in her brain. She then uses a computer to transmit the data to her doctor. Talavera is part of a clinical trial at Swedish that is testing the effectiveness of the Responsive Neurostimulator System, which detects abnormal electrical activity in the brain and then delivers electrical stimulation.

Comment: Do we really want to get comfortable with this kind of technology?


Baby Bottle Maker to Stop Using Plastic Linked to Health Concerns

Nalgene baby bottles
©David McNew/Getty Images
Nalgene brand water bottles had used bisphenol-a, which some studies in animals linked to hormonal changes.

Nalgene, the brand that popularized water bottles made from hard, clear and nearly unbreakable polycarbonate, will stop using the plastic because of growing concern over one of its ingredients.

The decision by Nalgene Outdoor Products, a unit of Thermo Fisher Scientific, based in Rochester, came after reports that the Canadian government would declare the chemical bisphenol-a, or BPA, toxic. Some animal studies have linked the chemical to changes in the hormonal system.
Pocket Knife

Hypnotist 'put himself into trance for surgery'

Alex Lenkei
Alex Lenkei could hear bones cracking but felt nothing

A hypnotist stunned medics by snubbing anaesthetic and sending himself into a trance before undergoing surgery.

Mind-bender Alex Lenkei, who could hear the cracking of bones as the surgeon sawed at his hand but felt nothing, is thought to be the first person in the world to perform the feat.