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Radical new drug-testing tech could dramatically cut animal testing

After spending an average of $2.5 billion to develop a single new drug, sometimes pharma companies have to pull it from the market due to a bad outcome that was not detected in clinical studies.

That’s what happened in 2000, when a promising Type 2 diabetes drug called troglitazone led to idiosyncratic (unexplained) liver damage in one of every 60,000 users.

The troglitazone mystery wasn’t solved until March 2016, when a novel “liver-on-a-chip” platform developed by Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Yaakov Nahmias revealed what no animal or human tests could: even low concentrations of this drug caused liver stress before any damage could be seen.

“It was the first time an organ-on-chip device could predict information to help pharmaceutical companies define risk for idiosyncratic toxicity,” Nahmias tells ISRAEL21c.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - Full Story

NanoVelcro microchips could someday noninvasively diagnose prenatal conditions

Many pregnant women undergo some form of prenatal testing before their children are born. The information that expectant mothers gain from these tests vary, from the baby’s gender to genetic defects. But the tests are often invasive, which can potentially harm the fetus and the mother. Now, one group reports in ACS Nano that they have developed a device that provides sensitive results but in a less invasive way: a blood test.

Current prenatal tests such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling are accurate, but are also invasive and increase the risk of a miscarriage. Some less invasive tests that could be safer are in development. For example, researchers are working on ways to detect fetal DNA in a mother’s blood, but that genetic material is typically found in short pieces and in very small quantities. Whole fetal cells containing entire genomes also circulate in a mother’s blood. These rare, fragile cells could provide a wealth of information about a fetus’ health, but so far, no method is ideal for capturing them. Hsian-Rong Tseng, Li-Ching Chen, Angela Chen, Margareta Pisarska, Ming-Song Tsai and colleagues previously reported a “NanoVelcro” microchip assay for detecting rare circulating tumor cells. So, in their new paper, they wanted to see if this assay also would work with rare circulating fetal cells.

The researchers developed a new class of NanoVelcro microchips that were prepared with a nano-imprinting fabrication process, which made them more reproducible and faster to make than the previous chips. To specifically capture the fetal cells, the team attached an antibody to a marker on the cells’ surface. When they tested the blood of 15 pregnant women, they found that the method could enrich for fetal cells. It also accurately determined the sexes of the fetuses, as well as genetic conditions that were previously diagnosed by other methods in nine of the fetuses.

Imprinted NanoVelcro Microchips for Isolation and Characterization of Circulating Fetal Trophoblasts: Toward Noninvasive Prenatal Diagnostics

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - Full Story

The $1,000,000 Surgical Error

Many years ago I wrote, “The problem with laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery is it leaves the impression that tiny incisions mean a simple, uncomplicated way to perform an operation. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as catastrophic complications can happen.”  Recently, a Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) survey confirmed the potential dangers of keyhole surgery. So what went wrong to cause a $ 1,000,000 settlement?

The CMPA reviewed 423 surgical cases involving keyhole surgery. It revealed that patients suffered a number of injuries to the bowel, blood vessels, nerves, and reproductive organs. There were 46 deaths. 

Operations that resulted in the most trouble were hysterectomy, other gynecological procedures, removal of the gallbladder, appendix and kidney.

By News on the Net - Monday, July 24, 2017 - Full Story

Orthopedic surgery in Canada: Most had positive outcomes, but one-in-four found the wait too long

As news reports profile orthopedic surgery patients frustrated with lengthy wait-times, a unique Angus Reid Institute survey of more than 1,500 Canadians who have undergone orthopedic surgery within the last ten years finds large majorities satisfied with their surgeon, hospital, and surgery outcome, but a significantly smaller number satisfied with the amount of time they had to wait.

By Angus Reid Institute - Monday, July 24, 2017 - Full Story

Need Cataract Surgery? So What Should You Know?

Do you remember the Holiday Inn ad? It stated, “There Are No Surprises at the Holiday Inn.” But, unlike Holiday Inns, there’s no such thing as surprise-free or risk-free surgery. To get an update about Cataract surgery I interviewed Dr. Raymond Stein, Medical Director of the Bochner Eye Institute, and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Toronto.

Today, by age 80, half of North Americans have developed cataracts. The only good treatment when visual loss finally affects quality of life is to have a foggy lens removed and replaced with another one. Today, due to improved surgical advances, it’s possibly the safest surgery performed.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, July 17, 2017 - Full Story

Measuring a patient’s vital signs without any contact

Our bodies are in constant motion – not only on the outside but within. Our hearts beat, our chests rise and fall with each breath, the composition of our blood changes as we take in alcohol or sugar. Each motion, great and small, generates vibrations on the molecular level.

Two scientists – Zeev Zalevsky, professor of electro-optics at Bar-Ilan University, and Javier Garcia-Monreal, professor of physics and optics at the University of Valencia in Spain – have been collaborating for a dozen years on developing ways to measure the tiny, “nanometric” vibrations the body emits.

The result of their decade-long research is a revolutionary way to monitor patients’ vital signs without any physical contact – no more intrusive cables, wires, tubes or IVs.

In 2015, Zalevsky and Garcia-Monreal formed a company, ContinUse Biometrics, to commercialize their work and bring it to consumers and medical professionals.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - Full Story

Swimming In 20 Gallons of Pee!

Have you ever wondered what you’re swimming in when someone invites you to a pool party? I’ve always found it hard to turn down these weekend soirees. The weather is usually good, you enjoy cocktails talking to friends, and then a refreshing dip in the pool. Now, an eye-boggling report by Jennifer Clopton in the publication WebMD, shows there’s more lurking in the pool than you imagined.

Clopton reports that Indiana Health Officials had to close a water park when two children received chemical burns from chlorine in the water! This resulted when the chlorine equipment malfunctioned. At least this is a fixable problem.

But Clopton’s research also shows that fixing human behaviour poses a greater challenge. Her study shows that many people pee in pools.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, July 10, 2017 - Full Story

Israeli doctors find link between Alzheimer’s and bedsores

Dr. Efraim Jaul, director of geriatric skilled nursing at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem, noticed that many patients with dementia — and especially those with Alzheimer’s disease — seemed more prone to developing pressure ulcers (bedsores).

It occurred to him that perhaps the significantly higher incidence of bedsores was not simply a result of the immobility of advanced dementia patients, as is commonly assumed.

“I wondered if they were really distinct diseases or if there could be any connection between them,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

Quantifying the phenomenon in his own hospital, Jaul found that 76 percent of geriatric patients with pressure ulcers had dementia, whereas only 32% of patients without pressure ulcers had dementia.—More...

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, July 5, 2017 - Full Story

Damn It, I was born too soon

Is it an impossible dream to find Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth? No! I’ve just attended my 67th reunion at The Harvard Medical School (HMS) and, while interviewing Dr. George Church, I discovered it is no longer science fiction.

Dr. Church, Professor of Genetics at HMS, one of the world’s great scientists, predicts we are about to end the aging process. In the next five years no less! That’s why I say “Damn it, I was born too soon.”

Is Church too optimistic? Maybe, but when you see his 6-foot 5 inch body towering over you, with his white beard, it’s like talking to Charles Darwin or even Jesus Christ.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, July 3, 2017 - Full Story

What Are You Doing To Grandma?

Is Grandma’s doctor slowly harming her by over-medication? I’m being facetious here, as no doctor wants to injure patients. But remember, today is not the horse-and-buggy era of medical practice. Today, rushed doctor visits and potent drugs can be a hazardous combination. So can you protect a beloved grandparent?

First, keep an eye on what grandparents are consuming. Studies show that 60 percent of those over 65 are taking five or more prescription drugs. This includes one in five who are taking 10 or more drugs and one in 20 using 15 or more. “Pillitis” has reached staggering levels in 2017 and it’s potentially harmful. Especially when natural remedies may treat Grandma better.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - Full Story

First dual-targeting nanoparticles lower cancer’s defenses and attack tumors

Cancer immunotherapy has emerged as one of the most exciting directions in cancer treatment.  But the approach only works in a fraction of patients and can cause nasty side effects. Now, in the journal ACS Nano, scientists report the development of the first dual-cell targeting immunotherapy nanoparticle that slows tumor growth in mice with different cancers. In their study, up to half the mice in one cancer group went into full remission after the treatment.

Immunotherapy works by giving the body’s own immune system a boost in its fight against disease. In cancer patients, there are two main lines of immunotherapy: One disables cancer cells’ ability to hide from the immune system, and the other recruits the body’s T cells to destroy tumors. Jonathan P. Schneck and colleagues wanted to see if they could combine these two tactics with one nanoparticle-based platform.

 

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - Full Story

Multiple sclerosis study reveals possible trigger

Multiple sclerosis, one of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases, affects some 2.5 million people worldwide and has no known cure.

Researchers have long speculated that MS is triggered by the body’s own immune system unleashing an uncontrolled attack on myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells (neurons).

A study published by Israeli scientists in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) pinpoints a structural instability in the myelin membranes, the “insulating tape” surrounding neurons.

This vulnerability seems to be what gives the immune system access to otherwise protected regions.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - Full Story

Over the Edge: An Experience I‘ll Never Forget

Why would anyone in their 94th year, without consulting a psychiatrist, agree to descend from the top of Toronto’s City Hall on a rope? My wife thought I had gone mad. Surreptitiously, I momentarily agreed with her! So what was it like descending (rappelling) from the top of a 30 story high building? And why did I do it?

My son is one of many volunteer WISH Grantors for Make-A-Wish Canada. It grants wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses. Since 1983 it fulfilled all kinds of requests for 6,800 children. And each year 600 more are granted the wish of their dreams. I discovered that my son was rappelling not only for a great cause but also for his current wish child, Kyle.  It occurred that I might join him in this worthy cause.

So what wishes do these children seek? You may have guessed that many young children want to go to Disneyland and meet Mickey Mouse. Some ask for the experience of meeting a fire-fighter. Others who hope to become a ballerina want to meet one.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, June 19, 2017 - Full Story

Bacteria from cystic fibrosis patient could help thwart antibiotic-resistant TB

The number of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) cases is rising globally. But a newly discovered natural antibiotic — produced by bacteria from the lung infection in a cystic fibrosis patient — could help fight these infections. Lab testing reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society shows that the compound is active against multi-drug resistant strains.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - Full Story

Israeli scientists find vital key to fixing damaged heart tissue

Researchers in Israel report they have discovered a molecule in newborn hearts that appears to control the process of renewing heart muscle.

When injected into adult mouse hearts injured by heart attacks, this molecule, called Agrin, seems to “unlock” that renewal process and enable heart muscle repair – something never seen in human heart tissue outside of the womb.

These findings, published June 5 in Nature,  point to new directions for research on restoring the function of damaged hearts. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

The healing process following a human heart attack is long and inefficient, explained Prof. Eldad Tzahor of the Weizmann Institute of Science, who led the study together with doctoral student Elad Bassat, research student Alex Genzelinakh and other Weizmann molecular cell biologists.

Once damaged, muscle cells called cardiomyocytes are replaced by scar tissue, which cannot pump blood and therefore place a burden on the remaining cardiomyocytes.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - Full Story

Do anti-wrinkle creams work? (video)

WASHINGTON,  — Want a younger, more perfect-looking you? Skin can stay firm and stretchy thanks to protein fibers called collagen and elastin in the tissue beneath the surface. But environmental factors like smoking or ultraviolet rays from the sun can produce antioxidants that damage skin cells’ ability to make more of these supports. Anti-wrinkle treatments claim they keep the skin surface fresh and rejuvenate these cells, but do they work? To find out whether an over-the-counter jar of cream could make 40 the new 20, we dive into the science:

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - Full Story

“I Was Married By a Judge, I Should Have Asked For a Jury”

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, remarked, “There are no boy philosophers”. Fortunately, most of us do get wiser as we age. However, it’s never been a top priority of mine to rush into old age so I could be a wise, elderly, medical journalist philosopher. Could I be wrong?  Consumer Reports on Health says there are several good things about aging. So I had to read on.

It appears I was wrong on one point. I’ve always believed that the elderly suffered from more depression than younger people. After all, they see old friends die, illnesses become more frequent, their wife runs away with the local preacher, and it’s not as much fun to look in the mirror. But according to the prestigious Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of depression actually go down after age 60.

This fact is confirmed by several other sources. For instance, a study of 340,000 people, published by the National Academy of Science, reports that those in their 60s and 70s were less troubled by negative emotions.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, June 12, 2017 - Full Story

Imaging technique could be game changer for pharma

In drug development, the body can be something of a black box. We take medicine and observe the overall effects, but what happens inside the body largely remains a mystery. To help clear up this picture, researchers are turning to imaging techniques in tissue and animal testing. The step has gained ground in the drug industry, according to a story in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

By American Chemical Society - Saturday, June 10, 2017 - Full Story

Patient safety is our highest concern

Last February, Dr. Bérard and her colleagues published an updated analysis of the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort data. Between 1998 and 2009, the rate of antidepressant use during pregnancy for the study population doubled, from 2.1% to 4.3%. During that same period, the rate of major congenital malformations increased by more than 50%, and the rate of maternal depression went up slightly as well.

In addition, the study once again confirmed the link between paroxetine and heart defects, finding that the drug was associated with a nearly 50% rise in the rate of major cardiac malformations. The study also showed that venlafaxine, the active ingredient in Effexor (the drug that Christiane took during her pregnancies) more than doubled the incidence of major respiratory defects (which two of Christiane and Amery’s children suffered from).

Part I: “Please don’t forget about me”: Antidepressants and birth defects
Part II: A gigantic uncontrolled experiment
Part III: I was Absolutely Distraught
Part IV: Patient safety is our highest concern

By Patrick D Hahn - Saturday, June 10, 2017 - Full Story

“I was absolutely distraught”

Lyam David-Kilker was born on 24 October 2005, the second son of Michelle David and Miles Kilker of Bensalem, Pennsylvania. At birth he seemed like a normal, happy, healthy infant, but all that soon changed. His breathing was labored, and he became lethargic and lost his appetite. His parents took him to the doctors, who delivered devastating news. Lyam was born with multiple cardiac defects: a hole in his atrial septum, a hole in his ventricular septum, along with transposition of the great arteries—the same condition which afflicted Christiane and Amery’s son Daniel. Lyam required two open-heart surgeries and spent the first six months of his life in the hospital.

Shortly before conceiving, Michelle David had been prescribed Paxil for mild anxiety and occasional panic attacks, and she continued to take the drug throughout her pregnancy. After Miles Kilker heard a commercial message on television for the law firm linking Paxil to congenital heart defects, Michelle called the number and was referred to Sean Tracey, a personal injury lawyer from Houston.

Part I: “Please don’t forget about me”: Antidepressants and birth defects
Part II: A gigantic uncontrolled experiment
Part III: I was Absolutely Distraught
Part IV: Patient safety is our highest concern

By Patrick D Hahn - Friday, June 9, 2017 - Full Story