Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

#1,406 – Heart Patch

Suffering a heart attack is one of my biggest fears.  Along with heights, the dark, swallowing a spider while I sleep, accidentally eating a Tofu burger, getting bitten by a snake, and dying before I get a chance to find out how Game of Thrones ends.

Because the problem with a heart attack is that it could come out of nowhere to kill you.  Right now one of my arteries may even be 99% clogged and I’d have no idea.  Thankfully, there may soon be something that can be done to treat heart attacks that would not only repair any damage but also potentially prevent them from happening again.  And if so, we’d have stem cells to thank.

According to Futurism, “Each year, 735,000 people in the U.S. alone suffer heart attacks. And because survivors’ hearts are damaged, more than a third face an increased risk of future heart failure.

We know that stem cells can help damaged hearts heal, but getting the cells to integrate with the blood-pumping organs has been a challenge — often, the heart tissue doesn’t fully retain the stem cells.

Now, an international team of researchers thinks it’s found a solution: a tiny patch covered in microneedles that deliver the stem cells directly into heart tissue.”

Now, this isn’t the first time that microneedle technology has made headlines.  Recently, it was reported that this same approach could be used to create painless drug delivery needles thereby eliminating everyone’s biggest fear.  Which begs the question: what else can microneedle technology be used for?!

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Is a microneedle heart patch the Greatest Idea Ever?


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People are likely going to be up in arms over news that a rogue Chinese scientist has allegedly (for the first-time ever) successfully used the CRISPR gene-editing technique to create a designer baby.  A set of female twins in fact.  Religious groups will likely object to the God like power that scientists now wield while ethicists will likely lament the potential for undesirable traits to be eliminated.

But when you dive deeper into the news is what was done really all that bad?  After all, the modification wasn’t done to remove undesirable traits.  The hair and eye color wasn’t altered.  Down Syndrome and autism weren’t rooted out.  It wasn’t given super strength or smarts.  At the end of the day there would be no discernible difference between these babies and any other.  Except for one key difference.  These particular babies can’t get AIDS.

As the New York Times reports, “The researcher, He Jiankui, said that he had altered a gene in the embryos, before having them implanted in the mother’s womb, with the goal of making the babies resistant to infection with H.I.V. He has not published the research in any journal and did not share any evidence or data that definitively proved he had done it.

But his previous work is known to many experts in the field, who said — many with alarm — that it was entirely possible he had.”

Now I get the obvious concerns but if this is what we’re going to use the technology for, if the usage is purely benevolent, and done to eradicate or prevent diseases, then shouldn’t we be all in?  As long as there are safeguards in place and we agree on appropriate uses shouldn’t we be heralding this decision instead of deriding it?

I think so.  Especially when you consider that we may even need this technology to save us all– by somehow making us all resistant to the damaging effects of climate change.

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Is creating a designer baby the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,397 – Cactus Pain Killer

Yesterday, I toured the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, Arizona where I marveled at the beauty and majesty of a wide array of cacti.  But as it turns out these beautiful plants offer more than just lovely photo ops.  Soon, they may even save our lives.  Or at least free us from a life-time of pain.

As Wired puts it, “In Morocco there grows a cactus-like plant that’s so hot, I have to insist that the next few sentences aren’t hyperbole. On the Scoville Scale of hotness, its active ingredient, resiniferatoxin, clocks in at 16 billion units. That’s 10,000 times hotter than the Carolina reaper, the world’s hottest pepper, and 45,000 times hotter than the hottest of habaneros, and 4.5 million times hotter than a piddling little jalapeno. Euphorbia resinifera, aka the resin spurge, is not to be eaten. Just to be safe, you probably shouldn’t even look at it.

But while that toxicity will lay up any mammal dumb enough to chew on the resin spurge, resiniferatoxin has also emerged as a promising painkiller. Inject RTX, as it’s known, into an aching joint, and it’ll actually destroy the nerve endings that signal pain. Which means medicine could soon get a new tool to help free us from the grasp of opioids.”

As someone who suffers from excruciating chronic back pain this news couldn’t come at a better time.  If it really is true and is successfully converted into a viable treatment it would be like a dream come true, giving me the ability to permanently turn off my pain, instead of just learning to tune it out.  So the next time I see a cactus it looks like I’ll be doing more than just taking a photo.  I’ll also be saying thank you.

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Is a cactus pain killer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Age related diseases are the worst.  Completely debilitating, with limited cures, they often sneak up on us, robbing us of our dignity, and ruining any chance we have of enjoying our retirement years.  But good news is on the way.  For it soon may be possible to detect Alzheimer’s, even years before symptoms appear, simply by conducting a non-invasive eye exam.

As Futurism reports, “At the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, not one but two research teams presented studies that suggest that changes in blood vessels in the eye can indicate Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear — and it may be the early detection technique we need to get ahead of this devastating disease.”

Personally I believe that early detection is going to be one of the hallmarks of medicine in the future.  As our technology continues to develop and our medical knowledge continues to advance we’ll get to the point where we eradicate some diseases completely, figure out how to bypass others (by growing replacement organs for the ones that fail us), and then ultimately work on early detection for the ones that we haven’t contracted yet.  It’ll be a multi-faceted approach to healthcare, one that attacks problems from the past (issues that already afflict us), the present (dealing with issues as they arise), and the future (taking a proactive approach instead of a reactive one) to any potential threats.

If we can use such a multi-faceted approach to tackle Alzheimer’s and do so in a quick and easy non-invasive way then that would be amazing.  So hopefully this research continues to bear fruit.  Because I’m not getting any younger!

Image result for alzheimers eye test

Is an eye test for Alzheimer’s the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,390 – ShapeScale

For some people, losing weight or gaining muscle, isn’t something that happens overnight.  The changes, if there are any, might show up more gradually over time.  If you want to stay motivated and know for sure that your hard work is paying off then you may need the ShapeScale, a new device capable of generating a 3D image of your body to help you better visualize your fitness.

As CNET puts it, “Sure, ShapeScale ships with an app that tracks your weight, but it also does something I’ve never seen before. It uses a robotic telescoping arm that circles your body and spits out a 360-degree image. The camera array can measure the tiny differences in your body’s size and plot the change for you to analyze over time.”

For instance, in just under a minute you’ll be provided with a heat map to see specifically where your recent changes have occurred.  You’ll then be able to see yourself from every angle, chart your progress over time, and set goals for yourself.  Everything that you need to take your fitness to the next level.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  That you already have a fitness tracker and don’t need the ShapeScale. But counting steps won’t help you define your shoulders and just weighing yourself on a standard scale won’t help you grow your chicken legs.  If you want to work on a specific part of your body then you’re going to need a way to track your progress specifically as it relates to that one area.  Short of going old school and using a tape measure there’s really no way to do that.  The ShapeScale changes that.  And soon it could be changing the entire way that you view your body.

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Is ShapeScale the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,389 – Apeel

One third of all food produced every year goes to waste.  Spoiling before it can even make it to market or getting thrown out once it gets there for not meeting our standards.  Meanwhile millions of people around the world are starving to death.  This is a logistical nightmare.  Technically we are creating enough food to feed everyone.  We’re just not doing a good enough job of getting it to them.  Apeel aims to change that by producing a natural coating that can be applied to fruit and vegetables to double their shelf life.  And in some cases even triple or quadruple it.

CNN explains how it works:

“Food typically rots when moisture exits, oxygen gets in and mold takes over. To prevent this, Apeel takes the skins, seeds and pulp of homogeneous fruits or veggies — such as grapes from a winery or tomato skins from a ketchup factor — and presses out an oil rich in fat lipids. The company turns the oil into a colorless, odorless, tasteless powder that is tailored for each type of produce to which it will be applied.”

This powder will save money across the board, both for retailers who won’t have to discard as much product, and for those entities operating across the supply chain who will now have lower refrigeration costs.  And best of all, it won’t raise the price for consumers either.  Literally, every single person from the consumer to the retailer to the food producer will benefit from this technology.  All while saving the global economy trillions of dollars and possibly ending world hunger.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

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Is Apeel the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The new Apple Watch Series 4 is so advanced, it can even detect if you’re about to have a heart attack.  But even the best smart watch is still limited by the fact that it’s still just a watch.  A technology that rigidly wraps around your wrist and may be uncomfortable to sleep in or wear 24/7.

Thankfully, there’s a new wearable device on the way that’s thinner than a piece of cardboard and looks more like a band-aid than a watch.  It’s so thin, in fact, that it more closely resembles skin than jewelry.  Which means that you’ll be able to keep it on your person at all times.

As Inverse explains, “this device really breaks ground is in the way it’s powered. This team was able to implant tiny organic solar cells on the device that can convert light into electricity. The idea was to create a self-sustaining wearable that never has to be taken off.”

Incredibly, this isn’t the only new “skin” currently being developed.  There’s also a synthetic skin being created for use with prosthetic limbs that’s so sensitive that it could replicate or even surpass our natural sense of touch.

According to Futurism, “Tests shows that the skin can sense extremely subtle pressure, such as a blowing breeze, dripping water, or crawling ants. In some cases, the synthetic skin responded to pressures so gentle that natural human skin wouldn’t be able to detect them.”

The only issue left to figure out is how to take the data being generated by this synthetic skin and get it fed into the nervous system.  A hurdle that scientists in other fields are likely to clear in the near future.  For now we’ll just have to be satisfied with the knowledge that we’re on the cusp of tremendous breakthroughs capable of changing our lives for the better.  In more ways than one.

Image result for wearable skin like band aid

Is a wearable that feels like skin the Greatest Idea Ever?

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