Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

#1,454 – MuTaTo

It’s the holy grail of modern science.  A cure for cancer.  For all cancers.  In one fell swoop.  And it may soon be possible thanks to an incredible breakthrough from an Israeli pharmaceutical company known as AEBi.

Futurism explains:

“According to The Jerusalem Post, “AEBi’s cancer cure is called MuTaTo, which stands for ‘multi-target toxin.’ It attacks cancer cells with several peptides — compounds comprising chains of amino acids — at once, and this multi-pronged attack is key to the treatment’s efficacy, the company says.”

Adds CEO Ilan Morad:

“’Instead of attacking receptors one at a time, we attack receptors three at a time,’ he continued. ‘Not even cancer can mutate three receptors at the same time.’”

And best of all, according to Forbes, “it will be brief, cheap and effective and will have no or minimal side-effects.”

It almost sounds too good to be true.  And it may very well be.  After all, these claims are coming directly from the company, haven’t been peer reviewed yet, and clinical trials haven’t taken place yet.  So we should temper our enthusiasm.  But then again we are talking about a cure for all cancers.  If they are even remotely on the right path then this is news worth celebrating.

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Is a cure for cancer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,450 – Drug Sponge

Chemotherapy may save lives but it’s also a horrendous brute force hack that often causes significant damage in its own right.  In short, it’s pretty awful.  Fortunately, there may soon be a way to lessen its impact thanks to a newly designed drug sponge.

As Futurism puts it, “most of the drugs used for chemotherapy are poisonous. That allows them to effectively kill cancer cells, but it also wreaks havoc on the rest of a patient’s body, causing side effects ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to hair loss and ulcers.

Now, researchers from several U.S. universities have developed a tiny sponge that sits in a patient’s vein during chemotherapy to absorb excess drugs, thereby minimizing side effects…”

Hopefully, this drug sponge can clear regulatory hurdles quickly and start helping cancer patients in short order.

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Is a drug sponge the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,448 – A Cure for Loneliness

I like to say that I never get lonely.  After all, I’m surrounded by people all day.  How could I possibly be lonely?  Even when I’m hiking “alone” I’m still around other people.  Turn on the TV or pop open my computer and they are again, even more people.  So how can I ever be alone if I’m always around someone.  But we all know that’s not how loneliness works.  You could be in a committed relationship with someone and still feel lonely, still feel like you’re lacking an actual connection to someone.  A phenomenon that dates back thousands of years.

As Laura Entis writes on Medium:

“Loneliness is part of the human condition. A primeval warning sign, like hunger or thirst, to seek out a primary resource: connection. Millions of years of evolution have shaped us into creatures who need social bonds in the same way that we need food and water.

And yet we increasingly find ourselves isolated. Loneliness is no longer a powerful enough driver to break us out of the silos created by modern life. Like our insatiable love of high-calorie foods, what was once an adaptive tool has become so misaligned with the way we live that it’s causing, in the words of former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy, an ‘epidemic.’”

So what can we do about it?  Just mope around and hope others feel sorry for us?  Or is there something else we can to treat our affliction?  Something more proactive?  Well, as it turns out we may one day have a pill that we could take.  A cure for loneliness.  Which is a good thing.  Because loneliness is absolutely horrible.

As Entis puts it, “The trouble is that chronic loneliness doesn’t just make you feel terrible—it’s also terrible for you. Loneliness elevates our risk of developing a range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive decline, and metastatic cancer. It also weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections. Left untended, even situational loneliness can ossify into a fixed state that changes brain structures and processes, says Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Lab at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.”

Well that’s depressing.  As someone who prefers to be alone most of the time I suddenly find myself rethinking my life choices.  I also find myself re-thinking how I view others.  If loneliness really is that serious then I need to step up my game and go out of my way to befriend more people, especially if I see someone who appears lonely.  For I wouldn’t just be doing them a solid, I’d be saving their life.  Either way, it’s great that there may one day be a way to treat loneliness.  And we may be able to do so with a simple pill.

According to Entis, “It’s less science fiction than it sounds. A number of clinical trials — led by Stephanie and others — are already underway, targeting the ways in which chronic loneliness changes the brain, as well as the havoc it unleashes on the nervous system. If there are pharmacological treatments for other social pains like depression and anxiety, why not loneliness?”

Why not, indeed.

So hopefully, research into this area continues and such a pill does in fact one day materialize on pharmacy shelves.  Until then I’ll try to do my best to cure this affliction the old fashioned way.  By actually talking to people.

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Is a cure for loneliness the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Do you have an over-active bladder that is constantly causing you to urinate at all hours of the night?  Well, then I’ve got some good news for you! A new wireless implant that could use optogenetics (controlling genes with light) to limit how often you have to go.

As Futurism puts it, “An many as 33 million people in the United States may have overactive bladders. One common treatment methodinvolves stimulating the bladder nerves using implants, but these can often shock more than just bladder nerves and some require frequent doctors’ visits or an external battery pack.

The new device offers an improvement over these methods, as it charges wirelessly without the need for external batteries. Light emitted from the device also stimulates only nerve cells located in the bladder and only when needed.

Controlling the bladder nerves with light requires an injection of a harmless virus which produces a light-activated protein called archaerhodopsin 3.0, or Arch. A sensor wrapped around the bladder tracks how many times users urinate. If it’s more than three times an hour the LED on the implant activates. The green light stimulates the Arch protein in the bladder nerve cells and prevents them from sending so many ‘full bladder’ signals.”

Previously I was under the impression that optogenetics could only be used in the brain to control certain functionality but that is clearly not the case.  Instead, as we see with the bladder control implant, it can also be used throughout the body with spectacular results.  Which begs the question: what else can it be used for?!

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Is using optogenetics for bladder control the Greatest Idea Ever?

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My whole life I’ve struggled to swallow pills causing me to suffer in pain and endure longer bouts of illness than I otherwise wouldn’t have needed to.  However, we may soon have a pill that I’d be lining up to take as it soon may be possible to treat medical issues with specially designed DNA based pills that are programmed to respond to the needs of our specific cells.

As Futurism explains:

“Researchers from the University of Chicago figured out a way to trick strands of DNA into behaving like switches — a development in a field known as molecular computation.

The hope is that we can combine these switches into logic gates — the same basic computational building blocks that power the electronics in your computer or smartphone.

Eventually, the Chicago researchers imagine, we could incorporate those DNA-powered computers into pills, programming them to keep watch on our bodies and release medications in response to signs of distress from individual cells.”

Now here’s where things get really interesting.

“Not only could it lead to incredible medical treatments, it also conjures up visions of a future in which tiny computers reside alongside the natural cells and microflora in the human body — a development that could call into question what exactly it means to be human.”

I just have one request though.  If we’re going to go through with molecular computation and design these programmable smart pills can we at least make sure they are easy to swallow?  Asking for a friend.

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Is Molecular Computation the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#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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