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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

#1,202 – Concussion Cure

The NFL has a lot of issues right now.  Players fighting on the field.  Players fighting with owners and the President of the United States over their National Anthem protests.  A watered down, oversaturated product that is lacking star power.  A dearth of people capable of playing quarterback. Off the field issues involving alcohol, drugs and violent acts.  The list goes on and on.

But no issue is more central to the long-term health of the sport than that of concussions.  It’s such a big issue that there was even a movie about it last year.  Because if the people who play football have to legitimately fear for their long-term health and well-being then less and less people are going to continue to play football.  That’s good news for the NBA and MLB. But bad news for the NFL.

Thankfully, the NFL may have one less headache to worry about as there may soon be a way to quickly heal brain injuries resulting from concussions.  News that would be welcomed, not just by football players, but by military personnel or any of the millions of trauma patients around the world who suffer concussions by other means, such as car accidents.

As Futurism puts it:

“Most individuals who suffer a concussion are able to heal back to normal brain activity, yet up to five percent of sufferers can experience long-term symptoms. This is called post-concussion syndrome and it can manifest with headaches, mood changes, and other cognitive problems. The symptoms are caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain, making it more difficult for the organ to receive adequate oxygen.”

This new treatment addresses that issue by supplying the brain with additional oxygen to speed up the healing process.

According to Futurism, “a study published in 2013 showed that treating post-concussion syndrome patients with pure oxygen significantly improved cognitive function and quality of life for participants. Research conducted by a team at Tel-Aviv University in Israel, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows exactly how this treatment heals the brain. Shai Efrati, the lead researcher explained that, ‘Once the extra oxygen diffuses into damaged areas, it supplies energy and the regenerative process can happen.’ The extra oxygen helped to regrow blood vessels and nerve fibers.”

Obviously it would be cavalier to suggest that this treatment means that concussions are no longer a big deal or that there are no longer any other significant health concerns associated with football.  They still are a big deal and there are still a lot of risks associated with playing.  But if this treatment can help those who suffer from concussions get back on the field more quickly and without having any lingering side-effects long-term then that’s great news for players and fans alike.  Now if only we could do something about all of the NFL’s other issues…

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Is adding oxygen to the brain to cure post-concussion syndrome the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I believe in evolution but there are still some among us who don’t buy it.  They’ll point to something like the eye and wonder how something so incredibly complex could form since logic would dictate that while it was developing, it would have likely been eliminated by natural selection for failing to work properly right away.  Scientists get around that problem by suggesting that the eye may have initially formed for some other reason before being co-opted and repurposed for sight.

Similarly, another thorny issue when it comes to evolution is the development of the immune system.  If we need it to survive then how did we survive before we had it? It really is quite the conundrum.  One theory is that our cells, in lieu of a full blown immune system, must have instead had some kind of “backdoor kill switch”, a mechanism that would allow for faulty or cancerous cells to be killed off before they could harm us.  Eventually, we stopped using that switch, instead relying on an immune systems to protect us.  But now the time may have come to start using that kill switch once again to fight cancer.  A novel approach that allegedly works on all types of cancer.

As Pionic puts it, “Small RNA molecules originally developed as a tool to study gene function trigger a mechanism hidden in every cell that forces the cell to commit suicide, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study, the first to identify molecules to trigger a fail-safe mechanism that may protect us from cancer.  The mechanism — RNA suicide molecules — can potentially be developed into a novel form of cancer therapy, the study authors said.”

Best of all, “cancer cells treated with the RNA molecules never become resistant to them because they simultaneously eliminate multiple genes that cancer cells need for survival. ‘It’s like committing suicide by stabbing yourself, shooting yourself and jumping off a building all at the same time,’ said Northwestern scientist and lead study author Marcus Peter. ‘You cannot survive.’”

In case you’re worried that this cell kill switch could be weaponized and used to turn kill off healthy cells, have no fear.  It only targets cancerous cells.  Hopefully, this research continues to advance and this method of curing cancer by getting cancerous cells to commit suicide becomes a standard treatment method.  Because if it does we could be looking at a real game-changer.  Something that ensures that cancer never takes another life.

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Is using a cellular kill switch to fight cancer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, take up two parking spots, stay up past my bed time, or keep library books past their due date.  But there is one vice that I do have: eating junk food.

Currently, I’m in the midst of a love-hate relationship with licorice nibs.  I love them and then I hate myself for eating an entire bag of them in one sitting.  They say that consuming sugar alters your brain chemistry, killing neurons and bringing about degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.  Suffice it to say, I will definitely be succumbing to Alzheimer’s any day now thanks to my obsession with Sunkist orange soda.

My obsession with junk food isn’t all bad though.  I have learned some very valuable information that I can pass on to future generations such as the fact that chocolate tastes better when frozen and that pickles go well with everything except for pizza.

It’s really not my fault though.  Junk food is comfort food and quite frankly, I’m usually in need of a lot of comforting.  You would be too if you had my fantasy football team.  But luckily, there may be help on the way in the form of a new supplement that could turn off my cravings for junk food, while still leaving me with a normal appetite.

According to Futurism, “UK scientists may have found a food supplement that selectively switches off cravings, removing the desire for high-calorie fatty foods while leaving the healthy appetite unaffected. The supplement is inulin-propionate ester, developed by researchers at Imperial College London. In a test with 20 volunteers, the researchers found that the supplement results in both less cravings for junk food, and eating smaller portions.”

Healthier lifestyle here I come!  Ah, who am I kidding.  Licorice nibs, I will always love you! You have nothing to worry about!

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Is a way to turn off Junk Food cravings the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,186 – Injectable Glue

Lately there have been a lot of medical breakthroughs dealing with ways to heal the body quickly, most notably the effort from The Ohio State University to heal with a single touch.  But there’s more than one way to skin a cat which is why we may soon have one more weapon at our disposal, an injectable glue that can heal in seconds.

According to the New York Post, “Australian and American biomedical engineers have developed a stretchy surgical glue that rapidly heals wounds, a ‘breakthrough’ that has the potential to save lives in emergencies, its designers say.

The injectable glue, MeTro, is based on a naturally occurring protein called tropaelastin. It is applied directly to the wound and is then activated with UV light to form a complete seal, eliminating the need for staples or stitches. Its elasticity means it’s designed to work well on shape-changing internal organs like the lungs and heart.”

Gizmodo adds that, “MeTro is also equipped with a built-in degrading enzyme, which can be adjusted to determine how long the sealant lasts, which can be anywhere from a few hours through to months depending on nature of the injury. The researchers compared it to silicone sealants that are typically used around bathroom and kitchen tiles.”

Hopefully, you and everyone you know will never find themselves in need of MeTro, but if they do, it’s good to know that something like this now exists.

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Is an Injectable Glue the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When I used to ride the soul-crushing trains in New York City I would often have the same recurring thought: what if we could harness the power of people pushing their way through the subway turnstiles to create an electrical charge?

Similar to the way that water can generate electricity at a hydroelectric plant when it moves through a turbine, the act of people physically pushing their way past the turnstile could do the same.  With enough people commuting perhaps we could generate enough power to cover the cost of electricity in Penn Station or across a few nearby city blocks.  And if there’s one thing that New York has an abundance of it’s people commuting.

Sadly, my dream never came to fruition but that’s okay because a group of Chinese researchers are about to do me one better for they are on the verge of creating a new bloodstream based power source.  One that would essentially place tiny hydroelectric plants inside of our bodies to harness the flow of our blood through our veins as a power supply.

As Futurism puts it:

“The team from Fudan University in China has developed a lightweight power generator that can convert flowing blood in vessels into power. This is made possible by a fiber made of carbon nanotubes, which are electroactive. In tests, this thread of fibers, called a ‘fiber-shaped fluidic nanogenerator’ (FFNG), is attached to electrodes and immersed in a solution to imitate the bloodstream. According to the researchers, ‘The electricity was derived from the relative movement between the FFNG and the solution.’”

With this technology in hand, or rather, in us, we might one day be able to generate enough electricity to power implants such as pacemakers or even our mobile devices.  It could even be a key component of future wearable devices or allow us to further embed electronics into the fabric of our clothing.

Now if only we could do something about those subway turnstiles…

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Is blood vessel power the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,168 – Fat Eliminating Patch

If you need or want to lose weight what do you do? Start going to the gym more often? Eat healthier? Take up cross fit? Start a no carb diet?  No matter how you slice there’s no easy answer.  No quick fix.  Until now that is.

Thanks to an incredible new breakthrough from researchers at Columbia and the University of North Carolina we may soon have a skin patch capable of eliminating body fat wherever it is applied.

As Futurism puts it, “A skin patch that effectively melts excess body fat wherever you decide to apply it sounds too good to be true, but this thing actually exists, thanks to new research.  The medicated patch uses an array of skin-piercing microneedles to deliver nanoparticles of drugs to the body, and while it hasn’t yet been tested on humans, trials with mice show it reduces fat by as much as 20 percent in treated areas.”

The targeted delivery of these nanoparticles directly to the desired areas is the true innovation here.  Other weight loss drugs, whether they be pills or injections, usually affect the entire body and lead to side effects.  This new approach gets around all that by applying “browning chemicals” directly to the cells stored underneath the skin, enabling our energy storing white fat cells to be converted into energy burning brown fat cells.

Hopefully this research will continue to advance and these weight loss patches will pass human trials on their way to becoming a commercial product.  Because like most people my age I’m finding that it’s getting harder and harder to lose weight as I get older.  At this point, a fat loss patch would be an absolute God send.

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Is a fat loss patch the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Wearable devices haven’t really caught on yet, either due to social stigmas, fashion faux pas, or the simple fact that they don’t address an immediate need, but all that may be about to change thanks to a new keychain accessory capable of detecting allergens in your food.

As Digital Trends puts it, “Anyone who suffers from a serious food allergy — or has a friend, partner, or family member who does — knows just how fraught a simple restaurant outing can be. Even if a particular allergen isn’t readily apparent in a meal, there’s always the possibility that it is stealthily hiding below the surface, due to cross-contamination. That’s where the product of some research by investigators at Harvard Medical School comes into play. They’ve developed a portable allergen-detection system, including a keychain analyzer, that could be not just a game changer, but a life saver, too.”

So how does this amazing new technology work!?!

“The $40 system comprises three parts. One is a tiny single-use slide that’s used for collecting potential allergens. This is then plugged into the keychain analyzer which identifies said allergens, before an associated smartphone app wirelessly displays the necessary readings.”

Even though it only appeals to a niche user group, I’d still expect this device to catch on given how critically important it is.  Although researchers are inching closer to developing a cure for some allergies, including the infamous peanut one that afflicts so many children, that cure may still take years to develop and only applies to one potential allergen anyway.  This device on the other hand could prove to be invaluable in the interim.

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Is a food allergen detector the Greatest Idea Ever?

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