Category Archives: Medical
Just the term “smartphone addiction” doesn’t sound particularly fun or good, but it seems that apart from the social implications of being addicted to our phones, a recent study has found that smartphone addiction actually does some damage to our brains by creating an imbalance in them, which once again sounds like a pretty bad thing.
This is according to a study presented today at the Radiological Society of North America during the organization’s annual meeting. The study involved using a magnetic resonance spectroscopy to look at the brains of teens were addicted to their phones and the internet. The study consisted of 19 subjects with a mean age of 15.9 that were diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction, and an additional 19 gender and age-matched “healthy” controls.
Based on their findings, Dr. Hyung Suk Seo who is a professor of neuroradiology at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea found that the addicted teens had a higher score when it came to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and impulsivity. The MRS exam also revealed that compared to the healthy controls, the addicted teens had higher ratio of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) to glutamate-glutamine in their anterior cingulate cortex.
While more study needs to be done to understand the implications of the findings, Dr. Seo believes that the increased GABA levels could be related to the “functional loss of integration and regulation of processing in the cognitive and emotional neural network.”
Even before the Apple Watch was officially announced, the rumors surrounding the device have suggested that Apple was planning on positioning it as a health device. While it did launch with several health features, it looks like the Apple Watch is getting a boost in the health department, thanks to the FDA clearing AliveCor’s “Kardia Band”.
For those learning about this for the first time, the Kardia Band is an EKG analyzer designed for the Apple Watch. It’s not exactly new as over in Europe, it has already been available for a while. However it was not available in the US as it was pending the FDA’s approval, which it has since gotten, which means that it can now be sold in the US.
The Kardia Band is sort of like an improvement over the company’s KardiaMobile device. The former is a strap worn around the wrist and can detect abnormal heart rhythm and atrial fibrillation, while the latter is a device attached to the back of your phone that you have to hold with both hands for 30 seconds, which is clearly not as convenient.
It is no secret that the Apple Watch is proving to be a more useful health tracking device than what Apple had led us to believe at the start. There have been multiple instances in which users have noticed heart problems before they happened, thanks to the built-in heart rate sensor, so much so that Apple is investigating to what extent the Apple Watch can detect abnormal heart rhythms.
In recent times we’re seeing how drones can be used to do all sorts of things beyond just photography and videography, such as keeping an eye on crops, search and rescue, and delivery. It also seems that drones could be used to help combat diseases, such as over in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
In a report from Quartz, Aberystwyth University and Tanzania’s Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Programme have teamed up on an initiative to help combat malaria in the region. How this is done is through the use of drones which will be used to help survey malaria hot zones and identify areas with water where the malaria mosquitos could be breeding.
This is more efficient than current methods because according to the team, a single drone is capable of surveying a 30 hectare rice paddy in as little as 20 minutes, which means that they’ll be able to spray and kill off the mosquitos in a relatively short amount of time. There is also no need for specialty drones as an off-the-shelf model like the DJI Phantom 3 was used.
However there are some concerns about the use of drones, such as whether it could interfere with aircrafts and birdlife, and also the possible perceptions of drones being used in warfare, but the team is hoping that by working with the village elders and explaining what these drones are used for that it will quell any fears or doubts.
Taking notes and recording a patient’s medical history is something that doctors do as it helps them keep tracking of the patient’s health, allergies, what medicine they’ve been given, and so on. However taking down notes and writing up reports can be tedious work, as we imagine most reports are, but Google wants to help with that.
According to Google, “Good documentation helps create good clinical care by communicating a doctor’s thinking, their concerns, and their plans to the rest of the team. Unfortunately, physicians routinely spend more time doing documentation than doing what they love most — caring for patients.”
To solve that, the company has recently announced that they’ll be running a pilot program in which it will utilize voice recognition technology to help transcribe doctor and patient visits. They have built automatic speech recognition models that are capable of handling multiple speaker conversations, meaning that it can separate the voices of the doctor and the patient.
Of course this does raise some privacy concerns, such as whether patients want to be identified or not. However this pilot program will only proceed when patients have given their consent and they will also be de-identified to further help protect their privacy. Whether or not this tool will be useful and will be widely adopted across the medical field remains to be seen, but that’s what Google is trying to find out.
Image credit – Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering
When you think of Kevlar, you might think of how it is more commonly known for its use in bulletproof vests, which in turn helps to potentially save lives. Now it seems that researchers have found another benefit of Kevlar that could also affect lives in a positive way, and that is through the creation of Kevlar cartilage that could be used to help with joint injuries.
Developed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Jiangnan University, it seems that scientists were stumped trying to create a synthetic material that could potentially match the cartilage in our bodies, at least until they created what is known as “Kevlartilage”, a Kevlar-based hydrogel that mimics the behavior of natural cartilage.
According to the researchers, “The synthetic cartilage boasts the same mechanism, releasing water under stress and later recovering by absorbing water like a sponge. The aramid nanofibers build the framework of the material, while the PVA traps water inside the network when the material is exposed to stretching or compression. Even versions of the material that were 92 percent water were comparable in strength to cartilage, with the 70-percent version achieving the resilience of rubber.”
That being said, it seems that it might be a while before we actually see this being used in hospitals for treatments, but as it stands the university is seeking patent protection and partners to help bring the tech to the market.
In an ideal world, people who are sick would take their medicine in a timely and consistent manner, but unfortunately in the real world, sometimes people forget to take their medication, might miss a dose or two thinking that it does not matter when it does. However that could change in the future, thanks to the FDA approving a digital pill that keeps track of you.
The FDA has recently approved a digital pill, which is basically a medication embedded with a sensor, that can tell doctors when patients take their medicine, and whether or not they’ve taken it on time. The medication in question is an antipsychotic called Abilify, and for those concerned about privacy, patients will have to sign consent forms that will allow their doctors and up to four other people, such as family members, to receive information showing the time and date that the pills were ingested.
According to Dr. William Shrank, chief medical officer of the health plan division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, “When patients don’t adhere to lifestyle or medications that are prescribed for them, there are really substantive consequences that are bad for the patient and very costly.” The New York Times claims that experts have estimated that patients who don’t take their medication on time costs about $100 billion a year, due to patients getting sicker and requiring additional treatment as a result.
This is actually not the first time that we’re seeing companies try to come up with ways to ensure patients take their medication on time. Last year a company developed a pill that could expand in your stomach and release doses over a period of time equivalent to the patient taking pills individually over the course of their treatment.
Microsoft co-founder and ex-CEO Bill Gates has announced a $100 million personal commitment to fight Alzheimer’s. He will be investing money into the Dementia Discovery Fund which seeks to discover treatments for this disease. This contribution isn’t being made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which already runs countless philanthropic projects across the globe. Gates will provide this $100 million himself.
Bill Gates will first invest $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund. It’s a venture capital fund that seeks to bring together industry and government to try and find treatments for this brain-wasting disease.
He will follow up that investment with an additional $50 million which will be provided to the startup ventures that are working in Alzheimer’s research.
As people live longer, the number of people suffering from this disease and other forms of dementia continues to rise. It takes a growing emotional and financial toll on people suffering from this disease.
“It’s a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy – even for the people who stay alive – is very high,” Gates told Reuters in an interview.
Even though there has been decades of scientific research on Alzheimer’s, there’s no treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Existing drugs can only ease some of the symptoms.
Gates is optimistic that with focused and well-funded innovation treatments can be found, even if it may take a decade to reach them.