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Xbox Kinect Technology Helps Create Higher-Quality X-Rays ( 12

An anonymous reader writes: A team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, has adapted a gaming system to help radiographers improve the quality of X-rays. The technology, originally developed for Microsoft Kinect, has been amended to provide a useful tool for measuring the thickness of body parts and monitor movement and positioning in the X-ray field of vision before imaging. The goal of the technology is to aid in the production of high-quality X-rays at low radiation, without the need to repeat the image. Although the technology is expected to benefit all patients, the researchers believe it could be particularly practical for use in children – who are much more sensitive to radiation and vary in body size, from premature babies through to teens.

Swallow the Doctor: The Present and Future of Robots Inside Us ( 30

szczys writes: Feynman predicted that we would some day "swallow the doctor" and to some extent that is already happening. There are cameras in pill-form that the patient swallows to monitor the digestive tract, and pacemakers are now inserted via catheter rather than major surgery. The question is: where are we going with robots we can put inside our bodies? Intuitively it seems far away, but there is already an open source platform for capsule robots. Medical devices are where the money's at when it comes to hardware development. We can expect to see a lot of work in the coming years to make the man-machine hybrid something that is much more organic, sprinkled with small tablets of robot.

Hospitals Can 3D Print a Patient's Vasculature For Aneurysm Pre-Op Practice ( 21

Lucas123 writes: University of Buffalo physicians and researchers from two institutes working with 3D printer maker Stratasys have successfully 3D-printed anatomically correct models of patients' vascular systems — from their femoral artery to their brain — in order to test various surgical techniques prior to an actual operation. The new 3D printed models not only precisely replicate blood vessels' geometry, but the texture and tissue tension, allowing surgeons a realistic preoperative experience when using catheterization techniques. The printed models are also being used by physicians in training.

Gene Drive Turns Mosquitoes Into Malaria Fighters ( 68

sciencehabit writes: The war against malaria has a new ally: a controversial technology for spreading genes throughout a population of animals. Researchers report today that they have harnessed a so-called gene drive to efficiently endow mosquitoes with genes that should make them immune to the malaria parasite—and unable to spread it. On its own, gene drive won't get rid of malaria, but if successfully applied in the wild the method could help wipe out the disease, at least in some corners of the world. The approach "can bring us to zero [cases]," says Nora Besansky, a geneticist at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, who specializes in malaria-carrying mosquitoes. "The mosquitoes do their own work [and] reach places we can't afford to go or get to."

Ransomware Expected To Hit 'Lifesaving' Medical Devices In 2016 ( 108

An anonymous reader writes: A surge in ransomware campaigns is expected to hit the medical sector in 2016, according to a recent report published by forecasters at Forrester Research. The paper 'Predictions 2016: Cybersecuirty Swings To Prevention' suggests that the primary hacking trend of the coming year will be "ransomware for a medical device or wearable," arguing that cybercriminals would only have to make mall modifications to current malware to create a feasible attack. Pacemakers and other vital health devices would become prime targets, with attackers toying with their stability and potentially threatening the victim with their own life should the ransom demands not be met.

A Post-Antibiotic Future Is Looming ( 137

New submitter radaos writes: A gene enabling resistance to polymyxins, the antibiotics of last resort, has been found to be widespread in pigs and already present in some hospital patients. The research, from South China Agricultural University, has been published in The Lancet. According to research Jian-Hua Liu, "Our results reveal the emergence of the first polymyxin resistance gene that is readily passed between common bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Klesbsiella pneumoniae, suggesting that the progression from extensive drug resistance to pandrug resistance is inevitable." Work on alternatives is progressing — Dr. Richard James, former director of the University of Nottingham's center for healthcare associated infections, writes, "Until last month I was still pessimistic about our chances of avoiding the antibiotics nightmare. But that changed when I attended a workshop in Beijing on a new approach to antibiotic development based on bacteriocins – protein antibiotics produced by bacteria to kill closely related species, and exquisitely narrow-spectrum."

Scientists Grow Working Vocal Cord Tissue In the Lab ( 25

sciencehabit writes that tissue engineers have for the first time grown vocal cords from human cells. Science reports: "For the first time, scientists have created vocal cord tissue starting with cells from human vocal cords. When tested in the lab, the bioengineered tissue vibrated—and even sounded—similar to the natural thing. The development could one day help those with severely damaged vocal cords regain their lost voices. 'It’s an exciting finding because those patients are the ones we have very few treatment options for,' says Jennifer Long, a voice doctor and scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, head and neck surgery department, who wasn’t involved in the study."

Microsoft To Provide New Encryption Algorithm For the Healthcare Sector 85

An anonymous reader writes: The healthcare sector gets a hand from Microsoft, who will release a new encryption algorithm which will allow developers to handle genomic data in encrypted format, without the need of decryption, and by doing so, minimizing security risks. The new algorithm is dubbed SEAL (Simple Encrypted Arithmetic Library) and is based on homomorphic encryption, which allows mathematical operations to be run on encrypted data, yielding the same results as if it would run on the cleartext version. Microsoft will create a new tool and offer it as a free download. They've also published the theoretical research. For now, the algorithm can handle only genomic data.

Experimental Drug Targeting Alzheimer's Disease Shows Anti-Aging Effects ( 101

schwit1 writes with news that researchers at the Salk Institute have found that an experimental drug candidate aimed at combating Alzheimer's disease has a host of unexpected anti-aging effects in animals. Says the article: The Salk team expanded upon their previous development of a drug candidate, called J147, which takes a different tack by targeting Alzheimer's major risk factor–old age. In the new work, the team showed that the drug candidate worked well in a mouse model of aging not typically used in Alzheimer's research. When these mice were treated with J147, they had better memory and cognition, healthier blood vessels in the brain and other improved physiological features.

"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases," says Antonio Currais, the lead author and a member of Professor David Schubert's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk. "We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."


Neurons Can Be Changed From One Type To Another, Communication Paths Rewired ( 31

schwit1 writes: A newly published study from Harvard biologists [here's a link to the paywalled paper's summary] shows how neurons can be dramatically changed from one type into another from within the brain and how neighboring neurons recognize the reprogrammed cells as different and adapt by changing how they communicate with them. Building on earlier work in which they disproved neurobiology dogma by "reprogramming" neurons — turning one form of neuron into another — in the brains of living animals, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers have now shown that the networks of communication among reprogrammed neurons and their neighbors can also be changed, or "rewired."

UK May Blacklist Homeopathy ( 287

New submitter Maritz writes: Vindication may be on the horizon for people who defer to reality in matters of health — UK ministers are considering whether homeopathy should be put on a blacklist of treatments GPs in England are banned from prescribing, the BBC has learned. The controversial practice is based on the principle that "like cures like," but critics say patients are being given useless sugar pills. The Faculty of Homeopathy said patients supported the therapy. A consultation is expected to take place in 2016. The total NHS bill for homeopathy, including homeopathic hospitals and GP prescriptions, is thought to be about £4m.

It's Way Too Easy To Hack the Hospital ( 116

schwit1 sends along a lengthy piece from Bloomberg about the chaos currently surrounding medical device security: The Mayo Clinic had assembled an all-star team of about a dozen computer jocks, investigators from some of the biggest cybersecurity firms in the country, as well as the kind of hackers who draw crowds at conferences such as Black Hat and Def Con. The researchers split into teams, and hospital officials presented them with about 40 different medical devices. Do your worst, the researchers were instructed. Hack whatever you can.

Like the printers, copiers, and office telephones used across all industries, many medical devices today are networked, running standard operating systems and living on the Internet just as laptops and smartphones do. Like the rest of the Internet of Things—devices that range from cars to garden sprinklers—they communicate with servers, and many can be controlled remotely. As quickly became apparent to Rios and the others, hospital administrators have a lot of reasons to fear hackers. For a full week, the group spent their days looking for backdoors into magnetic resonance imaging scanners, ultrasound equipment, ventilators, electroconvulsive therapy machines, and dozens of other contraptions. The teams gathered each evening inside the hospital to trade casualty reports.

"Every day, it was like every device on the menu got crushed," Rios says. "It was all bad. Really, really bad." The teams didn't have time to dive deeply into the vulnerabilities they found, partly because they found so many—defenseless operating systems, generic passwords that couldn't be changed, and so on.

Sooner or later, hospitals would be hacked, and patients would be hurt. He'd gotten privileged glimpses into all sorts of sensitive industries, but hospitals seemed at least a decade behind the standard security curve. "Someone is going to take it to the next level. They always do," says Rios. "The second someone tries to do this, they'll be able to do it. The only barrier is the goodwill of a stranger."


Stanford Creates Tricorder-Like Devices For Detecting Cancer and Explosives ( 34

An anonymous reader writes: A new technology has promise to safely find buried plastic explosives and maybe even spot fast-growing tumors. The technique involves the clever interplay of microwaves and ultrasound to develop a detector like the Star Trek tricorder. The careful manipulation of two scientific principles drives both the military and medical applications of the Stanford work. First, all materials expand and contract when stimulated with electromagnetic energy, such as light or microwaves. Second, this expansion and contraction produces ultrasound waves that travel to the surface and can be detected remotely.

In a potential battlefield application, the microwaves would heat the suspect area, causing the muddy ground to expand and thus squeeze the plastic (abstract). Pulsing the microwaves would generate a series of ultrasound pressure waves that could be detected and interpreted to disclose the presence of buried plastic explosives. Solving the technical challenges of detecting ultrasound after it left the ground gave the Stanford researchers the experience to take aim at their ultimate goal – using the device in medical applications without touching the skin.


Controversial Company Offers a New Way To Make a Baby ( 80

sciencehabit writes: A controversial fertility company called OvaScience is preoccupied by an enduring mystery in human biology--why eggs fail--and the palpable hope that we can do something about it. The company offers a new treatment, called AUGMENT, based on what it considers to be egg precursor cells found in a woman's ovaries. AUGMENT, which costs UP TO $25,000, along with thousands more in clinic fees and roughly $25,000 for the IVF cycle that must accompany it, relies on mitochondria from putative egg precursor cells to boost the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Seventeen babies have been born so far. The company, which has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, is poised to introduce a second treatment. But many scientists doubt that egg precursor cells actually exist.

Why New Antibiotics Never Come To Market ( 345

citadrianne writes: New antibiotics are generated naturally over time by bacteria, as weapons in their ongoing chemical warfare against other microbes. Predicting where and when they can be found relies mostly on good fortune and following a hunch. Scientist Brian Murphy's hunch is that the bacteria which live on freshwater sponges could be a hive of new chemicals. "We don’t know a huge amount about these species," he said. "But the only way to find out if there’s anything there is by actually diving down there and carving them off with a knife." But even if these sponges yield the antibiotics of the future, there are seemingly endless roadblocks that prevent us from actually using them to cure disease. "We've discovered six antibiotics in the recent past," Professor William Fenical said. "Of those, three to four have serious potential as far as we know, including anthramycin. But we have no way to develop them. There are no companies in the United States that care. They're happy to sell existing antibiotics, but they're not interested in researching and developing new ones."

Stanford Identifies Potential Security Hole In Genomic Data-Sharing Network 23

An anonymous reader writes: Sharing genomic information among researchers is critical to the advance of biomedical research. Yet genomic data contains identifiable information and, in the wrong hands, poses a risk to individual privacy. If someone had access to your genome sequence — either directly from your saliva or other tissues, or from a popular genomic information service — they could check to see if you appear in a database of people with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung cancer or autism. Work by a pair of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine makes that genomic data more secure. Researches have demonstrated a technique for hacking a network of global genomic databases and how to prevent it. They are working with investigators from the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health on implementing preventive measures.

Chinese Hackers Targeted Insurer To Learn About US Healthcare ( 157

hackingbear writes: When Anthem revealed a data breach that exposed the details of more than 80 million people, the incident raised a lot of questions: who would conduct such a hack against a health insurance firm? Investigators finally have some answers... and they're not quite what you'd expect. Reportedly, the culprits were Chinese hackers helping their nation understand how US medical care works. It may be part of a concerted campaign to get ready for 2020, when China plans to offer universal health care. Next, we should outsource politicians from China to fix our healthcare system.

FDA Approves Drug That Uses Herpes Virus To Fight Cancer ( 76

An anonymous reader writes: U.S. regulators have approved a first-of-a-kind drug that uses the herpes virus to infiltrate and destroy melanoma. Nature reports: "With dozens of ongoing clinical trials of similar 'oncolytic' viruses, researchers hope that the approval will generate the enthusiasm and cash needed to spur further development of the approach. 'The era of the oncolytic virus is probably here,' says Stephen Russell, a cancer researcher and haematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. 'I expect to see a great deal happening over the next few years.' Many viruses preferentially infect cancer cells. Malignancy can suppress normal antiviral responses, and sometimes the mutations that drive tumour growth also make cells more susceptible to infection. Viral infection can thus ravage a tumour while leaving abutting healthy cells untouched, says Brad Thompson, president of the pharmaceutical-development firm Oncolytics Biotech in Calgary, Canada."

The Popular Over-The-Counter Cold Medicine That Science Says Doesn't Work ( 310 writes: Back before methamphetamine cooks started buying up non-prescription decongestants to brew crank, all of us were able to buy effective decongestants right off the store shelf without a problem. Now David DiSalvo writes at Forbes that to fill the store-shelf void, drug companies substituted the already-FDA approved ingredient phenylephrine for pseudoephedrine. But the oral decongestant phenylephrine simply doesn't work at the FDA-approved amount found in popular non-prescription brands, and it may not even work at much higher doses. Researchers at the University of Florida are asking the FDA to remove oral phenylephrine from the market. "We think the evidence supports that phenylephrine's status as a safe and effective over-the-counter product should be changed," says Randy Hatton. "We are looking out for the consumer, and he or she needs to know that science says that oral phenylephrine does not work for the majority of people."

In 1976, the FDA deemed a 10 milligram oral dose of phenylephrine safe and effective at relieving congestion, making it possible for companies to use the ingredient without conducting studies. But Leslie Hendeles and Hatton say phenylephrine does not effectively relieve nasal stuffiness at this dose. They say the FDA cited four tests demonstrating efficacy at the 10 milligram dose, two of which were unpublished and sponsored by drug manufacturers. In contrast, the FDA cited six tests demonstrating no significant difference between phenylephrine and placebo. Hendeles said a higher dose may work, but no research has been published regarding safety at higher doses. "They need to do a dose-response study to determine at what higher dose they get both efficacy and safety," says Hendeles adding that until then "consumers should go that extra step and get it (pseudoephedrine) from behind the counter."


3D Printing Soft Body Parts: a Hard Problem That Just Got Easier ( 19

sciencehabit writes: Humans are squishy. That's a problem for researchers trying to construct artificial tissues and organs, and one that two separate teams of engineers may have just solved. Using a dish of goo the consistency of mayonnaise as a supporting 'bath,' a team led by biomedical engineer Adam Feinberg at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, can now print 3D biological materials that don't collapse under their own weight as they form—a difficulty that has long stood in the way of printing soft body parts (abstract). Once printed, the structures are stiff enough to support themselves, and they can be retrieved by melting away the supportive goo. The other team, from the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, has a similar system for printing (abstract), but without the slick trick of the melting goo.