Medicine

NY Judge Rules Research Chimps Are Not 'Legal Persons' 149 149

sciencehabit writes: A state judge in New York has dealt the latest blow to an animal rights group's attempt to have chimpanzees declared 'legal persons.' In a decision handed down this morning, New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe ruled that two research chimps at Stony Brook University are not covered by a writ of habeas corpus, which typically allows human prisoners to challenge their detention. The Nonhuman Rights Project, which brought the lawsuit in an attempt to free the primates, has vowed to appeal. We posted news last year about an earlier case (mentioned in the article) brought by the same group, which also ended in defeat.
Biotech

The Biohacking Movement and Open Source Insulin 63 63

szczys writes: Since early last century, insulin has been produced from the pancreas of animals. In the late 1970s we figured out how to synthesize insulin using bacteria or yeast. As the biohacking movement has grown, insulin production has been a common target, but for some reason we're not there yet. Dan Maloney looked into the backstory (including the amazing story of the Saxl family who produced life-saving insulin during WWII) and a new startup that is trying to get Biohackers working on the problem. Update: 07/30 21:56 GMT by T : That's WWII above, not WWI; mea culpa.
Medicine

James Jude, MD Co-inventor of CPR, Dies At 87 42 42

New submitter voxelman writes: Jim Jude, my uncle, was a kind and modest man. The impact of his insight into the significance of a change in blood pressure from the application of defibrillation paddles to a dog's chest has led to the saving of millions of lives through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). His passing is a release from a debilitating illness that made a mockery of his contributions to medical science. He will be missed by all that knew him.
Medicine

8-Year-Old Makes History As First Pediatric Dual Hand Transplant Recipient 59 59

ErnieKey writes: While there have been several hand transplants that have successfully taken place over the past decade or so, a little boy in Maryland, named Zion Harvey has become the first successful pediatric dual hand transplant recipient. After losing both hands and feet due to infection when he was 2 years old, doctors were able to successfully transplant new hands onto the little boy, thanks in part to modern-day 3d printing technology. "The success of Penn's first bilateral hand transplant on an adult, performed in 2011, gave us a foundation to adapt the intricate techniques and coordinated plans required to perform this type of complex procedure on a child," Dr. L. Scott Levin, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at Penn Medicine and director of the hand transplantation program at Children's Hospital, said in a statement.
Medicine

Beyond Safety: Is Robotic Surgery Sustainable? 54 54

Hallie Siegel writes: The release last week of the study on adverse events in robotic surgery led to much discussion on the safety and effectiveness of robotic surgical procedures. MIT Sloane's Matt Beane argues that while the hope is that this dialogue will mean safer and more effective robotic procedures in the future, the intense focus on safety and effectiveness has compromised training opportunities for new robotic surgeons, who require many hours of 'live' surgical practice time to develop their skills. Beane says that robotic surgery will likely continue to expand in proportion to other methods, given that it allows fewer surgeons to perform surgery with less trauma to the patient, but no matter how safe we make robotic surgical procedures, they will become a luxury available to a very few if we fail to address the sustainability of the practice.
Biotech

Eye Drops Could Dissolve Cataracts 70 70

An anonymous reader writes: As Slashdot readers age, more and more will be facing surgery for cataracts. The lack of cataract surgery in much of the world is a major cause of blindness. Researchers at University of California San Diego have identified lanosterol as a key molecule in the prevention of cataract formation that points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and non-surgical treatment. The abstract is freely available from Nature. If you have cataracts, you might want to purchase a full reprint while you can still read it.
Medicine

Giving Doctors Grades Has Backfired 245 245

HughPickens.com writes: Beginning in the early 1990s a quality-improvement program began in New York State and has since spread to many other states where report cards were issued to improve cardiac surgery by tracking surgical outcomes, sharing the results with hospitals and the public, and when necessary, placing surgeons or surgical programs on probation. But Sandeep Jauhar writes in the NYT that the report cards have backfired. "They often penalized surgeons, like the senior surgeon at my hospital, who were aggressive about treating very sick patients and thus incurred higher mortality rates," says Jauhar. "When the statistics were publicized, some talented surgeons with higher-than-expected mortality statistics lost their operating privileges, while others, whose risk aversion had earned them lower-than-predicted rates, used the report cards to promote their services in advertisements."

Surveys of cardiac surgeons in The New England Journal of Medicine have confirmed that reports like the Consumer Guide to Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery have limited credibility among cardiovascular specialists, little influence on referral recommendations and may introduce a barrier to care for severely ill patients. According to Jauhar, there is little evidence that the public — as opposed to state agencies and hospitals — pays much attention to surgical report cards anyway. A recent survey found that only 6 percent of patients used such information in making medical decisions. "Surgical report cards are a classic example of how a well-meaning program in medicine can have unintended consequences," concludes Jauhar. "It would appear that doctors, not patients, are the ones focused on doctors' grades — and their focus is distorted and blurry at best."
Medicine

Tallying the Mistakes and Malfunctions of Robot Surgeons 64 64

An anonymous reader writes: El Reg reports on a new study (PDF) that looked into malfunction and injury reports for medical procedures that used robot surgeons. From 2007 to 2013, 1.74 million such procedures were carried out, 86% of which were related to urology and gynecology. Of those, the study looked at reports of "adverse events," which were sent to the FDA. In that time period, there were 144 deaths, 1,391 patient injuries, and 8,061 device malfunctions. The malfunctions included "falling of burnt/broken pieces of instruments into the patient (14.7%), electrical arcing of instruments (10.5%), unintended operation of instruments (8.6%), system errors (5%), and video/imaging problems (2.6%)."

The more complicated surgeries involving vital organs were naturally the most dangerous. Head and neck surgeries accounted for 19.7% of all adverse results, and cardiothoracic procedures accounted for 6.4%. The much more common urology and gynecology procedures had adverse event rates of 1.4% and 1.9%. The researchers are quick to note that despite the high number of malfunctions, a vastly higher number of robotic procedures went off without a hitch. They say increased adoption of these techniques will go a long way toward resolving bugs and device failures.
Medicine

The Mystery of Acupuncture Partly Explained In Rat Study 159 159

hackingbear writes: A biological mechanism explaining part of the mystery of acupuncture has been pinpointed by scientists studying rats. The research showed that applying electroacupuncture to an especially powerful acupuncture point known as stomach meridian point 36 (St36) affected a complex interaction between hormones known as the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. In stressed rats exposed to unpleasant cold stimulation, HPA activity was reduced (abstract). The findings provide the strongest evidence yet that the ancient Chinese therapy has more than a placebo effect when used to treat chronic stress, it is claimed. "Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs exert their therapeutic effects on these same mechanisms," said lead investigator Dr Ladan Eshkevari, from Georgetown University medical center in Washington DC.
Government

Scientology Group Urged Veto of Mental Health Bill 265 265

An anonymous reader writes: According to records obtained by The Texas Tribune, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have given doctors more power to detain mentally ill and potentially dangerous patients, after a Church of Scientology-backed group helped organize a campaign against it. "Medical staff should work closely with law enforcement to help protect mentally ill patients and the public," he said. "But just as law enforcement should not be asked to practice medicine, medical staff should not be asked to engage in law enforcement, especially when that means depriving a person of the liberty protected by the Constitution." The bill would have allowed doctors to put mentally ill patients on a four-hour hold if they were suspected of being a danger to themselves or others. The bill had the support of two of the nation's largest medical associations.
China

Chinese Girl Receives Full Skull Reconstruction Via 3D Printing 99 99

ErnieKey writes: Doctors in China have just successfully performed a groundbreaking surgery on a 3-year-old little girl named Han Han. Han Han was suffering from congenital hydrocephalus which caused her head to grow to four times the normal size. If something wasn't done, she probably wouldn't have lived much longer. This is when surgeons at the Second People's Hospital of Hunan Province elected to remove a large portion of her skull and replace it with a 3d printed titanium mesh skull. The results were truly amazing, and Han Han is expected to make a full recovery.
Medicine

What Happens When Your Own Limb Is Almost Good Enough? 34 34

derekmead writes: While the media might focus on prosthetics, the technology and techniques involved in limb salvage have advanced tremendously, too, spurred in large part by America's recent military conflicts. Now, when a soldier or civilian faces a brutal limb injury, they have choices—save the limb, or amputate. Be a limb salvage patient, or an amputee. Reconstruct the limb you were born with, out of the pieces you have left over, or lose that limb altogether. And that choice is, increasingly, a really difficult one.
Medicine

The Cure Culture: Our Obsession With Cures That Are 'Just Around the Corner' 204 204

citadrianne writes: Cures for major disease always seem just a few short years away. We constantly read about promising new treatments for cancer, diabetes, HIV, ALS, and more. While the prognosis for these diseases has improved over the years — sometimes greatly — we still focus doggedly on the cure. "The idea of a cure is simpler, it's more appealing as a fantasy." This article takes a look at so-called "Cure Culture" — the focus on reaching for a cure when our scientific efforts may be better expended attacking a disease in other ways. It asks, "Why are we telling our children, our friends, and our family members that we are going to cure them? ... What does it mean to be cured of a disease that is encoded within your DNA from the moment you become a zygote until the moment you are dead? ... And why are we eschewing or overlooking treatments—real, honest-to-god treatments—that can let patients lead longer, more normal lives?
Advertising

Twitter Yanks Ads UK Activists Say Could Trigger Seizures 63 63

After complaints from UK charity Epilepsy Action, Twitter pulled after less than a day two ads that the group said might cause epileptic seizures. The in-house ads, in the 6-second format of Twitter-owned Vine, consisted of flashing video which the Epilepsy Action said "was dangerous, as it could potentially produce seizures in people who have photo-sensitive epilepsy."
Medicine

Robot Performs Prostate Surgery Inside an MRI 64 64

the_newsbeagle writes: Researchers have developed a non-metallic robot with ceramic piezoelectric motors that functions inside an MRI machine, allowing surgeons to perform procedures guided by real-time imaging. It's now being tested in prostate biopsies. Doctors say this system will let them aim their needles more precisely and reduce the number of times they stick them in. The NIH thinks such systems could come in handy for neurosurgery too. Gregory Fischer, a professor of mechanical engineering at WPI whose Automation and Interventional Medicine Robotics Lab led the research says: "You can bring it into any MRI room and have it up and running in an hour. It can locate the target, track the needle, and if it deflects during insertion, it can steer the needle to hit the target. We’re taking baby steps to get the robot into clinical use."
Medicine

Most Doctors Work While Sick, Despite Knowing It's Bad For Patients 191 191

An anonymous reader writes: A new survey published in JAMA Pediatrics found that 95% of doctors believe patients are put at risk when doctors work while sick. Despite that, 83% of respondents said they had "come to work with symptoms like diarrhea, fever and respiratory complaints during the previous year." The researchers doing the survey dug into the reasons for this: first of all, given the heavy workload of most doctors, it's very difficult to find others who can take up the slack when one is recovering from an illness. Beyond that, the profession is pervaded by a culture of working through the discomfort and pain of minor maladies. According to a commentary on the research, hospital policies don't help matters — they often incentivize long hours and don't encourage ill workers to leave the premises.
The Internet

How Bad User Interfaces Can Ruin Lives 288 288

Lauren Weinstein writes: A couple of months ago, in "Seeking Anecdotes Regarding 'Older' Persons' Use of Web Services," I asked for stories and comments regarding experiences that older users have had with modern Web systems, with an emphasis on possible problems and frustrations. I purposely did not define "older" — with the result that responses arrived from users (or regarding users) self-identifying as ages ranging from their 30s to well into their 90s (suggesting that "older" is largely a point of view rather than an absolute). Before I began the survey I had some preconceived notions of how the results would appear. Some of these were proven correct, but overall the responses also contained many surprises, often both depressing and tragic in scope. The frustration of caregivers in these contexts was palpable. They'd teach an older user how to use a key service like Web-based mail to communicate with their loved ones, only to discover that a sudden UI change caused them to give up in frustration and not want to try again. When the caregiver isn't local the situation is even worse. While remote access software has proven a great boon in such situations, they're often too complex for the user to set up or fix by themselves when something goes wrong, remaining cut off until the caregiver is back in their physical presence.
Medicine

Ask Slashdot: Have You Tried a Standing Desk? 340 340

An anonymous reader writes: Evidence is piling up that sitting down all day is really bad for you. I work primarily from home, and as I grow older, I'm starting to worry about long term consequences to riding a desk full-time. We talked about this a few years ago, but the science has come a long way since then, and so have the options for standing desks. My questions: do you use a standing desk? What kind of setup do you have? There are a lot of options, and a lot of manufacturers. Further studies have questioned the wisdom of standing all day, so I've been thinking about a standing/sitting combo, and just switching every so often. If you do this, do you have time limits or a particular frequency with which you change from sitting to standing?

I'm also curious about under-desk treadmills — I could manage slowly walking during parts of my work, and the health benefits are easy to measure. Also, any ergonomic tips? A lot of places seem to recommend: forearms parallel to the ground, top of monitor at eye level, and a pad for under your feet. Has your experience been the same? Those of you who have gone all-out on a motorized setup, was it worth the cost? The desks are dropping in price, but I can still see myself dropping upward of $1k on this, easily.
Medicine

Common Medications Sway Moral Judgment 132 132

sciencehabit sends news that two commonly-prescribed drugs have been shown to influence how the human brain makes moral decisions. Citalopram is an SSRI used to treat depression, and levodopa is often used to combat Parkinson's disease. A new study (abstract) asked subjects to set a monetary value on receiving painful electric shocks — for themselves and for others (e.g. "Would you rather endure seven shocks to earn $10 or 10 shocks to earn $15?"). The study found that subjects on citalopram (which affects serotonin levels) were willing to give up more money to reduce shocks, both for themselves and others. Those on levodopa (which affects dopamine levels) made people just as willing to shock others as they were to shock themselves, when those on a placebo tended to be more reluctant to shock others. [Neuroscientist Molly] Crockett says those effects could suggests multiple underlying mechanisms. For example, excess dopamine might make our brain's reward system more responsive to the prospect of avoiding personal harm. Or it could tamp down our sense of uncertainty about what another person is experiencing, making us less hesitant to dole out pain. Serotonin, meanwhile, appeared to have a more general effect on aversion to harm, not just a heightened concern for another person. Such knowledge could eventually develop drugs that address disorders of social behavior, she says.
Medicine

The Epidemic May be Over, But Liberia Has New Ebola Cases 11 11

Three new cases of Ebola have been reported in Liberia. Reuters reports that despite the declared end to the Ebola outbreak in that country in May, the medical community is speculating that a cluster of infectious carriers somehow survived longer than was previously believed possible, or that there is a previously unknown means of transmission. Health officials "were monitoring 175 people believed to have come into contact with the three cases, though none had yet exhibited symptoms of the disease." The report notes that "A U.S. military operation aimed at helping Liberia's government counter the outbreak has mostly withdrawn. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a U.S. health body, said it was working with local authorities to study the origin of the cases and stop the virus spreading."