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Gene Drive Turns Mosquitoes Into Malaria Fighters (sciencemag.org) 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."

Telemedicine: The State of Telepresence In Healthcare (robohub.org) 34

Hallie Siegel writes: Telemedicine can let doctors and nurses check in on patients who might be recovering at home, or monitor people in remote locations where it's hard to access physician services. This article gives an overview of the different systems that are out there, what are some of the legal obstacles, and how various countries are investing in the technology. From the article: "The Japanese government has allocated about $23M USD to the core technology market in an effort to develop products for its aging population. Toyota, for example, is focusing on home living assistance robots that will allow those with limited mobility the opportunity to live at home. While Japan might have the largest market in the world of 65+ citizens (over 30 million as of 2014), South Korea is estimated to be allocating nearly $6B USD to their own robotics research. The Koreans are taking a different approach, using robots for mundane tasks of delivering food, allowing humans to provide care."

Scientists Grow Working Vocal Cord Tissue In the Lab (sciencemag.org) 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.

Google Wants To Monitor Your Mental Health (telegraph.co.uk) 105

New submitter Alypius writes: Dr Tom Insel, the head of the NIH, will be joining Google Life Sciences to research how wearable technology, already used for monitoring physical activity and sleep, can be expanded to cover mental health issues such as depression. Dr. Insel will also be researching how to integrate tech to monitor other aspects of day-to-day living such as calorie and alcohol consumption.

FDA Approves Drug That Uses Herpes Virus To Fight Cancer (nature.com) 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."

3D-Printed Teeth Can Kill 99% of Dental Bacteria (thestack.com) 120

An anonymous reader writes: A research group in the Netherlands has developed a new plastic resin that can destroy most dental bacteria when used for the creation of dental appliances via 3D-printing. The process involves embedding antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts inside extant dental resin polymers. Since the salts are positively charged, these disrupt negatively-charged bacterial membranes. The process is also being mooted for use in the creation of knee arthroplasties, and in the manufacture of children's toys and food packaging.

Experts Chime In To Explain Fukushima Thryoid Cancer Concerns (cancernetwork.com) 130

An anonymous reader writes: Experts and the lead author of the Fukushima study findings explain what the data really tells us and the flaws in claims that there is a link between the disaster and cancer rates. From the article: "It is too soon to determine the influence of radiation exposure on thyroid cancer risk among children and adolescents who were exposed to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, according to the lead author of findings presented at the 15th International Thyroid Congress (ITC) and 85th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) this week in Lake Buena Vista, Florida."

Nurses Use Makerspace To Invent Custom Health Care Solutions (hackaday.com) 50

New submitter wd5gnr writes: University of Texas Medical Branch and an MIT initiative have joined forces to create the first maker space in a hospital. Often nurses see things that would make their jobs easier or a patient's care better and now they can create custom solutions to those problems. They aim to spread this to other hospitals and form a community of medical makers.

The Top Secret Chinese Military Project That Led To a Nobel Prize 73

HughPickens.com writes: Jeff Guo reports at the Washington Post that development of qinghaosu — or artemisinin — is one of modern China's proudest accomplishments winning a Noble Prize in Medicine this year for Tu Youyou, but it's also a story about Communism, Chairman Mao, and China's return to the world economy. On May 23, 1967, Chinese scientists commenced Project 523, a secret effort that enlisted hundreds of researchers to discover a new malaria drug during the Vietnam War. Although in a better warfare position, the People's Army of Vietnam (North Vietnamese Army) and its allies in the South, Viet Cong, suffered increasing mortality because of malaria epidemics. The project began at the height of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, a brutal time during which academics and intellectuals were murdered, imprisoned, or sent to "reeducation camps" in mass purges.

For doctors and chemists. Project 523 was a lifeline, according to Professor Zhou Yiqing. "By the time Project 523 had got under way, the Cultural Revolution had started and the research provided shelter for scientists facing political persecution." Tu's husband had been banished to the countryside when she was asked to get involved in Project 523. Tu's research project sought to find modern logic in ancient ways, much as the French researchers identified quinine from the bark of the cinchona tree. According to Tu, she and her team screened over 2,000 different Chinese herbs described in old texts, of which about 200 were good enough to test in mice. That's when they hit upon a plant called Artemisia annua: annual wormwood, or qinghao in Chinese. At the time, all of this work remained a Chinese military secret; some of the results were published in Chinese-language journals, but it would be well after the death of Mao Zedong until China would reveal that it had discovered a surprisingly potent new weapon against malaria.

According to Guo the lion's share of the credit rightly goes to Tu and the countless other Chinese scientists who worked on Project 523. But Oxford anthropologist Elisabeth Hsu suggests that the political climate at the time also deserves recognition. Qinghaosu might never have been discovered had it not been for Maoist China's nationalist infatuation with Chinese folk medicine. "It was thus a feature specific to institutions of the People's Republic of China that scientists, who themselves had learnt ways of appreciating traditional knowledge, worked side by side with historians of traditional medicine, who had textual learning," Hsu argues. "This was crucial for the 'discovery' of qinghao."

DNA Vaccine Sterilizes Mice, Could Lead To One-Shot Birth Control For Cats, Dogs 153

sciencehabit writes: Animal birth control could soon be just a shot away. A new injection makes male and female mice infertile by tricking their muscles into producing hormone-blocking antibodies. If the approach works in dogs and cats, researchers say, it could be used to neuter and spay pets and to control reproduction in feral animal populations. A similar approach could one day spur the development of long-term birth control options for humans.

Researchers: Thousands of Medical Devices Are Vulnerable To Hacking 29

itwbennett writes: At the DerbyCon security conference, researchers Scott Erven and Mark Collao explained how they located Internet-connected medical devices by searching for terms like 'radiology' and 'podiatry' in the Shodan search engine. Some systems were connected to the Internet by design, others due to configuration errors. And much of the medical gear was still using the default logins and passwords provided by manufacturers. 'As these devices start to become connected, not only can your data gets stolen but there are potential adverse safety issues,' Erven said.

Dormant Virus Wakes Up In Some Patients With Lou Gehrig's Disease 47

MTorrice writes: Our chromosomes hold a partial record of prehistoric viral infections: About 8% of our genomes come from DNA that viruses incorporated into the cells of our ancestors. Over many millennia, these viral genes have accumulated mutations rendering them mostly dormant. But one of these viruses can reawaken in some patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive muscle wasting disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A new study demonstrates that this so-called endogenous retrovirus can damage neurons, possibly contributing to the neurodegeneration seen in the disease. The findings raise the possibility that antiretroviral drugs, similar to those used to treat HIV, could slow the progression of ALS in some patients.

Doctors On Edge As Healthcare Gears Up For 70,000 Ways To Classify Ailments 232

HughPickens.com writes: Melinda Beck reports in the WSJ that doctors, hospitals and insurers are bracing for possible disruptions on October 1 when the U.S. health-care system switches to ICD-10, a massive new set of codes for describing illnesses and injuries that expands the way ailments are described from 14,000 to 70,000. Hospitals and physician practices have spent billions of dollars on training programs, boot camps, apps, flashcards and practice drills to prepare for the conversion, which has been postponed three times since the original date in 2011. With the move to ICD-10, the one code for suturing an artery will become 195 codes, designating every single artery, among other variables, according to OptumInsight, a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. A single code for a badly healed fracture could now translate to 2,595 different codes, the firm calculates. Each signals information including what bone was broken, as well as which side of the body it was on.

Propoenents says ICD-10 will help researchers better identify public-health problems, manage diseases and evaluate outcomes, and over time, will create a much more detailed body of data about patients' health—conveying a wealth of information in a single seven-digit code—and pave the way for changes in reimbursement as the nation moves toward value-based payment plans. "A clinician whose practice is filled with diabetic patients with multiple complications ought to get paid more for keeping them healthy than a clinician treating mostly cheerleaders," says Dr. Rogers. "ICD-10 will give us the precision to do that." As the changeover deadline approaches some fear a replay of the Affordable Care Act rollout debacle in 2013 that choked computer networks, delaying bills and claims for several months. Others recollect the end-of-century anxiety of Y2K, the Year 2000 computer bug that failed to materialize. "We're all hoping for the best and expecting the worst," says Sharon Ahearn. "I have built up what I call my war chest. That's to make sure we have enough working capital to see us through six to eight weeks of slow claims."

The New Technique That Finds All Known Human Viruses In Your Blood 111

schwit1 writes with this story at the Atlantic that profiles Ian Lipkin and his new method for quickly detecting all known human viruses in a sample: Ian Lipkin, a virus hunter from Columbia University, recently received a blood sample from colleagues at the National Institutes of Health. They came from a man who had received a bone-marrow transplant and had fallen mysteriously ill, with evidence of severely inflamed blood vessels. In analyzing a similar case a few years back, Lipkin had discovered a new polyomavirus, part of a family that can cause disease in people with compromised immune systems. Perhaps this new case would yield another new virus. It didn't. Instead, when Lipkin's team ran the sample through a system that they had devised to detect human viruses, they found that the man was infected with dengue virus. In hindsight, that made sense-he had recently returned from Vietnam, where dengue is prevalent. But the thing is: The team wasn't looking for dengue virus.

"It wasn't what we anticipated, but we didn't have to make a priori decisions about what we planned to find," Lipkin says. "When people analyze samples from people who are ill, they have some idea in mind. This is probably an enterovirus, or maybe it's a herpesvirues. They then do a specific assay for that particular agent. They don't usually have the capacity to look broadly." The new system, known as VirCapSeq-VERT, barrels past this limitation. Lipkin, together with fellow Columbia professors Thomas Briese and Amit Kapoor, designed it to detect all known human viruses, quickly, efficiently, and sensitively. By searching for thousands, perhaps millions, of viruses at once, it should take a lot of the (educated) guesswork out of viral diagnosis.

If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we would all be millionaires. -- Abigail Van Buren