Category: Health & Medicine

Watch This: Video Tech Reveals Invisible Color and Movement

By Breanna Draxler | March 1, 2013 11:18 am

Normal shot of a candle (left) versus motion magnified version (right).

Forget 3-D and HD. This new kind of video isn’t almost as good as real life; it’s even better. The technique amplifies colors and movements that are invisible to the naked eye. The resulting view is not only enhanced but dynamic.

“What we’re doing here is a particular project at the intersection of vision and graphics that we call motion magnification,” said Michael T. Freeman, one of the project’s researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Measuring imperceptible changes in color and motion has been around for some time, but this algorithm is the first to capture and visualize these subtle variations on video. The intended applications were medical—visually monitoring the pulse of newborn babies without having to touch them. When tested against conventional methods of taking the pulse (or an EKG in this case) the numbers matched up, according to a NYT blog.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: pulse, video, visualization

“Good” Bacteria is Secret to Avoiding Acne

By Gemma Tarlach | February 28, 2013 3:30 am

Zit happens.

Acne is an unwelcome reality for 80 percent of us at some point in our lives, but researchers have discovered the secret to clear skin may be the kind of bacteria that’s taken up residence there.

According to findings published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology today, certain strains of Propionibacterium acnes, a bacteria typically found in our pores, may actually protect skin from other strains of P. acnes that cause inflammation in the form of pimples.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: acne, bacteria, skin

Omega-3 Shows Protective Effect Against Skin Cancer

By Breanna Draxler | February 27, 2013 10:15 am

The anti-inflammatory effect of fish and fish oil supplements have long been used to bring down high blood pressure and keep heart disease at bay. The secret ingredient is their omega-3 fatty acids. A new study shows that omega-3 may be good for your skin, too.

Most skin cancer is the result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which suppresses the skin’s immune system making people less able to fight off skin diseases such as cancer. But researchers in England have shown that a daily dose of omega-3 can partially counteract this effect, reducing an individual’s likelihood of developing skin cancer. The fatty acids have been shown to prevent cancer in mice, but this was the first time it was demonstrated in humans.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Bullying Harms Not Only Victims But Bullies Too

By Breanna Draxler | February 22, 2013 10:47 am

Image courtesy of TOMO/Shutterstock

Researchers at Duke have spent the last two decades studying bullying and they say that it seriously affects mental health in childhood and adulthood, for the bully as well as the victim.

The researchers interviewed some 1,420 kids in North Carolina during their adolescent years, starting at age 9, 11, or 13. About a quarter of the kids said they had been bullied, and a tenth admitted to bullying others. Half as many, a total of 86 kids, reported having played the roles of both victim and aggressor.

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MORE ABOUT: bullying, mental health

Watch This: 3-D Printing an Implantable Ear

By Breanna Draxler | February 21, 2013 12:43 pm

How do you make a human ear that looks and functions like a real one? Researchers at Cornell published the first successful process in PLoS ONE Wednesday.

Step 1: Take a laser scan of a real human ear.

Step 2: Use digitization to print an ear-shaped collagen mold using a 3-D printer.

A collagen ear, to be seeded with living cartilage cells and implanted under skin. Image courtesy of Lindsay France/Cornell University Photography

Step 3: Inject mold with gel of living cells.

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MORE ABOUT: 3-D printer, Cornell, ear

New SARS-Like Virus is Well-Equipped for Infecting Humans

By Lisa Raffensperger | February 20, 2013 12:32 pm

The novel coronavirus is shown in this colorized transmission electron micrograph. Image courtesy of NIAID/RML Beth Fischer

A virus related to SARS has claimed its sixth victim, officials announced yesterday. A British man has died of the coronavirus, called HCoV-EMC, which was first identified last year. There have been a total of 12 cases of the coronavirus in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Now in a new study researchers have actually quantified the infection rate of the new virus. Results show that at a cellular level EMC is as efficient at infecting human cells as the common cold. Scientists isolated cells from the lining of three healthy people’s airways and cultured them in the lab, then introduced EMC, SARS, and a common cold virus to different groups of cells.

They found that EMC did indeed replicate in the airway cells (this tissue is especially vulnerable, which explains why infected individuals suffer respiratory problems). No detectable inflammation was produced, meaning that cells’ inbuilt immune defenses didn’t even see the virus, signalling that EMC is very effective at evading immune system defenses. However, its efficiency at causing disease is yet to be determined. Many coronaviruses are similarly good at infecting human cells—ie, getting inside them and replicating—but they cause only mild disease symptoms.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: coronavirus, SARS

Retinal Implant Restores Vision to the Blind Without a Camera

By Breanna Draxler | February 20, 2013 10:05 am

Human eye. (a) The structures of the eye and (b) the retinal layers in detail. (c) The chip carries a microphotodiode array with amplifiers and electrodes and is surgically placed subretinally in the location corresponding to the layer of degenerated photoreceptors. Courtesy Katarina Stingl et al.

In people with hereditary retinal diseases like retinitis pigmentosa, the eyes’ photoreceptors, or light sensors, degenerate slowly over time, eventually leading to blindness. While these people are unable to see, the rest of their visual pathway remains intact and functional. Researchers in Germany now have a way to work around this roadblock by introducing an implant to take the place of the broken photoreceptors and restore some level of communication directly with a patient’s visual pathway.

The researchers implanted a tiny electronic device under the retina of patients to take the place of their non-functioning photoreceptors. The implant is only about a third of an inch squared—the size of a Chiclet—and converts light into electrical signals. It is powered wirelessly via a battery pack attached behind the patient’s ear.

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Ancient Tooth Plaque Reveals Dietary Decline

By Breanna Draxler | February 19, 2013 12:08 pm

Courtesy U.S. National Library of Medicine

It’s pretty standard for scientists to look at human skeletons to reconstruct past human health. But a new approach looks not at our ancestors themselves but the hardened gunk on their teeth to re-create the timeline of human dietary changes.

Scientists performed that analysis by looking at an array of ancient teeth. They found that shifts in the human diet over the millennia have led to big drop-offs in the diversity of good bacteria in our mouths—and the result is a severely weakened oral ecosystem and an increased risk of various diseases.

Saliva contains bacteria and minerals which accumulate on our teeth as plaque. Since skeletons can’t brush their teeth, this film eventually crystallizes on tooth enamel to become almost bone-like, preserving the bacterial DNA inside it. The DNA of bacteria in crystallized plaque provides a snapshot of a person’s diet, health and oral pathogens.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Gut Bacteria Influence Worms’ Lifespans

By Gemma Tarlach | February 14, 2013 12:51 pm

C. elegans you look great for your age. Credit: NSF

It’s not as exciting as El Dorado’s source of eternal youth, but nitric oxide-producing bacteria are extending the lifespan of the humble roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans.

The worm lacks the enzyme needed to produce nitric oxide. In animals which are capable of manufacturing nitric oxide, it has been shown to increase blood flow, promote efficient nerve signal transmission and regulate the immune system, all factors that may contribute to a longer lifespan.

To see if nitric oxide alone could extend lifetime, researchers fed a group of C. elegans a soil-dwelling bacterium called Bacillus subtilis, which produces the gas. The worms, with colonies of B. subtilis established in their guts, had a lifespan of about two weeks—nearly 15 percent longer than a control group fed bacteria which didn’t produce nitric oxide.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Protein “Filmed” Unfolding for the First Time

By Gemma Tarlach | February 13, 2013 5:14 pm

“Snapshot” of the unfolding of CylR2 protein from Enterococcus faecalis. If the protein is cooled from 25°C to -16°C, it successively breaks down into its two identical subunits. The latter are initially stable, but at -16°C they form an instable, dynamic protein form, which plays a key role in folding. © Zweckstetter, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry & German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases

­­Proteins — tools of living cells — can’t do their job if they’re not in shape. Literally.

And a new study is the first to image the various stages of a protein’s undoing, which will lend valuable insight to treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Those are just two of the diseases caused by proteins that are misfolded — their amino acid chains are not arranged correctly, resulting in a misshapen three-dimensional structure. When misfolded, these proteins don’t work and, in the case of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, gunk up the brain and eventually destroy nerve cells.

Understanding how proteins fold is crucial to developing ways to prevent and treat these diseases. Previous attempts to document the process have involved heat or chemicals, creating conditions under which the proteins quickly unraveled and thus limiting observation of the in-between states.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
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