Category: Health & Medicine

To Read Better, Dyslexics May Need to Speed Things Up

By Breanna Draxler | February 13, 2013 2:40 pm

Image courtesy of Singkham / shutterstock

“Slow down. Sound it out.”

This is the mantra for most dyslexic students learning to read. But results from a new computer training program suggest that the opposite may be true for dyslexics once they’ve learned to read—going faster could improve reading skills and comprehension.

Researchers in Israel compared the reading skills of dyslexic and non-dyslexic university students, before and after using a custom computer training program. The program’s premise is this: a sentence appears on the computer screen, which the participant is supposed to read silently. One by one, the letters disappear off the screen, from left to right, pushing the reader through the sentence. When the entire sentence has been removed from the screen, the user is prompted with a question about the content of the sentence he or she just read. This ensures that the participant did not just read the sentence, but actually understood what it meant.

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Bionic Man Has Fully Functional Mechanical Organs

By Breanna Draxler | February 6, 2013 12:45 pm

Here Rex is shown sitting down next to the apparatus he uses to stand. Image courtesy of Science Museum, London

With working organs and a realistic face, the world’s most high-tech humanoid made his debut in London yesterday and will be a one-man show at the city’s London Science Museum starting tomorrow.

The robot goes by Rex (short for robotic exoskeleton) or Million-Dollar Man (because that’s how much it cost to build him). Rex looks somewhat lifelike in that he has prosthetic hands, feet and a face modeled after a real man. That man is Swiss social psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who himself has a prosthetic hand. Such technology is now becoming more widely available to the general public.

But where Rex really breaks new ground is his suite of working organs. Read More

Drug Jelly May Replace Insulin Injections for Diabetics

By Breanna Draxler | January 28, 2013 5:19 pm

Blood sugar testing. Image courtesy of Ververidis Vasilis / shutterstock

As a sugar-rich foodstuff, jelly is not often seen as a good thing for diabetics. But a new gel-based method for administering drugs could cut back on injections for diabetics and virtually eliminate their blood sugar highs and lows. Scientists have come up with a new gelatinous drug form that releases a slow but regular dose of an insulin-regulating hormone. In mice, it kept glucose levels down for five straight days—120 times longer than the hormone alone. And the method could be used to deliver drugs to treat cancer and other diseases as well.

Peptide drugs are an up-and-coming method used to treat a number of diseases. There are currently 40 peptide drugs on the market, and 650 more are being clinically tested, so the pharmaceutical industry is investing a lot in the future of these treatments. One peptide drug, used to treat diabetes, relies on weekly injections of tiny plastic capsules filled with the peptide that causes insulin to be released slowly over the course of the week. This means far fewer injections than diabetics’ typical insulin regimen, but the injections are painful due to the large needles required to fit the capsules. Side effects like nausea are common. Plus the production is complicated because the drug and its capsule must be synthesized separately and then combined.

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How We Recognize—And Like—Our Own Odor

By Breanna Draxler | January 24, 2013 11:47 am

Image courtesy of nenetus / shutterstock

You may not enjoy the smell of your dirty laundry, but your brain knows and appreciates that it’s yours. A new study reveals a key way we detect our own scent and distinguish that scent from others’.

Smell is a powerful thing. Many species use it to communicate (think dogs sniffing their introductions) or attract mates (the Stickleback fish is a good example of this one). Humans may not be as overtly smell-dependent, but our brains actually use this sense more than you might think.

Communication by smell comes down to a thing called the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC. Every creature with a backbone has MHC molecules on the surface of its cells. These molecules act like bouncers, carefully controlling the balance of proteins inside the cell. When new proteins come a-knocking, the MHC checks their IDs to determine if they are okay to enter the cell (recognized as self) or get kicked out (non-self). This keeps the riffraff at bay, but can also cause the body to reject unrecognized things like transplanted organs.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

NIH Plans to Retire Chimpanzees From Research

By Breanna Draxler | January 24, 2013 8:09 am

Research with chimpanzee. Courtesy of Everett Collection / shutterstock

Researchers have made strides in understanding human diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV-Aids by using chimpanzees as test subjects. But public and institutional pushback has caused the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to rein in its chimpanzee research in recent years. A report [pdf] released by a NIH working group Tuesday calls for an even more drastic cut in the number of chimpanzees used for research as well as a reform of the way that research is conducted in the future.

Chimpanzees are a valuable resource for medical research because they are the present-day species most closely related to humans. For the same reason, using chimps as test subjects brings up a whole crop of animal rights issues. The real question is if these animal studies are really necessary for medical research anymore. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Quadruple Helix Detected in Human DNA

By Breanna Draxler | January 21, 2013 3:05 pm

The quadruple helix structure is shown at the left. Fluorescent markers on the right show where the helix appears on an individual chromosome (top) and in cells (bottom).

What does DNA look like? According to the biology textbooks of the last half century, it consists of a twisting ladder of base pairs: A with T and C with G. But a new study in Nature presents evidence that some human DNA may actually have four strands instead of two, and researchers say the quadruple helix may be linked to cancer.

The now-ubiquitous double-helix structure was first published in the journal Nature in 1953 by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick from the University of Cambridge. Nearly 60 years later, scientists from the same institution have published a paper in the same journal, but their results suggest that there may be more to the structure of DNA than their predecessors thought.

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MORE ABOUT: cancer, DNA

Diagnostic Apps Fail Their Health Check

By Breanna Draxler | January 17, 2013 9:56 am

Image credit: Alexander Raths / shutterstock

In today’s digital world, smartphones can eliminate trips to the grocery store, the library or even the bank. But can downloading a skin cancer application really replace a doctor’s appointment? While avoiding the waiting room may have its appeals, a new analysis of apps to identify cancerous skin conditions shows that their accuracy is lacking and the consequences grave.

How can an app identify skin cancer, you might ask? The technology relies on digital image analysis. Users upload photos of their moles, blotches or blisters in question and the images are examined either by software or a set of eyes.

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Healing Crystals From Panama’s First Shaman

By Breanna Draxler | January 15, 2013 12:52 pm

Stones from a pre-Colombian shaman’s cache in Boquete, Panama.

A stash of stones uncovered in a prehistoric dwelling in Panama could be the earliest evidence of traditional healing, or shamanic practice, in lower Central America.

Archaeologists used radiocarbon dating of charcoal samples located directly above and below the stones to estimate that the stones were left in the dwelling sometime between 4,000 and 4,800 years ago. Since the stones were clustered together, the researchers say the collection was probably deposited in a container that has since decomposed.

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MORE ABOUT: archaeology, geology, shaman

Fighting Peanut Allergies With Peanuts

By Breanna Draxler | January 10, 2013 10:54 am

How do you treat a peanut allergy? Unfortunately for sufferers of this nut intolerance, you don’t. There is no treatment currently available, but a new study suggests that being exposed to small amounts of peanut protein over time increases one’s peanut tolerance. A lot.

Researchers figured this out using a common allergy therapy called sublingual immunotherapy, which is a fancy way of saying they put a little bit of peanut powder under 20 allergic people’s tongues. The exposure was repeated every day for about a year. The longer participants were exposed to the peanut powder, the less sensitive most participants became to it.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Gun Control Could Gain Traction as a Public Health Issue

By Breanna Draxler | January 9, 2013 10:30 am

Today the White House starts gun control discussions with groups on both sides of the issue, and they’ve got their work cut out for them: the problem of gun violence is simultaneously social, cultural, educational, behavioral and governmental. Some researchers now argue that rebranding gun control as a public health issue may be the key to making real change.

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