Grad students are a notoriously impoverished group, and so it’s only fitting that one has invented a pancreatitis test using a dollar’s worth of materials. In less than an hour, Reynolds Wrap, JELL-O, and milk can tell you whether you have pancreatitis, a sudden pancreas inflammation that can cause nausea, fever, shock, and even death.
Invented by biochemistry grad student Brian Zaccheo, this match-box-sized test detects high levels of trypsin, a pancreatic enzyme that’s abundant in pancreatitic patients. The diagnosis involves two simple steps: First, you drip some blood from a patient onto a gelatin and milk-protein layer, which breaks down in the presence of trypsin. Second, you add a drop of sodium hydroxide, or lye, which—if the trypsin has reacted through the entire gelatin layer—dissolves the Reynolds wrap that’s underneath the gelatin; the dissolved foil frees up a connection between a magnesium anode and an iron salt cathode, which creates enough current to light a red LED. “In essence, the device is a battery having a trypsin-selective switch that closes the circuit between the anode and cathode,” Zaccheo writes in a paper published in Analytical Chemistry. The patients know if they have pancreatitis if the LED lights up within an hour.
It’s about that time of year when people return home from spending holidays with the family, only to realize they need a vacation to recover from their vacation. Well, if you’re a resident of the U.K. or Germany who’s in good health, between 18 and 64 years old, and can keep a diary for two and a half weeks, your vacation to Mexico or Guatemala could be gratis. Oh, and one more thing: You have to be a guinea pig for a potential diarrhea drug.
A U.S. vaccine manufacturer called Intercell calls it the “Trek Study.” The company says it needs 1,800 volunteers between now and May to visit these locales, where sun-seeking tourists often get diarrhea. But fear not, travelers: A smaller study Intercell did on Americans showed a 75 percent reduction in diarrhea incidence, so perhaps fewer of you will spend your Caribbean holiday in excruciating, gut-wrenching pain than you normally would.
Charles Darwin lived to the ripe old age of 73 (which was pretty darn good for the 19th century), but despite his longevity, he spent many of the years of his life famously dogged by ill health. Today’s doctors have tried to apply what medical science has learned since Darwin’s time to diagnose the famous naturalist, and now another researcher has tossed out a suggestion: Darwin had cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS).
Writing in the British Medical Journal, physician John Hayman argues that CVS was most likely responsible for Darwin‘s intermittent malaise. The disease, caused by a mitochondrial DNA mutation, shows up mainly in children, Hayman says, but can persist into adulthood. Its symptoms, including headaches, anxiety, and abdominal problems, match many of Darwin’s. From the Los Angeles Times:
Astronaut Mike Massimino is the first man to tweet from space. Now we know for sure that the “launch was awesome!!”
Now that the anxiety over swine-flu fears have receded somewhat, a virus that up to 99 percent of us have can cause high blood pressure.
There’s something in the air in Barcelona and Madrid. It’s not love, it’s drugs.
Who needs Gatorade when all you need is the Michael Phelps diet—corn flakes and milk—to perform well.
English rats have reportedly developed resistance to poison. Sometimes we wish evolution were not true.
The superabundance of online medical information and direct-to-consumer drug ads on TV can be enough to stir the hypochondriac in all of us. But some legitimate (despite their skeptics) conditions, and the people who suffer from them, just can’t seem to get any respect. Looking at this list, we think part of the problem might be the you-can’t-be-serious quality of some of the names. Here‘s a few examples of “illnesses” that could really benefit from a name change:
Restless Leg Syndrome
“The first time I saw a TV commercial about Restless Legs Syndrome, I was pretty sure it was a spoof. I figured I had stumbled across a prime-time Saturday Night Live special and was seeing a well-done fake ad,” wrote Stephen Dubner on the Freakonomics Blog. RLS sufferers report tingling, burning, or numbing sensations in their legs that create an overwhelming need to move them. Trying to relax or keep the legs still only makes the symptoms worse. Though the cause of the RLS is unknown, experts estimate as many as 12 million Americans may have the condition.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Do the long winter months make you just sad? Or SAD? Sufferers can experience debilitating hopelessness and depression along with sleep and appetite changes that may be linked to lack of sunlight. Happily, many cases can be alleviated by light therapy (the glow of your computer screen doesn’t count). The National Mental Health Association estimates that half a million Americans suffer from SAD—though the ailment is especially hard to take seriously since nearly everyone not living on the equator can experience some version of the winter blues.