Patient

This Cancer Drug Is So Effective, The FDA Approved It Immediately

A new cancer drug has overwhelmingly helped shrink or eradicate tumors in patients whose cancer had resisted every other form of treatment.

The results, published in the journal Science, are so striking that the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the drug.

cancer drug immediately approved by FDA
Image credit: Merck

The study followed 86 cancer patients with tumors of the pancreas, prostate, uterus or bone. Each patient was given pembrolizumab, which also goes by the…

Adding Ice to Medics’ Kits Could Help Patients Survive Blood Loss

ice cubes
Ice cubes

Blair Johnson, a physiologist at the University of Buffalo, recently discovered a method to help balance out Blood Pressure. He discovered that if a bag of ice (or at least ice cold water) is placed on the fact, it forces blood to rush to that area. This method, researchers warn that this isn’t meant for a long term fix, just a temporary patch for when a hospital can be reached in short order. So, if they were to add an ice pack to Medic’s kits, it could help out in a severe bleeding situation.

Medics may have a new tool to help severely injured patients: ice. A bag of it on the face could help to keep blood pressure up in those suffering severe blood loss.

Keeping a cool attitude helps when handling an accident victim who has lost a large amount of blood. But keeping patients cool might also help, a new study finds. It might save their lives.

Here’s why: Losing a lot of blood can lead to a dangerous loss of blood pressure. That can limit how much blood, and therefore oxygen, reaches the brain and other vital organs. If deprived of enough oxygen, those tissues — and the patient — could die.

The body doesn’t have to spill most of its blood for this to happen. Losing about 2 liters (a half gallon) out of the 5 liters (1.3 gallons) or so in the body could be fatal. In fact, most deaths among army troops are due to excess blood loss — even if the inflicted wounds do not directly affect a vital organ, says Victor Convertino. A physiologist, he studies body functions at a research institute of the U.S. Army in Houston, Texas. He was not involved in this study.

Convertino thinks medics and others can save some lives if they can maintain adequate blood pressure — and thereby blood flow — to vital tissues until the victim reaches the hospital. (Vital tissues include the heart and brain.) Once there, blood transfusions can take over.

Blair Johnson may have found a way to achieve this. He is a physiologist at the University of Buffalo in New York. There, he focuses on developing effective ways to maintain blood pressure in the body after potentially catastrophic blood loss. He described a potential new first-aid approach…

Opioids Don’t Treat Depression, Yet People Turn to Them Anyway

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A man makes his way home from work on a bus as darkness falls on October 10, 2005 in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Much of modern medicine does not consider emotions as a root cause of physical pain. It’s as if humans can divide bodies into psychology and neurology, handled by those respective disciplines, and turn to gastrointestinal specialists, cardiologists, and orthopaedic surgeons for fleshly concerns. While sometimes warranted this persistent division of mind and body is unfortunate.

While the cause of pain is not always apparent it’s also easy to misidentify the problem. Sometimes multiple issues converge in your body, each influencing the others. Instead of implementing a holistic yet scientifically credible approach to healing we remain caught in a hamster wheel of specialization. General physicians purposely overbook to maximize profits while minimizing time with each patient, sending them off to doctors who only treat one specific problem or, worse, whipping out a prescription pad before a proper diagnosis is rendered.

And now, with the promise of smart phone apps removing yet another layer of actual communication with doctors, self-prescription is becoming more prevalent. Since we’re not always adept at diagnosing our problems—“you’re your own best doctor” plays more like an excuse than medicine—and since we’re accustomed to a five minute chat before driving to the pharmacy, it turns out many people are treating emotional pain with opioids. As Olga Khazan reports at the Atlantic,

People with depression show abnormalities in the body’s release of its own, endogenous, opioid chemicals. Depression tends to exacerbate pain—it makes chronic pain last longer and hurts the recovery process after surgery.

Relief offered by a temporary decrease in physical pain might lead to chronic problems, such as addiction and deeper depression, as some opioids have antidepressant properties, Khazan writes. On top of the initial problem a whole slew of tragic reactions begin to occur.

This comes during a time when pharmaceutical companies are being sued

The Global Cyberattack And The Need To Revisit Health Care Cybersecurity

National Health Service (NHS) ambulance outside of Waterloo Station, London.

Last week’s global cyberattack garnered wide media attention, as it spread across nearly 150 countries. Among its primary victims was the United Kingdom’s National Health Service system, causing massive shutdowns and inconveniences to the country’s health care infrastructure. Though certainly not the only internationally scaled cybersecurity threat in recent years, this attack’s consequential impacts should serve as a stark reminder of the significant vulnerabilities within the intersection of technology and medicine.

Accordingly, experts need to revisit a few areas of concern in the health care industry which may be conducive to increased cybersecurity threats in the coming years.

Hospital/Health Care Systems

The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights, which oversees the enforcement of patient privacy laws such as HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act), contends “that [the] personal health data of 30 million Americans has been compromised since 2009.” With the advent of electronic medical records and digital systems to store patient data, hospitals have become critically dependent on electronic media to provide patient care, and have thus become ripe targets for hackers which seek to extort or cripple large health care systems. Similar to the UK’s current crisis, extortionists often encrypt vital system and patient files, making it impossible to move forward with treatment or patient care. While some hackers cyber security seek payment prior to releasing the files, far larger concerns emerge when patient data itself is stolen, giving access to vital information about an individual’s health care records and overall biography. The potential misuse to this data is limitless, as medical records and specific patient files can fetch up to $500 to $1200 (per record) in unregulated forums.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/18/Wana_Decrypt0r_screenshot.png

Medical Devices

Revolutionary innovations in health care such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other medical implant devices have made it easy for patients to seek personalized and convenient care. However, many of these devices have…

Mental Health Treatment Can Save Lives, But The Right Diagnosis Can Take Years

1,277 days. That’s approximately how long it took Nic Newling to figure out he was dealing with bipolar disorder after first reaching out for help.

Newling was born and raised in Sydney. He first began to notice something was wrong when he was a young teen in school. He felt panicked and burned out ― sometimes for no reason at all ― and it was severely destabilizing his everyday routine.

“I was a high achiever in school,” Newling recalled. “I was really dedicated to it, but halfway through that school year, I noticed I was getting really stressed and anxious. And from there it was a really long journey of trying to find the right help.”

He was admitted into an adolescent psychiatric hospital at age 14, where physicians believed he was dealing with some form of psychosis. He stayed for nine months.

Newling was diagnosed with major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizoaffective disorder. He received medication and therapies to treat those specific illnesses. Nothing seemed to work.

At age 16, he underwent shock therapy, also known as electroconvulsive therapy. The controversial treatment sends small electric currents through the brain to alter its chemistry and treat issues like depression.

Newling reports feeling suicidal at the time. He knew, deep down, that he wasn’t getting the right help.

Data published by the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association found that 69 percent of people with bipolar disorder are originally misdiagnosed, and more than one-third remain misdiagnosed for a decade or more. Many factors can contribute to this, including the delayed onset of certain symptoms or patients not sticking with treatment.

After three and a half years of incorrect diagnoses and different treatment methods, Newling finally found relief during a stay at a different psychiatric facility. His attending doctor caught him in a period of mania. After another evaluation, his physician diagnosed him with bipolar II disorder and gave him more specific medication to treat it.

“I felt skeptical at first,” Newling said. “I’d been told I have so many different conditions over the years, and each one came with months or years of traveling down a path of no relief and diminishing hope.”

The major reason people are misdiagnosed is because their symptoms often materialize in different ways, says Bob Carolla, a spokesperson and senior writer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“Finding the right treatment plan comes in stages,” he said. “Not all symptoms may be appearing at the same time. Others may not be immediately recognized as symptoms.”

This is especially true when it comes to high-functioning people. For example, if a person is ordinarily achievement-oriented or creative, it may not be obvious they’re having a manic episode, Carolla said.

While there are no definitive statistics on how often mental illnesses are misdiagnosed as a whole, research suggests that bipolar disorder is the most misdiagnosed condition. This could mean more treatment costs and lost workplace productivity, as well as increased risk of suicidal thoughts if the person isn’t getting the most effective…

7 Ways Makers Are Increasing the Care in Health Care

What if hospitals had in-house makerspaces so that doctors and nurses could modify off-the-shelf medical supplies for increased patient comfort? That would be amazing. What happens when makers collaborate with disabled people to design accessible, low-cost medical devices? Innovation. Increasingly, makers are lending their skill sets toward amping up the care in health care. For instance, MakerHealth is not only leading the charge in helping to create makerspaces in hospitals, but they’re also building a powerful network of health care providers sharing how-tos. And with maker-made innovations like the mouth-controlled input device that enables people with little or no hand movement to operate a touchscreen device, the future of health care is looking brighter every day. Read on to learn more about seven powerful ways makers are helping people live fuller lives. Then come on out to the 12th annual Maker Faire Bay Area, May 19–21, to meet these makers and get inspired.

Makers Making Change

B.C. Canada’s Makers Making Change connects makers to people with disabilities who need assistive technologies. Together they co-create access solutions. Makers Making Change offers a repository of open-source assistive technologies, and in January of this year, they held a 48-hour Access Makeathon, where each person with a disability was linked up with a team of makers who built an open-source solution that directly addressed a need of the person they were paired with. Makers got the chance to apply their skills to address a real-world and each disabled person left the event with a working prototype that improved their quality of life. One of their featured projects is called LipSync, a mouth-controlled input device that enables people with little or no hand movement to operate a touchscreen device.

LipSync is open source, affordable, 3D-printable, Arduino-based, Bluetooth-enabled, and wheelchair-mountable. It can be built in a weekend, employs easy-to-source hardware, and costs around $300 instead of $1,500 (for the off-the-shelf equivalent).

From their site:

The Lipsync is a mouth-operated joystick that allows a person to control a computer cursor with a minimum of head and neck movement. All the electronics are housed in the ‘head’ of the device so there are no additional control boxes, making the LipSync a good candidate for portable, wheelchair-mounted applications. The mouthpiece is attached to a precision miniature joystick sensor that requires only a very slight pressure on the shaft in order to move a cursor on the screen. The mouthpiece is hollow and allows a person to perform left and right mouse button clicks by alternatively puffing or sipping into the tube.

An estimated 1,000,000 people in Canada and the United States have limited or no use of their arms, meaning they are unable to use touchscreen devices that could provide access to helpful apps and services. While solutions exist for desktop computers, they can cost up to $3,000 and do not work well on mobile devices.

On Saturday, May 20, Makers Making Change cofounder Chad Leaman will be speaking in Expo Hall on the Make: Live Stage at 4:15 p.m.

Here’s Leaman demonstrating how LipSync works:

MakerHealth

Born out of MIT’s Little Devices Lab in 2008, MakerHealth originally began as part of an approach to reinvent the way MIT students were taught medical device design. The founders observed health care professionals around the globe creating their own modified solutions, and they recognized the potential positive impact of training these folks on the front line to go from from providers to prototypers. After all, these are the people who are most in touch with the direct needs of patients, many of whom are not served by off-the-shelf generic solutions. In a nutshell, Maker Health is out to revolutionize health care. They put it best, in their description that makes you want to jump up and say, “Let’s do this!”:

We believe everyone can be a medical maker. In a world where health care technology is increasingly black boxed and unaffordable, we found a stealth community of innovators working around the clock to make health better, by making their own devices to make us better. These are the health makers, the tinkerers and the explorers that inspire our team to create instruments, to rewrite medical education, and to build the invention infrastructure in hospitals around the world. Whether it’s a prototyping kit part of tomorrow’s doctor’s bag, or a MakerHealth Space laboratory dreaming up a prototype prescription, our global team is passionate about democratizing your ability to create and invent the things you can hold in your hand. These are the things that heal. And the things that our team is making sure you can make. We’re MakerHealth and you are a health maker.

Among their offerings is helping to start makerspaces in hospitals. The very first one of its kind is at…

Engaging in These 8 Mindfulness Practices Daily Decreased HIV Patients’ Viral Loads

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Mindfulness meditation has been practiced in East Asia for thousands of years. In the 1960s and 70s, interest in it brought this Zen staple to the US and Europe. It was common within the counterculture movement and continued over the decades among “crunchy granola” and “New Age” types. Since, several studies have shown remarkable health benefits gained by those engaging in such meditation.

Renowned Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls mindfulness “present-focused awareness.” This is clearing one’s mind of all the chatter, what Buddhists call the “monkey mind,” as well as any thoughts of the past or future. In reality they don’t exist. All that is real is the omnipresent now.

Time unfolds moment to moment. So we must live fully in the now to truly be free and at one with nature and our place within it. Mindfulness is therefore recognizing everything that is before you with a sharpened focus. In a way, this is jettisoning worry and instead, embracing wonder and gratitude for the rich sensual tapestry unfolding at each moment in one’s life.

Today lawyers, tech professionals, and executives at some of the top companies in the world including: Goldman Sachs, Aetna, Google, Bank of American, and Salesforce, all practice mindfulness. Studies have shown that it increases focus, memory, and may even improve cognition.

One surprising find, it alters attitudes, even the ones we don’t consider malleable. A 2015 study out of Central Michigan University, found that regularly practicing mindfulness reduces implicit ageism and racial bias.

English Bobbie meditating.

People from all walks of life practice mindfulness medication. Getty Images.

Engaging in mindfulness reduces stress. Chronic stress elevates the hormone cortisol in the bloodstream, which in turn raises our blood pressure, increases our awareness of pain, weakens our immune system, and causes chronic inflammation—implicated in a whole host of conditions including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Such meditation can also save you from wrinkles and gray hair. Practicing regularly has been proven to lengthen the telomerase or “caps” at the end of chromosomes. By doing so, cell damage is reduced and the aging process, slowed.

A Blood Test May Help Pinpoint the Right Antidepressant for You

When doctors determine the best medication for a person with depression, they generally rely upon little more than guesswork and patient self-reports, due to insufficient medical evidence. Research out of UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSMC) previously suggested that such practices were insufficient, and a new study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, provides additional diagnostic information that may change the way depression is treated.

The research team drew upon a large body of research that links low levels of inflammation in the body with depression. They say a blood test for an inflammatory biomarker, known as C-reactive protein (CRP), can significantly improve the success rate of two common antidepressants for depressed patients.

Lead author Madhukar Trivedi, a professor of psychiatry at UTSMC and director of the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, says doctors typically pick an antidepressant for their patients in one of three ways: personal experience; matching the perceived benefits of one drug with a certain type of patient’s needs; or having the patient pick a drug by ruling out the unwanted side effects of other drugs. “There isn’t a strong evidence base to support one way [of choosing an antidepressant] over another,” he tells mental_floss.

Trivedi says that because many doctors are pressed for time and overloaded with patients, they don’t thoroughly address a depressed patient’s needs. “If you have diabetes, the doctor spends a lot of time explaining that it’s a serious illness—there are consequences for ignoring it, and there are treatments you need to do. In depression, that does not happen as much. Patient engagement is not that strong,” he says.

Trivedi led a landmark study more than a decade ago that revealed how serious the medication problem is: Up to one-third of depressed patients don’t see an improvement in their first month of medication,…

Cool Jobs: Doing real science in virtual worlds

virtual reality
virtual reality

Strap on a virtual reality headset and you’ll enter a different world. Without leaving your house, you can fly a spaceship through a make-believe galaxy. You can play pool with friends. Or you can perform surgery on an alien.

Virtual reality, or VR, uses special technology to trick the brain into thinking these experiences are real. A technique called stereoscopy (STAIR-ee-OSS-kuh-pee) sends a slightly different image to each eye. This can create the illusion of depth. It certainly makes video games feel more realistic. But VR isn’t just for fun. It also can help scientists do their research or share it with others.

Scientists are using VR to learn more about people and the planet. One engineer uses this technology to let kids build mountains and carve out rivers with their bare hands. A scientist who studies language puts people in a virtual restaurant to learn what happens in their brains as they converse. A doctor takes patients on a virtual field trip to swim with dolphins. The worlds they visit are not real, but the science is.

Decoding dialogue

David Peeters loved learning foreign languages when he was growing up. His first language was Dutch. He studied three others at school — German, French and English.

In college and graduate school he focused on linguistics. It’s the science of human language. And the more he learned, the more Peeters began to wonder what happens inside our brains as people converse. He began to look at language through the lens of neuroscience — the study of the brain.

“There’s a lot about the way the brain processes speech that we don’t understand,” he says. Peeters is a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen (Nih-MAY-jin), a city in the Netherlands. Peeters studies the way people communicate. To answer some of his questions, he built a virtual restaurant.

Real people stroll into it. To do this, they wear 3-D glasses. The small room they walk in has screens on every wall. It’s called a cave automatic virtual environment — CAVE for short. It’s basically a theater with a 3-D movie projected on every wall. To someone wearing 3-D glasses, it feels almost like a real world. (For people familiar with Star Trek: Next Generation, CAVEs are essentially a real-life version of the holodeck.)

Story continues below image.

Virtual restaurant
This restaurant isn’t real, but it’s helping linguist David Peeters study language. He observes what happens in the brain as real people talk to virtual diners in this digital eatery.

The screens show scenes inside the virtual restaurant. Each person who takes part in the study “becomes” a waiter or waitress through an avatar. That avatar is a make-believe character. It can be moved around and used to talk to others in a virtual world. Participants move their avatar simply by walking around the CAVE.

Peeters wants to find out what happens in people’s brains as they speak with virtual restaurant customers through their avatar. He does this by having each person wear a cap covered in electrodes.

These small sensors on wires attach to the outside of the head. Cells in the brain communicate with each other by sending tiny zaps of electricity back and forth. Electrodes listen for these electrical impulses and then report them to a computer. The computer records this brain activity as a set of wavy lines called an EEG. That’s short for electroencephalogram (Ee-LEK-troh-en-SEFF-uh-low-gram).

Peeters uses the EEG data to see which parts of the brain are most active during a conversation. This gives him clues about how the brain processes or understands different patterns of speech.

For example, there are direct and indirect ways to say something. “Please bring me another soup” is a very direct way to communicate a need, Peeters points out. But a lot of our conversations are indirect. In the virtual restaurant, a customer may simply say, “My soup is cold.”

“We understand this means the customer wants another soup, even though they didn’t ask for it,” says Peeters. That’s indirect language.

Peeters studies the differences in brain activity when a person hears direct versus indirect speech patterns. He hopes such research will one day help scientists better understand disorders such as autism. That’s a condition in which people have a hard time processing speech and communicating.

A new way to relax

For many years, Wim Veling used VR to help patients overcome phobias, or fears. As a psychiatrist, he treats patients with mental-health disorders. Veling works at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

A person with a fear…

Cool Jobs: Doing real science in virtual worlds

virtual reality
virtual reality

Strap on a virtual reality headset and you’ll enter a different world. Without leaving your house, you can fly a spaceship through a make-believe galaxy. You can play pool with friends. Or you can perform surgery on an alien.

Virtual reality, or VR, uses special technology to trick the brain into thinking these experiences are real. A technique called stereoscopy (STAIR-ee-OSS-kuh-pee) sends a slightly different image to each eye. This can create the illusion of depth. It certainly makes video games feel more realistic. But VR isn’t just for fun. It also can help scientists do their research or share it with others.

Scientists are using VR to learn more about people and the planet. One engineer uses this technology to let kids build mountains and carve out rivers with their bare hands. A scientist who studies language puts people in a virtual restaurant to learn what happens in their brains as they converse. A doctor takes patients on a virtual field trip to swim with dolphins. The worlds they visit are not real, but the science is.

Decoding dialogue

David Peeters loved learning foreign languages when he was growing up. His first language was Dutch. He studied three others at school — German, French and English.

In college and graduate school he focused on linguistics. It’s the science of human language. And the more he learned, the more Peeters began to wonder what happens inside our brains as people converse. He began to look at language through the lens of neuroscience — the study of the brain.

“There’s a lot about the way the brain processes speech that we don’t understand,” he says. Peeters is a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen (Nih-MAY-jin), a city in the Netherlands. Peeters studies the way people communicate. To answer some of his questions, he built a virtual restaurant.

Real people stroll into it. To do this, they wear 3-D glasses. The small room they walk in has screens on every wall. It’s called a cave automatic virtual environment — CAVE for short. It’s basically a theater with a 3-D movie projected on every wall. To someone wearing 3-D glasses, it feels almost like a real world. (For people familiar with Star Trek: Next Generation, CAVEs are essentially a real-life version of the holodeck.)

Story continues below image.

Virtual restaurant
This restaurant isn’t real, but it’s helping linguist David Peeters study language. He observes what happens in the brain as real people talk to virtual diners in this digital eatery.

The screens show scenes inside the virtual restaurant. Each person who takes part in the study “becomes” a waiter or waitress through an avatar. That avatar is a make-believe character. It can be moved around and used to talk to others in a virtual world. Participants move their avatar simply by walking around the CAVE.

Peeters wants to find out what happens in people’s brains as they speak with virtual restaurant customers through their avatar. He does this by having each person wear a cap covered in electrodes.

These small sensors on wires attach to the outside of the head. Cells in the brain communicate with each other by sending tiny zaps of electricity back and forth. Electrodes listen for these electrical impulses and then report them to a computer. The computer records this brain activity as a set of wavy lines called an EEG. That’s short for electroencephalogram (Ee-LEK-troh-en-SEFF-uh-low-gram).

Peeters uses the EEG data to see which parts of the brain are most active during a conversation. This gives him clues about how the brain processes or understands different patterns of speech.

For example, there are direct and indirect ways to say something. “Please bring me another soup” is a very direct way to communicate a need, Peeters points out. But a lot of our conversations are indirect. In the virtual restaurant, a customer may simply say, “My soup is cold.”

“We understand this means the customer wants another soup, even though they didn’t ask for it,” says Peeters. That’s indirect language.

Peeters studies the differences in brain activity when a person hears direct versus indirect speech patterns. He hopes such research will one day help scientists better understand disorders such as autism. That’s a condition in which people have a hard time processing speech and communicating.

A new way to relax

For many years, Wim Veling used VR to help patients overcome phobias, or fears. As a psychiatrist, he treats patients with mental-health disorders. Veling works at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

A person with a fear…