The FDA Should Stop Blocking New Treatments From Patients.


Cataracts, a clouding of the lenses in the eyes, affect some 20 million Americans over the age of 40. Doctors can implant synthetic lenses to fix them, but they have to estimate the right focal power before surgery, so many patients still need corrective lenses afterward. A company called Calhoun Vision invented a synthetic lens that can be adjusted after the eye has healed, using an ultraviolet laser. It has been on sale in Europe for six years, but patients can’t get it in the U.S. Sadly, that’s hardly uncommon. Scores of medical innovations approved abroad are not available here. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to stop delaying access to medical devices.

Part of the problem is that unlike in Europe, which requires devices to be proved safe, the U.S. requires any device more complicated than a Band-Aid to also be demonstrated as effective in rigorous clinical trials (unless it’s very similar to something already on the market). U.S. regulators note that about 700 devices a year (including defibrillator leads and artificial hips) have been recalled for safety reasons; sometimes devices that have never been approved here are later taken off the European market. Even so, the FDA is still far too cautious, and it’s obstructing patients from receiving much needed care.

The FDA should follow its own lead (and Congress should allow it to do so). In 2012, it initiated a new drug-approval process that fast-tracks first-in-class drugs for serious illnesses. And it speeds up approval for some devices with a “humanitarian device exemption” for rare diseases. But the FDA hasn’t taken its changes far enough. This year, it’s supposed to finalize updated rules for “de novo” medical devices, those more complex than a bandage, less risky than an implant, and different from anything else on the market. The rules could accelerate the approval process, but devices will still require exceptionally thorough—and likely lengthy—efficacy tests.

The government should let patients and doctors make informed decisions about which risks they’re willing to accept.

When it comes to truly novel devices, the government should let patients and doctors make informed decisions about which risks they’re willing to accept. There is a precedent: The FDA regulates cigarettes, known to cause cancer and respiratory disease. Packs are sold with FDA-required labels that warn of the risks. The FDA could do the same for new medical technologies. Once a device has been proved safe in clinical trials and after fair warning about potential side effects, patients and their doctors should be free to determine how effective it is.

The peril, of course, is that word of a bad implant or malfunctioning device might not get out fast enough to the rest of us. But a new FDA monitoring system unveiled last September could serve as a safeguard. The system requires that most new medical devices have a unique code identifying their make, manufacture date, and lot number—to be stored in a publicly accessible database. The FDA could use the database to disseminate important information about such devices in the future. And doctors can always report any issues. Developments in medical technology are outpacing regulation, so we have to build a system of oversight that’s just as fast.

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Scientists find revolutionary ‘biomarker’ for clinical depression in teenage boys.


A revolutionary way of identifying the teenage boys who are most likely to develop clinical depression in later life has been discovered by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Predicting those who may be at risk of depressive symptoms has been puzzling doctors for decades but now scientists have found the first biomarker – or biological signpost – for clinical depression.

Teenage boys who have a combination of depressive symptoms and raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol are up to 14 times more likely to develop clinical depression than those who show neither trait.

Around one in six people suffer from clinical depression at some point in their lives and three-quarters of mental health diseases start before people are 24 years old. Researchers believe this latest discovery, published last night in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), could help target treatment and mean doctors can intervene earlier.

Professor Ian Goodyer from the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said: “Depression is a terrible illness that will affect as many as 10 million people in the UK at some point in their lives. Through our research, we now have a very real way of identifying those teenage boys most likely to develop clinical depression.

“This will help us strategically target preventions and interventions at these individuals and hopefully help to reduce their risk of serious episodes of depression and their consequences in adult life.”

At the moment the indicators work only for men because cortisol levels are higher in women and they have not found an equivalent way of predicting outcomes for female patients.

Researchers analysed several early morning saliva samples taken within a week from more than 1,850 teenagers – and did the same again a year later. The samples showed cortisol levels were stable over the year and were then combined with self-reports about symptoms of depression.

The teenagers were then divided into four groups, ranging from group one, who had normal levels of morning cortisol and low symptoms of depression over time, through to group four, who had elevated levels of morning cortisol and high symptoms of depression over time.

Teenage boys in group four were 14 times more likely to develop clinical depression than those in the first group.

Teenage girls in this fourth group were only four times more likely than those in the first group to develop major depression – and were no more likely to develop the condition than those with either high morning cortisol or symptoms of depression alone. The findings suggest gender differences in how depression develops.

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “These findings represent a major development in our understanding of depression among teenage boys. When young people receive early intervention treatment, they have a much better chance of getting better and avoiding long-term mental health problems.

“The prospect of identifying boys at risk at an earlier stage, should enable us to make a big step forward in successfully treating serious mental illness.”

John Williams, head of neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust, which funded the research, said: “Progress in identifying biological markers for depression has been frustratingly slow, but now we finally have a biomarker for clinical depression. The approach taken by Professor Goodyer’s team may yet yield further biomarkers. It also gives tantalising clues about the gender differences in the causes and onset of depression.”

Einstein’s conversion from a belief in a static to an expanding universe.


Albert Einstein accepted the modern cosmological view that the universe is expanding long after his contemporaries Until 1931, physicist Albert Einstein believed that the universe was static.. An urban legend attributes this change of perspective to when American astronomer Edwin Hubble showed Einstein his observations of redshift in the light emitted by far away nebulae — today known as galaxies. But the reality is more complex. The change in Einstein’s viewpoint, in fact, resulted from a tortuous thought process. Now, in an article published in EPJ H, Harry Nussbaumer from the Institute of Astronomy at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, explains how Einstein changed his mind following many encounters with some of the most influential astrophysicists of his generation.

In 1917 Einstein applied his theory of general relativity in the universe, and suggested a model of a homogenous, static, spatially curved universe. However, this interpretation has one major problem: If gravitation was the only active force, his universe would collapse — an issue Einstein addressed by introducing the cosmological constant.

He then fiercely resisted the view that the universe was expanding, despite his contemporaries’ suggestions that this was the case. For example, in 1922, Russian physicist Alexander Friedman showed that Einstein’s equations were viable for dynamical worlds. And, in 1927, Georges Lemaître, a Belgian astrophysicist from the Catholic University of Louvain, concluded that the universe was expanding by combining general relativity with astronomical observations. Yet, Einstein still refused to abandon his static universe.

However, in an April 1931 report to the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Einstein finally adopted a model of an expanding universe. In 1932 he teamed up with the Dutch theoretical physicist and astronomer, Willem de Sitter, to propose an eternally expanding universe which became the cosmological model generally accepted until the middle of the 1990s. To Einstein’s relief these two models no longer needed the cosmological constant.

10 Magical Effects Music Has On The Mind.


1. Improve verbal IQ and reduce seizures

Practising the piano won’t just improve your musical abilities, it can also improve your visual and verbal skills.

A study of 8 to 11-year-olds found that, those who had extra-curricular music classes, developed higher verbal IQ, and visual abilities, in comparison to those with no musical training (Forgeard et al., 2008). This shows the benefits of learning an instrument are not purely musical, but extend into cognition and visual perception.

The effects of music on cognition extend even to neurological wiring.  According to research, calming sounds – especially the piano masterpieces of Mozart – can significantly reduce seizure-causing signals in as short as five minutes. The song’s effect on the cerebral cortex is so profound, that it has made 23 of 29 significant seizure activity decreases possible. The dramatic results are published in the 1998 experiment entitled “Mozart Effect on Epileptiform Activity.”

2. Feeling the chills

Have you ever felt chills down your spine while listening to music? According to a study byNusbaum and Silvia (2010), over 90% of us have.

How much you feel, though, depends on your personality. People who are high in one of the five personality dimensions called ‘openness to experience’, are likely to feel the most chills while listening to music.  In the study, people high in openness to experience were more likely to play a musical instrument, and more likely to rate music as important to them.

3. Active listening amps up happiness

If you’re not feeling the chills, perhaps you should try a little harder.

A recent study contradicts the old advice that activelytrying to feel happier is useless.  In research by Ferguson and Sheldon (2013), participants who listened to upbeat classical compositions by Aaron Copland, while actively trying to feel happier, felt their moods lift more than those who passively listened to the music.

This suggests that engaging with music, rather than allowing it to wash over us, gives the experience extra emotional power.

4. Singing together brings us together

Since music is often a social activity, making it together can help bring us together.

A study of almost one thousand Finnish pupils who took part in extended music classes, found they reported higher satisfaction at school in almost every area, even those not related to the music classes themselves (Eerola & Eerola, 2013)

Explaining the results, the lead researcher Päivi-Sisko Eerola, said:

“Singing in a choir and ensemble performance are popular activities at extended music classes. Other studies have established that people find it very satisfying to synchronize with one another. That increases affiliation within the group and may even make people like each other more than before.”

5. Music treats heart disease

…or at least it can help with the stress and anxiety associated with having treatment for coronary heart disease.

A review of 23 studies covering almost 1,500 patients found that listening to music reduced heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in heart disease patients (Bradt & Dileo, 2009).

6. Why sad music lifts you up

‘Mood management’ is the number one reason people love music.

And, all music fans know that music can have a cathartic effect. But, it’s still odd that, for some people, sad music can, under the right circumstances, improve their mood. Why?  According to a study by Kawakami et al. (2013), sad music is enjoyable because it creates an interesting mix of emotions; some negative, some positive.

Crucially, we perceive the negative emotions in the music, but don’t feel them strongly.

(Read more: Why Do We Enjoy Listening to Sad Music)

7. Seeing happy faces

Music may make you feel different, but as little as 15 seconds of music can change the way you judge the emotions on other people’s faces as well.

A study by Logeswaran et al. (2009) found that a quick blast of happy music made participants perceive other’s faces as happier. The same was true for a snatch of sad music. The biggest effect was seen when people looked at faces with a neutral expression.

In other words: people projected the mood of the music they were listening to onto other people’s faces.

8. The colour of music

Music naturally makes people think of certain colours. Across different cultures, people pair particular types of music with particular colours.

In a study by Palmer et al. (2013), people from both Mexico and the US showed remarkable similarities in connecting duller, darker colours with sadder pieces of music and lighter, more vivid colours with happier music.  A follow-up study showed that these music-to-colour associations were seen because of the emotional content of the music.

9. Could music bring back your vision?

In 60% of people who have a stroke, the visual areas of the brain are affected.

This leads to ‘visual neglect’: the patient loses awareness of objects on the opposite side to where the brain has been damaged.  But, studies have found, when patients listen to their favourite music, some of their visual attention is restored (Tsai et al., 2013). So, music can be an important tool in rehabilitation for stroke patients.

10. Babies are born to dance!

Infants as young as five-months-old respond rhythmically to music and seem to find it more interesting than speech.

In a study by Zentner and Eerola (2010), the babies spontaneously danced to all different types of music, and those that were most in time also smiled the most.  Maybe music really is in our genes!

‘Cancer monorail’ can kill tumours


Monorail

Cancer “monorails” can be used to kill tumours by luring them into toxic pits or areas of the body that are safer to operate on, say US researchers.

A team at the Georgia Institute of Technology designed nanofibres thinner than a human hair which cancers “choose” to travel down.

Animal studies showed brain tumours could be shrunk by tricking cancer cells into migrating down the fibres.

Cancer Research UK said it was a fascinating idea, but early days.

The team were working with difficult-to-treat brain cancers – glioblastomas, which have a tendency to spread inside the brain.

The cancerous cells travel down nerves and blood vessels as they invade the brain.

The nanofibre technology, reported in Nature Materials, mimics the channels cancerous cells use to move.

One of the researchers Prof Ravi Bellamkonda said: “The cancer cells normally latch on to these natural structures and ride them like a monorail to other parts of the brain.

“By providing an attractive alternative fibre, we can efficiently move the tumours along a different path to a destination that we choose.”

Deadly brain tumours

Brain tumour

A variety of different types of cancer were able to ride the monorail in tests in a Petri dish.

Animal studies showed that tumours could be drawn out of the brain and into an implanted toxic gel.

“Start Quote

It’s a way of bringing the tumour to the drug, not the drug to the tumour”

Prof Ravi BellamkondaGeorgia Institute of Technology

The size of the tumour was 93% smaller in animals fitted with the cancer monorail than in rats in which the tumour was untreated.

Prof Bellamkonda told the BBC: “It’s a way of bringing the tumour to the drug, not the drug to the tumour.

“You can move a tumour along a path you specify and then kill it, it’s not creating extra tumour and the primary tumour actually shrinks. ”

He suggested that controlling the growth of a tumour might be able to make cancer something people live with, like diabetes, if it cannot be cured.

Another idea is to make cancer surgery easier.

Normally the tumour and the surrounding tissue are removed, but this is a challenge in the brain where removing any unnecessary tissue could have dire consequences.

Prof Bellamkonda suggested doctors might be able to move a tumour to an area more easily operated on.

However, the research is still at a very early stage and there will be far more animal studies before it is considered in people.

Dr Emma Smith, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “This fascinating, cutting-edge approach could lead to new ways of stopping tumours growing without damaging healthy tissue, which is particularly important for people with brain tumours.

“But it’s still in its infancy and so far has only been tested in rats, so there is a long way to go before we know if it will be safe and effective as a cancer treatment.”

60 School Shootings Linked To Psychiatric Drugs Over Past 20 Years | We Are Change | We Are Change


File:Prozac.jpg

While in the wake to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre most of the debate has centered around gun control, perhaps more of the debate should be focused on the mood altering drugs that people are being given as more than 60 school shootings among and more than 4,800 violent attacks have been linked to psychiatric drugs.

The website SSRI Stories (http://ssristories.com/) tracks violence related to psychiatric drugs.  The site has links to more than 60 school shooting incidents as well as other violent acts over the past 20 years.

This website is a collection of 4,800+ news stories with the full media article available, mainly criminal in nature, that have appeared in the media (newspapers, TV, scientific journals)  or that were part of FDA testimony in either 1991, 2004 or 2006, in which antidepressants are mentioned.

This web site focuses on the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), of which Prozac (fluoxetine) was the first.  Other SSRIs are Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine) (known in the UK as Seroxat), Celexa (citalopam),  Lexapro (escitalopram), and Luvox (fluvoxamine).  Other newer antidepressants included in this list are Remeron (mirtazapine), Anafranil (clomipramine) and the SNRIs Effexor (venlafaxine), Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) as well as the dopamine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant Wellbutrin (bupropion) (also marketed as Zyban).

Although SSRI Stories only features cases which have appeared in the media, starting March 2012 there will be a Website:  http://www.rxisk.org/which will allow personal stories to appear in a different Website from SSRI Stories.  This is the work of Dr. David Healy http://davidhealy.org/welcome-to-data-based-medicine

By clicking on the links, you will be taken to the story.  Here is a snip from the first link: Hours before he walked into a Northern Illinois University lecture hall and inexplicably started a shooting rampage that ended five lives and his own, Steve Kazmierczak called one of the people he was closest to and said what would be a final goodbye.http://ssristories.com/index.php?sort=info&p=

What Drug Date        Where Additional
School Shooting Prozac WITHDRAWAL 2008-02-15 Illinois ** 6 Dead: 15 Wounded: Perpetrator Was in Withdrawal from Med & Acting Erratically
School Shooting Prozac Antidepressant 2005-03-24 Minnesota **10 Dead: 7 Wounded: Dosage Increased One Week before Rampage
School Shooting Paxil [Seroxat] Antidepressant 2001-03-10 Pennsylvania **14 Year Old GIRL Shoots & Wounds Classmate at Catholic School
School Shooting Zoloft Antidepressant & ADHD Med 2011-07-11 Alabama **14 Year Old Kills Fellow Middle School Student
School Shooting Zoloft Antidepressant 1995-10-12 South Carolina **15 Year Old Shoots Two Teachers, Killing One: Then Kills Himself
School Shooting Med For Depression 2009-03-13 Germany **16 Dead Including Shooter: Antidepressant Use: Shooter in Treatment For Depression
School Hostage Situation Med For Depression 2010-12-15 France **17 Year Old with Sword Holds 20 Children & Teacher Hostage
School Shooting Plot Med For Depression WITHDRAWAL 2008-08-28 Texas **18 Year Old Plots a Columbine School Attack
School Shooting Anafranil Antidepressant 1988-05-20 Illinois **29 Year Old WOMAN Kills One Child: Wounds Five: Kills Self
School Shooting Luvox/Zoloft Antidepressants 1999-04-20 Colorado **COLUMBINE: 15 Dead: 24 Wounded
School Stabbings Antidepressants 2001-06-09 Japan **Eight Dead: 15 Wounded: Assailant Had Taken 10 Times his Normal Dose of Depression Med
School Shooting Prozac Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 1998-05-21 Oregon **Four Dead: Twenty Injured
School Stabbing Med For Depression 2011-10-25 Washington **Girl, 15, Stabs Two Girls in School Restroom: 1 Is In Critical Condition
School Shooting Antidepressant 2006-09-30 Colorado **Man Assaults Girls: Kills One & Self
School Machete Attack Med for Depression 2001-09-26 Pennsylvania **Man Attacks 11 Children & 3 Teachers at Elementary School
School Shooting Related Luvox 1993-07-23 Florida **Man Commits Murder During Clinical Trial for Luvox: Same Drug as in COLUMBINE: Never Reported
School Hostage Situation Cymbalta Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 2009-11-09 New York **Man With Gun Inside School Holds Principal Hostage
School Shooting Antidepressants 1992-09-20 Texas **Man, Angry Over Daughter’s Report Card, Shoots 14 Rounds inside Elementary School
School Shooting SSRI 2010-02-19 Finland **On Sept. 23, 2008 a Finnish Student Shot & Killed 9 Students Before Killing Himself
School Shooting Threat Med for Depression* 2004-10-19 New Jersey **Over-Medicated Teen Brings Loaded Handguns to School
School Shooting Antidepressant? 2007-04-18 Virginia **Possible SSRI Use: 33 Dead at Virginia Tech
School Shooting Antidepressant? 2002-01-17 Virginia **Possible SSRI Withdrawal Mania: 3 Dead at Law School
School Incident/Bizarre Zoloft* 2010-08-22 Australia **School Counselor Exhibits Bizarre Behavior: Became Manic On Zoloft
School/Assault Antidepressant 2009-11-04 California **School Custodian Assaults Student & Principal: Had Manic Reaction From Depression Med
School Shooting Prozac Antidepressant 1992-01-30 Michigan **School Teacher Shoots & Kills His Superintendent at School
School Shooting Threats Celexa Antidepressant 2010-01-25 Virginia **Senior in High School Theatens to Kill 4 Classmates: Facebook Involved: Bail Denied
School Violence/Murder Antidepressants* 1998-05-04 New York **Sheriff’s Deputy Shoots his Wife in an Elementary School
School Knifing/Murder Meds For Depression & ADHD 2010-04-28 Massachusetts **Sixteen Year Old Kills 15 Year Old in High School Bathroom in Sept. 2009
School Stabbing Wellbutrin 2006-12-04 Indiana **Stabbing by 17 Year Old At High School: Charged with Attempted Murder
School Threat Antidepressants 2007-04-23 Mississippi **Student Arrested for Making School Threat Over Internet
School Suspension Lexapro Antidepressant 2007-07-28 Arkansas **Student Has 11 Incidents with Police During his 16 Months on Lexapro
School Shooting Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 2007-11-07 Finland **Student Kills 8: Wounds 10: Kills Self: High School in Finland
School Shooting Paxil [Seroxat] Antidepressant 2004-02-09 New York **Student Shoots Teacher in Leg at School
School Threat Prozac Antidepressant 2008-01-25 Washington **Student Takes Loaded Shotgun & 3 Rifles to School Parking Lot: Plans Suicide
School Shooting Plot Med For Depression 1998-12-01 Wisconsin **Teen Accused of Plotting to Gun Down Students at School
School/Assault Zoloft Antidepressant 2006-02-15 Tennessee **Teen Attacks Teacher at School
School Shooting Threat Antidepressant 1999-04-16 Idaho **Teen Fires Gun in School
School Hostage Situation Paxil & Effexor Antidepressants 2001-04-15 Washington **Teen Holds Classmates Hostage with a Gun
School Hostage Situation Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 2006-11-28 North Carolina **Teen Holds Teacher & Student Hostage with Gun
School Knife Attack Med for Depression 2006-12-06 Indiana **Teen Knife Attacks Fellow Student
School Massacre Plot Prozac Withdrawal 2011-02-23 Virginia **Teen Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison For Columbine Style Plot
School Shooting Celexa & Effexor Antidepressants 2001-04-19 California **Teen Shoots at Classmates in School
School Shooting Celexa Antidepressant 2006-08-30 North Carolina **Teen Shoots at Two Students: Kills his Father: Celexa Found Among his Personal Effects
School Shooting Meds For Depression & ADHD 2011-03-18 South Carolina **Teen Shoots School Official: Pipe Bombs Found in Backpack
School Shooting Threat Antidepressant 2003-05-31 Michigan **Teen Threatens School Shooting: Charge is Terrorism
School Stand-Off Zoloft Antidepressant 1998-04-13 Idaho **Teen [14 Years Old] in School Holds Police At Bay: Fires Shots
School Shooting Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 2007-10-12 Ohio **Teen [14 Years Old] School Shooter Possibly on Antidepressants or In Withdrawal
School Threat Antidepressants 2008-03-20 Indiana **Teen [16 Years Old] Brings Gun to School: There Is a Lockdown
School Suicide/Lockdown Med For Depression 2008-02-20 Idaho **Teen [16 Years Old] Kills Self at High School: Lockdown by Police
School Threats Prozac Antidepressant 1999-10-19 Florida **Teen [16 Years Old] Threatens Classmates With Knife & Fake Explosives
School Stabbing Med For Depression 2008-02-29 Texas **Teen [17 Year Old GIRL] Stabs Friend & Principal at High School
School Hostage Situation Prozac/ Paxil Antidepressants 2001-01-18 California **Teen [17 Years Old] Takes Girl Hostage at School: He is Killed by Police
School Knife Attack Treatment For Depression & Strattera 2009-03-10 Belgium **Three Dead in School Day Care: Two Children & a Caregiver: Happened Jan 23, 2009
School Shooting Plot Antidepressants 2009-09-22 England **Two English School Boys Plot to Blow Up High School
School Arson Incidents Paxil 2002-04-12 Michigan **Unusual Personality Change on Paxil Caused 15 Year Old to Set Fires inside High School
School Bomb Threat Med For Depression 2009-06-29 Australia **Vexed Father Makes Bomb Threat Against Elementary School
School Violence Antidepressant 2005-11-19 Arizona **Violent 8 Year Old GIRL Handcuffed by Police at School
School Violence Celexa Antidepressant 2002-01-23 Florida **Violent 8 Year-Old Boy Arrested At School
School Threat/Lockdown Lexapro* 2008-04-18 California **Violent High School Student Shot to Death on Campus by Police
School / Child Endangerment Antidepressants 2008-02-27 Canada **Wacky School Bus Driver Goes Berserk: Also Involved Painkillers
School Violence Paxil 2004-10-23 Washington DC **Young Boy, 10 Year Old, Has Violent Incidents at School
School Threat Wellbutrin Antidepressant 2007-04-24 Tennessee **Young Boy, 12, Threatens to Shoot Others at School
School Hostage Situation Med for Depression 2006-03-09 France **Young Ex-Teacher Holds 21 Students Hostage
School Shooting/Suicide Celexa 2002-10-07 Texas **Young Girl [13 Years Old] Kills Self at School With a Gun
School Hostage Situation Paxil 2001-10-12 North Carolina **Young Man Holds Three People Hostage in Duke University President’s Office
School Murder Attempt Med For Depression 1995-03-04 California **Young Woman Deliberately Hits 3 Kids with Her Car at Elementary School: Laughed During Attack

 

Human lung made in lab for first time.


For the first time, scientists have created human lungs in a lab — an exciting step forward in regenerative medicine, but an advance that likely won’t help patients for many years.

“It’s so darn cool,” said Joan Nichols, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “It’s been science fiction and we’re moving into science fact.”

If the lungs work — and that’s a big if — they could help the more than 1,600 people awaiting a lung transplant. Lungs are one of many body parts being manufactured in the lab — some parts, such as tracheas and livers, are even further along.

“Whole-organ engineering is going to work as a solution to the organ donor shortage,” said Dr. Stephen Badylak, deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Image A is before new cells were reseeded. The finished product is image B.
Image A is before new cells were reseeded. The finished product is image B.

The researchers in Galveston, Texas, started with lungs from two children who’d died from trauma, most likely a car accident, Nichols said. Their lungs were too damaged to be used for transplantation, but they did have some healthy tissue.

They took one of the lungs and stripped away nearly everything, leaving a scaffolding of collagen and elastin.

The scientists then took cells from the other lung and put them on the scaffolding. They immersed the structure in a large chamber filled with a liquid “resembling Kool-Aid,” Nichols said, which provided nutrients for the cells to grow. After about four weeks, an engineered human lung emerged.

Repeating the process, they created another lung from two other children who’d died.

The lab-made lungs look very much like the real thing, Nichols says, just pinker, softer and less dense.

Nichols said she thinks it will be another 12 years or so until they’ll be ready to try using these lungs for transplants.

“My students will be doing the work when I’m old and retired and can’t hold a pipette anymore,” she said.

Before researchers experiment on humans, they’ll try out lab-made lungs on pigs, she said.

Doctors have already had success transplanting patients with synthetic tracheas. The first procedure was done in 2011, and since then, six more have been done.

Two of the patients have died of causes unrelated to their tracheas, said David Green, CEO of Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology, which makes equipment used to make engineered body parts.

Researchers build world’s most powerful terahertz laser chip


University of Leeds researchers have taken the lead in the race to build the world’s most powerful terahertz laser chip.

A paper in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) journal Electronics Letters reports that the Leeds team has exceeded a 1 Watt output power from a quantum cascade terahertz laser.

The new record more than doubles landmarks set by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and subsequently by a team from Vienna last year.

Terahertz waves, which lie in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwaves, can penetrate materials that block visible light and have a wide range of possible uses including chemical analysis, security scanning, medical imaging, and telecommunications.

Widely publicised potential applications include monitoring pharmaceutical products, the remote sensing of chemical signatures of explosives in unopened envelopes, and the non-invasive detection of cancers in the human body.

However, one of the main challenges for scientists and engineers is making the lasers powerful and compact enough to be useful.

Professor Edmund Linfield, Professor of Terahertz Electronics in the University’s School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: “Although it is possible to build large instruments that generate powerful beams of , these instruments are only useful for a limited set of applications. We need terahertz lasers that not only offer high power but are also portable and low cost.”

The quantum cascade terahertz lasers being developed by Leeds are only a few square millimetres in size.

In October 2013, Vienna University of Technology announced that its researchers had smashed the world record output power for quantum cascade terahertz lasers previously held by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Austrian team reported an output of 0.47 Watt from a single laser facet, nearly double the  reported by the MIT team. The Leeds group has now achieved an output of more than 1 Watt from a single laser facet.

Professor Linfield said: “The process of making these lasers is extraordinarily delicate. Layers of different semiconductors such as gallium arsenide are built up one atomic monolayer at a time. We control the thickness and composition of each individual layer very accurately and build up a semiconductor material of between typically 1,000 and 2,000 layers. The record power of our new laser is due to the expertise that we have developed at Leeds in fabricating these layered semiconductors, together with our ability to engineer these materials subsequently into suitable and powerful  devices.”

Professor Giles Davies, Professor of Electronic and Photonic Engineering in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: “The University of Leeds has been an international leader in terahertz engineering for many years. This work is a key step toward increasing the power of these lasers while keeping them compact and affordable enough to deliver the range of applications promised by.”

Earwax Odor Can Offer Information About Disease, Ethnicity


For many people, earwax is just another secretion from the human body that must be managed, lest it get out of hand, and clog up our ears. But cleaning our ears of these substances — even though we should — could be like throwing out important information. That’s because researchers found that earwax from different races also have specific odors, and therefore, can say something about the person’s health.

The study, from researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, looked into whether health information can be derived from earwax. Research has shown that a gene associated with a person’s tendency to have underarm odor, called ABCC11, is also related to the color and texture of their earwax. One variant of ABCC11, which is normally found in people of East Asian descent, leads to dry, white earwax and less body odor; while another variant of the gene, mostly found among people of African and European descent, causes earwax to be wet and yellow-brown in color, and is also more likely to cause body odor, according to LiveScience.

In studies that have linked body odor to disease, ABCC11 has been the link between the two. For example, a 2009 study, published in The FASEB Journal, found that the variant of the gene that caused odorous armpits and wet earwax was also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. “As it turns out, the type of earwax one has is linked to a gene that leads to bad odors from one’s armpit,” said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the journal, according to Medical News Today. “These may become lifesaving clues to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.”

Knowing this, researchers wanted to see if heated-up earwax could produce information regarding a person’s health. They took earwax samples from 16 men — half were East Asian and half were white — and heated them in vials until they started to release odors. These odors, molecularly known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), were then analyzed through gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which identifies each molecule. The tests showed that 12 VOCs were present among all them men. They also showed clear differences between the two ethnic groups, as 11 of the 12 VOCs were present at higher concentrations in the white men when compared to the Asian men.

“In essence, we could obtain information about a person’s ethnicity simply by looking in his ears,” lead author of the study Katharine Prokop-Prigge said in a statement. “While the types of odorants were similar, the amounts were very different.

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 Because earwax is created from a mixture of secretions — sweat and fat — the researchers believe that it could be a source for spotting early stages of disease, as fat-soluble odorants emitted by diseases get caught in the secreted fat. The researchers noted that signs of both maple syrup urine disease and alkaptonuria — also called black urine disease — could be spotted in earwax before blood and urine tests found them. “Odors in earwax may be able to tell us what a person has eaten and where they have been,” Dr. George Preti, an organic chemist at Monell, said in the statement. “Earwax is a neglected body secretion whose potential as an information source has yet to be explored.”

Source: Journal of Chromatography 

Brain-Dead Woman’s Baby Safely Delivered.


Joy and sorrow for Dylan Benson of Victoria, British Columbia: He welcomed a healthy baby son into the world on Saturday night, but had to say goodbye to wife Robyn soon afterward. She was declared brain dead late last year after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while five months pregnant and had been kept on life supportuntil it was safe to deliver the baby. She died Sunday, hours after son Iver Cohen Benson was delivered at just 28 weeks, weighing two pounds, 13 ounces. “I don’t think I have the right words to describe it,” the new father tells theVancouver Sun. “It’s the best and definitely the worst thing to ever happen to me in my life at the same time.” The couple were married just seven months ago but had met as teens 16 years ago.

After Iver was born, “we had to unfortunately say goodbye to the strongest and most wonderful woman I have ever met,” Benson wrote in a Facebook post last night. “I miss Robyn more than words can explain. I could not be more impressed with her strength, and I am so lucky to have known her. She will live on forever within Iver, and in my heart.” Iver will remain in the hospital until he is healthy enough to go home, the CBC reports. A fundraising appealfor the father and son has now raised $178,000, far above the initial goal of $36,000. The Sun notes only 30 similar cases have ever been reported in medical journals.