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  • Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

    HughPickens.com writes Ezekiel J. Emanuel, director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the US National Institutes of Health, writes at The Atlantic that there is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. "It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic." Emanuel says that he is isn't asking for more time than is likely nor foreshortening his life but is talking about the kind and amount of health care he will consent to after 75. "Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won't actively end my life. But I won't try to prolong it, either." Emanuel says that Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. "I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop."

    379 comments | 12 hours ago

  • New MRI Studies Show SSRIs Bring Rapid Changes to Brain Function

    A story at the Los Angeles Times reports that researchers at the Max Planck Institute have found that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, various of which are widely used in anti-depressant medications, cause changes in healthy subjects' brain architecture just hours after ingestion. As the article mentions, one reason that this rapid change is surprising is that patients taking SSRIs to treat depression typically take considerably longer (weeks) to perceive a change in mood. A slice from the story: When more serotonin was available, this resting state functional connectivity decreased on a broad scale, the study found. This finding was not particularly surprising -- other studies have shown a similar effect in brain regions strongly associated with mood regulation. But there was a two-fold shock: Some areas of the brain appeared to buck the trend and become more interdependent. And all the changes were evident only three hours after the single dosage. ... The rapid connectivity shifts noted by the study might therefore be precursors to longer-term changes, perhaps starting with remodeling of synapses, the microscopic gaps where chemical neurotransmitters such as serotonin flood across to an adjacent brain cell, the study suggests. But this type of brain scanning can’t pick up changes at such a scale, so the hypothesis will have to be tested other ways[.] ... Study subjects did not have diagnoses of depression, so researchers will need to generate similar maps among those diagnosed with depression, and re-map them during and after depressive episodes, as well as after treatment, Sacher said. Comparisons might then show whether a certain initial architecture predicts treatment success.

    131 comments | yesterday

  • Obama Presses Leaders To Speed Ebola Response

    mdsolar writes with the latest plan from the U.S. government to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and a call for more help from other nations by the President. President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to accelerate the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging West Africa, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers were swiftly deployed, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives. "This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better," Mr. Obama said here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he met with doctors who had just returned from West Africa. The world, he said, "has the responsibility to act, to step up and to do more. The United States intends to do more." Even as the president announced a major American deployment to Liberia and Senegal of medicine, equipment and 3,000 military personnel, global health officials said that time was running out and that they had weeks, not months, to act. They said that although the American contribution was on a scale large enough to make a difference, a coordinated assault in Africa from other Western powers was essential to bringing the virus under control.

    221 comments | 5 days ago

  • Farmers Carry Multidrug-Resistant Staph For Weeks Into Local Communities

    An anonymous reader writes: Fresh research out of the UNC Gillings and JHU Bloomberg schools of public health shows industrial farm workers are carrying livestock-associated, multidrug-resistant staph into local communities for weeks at a time. "Among the [22 people tested], 10 workers carried antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria in their noses for up to four days. Another six workers were intermittent carriers of the bacteria. The 10 workers found to carry the bacteria persistently had strains associated with livestock that were resistant to multiple drugs, and one also carried MRSA. Three more of the workers tested positive for strains of S. aureus that were not resistant to antibiotics. So in total, 86 percent of the workers in the study carried the S. aureus bacteria, compared with about one-third of the population at large, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." This problem has grown since its last mention on Slashdot. Unfortunately, massive industrial lobbying continues to neuter government action.

    122 comments | about a week ago

  • Schizophrenia Is Not a Single Disease

    An anonymous reader writes: New research from Washington University has found that the condition known as schizophrenia is not just a single disease, but instead a collection of eight different disorders. For years, researchers struggled to understand the genetic basis of schizophrenia. This new method was able to isolate and identify the different conditions (each with its own symptoms) currently classified under the same heading (abstract, full text). "In some patients with hallucinations or delusions, for example, the researchers matched distinct genetic features to patients' symptoms, demonstrating that specific genetic variations interacted to create a 95 percent certainty of schizophrenia. In another group, they found that disorganized speech and behavior were specifically associated with a set of DNA variations that carried a 100 percent risk of schizophrenia." According to one of the study's authors, "By identifying groups of genetic variations and matching them to symptoms in individual patients, it soon may be possible to target treatments to specific pathways that cause problems."

    222 comments | about a week ago

  • If We Can't Kill Cancer, Can We Control It?

    An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from The New Yorker: In April, [Dr. Eytan Stein] presented his findings to a packed auditorium at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in San Diego. It was the first public airing of the results of AG-221; patients with progressive [acute myelogenous leukemia] had never improved so quickly and definitively. ... The breakthrough is notable in part for the unconventional manner in which the drug attacks its target. There are many kinds of cancer, but treatments have typically combated them in one way only: by attempting to destroy the cancerous cells. Surgery aims to remove the entire growth from the body; chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the cancer cells; radiation generates toxic molecules that break up the cancer cells' DNA and proteins, causing their demise. A more recent approach, immunotherapy, co-opts the body's immune system into attacking and eradicating the tumor. The Agios drug, instead of killing the leukemic cells — immature blood cells gone haywire — coaxes them into maturing into functioning blood cells. Cancerous cells traditionally have been viewed as a lost cause, fit only for destruction. The emerging research on A.M.L. suggests that at least some cancer cells might be redeemable: they still carry their original programming and can be pressed back onto a pathway to health.

    140 comments | about a week ago

  • US Scientists Predict Long Battle Against Ebola

    An anonymous reader writes: Despite recent advances in medicine to treat Ebola, epidemiologists are not hopeful that the outbreak in west Africa will be contained any time soon. Revised models for the disease's spread expect the outbreak to last 12 to 18 months longer, likely infecting hundreds of thousands of people. "While previous outbreaks have been largely confined to rural areas, the current epidemic, the largest ever, has reached densely populated, impoverished cities — including Monrovia, the capital of Liberia — gravely complicating efforts to control the spread of the disease. ... What worries public health officials most is that the epidemic has begun to grow exponentially in Liberia. In the most recent week reported, Liberia had nearly 400 new cases, almost double the number reported the week before. Another grave concern, the W.H.O. said, is 'evidence of substantial underreporting of cases and deaths.' The organization reported on Friday that the number of Ebola cases as of Sept. 7 was 4,366, including 2,218 deaths." Scientists are urging greater public health efforts to slow the exponential trajectory of the disease and bring it back under control.

    119 comments | about two weeks ago

  • The Grassroots Future of Biohacking

    An anonymous reader writes Forget about some kid engineering a virulent microbe in their bedroom. As the assistant director of the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering, Oliver Medvedik, puts it, "It's extremely difficult to 'improve' on the lethality of nature. The pathogens that already exist are more legitimate cause for worry.” If anything, you're better off putting energy into wrenching away your desire for McDonalds, and making sure the government doesn't impose draconian laws about DIY-bio. Here's a look at the grassroots future of biohacking and the problems with government overreach.

    68 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Reanalysis of Clinical Trials Finds Misleading Results

    sciencehabit writes: Clinical trials rarely get a second look — and when they do, their findings are not always what the authors originally reported. That's the conclusion of a new study (abstract), which compared how 37 studies that had been reanalyzed measured up to the original. In 13 cases, the reanalysis came to a different outcome — a finding that suggests many clinical trials may not be accurately reporting the effect of a new drug or intervention. Moreover, only five of the reanalyses were by an entirely different set of authors, which means they did not get a neutral relook.

    In one of the trials, which examined the efficacy of the drug methotrexate in treating systemic sclerosis—an autoimmune disease that causes scarring of the skin and internal organs—the original researchers found the drug to be not much more effective than the placebo, as they reported in a 2001 paper. However, in a 2009 reanalysis of the same trial, another group of researchers including one of the original authors used Bayesian analysis, a statistical technique to overcome the shortcomings of small data sets that plague clinical trials of rare diseases such as sclerosis. The reanalysis found that the drug was, as it turned out, more effective than the placebo and had a good chance of benefiting sclerosis patients.

    74 comments | about two weeks ago

  • 3 Short Walking Breaks Can Reverse Harm From 3 Hours of Sitting

    An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers have been steadily building evidence that prolonged sitting is awful for your health. One major problem is that blood can pool in the legs of a seated person, causing arteries to start losing their ability to control the rate of blood flow. A new experimental study (abstract) has discovered it's quite easy to negate these detrimental health effects: all you need to do is take a leisurely, 5-minute walk for every hour you sit. "The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour. The study participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same — it did not drop throughout the three-hour period. Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this."

    170 comments | about two weeks ago

  • In France, a Second Patient Receives Permanent Artificial Heart

    Jason Koebler (3528235) writes One of the most important goals of transhumanist medicine—possessing a perfectly healthy heart—has so far remained elusive. This week, we came a step closer when for the second time ever, a French company implanted a permanent artificial heart in a patient. More than just pumping blood, future artificial hearts will bring numerous other advantages with them. They will have computer chips and wi-fi capacity built into them. We'll control our hearts with our smart phones, tuning down its pumping capacity when we want to sleep, or tuning it up when we want to run marathons. The patient who received the first of these hearts, though he survived for 76 days, died after the heart "stopped after a short circuit, although the exact reasons behind the death were still unknown."

    183 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Scientists Regenerate Rat Muscle Tissue

    Zothecula writes Muscle lost through traumatic injury, congenital defect, or tumor ablation may soon be regenerated from within. A team of researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has shown how stem cells in the body of mice and rats can be mobilized to form new muscle in damaged regions. "Working to leverage the body’s own regenerative properties, we designed a muscle-specific scaffolding system that can actively participate in functional tissue regeneration," explains Sang Jin Lee, senior author on the study. This scaffold was implanted in the rats' tibialis anterior muscle (which is found below the knee), serving as a kind of home for the muscle progenitor cells to grow and develop.

    26 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Denver Latest City Hit By Viral Respiratory Infection That Targets Kids

    A respiratory illness that almost exclusively infects children and for which there is no vaccine has struck Denver, Colorado, the latest in a series of infection clusters in the Midwest; one Denver hospital alone has treated more than 900 children for the illness since August 18, though no deaths have been reported. Health officials believe that the sickness is related to a rare virus called human enterovirus 68 (HEV68), the [Denver] Post says. HEV68, first seen in California in 1962, and an unwelcome but highly infrequent visitor to communities worldwide since then, is a relative of the virus linked to the common cold (human rhinoviruses, or HRV), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ... HEV68, which almost uniquely affects children, tends to first cause cold-like symptoms, including body aches, sneezing and coughing. These mild complaints then worsen into life-threatening breathing problems that are all the more dangerous to children with asthma. Since viruses do not respond to antibiotics, hospitals have treated the illness with asthma therapies.

    174 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Survivors' Blood Holds Promise, But Draws Critics, As Ebola Treatment

    As reported by The Los Angeles Times, the World Health Organization is endorsing blood transfusions from Ebola survivors as a treatment for those currently infected. The idea behind blood transfusion is similar to vaccination by other means, though (at least as discussed here) administered only after a patient has been infected: "The blood plasma of people who have recovered from Ebola contains antibodies that were successful in fighting off the virus. If these antibodies are pumped into an infected person, they might help the recipient fight the disease as well." The article mentions that while there is little evidence to back the efficacy in preventing Ebola, "Transfusions were used to treat a small number of patients during the 1995 Kikwit Ebola outbreak in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Dr. Oyewale Tomori, a professor of virology at Redeemer's University in Nigeria. A study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases after the outbreak reported that eight patients received transfusions, and only one of them died."

    The idea of blood transfusions has critics, too: Dr. William Shaffner of Vanderbilt University is skeptical, saying he was surprised that the WHO would make transfusions a priority in the ongoing crisis because they are labor-intensive, making it difficult to serve a large number of patients. "You can't do this en masse," Schaffner said. "This is going to be a desperate attempt to provide something for a relatively small number of patients." Finding suitable donors may also prove more challenging than WHO officials expect, he warned. Malnutrition and other health concerns could make it more difficult to draw blood from people. "These are people who have recovered from Ebola," Schaffner said. "When are they hale and hearty enough to actually do a donation?"

    55 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Hackers Break Into HealthCare.gov

    mpicpp is one of many to point out that hackers broke into the HealthCare.gov website in July and uploaded malicious software. "Hackers silently infected a Healthcare.gov computer server this summer. But the malware didn't manage to steal anyone's data, federal officials say. On Thursday, the Health and Human Services Department, which manages the Obamacare website, explained what happened. And officials stressed that personal information was never at risk. "Our review indicates that the server did not contain consumer personal information; data was not transmitted outside the agency, and the website was not specifically targeted," HHS spokesman Kevin Griffis said. But it was a close call, showing just how vulnerable computer systems can be. It all happened because of a series of mistakes. A computer server that routinely tests portions of the website wasn't properly set up. It was never supposed to be connected to the Internet — but someone had accidentally connected it anyway. That left it open to attack, and on July 8, malware slipped past the Obamacare security system, officials said.

    150 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Oregon Suing Oracle Over Obamacare Site, But Still Needs Oracle's Help

    jfruh writes Oracle and the state of Oregon are in the midst of a particularly nasty set of lawsuits over the botched rollout of Oregon's health care exchange site, with Oregon claiming that Oracle promised an "out-of-the-box solution" and Oracle saying that Oregon foolishly attempted to act as its own systems integrator. But one aspect of the dispute helps illustrate an unpleasant reality of these kinds of disputes: even as Oregon tries to extract damages from Oracle, it still needs Oracle's help to salvage the site.

    116 comments | about three weeks ago

  • States Allowing Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths

    An anonymous reader writes: Narcotic painkillers aren't one of the biggest killers in the U.S., but overdoses do claim over 15,000 lives per year and send hundreds of thousands to the emergency room. Because of this, it's interesting that a new study (abstract) has found states that allow the use of medical marijuana have seen a dramatic reduction in opioid overdose fatalities. "Previous studies hint at why marijuana use might help reduce reliance on opioid painkillers. Many drugs with abuse potential such as nicotine and opiates, as well as marijuana, pump up the brain's dopamine levels, which can induce feelings of euphoria. The biological reasons that people might use marijuana instead of opioids aren't exactly clear, because marijuana doesn't replace the pain relief of opiates. However, it does seem to distract from the pain by making it less bothersome." This research comes at a time when the country is furiously debating the costs and benefits of marijuana use, and opponents of the idea are paying researchers to paint it in an unfavorable light.

    217 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Magnetic Stimulation Boosts Memory In Humans

    sciencehabit writes: Our memories are annoyingly glitchy. Names, dates, birthdays, and the locations of car keys fall through the cracks, losses that accelerate at an alarming pace with age and in neurodegenerative diseases. Now, by applying electromagnetic pulses through the skull to carefully targeted brain regions, researchers have found a way to boost memory performance in healthy people. The new study (abstract) sheds light on the neural networks that support memories and may lead to therapies for people with memory deficits, researchers say. Similar studies have been performed using electric current.

    74 comments | about three weeks ago

  • No, a Stolen iPod Didn't Brick Ben Eberle's Prosthetic Hand

    New submitter willoremus writes A wounded Army vet had his $75k prosthetic hand bricked when someone stole his iPod Touch? Yeah, not so much. I'm a tech reporter for Slate.com, and a Slashdot post earlier this week prompted me to look into this story and ultimately debunk some of the key info. Sorry for self-posting, but I thought folks here might be interested in the truth since the false story was one of the top posts earlier this week.

    122 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Whole Organ Grown In Animal For First Time

    An anonymous reader writes British scientists have produced the first working organ grown from scratch in a living animal. Reprogrammed cells created in a lab were used in a mouse to produce a thymus. The organ was created using connective tissue cells from a mouse embryo and were converted into a different cell strain by changing a genetic switch in their DNA. The resulting cells grew into the whole organ after being injected. It has only been tested on mice so far, but researchers at Edinburgh University say that within a decade the procedure could be effective and safe enough for humans. The findings were published in Nature Cell Biology.

    77 comments | about a month ago

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