Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] ‘Google Maps’ for the body: a biomedical revolution

From the 30 March 2015 USNW news release

UNSW biomedical engineer Melissa Knothe Tate is using previously top-secret semiconductor technology to zoom through organs of the human body, down to the level of a single cell.

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UNSW Paul Trainor Chair of Biomedical Engineering, Professor Melissa Knothe Tate. Photo: Grant Turner/Mediakoo

A world-first UNSW collaboration that uses previously top-secret technology to zoom through the human body down to the level of a single cell could be a game-changer for medicine, an international research conference in the United States has been told.

The imaging technology, developed by high-tech German optical and industrial measurement manufacturer Zeiss, was originally developed to scan silicon wafers for defects.

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain demonstrated — ScienceDaily

Marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain demonstrated — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts

Date:November 10, 2014
Source:Center for BrainHealth
Summary:
The effects of chronic marijuana use on the brain may depend on age of first use and duration of use, according to new research. Researchers for the first time comprehensively describe existing abnormalities in brain function and structure of long-term marijuana users with multiple magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] Brain Scans Show We Take Risks Because We Can’t Stop Ourselves

Major implications in concepts as free will, sin, justice, mental illness, government/medical “intervention”…..

From the 4 February 2014 University of Texas at Austin press release

AUSTIN, Texas — A new study correlating brain activity with how people make decisions suggests that when individuals engage in risky behavior, such as drunk driving or unsafe sex, it’s probably not because their brains’ desire systems are too active, but because their self-control systems are not active enough.

This might have implications for how health experts treat mental illness and addiction or how the legal system assesses a criminal’s likelihood of committing another crime.

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When these brain regions (mostly associated with control) aren’t active enough, we make risky choices. Z-statistic corresponds to predictive ability, yellow being the most predictive regions. Image: Sarah Helfinstein/U. of Texas at Austin.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, UCLA and elsewhere analyzed data from 108 subjects who sat in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner — a machine that allows researchers to pinpoint brain activity in vivid, three-dimensional images — while playing a video game that simulates risk-taking.

The researchers used specialized software to look for patterns of activity across the whole brain that preceded a person’s making a risky choice or a safe choice in one set of subjects. Then they asked the software to predict what other subjects would choose during the game based solely on their brain activity. The software accurately predicted people’s choices 71 percent of the time.

“These patterns are reliable enough that not only can we predict what will happen in an additional test on the same person, but on people we haven’t seen before,” said Russell Poldrack, director of UT Austin’s Imaging Research Center and professor of psychology and neuroscience.

Read the entire press release here

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February 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | 2 Comments

[Reposting] A medical-testing lesson from Minnesota: Less can be more

 

The state’s approach to cutting unneeded medical scans could be a model for federal Medicare savings.

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From the 6 January 2013 article at Star Tribune – Health

 

A novel strategy that has saved Minnesota millions of dollars in unnecessary medical-imaging scans — and probably prevented dozens of patient deaths — might soon go national.

Leaders from Minnesota’s medical and insurance communities met Monday morning to celebrate the project — which has leveled off the skyrocketing growth of MRI and CT scans for back pain, headaches and other problems — and to promote legislation by Rep. Erik Paulsen that would bring it to bear on the federal government’s vast Medicare program.

Minnesota’s “decision support” strategy, enacted in 2006, created a single set of standards for doctors to follow in deciding when patients need the costly scans. It also created a green-yellow-red coding system to show patients when scans were recommended and when they weren’t. The use of such scans, which had been growing at a 7 percent annual clip, grew just 1 percent from 2007 to 2012.

….officials in other states often view Minnesota as “quite peculiar” because of its small, cooperative community of insurers and physician groups, and don’t believe its innovations can be repeated elsewhere, said Dr. Pat Courneya, medical director of HealthPartners, the Bloomington-based health plan.

Getting this type of approach to succeed in Medicare, on the other hand, would cause it to spread to other states, he said.

More than 80 percent of imaging scans in Minnesota are now ordered only after doctors seek out decision-support guidance to make sure they are recommended based on their patients’ conditions and medical histories.

Courneya said the initial guidelines were based on the clinical expertise and recommendations of Minnesota doctors. They have since been revised as studies refine when imaging scans should be used. Research, for example, has identified the types of patients who are suitable for scans to screen for breast or lung cancers.

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

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January 7, 2014 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nurturing May Protect Kids from Brain Changes Linked to Poverty

Seems the key is not poverty per se, but parental stress. Not that poverty is OK!
Thinking back to my Peace Corps days in Liberia, West Africa.  Almost all the villagers lived in poverty (according to American standards). Yet I observed very little depression and much resilience in dealing with stress.  I attribute it to the support network  (largely nurturing)  of family, kinship and tribal ties. While there was some behavior that seemed petty to me, there was a strong sense of community where people’s basic needs were largely met.  Don’t have any studies to back me up on this, just personal observation.

An MRI scan highlights the hippocampus (pink) in a child’s brain. Washington University researchers found that poor children with parents who were not very nurturing were likely to have a smaller hippocampus than those raised by more attentive parents. (Credit: Washington University Early Emotional Development Program)

From the 28 October 2013 article at ScienceDaily

Growing up in poverty can have long-lasting, negative consequences for a child. But for poor children raised by parents who lack nurturing skills, the effects may be particularly worrisome, according to a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Among children living in poverty, the researchers identified changes in the brain that can lead to lifelong problems like depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress. The study showed that the extent of those changes was influenced strongly by whether parents were nurturing.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that a nurturing home life may offset some of the negative changes in brain anatomy among poor children. And the findings suggest that teaching nurturing skills to parents — particularly those living in poverty — may provide a lifetime benefit for their children.

The study is published online Oct. 28 and will appear in the November issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers found that poor children with parents who were not very nurturing were likely to have less gray and white matter in the brain. Gray matter is closely linked to intelligence, while white matter often is linked to the brain’s ability to transmit signals between various cells and structures.

The MRI scans also revealed that two key brain structures were smaller in children who were living in poverty: the amygdala, a key structure in emotional health, and the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is critical to learning and memory.

“We’ve known for many years from behavioral studies that exposure to poverty is one of the most powerful predictors of poor developmental outcomes for children,” said principal investigator Joan L. Luby, MD, a Washington University child psychiatrist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “A growing number of neuroscience and brain-imaging studies recently have shown that poverty also has a negative effect on brain development.

“What’s new is that our research shows the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus, are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses that the children experience.”

..

Luby’s team found that parents living in poverty appeared more stressed and less able to nurture their children during that exercise. In cases where poor parents were rated as good nurturers, the children were less likely to exhibit the same anatomical changes in the brain as poor children with less nurturing parents.

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , | Leave a comment

Huge Increase In Radiation Exposure From Diagnostic Imaging

From the 13 June 2012 Medical News Today article

As imaging technology advances and medical devices improve, healthcare professionals are more inclined to use these state-of-the art scanners to look inside patients’ bodies. Computed tomography usage, for example, more than tripled between 1996 and 2010. Over the same period, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) usage increased fourfold. It is not surprising, therefore, that patient radiation exposure has also risen.

An article in JAMA, published today, asks the question to see if this technological dependance is going too far or even putting patients in danger with too many scans. Some people are worried about raditation from mobile phones, so stepping inside a multi-million dollar machine that blasts the body with one type of electromagnetic resonance or another, is going to draw warranted safety questions…

..One of the main points made in the article is that there has never been a comprehensive study of how much use healthcare providers are making of imaging technology. The studies that have been done are usually based around private practices and done for insurance purposes, and in these cases, imaging is usually encouraged. Looking at a wider range of patients and facilities enables the authors to provide us with a clear picture.

The authors summarize the use of various imaging techniques:

  • Radiography and angiography/fluoroscopy rates were relatively stable over time: radiography increased 1.2 percent per year, and angiography/fluoroscopy decreased 1.3 percent per year.
  • Computed tomography examinations tripled (52/1000 enrollees in 1996 to 149/1000 in 2010, 7.8 percent annual growth)
  • MRIs quadrupled (17/1000 to 65/1000,10 percent annual growth)…

…while healthcare has obviously improved with the use of technology, given the high costs of imaging, some $100 Billion annually, combined with the cancer risks and other possible side effects, the benefits of sending patients for scans, should be balanced by weighing the medical needs against both financial and heath risks of the technology itself.

Related Resource

   Choosing Wisely (US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

Choosing Wisely™ aims to get physicians, patients and other health care stakeholders thinking and talking about the overuse or misuse of medical tests and procedures that provide little benefit, and in some instances harm.
Includes tips,scenarios, and information to get the most out of doctor visits.

 

English: Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) resea...

English: Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) researchers at Ohio State University look through the opening of an MRI machine, used to image the knees of patients. The OAI, a public-private partnership, led by NIAMS and the National Institute on Aging with additional support from five other Institutes and Centers, funds research and information sharing resources to aid in the identification of biological markers for osteoarthritis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

New and varied imaging techniques facilitate personalized medicine

A short axis view of the heart showing a cine ...

A short axis view of the heart

New and varied imaging techniques facilitate personalized medicine

‘Imaging is not about technology, but about finding the most appropriate way to assess heart disease’

From the 22 November Eureka News Alert

“The idea is that we’re using the most appropriate technology to address individual clinical questions rather than just focusing on one technique,” explains EAE President Dr Luigi Badano, from the University of Padua, Italy. In addition to echocardiography, he adds, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography and nuclear imaging will all being covered at the meeting, offering delegates a unique opportunity for an in-depth education around non invasive imaging of cardiovascular disease.

In keeping with the patient-orientated approach a new track has been introduced, the Clinical Imaging Session, where lectures and discussions will deal with atrial fibrillation, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, pulmonary hypertension and atherosclerosis.

The main themes of the congress this year are valvular heart disease and left ventricular function, with new techniques available in each area to detect subclinical disease. “The advent of new echo modalities such as exercise, deformation imaging and 3D echo has changed the way to assess heart valves and improved our understanding of physiopathology and our ability to detect subtle, clinically silent impairments,” says Professor Patrizio Lancellotti, the President-elect of the EAE and Congress Programme Committee Chairperson of EUROECHO, from University of Liège, CHU Sart Tilman, Liège, Belgium.

In the assessment of left ventricular function, he adds, the new emphasis has been on myocardial deformation, deformation rate, and at left ventricular torsion to allow clinicians to detect subclinical myocardial dysfunction.

Both valves and left ventricular function are well represented in the 690 original posters and abstracts presented at the congress with other popular themes for submission including cardiomyopathies, tissue Doppler imaging, and speckle tracking. Abstract submissions have been up this year – with over 12 % more submissions in comparison with 2010, and 30% more for delegates aged under 35 years. This later figure is particularly gratifying for the organisers who have placed a special emphasis on attracting young investigators.

New awards have been created, together with opportunities that will allow them to critically discuss their findings with experts in the field who will be able to provide valuable feedback.

November 23, 2011 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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