Study Finds Higher Rates of Premature Birth Near Fracking Sites ( 84

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have published a study (abstract) noting that pregnant women are more likely to give birth prematurely if they live close to fracking sites. The researchers used data from 40 counties in Pennsylvania, in which 10,946 babies were born between January 2009 and January 2013. They compared the data with the fast spread of fracking sites across the state — thousands have been built since 2006.

"The researchers found that living in the most active quartile of drilling and production activity was associated with a 40 percent increase in the likelihood of a woman giving birth before 37 weeks of gestation (considered pre-term) and a 30 percent increase in the chance that an obstetrician had labeled their pregnancy "high-risk," a designation that can include factors such as elevated blood pressure or excessive weight gain during pregnancy. When looking at all of the pregnancies in the study, 11 percent of babies were born preterm, with the majority (79 percent) born between 32 and 36 weeks."


'Voices From Chernobyl' Author Svetlana Alexievich Wins Lit Nobel ( 47

Lawrence Bottorff writes: The author of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Svetlana Alexievich, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's somewhat surprising, since she is an investigative journalist and not a fiction writer/novelist. And yet her "novels in voices" style, as the Nobel jurists believe, clearly has a literary impact. Here's what a review from the Journal of Nuclear Medicine says about Voices from Chernobyl:

"Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernobyl accident. Instead of choosing the usual approach of trying to quantify a disaster in terms of losses and displacement, the author chose instead to interview more than 500 eyewitnesses over a span of 10 years. ... It tells us about the psychologic and personal tragedy of the modern-day nuclear disaster. It is about the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives."

Although the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded based on "lifetime work" rather than an individual book, Voices... is her best-known and most celebrated work.


DNA Vaccine Sterilizes Mice, Could Lead To One-Shot Birth Control For Cats, Dogs 153

sciencehabit writes: Animal birth control could soon be just a shot away. A new injection makes male and female mice infertile by tricking their muscles into producing hormone-blocking antibodies. If the approach works in dogs and cats, researchers say, it could be used to neuter and spay pets and to control reproduction in feral animal populations. A similar approach could one day spur the development of long-term birth control options for humans.

3 Scientists Share Nobel For Parastic Disease Breakthroughs 36

The Australian reports that a trio of scientists (hailing from from Japan, China, and Ireland) has been awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work in treating parasitic diseases. Irish scientist William Campbell (currently research fellow emeritus at New Jersey's Drew University), and Japanese biochemist Satoshi Omura, were awarded half of the monetary award for their work in defeating roundworm infections; the drug they developed as a result, Avermectin, has helped drastically lower two devastating diseases -- river blindness and lymphatic filariasis -- and has shown promise in treating other ailments as well. The other half of the prize has been awarded to Chinese researcher Youyou Tu, who discovered a novel antimalarial drug based on her research into traditional herbal medicines. (Also at The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, and elsewhere. The awards were live-blogged by The Guardian.)

Legionnaires' Bacteria Reemerges In Previously Disinfected Cooling Towers 118

schwit1 writes with the New York Times' unsettling report that 15 water-cooling towers in the Bronx that this week tested positive for Legionnaires' disease had been disinfected less than two months ago. From the NYT: After an outbreak of the disease killed 12 people in July and August in the South Bronx, the city required every building with cooling towers, a common source of the Legionella bacteria that cause the disease, to be cleaned within two weeks. ... [The] city found this week that bacteria had regrown in at least 15 towers that had been cleaned recently in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. The testing occurred after a fresh outbreak in that area that has killed one person and sickened at least 12, and spurred an order from health officials for the towers to be disinfected again.

Researchers: Thousands of Medical Devices Are Vulnerable To Hacking 29

itwbennett writes: At the DerbyCon security conference, researchers Scott Erven and Mark Collao explained how they located Internet-connected medical devices by searching for terms like 'radiology' and 'podiatry' in the Shodan search engine. Some systems were connected to the Internet by design, others due to configuration errors. And much of the medical gear was still using the default logins and passwords provided by manufacturers. 'As these devices start to become connected, not only can your data gets stolen but there are potential adverse safety issues,' Erven said.

Doctors On Edge As Healthcare Gears Up For 70,000 Ways To Classify Ailments 232 writes: Melinda Beck reports in the WSJ that doctors, hospitals and insurers are bracing for possible disruptions on October 1 when the U.S. health-care system switches to ICD-10, a massive new set of codes for describing illnesses and injuries that expands the way ailments are described from 14,000 to 70,000. Hospitals and physician practices have spent billions of dollars on training programs, boot camps, apps, flashcards and practice drills to prepare for the conversion, which has been postponed three times since the original date in 2011. With the move to ICD-10, the one code for suturing an artery will become 195 codes, designating every single artery, among other variables, according to OptumInsight, a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. A single code for a badly healed fracture could now translate to 2,595 different codes, the firm calculates. Each signals information including what bone was broken, as well as which side of the body it was on.

Propoenents says ICD-10 will help researchers better identify public-health problems, manage diseases and evaluate outcomes, and over time, will create a much more detailed body of data about patients' health—conveying a wealth of information in a single seven-digit code—and pave the way for changes in reimbursement as the nation moves toward value-based payment plans. "A clinician whose practice is filled with diabetic patients with multiple complications ought to get paid more for keeping them healthy than a clinician treating mostly cheerleaders," says Dr. Rogers. "ICD-10 will give us the precision to do that." As the changeover deadline approaches some fear a replay of the Affordable Care Act rollout debacle in 2013 that choked computer networks, delaying bills and claims for several months. Others recollect the end-of-century anxiety of Y2K, the Year 2000 computer bug that failed to materialize. "We're all hoping for the best and expecting the worst," says Sharon Ahearn. "I have built up what I call my war chest. That's to make sure we have enough working capital to see us through six to eight weeks of slow claims."

Paralyzed Man Uses Own Brainwaves To Walk Again -- No Exoskeleton Required 35

Zothecula writes: A man suffering complete paralysis in both legs has regained the ability to walk again using electrical signals generated by his own brain. Unlike similar efforts that have seen paralyzed subjects walk again by using their own brainwaves to manually control robotic limbs, the researchers say this is the first time a person with complete paralysis in both legs due to spinal cord injury was able to walk again under their own power and demonstrates the potential for noninvasive therapies to restore control over paralyzed limbs.

Fukushima: 1,600 Dead From Evacuation Stress 178

seven of five writes: The NYT reports that radiation-related hysteria and mistakes have cost the lives of nearly 1,600 Japanese since the Fukushima disaster. The panic to evacuate, not the radiation itself, led to poor choices such as moving hospital intensive care patients from hospitals to emergency quarters. The government's perception of radiation exposure risk, rather than the actual risk itself, may have caused far more harm than it prevented.

Stem Cell-Derived Brain Mimics Predict Chemical Toxicity 16

MTorrice writes: Scientists in Wisconsin have grown three-dimensional brain-like tissue structures from human embryonic stem cells. These new structures are easy to grow and contain vascular cells and microglia, a type of immune cell. The breakthrough may change the way we test drugs and chemicals for their effect on the human brain. Currently most tests use multiple generations of rats and cost about $1 million to test one chemical. “In the near term, the approach might be more valuable to identify pathways and mechanisms of toxicity,” says William Murphy, a biomedical engineer at the University of Wisconsin. “We are gathering so much data on responses of these human brain mimics to known toxic chemicals that we can start to understand the signaling pathways affected by the chemicals. Not just whether, but how the chemicals are affecting the developing human brain.”

Another Pharma Company Recaptures a Generic Medication 372

Applehu Akbar writes: Daraprim, currently used as a niche AIDS medication, was developed and patented by Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKlein) decades ago. Though Glaxo's patent has long since expired, a startup called Turing Pharmaceuticals has been the latest pharma company to 'recapture' a generic by using legal trickery to gain exclusive rights to sell it in the US. Though Turing has just marketing rights, not a patent, on Daraprim, it takes advantage of pharma-pushed laws that forbid Americans from shopping around on the world market for prescriptions. Not long ago, Google was fined half a billion dollars by the FDA for allowing perfectly legal Canadian pharmacies to advertise on its site. So now that Turing has a lock on Daraprim, it has raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750. In 2009 another small pharma company inveigled an exclusive on the longstanding generic gout medication colchicine from the FDA, effectively rebranding the unmodified generic so they could raise its price by a similar percentage.

The Ethical Issues Surrounding OSU's Lab-Grown Brains 190

TheAlexKnapp writes: Last month, researchers at Ohio State University announced they'd created a "a nearly complete human brain in a dish that equals the brain maturity of a 5-week-old fetus." In the press release, the University hailed this as an "ethical" way to test drugs for neurological disorders. Philosopher Janet Stemwedel, who notes that she works in "the field where we've been thinking about brains in vats for a very long time" highlights some of the ethical issues around this new technology. "We should acknowledge," she says. "that the ethical use of lab-grown human brains is nothing like a no-brainer."

Re-Analysis of Medical Study Reverses Conclusions -- Paxil Unsafe For Teenagers 133

An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times is covering a new paper in the journal BMJ which re-analyzed data from a 2001 paper, coming to the opposite conclusions of the earlier study. The BMJ paper covers the effectiveness and safety of two antidepressant drugs for adolescent use, and the authors were able to re-analyze the original data after the release of previously confidential documents. The BMJ editors call into question some of the integrity of previous publishing, noting that none of the authors listed on 2001 paper actually wrote the original manuscript, and call for results of clinical trials to be made freely available so the science community can verify and self-correct results. The BMJ has released the study and provided an accompanying press release (PDF).

More Time Outside Tied To Less Nearsightedness In Children 60

Bookworm09 writes: For primary school children in China, spending an extra 45 minutes per day outside in a school activity class may reduce the risk of myopia, according to a new study. In some parts of China, 90% of high school graduates have nearsightedness, and rates are lower but increasing in Europe and the Middle East, the authors write. "There were some studies suggesting the protective effect of outdoor time in the development of myopia, but most of this evidence is from cross-sectional studies (survey) data that suggest 'association' instead of causality," said lead author Dr. Mingguang He of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. "Our study, as a randomized trial, is able to prove causality and also provide the high level of evidence to inform public policy."

Researchers Switch Neurons Off and On Using Noninvasive Ultrasound 37

Jason Koebler writes: Optogenetics, the ability to control neurons using bursts of light, has been one of the most promising breakthroughs in neurology of this decade. It's been a boon for researchers, but its invasive nature (the brain must usually be exposed) has held the technology back. Sreekanth Chalasani of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies described a new, noninvasive method of controlling neurons using ultrasound pulses in Nature Communications. For the first time ever, he was able to manipulate a genetically modified organism using a new technique called sonogenetics.

Damaged Spinal Cord "Rewires" Itself With Help of Electrical Stimulation 30

the_newsbeagle writes: Many prior experiments that tried to restore function after a spinal cord injury have used electrical stimulation to replace the signals from the brain, essentially implanting a replacement nervous system. But a new project instead used electrical stimulation to encourage the natural nervous system to adapt to a severe injury. When researchers repeatedly jolted a rat's damaged spinal cord at the precise moment that it tried to move a paralyzed limb, its nervous system developed new neural pathways that detoured around the site of injury in the spine. Researchers don't think it grew new neurons, but think instead that new connections formed between surviving neurons.

Man Receives a Prosthetic Hand That Allows Him To Feel 45

New submitter CravenRaven76 writes: A 28 year old man who has been paralyzed for almost a decade has recently received a prosthetic hand that allows for him to feel for the first time. While prosthetics have previously been able to be controlled directly from the brain, it is the first time that signals have been successfully sent the other way. “We’ve completed the circuit,” said DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez in a statement. “Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements. By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly into the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function.”

Big Pharma Hands Out Fitbits To Collect Better Personal Data 70

An anonymous reader writes: Since the dawn of modern medicine, there have really only been two ways to know what a medical patient is doing: A) keep them around and monitor them, or B) ask them. The first is often impractical, and the second is fraught with misreporting. However, we're now in the age of data collection, and medical data is no exception. Pharmaceutical companies are gleefully passing out Fitbits and other wearables so they can more accurately test the drugs they make. Early trials have already found such devices to be better than human memory at reporting things like how much a patient walks. Other organizations are using movement data to algorithmically decide whether a patient needs a higher level of treatment. The article optimistically adds, "Down the line, wearables also could help pharmaceutical makers prove to insurance companies that their treatments are effective, thus reducing health costs."

Cancer Patient Receives 3D-Printed Titanium Sternum and Ribs 38

An anonymous reader writes: A Spanish cancer patient diagnosed with chest wall sarcoma has received the world's first 3D printed titanium sternum and rib cage. Anatomics, an Australian medical device company, designed and manufactured the metal rib cage. Cnet reports: "Once printed, finished and polished, the implant was couriered to the Salamanca University Hospital, where it was implanted into the patient's chest. It has now been two weeks since the surgery, and the patient has been discharged is recovering well."

Miami Installs Free Public Sunscreen Dispensers In Fight Against Cancer 210 writes: If you walk along South Beach in Miami right now, you will notice something strange, even by Florida standards: Dotting the sandscapes are sky-blue boxes that supply free sunscreen. In a novel experiment this year, the City of Miami Beach has put 50 free sunscreen dispensers in public spaces, and those dispensers are full of radiation-mitigating goo, free to any and all passersby. BBC reports that one in five people living in Florida will eventually suffer from skin cancer but the new campaign hopes that increasing people's awareness will lead to a change in behavior. "[The sunscreen dispensers'] visibility — even without additional messaging — could be a good cue to action," says Dr Richard De Visser, a psychologist who has researched health campaigns.

The sunscreen is the type that is effective at preventing cancer and premature skin aging: Broad-spectrum, water resistant, and SPF 30. You can buy a product that is labeled as higher than SPF 30, but it's almost always a waste, and potentially harmful. Above SPF 30, the difference is essentially meaningless. SPF 15 filters out about 93 percent of UV-B rays, SPF 30 filters out 97 percent, SPF 50 filters out 98 percent, and SPF 100 might get you to 99. The problem, though, is the psychology of the larger number. "We put on the "more powerful" sunscreens and then suddenly think we're Batman or some other superhero who can stay out in the sun indefinitely." says James Hamblin. "But no sunscreen is meant to facilitate prolonged exposure of bare skin to direct sunlight." Dr. Jose Lutzky, head of the melanoma program out Mount Sinai, says Florida is second behind California in incidence of melanoma but the trend is going in the wrong direction. "Unfortunately, our numbers are growing. That is really something we do not want to be first in."