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Medicine

The Most Important Study of the Mediterranean Diet Has Been Retracted (qz.com) 115

Zorro shares a report from Quartz: In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a landmark study that found that people put on a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower chance of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease than people on a low-fat diet. It received massive media and public attention when released, and since has been cited by 3,268 other scientific papers. The study had tremendous impact on the field of nutrition and health science. Yesterday (June 13), however, the journal retracted the study -- providing a new reason for skepticism about how effective the now-popular Mediterranean diet really is.

The reasons for the withdrawal are complicated, having to do with the methodology of the study. As Alison McCook of the Retraction Watch blog writes for NPR, this retraction is the result of the work of John Carlisle, a British anesthesiologist and self-taught statistician. Carlisle has spent recent years analyzing over 5,000 published randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of medical science research) to see how likely they were to have actually been properly randomized. In 2017, he reported his results: at least 2% of the studies were problematic. One was the 2013 NEJM article on the Mediterranean diet.

Medicine

A Serious New Hurdle For CRISPR: Edited Cells Might Cause Cancer, Find Two Studies (statnews.com) 108

Editing cell genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk of developing cancer, two studies published Monday warn. From a report: Editing cells' genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk that the altered cells, intended to treat disease, will trigger cancer, two studies published on Monday warn -- a potential game-changer for the companies developing CRISPR-based therapies. In the studies, published in Nature Medicine, scientists found that cells whose genomes are successfully edited by CRISPR-Cas9 have the potential to seed tumors inside a patient. That could make some CRISPR'd cells ticking time bombs, according to researchers from Sweden's Karolinska Institute and, separately, Novartis. CRISPR has already dodged two potentially fatal bullets -- a 2017 claim that it causes sky-high numbers of off-target effects was retracted in March, and a report of human immunity to Cas9 was largely shrugged off as solvable. But experts are taking the cancer-risk finding seriously.
Medicine

University Seeks Volunteers For 'Hotel Influenza' (fortune.com) 51

The National Institutes of Health is paying a St. Louis university to study the effectiveness of flu vaccines. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The university wants volunteers to live in "hotel influenza," where they'd be either given a vaccine or a placebo, be exposed to the flu, and be quarantined for 10 days in the Extended Stay Research Unit. Compensation for such an experiment is around $3,500 (for time and travel), according to a SLU release... "In a traditional flu study, we vaccinate people and see if their immune systems respond by creating antibodies that fight flu," Dr. Hoff said in a release. "In a human challenge study, we vaccinate people, then deliberately challenge their bodies by exposing them to flu to see if they get sick"...

The 24 volunteers living in the "hotel influenza" would have private rooms and bathrooms, common areas with with chairs and TVs, along with exercise equipment, and catered meals in a dining room. They will be observed, "have blood and lung tests and nose swabs to see if they are infected with flu and shedding the virus." If they come down with the flu, they won't be able to leave until they've tested negative for the virus for two days. Nurses would be available around the clock.

One St. Louis newspaper jokes that it will either be a "sickathon" -- or "an indoor vacation complete with catered meals, TV, internet, a gym and views of the Arch".
Medicine

Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Seeks Investors For New Company (vanityfair.com) 108

There's a new surprise from the Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou (author of the Theranos expose Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup). An anonymous reader shares Vanity Fair's summary of their newest podcast interview: According to Carreyrou, Holmes is currently waltzing around Silicon Valley, meeting with investors, hoping to raise money for an entirely new start-up idea. (My mouth dropped when I heard that, too....) I'm sure she will somehow succeed in convincing someone to hand over millions of dollars, especially if venture capitalists like Tim Draper (an early Theranos investor) are still out there saying the stories by Carreyrou were wrong (they weren't), and that Holmes was on the precipice of saving the world (she wasn't) before the media came after her.

You would think that seeing Holmes's duplicity wrapped up in a neat bow in Carreyrou's book, and in the S.E.C. settlement -- which, incidentally, mentions the term "fraud" seven times -- would force Silicon Valley to perform its own due diligence, and question whether the way C.E.O.s, investors, and the media interact should be re-evaluated. But alas, the tech world doesn't see Theranos as a tech company, but rather a biotech outlier... Of course, there is still a major criminal investigation underway by the F.B.I., one that could end with Holmes behind bars.

Carreyou tells another interviewer that Theranos "is a cautionary tale about the hubris in the Valley... there's certainly a lot of innovation there, but there's also an unbelievable amount of arrogance and pretending."
United States

Suicide Rates Are Up 30 Percent Since 1999, CDC Says (nbcnews.com) 477

New submitter Austerity Empowers writes: Amidst all the name calling and straw man arguments about the overall health of America, sometimes it helps to look at data from people who sacrificed everything based on their perception of reality. Whatever politics you subscribe to, the feeling of hopelessness is evidently real, and frightening. NBC News: "Suicide rates are up by 30 percent across the nation since 1999, federal health officials reported Thursday. And only about half the people who died by suicide had a known mental health condition, even though depression had been thought to be the major cause of suicide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. While many cases of mental illness may have been diagnosed, the CDC also noted that relationship stress, financial troubles and substance abuse were contributing to the trends."
Medicine

Doctors Hail World First as Woman's Advanced Breast Cancer is Eradicated (theguardian.com) 162

A woman with advanced breast cancer which had spread around her body has been completely cleared of the disease by a groundbreaking therapy that harnessed the power of her immune system to fight the tumours. From a report: It is the first time that a patient with late-stage breast cancer has been successfully treated by a form of immunotherapy that uses the patient's own immune cells to find and destroy cancer cells that have formed in the body. Judy Perkins, an engineer from Florida, was 49 when she was selected for the radical new therapy after several rounds of routine chemotherapy failed to stop a tumour in her right breast from growing and spreading to her liver and other areas. At the time, she was given three years to live. Doctors who cared for the woman at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland said Perkins's response had been "remarkable": the therapy wiped out cancer cells so effectively that she has now been free of the disease for two years. "My condition deteriorated a lot towards the end, and I had a tumour pressing on a nerve, which meant I spent my time trying not to move at all to avoid pain shooting down my arm. I had given up fighting," Perkins said. "After the treatment dissolved most of my tumours, I was able to go for a 40-mile hike."
Medicine

FDA Halts One of the First Human CRISPR Studies Before it Begins (technologyreview.com) 109

A trial planning to use the gene-editing tool CRISPR on sickle cell patients has been put on hold due to unspecified questions from US regulators. From a report: CRISPR Therapeutics, which is developing the therapy, sought approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in April to begin the study. The therapy involves extracting stem cells from a patient's bone marrow and editing them with CRISPR in the lab. Once infused back into the patient, the idea is that the edited cells would give rise to healthy red blood cells. But according to a statement on Wednesday from CRISPR Therapeutics, the FDA ordered the company not to proceed with its study until it answers questions about its CRISPR treatment.
Medicine

U.S. Passes 'Right to Try' Law Allowing Experimental Medical Treatments (chicagotribune.com) 169

schwit1 shared this article from the Washington Post: The House on Tuesday passed "right to try" legislation that would allow people with life-threatening illnesses to bypass the Food and Drug Administration to obtain experimental medications, ending a drawn-out battle over access to unapproved therapies. President Trump is expected to quickly sign the measure, which was praised by supporters as a lifeline for desperate patients but denounced by scores of medical and consumer groups as unnecessary and dangerous...

The FDA would be largely left out of the equation under the new legislation and would not oversee the right-to-try process. Drug manufacturers would have to report "adverse events" -- safety problems, including premature deaths -- only once a year. The agency also would be restricted in how it used such information when considering the experimental treatments for approval. Patients would be eligible for right-to-try if they had a "life-threatening illness" and had exhausted all available treatment options. The medication itself must have completed early-stage safety testing, called Phase 1 trials, and be in active development with the goal of FDA approval.

One Congressman opposing the bill argued that eliminating FDA oversight would "provide fly-by-night physicians and clinics the opportunity to peddle false hope and ineffective drugs to desperate patients," noting that the bill is opposed by over 100 patient advocacy and consumer groups.
Medicine

Gut Sensor Could Monitor Health -- and Beam Results to a Smartphone (scientificamerican.com) 27

Doctors are now one step closer to deploying sensors that can travel to parts of a patient's body to diagnose hard-to-detect conditions. From a report: Researchers have devised a new way to get a sneak peek into what's going on deep in your digestive system, creating a swallowable sensor that, with the help of engineered bacteria and a tiny electrical circuit, can detect the presence of molecules that might be signs of disease and then beam the results to a smartphone app. The device, which scientists validated in pigs, remains a prototype and needs to be refined before it could be used in people. But the researchers, who reported their work Thursday in the journal Science, combined innovations in synthetic biology and microelectronics to create a modular platform that could be adapted to identify a wide range of molecules. "We want to try to illuminate and provide understanding into areas that are not easily accessible," said Dr. Timothy Lu, a bioengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and senior author of the paper.
Medicine

Money's Better Than E-Cigs Or Nicotine Gum At Helping Smokers Quit, Says Study (reuters.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Providing free electronic cigarettes or other stop-smoking products to employees to get them to give up real cigarettes is less effective than the threat of taking away a cash reward for quitting, according to a new study that weighs the effectiveness of a variety of workplace incentive programs. The findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, call into question the claims by e-cigarette enthusiasts that the devices may be better than traditional quit aids at helping smokers to stop. The study is also significant because it may be the first to look at programs to get all smoking employees to quit, whether or not they've decided they want to do so. The results show that if the motivation isn't there, neither are the positive results. 9.5 percent of participants who got the free smoking cessation products plus a cash reward ($100 for the first month, an additional $200 at the three-month mark and $300 if they stayed smoke-free for six months) for staying away from tobacco quit.
Medicine

Can This New Treatment Stop the Common Cold? (fortune.com) 67

"Researchers may have identified a compound that can stop some of the most common cold viruses, the rhinovirus, in its tracks, according to a new report published in the journal Nature." An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The scientists' work is early-stage. But the mechanism it uses to tackle colds is striking. Developed at the Imperial College London, the molecule targets a protein in human cells that cold viruses use in order to replicate and conquer. By targeting this specific pathway, the compound could theoretically be used to thwart most viruses (and since it focuses on human proteins, it may not cause the virus to mutate its way away from danger)...

"The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us, but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and [chronic lung disease]," said lead researcher Ed Tate in a statement. "A drug like this could be extremely beneficial if given early in infection, and we are working on making a version that could be inhaled, so that it gets to the lungs quickly."

Medicine

Scientists Find Physically Demanding Jobs Are Linked To Greater Risk of Early Death (metro.co.uk) 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Metro: Researchers in the Netherlands claim that a "physical activity paradox" exists, where exercise may only be good for you if it's done outside of your job. Manual laborers may be physically active all day but that doesn't actually help them. In fact, the research claims that it might actually increase their risk of dying early. "While we know leisure-time physical activity is good for you, we found that occupational physical activity has an 18% increased risk of early mortality for men," says Pieter Coenen, public health researcher at UV University medical centre in Amsterdam. "These men are dying earlier than those who are not physically active in their occupation."

He says that it's all down to the type of exercise you do in your spare time, versus occupational physical activity. When you choose to exercise, you can take rest periods when you want -- something that often may not be available to you if you're working on a building site (for example). The research combined results from 17 studies, dated between 1960 and 2010 -- looking at data on almost 200,000 people.
The study has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Medicine

California Study To Examine the Influence of a Healthy Diet On Patients (nytimes.com) 242

"According to The New York Times, the state of California is funding an experiment through The Ceres Community Project to test the influence of a healthy diet on the recovery of state Medicaid patients with long-term serious illnesses," writes Slashdot reader MonteCarloMethod. From the report: Over the next three years, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford will assess whether providing 1,000 patients who have congestive heart failure or Type 2 diabetes with a healthier diet and nutrition education affects hospital readmissions and referrals to long-term care, compared with 4,000 similar Medi-Cal patients who don't get the food.

The California study will build on more modest and less rigorous earlier research. A study in Philadelphia by the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance retroactively compared health insurance claims for 65 chronically ill Medicaid patients who received six months' of medically tailored meals with a control group. The patients who got the food racked up about $12,000 less a month in medical expenses. Another small study by researchers at U.C.S.F. tracked patients with H.I.V. and Type 2 diabetes who got special meals for six months to see if it would positively affect their health. The researchers found they were less depressed, less likely to make trade-offs between food and health care, and more likely to stick with their medications.

The Internet

Top-Level Domain .App Is Now Open For General Registration (googleblog.com) 82

Christina Chiou Yeh, writing for Google Registry: On May 1 we announced .app, the newest top-level domain (TLD) from Google Registry. It's now open for general registration so you can register your desired .app name right now. We begin our journey with sitata.app, which provides real-time travel information about events like protests or transit strikes. Looks all clear, so our first stop is the Caribbean, where we use thelocal.app and start exploring. After getting some sun, we fly to the Netherlands, where we're feeling hungry. Luckily, picnic.app delivers groceries, right to our hotel. With our bellies full, it's time to head to India, where we use myra.app to order the medicine, hygiene, and baby products that we forgot to pack. Did we mention this was a business trip? Good thing lola.app helped make such a complex trip stress free. Time to head home now, so we slip on a hoodie we bought on ov.app and enjoy the ride.
Medicine

James Harrison, Who Has Helped Save Lives of More Than 2.4 Million Australian Babies, Retires (cnn.com) 97

Most people, when they retire, get a gold watch. James Harrison deserves so much more than that. From a report: Harrison, known as the "Man With the Golden Arm," has donated blood nearly every week for 60 years. After all those donations, the 81-year-old Australian man "retired" Friday. The occasion marked the end of a monumental chapter. According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, he has helped saved the lives of more than 2.4 million Australian babies. Harrison's blood has unique, disease-fighting antibodies that have been used to develop an injection called Anti-D, which helps fight against rhesus disease. This disease is a condition where a pregnant woman's blood actually starts attacking her unborn baby's blood cells. In the worst cases, it can result in brain damage, or death, for the babies.
Medicine

Potential New Cure Found For Baldness (bbc.com) 132

A potential new cure for baldness has been discovered using a drug originally intended to treat osteoporosis. BBC reports: Researchers found the drug had a dramatic effect on hair follicles in the lab, stimulating them to grow. It contains a compound which targets a protein that acts as a brake on hair growth and plays a role in baldness. Project leader Dr Nathan Hawkshaw told the BBC a clinical trial would be needed to see if the treatment was effective and safe in people. Only two drugs are currently available to treat balding (androgenetic alopecia): minoxidil, for men and women, and finasteride, for men only. Neither is available on the NHS, the national healthcare system for England, and both have side-effects and are not always very effective, so patients often resort to hair transplantation surgery instead.
Medicine

'Biohacker' Who Injected Himself With DIY Herpes Treatment Found Dead (livescience.com) 251

Long-time Slashdot reader Okian Warrior quotes Live Science: The CEO of a biomedical startup who sparked controversy when he injected himself with an untested herpes treatment in front of a live audience in February has died, according to an email sent to Live Science. Aaron Traywick, the CEO of Ascendance Biomedical, was found dead at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday (April 29) in a spa room in Washington, D.C., according to a statement provided to Live Science by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of the District of Columbia. Traywick was 28 years old. According to the website News2Share.com, Traywick was found in a flotation tank. Flotation tanks are soundproof pods filled with body-temperature saltwater that are used to promote "sensory deprivation."
Vice News reports that Traywick had "lost touch" with co-workers at his company more than four weeks ago, adding that "Disagreements over the company's direction and philosophical differences over how to best distribute its creations split the small startup."

MIT Technology Review reports that Traywick, "who had no formal medical training, was also planning to test an experimental lung cancer treatment that supposedly involved the gene-editing tool CRISPR. The therapy was to be offered at a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, just a few miles over the U.S. border... An employee at the Tijuana clinic, International BioCare Hospital & Wellness Center, confirmed in a phone interview that doctors there were working with Traywick to set up the trial but won't be moving forward with it after his death...

"In December, the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy issued a statement warning patients about unregulated gene therapies, saying such procedures are potentially dangerous and unlikely to provide any benefit."
Medicine

Lightning Struck Her Home. Then Her Brain Implant Stopped Working. (nytimes.com) 68

Can lightning have an impact on people with electrodes implanted in their brains? A new study shares a case study. From a report: Lightning had struck the building. But the appliances were not the only things affected. After about an hour, the woman, who had had the electrodes put in five years before to help with debilitating muscle spasms in her neck, noticed her symptoms coming back. When she went to see her doctors the next day, they found that the pacemaker-like stimulator that powered the electrodes had switched itself off in response to the lightning strike.

In a study describing these events published Tuesday in the Journal of Neurosurgery, her doctors suggest that physicians and medical device companies add lightning strikes to the list of things patients with electrodes implanted in their brains should watch out for. It may sound futuristic, but deep brain stimulation, or D.B.S., has a fairly long history. Surgeons operating on epileptic patients in the 1930s and 1940s found that removing small portions of the brain could quiet seizures. Later, researchers found that stimulating certain brain areas, instead of cutting them out, could quell the involuntary movements characteristic of Parkinson's and other disorders.

Youtube

YouTube Is Removing Some Nootropics Channels (vice.com) 243

According to Wikipedia, nootropics are drugs, supplements, and other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. Many of them are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and some have reported addiction and harm, as well as uncomfortable side effects. These concerns may be behind YouTube's recent decision to delete at least three nootropics channels over the past three days. Motherboard reports: The nootropics YouTubers don't know why YouTube penalized them. YouTube's community guidelines prohibit harmful or dangerous content, including "hard drug use," which seems like the most likely reason. [Ryan Michael Ballow, a YouTuber whose channel "Cortex Labs Nootropics" was deleted] believes it's either "pharmaceutical industry influence" or some other elements within YouTube's leadership decided to target nootropics specifically. "It's all extremely fishy, and demonstrates a continued censorship trend with YouTube," he said in an email. [Jonathan Roseland, another YouTube that recently had their channel "Limitless Mindset" deleted] guessed his channel got flagged because he made videos about kratom, an opioid-like substance that has been linked to deaths and is coming under increased government regulation. Other kratom videos have apparently been removed. But Ballow said he's never posted a video about kratom, and a search for "kratom" on YouTube pulls up countless results, including reviews. Similarly, searching for nootropics, magnesium, aniracetam, oxiracetam, and Modafinil showed no shortage of videos, including reviews.

It's hard to know why the channels were removed since YouTube declined to clarify specifics with the creators and did not respond to a request for comment. YouTube allows creators to appeal enforcement decisions, but Ballow's appeal was rejected. The rejection notice did not clearly state which guidelines were violated, but it pointed to another potential violation. YouTube "included a paragraph that states that if the sole purpose of your YouTube videos is to drive people off of the platform, said videos break the rules," Ballow said. He interpreted this to mean the fact that his videos directed viewers to other websites to buy products.

Medicine

Can A New HIV Drug Kill The Virus That Causes AIDS? (scmp.com) 73

"A team led by scientists from the University of Hong Kong has developed a new antibody drug that will not only protect people from contracting HIV but also serve as a long-acting treatment for the virus, unlike current medication that must be taken daily." Slashdot reader hackingbear shared this article from the South China Morning Post: There will need to be a further battery of tests before the drug, named "BiIA-SG", can be part of the global battle against the virus, which causes Aids. The research team has so far only tested the drug on mice but is now looking to experiment on larger animals such as monkeys, before conducting clinical trials on humans. Still, Professor Chen Zhiwei, the team leader and director of HKU's Aids Institute, stressed the scientific discovery had yielded "one of the most potent and effective antibody drugs". This is because the study showed that mice given the drug before being infected with HIV were protected from the virus for about a week.

In addition, the experiments, which also involved experts from mainland medical and research institutions, found that when mice were infected with HIV before being treated, 42 per cent had an "undetectable level" of the virus for at least four weeks after one injection of antibodies... The tests found that the drug was effective against 124 strains of HIV, including those that are commonly found in infected people from Hong Kong and mainland China.

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