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Posts Tagged ‘research

US medical-industrial complex always knows how to make a profit

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Millions of Americans see the doctor each year with worries about a persistent or severe headache or migraine…And according to a new University of Michigan Medical School study, 12 percent of those visits end in a brain scan being ordered for the patient. Those brain scans add up to a total cost of roughly $1 billion a year.

Health experts say it’s a waste of resources, given the extremely low probability of a scan finding a serious issue, such as a malignant brain tumor…

A number of national guidelines have been issued in the last decade advising doctors to refrain from ordering scans for those who complain of headaches. But the frequency of brain scans continues to go up, suggesting patients are advocating for them — an expensive way to get reassurance that a brain tumor or aneurysm isn’t lurking inside the cerebrum.

The answer might be better educating the public about the costs verses the risk, says Callaghan. On top of the fact that statistics show a scan is unlikely to find anything serious, it also exposes the brain to radiation.

And monetarily speaking, the true costs of all these unnecessary scans could be higher. The research doesn’t factor in additional costs, such as follow-up tests or treatment for minor issues discovered as a result of the scans.

Callaghan says the bottom line is this: trust your doctor. If he or she doesn’t think a scan is necessary, then you don’t need one.

Any journalist who avoids the question of greedy physicians/medical facilities operating their radiology department as a juicy little profit center hasn’t the foggiest idea what American healthcare is all about.

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Written by Ed Campbell

March 18, 2014 at 2:00 am

London coppers have a problem with criminal clowns

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Police in London have dealt with over a hundred incidents involving ‘clowns’ in the past year – and crime statistics show it is no laughing matter.

The Metropolitan Police responded to 117 incidents featuring the word ‘clown’, a Freedom of Information request by regular contributor to the Independent on Sunday Richard Osley has revealed.

The incidents include once case of assault where the suspect had “clown like” shoes on, another assault where the suspect was dressed as a clown with a painted face and a burglary where the suspect’s hair is described “like Krusty’ the Clown.”

A “malicious communication” incident saw someone be threatened with a visit from henchmen in ‘clown’ masks…

And in 39 incidents the victim was called a clown as an insult. In one instance the victim was wearing a Pierrot suit when he was robbed, according to the FoI…

In November last year, police in Norfolk vowed to track down pranksters dressing up as clowns and offer them “strong words of advice” after two “alarming” reports of people being chased – but added that dressing up as a clown is not actually illegal.

How did they ever manage to keep Parliament off the clown-crime roster?

Written by Ed Campbell

January 25, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Sugary drinks tied to cancer risk

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A new study has found that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk for endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women.

Previous research has found an association between sugary drinks and Type 2 diabetes, but this is the first to find the same association with a specific type of endometrial cancer…

The study, published online in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that all sugars increased the risk for Type 1 endometrial cancer, but sugar-sweetened drinks had the greatest effect. After controlling for other factors, those in the highest one-fifth for sweet drink consumption had a 74 percent higher risk than those in the lowest one-fifth.

“I don’t want anyone to change their behavior based on these findings,” said the lead author, Maki Inoue-Choi, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health. “We need to do more study to confirm this association. But I would advise people to follow dietary guidelines and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.”

The researchers go on to speculate about the mechanism which may be causing the relationship with cancer. The predictable scientist’s conservative voice offers the opinion that they aren’t certain enough about cause-and-effect relationships to aggressively suggest you knock off the sugary drinks.

I ain’t that conservative. Do it.

The worst that can happen is that ongoing studies don’t confirm a link and, in fact, researchers may then reverse their findings. In the meantime, you lost a couple pounds and reduced all the other negatives that can result from excess consumption of sugar.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Researchers debunk right-brained and left-brained personality myth

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Chances are, you’ve heard the label of being a “right-brained” or “left-brained” thinker. Logical, detail-oriented and analytical? That’s left-brained behavior. Creative, thoughtful and subjective? Your brain’s right side functions stronger — or so long-held assumptions suggest.

But newly released research findings from University of Utah neuroscientists assert that there is no evidence within brain imaging that indicates some people are right-brained or left-brained…

Following a two-year study, University of Utah researchers have debunked that myth through identifying specific networks in the left and right brain that process lateralized functions. Lateralization of brain function means that there are certain mental processes that are mainly specialized to one of the brain’s left or right hemispheres. During the course of the study, researchers analyzed resting brain scans of 1,011 people between the ages of seven and 29. In each person, they studied functional lateralization of the brain measured for thousands of brain regions — finding no relationship that individuals preferentially use their left -brain network or right- brain network more often.

“It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain. Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don’t tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network. It seems to be determined more connection by connection, ” said Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study…

Results of the study are groundbreaking, as they may change the way people think about the old right-brain versus left-brain theory, he said.

“Everyone should understand the personality types associated with the terminology ‘left-brained’ and ‘right-brained’ and how they relate to him or her personally; however, we just don’t see patterns where the whole left-brain network is more connected or the whole right-brain network is more connected in some people. It may be that personality types have nothing to do with one hemisphere being more active, stronger, or more connected,” said Jared Nielsen, a graduate student in neuroscience who carried out the study as part of his coursework.

Hah! How many folks who learned about left-brain vs right-brain concepts in their undergrad studies will feel bound and determined to oppose this new understanding. That’s easier than learning something new and contradictory.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 26, 2013 at 2:00 am

FAA starts to clear drones for civilian use

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Hand-launching a Puma UAV

Despite being constantly in the news, UAVs haven’t been seen much in the skies of the US except in military training areas or by law enforcement agencies. That’s beginning to change, as the Federal Aviation Administration announced that is has issued operating permits for a pair of civilian unmanned aircraft to a company based in Alaska. The two unmanned aircraft are the AeroVironment Puma, which is a hand-launched, battery powered UAV that uses an electro-optical and infrared video camera for surveillance, and the other is the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle; a small, long-endurance craft based on a fish-spotting design.

Until now, the FAA has had a dim view toward issuing flying permits for civilian UAVs in the US. Except for a few for law enforcement and research purposes, the answer has been a flat “no.” According to the FAA, a ScanEagle and a Puma UAV have received restricted category type certificates that permit aerial surveillance. These permits are an extension of the authority the FAA used for acceptance of the two craft for military service.

One reason for the permits is that both UAVs are relatively small, weighing less than 55 lb (25 kg) with wingspans of 10 feet (3 m) or less. Another is that the craft will be used in the wilderness and coastal regions of Alaska, where they will pose little hazard to populations or other air traffic.

The permit holder is a “major energy company” that in August will fly the ScanEagle off the Alaskan coast in international waters for ice surveys and studying whale migration in Arctic oil exploration areas. Meanwhile, the Puma will support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea.

Overdue. As long as FAA safety regs are up-to-date and adequate, drones can serve useful purposes ranging from realtors recording a birdseye view of property for sale to search-and-rescue in rugged terrain.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 7, 2013 at 8:00 am

Japan approves landmark stem cell trials

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Japan’s government has given its approval to the world’s first clinical trials using stem cells harvested from a patient’s own body.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura signed off on Friday on a proposal by two research institutes that will allow them to begin tests aimed at treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common medical condition that causes blindness in older people, using “induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells”…

The tests will be jointly conducted by the Riken Center for Developmental Biology and the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation (IBRI) Hospital in Japan.

Riken will harvest stem cells, using skin cells taken from patients, a spokesman said…The trial treatment will attempt to create retinal cells that can be transplanted into the eyes of six patients suffering from AMD, replacing the damaged part of the eye…

Groundbreaking work done in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, a Nobel Laureate in medicine last year, succeeded in generating stem cells from adult skin tissue.

Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are also capable of developing into any cell in the body, but crucially their source material is readily available.

The question of how much freedom scientists should be allowed to carry out research on embryonic stem cells is considered one of the great ethical issues of our time.

The research is controversial because it requires the destruction of the embryo, a process that religious conservatives, among others, oppose.

This is not a difficult or controversial question among scientists or most medical professionals. Focusing on efforts to provide the greatest good for the greatest number is sufficient. The rest of the crap arguments follow their own convoluted path through the byways of brains accustomed to considering the number of angels that fit on a pinhead roughly equivalent to or greater than, say, aiding starving children or preventing the spread of dangerous disease.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

You say tomato – I say comparative transcriptomics

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Brad Townsley/UC Davis

You say tomato, I say comparative transcriptomics. Researchers in the U.S., Europe and Japan have produced the first comparison of both the DNA sequences and which genes are active, or being transcribed, between the domestic tomato and its wild cousins.

The results give insight into the genetic changes involved in domestication and may help with future efforts to breed new traits into tomato or other crops, said Julin Maloof…senior author on the study.

For example, breeding new traits into tomatoes often involves crossing them with wild relatives. The new study shows that a large block of genes from one species of wild tomato is present in domestic tomato, and has widespread, unexpected effects across the whole genome…

Among other findings, genes associated with fruit color showed rapid evolution among domesticated, red-fruited tomatoes and green-fruited wild relatives. And S. pennellii, which lives in desert habitats, had accelerated evolution in genes related to drought tolerance, heat and salinity…

New technology is giving biologists the unprecedented ability to look at all the genes in an organism, not just a select handful. The researchers studied not just the plants’ DNA but also the messenger RNA being transcribed from different genes. RNA transcription is the process that transforms information in genes into action. If the DNA sequence is the list of parts for making a tomato plant, the messenger RNA transcripts are the step-by-step instructions…

“We could not have done a study like this ten years ago — certainly not on any kind of reasonable budget,” Maloof said. “It opens up a lot of new things we can do as plant scientists.”

Bravo! Like anyone who has Mediterranean genes – and cooking – in their life, I have an inordinate interest in tomatoes.

I grew up in a New England factory town with tomatoes in the backyard garden. I live in the high desert country of New Mexico with tomatoes in our courtyard garden. I cook with fresh, dried, canned and whatever kind of tomatoes I can get hold of any time of the year.

They’re all delicious and all good for me – as far as I’m concerned.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Ford’s eWheelDrive projects designs for future urban cars

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It’s predicted that by the year 2050 there will be 9.3 billion people on Earth and 6.4 billion of them will be living in cities. There could also be four times as many cars on the roads as today, leading to an incredible degree of urban congestion and gridlock. That’s the impetus behind Ford and technology partner Schaeffler’s eWheelDrive electric research car, that moves the motor to the wheel hubs.

Demonstrated last Friday at Lommel, Belgium, the eWheelDrive is under development by Ford and project leader Schaeffler, a German automotive component manufacturer and supplier. The aim of the project is to investigate the potential for smaller, more agile cars better suited to crowded urban environments.

The eWheelDrive doesn’t look very revolutionary. It’s based on that most conventional of cars, the Ford Fiesta, but the real secret isn’t under the bonnet because there’s nothing there except the battery. Instead, the engine has given way to two electric motors mounted in the hubs of the rear wheels along with the braking and cooling systems.

This setup also isn’t entirely new, but what is new is the fact that the eWheelDrive is not intended to make it more sporty or just greener, but as a way of developing car technologies for increasingly crowded city streets. The design frees up space under the bonnet that is normally occupied by a conventional engine or a central electric motor, opening the door for smaller, more agile cars that are more able to negotiate the warrens of London or Hong Kong…

The aim of the project will be to increase the integration of in-wheel motors in a car, as well as studying vehicle dynamics control, braking, stability and the ”fun-to-drive” factor. The goal will be to solve problems caused by heavier wheels, improve brakes, reduce noise and vibration, improve the suspension, and ensure that the motors deliver enough torque.

Poisonally, I have little concern about power-to-weight ratios. The project cars should be miniature bullet trains. Vehicles with electric drive motors as part of the wheel assembly aren’t new; but, almost never have they been used with wheels sprung and suspended for automotive use. The ratio of sprung-to-unsprung weight can make for comfort and handling problems.

Electricity is still my favorite long-term power source. Hopefully, before I get too old to enjoy driving there will be vehicles I can afford for everyday use on my old geezer budget.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 4, 2013 at 8:00 am

Global Temperatures are the highest in 4,000 years

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Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, scientists reported Thursday, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age.

Previous research had extended back roughly 1,500 years, and suggested that the rapid temperature spike of the past century, believed to be a consequence of human activity, exceeded any warming episode during those years. The new work confirms that result while suggesting the modern warming is unique over a longer period.

Even if the temperature increase from human activity that is projected for later this century comes out on the low end of estimates, scientists said, the planet will be at least as warm as it was during the warmest periods of the modern geological era, known as the Holocene, and probably warmer than that…

In the new research…Shaun Marcott, an earth scientist at Oregon State University, and his colleagues compiled the most meticulous reconstruction yet of global temperatures over the past 11,300 years, virtually the entire Holocene. They used indicators like the distribution of microscopic, temperature-sensitive ocean creatures to determine past climate…

Though the paper is the most complete reconstruction of global temperature, it is roughly consistent with previous work on a regional scale…

Scientists say that if natural factors were still governing the climate, the Northern Hemisphere would probably be destined to freeze over again in several thousand years. “We were on this downward slope, presumably going back toward another ice age,” Dr. Marcott said.

Instead, scientists believe the enormous increase in greenhouse gases caused by industrialization will almost certainly prevent that…

The modern rise that has recreated the temperatures of 5,000 years ago is occurring at an exceedingly rapid clip on a geological time scale, appearing in graphs in the new paper as a sharp vertical spike. If the rise continues apace, early Holocene temperatures are likely to be surpassed within this century, Dr. Marcott said.

Dr. Michael Mann pointed out that the early Holocene temperature increase was almost certainly slow, giving plants and creatures time to adjust. But he said the modern spike would probably threaten the survival of many species, in addition to putting severe stresses on human civilization.

We and other living things can adapt to slower changes,” Dr. Mann said. “It’s the unprecedented speed with which we’re changing the climate that is so worrisome.”

The science is clear. It has been for a while, now. I first engaged in this debate over a decade ago and it only took me a couple of years of examining research – mostly from the Max Planck Institute – to come to conclusions requiring a commitment to action.

The opposition which fraudulently abuses the term of skeptic is well-funded by enterprise profiting from exploiting fossil fuels, populated by opportunists who hope for a pimp’s share of the action – and by the superstitious and ignorant who fear science as much as they cringe from progress.

Responsibility still accrues to those who recognize the need to act.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Pic of the Day

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Click to enlarge
REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Wolf researcher Werner Freund bites into a deer cadaver next to a Mongolian wolf in an enclosure at Wolfspark Werner Freund, in Merzig in the German province of Saarland.

I have one old friend who I must send this to. He did the same while researching – and living with – wolves on an island in Michigan.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm

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