First newborn given xenon gas to prevent brain injury

Riley Joyce with his mom and dad, Sarah and Dave

A newborn baby has become the first in the world to receive xenon gas treatment, pioneered in Bristol in a bid to prevent brain injury.

Riley Joyce had no pulse and was not breathing when he was first delivered by emergency Caesarean section at the Royal United Hospital, Bath. He had a 50:50 chance of permanent brain injury and was transferred to St Michael’s Hospital, Bristol.

His parents agreed to the experimental treatment and Riley is now doing well.

Every year in the UK more than 1,000 otherwise healthy babies born at full term die or suffer brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen or blood supply at birth…

Professor Marianne Thoreson said: “After seven days, Riley was alert, able to look at his mother’s face, hold up his head and begin to take milk.”

She said: “Over the past eight years, we have shown in the laboratory that xenon doubles the protective effect of cooling on the brain.
“However we faced the challenge of how to safely and effectively deliver this rare and extremely expensive gas to newborn babies.”

Dr John Dingley, who invented a machine to deliver the gas, said: “A key design feature of this machine is that it is very efficient, using less than 200ml of xenon per hour – less than the volume of a soft drinks can. “Xenon is a precious and finite resource and difficult to extract so it can cost up to ¬£30 a litre…

The device is now authorised for clinical trials and will be used on a minimum of 12 babies over the coming months in a feasibility trial before it can be used on a larger scale.


Poisoning by prescription drugs on dramatic rise

Poisoning is now the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. While several recent high-profile Hollywood celebrity cases have brought the problem to public attention, the rates of unintentional poisoning deaths have been on the rise for more than 15 years, and in fact, unintentional poisoning has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death among people 35-54 years of age.

In a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers in the U.S. have increased by 65% from 1999 to 2006…

In the first comprehensive examination of nationwide hospitalizations associated with these prescription medications, researchers examined data gathered from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), which contains records for approximately 8 million hospitalizations per year. By using standard diagnosis codes from the ICD-9-CM, the authors extracted from the NIS all poisonings by drugs, medicinal, and biological substances reported from 1999-2006, and further categorized the specific types of drugs in each case. It was also possible to determine whether the poisoning was diagnosed as intentional, unintentional or undetermined.

Dr. Coben believes that while the data reveals a fast-growing problem, there’s an urgent need for more in-depth research on this wave of injuries and deaths. Writing in the article, he said, “Interviews with survivors could provide important additional details regarding the pathways to abuse of these drugs, the methods used to obtain the medications, the sequencing and combination of drugs that result in overdose, and the immediate precursors to these serious events. The association between hospitalization for prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers and subsequent morbidity and mortality is another area in need of further research.”

While the majority of hospitalized poisonings are classified as unintentional, substantial increases were also demonstrated for intentional overdoses associated with these drugs, likely reflecting their widespread availability in community settings.

That’s a polite way of describing “doctor shopping” and physicians who decide to make an extra buck on kickbacks from unneeded prescriptions. RTFA for details on the epidemic.

Archaeologists uncover land wealthy before the wheel

A team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, along with a team of Syrian colleagues, is uncovering new clues about a prehistoric society that formed the foundation of urban life in the Middle East prior to invention of the wheel.

The mound of Tell Zeidan in the Euphrates River Valley near Raqqa, Syria, which had not been built upon or excavated for 6,000 years, is revealing a society rich in trade, copper metallurgy and pottery production. Artifacts recently found there are providing more support for the view that Tell Zeidan was among the first societies in the Middle East to develop social classes according to power and wealth.

A parallel development – no doubt – was a class of politicians telling all they were Free and Equal.

Tell Zeidan dates from between 6000 and 4000 B.C., and immediately preceded the world’s first urban civilizations in the ancient Middle East. It is one of the largest sites of the Ubaid culture in northern Mesopotamia.

Thus far, archaeologists have unearthed evidence of this society’s trade in obsidian and production and development of copper processing, as well as the existence of a social elite that used stone seals to mark ownership of goods and culturally significant items…

Covering about 31 acres, Tell Zeidan was situated where the Balikh River joins the Euphrates River in modern-day Syria. The location was at the crossroads of major, ancient trade routes in Mesopotamia that followed the course of the Euphrates River valley. The Ubaid period lasted from about 5300 to 4000 B.C.

“This enigmatic period saw the first development of widespread irrigation, agriculture, centralized temples, powerful political leaders and the first emergence of social inequality as communities became divided into wealthy elites and poorer commoners,” said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute and a leader of the expedition.

“The research also is important because it provides insight into how complex societies, based on linkages which extended across hundreds of miles, developed,” said Yellen, noting the distance travelled for raw materials needed for many of the Tell Zeidan artifacts…

Fascinating stuff. I realize we live in a present-day culture immersed in instant gratification – whether your choice of satisfaction is electronic or superstition-based. ūüôā Still constructive to discover the intricate trail we followed through time and venture.

NASA’s Global Hawk completes first scheduled science flight

NASA pilots and flight engineers, together with colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have successfully completed the first science flight of the Global Hawk unpiloted aircraft system over the Pacific Ocean. The flight was the first of five scheduled for this month’s Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) mission to study atmospheric science over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.

The Global Hawk is a robotic plane that can fly autonomously to altitudes above 60,000 feet — roughly twice as high as a commercial airliner — and as far as 11,000 nautical miles — half the circumference of Earth. Operators pre-program a flight path, and then the plane flies itself for as long as 30 hours, staying in contact through satellite and line-of-site communications to the ground control station at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert.

“The Global Hawk is a revolutionary aircraft for science because of its enormous range and endurance,” said Paul Newman, co-mission scientist for GloPac and an atmospheric scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “No other science platform provides this much range and time to sample rapidly evolving atmospheric phenomena. This mission is our first opportunity to demonstrate the unique capabilities of this plane, while gathering atmospheric data in a region that is poorly sampled.”

GloPac researchers will directly measure and sample greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, aerosols, and constituents of air quality in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere…

The aircraft can then take off, fly its mission, and land without any additional pilot or scientist intervention. Though the plane is designed to fly on its own, pilots can change course or altitude based on the atmospheric phenomena ahead. Researchers also have the ability to command and control their instruments from the ground.

Truly an advancement. Saving on weight and life support for a pilot and/or crew alone is worth an enormous increase in range and duration of research flights.

RTFA for lots more detail – and direction of research.

Tiny worms labor to reveal engine of herbal medicines

Yuan Luo and Laura Dosanjh – worm wranglers, researchers

A team of researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)…have developed a biologic method to tease out which compounds from herbal medicines and medicinal herbal mixtures produce their reputed medicinal benefits…

Science has not been very helpful in determining the efficacy of herbal medicines in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, has so far sided with science only once to approve an herb-based treatment with multiple active ingredients-an ointment for genital warts made from green tea leaves.

Now, using tiny worms that live only 20 days, the team sorted out which compounds found in two common Chinese herbal formulations showed the most potential for their stated purpose: extending life expectancy.

Cinnamon and ginseng won, showing the most promise

The researchers tested the mixtures, as well as each separate herb in them, on the laboratory worm model C. elegans. This particular worm–which biochemists often use as their ‘lab rat’–shares genes for aging and other traits with humans and other organisms…

In recent years, scientists have learned to use C. elegans worm as a model system in for studying gene-environment interactions. In their experiments, the School of Pharmacy researchers first used “wild” C. elegans to screen the herbal mixtures and single herbs. They determined which herbs aided life span of the worms, then tested those herbs on well-characterized mutant worms. Each mutant was missing a single gene known for life span and/or stress resistance…

“The good news is that this is a way of testing to show the medicinal effect. It is now testable. We have statistical evidence for the first time in C. elegans for a multi-compound drug,” says Luo. “Most [scientists] are not using whole organisms for screening herbs. This is simple and clean, it is a system to look at specific genes. Now we have to further validate the human relevancy.”

Yes, my first smartass response is, “I don’t always consider every human to be relevant!”

Reality requires that we appreciate the work of these scientists evaluating traditional medicine. While much of the category is crap and superstition – the useful bits often are often readily available and affordable.

FCC pushes forward with broadband agenda

The Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with its National Broadband Plan despite an appeals court decision earlier this week that called into question the agency’s authority over regulating the Internet.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement that said the court’s decision “does not change our broadband policy goals, or the ultimate authority of the FCC to act to achieve those goals.The court did not question the FCC’s goals; it merely invalidated one technical, legal mechanism for broadband policy chosen by prior commissions…”

Ayuh. Did anyone out there think that the last couple decades of FCC appointees did anything other than ask corporate approval for how high to jump? When so ordered?

In its 2010 Broadband Action Agenda the FCC said it plans to address more than 60 rules in the making and other proposals by the end of the year. The FCC said it was important to move forward with these items to reach its goals of helping 100 million U.S. homes get affordable access to broadband with download speeds of 100 Mbps over the next decade; promoting innovation, investment and competition and consumer interest in broadband; and providing a platform to improve energy consumption and monitoring, education, and health care…

Consumer advocates would like to see the FCC reclassify broadband Internet traffic so that it is treated like the traditional telephone network. This will give the agency the legal authority to regulate the Net.

All we need to do is get Congress in gear, the Democrats up on their hind legs – and lose more members of the Party of NO.

FDA toughens standards for radiation therapy devices

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received nearly 1,200 complaints in the last decade about devices that deliver radiation treatments to cancer patients and has called on manufacturers to help improve safety.

The FDA sent letters to 93 makers of radiation treatment devices, urging them to attend a workshop to address concerns about patient exposure to excess radiation from medical treatments and procedures…

Radiation exposure became a major concern in October after the FDA said it was investigating 206 cases of patients being exposed to toxic doses of radiation during CT scans of the brain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Last month, the FDA held a meeting with makers of diagnostic imaging equipment to gather ideas about how to protect patients from excess radiation exposure…

“Now we’re taking a broader look at the other uses of radiation,” FDA spokesman Dick Thompson told Reuters…

Hospitals, clinics and other users of medical devices report deaths to both the device manufacturer and the FDA but report serious injuries only to the manufacturer.

A review of the reports showed that linear accelerators — machines that deliver a concentrated beam of electron radiation directly to the tumors — accounted for 74 percent of the complaints…

The American College of Radiology has called for an accreditation program for facilities that deliver radiation therapy to cancer patients, something the medical equipment industry group AdvaMed supports as a way to enhance safety.


That’s not just my expected one-word comment on a topic like this. I presume our readers are bright enough, well-enough informed to make the link between political battles won since 2008 – and the failure of government agencies like the FDA to represent the people of this country in the past.