Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Google moves into healthcare - Calico

posted on slashdot:

Google has announced the formation of a new company called Calico, which aims to promote health and fight aging. Larry Page said, "That’s a lot different from what Google does today. And you’re right. But as we explained in our first letter to shareholders, there’s tremendous potential for technology more generally to improve people’s lives. So don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses." He expanded upon this in an interview with Time: "I'm not proposing that we spend all of our money on those kinds of speculative things. But we should be spending a commensurate amount with what normal types of companies spend on research and development, and spend it on things that are a little more long-term and a little more ambitious than people normally would. More like moon shots." The new company's CEO will be Arthur Levinson, who is currently the chairman of Apple and biotech company Genentech. Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn't have to be this way."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

S. FL Doctor Uses New Technology To “Re-Grow” Man’s Finger

DELRAY BEACH (CBSMiami) — It’s being called a medical marvel. A south Florida doctor used a unique procedure to actually grow back a man’s finger that a horse bit off.

According to Dr. Eugenio Rodriguez, Paul Halpern, 33, arrived in Delray Beach with his finger in a zip lock bag.  The insurance company wanted the rest of the finger amputated. However, a doctor wanted to try a unique procedure.

“This one right here, my index finger,” said Halpern.

Halpern was feeding his prized, hungry horse when it confused it for a cookie.

“After the treat it made a mistake. It’s a difficult horse and is had history using our training methods,” Halpern recalled.

The mistake cost him a third of his index finger.  “One of the guys that worked with me reached his hand in the horse’s mouth, took the fingertip out, and I jumped in the car, grabbed the rest of my finger wondering what we should do,” said Halpern.
On the way to the hospital, Paul put his fingertip on a popsicle, but it wasn’t enough to save the extremity.

Then, he heard about a Deerfield Beach doctor that might have a way to fix the finger.

“He really wanted to have his finger healed, and fast,” said Dr. Eugenio Rodriguez.

Advanced, cutting edge, and without any surgery or amputation, general surgeon Eugenio Rodriguez said he could make the finger grow back.

“This is something, that there actually is no experience into this,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

Using the bladder tissue of a pig, Dr. Rodriguez made a template of Halpern’s finger and attached it to what was left.

The result was astounding.

The finger’s cells, bone, soft tissue, even nail grew into the mold.  “It’s very interesting to see a patient heal. That’s my passion, wound healing.  It is fascinating to have the new results,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

It’s a procedure both Dr. Rodriguez and Halpern agree could pave the road for other more complex injuries.

“I’m really grateful. I think it’s fantastic  I think in the future there’s going to be other uses for it but it wasn’t a life threatening injury to me it was something that was an accident,” Halpern added.
The doctor says it will be nine to twelve weeks for a full recovery.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Low levels of healthy gut bacteria could be the cause of mental health issues such as 'anxiety and schizophrenia'

Personal Notes:

The inspiration was from an article I read (see below) about the correlation between gut flora and anxiety due to the seratonin levels in the gut - how the stomach is considered the body's 2nd brain and how the gut flora can determine anxiety, depression, autism, OCD, schizophrenia and immunity. I figured if I can just cut the bloating, any psychological benefits would be gravy.

The primary factors of change I have incorporated:
  • probiotic
  • digestive enzyme (major factor)
  • cut sugar intake
  • regular exercise
My notes on stomach digestion strategies

The probiotic I use is typically recommended for Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome - though I've not been diagnosed with either, I've never been assessed. My stomach is still really sensitive but, I'm no longer bloated, and cutting the sugar has leveled out my energy. 

I've always had a screwy stomach. After reading the article posted below, I chose a probiotic to maximize the bacteria count without using yogurt - dairy is not super friendly on my stomach and I now use almond milk instead of skim. A friend recommended also using a digestive enzyme which proved to be an important game changer. I was aware that my sugar binges were bombing my energy levels, so I was very interested in all forms of relief.

I eat raisin bran almost daily which gives me fiber and carbs - yes, it has wheat, but I am otherwise particular about the carbs - I eat a 2nd carb in the afternoons - maybe Ezekiel bread (toast) with sugar free jam, rice, or sweet potatoes.

I have overall eliminated dairy and mostly avoid sugar - I get some fruit juices and dried fruits - I eat a big chunk of prunes at night once a week and that really works well, of course (and I love prunes).

The article I read was a great motivator for me to cut sugar apart from the fruit/juice. I cut up gala apples as a sugar substitute. Seeing the results keeps it going and I never thought I'd not crave, but I guess substitution is the key.

I get a drink from Trader Joe's called 'Green Plant' which is a nice juice blend, along with a banana/orange juice (Simply Orange is the brand).

I use salad dressings on some foods that probably have more sugar than what would be ideal (Ken's Steak House light sesame ginger and sun-dried tomato), but it makes the food (baked chicken, broccoli slaw) a lot more palatable.

I eat beef and fish maybe once a week. I am aware that digesting meat is hard on my stomach - I have baked chicken daily.

For stomach strength, I do push ups (for the plank) and there's one contraption at the gym I use for doing sit ups - everything else hurts my lower back. This is a nice complement to the inside of the stomach feeling better, plus the cardio to lean out. Now, I need to run on a track so I can experience more of the actual feeling of the stomach changing and engagement. I've already noticed greater core strength when I do squats.

2 Recommended supplements

Digest Gold - the digestive enzyme I bought at a local vitamin store to avoid shipping - $70 with tax, will last probably 4-6 mo. This makes a huge impact on bloating:
The probiotic I'm now taking is VSL3 from the pharmacist at Walgreens/CVS (no prescription, needs to be refrigerated, costs around $50, should last 2 mo., 150 billion count - need at least 15 billion count, more with age).

Additional considerations about digestive enzymes

I questioned whether there are any negative side effects of a digestive enzyme and found this article that advocates not taking them and recommends other ways to improve digestion. I will likely cycle the probiotic - see how a 6 mo. treatment affects me, and maybe give my body a break. The digestive enzyme may be something to cycle as well.

Article about gut flora and mental health

By Daily Mail Reporter
  • The average adult carries up to five pounds of bacteria
  • Healthy bacteria are known as probiotics, commonly found in yogurt, soy yogurt or as dietary supplements
  • Probiotics are also delivered in fecal transplants, in which stool from a healthy donor is delivered like a suppository to an infected patient
  • Strep bacterium is linked to OCD
  • Gut bacteria regulate dopamine levels
  •  A build-up of dopamine causes agitation and stress on the body
  • Gut bacteria ‘talk to the brain' through the immune system or parts of the nervous system
People suffering from anxiety, might just need to eat more 'healthy' bacteria.
Some scientists think there may be a link between our digestive tract microbes and disorders such as anxiety, schizophrenia and autism.

They are beginning to recognise the power of healthy gut bacteria, especially seeing that the average adult carries up to five pounds of bacteria - trillions of microbes - in their digestive tract. 

Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures, such as in yogurt, soy yogurt or as dietary supplements.
Probiotics are also delivered in fecal transplants, in which stool from a healthy donor is delivered like a suppository to an infected patient.

A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience from The Great Plains Laboratory, has shown that HPHPA levels - the chemical byproduct of the clostridia bacteria - are much higher in the urine of autistic children. 

Those treated with antibiotics effective against clostridia show a decrease in symptoms of autism.

Dr James Greenblatt, a Boston-area psychiatrist, treated a teenager with severe obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and an array of digestive problems. 

Greenblatt first did a simple urine test for the metabolite HPHPA and found that it was elevated. 

He put the patient, Mary, on a course of high-powered probiotics to boost her good bacteria, followed by antibiotics, and her levels began to ‘dramatically’ go down, he told ABC News

After six months, Mary's symptoms began to disappear. And by a year, they were gone. 

Today, three years later, Mary is a senior in high school and has no sign of either mental disorder.

In some patients, the strep bacterium has been linked to OCD in a condition known as PANDAS - an acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. 

PANDAS, which is a rare disease that usually appears in children, is hypothesised to be an autoimmune disorder that results in a variable combination of tics, obsessions, compulsions, and other symptoms that may be severe enough to qualify for diagnoses such as chronic tic disorder, OCD and Tourette syndrome.

A 10-year-old from Virginia was treated with probiotics after being incorrectly diagnosed with PANDAS after he developed compulsive symptoms following a strep infection and a lengthy course on antibiotics. 

‘He had no gut flora,’ said his mother, Robin, who did not want to use her last name.
‘He had been healthy and athletically coordinated and then developed these compulsive behavior and tics. It didn't seem like it was in his control.’ 

After probiotics, ‘it was like night and day’, she told ABC News. ‘His symptoms went away and he was totally fine.’  

A recent study in the journal Science shows that thin and fat people have different bacteria -- a discovery that could lead to weight-loss programmes. 

Babies are born with a sterile digestive tract and first acquire their bacteria while traveling through the birth canal and get more in breast milk and in the world outside the womb through contact with other people.

Scientists are so far unable to identify every strain of bacteria, but they can test for the chemical byproducts that they produce, according to Greenblatt. 

He said he checks every patient for HPHPA with a simple organic acid urine test before moving ahead with medications to treat symptoms. 

'Eight out of 10 people are fine,' he said. 'But in the two patients where it's elevated, it can have profound effects on the nervous system.'

'I don't know why this test isn't done on every psychiatric patient,' he said. 'I question that every day.'

HPHPA causes deactivation of an enzyme so that dopamine cannot be converted to the neurotransmitter neuroepinephrine, Greenblatt said, and that causes a build-up of dopamine. 

'We know elevated levels in the dopamine gene cause agitation,' he told ABC News.
In one 2010 study at McMaster University in Canada, published in the journal Communicative and Integrative Biology, scientists found a link between intestinal microbiota and anxiety-like behaviour. 

Researchers compared the behaviours of normal 8-week-old mice and those whose guts were stripped of microbes. 

Those without bacteria showed higher levels of risk-taking and the stress hormone cortisol. 

They also had altered levels of the brain chemical BDNF, which has been linked to anxiety and depression in humans.

Jane Foster, associate professor of neuroscience and behavioral science and part of the McMaster University & Brain-Body Institute, says gut bacteria ‘talk to the brain in multiple ways through either the immune system or the enteric nervous system’.
However, while using probiotics may help a ‘subset of patients’, she said. It's not a ‘magic bullet’. 

Early life stresses, nutrition and building a strong immune system all play an important role in a person's mental health, she said.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Film: 12 Years as a Slave

This interviewer remarks that she thinks of slavery as an American story:
...her comment prompted me to read the wiki on slavery to more fully round out the comment:
See also the wiki: Slavery in modern Africa 
...and 'sexual slavery' (excerpt)



In Africa the colonial powers abolished slavery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, in areas outside their jurisdiction, such as the Mahdist empire in Sudan, the practice continued to thrive. Now, institutional slavery has been banned worldwide, but there are numerous reports of women sex slaves in areas without effective government control, such as Sudan,[67] Liberia,[68] Sierra Leone,[69] northern Uganda,[70] Congo,[71] Niger[72] and Mauritania.[73] In Ghana, Togo, and Benin, a form of religious prostitution known as trokosi ("ritual servitude") forcibly keeps thousands of girls and women in traditional shrines as "wives of the gods", where priests perform the sexual function in place of the gods.[74]



In January 2010, the supreme court of India stated that India is "becoming a hub" for largescale child prostitution rackets, and suggested the setting up of a special investigating agency to tackle the growing problem.[75]

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Number of Syrian refugees surpasses 2 million, U.N. says

 Coming soon to the U.S. Between this and amnesty, America will undergo not only culture change, but a huge contingency who will bolster justification for the affordable care act, and it will bring new competition for jobs on the lower rungs.

More than two million Syrians have fled their war-torn country, with many settling in nearby Lebanon and Jordan. Now, the US will open its doors to 2,000 of “the most vulnerable” Syrian refugees – as long as they pass a lengthy background screening.

Two thousand Syrians will be granted the opportunity to live in the US, marking a significant increase from the approximately 90 Syrian refugees the US admitted over the last two years, according to Foreign Policy’s The Cable.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 3.5 million Syrian refugees will be in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt by the end of the year, with 1.9 million more in desperate need of assistance. The death toll in Syria continues to rise, with over 4,400 people killed during Ramadan this year.

The Obama administration is responding to the rapidly deteriorating conditions by agreeing to take in 2,000 Syrian war victims who will be given permanent residence status. Even though the number will represent only a fraction of a per cent of Syrian refugees in need of assistance, the administration’s decision marks a major shift in policy.

“Referrals will come within the next four months. We will need to interview people and perform security and medical checks,” Kelly Clements, the State Department’s assistant secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration, told Foreign Policy.

But the chosen victims – many of whom are expected to be women and children – won’t be leaving the country anytime soon. Due to the time it takes to process their applications, “we’re not likely to see Syrian refugees into those numbers before well into 2014,” Clements said.
That means the applicants will be forced to endure another cold winter and several more months in a country plagued by violence and bloodshed.

“It’s 90 degrees now, but in a few months it’s going to snow and people are going to be freezing,” said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s senior humanitarian policy advisor.

The application process is expected to take months because of the State Department’s extensive background screenings. US officials will carefully select refugees who appear to have no ties to anyone with terrorist sympathies. Even though infants and young children are unlikely to be terrorists themselves, the concern is that they might have relatives in Al-Qaeda who would then have an easier chance of entering the US.The CIA this week announced that the greatest threat to US national security would be the prospect of having Al-Qaeda replace the Bashar Assad regime.

Refugees must also show signs of vulnerability, and Clements said that the most eligible applicants are those “exposed to everything from torture to gender-based violence to serious medical conditions.” They must also have no intentions of ever returning to Syria.

"Refugees are subject to an intensive security screening process involving federal intelligence, law enforcement, defense, and homeland security agencies," a State Department official said. "The US government makes every possible effort to uphold and enhance the security screening aspects of the US Refugee Admissions Program. Refugees are among the most carefully screened of individuals traveling to the United States."
About 6.8 million Syrians are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. Although permanent resettlement will help 2,000 lucky victims, it will hardly make a dent in the overall suffering of the millions who are fighting for survival, and it will hardly compare to the 564,000 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the 454,000 in Jordan.

“We are exceedingly frustrated to be quite honest,” Clements said. “Because we can’t keep up with the humanitarian need especially inside Syria.”,0,5781053.story

BEIRUT -- As the United States debates whether to strike at Syria, the United Nations said Tuesday that the number of Syrians who have fled their homeland has exceeded 2 million -- a figure rising daily as the conflict in that country continues to rage.

The U.N. and refugee agencies highlighted the gloomy milestone in a bid to to spur international support and fund-raising for relief efforts. At this crucial moment, the U.N. said, humanitarian agencies have less than half of the funds required to meet basic refugee needs.
“Syria has become the great tragedy of this century -- a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history,” Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement.

The 2-million mark has been reached at a moment when Washington is contemplating missile strikes against the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons. Some in the region fear that any sustained U.S. attack could send a new wave of panicked Syrians fleeing toward the nation’s borders.

More than half of the Syrian refugees are children, age 17 and younger, the U.N. said.
In fact, many more than 2 million Syrians have fled their embattled homeland. The figure refers only to those who have registered or are in the process of registering with the U.N. for aid. Hundreds of thousands have never signed up.

Inside Syria, the U.N. said, an additional 4.5 million Syrians have been displaced because of the war. When refugees and the internally displaced are counted together, more than 1 in 4 Syrians have been driven from their homes, the world body said.

The vast majority of Syrian refugees have ended up in four neighboring nations: Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Some live in refugee camps, but most find apartments, rooms or other places to live, sometimes residing with relatives, friends or fellow refugees outside any organized camp regimen.
Tiny Lebanon, with a population of 4 million, has been especially hard hit. More than 1 million Syrians are now residing in Lebanon, the government said, straining the nation’s delicate social fabric and its fragile, multi-sectarian democracy. Gun battles, car bombings and other violence linked to the Syrian crisis have become relatively commonplace in Lebanon.

Alarmed about the influx, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have recently tightened entry requirements for Syrians. But Iraq, where strict restrictions had been in place, has opened its borders in the last two weeks to more than 40,000 Syrians, mostly ethnic Kurds from northern Syria fleeing fighting between Islamist Arab rebels  and Kurdish militiamen. Syrian Kurds continue arriving daily to Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.