TagMadScience health

Sir Terry Pratchett trials revolutionary light helmet that promises to slow Alzheimer’s

Terry Pratchett

“Sir Terry Pratchett has been trialling a revolutionary new device that claims to slow, and even reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s. The award-winning author, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2007, is one of the first patients in the UK to try the anti-dementia helmet. The device sends intense bursts of light at a particular wavelength the a patient’s skull.

The helmet’s designer, Dr Gordon Dougal is convinced the device could transform the lives of thousands of people with Alzheimer’s, which currently affects 700,000 people in the UK. The Discworld author, who has donated over £500,000 to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, first contacted Dr Dougal about his invention last year. The County Durham-based GP said: ‘When Sir Terry’s people contacted me I was very happy to help. We made another prototype helmet and he has had that since last August.’

A custom-built helmet was made from a cast of Mr Pratchett’s head. It was then attached to the back of an armchair at the writer’s home in order that he could use it for the recommended six minutes each day. Mr Pratchett’s progress was assessed by a computer, which showed a small, but measurable, improvement in his condition after three months. More importantly, said Dr Dougal, the computer could find no signs of further deterioration during this period.”

(via The Daily Mail)

How Science Could Soon be Manipulating Our Choice of Food

“I’m in the university town of Wageningen, about to have the least private lunch of my life, and a Dutchman is playing tricks with my mind. ‘Would you like coffee?’ he says, all cryptically. ‘No, water will be fine,’ I reply, because I’m not going to be manipulated. A bottle of water turns up with four beakers, all black but different shapes. The Dutchman is smirking, barely able to contain his excitement as he waits for my next move.

If I choose the tall one, it probably means I have issues with the size of my penis. If I choose the short, stubby one, it probably means the same. I choose the one closest to me. The Dutchman nods to himself. ‘What does all that mean?’ I ask. ‘Well, you were on edge because I was smirking,’ says the Dutchman, smirking at the fact that smirking was part of his test.

‘And you were uncomfortable because all the beakers are black, which is the colour we associate with death. The different shapes should have no real significance they hold the same amount of water but subconsciously, you were making false assumptions about one holding more than the other. It was interesting.’ At least it had nothing to do with my penis. Welcome to the Restaurant of the Future, a multi-million-pound experiment that could, and probably will, change the way we eat.”

(via Mind Control 101)

Exposed to Military Chemical and Biological Warfare Tests, They Walk Among Us

“Thousands of people who may have been exposed to chemical or biological agents during military tests remain unaccounted for, and the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs have given up on tracking them down, according to a new report.

Some of the tests were conducted as part of a weapons testing program known as “Project 112,” in others, individuals were intentionally exposed to hazardous substances such as blister, nerve, and biological agents as well as LSD and PCP, according to a Government Accounting Office report (PDF).

Any veteran who believes they sustained a disabilities from exposure during testing may file a claim for compensation with VA. The DOD stopped actively searching for test subjects in 2003 “but did not provide a sound and documented basis for that decision,” the GAO reported. At the time, it had identified 5,842 service members and about 350 civilians as having been potentially exposed during Project 112 alone (PDF). It is estimated that tens of thousands of military and personnel and civilians may have been exposed over the last 60 years.”

(via CNET)

(see also Project SHAD)

Raelians Rocket From Clones to Clitorises

“The Raelians have championed some strange causes in the movement’s 25-year history, including aliens and human clones, but now they are going to bat for a body part — the clitoris. The cult’s leader, Rael, whose real name is Claude Vorilhon, has become outraged by the custom of female genital cutting, the primarily African practice in which part of a girl’s genitalia is sliced away.

Now the Raelian Movement has resolved to build a hospital in the West African country of Burkina Faso, where women could come to have their clitorises “reconstructed.” “Rael thought this is a crime against humanity,” says Lara Terstenjak, a spokeswoman for Clitoraid, a nonprofit set up by the Raelians to sponsor genital surgeries.”

(via Wired)


Freakonomics looks at big pharma in the U.S.

What Don’t We Know About the Pharmaceutical Industry? A Freakonomics Quorum

[W]e’ve gathered up some willing and able candidates – Dr. Stuart Apfel, Zola P. Horovitz, Dr. Harlan Krumholz, Ray Moynihan, and Dr. Cyril Wolf – and asked them the following question:

What’s something that most people don’t know, pro or con, about the pharmaceutical business, whether from an R&D, economic, or political perspective?

Dr. Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health at Yale:

Science and the public good in a capitalist society depend on the free flow of unbiased information, but it doesn’t always work that way. Events are revealing that many pharmaceutical companies, along with their consulting academic physicians, have engaged in practices that obscure or misrepresent information about their products. Does the public realize the depth of these practices, and their implications for patient care?

Zola P. Horovitz, Ph.D, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry consultant, and member of the board of drug companies including Biocryst Pharmaceuticals, Phyton, Genaera Corporation, and Avigen:

My answer to this question is this: that the United States is subsidizing prescription drug prices for the rest of the world. Most people do not realize that when a prescription is paid for in the U.S., the payer (the patient, his or her insurance company, or the government) is subsidizing the cost of that same prescription in most countries outside the U.S. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies price their products to get a return that will support research and development to discover new products. Almost all major new drugs are discovered and developed by these companies, and most are located inside the U.S.

Dr. Cyril Wolf, practicing physician and prescription sales researcher:

The best kept secret by the retail pharmaceutical industry is the obscene profits made on generic drugs by the large chain stores. Whereas brand name drugs are all purchased, and therefore sold, for around the same price, generics are obtained for a fraction of that cost. The price at which the generics are sold is determined by the sellers, who thus have the ability to make exorbitant profits on these drugs.

Dr. Stuart Apfel, founder and president of Parallax Clinical Research and chief medical officer at Elite Pharmaceuticals:

For the majority of people, the great appeal of biomedical science is the potential benefit it presents to human beings through curing disease, extending life, and improving the quality of life. As is generally well-known, biomedical science has achieved much in extending our knowledge of the complex biological processes that make up all living organisms, including ourselves. […]

Market forces will always drive the actions of pharmaceutical companies, which are, after all, businesses like any other. However, society as a whole will benefit from greater risk taking and increased efforts to bridge the divide between laboratory science and the clinic.

Ray Moynihan, co-author of Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients:

What a lot of people may not know is that for some time now, pharmaceutical company marketing strategies have focused on promoting illness, rather than simply promoting drugs. Underpinning many of the marketing strategies of big drug companies is a very sophisticated and comprehensive plan to widen the boundaries of illness, and create an environment in which more and more formerly healthy people are defined as ‘sick.’ The strategies have many components – the most visible being TV and newspaper ads that make us think that our ailments and inconveniences are the signs and symptoms of genuine medical conditions. A sore stomach is ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome,’ a mild sexual difficulty is ‘Female Sexual Dysfunction,’ and overactive grown-ups now have ‘Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.’


Enhancing Humanity

“There is increasing concern amongst a wide range of commentators that human nature is in the process of being irrevocably changed by technological advances which either have been achieved or are in the pipeline. According to a multitude of op-ed writers, cultural critics, social scientists and philosophers, we have not faced up to the grave implications of what is happening. We are sleep-walking and need to wake up. Human life is being so radically transformed that our very essence as human beings is under threat.

Of course, apocalypse sells product, and one should not regard the epidemiology of panic as a guide to social or any other kind of reality. The fact that one of the most quoted panickers about the future is Francis Fukuyama, who has got both the past wrong (The End of History) and the present wrong (recovered neo-con Pentagon hawk), should itself be reassurance enough. Nevertheless, it is still worthwhile challenging the assumptions of those such as Fukuyama who are trying to persuade us to be queasy about the consequences of the various technologies that have brought about enhancement of human possibility and, indeed, want to call a halt to certain lines of inquiry, notably in biotechnology.”

(via Philosophy Now)

Study shows acupuncture works for back pain

Full Story: CTV.

(via Hit and Run).

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