Johnson & Johnson facing massive class action

Medical giant Johnson & Johnson is facing its third class action in Australia in as many years, with a case filed in the Federal Court yesterday which relates to a product called transvaginal mesh.

It has helped many women who have suffered prolapsed organs by assisting their muscles with support, but for a significant number it has caused life-changing harm.

Lawyers believe it could be the largest product class action in Australian legal history.

It has also cast fresh light on the system of approvals because the mesh was introduced without any pre-market testing — via

Tuna worker accidentally cooked to death

A worker at a Bumble Bee Foods factory in Santa Fe Springs, California, died in industrial oven accident this week, NBC News reported.

Safety officials said Jose Melena, 62, was accidentally cooked in a steamer machine at the seafood canning company’s plant, NBC News reported. Police pronounced him dead at the scene at 7.00am Thursday.

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokeswoman Erika Monterroza said it was unclear how Melena ended up inside the oven, the Contra Costa Times reported. Cal-OSHA has launched an investigation into the accident which it plans to complete in six months, she added.

If it turns out that the factory did violate state health and safety regulations, Bumble Bee Foods will face civil penalties, Monterroza said, according to the Contra Costa Times. In addition, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office could decide to indict the company on criminal charges — via

Biodegradable electronics implanted in mice

Biodegradable electronic implants that can be reabsorbed by the body have been used to administer drugs in mice, a group of international researchers has announced.

In a paper published in US journal Science, the researchers describe how electronic circuits made from silicon, magnesium and silk can be used as medical implants to deliver treatments before degrading into the surrounding environment.

Many biomedical implants only need to operate for a certain period of time, after which they [could now] dissolve and disappear to eliminate unwanted, and unnecessary, device load on the body, explained paper co-author John Rogers, a bioengineer and mechanical scientist at the University of Illinois, USA — via

Specialty contact lenses may one day help halt the progression of nearsightedness in children

Nearsightedness, or myopia, affects more than 40 percent of people in the US and up to 90 percent of children in some parts of Asia. The problem begins in childhood and often progresses with age. Standard prescription lenses can correct the defocus but do not cure nearsightedness, and do not slow progression rates as children grow.

But recent experimental work by biomedical scientist David Troilo and colleagues at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry in New York City supports the development of a potential cure for myopia by using specialty contact lenses that coax the eye to grow in a way that can correct nearsighted vision while reducing myopia progression. Troilo will describe his findings at the Optical Society’s (OSA) Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2012, taking place 14 October in Rochester, NY — via

California governor bans gay conversion therapy

Therapy aimed at turning gay kids straight will soon be illegal in California, with the state’s governor declaring he hopes a new law will relegate such efforts to the dustbin of quackery.

The legislation — which the state Senate passed in May, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law this weekend and will take effect 1 January — prohibits attempts to change the sexual orientation of patients under age 18.

This bill bans non-scientific therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide, Brown tweeted. These practices have no basis in science or medicine — via

‘Harmless skin virus’ fights acne

A harmless virus that lives on our skin could be used as a treatment for acne, scientists believe.

The virus, called a phage, is naturally built to target and kill bacteria that cause acne — Propionibacterium acnes.

Experts at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Pittsburgh found 11 different versions of virus in this phage family that had this power.

They plan lab work to see if they can harness it as a therapy — via

Wax Filling Was the Cutting Edge of Stone-Age Dentistry

We’re lucky to live in a modern age, an age when, instead of ripping out a painful cavity-ridden tooth, we can have dentists drill away the rotten bit and plug up the hole with a filling. But a new discovery reveals that fillings aren’t just modern conveniences: they date back to the Stone Age. Researchers have discovered that a tooth on a 6500-year-old human jawbone has a large cavity covered by a beeswax cap—making that wax the oldest dental filling ever discovered.

The well-cared-for jaw was discovered in a cave in Slovenia. Radiocarbon dating indicates that both the jawbone and the wax filling come from the Stone Age. And a close examination of the teeth shows that the left canine has worn enamel, a vertical crack, and a beeswax cap that partially fills the cavity — via

1m Britons have headaches from overusing painkillers

More than one million people in Britain may be suffering from constant, crippling headaches because they are taking too many painkillers, experts say.

The pills people take to relieve headaches and migraines may be making things much worse, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) in guidance to the health service for England and Wales.

As many as one in 50 people suffering from continual headaches are in fact victims of “medication overuse”, Nice reports.

The problem begins with taking the odd painkiller for tension headaches or migraines, which usually works. But some people take the pills more and more often, until they are on tablets for more than half the days in a month. Nice says that if this goes on for more than three months the medication ends up causing the problem it is intended to cure — via

Body heat, fermentation drive new drug-delivery ‘micropump’

Researchers have created a new type of miniature pump activated by body heat that could be used in drug-delivery patches powered by fermentation.

The micropump contains Baker’s yeast and sugar in a small chamber. When water is added and the patch is placed on the skin, the body heat and the added water causes the yeast and sugar to ferment, generating a small amount of carbon dioxide gas. The gas pushes against a membrane and has been shown to continually pump for several hours, said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.

Such miniature pumps could make possible drug-delivery patches that use arrays of microneedles to deliver a wider range of medications than now possible with conventional patches. Unlike many other micropumps under development or in commercial use, the new technology requires no batteries, said Ziaie, who is working with doctoral student Manuel Ochoa.

This just needs yeast, sugar, water and your own body heat, Ziaie said — via

Sydney sheikh in court over ‘female genital mutilation’

Police will allege the two girls had the procedure, which is also known as female circumcision, performed on them in NSW when they were aged six and seven within the past 18 months.

Three other people have been charged over the alleged genital mutilation.

Also arrested today was a 68-year-old woman who has been charged with two counts of prohibition of female genital mutilation.

Police will allege the woman performed the procedure on the girls.

She has been granted conditional bail and will face Campbelltown Local Court on 3 October.

A 42-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman were arrested last Friday and charged with two counts each of female genital mutilation. — via

GP banned for prescribing New Zealand teen ‘gay cure’

A Sydney-based Exclusive Brethren doctor has been banned from medicine after prescribing chemical castration for a young gay New Zealander.

In 2008, Exclusive Brethren member and GP Mark Christopher James Craddock wrote the 18-year-old a prescription for the anti-androgen therapy cyproterone acetate (Cyprostat) during a brief home consultation.

The young gay man, who now lives in Auckland, was living in Sydney at the time. He has since left the church.

The drug that Craddock prescribed, with five repeats, lowers libido by reducing the amount of testosterone — via

Gene therapy restores sense of smell in mice

Gene therapy has been used to give mice born without a sense of smell the ability to sniff their surroundings, an international team of researchers say.

The mice had a genetic disease which affected microscopic hairs in their body — called cilia — which can detect chemicals in the air.

Researchers hope their findings will lead to treatments for diseased cilia, which can cause blindness, deafness and kidney disease in people.

The study is in Nature Medicine.

Microscopic cilia stick out from many cells in the body. A range of genetic disorders called ciliopathies result in damaged cilia which can be fatal or severely debilitating. One symptom can be a lifetime without a sense of smell, called congenital anosmia — via

World First Bionic Eye Implant Enables Blinds to Experience Some Vision

Australian researchers have successfully performed the first implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes. A blind woman, Ms Dianne Ashworth, 54, who has serious vision loss due to an inherited condition (retinitis pigmentosa) can now see spots of light after being implanted with an early prototype bionic eye, confirming the potential of the world-first technology.

Ms Ashworth has received what she calls a pre-bionic eye implant that enables her to experience some vision. After years of hard work and planning, Ms Ashworth’s implant was switched in July 2012 at the Melbourne Bionics Institute, while researchers held their breaths in the next room, observing via video link.

According to the researchers this the first time when a device successfully implanted behind the retina demonstrates the viability of this scientific approach — via

‘Clot nets’ help stroke recovery

Using small nets to extract blood clots from patients’ brains may be the future of stroke care, according to two studies.

Clots block blood vessels, starving parts of the brain of oxygen, which leads to symptoms such as paralysis and loss of speech.

Two studies, presented in the Lancet medical journal, suggest extracting clots with nets could improve recovery.

The Stroke Association said it was very excited by the treatment’s potential.

There are already techniques for reopening blocked blood vessels in people’s brains.

Some patients will be given clot-busting drugs, but this needs to be in the hours just after the stroke and is not suitable for everyone — via

New camo face paint protects soldiers against bomb blasts

For millennia, face paint has helped soldiers avoid being seen by enemy forces. This Wednesday, however, a team of scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi announced that a new type of face paint may soon also be able to protect against the heat of bomb blasts and other explosions. Additionally, a clear version of the paint could be used by civilian fire-fighters.

The team created the material at the request of the U.S. Department of Defence, which was looking for an unobtrusive way of protecting soldiers’ exposed skin from the thermal blasts created by weapons such as roadside bombs.

It was definitely a challenge, as the scientists weren’t able to use traditional hydrocarbon-based make-up ingredients, as they are flammable when exposed to intense heat. Instead, they used silicones, as the wavelengths at which they absorb radiation are outside of the intense heat spectrum.

Making things more difficult was the fact that the paint did have to include DEET, the flammable insect repellent — the US military stipulates that all camouflage make-up it uses must be composed of at least 35 percent DEET. In this case, the researchers got around the problem by encapsulating the DEET within a hydrogel, to keep it from igniting — via

Vision for the blind: retina code cracked

The neural code used by a mouse’s retina to communicate to the brain has been deciphered and used to successfully restore normal vision to blind mice, US researchers reported.

The two scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, who published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have also deciphered the retinal neural code of monkeys — which is essentially identical to that of humans.

It’s an exciting time, said Sheila Nirenberg, a computational neuroscientist and lead researcher on the study. We can make blind mouse retinas see, and we’re moving as fast as we can to do the same in humans — via

Strathclyde University machine ‘re-uses’ patient blood

There are benefits to getting your own back. Especially if it is blood.

The bigger the operation, the more blood gets spilled. In procedures like open heart surgery and major trauma, blood loss can be so great that large quantities need to be replaced.

Blood transfusions are often the preferred option. But in a minority of cases there can be adverse reactions.

And then there is the cost. As Professor Terry Gourlay puts it: Blood is not cheap — via

Jail mooted for unethical alternative therapists

Alternative health practitioners such as homoeopaths and healers could be fined or jailed for breaching professional standards, under new powers for Victoria’s health watchdog being considered by the state government.

The scheme would allow Victoria’s Health Services Commissioner to ban or restrict alternative therapists’ practices if they breached a statutory code of conduct, and take court action to enforce the orders where necessary.

At present commissioner Beth Wilson is limited in her ability to deal with alternative therapists who behave unethically, because they are not regulated by national boards that can remove their right to practise — unlike doctors, nurses and dentists — via

Physios to get prescription powers in England

Physiotherapists and podiatrists in England are to get the right to prescribe medicines by themselves.

Ministers agreed to the change in the law after carrying out a consultation, but it will be 2014 before it is fully rolled out.

When physios and podiatrists do start prescribing they will become the first in the world to be given such powers.

And it will mean patients do not have to go back to GPs to get drugs such as anti-inflammatories and painkillers — via

Hepatitis C Can Now Be Totally Cured By Newly Discovered Nanoparticle

While Americans worry every year about getting a flu shot or preventing HIV/AIDS, the deadlier silent is actually Hepatitis C; killing over 15,000 people yearly in the US since 2007 and the numbers continue to increase as the carriers increase in age. While there is no vaccine, there is hope in nanoparticle technology.

The breakthrough came from a group of researchers at the University of Florida, creating a nanozyme that eliminates the Hep C 100% of the time; before now, the six-month treatment would only work about half the time. The particles are coated with two biological agents, the identifier and the destroyer; the identifier recognises the virus and sends the destroyer off the eliminate the mRNA, which allows Hep C to replicate — via

Permission to Live: How I lost my fear of Universal Health Care

When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada’s Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted. This meant we couldn’t choose our own health coverage, or even opt out if we wanted too. It also meant that abortion was covered by our taxes, something I had always believed was horrible. I believed based on my politics that government mandated health care was a violation of my freedom.

When I got pregnant shortly after moving, I was apprehensive. Would I even be able to have a home birth like I had experienced with my first 2 babies? Universal Health Care meant less choice right? So I would be forced to do whatever the medical system dictated regardless of my feelings, because of the government mandate. I even talked some of having my baby across the border in the US, where I could pay out of pocket for whatever birth I wanted. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Midwives were not only covered by the Universal health care, they were encouraged! Even for hospital births. In Canada, Midwives and Dr’s were both respected, and often worked together — via

Two Tough Guys Meet Tough Times, And Each Other

Back in 2008, Boston Bill Hansbury was learning to live with a prosthetic after losing his leg to an infection. That’s when he met Jake Bainter, who was about to have his right leg amputated. The two struck up a friendship, despite a wide gap in their ages — Hansbury was 70, and Bainter was 7.

The pair recently discussed their friendship, and other topics, during a visit to StoryCorps in St Petersburg, Florida.

Boston Bill, tell me about the day that we met, says Jake, now 12.

Well, that day, I had just regained the ability to ride my bike, says Hansbury, 74. And here I am, coming up to a stop sign. I don’t know what happened, but I could not get my feet out of the pedals. So, I took the bicycle over to the curb. And that’s when the car pulled up.

That was four hours before my amputation, Jake says. We were driving to the hospital, and we saw on the side of the road, a guy with a prosthetic leg. And I remember pulling around up to the curb and meeting you — via

Alzheimer’s drug IVIg could halt sufferers’ decline

A new treatment for Alzheimer’s could halt deterioration in people with early symptoms of the disease, a limited human trial has shown. The treatment, called the most exciting drug in development by scientists, is currently prescribed to people with immune system problems but could have a significant impact on the quality of life of Alzheimer’s sufferers, the trial suggests.

The drug, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), prevented the decline in cognitive skills, memory and the ability to live independently, among patients with mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Those who took a placebo continued to decline. The small number of patients who took the highest dose of the drug for three years showed no decline in memory.

Medical experts said the drug could be used to treat Alzheimer’s within a decade and was probably the most exciting drug we know about that is currently in the late stages of research — via

The laser-powered bionic eye that gives 576-pixel grayscale vision to the blind

After a lot of theorising, postulating, and non-human trials, it looks like bionic eye implants are finally hitting the market — first in Europe, and hopefully soon in the US. These implants can restore sight to completely blind patients — though only if the blindness is caused by a faulty retina, as in macular degeneration (which millions of old people suffer from), diabetic retinopathy, or other degenerative eye diseases.

The first of these implants, Argus II developed by Second Sight, is already available in Europe. For around $115,000, you get a 4-hour operation to install an antenna behind your eye, and a special pair of camera-equipped glasses that send signals to the antenna. The antenna is wired into your retina with around 60 electrodes, creating the equivalent of a 60-pixel display for your brain to interpret. The first users of the Argus II bionic eye report that they can see rough shapes and track the movement of objects, and slowly read large writing.

The second bionic eye implant, the Bio-Retina developed by Nano Retina, is a whole lot more exciting. The Bio-Retina costs less — around the $60,000 mark — and instead of an external camera, the vision-restoring sensor is actually placed inside the eye, on top of the retina. The operation only takes 30 minutes and can be performed under local anaesthetic — via

UN polio vaccine doctor injured in Karachi attack

Gunmen have attacked a UN vehicle, critically injuring a doctor who was administering polio vaccines in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

The foreign doctor was in the run-down Sohrab Goth area of the city, officials say. His driver was also hurt.

No group has said it carried out the shooting, but the Taliban have issued threats against the polio drive and are thought to be active in Sohrab Goth — via

This cosmetic surgeon wants others to advertise in a responsible manner

A South Yarra cosmetic surgeon is among a handful of medical practitioners who could be hauled before a disciplinary panel for selling discounted breast enhancements, liposuction and other cosmetic surgery on daily deal coupon websites, such as Groupon.

Dr Josef Goldbaum from Liposuction Australia will be sent a please explain letter from the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery Complaints Panel for breaches of the college’s code of conduct, which prohibits surgeons from advertising time-limited deals for cosmetic procedures.

College president Dr Colin Moore says the code exists because such advertisements can force consumers into making impulse decisions about potentially risky and life-changing surgery — via

CDC’s Wedding Day Survival Guide

We’re sure it’s just a fluke that wedding season happens to coincide with hurricane season. Ensuring that everything is perfect for the big day requires a great deal of strategy, coordination, and patience. As you gather your nearest and dearest to celebrate what should be a joyful time, Mother Nature, clashing personalities, and unexpected situations could easily thwart even the best laid plans. Being in the throes of wedding season, many of us here at CDC realised that planning for a wedding isn’t that much different from planning for a disaster. Just remember: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed.

Build a Kit
You’ve put in a lot of work leading up to this event, so the idea of a back-up emergency kit shouldn’t be too far-fetched.  The bridal kit should include extra safety pins, make-up for touch ups, maybe a few sedatives. It also wouldn’t hurt to have the essentials from a home emergency kit or go-bag by your side.  You never know when you might need to bandage up a clumsy flower girl, revive a passed out reception guest, or even evacuate. A first aid kit, bottles of water, snacks, medications, extra cash, and important documents are just a few of the more practical items to have handy.  If you’re the bride, add this to the list of things you need your maid of honour or someone in the bridal party to put together for you.  For a more extensive emergency kit list, visit FEMA’s — via

Dog’s Duty: Guarding Baby Against Infection

A dog could be a baby’s best friend, according to a study in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Infants living in households with dogs were healthier and had fewer ear infections than those without a dog, the study found. Researchers also found that cats appeared to offer some protection, but the link wasn’t as strong.

The study, posted online Monday and based on 397 children who lived in rural and suburban parts of Finland, examined whether contact with dogs and cats during a baby’s first year offers any protection from respiratory tract infections, such as colds and resulting common ear infections. The children having dogs at home were healthier, they had less ear infections and they needed less antibiotics, said Eija Bergroth, the study’s lead author and a paediatrician affiliated with Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland — via

Scientists Create Molecule to Make Teeth Cavityproof

Scientists have discovered a new molecule that will make your teeth cavity-proof and may change dental care forever. They have appropriately named it Keep 32 — for your 32 teeth — and it can kill the bacteria that produces cavities in 60 seconds flat.

José Córdoba — a researcher at Yale University — and Erich Astudillo — from the Universidad de Santiago, Chile—claim that this molecule can be added to any dental care product, from toothpaste to mouthwash. In fact, they say it can be added to anything, even candies and chewing gum.

As long as the product stays in your mouth for 60 seconds, it will eliminate the dreadful Streptococcus Mutans, making your teeth cavity proof for a number of hours — via

Study links parasite found in cats to suicide risk in humans

A wily parasite well known for influencing the behaviour of its animal hosts appears to play a troubling role in humans, increasing the risk of suicide among women who are infected, new research shows.

Chances are you or someone you know has been infiltrated by the parasite, called Toxoplasma gondii. Researchers estimate that T gondii is carried by 10% to 20% of Americans, who can get it by changing litter used by infected cats or eating undercooked meat from an animal carrying the bug.

Despite its prevalence in humans, the protozoan is most famous for the strange effect it has on the brains of rats and mice — via

The Dog Bacteria That Can Protect You From Asthma

Studies suggest that infants who grow up with dogs in their home are less likely to develop asthma. Researchers may now have found one reason why. Pets, dogs in particular, may protect infants from the effects of a common virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Infants with severe RSV infections have an increased likelihood of developing childhood asthma.

The researchers think that exposure to certain microbes in early infancy changes the early composition of an infant’s intestinal flora and this sets the tone for how the developing immune system will respond later in childhood — via

Human Stem Cell Transplants Successfully Reversed Diabetes in Mice

Scientists successfully reversed diabetes in mice by transplanting mice human stem cells into mice in a discovery that may lead to way to finding a cure for a disease that affects 8.3 percent of the US population.

Researchers say that the latest study, published in the journal Diabetes, was the first to show that human stem cell transplants can successfully restore insulin production and reverse type 1 diabetes in mice — via

Injecting life-saving oxygen into a vein

Patients unable to breathe because of acute lung failure or an obstructed airway need another way to get oxygen to their blood — and fast — to avoid cardiac arrest and brain injury. A team led by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital has designed tiny, gas-filled microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood.

The microparticles consist of a single layer of lipids (fatty molecules) that surround a tiny pocket of oxygen gas, and are delivered in a liquid solution. In a cover article in the June 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine, John Kheir, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues report that an infusion of these microparticles into animals with low blood oxygen levels restored blood oxygen saturation to near-normal levels, within seconds — via

Teenage pregnancy deaths a ‘global scandal’: charity

British charity Save the Children on Wednesday said it was a global scandal that 50,000 teenagers die each year due to pregnancy and childbirth complications.

The charity urged the world to renew its focus on family planning with a summit set to take place in London next month highlighting UN figures showing pregnancy and childbirth as leading causes of death for adolescent girls,

In a report entitled How family planning saves children’s lives, Save the Children also cited official data which revealed that nearly one million babies born to teenage mothers die each year before their first birthday — via

German court rules circumcision is ‘bodily harm’

A court in Germany has ruled that circumcising young boys for religious reasons amounts to bodily harm.

In a decision that has caused outrage among Jewish and Muslim groups, the court said that a child’s right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights.

The case involved a doctor who carried out a circumcision on a four year-old that led to medical complications.

Thousands of Muslim and Jewish boys are circumcised in Germany every year — via

Chilled-out mice hold key to new treatments for psychological disorders

Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry,; the Hulk’s alter ego Bruce Banner famously said. Now researchers have made a discovery that might one day have implications for anyone considering Bruce as a potential house guest. The researchers have identified a brain receptor that malfunctions in overly hostile mice — a receptor that also exists in humans – and found a way to shut it down, offering the potential for the development of treatments for severe aggression.

The breakthrough by Marco Bortolato and Jean Shih from the University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Pharmacy, working with colleagues in Italy, builds on previous work by Bortolato and Shih, in which they identified a specific gene disposition resulting in low levels of the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAO A). They found that humans and mice with this congenital deficiency of the enzyme respond to stress with violent outbursts.

The same type of mutation that we study in mice is associated with criminal, very violent behavior in humans, Bortolato said. But we really didn’t understand why that it is — via

The only good abortion is my abortion

As I write this, it is 1:17 am on Wednesday, 20 June 2012.

I am lying awake in bed, trying to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

Of course, we don’t call it an abortion. We call it a procedure or a D&C. See, my potential abortion is one of the good abortions. I’m 31 years old. I’m married. These days, I’m pretty well off. I would very much like to stay pregnant right now. In fact, I have just spent the last year — following an earlier miscarriage — trying rather desperately to get pregnant.

Unfortunately, the doctors tell me that what I am now pregnant with is not going to survive. Last week, I had an ultrasound, I was almost 6 weeks along and looked okay. The only thing was that the heartbeat was slow. It wasn’t a huge deal. Heartbeats start slow, usually around the 6th week, and then they speed up. But my doctor asked me to come back in this week for a follow up, just to be sure. That was Tuesday, yesterday. Still my today. The heart hasn’t sped up. The foetus hasn’t grown. The egg yolk is now bigger than the foetus, which usually indicates a chromosomal abnormality. Basically, this foetus is going to die. I am going to have a miscarriage. It’s just a matter of when — via

Alzheimer’s gene ‘diabetes link’

Scientists say they have identified a possible genetic link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

It has been known for some time that people with diabetes have a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but not why this is so.

Now US researchers writing in Genetics say a study of worms has indicated a known Alzheimer’s gene also plays a role in the way insulin is processed.

Dementia experts said more work in humans was now needed — via

Plague of dodgy prescriptions puts illicit drugs in the shade

Despite a lively public debate about illicit drugs, the dominant drugs of addiction overtaking Western societies are those prescribed legally by trusted doctors. Prescription drugs, initially given to modulate chronic pain, reduce disabling anxiety or lift fledgling moods, are most likely to become chemicals of abuse and addiction.

The numbers are staggering.

The National Drug Strategy household survey results in 2009 reported more than 1.2 million Australians had used a pharmaceutical drug for a non-medical purpose.

Several experts, such as Professor Nick Lintzeris of Sydney University, believe as many as 100,000 Australians may have a problem with prescription painkillers. Prescribed opioids are fast replacing heroin, cocaine and ice as the drug of choice in the illicit markets — via

A Game of Tennis Tests Notions of Blindness

Dan Guilbeault was 3 when doctors discovered a tumour called an optic glioma pressed against his optic nerves. He continued to play the sports he loved — basketball, baseball and football — until he lost most of his sight at 11.

Now he is 19 and almost completely blind, and his favourite sport is tennis.

When he first heard about tennis for the visually impaired, his reaction was No way! he said. I was sceptical.

So were faculty members at the Perkins School for the Blind here, when a sighted student from nearby Newton proposed it nearly two years ago. But Perkins, known for athletic innovations like adapted fencing, decided to offer what are believed to be the first blind tennis classes in the country — via

‘Truman Show’ Delusion Becoming More Common

Nicholas Marzano believes he’s the subject of a secret reality show, and everyone in his town of Hillside, Illinois is in on it. He’s suing HBO in federal court for, in his words, filming and broadcasting a hidden camera reality show depicting the day-to-day activities of plaintiff without his consent. His suit, filed in April, alleges that HBO has hidden cameras throughout his home, installed controlling devices in his car, enlisted the help of local police, and recruited actors to portray attorneys, government and law enforcement officials, physicians, employers, prospective employers, family, friends, neighbours, and co-workers, all so that their show about his life can continue. Marzano also says HBO is keeping him from getting a job or paying his bills, so that he will be forced to remain on the show.

He appears to be a perfect example of what psychiatrist brothers Joel and Ian Gold describe, in a paper published this week in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, as Truman Show delusion — sufferers believe they are the ‘star’ of a reality television show secretly broadcasting their daily life, much like the main character in Peter Weir’s film The Truman Show. Between the movie’s 1998 release and 2006, they saw five patients with the delusion, and news reports from around the world since then have turned up even more disturbing cases. With the increasing popularity of YouTube and reality TV, the Golds think the disorder is on the rise. Truman Show delusion may be the early 21st century’s paranoia du jour — via

Cheap amoebic dysentery drug ‘promising’

A cheap drug, which is already prescribed for arthritis, could fight amoebic dysentery, according to researchers in the US

They were testing old drugs to see if any killed the dysentery bug.

Tests on animals, published in Nature Medicine, showed that auranofin was 10 times more effective than the best drug currently available.

Further studies will be needed in humans, but researchers say it holds great promise — via

Nerve rewiring helps paralysed man move hand

A paralysed man has regained limited use of his hand after pioneering surgery to bypass damage to his spinal cord.

His injury meant his brain could not talk to his hand, meaning all control was lost.

Surgeons at the Washington University School of Medicine re-wired his nerves to build a new route between hand and brain.

He can now feed himself and can just about write.

The 71-year-old man was involved in a car accident in June 2008. His spinal cord was damaged at the base of the neck and he was unable to walk.

While he could still move his arms, he had lost the ability to pinch or grip with either of his hands — via BBC News

Clinic’s cancer claims misled, appeal court finds

A medicine clinic that claims it can cure cancer misled and deceived consumers, the Victorian Court of Appeal has found.

On its website, Operation Smile describes itself as a complementary medicine centre specialising in the treatment of cancer through photo dynamic therapy, oxygen therapies and high-dose intravenous Vitamin C at its Hope Clinic.

Consumer Affairs Victoria took the company to the Supreme Court, alleging its statements falsely represented its treatments as effective in treating cancer and that it claimed to have scientific support — via

Scientists ‘switch off’ brain cell death

Scientists have figured out how to stop brain cell death in mice with brain disease which could provide a deeper understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

British researchers writing in the journal Nature say they have found a major pathway leading to brain cell death in mice with prion disease, the mouse equivalent of Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (CJD).

They then worked out how to block it, and were able to prevent brain cells from dying, helping the mice live longer.

The finding, described by one expert as a major breakthrough in understanding what kills neurons, points to a common mechanism by which brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and CJD damage the nerve cells — via

Rare bacteria kills lab researcher in San Francisco

A researcher at an infectious disease lab died over the weekend after being exposed to a rare bacteria strain that he was working with, said health officials

Richard Din, 25, worked at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, reported the San Jose Mercury News.

California health authorities said that the victim had worked with the rare Neisseria meningitis bacterial strain for months before his death.

The Contra Costa Times reported that the recent UC-Berkeley biology grad left the lab last Friday and became ill during the evening with fever, chills and a headache.

By Saturday morning his symptoms had grown worse and he developed a body rash.

He called his friends to drive him to the hospital but died shortly after — via

Bionic eye patient tests planned for 2013

Bionic vision researchers intend to test a functional bionic eye on patients next year.

Our primary aim is to complete the first prototypes of the bionic eye so they can be tested in human recipients in 2013, said Gregg Suaning, a professor from the University of New South Wales Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, in a statement.

Suaning is also the leader of Bionic Vision Australia’s wide-view device, the first of two prototypes designed to restore vision in people with degenerative retinal conditions.

It consists of 98 electrodes that stimulate nerve cells in the retina, which is a tissue lining the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses necessary for sight, and allow users to better differentiate between light and dark — via