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The Courts

Mylan's Epic EpiPen Price Hike Wasn't About Greed -- It's Worse, Lawsuit Claims (arstechnica.com) 158

Mylan engaged in a campaign to squash a rival to its EpiPen allergy treatment and artificially inflate the price of the drug to maintain a market monopoly, French drugmaker Sanofi said in a lawsuit. From a report: With the lofty prices and near-monopoly over the market, Mylan could dangle deep discounts to drug suppliers -- with the condition that they turn their backs on Sanofi's Auvi-Q -- the lawsuit alleges. Suppliers wouldn't dare ditch EpiPens, the most popular auto-injector. And with the high prices, the rebates wouldn't put a dent in Mylan's hefty profits, Sanofi speculates. Coupled with a smear campaign and other underhanded practices, Mylan effectively pushed Sanofi out of the US epinephrine auto-injector market, Sanofi alleges. The lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal court in New Jersey, seeks damages under US Antitrust laws.
Medicine

World's First Vaccine Against Malaria To Arrive Next Year, Says WHO (bbc.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares a report: The world's first vaccine against malaria will be introduced in three countries -- Ghana, Kenya and Malawi -- starting in 2018. The RTS,S vaccine trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquito bites. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the jab had the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. But it is not yet clear if it will be feasible to use in the poorest parts of the world. The vaccine needs to be given four times -- once a month for three months and then a fourth dose 18 months later.
Biotech

Can Parents Sue If Their Kid Is Born With the 'Wrong' DNA? (gizmodo.com) 267

Long-time reader randomErr quotes Gizmodo: It's a nightmare scenario straight out of a primetime drama: a child-seeking couple visits a fertility clinic to try their luck with in-vitro fertilization, only to wind up accidentally impregnated by the wrong sperm. In a fascinating legal case out of Singapore, the country's Supreme Court ruled that this situation doesn't just constitute medical malpractice. The fertility clinic, the court recently ruled, must pay the parents 30% of upkeep costs for the child for a loss of 'genetic affinity.' In other words, the clinic must pay the parents' child support not only because they made a terrible medical mistake, but because the child didn't wind up with the right genes...

"It's suggesting that the child itself has something wrong with it, genetically, and that it has monetary value attached to it," Todd Kuiken, a senior research scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo. "They attached damages to the genetic makeup of the child, rather than the mistake. That's the part that makes it uncomfortable. This can take you in all sort of fucked up directions."

Medicine

Diet Sodas May Be Tied To Stroke, Dementia Risk (cnn.com) 223

Gulping down an artificially sweetened beverage not only may be associated with health risks for your body, but also possibly your brain, a new study suggests. From a report: Artificially sweetened drinks, such as diet sodas, were tied to a higher risk of stroke and dementia in the study, which published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke on Thursday. The study sheds light only on an association, as the researchers were unable to determine an actual cause-and-effect relationship between sipping artificially sweetened drinks and an increased risk for stroke and dementia. Therefore, some experts caution that the findings should be interpreted carefully. No connection was found between those health risks and other sugary beverages, such as sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit juice and fruit drinks.
Medicine

South Indian Frog Oozes Molecule That Inexplicably Decimates Flu Viruses (arstechnica.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: From the slimy backs of a South Indian frog comes a new way to blast influenza viruses. A compound in the frog's mucus -- long known to have germ-killing properties -- can latch onto flu virus particles and cause them to burst apart, researchers report in Immunity. The peptide is a potent and precise killer, able to demolish a whole class of flu viruses while leaving other viruses and cells unharmed. But scientists don't know exactly how it pulls off the viral eviscerations. No other antiviral peptide of its ilk seems to work the same way. The study authors, led by researchers at Emory University, note that the peptide appears uniquely nontoxic -- something that can't be said of many other frog-based compounds. Thus, the peptide on its own holds promise of being a potential therapy someday. But simply figuring out how it works could move researchers closer to a vaccine or therapy that could take out all flus, ditching the need for yearly vaccinations for each season's flavor of flu.
Medicine

The Woman Whose Phone 'Misdiagnosed HIV' (bbc.com) 166

An anonymous reader shares a report on BBC about a woman in Kenya, who downloaded a prank app that noted that she has HIV simply by "analyzing her fingerprint." While many people would have not trusted an app for such kind of diagnosis in the first place, and some would have figured that something is amiss about the app, the story tells the tale of people who are increasingly finding it hard to deal with the technological advances they see. From the report: Esther sells water on the side of the road in Kenya for a few dollars a day. She also owns a smartphone and ownership of such a device should, according to most of the received wisdom, empower its owner. But in fact it did quite the opposite for her when she acquired an app. It claimed to diagnose HIV simply by analysing her fingerprint on the touch screen. When researchers met her at her roadside workplace, she was worried. "She did not know if it was true and she was panicking," said researcher Laura de Reynal, who worked on a year-long study into the experiences of first-time smartphone users in Kenya. "And she wasn't the only one, there were others that came to us worried about this app and those were just the ones that were willing to speak out." The app was in fact a prank and anyone reading the comments on Google's Play Store would have seen that. However, many first-time smartphone users in Kenya get hold of apps via a friend's Bluetooth connection, rather than downloading them via the net, in order to save data. But the prank would not have been apparent via a Bluetooth share. "People are not able to understand the limits of the technology," said Ms de Reynal. "They think, because it was on a smartphone, it seems real and credible."
Medicine

88% Of Medical 'Second Opinions' Give A Different Diagnosis - And So Do Some AI (mayoclinic.org) 74

First, "A new study finds that nearly 9 in 10 people who go for a second opinion after seeing a doctor are likely to leave with a refined or new diagnosis from what they were first told," according to an article shared by Slashdot reader schwit1: Researchers at the Mayo Clinic examined 286 patient records of individuals who had decided to consult a second opinion, hoping to determine whether being referred to a second specialist impacted one's likelihood of receiving an accurate diagnosis. The study, conducted using records of patients referred to the Mayo Clinic's General Internal Medicine Division over a two-year period, ultimately found that when consulting a second opinion, the physician only confirmed the original diagnosis 12 percent of the time. Among those with updated diagnoses, 66% received a refined or redefined diagnosis, while 21% were diagnosed with something completely different than what their first physician concluded.
But in a related story, Slashdot reader sciencehabit writes that four machine-learning algorithms all performed better than currently-used algorithm of the American College of Cardiology, according to newly-published research, which concludes that "machine-learning significantly improves accuracy of cardiovascular risk prediction, increasing the number of patients identified who could benefit from preventive treatment, while avoiding unnecessary treatment of others."

"I can't stress enough how important it is," one Stanford vascular surgeon told Science magazine, "and how much I really hope that doctors start to embrace the use of artificial intelligence to assist us in care of patients."
Medicine

Scientists Win $2.6 Million For Star Trek Tricorder Device (vocativ.com) 44

The Qualcomm Foundation, along with the XPRIZE Foundation, "announced the winning team of its nearly four-year-long global competition to develop a functional, easily usable tricorder," reports Vocativ. The Pennsylvania-based Final Frontier Medical Devices team was the first place winner, receiving the top prize of $2.6 million, while Boston-based Dynamical Biomarkers nabbed $1 million. From the report: Led by Dr. Basil Harris, a Philadelphia emergency room physician, the team was mostly made out of family and friends Harris coaxed into volunteering their free time on the weekend. By contrast, Dynamical Biomarkers had 50 scientists and programmers, mostly paid, and was sponsored by the Taiwanese government and Taiwan-based cellphone company HTC. The device kit developed by Final Frontier, called DxtER, uses non-invasive sensors that collect data from the user and combines that with an AI frontloaded with information in the field of clinical emergency medicine to come with a diagnosis. The device currently operates on an iPad tablet, but future versions should work equally fine on a smartphone as well. The device, ideally, would allow patients to then send their readings to their doctors so they could collaborate on their health care. According to an interview Harris held with the Washington Post, DxtER can diagnose up to 34 medical conditions in its present design. The device developed by Dynamical Biomarkers could reach up to 50, team leader and Harvard Medical School professor Chung-Kang Peng, told the Post, given it surpasses the five-pound weight limit imposed by the competition guidelines.
Robotics

Can Robots Help Children With Autism? (go.com) 52

An anonymous reader writes: Sunday is World Autism Awareness Day, and landmarks around the world will "light it up blue" as a show of support, including New York's Rockefeller Center and the White House. "Autism spectrum disorders affect an estimated one out of every 68 children in America," President Trump posted Friday, and autistic characters have now even been added to the new Power Rangers movie and on Sesame Street.

But technology could also play a role in improving the live of people with autism spectrum disorders. Reuters is reporting on a robot specifically designed to help teach communication and interaction skills to autistic children, while Vanderbilt University has 20 studies exploring more ways that robotics and technology could help, according to Zachary Warren, an associate professor of pediatrics. "A child may not respond to their mother calling their name but may automatically respond to a robot action or a piece of technology," Warren says after one program which showed improvement in five out of six participants. "If we can use that technology to shift how that child responds, then we may have a very valuable system to that child, that family and maybe for autism intervention."

Biotech

Researchers Discover A Surprising New Role for Lungs: Making Blood (ucsf.edu) 60

schwit1 quotes ScienceAlert: In experiments involving mice, the team found that lungs produce more than 10 million platelets (tiny blood cells) per hour, equating to the majority of platelets in the animals' circulation. This goes against the decades-long assumption that bone marrow produces all of our blood components. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco also discovered a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells that makes this happen inside the lung tissue -- cells that were incorrectly assumed to mainly reside in bone marrow. "This finding definitely suggests a more sophisticated view of the lungs -- that they're not just for respiration, but also a key partner in formation of crucial aspects of the blood," says one of the researchers, Mark R. Looney.
The platelet-producing cells actually migrate from the bone marrow to the lungs.
Biotech

Theranos To Investors: Please Don't Sue! Here, Have Some More Shares (siliconbeat.com) 86

Theranos "plans to give additional shares to investors who pledge not to sue," reports the Wall Street Journal. An anonymous reader quotes Silicon Beat: The deal, which hasn't been disclosed publicly, was approved by the Palo Alto-based company's board last month, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous "people familiar with the matter." They said most investors have tentatively agreed to the deal. Those extra shares are coming from none other than founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes' personal cache, the Journal reported. That means the beleaguered founder, who has remained stubbornly at the helm of her struggling startup even though federal regulators have barred her from running a medical lab for two years, would give up her majority ownership in the company.
Beer

Alcohol Is Good for Your Heart -- Most of the Time (time.com) 125

Alcohol, in moderation, has a reputation for being healthy for the heart. Drinking about a glass of wine for women per day, and two glasses for men, is linked to a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease. From a report on Time: A new study of nearly two million people published in The BMJ adds more evidence that moderate amounts of alcohol appear to be healthy for most heart conditions -- but not all of them. The researchers analyzed the link between alcohol consumption and 12 different heart ailments in a large group of U.K. adults. None of the people in the study had cardiovascular disease when the study started. People who did not drink had an increased risk for eight of the heart ailments, ranging from 12 percent to 56 percent, compared to people who drank in moderation. These eight conditions include the most common heart events, such as heart attack, stroke and sudden heart-related death.
Medicine

Molecule Kills Elderly Cells, Reduces Signs of Aging In Mice (sciencemag.org) 128

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a Science Magazine report: Even if you aren't elderly, your body is home to agents of senility -- frail and damaged cells that age us and promote disease. Now, researchers have developed a molecule that selectively destroys these so-called senescent cells. The compound makes old mice act and appear more youthful, providing hope that it may do the same for us. As we get older, senescent cells build up in our tissues, where researchers think they contribute to illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. In the past, scientists have genetically modified mice to dispatch their senescent cells, allowing the rodents to live longer and reducing plaque buildup in their arteries. Such genetic alterations aren't practical for people, but researchers have reported at least seven compounds, known as senolytics, that kill senescent cells. A clinical trial is testing two of the drugs in patients with kidney disease, and other trials are in the works. However, current senolytic compounds, many of which are cancer drugs, come with downsides. They can kill healthy cells or trigger side effects such as a drop in the number of platelets, the cellular chunks that help our blood clot. Cell biologist Peter de Keizer of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues were investigating how senescent cells stay alive when they uncovered a different strategy for attacking them. Senescent cells carry the type of DNA damage that should spur a protective protein, called p53, to put them down. Instead, the researchers found that a different protein, FOXO4, latches onto p53 and prevents it from doing its duty. To counteract this effect, De Keizer and colleagues designed a molecule, known as a peptide, that carries a shortened version of the segment of FOXO4 that attaches to p53. In a petri dish, this peptide prevented FOXO4 and p53 from hooking up, prompting senescent cells to commit suicide. But it spared healthy cells. The researchers then injected the molecule into mutant mice that age rapidly. These rodents live about half as long as normal mice, and when they are only a few months old, their fur starts to fall out, their kidneys begin to falter, and they become sluggish. However, the peptide boosted the density of their fur, reversed the kidney damage, and increased the amount of time they could scurry in a running wheel, the scientists report online today in Cell. When the researchers tested the molecule in normal, elderly mice, they saw a similar picture: In addition to helping their kidneys and fur, the molecule also increased their willingness to explore their surroundings.
Software

Researchers Develop App That Accurately Determines Sperm Quality (scientificamerican.com) 101

New submitter omaha393 writes: A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School have developed a point-of-care microfluidic detector capable of determining sperm quality using the simple device and a standard smartphone. Typical male fertility screens require a team of trained laboratory professionals and a screening process taking days to weeks and incurring high costs. The alternative home sperm measuring kits rely on chemical probes and only give measurements of quantity, not quality.The new method offers an easier, cheaper approach, with processing time taking about 5 seconds with no sample processing or wash steps required. The team found their device meets WHO guidelines with 98% accuracy of sperm quality measurements and is comparable to clinical results. The new device uses 35 microliters of sample to accurately measure both concentration and motility at a manufacturing cost of less than $5 per device. The device must still undergo FDA evaluations before being available to consumers, and the technology has yet to be named. The results of the study were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Further reading: NPR, Ars Technica, Scientific American
Medicine

Most Teens Who Abuse Opioids First Got Them From a Doctor (livescience.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Live Science: Most American teenagers who abuse opioid drugs first received the drugs from a doctor, a new study finds. Researchers looked at trends in the use of prescription opioids among U.S. adolescents from 1976 to 2015. They found a strong correlation between teens' taking the drugs for medical reasons and then later taking them for "non-medical" reasons, or in other words, abusing them, according to the study published today (March 20) in the journal Pediatrics. In 2015, the the most recent year of the study, 8 percent of adolescents reported abusing prescription opioids, and the majority of them had been prescribed opioids previously, the researchers found. The U.S. consumes about 80 percent of the world's prescription opioid supply. There has been consistent growth in the number of prescriptions written for opioids in the U.S., rising from 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to 207 million in 2013, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, the new study revealed that among teens, both medical and non-medical use of opioid medications has declined in recent years, starting in 2013. The decline may be due to careful prescribing practices, Sean McCabe, a research professor at the University of Michigan, said. There are several medical procedures that teens may undergo for which opioids are recommended for pain management. But doctors can be careful about the amount of these drugs they prescribe, and limit refills. Parents can make sure that any leftover pills are discarded. Another report was published today in the journal Pediatrics that analyzed data from the National Poison Data System. It found that of all 188,468 prescription opioid exposures reported for youth under 20 years old between 2000 and 2015, nearly all the exposures occurred at a home and were most common among children under 5, accounting for six of every 10 cases. According to NPR, those children were able to get their hands on the medication because it was improperly stored or was in a purse.
Space

Miniature Lab Begins Science Experiments in Outer Space (reuters.com) 27

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Orbiting the earth at more than 500 kilometers (300 miles), a tiny satellite with a laboratory shrunk to the size of a tissue box is helping scientists carry out experiments that take gravity out of the equation. The technology was launched into space last month by SpacePharma, a Swiss-Israeli company, which on Thursday announced that its first experiments have been completed successfully. In space, with hardly any interference from earth's gravity, cells and molecules behave differently, helping researchers make discoveries in fields from medicine to agriculture. Nestle turned to zero gravity -- or what scientists refer to as microgravity -- to perfect the foam in its chocolate mousse and coffee, while drugmakers like Eli Lilly have used it to improve drug designs.
Medicine

Unproven Stem Cell Treatments Blind 3 Women (npr.org) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Scientists have long hoped that stem cells might have the power to treat diseases. But it's always been clear that they could be dangerous too, especially if they're not used carefully. Now a pair of papers published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine is underscoring both the promise and the peril of using stem cells for therapy. In one report, researchers document the cases of three elderly women who were blinded after getting stem cells derived from fat tissue at a for-profit clinic in Florida. The treatment was marketed as a treatment for macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. Each woman got cells injected into both eyes. In a second report, a patient suffering from the same condition had a halt in the inexorable loss of vision patients usually experience, which may or may not have been related to the treatment. That patient got a different kind of stem cell derived from skin cells as part of a carefully designed Japanese study. The Japanese case marks the first time anyone has given induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to a patient to treat any condition. The report about the three women in their 70s and 80s who were blinded in Florida is renewing calls for the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on the hundreds of clinics that are selling unproven stem cell treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, autism and stroke.
Medicine

Researchers Suggest Using Blockchain For Electronic Health Records (hbr.org) 70

The CIO at a Boston teaching hospital and two MIT researchers write in the Harvard Business Review that blockchain "has the potential to enable secure lifetime medical record sharing across providers," calling it "a different construct, providing a universal set of tools for cryptographic assurance of data integrity, standardized auditing, and formalized 'contracts' for data access." An anonymous reader quotes their report: A vexing problem facing health care systems throughout the world is how to share more medical data with more stakeholders for more purposes, all while ensuring data integrity and protecting patient privacy... Today humans manually attempt to reconcile medical data among clinics, hospitals, labs, pharmacies, and insurance companies. It does not work well because there is no single list of all the places data can be found or the order in which it was entered...

Imagine that every electronic health record (EHR) sent updates about medications, problems, and allergy lists to an open-source, community-wide trusted ledger, so additions and subtractions to the medical record were well understood and auditable across organizations. Instead of just displaying data from a single database, the EHR could display data from every database referenced in the ledger. The end result would be perfectly reconciled community-wide information about you, with guaranteed integrity from the point of data generation to the point of use, without manual human intervention.

Medicine

Scientists Have Found a Way To Rapidly Thaw Cryopreserved Tissue Without Damage (sciencealert.com) 94

schwit1 quotes a report from ScienceAlert: Researchers have developed a technique that allows them to rapidly thaw cryopreserved human and pig samples without damaging the tissue -- a development that could help get rid of organ transplant waiting lists. Cryopreservation is the ability to preserve tissues at liquid nitrogen temperatures for long periods of time and bring them back without damage, and it's something scientists have been dreaming about achieving with large tissue samples and organs for decades. Instead of using convection, the team used nanoparticles to heat tissues at the same rate all at once, which means ice crystals can't form, so they don't get damaged. To do this, the researchers mixed silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles into a solution and generated uniform heat by applying an external magnetic field. They then warmed up several human and pig tissue samples ranging between 1 and 50 mL, using either their new nanowarming technique and traditional slow warming over ice. Each time, the tissues warmed up with nanoparticles displayed no signs of harm, unlike the control samples. Afterwards, they were able to successfully wash the nanoparticles away from the sample after thawing. The team also tested out the heating in an 80 mL system -- without tissue this time -- and showed that it achieved the same critical warming rates as in the smaller sample sizes, suggesting that the technique is scalable. You can view a video of tissue being thawed out in less than a minute here. The research has been published in Science Translational Medicine.
Medicine

New Scientific Test Finds Up To 75 Liters of Urine In Public Pools (theguardian.com) 215

Scientists have developed a test designed to estimate how much urine has been covertly added to a large volume of water. "The test works by measuring the concentration of an artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium (ACE), that is commonly found in processed food and passed through the body unaltered," reports The Guardian. The findings are published in the American Chemical Society journal. From the report: After tracking the levels of the sweetener in two public pools in Canada over a three-week period they calculated that swimmers had released 75 liters of urine -- enough to fill a medium-sized dustbin -- into a large pool (about 830,000 liters, one-third the size of an Olympic pool) and 30 liters into a second pool, around half the size of the first. Although the researchers were unable to confirm exactly what fraction of visitors were choosing to quietly relieve themselves in the water rather than making the shivery trip to the changing rooms, the results suggest that the urine content was being topped up several times each day. The findings make for unwelcome reading, but swimmers might find some comfort in the measurements from eight hot tubs, which were found to have far higher urine levels. One hotel Jacuzzi had more than three times the concentration of sweetener than in the worst swimming pool. In total, the team sampled 31 different pools and tubs in two Canadian cities and found ACE to be present in 100% of the samples, with concentrations up to 570 times the background level in tap water samples. They used the average ACE concentration in Canadian urine to convert their measurements into approximate volumes of urine.

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