Tech Talk

Could computers replace doctors? Are we entering a new age of exponential growth in artificial intelligence that far outstrips our own? Or are we entering an unprecedented phase of human advancement and an economics of abundance? Three inspirational videos pointing to a future of technological advancement, computer learning and very fast change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internet use among the elderly ‘good for health’ – article from the Irish Medical Times

VariousOlder people who are active internet users and who regularly indulge in culture may be better able to retain their health literacy, and therefore maintain good health, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy as the degree to which a person is able to obtain, understand, and process basic health information so they can make appropriate decisions about their health.

Low levels of health literacy are associated with poorer self-care, higher use of emergency care services, low levels of preventative care, and an overall increased risk of death.

The most important factor governing a decline in health literacy in later years is thought to be dwindling cognitive abilities as a result of ageing, which gradually dulls the brain functions involved in active learning and vocabulary.

The researchers wanted to find out if regular internet use and engaging in civic, leisure, and cultural activities might help to maintain health literacy skills, irrespective of age-related cognitive decline. They therefore assessed the health literacy skills of almost 4,500 adults aged 52 and older, all of whom were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) between 2004 and 2011.

At the start of the study, around three out of four people (73 per cent) had adequate health literacy. After six years, scores fell by one or more points in around a fifth (19 per cent) of people, regardless of their initial score, while a similar proportion improved by one or more points.

There was a link between age and declining health literacy, and being non-white, having relatively low wealth, few educational qualifications, and difficulties carrying out routine activities of daily living.

Poorer memory and executive function scores at the start of the study were also linked to greater decline over the subsequent six years.

Around 40 per cent said they never used the internet or email, while one-in-three (32 per cent) said they did so regularly. Similar proportions said they engaged in civic (35 per cent) and/or leisure (31 per cent) activities over the six-year period.

Almost four out of 10 (39 per cent) said they had regularly engaged in cultural activities, such as going to the cinema, theatre, galleries, concerts or the opera, during this time.

Across all time points, internet use and engagement in civic, leisure, or cultural activities were lower among those whose health literacy declined.

J Epidemiol Community Health 2014;0:1–6. doi:10.1136/jech-2014-204733.

Problematic alcohol consumption is still going unnoticed

Despite huge increases in alcoholic liver disease in the last 10 years, particularly in younger people, a new study shows that many students are not concerned about the long-term health impacts of alcohol consumption.

The study found that twice as many college students were likely to reduce their alcohol consumption for cost reasons compared to those who would reduce consumption to prevent negative health impacts.  As reported by the Irish Medical News, the study consisted of a survey of first year students at University College Cork.

According to the study, two-fifths (or 39%) of students surveyed admitted to going out with the intention of getting drunk, knowing that it would affect their duties the next day.

The study has prompted the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG) to call for legislation to target alcohol consumption.

The ISG has warned that alcohol related deaths and hospital admissions continue to rise in Ireland, particularly in younger people and deaths related to cirrhosis of the liver have doubled between 1994 and 2008.

Perhaps a public awareness campaign is needed to educate our young people that the health costs of over-zealous alcohol consumption are far more costly in the long run that the initial monetary outlay.

We all need the Amazon and its people

Hope you enjoy this great video that reminds us how vital it is that we protect and learn from the Amazon and its people.

 

It’s from TED Talks by Mark Plotkin and the title is What the people of the Amazon know that you don’t.

 

Legalise it?

 

Hope you find this talk by Ethan Nadelmann on ending the war on drugs stimulating.

It’s a controversial topic but I don’t think anyone would argue that our current policies to eliminate dangerous drug use and the violence and black market that it fuels are working positively for anyone, bar  criminal organisations. The terrorist organisations Boko Haram, ISIS and the Taliban are thought to be partly funded by illegal drug sales, drug-related violence and addiction in the west destroys countless lives, and drug money continues to fuel horrific violence and inequality in Latin America too. Perhaps it’s time for a major re-think.

 

For a pre-Christmas health-kick…!

vitagreen image 1

 

Here at Dunphy Medical we’re stocking up on Chlorella, Vitamin C and Omega Oils with added Vitamin D to stay healthy amid winter’s bugs and flus.

Vitamin B is a perennial favourite and Toki is keeping our skin supple and youthful despite any harsh winter winds.

To discover our range of health products click on the Products tab at the top of this website’s homepage or just follow this link https://dunphymedicalcarrigaline.com/products/. All health supplements can be purchased online via PayPal or directly with a cheque or postal order. Purchases will then be delivered to your door by return mail, there’s no need to even leave the house!

 

How Much is Enough?

Is it time for an economic re-think?

I hope you enjoy this video interview with father and son team Robert and Edward Skidelsky about the principles that underpin their fascinating new book How Much Is Enough? The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life.

Lord Skidelsky, Emeritus professor of political economy and Dr Edward Skidelsky, lecturer in philosophy tackle the questions: What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours just to acquire greater wealth? These are some of the questions that many asked themselves when the financial system crashed in 2008. Their perspectives gave me much food for thought! Hope you find it interesting too.

 

Gut bacteria may hold key to schizophrenia

Gut bacteria may hold key to schizophrenia published on Irish Medical Times

 

Researchers in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in UCC have put forward a radically novel view of the biology of schizophrenia and more specifically its genetic basis, and their work may have significant implications for the development of new treatment strategies for the disorder.

Schizophrenia usually begins in the late teens or early 20s, and tends to be a life-long condition in the majority of cases. The risk of developing the disorder is approximately one in 100 in the general population. However, if there is a history of schizophrenia in the family the risk rises significantly.

However, very slow progress has been made in determining the complex genetics of schizophrenia.

Prof Ted Dinan and colleagues at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre have published a paper on the genetics of schizophrenia in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. They argue that genetic studies over the past few decades have been less than productive in determining the biology of the disorder and in helping develop new treatments.

They re-evaluate the studies to date and put forward a radical alternative perspective.

The research — funded by Science Foundation Ireland — points out that there are more than 100 times as many genes in the bacteria within our intestine as exist in our cells and many of these genes play a fundamental role in brain development and function. In their laboratory, the researchers have found that animals raised in a germ-free environment, who have not been exposed to bacteria, show similar social interaction to that observed in schizophrenia and recent studies indicate that antibiotics may help alleviate some symptoms.

Minocycline, which is used to treat acne in teenagers, has been found to impact on symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations as well as social withdrawal. To date, there has been little effort to explore intestinal bacterial genes in patients with the disorder.

Prof Dinan’s group is currently focusing on this approach with a view to developing new and more effective treatments. They draw a parallel with the gut disorder peptic ulcer disease, which like schizophrenia tends to run in families.

Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication 7 Oct 2014; doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.93.

Stem Cell Promise Vindicated

Stem Cell Promise Vindicated

 

With the publication of Professor Geoff Raisman’s spectacular achievement in repairing  the damaged spinal cord of a Polish knife attack victim in the journal Cell Transplantation, we are witnessing a paradigm shift of biblical proportions in the field of spinal cord repair – for the first time stem cell therapy has exceeded expectations. Humanity is on the verge of great advances in the understanding and repair of neurological disasters.

This week marks a significant milestone in our journey from the first bone marrow (stem cell) transplant to treat Leukaemia in 1956 (earning the Nobel Prize for Dr. Thomas and J.E. Murray in 1990) to Professor Raisman’s publication in 1969 on the ‘Plasticity of Nerve Cells’.

In just 10 years the possibility of neural regeneration has revolutionised our understanding of neural physiology and repair.

It all began when the canary (long used to warn coal miners of dangerous gasses in the mines) was found to grow 500,000 new neural cells in the process of learning a new song each spring time (it’s amazing what is done for love!!)

A few years later an inspired researcher did MRI brain studies on London Taxi drivers learning maps of London (known as ‘The Knowledge’). A repeat MRI nine months later showed that the hippocampus had grown in size by 14%.

Another study found that when rats learned to navigate a new maze, after only 5 trials they developed more than 20,000 new brain cells. The control group of rats that just ran around a ring for the same time showed no increase in brain cells.

So the brain can and does grow when stimulated. Professor Raisman’s research was the subject of an excellent cover story in the Sunday Times supplement circa 2007. I am personally pleased that I used his research findings and hypotheses in my presentations to the European Anti-ageing Conference on ‘The Potential of Stem Cell Therapy’ in Athens in 2007 and in Paris the following year.

In summary, the stem cell promise has been vindicated.

See below for comprehensive coverage of this exciting medical development from the ever-brilliant BBC.

 

 

Paralysed man walks again after cell transplant

A paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.

Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame.

The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.

Details of the research are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.

BBC One’s Panorama programme had unique access to the project and spent a year charting the patient’s rehabilitation.

Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralysed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack.

He said walking again – with the support of a frame – was “an incredible feeling”, adding: “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again.”

Prof Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, led the UK research team.

He said what had been achieved was “more impressive than man walking on the moon”.

UK research team leader Prof Geoff Raisman: Paralysis treatment “has vast potential”

The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) – specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell.

OECs act as pathway cells that enable nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed.

In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture.

Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with – about 500,000 cells.

About 100 micro-injections of OECs were made above and below the injury.

Four thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient’s ankle and placed across an 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord.

The scientists believe the OECs provided a pathway to enable fibres above and below the injury to reconnect, using the nerve grafts to bridge the gap in the cord.

 

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How the injury was treated

Spinal graphic

1) One of the patient’s two olfactory bulbs was removed and the olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) were grown in culture

2) 100 micro injections of OECs were made above and below the damaged area of the spinal cord

3) Four strips of nerve tissue were placed across an 8mm gap in the spinal cord. The scientists believe the OECs acted as a pathway to stimulate the spinal cord cells to regenerate, using the nerve grafts as a bridge to cross the severed cord

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Before the treatment, Mr Fidyka had been paralysed for nearly two years and had shown no sign of recovery despite many months of intensive physiotherapy.

This programme of exercise – five hours per day, five days a week – has continued after the transplant at the Akson Neuro-Rehabilitation Center in Wroclaw.

Mr Fidyka first noticed that the treatment had been successful after about three months, when his left thigh began putting on muscle.

Six months after surgery, Mr Fidyka was able to take his first tentative steps along parallel bars, using leg braces and the support of a physiotherapist.

Two years after the treatment, he can now walk outside the rehabilitation centre using a frame.

He has also recovered some bladder and bowel sensation and sexual function.

Dr Pawel Tabakow, consultant neurosurgeon at Wroclaw University Hospital, who led the Polish research team, said: “It’s amazing to see how regeneration of the spinal cord, something that was thought impossible for many years, is becoming a reality.”

 

Darek undergoing physiotherapy
Mr Fidyka undergoes five hours of physiotherapy a day

Mr Fidyka still tires quickly when walking, but said: “I think it’s realistic that one day I will become independent.

“What I have learned is that you must never give up but keep fighting, because some door will open in life.”

The groundbreaking research was supported by the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF) and the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF)

UKSCF was set up in 2007 to speed up progress of promising stem cell research – the charity has to date contributed £2.5m

NSIF was set up by chef David Nicholls after his son Daniel was paralysed from the arms down in a swimming accident in 2003.

To date the charity has given £1m to fund the research in London and a further £240,000 for the work in Poland.

The breakthrough

A key difference with Mr Fidyka was that the scientists were able use the patient’s olfactory bulb, which is the richest source of olfactory ensheathing cells.

This meant there was no danger of rejection, so no need for immunosuppressive drugs used in conventional transplants.

Most of the repair of Mr Fidyka’s spinal cord was done on the left side, where there was an 8mm gap.

He has since regained muscle mass and movement mostly on that side.

Scientists believe this is evidence that the recovery is due to regeneration, as signals from the brain controlling muscles in the left leg travel down the left side of the spinal cord.

MRI scans suggest that the gap in the cord has closed up following the treatment.

None of those involved in the research want to profit from it.

Prof Geoff Raisman said: “It would be my proudest boast if I could say that no patient had had to pay one penny for any of the information we have found.”

NSIF said if there were any patents arising, it would acquire them so as to make the technique freely available.

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The sense of smell and spinal repair

Generic image of a person smelling

The complex neural circuitry responsible for our sense of smell is the only part of the nervous system that regenerates throughout adult life.

It is this ability that scientists have tried to exploit in stimulating repair in the spinal cord.

Every time we breathe, molecules carrying different odours in the air come into contact with nerve cells in the nose.

These transmit messages to our olfactory bulbs – at the very top of the nasal cavity, sitting at the base of the brain.

The nerve cells are being continually damaged and must be replaced.

This process of regeneration is made possible by olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), which provide a pathway for the fibres to grow back.

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Mr Nicholls said: “When Dan had his accident I made him a promise that, one day, he would walk again. I set up the charity to raise funds purely for research into repairing the spinal cord. The results with Darek show we are making significant progress towards that goal.”

Prof Wagih El Masri said: “Although the clinical neurological recovery is to date modest, this intervention has resulted in findings of compelling scientific significance.”

The consultant spinal injuries surgeon, who has treated thousands of patients in the UK, added: “I have waited 40 years for something like this.”

All those involved in the research are keen not to raise false hopes in patients and stress that the success will need to be repeated to show definitively whether it can stimulate spinal cord regeneration.

The scientists hope to treat another 10 patients, in Poland and Britain over the coming years, although that will depend on the research receiving funding.

Dr Tabakow said: “Our team in Poland would be prepared to consider patients from anywhere in the world who are suitable for this therapy. They are likely to have had a knife wound injury where the spinal cord has been cleanly severed.

Sir Richard Sykes, chair of the UK Stem Cell Foundation, said: “The first patient is an inspirational and important step, which brings years of laboratory research towards the clinical testbed.”

“To fully develop future treatments that benefit the 3 million paralysed globally will need continued investment for wide scale clinical trials,”

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The researchers

BBC undated handout video grab of Professor Geoffrey RaismanProf Raisman

Prof Raisman has spent more than 40 years studying how to repair the spinal cord.

In animal studies he showed that OECs injected into the rat spinal cord could reverse paralysis.

In 2005, Prof Raisman was approached by a Polish neurosurgeon who had begun researching how to apply the technique in humans.

BBC undated handout video grab of Dr Pawel TabakowDr Tabakow

Dr Tabakow carried out an initial trial involving three paralysed patients who each had a small amount of OECs injected in their damaged spinal cords.

While none showed any significant improvement, the main purpose of the study was achieved, showing that the treatment was safe.

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