Friday, March 31, 2006

So, who is right? Will I, or will I not get a tumor if I talk to my girlfriend tonight?

How can research be so full of Yin - Yang nowadays?

If you follow news closely, you will find out that while coffee can cure diabetes, it can also cause it, food is good and bad, everything is high and low, and finally cellphones do cancer, and then they don't....

So, where do we go from here? Who do we trust? Do we stop all forms of mobile communication?

I would say the last thing is the smartest thing to do. The cell phone is a security encroachment, and a social encroachment at the best. Last year, I was driving around showing five people who were friends, what was around town. They were all on their cell phones all the time. It made me wonder when they got time to become friends!

And then there are the stupid people yodeling into their phones on the freeway.

All this makes me think, well, maybe we should just stop using cell phones at all.

But coming back to the research, it is disturbing that a community that dubs itself "scientific" cannot come to a good conclusion on whether or not we need these horrible devices. It might atleast be good news for answering machine resellers, if that brand of people had ever walked this Earth.

Knocking Genes to Jog your memory...

[Click on title for link to original article]

We have all seen studies like this before, not exactly on the topic of long term memory genes, but on the topic of knocking off a particular gene, obtaining a result in a rat, and linking it to a serious disease in humans and expecting to provide a cure. I am always wary of such research.

Despite the fact that rats are good animals to provide experimental results on the semantics of research, we should realize that there is a long way to go from demonstrating a genetic engineering feat in rats, being able to transfer this demonstration to humans, and additionally, being able to actual help cure diseases and treat conditions in the future.

I would treat this news with a mere nod and say, "Well, good, there's hope." But the buck should stop there with jubiliations and pre - conceived conclusions..

Biotechnology: Mercury Clean Up -- A personal dream comes true

[Click on title for link to original article]

When genetics first became privy to my knowledge base, having watched Jurassic Park as a teenager, I started thinking of leguminous nitrogen fixing bacteria, and how we could one day "create" bacteria and modify bacteria, and clean up all the pollution we have caused!

I have since grown, since understood that pollution is somewhat, I repeat, only somewhat, over emphasized, and also that we will find a solution one day...

But just hearing this news, is re-assuring, and quite joyous. Finally, we get a second chance, thanks to a bunch of guys in Ohio! Kudos!!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Some Investigations make sense, and some dont...

[Click on title for link to original article]

Lets examine a couple of things here...

1. You subpoena a whopping 190 companies...?

2. You already know what the loophole is. You know and say it is being used. So what is the point of investigating something you know. Would you mind plugging the hole in the loop before?

Is it useful to spend good time and money on investigating a 190 companies for probably passing and failing to watch for the pitfalls of an improper law? One wonders..

Impressive Response to Blue Cross Allegations by the State of California

[Click on title for link to original article]

The report on 10 lawsuits in California forced me to ruminate on the status of despair that managed healthcare seems to leave a portion of the population here, and also to comment that maybe there is not enough oversight. Atleast as a quick remedy, California has initiated investigations into the practices of Blue Cross.

Of course, the owner of the organization has replied with tongue-in-cheek responses about how they welcome the investigation. One only hope the truth comes out, before it becomes of no use to the 10 people who filed the suits.

Imagine Blue Cross trying to get away with accusing an adult person of not having reported a case of Hepatitis when they were a child...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Insured Health Care -- An annoyance or a permanent issue for the US?

[Click on title to original article]

This incident with Blue Cross is not isolated. Insurance fraud comes from two end, and it is apparent that it hurts more when it comes from the corporate end. It is ridiculous the guy claims, "Watch out for fraud, or all our rates go up."

This was a case where the people who are suing, seem to be normal everyday people. They would not push everyone's rates up.

Also, it becomes evident that the health care system in the US is very faulty, in that it does not provide respite for anyone with strange and expensive diseases. They just have to wait, suffer and die.

This is unbecoming of a rich or "developed" nation. Everything is in the clutches of the insurance companies - the doctors, the devices, the drugs, the diseases that can be treated, who is name a few.

Looks like the government has absolved itself of all responsibility in regulating insurance, in covering people who cannot cover themselves, or in examining affordable healthcare for all.

What would be the use of a country if its general population started running bills into millions of dollars one day? Who is thinking about all this?

These are the kind of questions that countries that are still developing need to cogitate and address before they rush in to model their own health care system based on a severely flawed one....

Asia as the bed for new clinical trials -- whither accountability?

[Click on title for link to original article]

So, now Asia is trying to take over expensive clinical trials. But these clinical trials are usually expensive for a reason. The trials have to be well planned out, the IRBs have to be written out properly, and there are a host of other procedures that ensure one thing does not happen - fraud.

What could fraud in a clinical trial lead to? Death, of innocent humans for one. Fabrication of results for another. And then, there are a hundred other things that can happen.

Do we assume that just because the FDA exists, or because the companies will be outside the purview of the FDA, fraud does not happen?

We do not say that, but assume that a country decides to subsidize for the sake of clinical trials. How wary of lawsuits and complaints of unfair play is this country going to be?

These are yet unanswered questions, that need to be carefully examined. One would rather wait and see stringent laws and norms in place, before gladly accepting that the companies would self - regulate themselves.

I would rather wait till India has good laws, before it jumps onto this bandwagon. Especially since it was discovered that certain Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals which were being exported to the US had heavy metals in them, I have been wary of the status of the law surrounding drugs in India. One needs to watch out for these.

Another unanswered question - how many of these clinical trial results obtained in Asia will be accepted by the FDA or the European/Japanese regulatory agencies?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Who said federal projects don't cut it?

[Click on title for original article]

The centralized, network based solution for the storage and retrieval of scans and related images is an excellent idea. You can also look at the benefits of the project for both hospitals and patients. This can also be a valuable source for researchers looking to cull data with ease.

Why would they not spend more money on such meaningful projects instead of sending people out to prove the obvious?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Is banning abortion, a major health care risk?

[Link to Medical News Today copy of Kaiser's article]

We first heard of this in freakanomics. Now we hear it from Latin America. Will banning abortions become such a major health risk one day, when the Supreme Court's views on this might not be important anymore? Should such a painful lesson be learnt in such an excruciating manner.

There also seems to be evidence in the need for further human evolution as a social animal, since the effort to control other people's choices still seems to be genetically ingrained in the seemingly most advanced animal on planet Earth.

We should watch for more warnings from health care, and social work experts on issues pertaining to the repurcussions from banning abortions. Imagine the expenses that such actions would run into - not the pecuniary expenses, which would be a case by themselves, but, expenses such as impact on women's health, self esteem, and so on...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wireless control of drug delivery

MicroChips has doled out an innovation in next generation drug delivery. This involves the sensory control of drug release into the human body. This is indeed good news for several types of patients...

Imagine, a sensor picks up you are having a myocardial infarction, or simply put, a heart attack. Aspirin and a cocktail of drugs sitting at a convenient location jump through your blood system and lo! its all gone. In the meanwhile, adding my own bit, your personal physician also gets a neat little report of what happened!

You are diabetic and need insulin. You never have to worry about remembering to take a shot again! And unlike the MiniMed pumps, you don't have to carry something very painful on the outside.

Unfortunately, you have fallen victim to epilepsy. Imagine the power of wireless control and delivery!!!

These are only a few among several hundreds of crucial, life saving possibilities that exist. It would be no surprise or wonder, when the cliche "pathbreaking" attaches itself to the exhiliarated postulation on this new technology!!!

Pericardial Effusion proves dangerous for company's aspirations

Corautus, a company that developed gene therapies for specific cardiovascular diseases has halted its trials after three patients developed pericardial effusion, after Boston Scientific which makes the drug delivery device requested the halt.

[Click on title for link to original article]

What exactly is pericardial effusion?

Simply put, this is the lubricating fluid found in the pericardial space.

What is the pericardial space?

Here is a definition:

Here is what eMedicine has to say, "The pericardial space normally contains 15-50 cc of fluid, which serves as lubrication for the visceral and parietal layers of the pericardium. This fluid is thought to originate from the visceral pericardium and is essentially an ultrafiltrate of plasma. Total protein levels are generally low; however, the concentration of albumin is increased in pericardial fluids owing to its low molecular weight."


So why is excessive fluid build up bad?

Going back to the same source:

Mortality/Morbidity: Dependent upon etiology and comorbid conditions

Idiopathic effusions are well tolerated in most patients. As many as 50% of patients with large, chronic effusions were asymptomatic during long-term follow-up.

Pericardial effusion is the primary or contributory cause of death in 86% of cancer patients with symptomatic effusions.

Survival rate for patients with HIV and symptomatic pericardial effusion is 36% at 6 months, 19% at 1 year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Biobank: UK's world's largest genetic database project

[Click on title for original article]

A robotic controlled facility - the first thing that caught my eye!

The second thing was the decades of years to take up the analysis!!

And then the humongous statistical and data mining challenges the project presents!!!

And, that it is seemingly a well funded project!!!!

In summary, there are several intertwined complexities that surrounds this project, but it does go to satiate the minds of those who have always thought that such projects are possible and can possibly help answer multitudes of questions sequentially, and simultaneously, as and when tools to collect and analyze such data become available.

The project may or may not succeed in the short term, but in the long run, one does realize it will either become a vast resource for data, or "how to do it better next time"

Eitherway, looking at the genetic code alone, and that of a few people will never fully explain how a disease, or a collection of diseases evolve over time.

I wish the experiment all the best of luck!

Modeling the Tobacco virus entirely on the computer

[Click on title for link to original article]

This is mind blowing. Simply mindblowing. We should see great possibilities opening up with this sort of work in the future. Throw in actual modeling, simulation and AI, and I am sure we can blow away many diseases.

But what about people who want to create deadly ones?

Can we keep computers or science, or technology off their hands?

No, we only need to be prepared. Very, very, well prepared!!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mechanical Heart: A reality! Ivanhoe interview of Lucile Packard Doctor in Palo Alto

[Click on Title for link to original article]

Titled the "Berlin Heart", this amazing mechanical contraption is providing real service - the sustenance of life!

Incidentally, the FDA which has been quick to approve very suspicous drugs in the past has not approved this device so far. The one patient using this device in the United States had a lot of paperwork surrounding these efforts - something she wont realize for long, being a very young child.

Hopefully, such devices get recognition, as their utility and value is quite high. It would be interesting to follow up and find out what happens to the mechanical heart device industry.

To find out more about the Berlin Heart:

There is also an original German website.

Interesting Virtual Reality and Simulation Tools

[Click on title for original article]

This is quite an interesting field. It is good to know that robot - assisted virtual reality tools are booming, both in design and in application. Having done part of my graduate research in this area, it pleases me that these advances are proving to be so quick.

However, problems still persist. How does one expand functionality across applications? The expansivity of these tools is theoretically infinite, but training still remains a problem.

Eventually, one would expect the tools to act as a supplant, allowing the surgeon to think of several strategies to pursue, for instance, while removing tumors and the like. The situation is unique for each patient, and varies within the same patient over time in many cases.

The tools need an increasing versatility in the co - ordination between dextrous robotic tools and highly efficient artificial intelligence on the software side.

It would also prove to be quite useful to have a standardized learning language for all the simulation tools, so that they can quickly consolidate knowledge obtained across fields, that the AI program, and the surgeon can later use, in addressing challenging problems over different domains.

These would be the pertinent challenges facing the field, around which future innovators might want to concentrate.