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New mobile apps may simplify complex genomic and biome data

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Oct 10 2018Spurred by the rapidly expanding use of in-home tests for “omic” – genomic and microbiomic – data for humans, pets, and even homes themselves, university researchers have begun tackling the difficult challenge of making the results interactive and understandable to non-experts.While misinterpreting a pet’s lineage or the tracks of a cockroach across a kitchen countertop may or may not carry large financial consequences, scientific literature brims with examples of incorrect or misinterpreted omic home-test results that prompted expensive and unnecessary follow-up medical tests. Already, more than 5 million reports of genetic and microbiome (the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in and on our bodies) have been delivered as a result of such direct-to-consumer tests, and in some cases the emotional toll can be as consequential as the financial.Supported by a new National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, NYU Tandon School of Engineering Associate Professor Oded Nov, an expert in human-computer interaction, leads the research project with Associate Professor Orit Shaer of Wellesley College. The team is working with the Open Humans Foundation platform to fashion user studies en route to first-of-their-kind tools that he hopes industry will widely adopt.Related StoriesGrowth problems in preterm infants associated with altered gut bacteriaNew strategy may strengthen gut-brain communicationWarning issued by FDA after patient dies following fecal transplantThe team is developing mobile apps to allow users to share results and curated medical news with others within their families or a community interested in the same disease, for example. In the process, the researchers plan to design and test best practices for communicating and interacting with complex genomic and biome data.In addition, the researchers will build an UbiqOmic space to test volunteers’ understanding of data presentation and interaction tools. They will also conduct a longitudinal study in three households, whose members will self-monitor for allergens or undesired food ingredients – and perhaps discover how changing these ingredients affects their own microbiome and those of other people in the household. As part of NYU Tandon’s ITEST summer program supported by the NSF, Nov will engage New York City middle and high school students and teachers in the project.Nov, a member of the NYU Tandon faculty in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation, has long focused on human-computer interaction and social computing. He holds degrees from Tel Aviv University, the London School of Economics, and Cambridge University. His many honors include a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, as well as grants from Google, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative.The NSF Division of Information and Intelligent Systems granted $500,000 for the research, which NYU and Wellesley College share equally.Source: http://www.poly.edu/news/new-apps-take-confusion-out-genome-and-microbiome-home-testslast_img read more

CMS ignores federal judge ruling to approve Medicaid work rules in Utah

first_imgReviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Mar 29 2019Less than 48 hours after a federal judge struck down Medicaid work requirements, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Friday gave Utah permission to use those mandates.CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in her approval letter that requiring Medicaid enrollees to work was allowed because it helps make them healthier.”Therefore we believe an objective of the Medicaid program, in addition to paying for services, is to advance the health and wellness needs of its beneficiaries, and that it is appropriate for the state to structure its demonstration project in a manner that prioritizes meeting those needs,” she wrote.Verma’s stance runs directly counter to U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg, who in twin rulings Wednesday said work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky are illegal under the 1965 Medicaid law. Boasberg said several times that promoting health was not the objective of Medicaid, despite that opinion from Verma and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.In his Kentucky ruling, Boasberg wrote that using health as an objective would be “arbitrary and capricious.”Promoting health, he added, is “far afield of the basic purpose of Medicaid: ‘reimbursing certain costs of medical treatment for needy persons.'”Verma noted that Utah is structuring its program somewhat differently than other states.Sara Rosenbaum, professor of health law and policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said the Trump administration is “doubling down” by allowing a state to add work requirements.”This is such a remarkable example of sticking a finger in the eye of the court,” Rosenbaum said. “We will see what happens. Because when you disrespect a court, it can backfire.”CMS’ approval also allows Utah to cap enrollment if the state runs out of money.Health experts said Utah’s letter clearly shows that the Trump administration plans to appeal Boasberg’s decision.In addition to Kentucky, Arkansas and Utah, CMA has approved Medicaid work requirements in Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin.Verma’s approval was for an application that Utah made in 2018. It will partly expand Medicaid to cover all adults under the poverty level ($12,490 for an individual this year). Enrollees will be asked to make some job searches but they will not be required to report a certain number of hours of work.In November, Utah voters approved a ballot measure calling for the expansion to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $17,200) as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.Related StoriesMedicare going in ‘right direction’ on opioid epidemicPodcast: KHN’s ‘What the Health?’ Is ‘Medicare for All’ losing steam?Persistent poverty endangers health in 20% of UK childrenState officials expect about 90,000 people to gain coverage under the expansion approved Friday. About 150,000 people would have been covered under the plan approved by voters.The plan approved Friday will require Utah to pay a bigger portion of the costs for the new enrollees because they will enter Medicaid under the traditional program and the state will get a 70 percent contribution from the federal government to cover their care. If the state had expanded to 138 percent of poverty, the federal government would have paid 90 percent of the costs.November’s vote raised concerns among state officials, who have opposed Medicaid expansion for years. They have opted instead to prepare another request to CMS that seeks the full 90 percent funding for the new enrollees. But to secure that, Utah is offering to accept unprecedented annual limits on federal and state spending.Allison Hoffman, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said getting a federal judge to accept the premise that Medicaid is improving health is vital to getting work requirements through the courts. Federal officials “need a judge to buy that,” Hoffman said. “They are going to fish for a different jurisdiction to push this opinion.”What’s most compelling about the Utah approval, Hoffman said, is how the state legislature ignored the will of voters who approved the referendum. “The legislature is blocking what people voted for … and it appears to be an anti-democratic move.” This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.last_img read more

Cancer Research UK urges Government action to tackle obesity

first_imgThe charity wants the Government to act on its ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030 and introduce a 9 pm watershed for junk food adverts on TV and online, alongside other measures such as restricting promotional offers on unhealthy food and drinks.Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, commented: There isn’t a silver bullet to reduce obesity, but the huge fall in smoking over the years – partly thanks to advertising and environmental bans – shows that Government-led change works. It was needed to tackle sky-high smoking rates, and now the same is true for obesity.The world we live in doesn’t make it easy to be healthy and we need Government action to fix that, but people can also make changes themselves; small things like swapping junk food for healthier options and keeping active can all add up to help reduce cancer risk.” As smoking rates fall and obesity rates rise, we can clearly see the impact on a national health crisis when the Government puts policies in place – and when it puts its head in the sand.Our children could be a smoke-free generation, but we’ve hit a devastating record high for childhood obesity, and now we need urgent Government intervention to end the epidemic. They still have a chance to save lives.Scientists have so far identified that obesity causes 13 types of cancer but the mechanisms aren’t fully understood. So further research is needed to find out more about the ways extra body fat can lead to cancer.” Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 3 2019New figures from Cancer Research UK show that people who are obese now outnumber people who smoke two to one in the UK, and excess weight causes more cases of certain cancers than smoking, as the charity urges Government action to tackle obesity.Almost a third of UK adults are obese and, while smoking is still the nation’s biggest preventable cause of cancer and carries a much higher risk of the disease than obesity, Cancer Research UK’s analysis revealed that being overweight or obese trumps smoking as the leading cause of four different types of cancer.Excess weight causes around 1,900 more cases of bowel cancer than smoking in the UK each year. The same worrying pattern is true of cancer in the kidneys (1,400 more cases caused by excess weight than by smoking each year in the UK), ovaries (460) and liver (180).Related StoriesLiving with advanced breast cancerResearch sheds light on sun-induced DNA damage and repairSpecial blood test may predict relapse risk for breast cancer patientsCancer Research UK launched a nationwide campaign this week to increase awareness of the link between obesity and cancer. Extra body fat sends out signals that can tell cells to divide more often and can cause damage that builds up over time and raises the risk of cancer.The campaign compares smoking and obesity to show how policy change can help people form healthier habits, not to compare tobacco with food.Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: Source:Cancer Research UKlast_img read more

Protein found in the eye can protect against diabetic retinopathy

first_imgPeople with diabetes have a high risk of developing complications due to extended periods of elevated glucose levels. These complications could include nerve damage, kidney disease, and eye disease. But a rare subset of people who have had insulin-dependent diabetes for more than 50 years have avoided such complications. For 15 years, Joslin researchers have tracked these individuals as part of the Medalist Study. They noted that 35 percent of patients avoided retinopathy, even when they had elevated glucose levels.Dr. King and his team deduced that these patients must have something endogenous-;or created by their own body that are neutralizing the toxic effects of high glucose levels. This new study aimed to build on this observation, to determine which molecules could be responsible for the protection of the eye.They took biosamples from the eyes of Medalists -; both from living patients during surgery and from people who had donated their eyes postmortem. They then characterized the many proteins that were present, to determine if any proteins were elevated more in the protected eyes than in eyes of people who developed retinopathy.They recognized that RBP3, a protein only made in the retina/eye, was elevated. To determine if this was indeed the protective factor they were looking for, they constructed experiments to compare normal versus increased expression of RBP3 in mouse models. Mice with increased RBP3 expression were protected from developing diabetic retinopathy.Next, the researchers injected pure RBP3 into the vitreous of the eyes of mice in the early stages of retinopathy. The infusion of RBP3 reversed the damages done by early eye disease. They also discovered that diabetes seems to reduce the expression of RBP3 in eye in many subjects, which could explain why its protective effects are limited to only some patients.Related StoriesEye research charity funds development of ‘organ-on-a-chip’ to fight glaucomaStudy reveals a revolutionary way to treat eye injuries, prevent blindness’Eye-in-a-dish’ model helps scientists to uncover ‘surprising’ AMD gene variant”If we could find out what’s causing the decrease of RBP3 in the retina in the first place, we could design some kind of treatment to maintain its production, allowing all diabetic patients to have an endogenous protection against eye disease,” says Dr. King.RBP3 is found in all eyes. Normally, it is used to regenerate a certain type of vitamin A in the eye that powers sight-giving rods and cones. But when the eye is exposed to high glucose levels, RBP3 changes its role.”It appears to decrease the toxic effects of high glucose levels that exist in diabetes by reducing the entering of glucose into several important retinal cells by inhibiting the actions of a glucose transporter, GLUT-1.” says Dr. King.Understanding these mechanisms may allow researchers to develop a targeted treatment to fight early-stage retinopathy. Currently, severe retinopathy can be addressed by the Joslin-developed treatments of either laser photocoagulation or VEGF inhibitor injections.”We are interested in how we can treat diabetic eye disease at its earliest stages before it gets to the severe forms,” says Dr. King.One surprising finding from this study showed that RBP3, while it mainly resides in the eye, can also be detected to some degree in the bloodstream. Dr. King and team have planned follow-up studies to determine if RBP3 levels in the bloodstream correlate with severity of diabetic retinopathy. If they do, this circulating RBP3 could become a biomarker that doctors can use to screen for retinopathy during regular lab tests.”That could be a very important screening tool for family or internal medicine doctors who are not experts at examining the eye,” says Dr. King. “Right now, all people with diabetes have to be sent to ophthalmologists to really give us a sense of the status of their eyes with regard to diabetes. So, if this could be a general screen, we may be able to catch more cases of retinopathy earlier in the disease course.”Joslin and its Beetham Eye Institute have a strong history of developing treatments for retinopathy. This discovery brings them a step closer to prevention of the devastating complication.”This has the potential to become equally as important as our previous discovery of VEGF as critical for diabetic proliferative disease or severe diabetic eye disease,” King says. Source:Joslin Diabetes Center Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 4 2019Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center have shown that a protein found in the eye can protect against and potentially treat diabetic eye disease. At high enough levels, Retinol Binding Protein 3 (or RBP3) prevents the development of diabetic retinopathy. If introduced early enough in the development of the disease, RBP3 was shown to reverse the effects of the complication in rodent models of diabetes. These results are reported today in Science Translational Medicine. The level of RBP3 in the eye’s vitreous and retina are higher in people who don’t progress to diabetic eye disease than in those who do. Building on that observation, we saw that if you overexpress RBP3 by molecular methods [in animal models], you can prevent the onset of diabetic eye disease. And when we injected RBP3 itself into the vitreous of diabetic rats, we reversed some of the early changes of diabetic eye disease.”George King, Chief Scientific Officer at Joslin Diabetes Center and senior author on the paperlast_img read more

Researchers find a way to divide patients with ulcerative colitis into groups

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 29 2019Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have found a way of using gene expression conserved across species to divide patients with the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis into two distinct groups. The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications, and the researchers hope that the method can also be used to subdivide other autoimmune diseases.Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease affecting the colon and rectum. It manifests itself differently in patients, and only 50 to 60 per cent respond to the treatment with so-called biological drugs.There is therefore a need to divide patients into different groups so that new pharmaceutical targets can be identified and treatments tailored accordingly.Such a grouping has now been presented by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in a study published in Nature Communications. We’ve managed to divide patients with ulcerative colitis into two molecularly distinct groups using a method that we believe can be used for other diseases too.”Study’s corresponding author Eduardo Villablanca, associate professor at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet (Solna) Related StoriesAMSBIO offers new, best-in-class CAR-T cell range for research and immunotherapyResearch sheds light on sun-induced DNA damage and repairResearch opens possibility of developing single-dose gene therapy for inherited arrhythmiasThe researchers first used openly accessible data on gene expression – transcription data – from colon biopsies from 102 patients with ulcerative colitis. But the variation between patients proved too great to break the patients down into meaningful groups.They then hit on the idea of excluding irrelevant genes in the patient material by only looking at genes whose expression is changed in both humans and mice. To do this, the group analyzed gene expressions in colon biopsies from a mouse model with ulcerative colitis. They found 57 genes in common from the mouse and patient material.Using these 57 genes, the researchers were able to identify two groups of patients, which they term UC1 and UC2. UC1 patients are characterized by the higher expression of genes involved in the recruitment of neutrophils, which are a type of immune cell. Over 87 per cent of the patients in this group also responded poorly to treatment with two of the most widely used biological drugs for ulcerative colitis. About 60 per cent of the patients in the UC2 group, however, responded to this treatment.”We demonstrate the principle that it’s possible to combine datasets from mice and humans to group previously indistinguishable patients,” says Dr Villablanca. “The results provide new knowledge on inflammatory bowel diseases and can contribute to the more tailored treatment of ulcerative colitis.” Source:Karolinska InstitutetJournal reference:Czarnewski, P. et al. (2019) Conserved transcriptomic profile between mouse and human colitis allows unsupervised patient stratification. Nature Communications. doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-10769-x.last_img read more

New tool serves as digital logbook for drone users

The UAS User Log can be accessed from any internet-connected device, including tablets and smartphones. Credit: Purdue University Worried about being on Facebook? Some options explained The UAS User Log is a digital log book available around the world to serve those using UAS, or drones, for research, crop production, spray applications and other activities. The logbook provides options to interactively record the date, time and location of a flight, the make, model and registration information of the device, status of battery charge, type of flight (autonomous or manual), types of sensors used and data collected, safety precautions taken, weather during the flight and other related information.Dharmendra Saraswat, an associate professor in Purdue’s Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, led the team that included researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Washington State University and Texas A&M University.”We’ve lacked a system to provide UAS users in agriculture with a way to record information about their flights, sensors and maintenance issues,” Saraswat said. “Thus, creation of a common protocol for UAS operations for various research- and production-related applications is an effort to plug that gap and bring standardization to flight data collection.” Explore further Citation: New tool serves as digital logbook for drone users (2018, April 17) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-04-tool-digital-logbook-drone-users.html A Purdue University researcher led development of a free, web-based application that will allow those using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to easily log their flight-related data. Provided by Purdue University Users can access the UAS User Log application from any device that connects to the internet, including smartphones, tablets, and desktop and laptop computers. Once loaded, the application does not need an internet connection or mobile data to function since the information logged is stored on the user’s device.Internet connection is required to access weather data and for crowdsourcing sensor specifications among the community of users. Once all the relevant information is recorded, the user is provided an option to save a copy on their devices (smartphones, tablets or laptops/desktops). Users can also upload any previously saved file, edit relevant data and save the updated file as a record for any subsequent flights. All flights can be time-stamped and saved independently.Saraswat said he can envision users employing the logbook for everything from tracking flights for research and business uses to gauging the life of batteries.There is also a feedback option that allows users to communicate with Saraswat and his team to make suggestions for improvements or elements that should be added.”I’m certain that at some point in time, this ecosystem is going to grow, and we’ll also see many features added to this tool,” Saraswat said. Dharmendra Saraswat led a team that developed the UAS User Log, a web-based application that stores digital flight records for those using unmanned aerial systems. Credit: Purdue University This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. read more

GoFundMe scams I dont think anyones got their arms around it

first_img Desperate & duped? GoFundMe means big bucks for dubious care Jeremiah Jon Smith, 38, pleaded guilty Oct. 17 in Rice County District Court to theft by swindle, a felony. He admitted spending more than $23,000 raised for his medical bills through GoFundMe, an online fundraising platform, and benefit events.Swindles like the one Smith pulled raise the question of whether online fundraising is safe, consumer advocates said.”I don’t think anyone’s got their arms around it,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates in Washington. “And the GoFundMes of the world pooh-pooh it.”GoFundMe claims to have raised more than $5 billion since 2010 and says fraud on its website is minuscule. The company warns potential donors to give only to people they know.”GoFundMe is dedicated to empowering people to help people, and an overwhelming majority of campaigns on our platform are safe and legitimate,” the company said in a statement. “Fraudulent campaigns make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all campaigns.”In the rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention of taking advantage of others’ generosity, GoFundMe takes swift action to resolve the issue.”A GoFundMe spokeswoman said the company will refund donations if a campaign organizer or beneficiary is charged with a crime. The company also may refund donations of up to $1,000 if its own investigation finds “misuses” of donations.Scams have always been with us, said Christina Tetreault a staff attorney with Consumers Union, a nonprofit based in Yonkers, N.Y.”I would say that the mode is new, but the scams are old,” Tetreault said during a panel discussion on peer-to-peer payments sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission.But the fact that fraud is taking place on the internet doesn’t make it any less prosecutable, said Prentiss Cox, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and the former head of consumer protection with the Minnesota attorney general’s office.”There are three kinds of consumer protection cases: scum, scam and skim. And this is scum,” Cox said of the cancer swindle. “If someone lies about cancer to take money from people, that’s just scum.”And the most effective way to stop it is to make sure people know that if they’re going to do this, they’re going to jail.”That apparently won’t happen in Smith’s cases. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 in Rice County District Court. His plea agreement calls for no jail time, 10 years of probation, full restitution to identifiable victims and 480 hours of community service.Rheingold said GoFundMe and other fundraising platforms have a duty to ensure their campaigns are legitimate, because the platforms make money from them.”What level of duty do they have to the consumers who use it?” he said. “I would argue pretty strenuously that if somebody is using their platform and committing fraud, they need to demonstrate that they have engaged in some level of due diligence.”Adrienne Gonzalez runs a site called GoFraudMe that tracks GoFundMe scams. Gonzalez, of Richmond, Va., said she’s uncovered more than 220 scams in just over three years. GoFundMe has been better at taking down fraudulent campaigns, she said, but the site still relies on users to report suspected fraud.”GoFundMe says they’re the safest fundraising platform,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just over here on the other side, saying, ‘Look, these things happen.’?” ©2018 Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Citation: GoFundMe scams: ‘I don’t think anyone’s got their arms around it’ (2018, October 30) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-10-gofundme-scams-dont-arms.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Explore further A Faribault, Minn., man has admitted faking cancer and spending the money raised for medical bills on marijuana, liquor, video games and dart tournaments.last_img read more