States With Legal Medical Marijuana Register Sharp Drop In Traffic Fatalities

Medical marijuana offers a host of health benefits, but states where legal weed is available for a select list of ailments are also registering a drop in another threat to public safety: Traffic deaths. A November study from the American Journal of Public Health tracked traffic deaths from 1985 to 2014, and found that in most states that allowed medical marijuana, the number of fatalities dropped. “On average, MML states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. Medical marijuana laws were associated with immediate reductions in traffic fatalities in those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years, and with additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years. However, state-specific results showed that only 7 states experienced post-MML reductions. Dispensaries were also associated with traffic fatality reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years.” Weed has been legalized both recreationally and medically in many states across the nation. [Image via David McNew/Getty Images] Still, the study’s authors don’t claim that consumption of marijuana itself, for medical or recreational purposes, is what is bringing down deaths on the road. Correlation between weed legalization and safer highways doesn’t, of course, mean that sparking up makes people better drivers. Alternatively, the study’s authors suggest that more law enforcement on the streets post-legalization could be a factor. They also don’t discount the possibility that legal weed keeps people from drinking, or at least makes them more likely to stay home while doing so. Those high on marijuana, medical or otherwise, also might be more aware of their altered state than their drunken counterparts. Some states, such as California and New Mexico, also saw a slight increase following the drop, but still the number of deaths on the road did not rise back to pre-medical marijuana levels. California and New Mexico, lowering their rates by 17 and 16 percent respectively, had also seen more significant changes than the 11 percent average noted elsewhere in the study. A separate study would have to be carried to find out how states with legal recreational weed — California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, Washington D.C., Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have responded at the wheel to their changes in marijuana prohibition laws.
Colorado saw a substantial 10 percent increase in fatal traffic accidents in 2015, and according to the latest numbers from the Colorado Department of Transport, that number was even higher in 2016. Both totals were the highest in the state since 2008. Authorities who spoke to the Denver Post last year did not, however, name legal marijuana as one of their primary concerns in curbing these deaths. CDOT executive director Shailen Bhatt instead pointed to general driving safety habits, and an uptick in the economy that allowed people to spend more on gas. “Distracted driving is an epidemic. We know that we need to be doing a lot of education with folks around not using their phones. Just like we needed time to develop alcohol strategies for education, there is some time that is needed to understand the role of technology and distracted driving.” Traffic accidents are down in states with legal medical marijuana. [Image via Marc Piscotty/Getty Images] One commonly cited concern of those against the legalization of marijuana, medical or recreational, is that it is extremely difficult to accurately test for impaired driving. Those who do not smoke frequently may be able to pass a test while still feeling the effects of the drug, while habitual weed users could fail even days after their last joint, Columbia University neurobiologist Margaret Haney told NPR. “It’s really difficult to document drugged driving in a relevant way… [because of] the simple fact that THC is fat soluble. That makes it absorbed in a very different way and much more difficult to relate behavior to, say, [blood] levels of THC or develop a breathalyzer.” Whether it’s legal recreational weed or therapeutic medical marijuana, the end of prohibition’s effects will still require several more years of analysis for finite conclusions on topics like traffic fatalities.
[Featured image via Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]

Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine To Begin Tests In The U.S. [Video]

Lung cancer has long been a major cause of death for American citizens. But now that President Obama has lifted the embargo against Cuba and eased economic restrictions from the tiny island nation, the United States as a whole is about to benefit from it with more than just cigars. In a report by The Buffalo News, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute has been given the go ahead by the Food and Drug Administration to begin testing the Cuban vaccine that treats lung cancer, potentially making a major advancement in the fight against the disease and possibly bringing modern medicine and technology one step closer to eradicating the deadly and debilitating condition. The Cuban vaccine is known as CIMAvax-EGF and has been proven to be somewhat effective with patients around the world. The modest results have given cancer patients and their families hope, but it is still early in the process to determine if the drug can eliminate the disease altogether. Currently, the CIMAvax-EGF vaccine has shown to be effective by extending the lives of people afflicted with lung cancer. But as more research gets underway in the U.S., those results could potentially be amplified. Through modern research and studies, the CIMAvax-EGF drug could potentially be engineered to be more effective and that is a major step in the world of medicine. History is being made today. We’re proud to announce the launch of the 1st US clinical trial for #CIMAvax, a Cuban-made #lungcancer vaccine. — Roswell Park (@RoswellPark) October 26, 2016 Chemotherapy and radiation for people with lung cancer has seen some successes. But most people diagnosed with lung cancer have seen a morbidly high mortality rate, thus making the disease all that more of a public health crisis over the past century. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Wednesday and announced the commencement of the trials. “This groundbreaking trial at Roswell Park is the result of our historic partnership with Cuba, and is a testament to New York’s storied legacy as a national leader in progress and innovation,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement released to The Buffalo News. Too many have died from lung cancer, and #CIMAVax‘s potential, from a life-saving POV, is just what we need. #LungHealthDay — Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) October 26, 2016 President and chief executive officer of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Candace Johnson, also seemed to echo the enthusiasm of the Governor and shared her expectations with the press on the lung cancer treatment that is expected to be the first of a thriving relationship between the U.S. and Cuba in regards to medical advancements. “With this landmark clinical trial, Roswell Park, America’s first cancer center, becomes the first American institution to give CIMAvax to patients,” Johnson said. “We’re the first center to get permission to sponsor the U.S. testing of any Cuban medical therapy to bring Cuban science to the United States.” To make this matter even more effective for Americans that suffer from lung cancer, the paired operation between Roswell Park and Cuba has been authorized by the Treasury Department to establish this joint business venture. This proves that Americans and Cubans are ready to let the past stay in the past and work together for a brighter future for all people. Clinical trials for #CIMAvax are expected to begin within 30 days. Please visit our website for updates: #lungcancer — Roswell Park (@RoswellPark) October 26, 2016 The CIMAvax lung cancer treatment is something that is quite different than that of chemotherapy. Rather than attempting to kill the cancer cells directly, it seeks out a protein in the human body that signals cell growth. In effect, this process jump starts the human immune system and allows it to do the same thing, just in a more natural way, directly targeting cancer cells and thus preventing the rapid growth of those cancer cells to other organs. To help get some perspective on lung cancer, the average survival rate is 17 percent, which accounts for all types of lung cancer. But once it spreads, that survival rate gets cut down quite dramatically. This Cuban vaccine seeks to stop that spread and allow for more time to combat the cancer in an isolated area of the body. [Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Prospect Loses Eye: Philadelphia Phillies Pitching Phenom Has Eye Crushed At The Ballpark was the first to report that Matt Imhof, one of the Philadelphia Phillies’ hottest pitching prospects, had his eyeball literally crushed in a freak accident that occurred before one of last week’s minor league games in Florida. Imhof seems in amazingly good spirits for a young man who just lost his eye and, with it, the extreme amount of promise he held, and the 22 year-old former prospect shared an image of his current state on Instagram yesterday afternoon. As many of you know on Friday June 25th I had an accident. A large price of metal hit me in the head/eye resulting in a fractured nose, 2 fractured orbital bones, and most significantly, the loss of vision in my right eye. I was immediately taken to the ER and then transferred to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the #1 eye hospital in the world. That night, the doctors informed me that the damage to my eye was extreme and essentially that my eye had been crushed like a grape. The doctors told me they were going to do everything possible to reconstruct it but in all likelihood I would never regain sight in my right eye. The first surgery was somewhat a success but overall nothing had changed, so after discussions with my family and my doctors, it was decided that the best chance I had to live a normal life was to have my right eye removed and have a prosthetic one put in. This decision was not an easy one to make but to me it seemed like the right one so on Tuesday afternoon I went forward with the surgery. I'm currently still in Miami recovering from surgery but I'm doing well. This has been the hardest week of my life but I've had amazing support from my family and friends to help me get through it. For those who have been wishing me well, your support has not gone unnoticed and I appreciate everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers. I had the best doctors in the world doing their best work on me and for that I am grateful as well. Although this injury has been tough it could have been much worse…I'm lucky to still have vision in my left eye…I'm lucky that i didn't have brain damage…and I'm lucky to be surrounded my the most loving and understanding people in the world. I just wanted to write this message to let everyone know that even though I suffered some bad luck, I'm not dead. I'm gonna be alright, I'm gonna persevere, and I'm gonna succeed. It takes more than this to bring me down. Again thanks to everyone for the support . A photo posted by Matt Imhof (@matt_imhof48) on Jun 30, 2016 at 9:44am PDT Imhof’s life-shattering accident occurred when he was warming up before his pitching appearance for the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies’ high-A division affiliate. The young prospect was stretching out his arm by pulling an elastic resistance band anchored to the wall. Imhof was at the apex of one tug when the screws attaching the iron base to the wall came loose and the sharp iron projectile came towards his face. Unfortunately for the prospect, the large iron base hit him at just the wrong spot and at just the right angle to completely decimate his right eye — medical experts would later tell him his eye was “crushed like a grape.” Space Saver Gym Wall Anchor and Resistance Band #FitnessEquipment … – | |
… — 4TheFit (@4thefit) April 9, 2016 Imhof was, of course, rushed to the hospital, and he soon found himself being treated at what is widely regarded as the best eye hospital in the world, Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. It was quickly discovered, though, that there was basically no chance the eye could be even partially salvaged, and Imhof and his doctors agreed that the best chance he had “to live a normal life” was to have the eye removed and replaced with a prosthetic one. In what must have been an extremely difficult-to-accept decision, Imhof gave the physicians the okay to perform the eye surgery. “This decision was not an easy one to make, but to me it seemed like the right one, so on Tuesday afternoon, I went forward with the surgery,” Imhof writes in his Instagram post, in which his damaged eye is covered with a bandage. “This has been the hardest week of my life, but I’ve had amazing support from my family and friends to help me get through it.” Publications like CBC Sports agree, however, that the level of resilience the young prospect is showing is truly remarkable and inspiring –not what you would expect from a young man who loses an eye. “I just wanted to write this message to let everyone know that even though I suffered some bad luck, I’m not dead,” Imhof writes. “I’m going to be alright, I’m going to persevere, and I’m going to succeed. It takes more than this to bring me down. Again thanks to everyone for the support.” Way to find the silver lining, Matt! Report: #Phillies prospect Imhof suffers "career-threatening" eye injury. — (@MiLB) June 28, 2016 Indeed, the prospect’s MLB hopes can still be realized. Obviously, losing an eye does not help matters, but Deadspin notes that there are several pitchers who have played professional baseball while suffering from significantly impaired visual capabilities. Take Abe Alvarez, for example, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox for three seasons even after a childhood infection rendered him blind in one eye. Or Julio Urias, a current starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who is nearly blind in his left eye. If Imhof was a hitting prospect, his chances of making it in the MLB after his eye injury would likely be ruined, but pitchers can come back from losing an eye. There was once a pitcher who played for the Yankees with only one hand, and he was really good. The point is that Phillies fans needn’t give up hope as far as Imhof’s career is concerned just because he lost an eye. In addition to the eye injury, the prospect says, he suffered a broken nose and two broken orbital bones. [Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]

Details About MMR, MMRV Vaccine Information Changes And CDC's Public Comment Request

Before an immunization, patients or their guardians are given a Vaccine Information Statements. You’ve probably seen them. They detail which diseases the vaccine will cover and the risks to people from contracting those diseases. The Vaccine Information Statements also provide a list of potential side effects, because it’s necessary for people to be made aware of what could happen from a vaccination. These Vaccine Information Statements are parts of the materials that doctors are required to disclose under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, according to They are a way to make sure that people are able to give informed consent before getting vaccinated or getting their children vaccinated. “Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) (42 U.S.C. 300aa–26), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) develops vaccine information materials that all health care providers are required to give to patients/parents prior to administration of specific vaccines. HHS/CDC seeks written comment on the proposed updated vaccine information statements for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella) vaccines.” The Center for Disease Control has announced that it intends to make some changes to the Vaccine Information Sheets (VISs) that pertain to the MMR vaccine and the MMRV vaccine. The MMR vaccine is intended to provide immunization against measles, mumps and rubella. The MMRV is intended to provide immunization against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chicken pox). The CDC is currently taking comments about the proposed changes to the vaccine information materials. Let’s take a look at some of the proposed language changes that would amend the VISs. The current MMR vaccine information material states, “Measles, mumps, and rubella are serious diseases. Before vaccines they were very common, especially among children.” The proposed language states, “Measles, mumps, and rubella are diseases that can have serious consequences. Before vaccines they were very common, especially among children.” The simple swap of where the word serious is placed is welcomed by many parents who have been saying that the disease itself isn’t normally serious, even if, should things go wrong, there could be serious consequences for some people. The current MMR vaccine information material states of measles, “It can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures (jerking and staring), brain damage, and death.” The proposed language change removes seizures, but adds in pneumonia, stating, “Measles can lead to ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, brain damage, and death.” The current MMR vaccine information material states of mumps, “It can lead to deafness, meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord covering), painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and rarely sterility.” The proposed language change adds encephalitis and death, but removes sterility, stating, “Mumps can lead to deafness, encephalitis or meningitis (swelling of the brain and/or spinal cord covering), painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and, rarely, death.” Though the CDC admits on its website that death from mumps is exceedingly rare and that there have been “no mumps related deaths reported in the United States during recent mumps outbreaks,” it is still considered a possible complication and will remain on the vaccine information materials. SDSU student diagnosed with mumps after exposure to "likely" infected housemate: — #NBC7 San Diego (@nbcsandiego) October 25, 2016 The current MMR vaccine information material states of rubella, “Rubella virus causes fever, sore throat, rash, headache, eye irritation, and arthritis (mostly in teenage and adult women). If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.” The proposed language change calls the fever potential from rubella mild, changes the age of arthritis risk, and removes sore throat, headache, and eye irritation. If approved, it would say, “Rubella virus causes rash, arthritis (mostly in women), and mild fever. If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects. The current MMR vaccine information material says that among people who should not get the vaccine are people who have “ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of MMR vaccine” people “who had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of MMR or MMRV vaccine,” pregnant women, and “some people who are sick at the time the shot is scheduled.” It also warns that people with HIV, AIDS, or other disease that affects the immune system, people who are being treated with immune system altering medications like steroids, people with cancer, people who have ever had a low platelet count, people who have recently had a transfusion or other blood products or people who have been vaccinated in the last month should talk to their doctors, because they are provided with a great deal more information about the specifics of the vaccines than are provided in the VISs. @NLDavisDC @OrganicLiveFood 1st VIS for MMR 2nd MMR vax insert. Which is informed consent?! — {{{MakaPejutaWin}}} (@aspiritcan) December 14, 2015 If approved, the new vaccine information material will say that some people should not get the vaccine. It will say that anyone who has any severe or life-threatening allergies can ask their healthcare provider for a list of vaccine components. It will still say that pregnant women shouldn’t get the MMR vaccine, but also says that you should avoid getting pregnant for at least a month after getting vaccinated with the MMR. It will still say that people with the immune diseases or certain medical treatments should talk to their doctors. It will suggest that people who have had recent blood transfusions should wait at least three months. It will say that live vaccines shouldn’t be administered too close together and suggest that if you are moderately or severely ill, you should probably wait until you recover, but says that if you are not feeling well, you should ask your doctor for advice. Under vaccine reactions, the new material, if accepted, will state the following problems as vaccine reactions that could occur: Fever, mild rash, swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck, seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever, temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, temporary low platelet count, which could cause a bleeding disorder, deafness, long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage. Seizures encephalopathy autism Crohn's disease positive for measles virus rNA vision loss: post MMR #CDCwhistleblower — Theresa Cedillo (@tccedillo) September 15, 2014 The new language also will state that fainting, shoulder pain, severe allergic reactions, and as with any medication, serious injury or death could occur, though the CDC states that the chances of these problems arising is “remote.” While the current VISs have a very short description of the existence of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), the proposed vaccine information material will provide more information, including the fact that there is a time limit to file a claim for compensation. The Health Resources and Services Information’s website has a detailed chart of which injuries are covered for which vaccines and the time period in which the symptoms must have occurred within to qualify for compensation. For example, to be eligible for compensation for encephalopathy or encephalitis resulting from the MMR or MMRV vaccine, the condition must arise between five and 15 days after vaccination. To be eligible for compensation for chronic arthritis manifestation, it must arise between seven and 42 days after vaccination. Meanwhile, vaccine-strain measles viral infection that occurs in an immunodeficient recipient must arise within six months of vaccination to be eligible for compensation from the federal government. Written comments from the public must be received on or before December 19. If you are interested in commenting, you can easily leave a comment using the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Current public comments can also be read online. [Featured Image by Dave Haygarth/Flickr/Cropped and resized/CC BY-SA 2.0]

Bionic Eye Restores Sight For Blind Man After 40 Years Of Darkness

Bionic eye procedures have not been around very long, and only recently did the FDA decide to give them the go-ahead in the United States. Even so, finding a surgeon actually capable of performing it is a chore in itself, but one that blind man John Jameson’s wife was up for. Her husband lost his sight more than 40 years ago, so the couple was willing to try anything, and that led them to the offices of a Shreveport, Louisiana-based physician, who performed the procedure. The results were astounding, Jameson told his home state’s Texas Standard. “When you’re a kid, you’d wake up for Christmas morning, and you’d walk down and see the tree lights and the gifts and everything — the joy you get when that happens. And now that’s been happening to me for every day, because every day I wake up I can see more and more,” Jameson said. “When I wake up in the morning, I love to see nature waking up. It’s like a miracle.” Jameson acknowledged that the bionic eye procedure was not without its setbacks. He specifically said that he was having some instances of double vision, but that his once-nothin vision is getting clearer every day. When asked to describe how he found out about the procedure, Jameson said that his wife had been following it and alerted him to it. “It’s been in development for several years, and it now has FDA approval,” he added. “There have been only a limited number in the United States. Dr. (Christopher) Shelby is the one who did the implant — he was chosen out of many many candidates to set up this team that’s doing this.” Since news of the bionic eye procedure broke, the story has been picked up by popular national websites like BGR and on Wednesday (May 18) made the first page of reddit. Blind Tatum man gets bionic eye that restores his sight#watchcbs19 — KYTX CBS19 (@kytxcbs19) May 14, 2016 Unlike what some of the commenters on reddit complained about — one being how you “always hear about things like this, and then never hear about it again” — the bionic eye procedure has surfaced as recently as 2015. In the first few months of last year, the Inquisitr reported on four individual cases where a bionic eye allowed people to see again after a long time suffering with blindness. One of those people was an unnamed 72-year-old woman from Hawaii who received her bionic eye transplant in a four-hour procedure. Dr. Mark Humayan, the inventor of the bionic eye, said his creation was “specifically designed for patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa,” the Inquisitr reported in March 2015. Humayan said at the time that he was “hoping to soon develop models that can work for other vision issues” and acknowledged that development took around 25 years. His particular bionic eye allows patients to see up to nine colors in a “two-part system.” First, there is the implant that is placed in the eye. Second there is a special set of glasses that capture images and beam them back to the implant for brain processing. The glasses work as a sort of camera, and the implant processes the information provided by the camera in a way the brain understands. As for Jameson, it was not clear in the Texas Standard report which specific type of eye issue he suffered from, nor was it apparent if he benefitted from Humayan’s work. While more variations and technological developments are likely to build on the procedure, none of that matters to the patients who are awaking from darkness for the first time in decades — only that the procedures and materials work. Do you think that this bionic eye business means that science is on the way to curing blindness once and for all? Sound off in the comments section below. [Image via Flickr Creative Commons / PhotonQ]

End To Finger Pricks? Device Tracks Blood Sugar And Dispenses Insulin, Freeing Diabetics Of Scheduled Readings And Injections

An end to finger pricks? By next year, the type 1 diabetic could be free of blood sampling several times a days and scheduled insulin injections. Cambridge University researchers have come up with a device to “close the loop” and combine both tasks. Putting an end to finger pricks and compensating for a pancreas that produces little or no insulin, the device monitors the subject’s blood glucose levels and automatically adjusts the level of insulin entering his or her skin. This artificial pancreas would render obsolete existing glucometers used in conjunction with insulin injections following doctor-determined doses. It is the joining of both functions in a “closed loop” system that creates an artificial pancreas, putting an end to finger pricks and regular injections. Dr. Roman Hovorka and Dr. Hood Thabit of the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, explain the innovative concept. “In trials to date, users have been positive about how use of an artificial pancreas gives them ‘time off’ or a ‘holiday’ from their diabetes management, since the system is managing their blood sugar effectively without the need for constant monitoring by the user.” Diabetic patient demonstrates her artificial pancreas [Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]According to Techaeris, the artificial pancreas works by attaching one end of the device to a glucose monitor on the patient’s abdomen and the other end to the control unit somewhere on the user’s clothing. The control unit triggers off an insulin pump to sustain the patient with the correct amount of insulin, eliminating the need for scheduled finger pricks and shots of insulin. The United States Food and Drug Administration is reviewing one of the proposed artificial pancreas models, with approval possible as early as 2017, signalling an end to finger pricks for diabetics. The U.K.’s National Institute of Health Research has determined 2018 as the likely year the device could appear on the British market. MIT Technology Review reports that at the U.S. end, a prototype was developed by Dae-Hyeong Kim, assistant professor at Seoul National University and MC10 electronics resesearchers in Lexington, Massachusetts. The same group, two years earlier, prototyped a patch for Parkinson’s patients that diagnoses tremors and delivers drugs stored inside nanoparticles, a forerunner of the device that would spare diabetics their finger pricks and painful shots. Signalling the end of frequent finger-pricks and drug injections for people with diabetes, the electronic skin patch of the artificial pancreas senses excess glucose in sweat and automatically administers drugs by heating up microneedles that penetrate the skin. Bus sign displays warning against excessive sugar intake [Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]While ultrasound and optical measurements to detect glucose levels are options to end the need for finger pricks, a variety of skin patches could deliver insulin. Thus the artificial pancreas system incorporates both detection and drug delivery in one loop. A Nature Nanotechnology paper describes the patch to end finger pricks, as graphene studded with gold particles enabling sensors to detect humidity, glucose, pH, and temperature. Enzyme-based, the glucose sensors measure pH and temperature for accuracy of the glucose readings taken from sweat. Signalling the end of a practice whereby diabetics torture themselves with finger pricks, insulin delivery is being promoted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, via a fingernail-size patch with more than 100 microneedles using tiny sacs of insulin and an enzyme. While glucose in the blood permeates the sac, the enzyme converts the glucose into an acid that opens the sac. Thus insulin is released as minuscule needles penetrate the skin. Doling out insulin when needed, the MC10 electronic platform could also store data on drug delivery activity and transmit it to a wearable device. Wirelessly transmitting the data to a smartphone at the receiving end is a considerable leap forward from the days of glucometers requiring finger pricks. According to Science Alert, type 1 diabetics have had to rely on two separate devices toward the desired end of being healthy. Testing for glucose levels entails finger pricks, and injecting the correct dose of insulin is just another inconvenience. The one closed system of the artificial pancreas constitutes progress. The end result of intense research is a monitoring device that does not require finger pricks. Simultaneously, the same device adjusts the diabetic’s blood sugar levels, dispensing with a whole bunch of equipment once needed for these tasks. Type 1 diabetes sufferers end up living fuller lives, without the pain of finger pricks and the human error often associated with injecting too much or too little insulin. The artificial pancreas also overrides the need for transplanting new beta cells (insulin-producing cells in the pancreas) into diabetics. Also a transplant surgery would place too much of a burden on patients’ immune systems anyway. Would diabetics appreciate an end to finger pricks? A pointless question, of course. [Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images]

CRISPR Gene-Editing Tool Tested On A Human For The First Time

Researchers in China have, for the first time, injected genes edited by CRISPR technology into a human test subject, the journal Nature reports. They hope the modified genes will provide a major breakthrough in the treatment of certain types of cancer. The team of researchers led by oncologist Lu You of Sichuan University in Chengdu injected the patient with the edited cells on October 28th. The patient suffers from aggressive lung cancer and is participating in a clinical trial at Chengdu’s West China Hospital, according to Nature. “CRISPR” is an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” EXCLUSIVE: #CRISPR gene-editing therapy tested in a person for the first time — Nature News&Comment (@NatureNews) November 15, 2016 Scientists began experimenting with gene technology 40 years ago, Bernie Hobbs explains in an April article from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). The field has since produced a “wealth of genetic advances,” including the mapping of the human genome in 2001. “[T]hat’s nothing compared to the genetic revolution that we’re at the beginning of right now, thanks to a technique adapted from bacteria called CRISPR,” says Hobbs. According to Hobbs, “researchers learn what genes do by switching them on or off, or cutting them out of the DNA in a cell entirely.” This type of manipulation is referred to as “editing.” CRISPR was first introduced in 2012 and has already “completely transformed the process” researchers use to edit DNA. “It’s not the first method devised for this kind of genome editing, but CRISPR is a lot cheaper, faster, and more accurate than any of the alternatives,” Hobbs explains. “In technology jargon, it’s a capital D disruptor.” CRISPR is so successful because it achieves two crucial processes at once — with impressive levels of accuracy and efficiency. It can target specific genes and lock on them while also cutting the DNA strand. “The reason it’s able to manage this precision double act is because CRISPR is made of ribonucleic acid (RNA) — a molecule that can be tailor-made to perfectly match a sequence of DNA or to bind to a protein,” Hobbs adds. Researchers learned of CRISPR from studying bacteria, which use CRISPR RNA and a nuclease called Cas9 to combat viruses. Lu’s trials at West China Hospital follow previous clinical trials involving genes edited by different techniques. Those studies “excited clinicians,” according to Nature. The enhanced potential of CRISPR makes this study even more thrilling. “I think this is going to trigger ‘Sputnik 2.0’, a biomedical duel on progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product,” Carl June, a University of Pennsylvania immunotherapy specialist who led a previous study on genetic editing, told Nature. A Chinese group has become the first to inject a person with cells that contain genes edited using CRISPR–Cas9 — Scientific American (@sciam) November 17, 2016 While CRISPR makes editing genes easier for researchers, doing so is still nonetheless a complicated task. A description of the process Lu’s team employed makes that clear. “The researchers removed immune cells from the recipient’s blood and then disabled a gene in them using CRISPR–Cas9, which combines a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that can be programmed to tell the enzyme precisely where to cut,” the Nature article explains. “The disabled gene codes for the protein PD-1, which normally puts the brakes on a cell’s immune response: cancers take advantage of that function to proliferate.” Carl June is working on a separate trial planned for the U.S., in which researchers intend to use CRISPR to target three genes in participating patients’ cells. The goal of that study will also be cancer treatment. June hopes that trial will begin in early 2017, but he offered no specific date. Researchers at Peking University in Beijing are also in the advanced development stages of three clinical trials that will use CRISPR against bladder, prostate and renal-cell cancers, according to Nature. Those trials are planned for March 2017 but have not yet been approved or secured funding. [Featured image by Guang Niu/Getty Images]

Blood Pressure Study Finds Hope In New Treatment

Blood pressure has always been one of the hard fought complications of getting older. But as it turns out, good news came to the blood pressure front on Thursday in the form of a study by JAMA —Journal of the American Medical Association —, which analyzed data from the National Institute of Health’s Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, which included 2636 participants, and says that people over the age of 75 could be helped dramatically by “intensive blood pressure treatment.” The study divided their subjects into two groups. There were the ones who had an mmHg — or millimeters of mercury; with one mmHg equaling out to 1 torr, which is a medical unit for pressure — of 140. This is the standard and thus is also the control group. Then there were those in the other group who’d had their mmHg dropped to a target of 120. Both groups were on medication, and the group that had their mmHg dropped to 120 was on more medication than the group that didn’t. In the end, it was found that those who had their blood pressure lowered to 120 mmHg were less likely — by a third — to suffer from almost all of the major ailments which plague those who experience high blood pressure, including stroke and heart attack. What’s more is that virtually none of the subjects reported any negative side effects from the treatment. A patient is comforted by a volunteer as he holds the medication he has to take because of complications caused by his high blood pressure. [Photo by Suzy Allman/Getty Images]Medical Xpress quoted Alfred Cheung, who is chief of nephrology & hypertension at University of Utah, and part of the SPRINT research trial as saying the following. “This subgroup analysis of the SPRINT trial is significant because many physicians and patients have been concerned about blood pressure being too low in the elderly. These results are reassuring and could very well change current medical practice by lowering the blood pressure goal even in people over 75 years old.” Dr. Jeff Williamson, who is a professor of geriatric medicine and gerontology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and who also authored the study told Health Day the following.
“These findings have substantial implications for the future of high blood pressure therapy in older adults because of its high prevalence in this age group, and because of the devastating consequences high blood pressure complications can have on the independent function of older people.” Dr. Williamson went on to say that he believes many can benefit from the treatment since the trial mainly used generic drugs, which are “fairly inexpensive,” and that about half of all elderly people that are forced to go into care facilities due to a medical issue, do so because of complications caused by high blood pressure. Lowering level of #SBP for older adults reduces rate of CV events, death: in @Drugscom — JAMA (@JAMA_current) May 20, 2016 Before participating in the blood pressure trial, applicants had to complete a questionnaire which was used to measure the persons frailty, a running exercise, and they also had their blood pressure taken three times. It should be noted that the trial was specifically geared toward those that were 75 years of age and older, who suffered from hypertension — high blood pressure — but who also didn’t suffer from diabetes. According the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults have high blood pressure. High blood pressure may eventually be the cause of certain health issues including stroke, heart attack, and heart disease; heart disease being the leading killer of people in the United States, with over 600,000 people dying every year from the ailment. These new findings show the possible benefits of having a lower blood pressure later on in life, and it will be up to the medical community to decide whether or not they’re going to change the standard. For now it remains at 140 mmHg. [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

Marijuana Legalization Linked To Decline In Daily Doses Of Prescription Drugs For Pain, Depression

The legalization of medical marijuana in some states has led to an overall reduction of the use of prescription drugs, Inquisitr reported Thursday, but daily doses of prescription drugs for depression and pain specifically have fallen significantly in these states. Half of the states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana to treat certain health problems including painful nerve conditions and depression. Researchers at the University of Georgia looked at a number of conditions – including depression – and pain for which marijuana is considered an alternative treatment to prescription medication in many of the states that have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. Over the course of three years, with the introduction of medical marijuana, daily doses of prescription drugs for pain and depression fell, according to co-author W. David Bradford. Medical News Today deducted that the findings indicate that many people are turning to medical marijuana as a preferred treatment to their pain and depression over prescription drugs. Interestingly, the hope of getting a medical marijuana card might even have led to more people actually seek treatment for their conditions. Pain is the most Googled search term linked to marijuana, according to the authors. The team examined Medicare Part D statistics to obtain their data, and published the results in the July issue of Health Affairs. half a BILLION medicare $ could be saved if medical #marijuana were legalized nationwide; thats BILLION with a B — MPP Marijuana Policy (@MarijuanaPolicy) July 7, 2016 “The results suggest people are really using marijuana as medicine and not just using it for recreational purposes,” the study’s lead author Ashley Bradford, said. Meanwhile, under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as having no medical use. The team’s findings, a press release indicates, validate states’ assessments that marijuana does have medical value. “There is scientific evidence that cannabinoids possess pain ­relieving properties, and some clinical evidence to support their medical use for patients suffering from painful conditions,” Harborside Health Center writes. “Cannabis helps cancer and HIV patients and others who suffer from the most severe cases of chronic pain. While some people can’t walk without experiencing severe pain, others are unable to eat regularly due to a decreased appetite from other prescribed medications.” Study: #Marijuana Can Benefit People With #Diabetes … — MME (@MME_DENVER) July 8, 2016 An article in The National Academies Press states that peripheral nerves that detect pain are abundant in cannabinoids receptors, and cannabinoids found in marijuana seem to be able to block peripheral nerve pain. What’s more, NORML claims that in cases when pain is nerve-related, as is the case in much pain caused by diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV and cancer, standard analgesic medications such as opiates and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are actually often ineffective at relieving this type of pain, but medical marijuana is highly effective. WIRE: Clinical trial indicates vaped cannabis effective in treating neuropathy — Cannabis Record (@cannabisrecord) July 5, 2016 Last year, a study concluded that medical marijuana could also be an effective treatment against depression, Huffington Post reported. Against long-held belief, this year, new research published in JAMA Psychiatry found that using marijuana as an adult actually is not associated with an increase in mood and anxiety disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder. For decades, it was almost considered common knowledge that that marijuana use could lead to depression and anxiety. Treat your depression with #Cannabis. Researchers claim that certain elements in treat chronic stress & depression. — Pot Valet (@PotValet) July 6, 2016 Of course, research studies can suggest one health claim one day and a different health claim the next. The University of Georgia research at least shows a definite decline in prescription drug use for pain and depression after medical marijuana legalization. [Image via Pixabay]

'Vaxxed' Director Andrew Wakefield: Anti-Vaccine Movement Galvanized By Donald Trump's Win

Andrew Wakefield, the former doctor behind the anti-vaccine movement and director of the documentary Vaxxed, expressed his excitement over the surprise presidential win of Donald Trump in an interview with health news website STAT. “For the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this, because Donald Trump is not beholden to the pharmaceutical industry… He didn’t rely upon [drug makers] to get him elected. And he’s a man who seems to speak his mind and act accordingly. So we shall see.” Donald Trump: Vaccines Cause Autism – Voice Of People Today — Vaccination Trends (@Vaccinizer) November 24, 2016 A group of anti-vaccine advocates, including Andrew, met with Trump earlier in his campaign at a donor event. Jennifer Larson, CEO of autism group Holland Center, shared a Facebook post shortly after the president-elect’s win where she confirmed that the exchange had taken place. She also seemed to indicate that Trump was sympathetic to Wakefield’s position on vaccines. “Now that Trump won, we can all feel safe in sharing that Mr. Trump met with autism advocates in August. He gave us 45 minutes and was extremely educated on our issues. Mark stated ‘You can’t make America great with all these sick children and more coming’. Trump shook his head and agreed. He heard my son’s vaccine injury story. Andrew told him about Thompson and gave him Vaxxed. Dr. Gary ended the meeting by saying ‘Donald, you are the only one who can fix this’. He said ‘I will’. We left hopeful. Lots of work left to do.” Wakefield further confirmed the August meeting in his interview with STAT, making it clear that the anti-vaccine movement felt they had found an ally in Trump. “I found him to be extremely interested, genuinely interested, and open-minded on this issue, so that was enormously refreshing.” While a politician expressing agreement with the ideas of a group of donors doesn’t necessarily indicate that he or she will follow through with them, it’s worth noting that Trump himself has expressed skepticism about vaccines in the past. Dr. Paul Offit, the head of the infectious diseases department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that the meeting with anti-vaxxers was a strong signal to parents who may doubt the efficacy of vaccines. “[The anti-vaccine movement led by Andrew Wakefield] see in Donald Trump a fellow traveler — someone who, like them, is willing to basically ignore scientific studies and say, ‘This is true. Vaccines cause autism because I believe it’s true.’… Even if he doesn’t change federal policy, he still is no doubt strengthening the belief some parents have that vaccines have done harm and therefore they should choose not to vaccinate their children.” While vaccine mandates are largely decided state-by-state, whoever Trump eventually chooses as the head of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) could have an impact on the primary goals of Andrew and other anti-vaxxers at the federal level: putting an advisory committee in place to oversee the CDC and moving vaccine injury suits back into the civil court system. Meeting with Trump emboldens anti-vaccine activists #Vaccines #Vaccine — Taha Khalid (@Taahakhalid) December 4, 2016 Wakefield has continued to push his anti-vaccine ideas even after being repeatedly discredited by other members of the medical community, resulting in the loss of his medical license in the U.K. His original study, which argued a link between autism or Crohn’s disease and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, was unable to be reproduced in larger test groups. Andrew Wakefield was also subject to an extensive ethics inquiry which found several financial conflicts of interest, namely that he was paid to carry out the study by parents who believed their children suffered from autism due to vaccines. Additionally, several of his blood samples from children with autism were purchased at his son’s birthday party, reported BBC. He continues to advocate these theories, including with the release of Vaxxed last year — which was nearly selected for the Tribeca Film Festival by Robert DeNiro before being controversially pulled from the line-up. [Image via didesign021/Getty Images]