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Current News in Health

FDA approves pill with digital tracking device you swallow

A new form of medication has just gained approval by the US Food and Drug Administration where a built-in digital tracking device is now incorporated into a pill. The first pill to have this embedded ingestible sensor is called Abilify MyCite (a form of aripiprazole) and was made by the Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. The pill is to treat schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder and depression in adults. The idea of this new form of pill is meant to improve a patient's compliance with their medication regimen. The way that this works is that the Abilify MyCite system sends a message from the pill's sensor to a patch worn on the patient's skin. When the pill comes into contact with the fluids and contents of the stomach, the sensor will activate and communicate to the patch that the medication has been taken.

From: CNN Health News

Experimental technology can 'smell' disease on your breath

An experimental technology called the "Na-Nose" is able to identify 17 potential diseases with an 86% accuracy, according to researchers. These diseases include Parkinson's disease, various cancers, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease. It is able to diagnose diseases by distinguishing the chemical signature of each disease from our own unique chemical "fingerprints". Several companies have licensed this research to develop a commercial product, although with further testing and regulation requirements it is not a product that will be coming to market anytime soon. If developed, it would be a non-invasive screening procedure that is equal, if not better, than current invasive procedures.

Don't accidentally overdose on black licorice this Halloween, the FDA warns

If Halloween is your excuse for endlessly indulging in candy (and of course it is), go slow on the black licorice.  The reasoning? Too much of the old-fashioned favorite can cause health problems such as irregular heart rhythm, especially in people over 40.  Black licorice contains a sweetening compound called glycyrrhizin, which can cause a drop in potassium levels. With low levels, some people might experience high blood pressure, swelling and even congestive heart failure, the FDA says.

Stress may harm gut health as much as junk food

In a recent study, researchers have induced stress in female mice and found physiological changes in their gut microbiota. The gut microbiota contains a community of microorganisms in the intestine. It is a common idea that stress can have negative implications on our emotional, physical and mental health and can appear in different forms such as work pressures, relationship problems, etc. The new study has found that these negative implications also affect the health of our gut microorganism. In order to test the correlation between stress and our gut health, researchers tested a large group of male and female mice where half of each sex were fed a high-fat diet while the other had a standard diet. Both groups were subjected to mild stress. In the end, researchers concluded that stress had induced significant changes to the gut microbiota of the mice for both diets.

From: Medical News Today

NIH researchers uncover drain pipes in our brains

The lymphatic system acts as our body's sewage system, transporting waste products such as cells, viruses, bacteria, and excess fluid from from our tissues to the blood stream for filtration and excretion through the kidneys. Lymphatic vessels are involved in this transport system and play an important role in the immune system. Modern studies had not reported presence of lymphatic vessels in the brain until recently. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found evidence of lymphatic vessels in the meninges of the human brain using MRI techniques. These findings may provide insight on diseases and disorders pertaining to the immune system, such as multiple sclerosis.

From: National Institutes of Health

DOI: 10.7554/eLife.29738

Gene editing could make wheat bread safe for celiacs

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder in which the consumption of gluten triggers an immune response that attacks the small intestines.  Researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Spain are developing strains of wheat that do not produce the forms of gluten that trigger an immune response for people with celiac disease.  Using CRISPR gene editing, scientists have successfully disabled 35 of the 45 copies of problematic genes.  Currently, the genetically modified wheat has reduced immunoreactivity by 85% in patients.

From: Fox News Health

Water Contamination After Hurricane Harvey

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas and flooded several communities. Environmental health experts tested the floodwaters of neighborhoods where Hurricane Harvey had destroyed waste treatment plants. They confirmed the presence of fecal bacteria and poisonous metals in flooded kitchens, living rooms, and streets. Residents returning to drain and rebuild their inundated homes were warned that they were at a high risk of infection.

From: New York Times

Every Childhood Vaccine May Go into a Single Jab

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed microscopic, vaccine-storing particles that can release an initial dose and booster shots at specific times. With these particles, the large amount of childhood vaccines could be reduced to one single shot. Unlike previous attempts in creating an all-in-one vaccine which slowly released medicine over a long period of time, this technology releases the vaccines in short, sharp doses which closely resemble current immunization programs. Thus far, the micro-particles have been shown to work in mice models, and more capsules designed to release vaccines at precise dates are in development.

From: BBC Health News

Killing cancer with vitamin C: Hype or hope?

Although the number of people who die from cancer annually has decreased, cancer is still the second-largest cause of death worldwide.  High-dose Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, injections have been shown to be successful in treating a wide variety of cancers in clinical trials.  Its ability to target multiple types of cancer comes from its molecular function.  In one study, Vitamin C induced apoptosis of colorectal cancer cells through oxidative damage.  In another, it corrected a genetic control mechanism mutation that normally leads to leukemia.  Of course, not all studies that used Vitamin C resulted in successful treatment, especially since the effect of Vitamin C in combination with other cancer treatments is not yet well known.  However, the treatment does show promise for the future of cancer research.

From: Medical News Today 

Zika virus may be effective against brain cancer, researchers claim

Although the zika virus made headlines in causing birth defects in unborn children, researchers now believe it can be used to help fight the most common type of brain cancer, glioblastoma. So far, the virus has proven effective in mice by specifically targeting and killing patient-derived glioblastoma cells. Researchers believe it could potentially be a new form of treatment for those who are not responsive to chemotherapy and radiation.

From: Fox News Health

Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing

With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.  Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women -- close to 100 percent -- who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.  While the tests are optional, around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test.

From: CBS Health News

Health Profession of the Week

Medical Geneticist

Medical Geneticists are physicians of a specialty in medicine that is revolved around studying the interaction between genes and health. Physicians in this field must evaluate, diagnose, manage, treat and counsel patients with hereditary disorders or any other type of genetic problem. The field encompasses staying up to date with medical technology. A Medical Geneticist will also plan and coordinate screenings for genetic diseases that have to do with gene or chromosomal disorders, congenital anomalies, multifactorial conditions, etc. Specialty training that is required is two years. Additionally, a medical geneticist has the option to obtain certificates in certain areas of genetics/genomics including medical biochemical genetics or molecular genetic pathology.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers, also known as healthcare administrators or healthcare executives, help to organize medical services and direct changes according to new laws, regulations, and technology. Most work in the offices of healthcare facilities. This can include medical practices, hospitals, and nursing homes. Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor's degree some work experience in an administrative or clinical position in a healthcare facility.

From: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Endodontist

Endodontists are specialists in saving teeth, committed to helping you maintain your natural smile for a lifetime.  These dental specialists are experts at saving teeth with two or more years of specialized training above and beyond dental school.  They diagnose tooth pain and perform procedures relating to the inside of your teeth, such as a root canal treatment.

From: American Association of Endodontists

Phlebotomist

Phlebotomists are health professionals who have the job of drawing blood from patients for medical testing. They are responsible for not only drawing the blood, but also handling the blood samples by making sure that the proper amount is taken as well as proper labeling of the samples. Phlebotomist will typically work in either a hospital or laboratory and a very important skill that these professionals must have is the ability to reassure nervous patients as not all individuals are comfortable with needles and blood. In order to become a phlebotomist, many (not all) employers seek individuals with a phlebotomy certificate and a professional certification. Education programs are available at community colleges, vocational schools or technical schools.

From: US News

Orthoptist

Orthoptists work within the field of ophthalmology to evaluate and treat disorders of the visual system with an emphasis on binocular vision and eye movements, such as strabismus. They commonly work in pediatric opthalmology settings, but may also work in adult care. Work environment varies and may include private practice, hospitals, or clinical research. To become a certified orthoptist, you must attend two years of fellowship training after obtaining a bachelor's degree and complete the American Orthoptic Council certifying examinations. There are currently thirteen orthoptic programs in the US.

From: American Association of Certified Orthoptists

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists (RT) are clinicians who are trained to care for patients with pulmonary disease, including asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and chronic bronchitis.  They assess patients, perform diagnostic tests to measure lung capacity, administer breathing treatments, and consult with physicians and other specialists.  To become an RT, you must have an associate's degree, certification, and a state license.

From: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Environmental Health Scientist

Environmental health is one of five core disciplines in public health. It studies human health as it relates to environmental conditions, whether manmade or natural. For example, environmental health scientists are currently engaged in reducing health hazards caused by hurricanes, climate change, gene-environment interactions, etc.

From: Yale School of Public Health

Perfusionist

Perfusionists are specialized healthcare professionals who assume the role of the heart and the lungs by providing oxygenated blood to the patient’s body during medical procedures in which a surgeon must work on a still heart. They mainly work in the operating room and are employed by medical centers. To become a certified clinical perfusionist (CCP), you must have a Bachelor’s degree and training from an accredited program.

From: Explore Health Careers

Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT)

Certified vision rehabilitation therapists assist patients with visual impairments in living safe and independent lives.  They often work one-on-one with patients and help them adjust to their home and work environments, as well as facilitating psychosocial adjustment to vision impairment.  CVRTs can work in center-based or itinerant settings, such as patients’ homes and workplaces.

From: Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals

Cytotechnologist

Cytotechnologists are laboratory professionals who study cells and cellular anomalies to help identify diseases and conditions, hopefully while it is still treatable. To become a cytotechnologist, you must have a Bachelor's degree and graduate from an accredited cytotechnology program. Work settings are generally in hospitals or commercial laboratories.

From: Explore Health Careers

Prosthodontist

Prosthodontists specialize in treating and handling dental and facial problems that involve restoring missing tooth and jaw structures. A prosthodontist is highly trained in cosmetics, dental implants, crowns, bridges, dentures, temporomandibular disorders (TMJ/TMD), and more.

From: American College of Prosthodontists

Healthcare Interpreter

Healthcare interpreters facilitate communication between patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and their physicians, nurses, lab technicians and other health care providers. Healthcare interpreters are a key part of a healthcare team because communication errors can be a risk and a liability to health care providers. Certification and years of experience in interpreting can lay the foundation for healthcare interpreting.

From: Interpreter Education: Healthcare

Rheumatologist

A rheumatologist is a type of physician who specializes in diagnosing/detecting and treating musculoskeletal diseases and systemic autoimmune conditions. The diseases that they will typically treat are those that affect the joints, muscles, and bones causing pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity. This specialty requires two to three additional years of rheumatology fellowship on top of a three year internal medicine or pediatric residency. Many rheumatic diseases fall under the classification of an autoimmune disease and therefore, a major component of a rheumatologist's job is to treat the immune system.

From American College of Rheumatology

Periodontist

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease and oral inflammation as well as in the placement of dental implants. They receive three additional years of education beyond dental school.  They offer a wide range of treatments, such as scaling and root planing (in which the infected surface of the root is cleaned), root surface debridement (in which damaged tissue is removed) and other surgical procedures. In addition, periodontists are specially trained in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants.

From American Academy of Periodontology