Military Launching Preemptive Strikes Against Mental Illness

Genetic testing and brain scans for new recruits attempt to cut out PTSD-prone soldiers

With nearly 1.8 million U.S. soldiers having rotated through Iraq and Afghanistan and another troop escalation expected in coming weeks, researchers are doing double-time to define the causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to better serve troops returning from war. With two wars going and no end in sight, scientists have quite an abundance of subjects on which to carry out their research.

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Man Diagnosed 'Comatose' For 23 Years Was Actually Conscious All Along

In what can only be described as a harrowing instance of misdiagnosis, a Belgian man presumed comatose for 23 years after a near-fatal car crash was actually conscious and paralyzed the entire time. Rom Houben, whose real state was discovered three years ago but only now made public, could be one of many falsely diagnosed coma cases, raising serious questions about those diagnosed as "vegetative" and, even more frighteningly, the process by which vegetative people are removed from life support.

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Scientists Stun Nematode Worms With UV Phaser Straight Out Of Star Trek

Star Trek introduced the world to a wide range of fictional technology, most of which, like beaming or warp drive, will likely remain fiction. However, a team of scientists from the University of Canada has taken the phaser, the show's famous stun-laser, out of the TV and into reality. Unfortunately, right now it only works on worms.

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Implantable Device Allows Mastectomy Patients to Regrow Own Breasts

While mastectomies save many women from breast cancer, they often leave the subject feeling depressed, unattractive and ashamed. Some women opt for breast implants in an attempt to regain their lost positive body image, but an Australian doctor has now developed a device that allows women to regrow their lost breast using their own tissue.

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An Ultrasound Encryption Scheme Makes Artificial Organs Hack-Proof

Securing Implantable Devices: Researchers are testing their system using an implanted device in the abdominal wall of a cow.
Implantable medical devices have improved the quality of life for many with conditions like arrhythmia or chronic heart failure, but an increased reliance on electronics to keep our bodies ticking comes with inherent security risks; as more and more devices rely on wireless capabilities to communicate vital data to doctors, the possibility that devices could come under attack from third parties is harrowing at best.

Think about it: Would you want someone launching the equivalent of a denial-of-service attack on the device that keeps your heart beating properly?

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A Software-Powered Cell Phone Microscope That Doesn't Need Special Lenses

We know, we know: turning a cell phone camera into a microscope isn't exactly a technological breakthrough. In fact, our Best of What's New coverage last year included the CellScope, a cell phone add-on developed at UC Berkeley packing high-powered optics allowing users to transmit images to far-away health centers for diagnosis. But researchers at UCLA have upped the ante, creating a $10, off-the-shelf microscope addition for cell phones that dispenses with the microscope optics altogether.

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Synthetic Molecules Trick Body Into Improved Immune Response to HIV, Cancer

When it comes to eluding detection, HIV and cancer cells are at the top of the class. As such, the few treatments currently available to sufferers of HIV or prostate cancer are generally expensive, often hard to manufacture, and come packaged with a smattering of unpleasant side effects. But Yale researchers have now developed synthetic molecules that help the body recognize HIV and prostate cancer cells as threats, tricking the body into initiating an immune response that it normally would not.

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Deploying Household Wireless Sensors Galore to Monitor Health of Elderly

Researchers have begun using low-cost sensors in homes to monitor the elderly for health risks

Elderly Monitors: They don't make sensors like they used to  Julie Keefe for New York Times
Sensor-studded clothes, carpets, and homes could track the gait of grandma or grandpa and ensure that they're not in danger of falling. The U.S. National Institute on Aging has sponsored initial research into how such wireless monitoring could better monitor the health of a growing geriatric population. The European Union has also devoted $1.5 billion to studying technologies and services for the aged.

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Anti-Paralysis Shot Improves Spinal Recovery Three Times As Fast

Purdue researchers tinkering with a nano-scale cancer drug delivery system may have discovered something just as good: an injection that repairs spinal cord damage far faster than any previous treatment. Synthetic “copolymer micelles” have been used for three decades as drug delivery vehicles in research, but it turns out they can directly treat spinal cord injuries when injected into the bloodstream shortly after an accident.

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Nanoparticles Can Damage DNA Without Crossing Cellular Barrier

Metal nanoparticles use a newly observed cell signal process to wreak havoc indirectly

Scientists know that nanoparticles can damage DNA in cells through direct interaction. Now, though, it appears that nanoparticles can also mess with DNA on the far side of a cellular barrier, by creating signaling molecules -- a never-before-seen phenomenon.

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Mutant Bacteria Are Likely to Threaten Future Space Travelers

When humans eventually travel to Mars and beyond, they'll have plenty to worry about along with the discomforts of eating freeze-dried food and drinking their own urine. A new report says they will probably be really sick, to boot -- from flare-ups of E. coli, chicken pox or staph infections.

A host of microscopic stowaways could make interplanetary voyagers sick, especially because human immune systems are compromised in space, and because bacteria seem to thrive in micro- or zero-gravity environments.

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Tiny Thermoelectric Loudspeaker Produces Audio By Tweaking Temperature

A standard home audio speaker converts electrical signals into sound pulses in the air (via a somewhat cumbersome cone). Those sound waves in turn cause tiny variations in air temperature, as waves disrupt surrounding air. So, scientists reasoned, why not create sound waves through those temperature fluctuations themselves?

In 2008 researchers built a loudspeaker from carbon nanotubes that creates sound from this thermoacoustic effect. Now Finnish researchers have created a far more simple thermoacoustic device using tiny aluminum wires suspended over a substrate, opening thermoacoustics to a far broader range of applications.

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Silk-Silicon Implantable Electronics Conform to Tissues, Then Melt Away

Implantable electronics like pacemakers are old hat, but these kinds of implants are limited by the fact that they must be encased to protect them from the body, and vice versa. But in the quest to make our bodies ever more bionic, researchers have now developed implantable silicon-silk electronics that almost dissolve completely inside the body, leaving behind nanocircuitry that could be used for improved electrical interfaces for nervous system tissues or photonic tattoos that display blood-sugar readouts on the skin’s surface.

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Lawsuit Banning Human Gene Patents Continues, Court Rules

The ACLU is one step closer to getting patents on human genes banned after a federal court today ruled that its lawsuit can continue. The defendants (The US Patent and Trademark Office and the owners of the BRCA breast cancer gene patent) had asked the court to dismiss the case.

About 20 percent of the human genome is currently patented, including genes associated with many diseases such as breast cancer and Alzheimer's. The patents mean that outside researchers need permission to study the genes and that tests can be astronomically expensive. (The test for BRCA is about $3,000.)

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California Launching Massive Genetic Health Database

Researchers can access a treasure trove of genetic analyses from 100,000 elderly Californians

A new genetic database for 100,000 elderly Californians is slated to come online within two years, and marks the first time that genetic data becomes available for such a large and diverse group.

Health-care provider Kaiser Permanente will hand over patient data that includes electronic health records, lifestyle surveys, and info on air and water quality in patients' neighborhoods. The effort draws on $25 million from the National Institutes of Health, and also involves researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.

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