‘Pen’ identifies cancer in 10 seconds

Cancer pen

A handheld device can identify cancerous tissue in 10 seconds, according to scientists at the University of Texas.

They say it could make surgery to remove a tumour quicker, safer and more precise.

And they hope it would avoid the “heartbreak” of leaving any of the cancer behind.

Tests, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest the technology is accurate 96% of the time.

The MasSpec Pen takes advantage of the unique metabolism of cancer cells.

Their furious drive to grow and spread means their internal chemistry is very different to that of healthy tissue.

How it works

The pen is touched on to a suspected cancer and releases a tiny droplet of water.

Chemicals inside the living cells move into the droplet, which is then sucked back up the pen for analysis.

The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer – a piece of kit that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second.

It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer.

The challenge for surgeons is finding the border between the cancer and normal tissue.

In some tumours it is obvious, but in others the boundary between healthy and diseased tissue can be blurred.

The pen should help doctors ensure none of the cancer is left behind.

Remove too little tissue, and any remaining cancerous cells will grow into another tumour. But take too much, and you can cause damage, particularly in organs such as the brain.

Livia Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin, told the BBC: “What’s exciting about this technology is how clearly it meets a clinical need.

“The tool is elegant and simple and can be in the hands of surgeons in a short time.”


The technology has been tested on 253 samples as part of the study. The plan is to continue testing to refine the device before trialling it during operations next year.

The pen currently analyses a patch of tissue 1.5mm (0.06in) across, but the researchers have already developed pens that are even more refined and should be able to look at a finer patch of tissue just 0.6mm across.

While the pen itself is cheap, the mass spectrometer is expensive and bulky.

Dr Eberlin said: “The roadblock is the mass spectrometer, for sure.

“We’re visioning a mass spectrometer that’s a little smaller, cheaper and tailored for this application that can be wheeled in and out of rooms.”

Dr James Suliburk, one of the researchers and the head of endocrine surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, said: “Any time we can offer the patient a more precise surgery, a quicker surgery or a safer surgery, that’s something we want to do.

“This technology does all three.”

The MasSpec Pen is the latest attempt to improve the accuracy of surgery.

A team at Imperial College London have developed a knife that “smells” the tissue it cuts to determine whether it is removing cancer.

And a team at Harvard are using lasers to analyse how much of a brain cancer to remove.

Dr Aine McCarthy, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Exciting research like this has the potential to speed up how quickly doctors can determine if a tumour is cancerous or not and learn about its characteristics.

“Gathering this kind of information quickly during surgery could help doctors match the best treatment options for patients sooner.”

Beware of social media during terror events, NHS guidelines warn

Scene in Manchester the day following the attack on Manchester Arena

NHS staff and terror attack victims and their families have been warned about the risks of using social media in new guidelines issued by NHS England.

The guide cautions that internet trolls may subject victims to “vile and upsetting abuse”, as was seen after the Manchester and London terror attacks.

It also warns people to be wary of journalists seeking accounts of events.

The process of retelling a story can make people “relive the worst parts” of horrific events, it warns.

People may say more than they intend to when “vulnerable, upset or angry”, it adds.

‘Doing something for money’

The NHS England guide also issues specific advice to younger people, cautioning: “People will use your information for their own ends and when you’re in the heat of the moment you may say more than you intend or later regret.”

Regarding trolls, it tells teenagers: “They can say things like you’re only doing something for money or to abuse the system and so on.

“This is incredibly hurtful – which is what the sender intends – and it will upset you, or make you angry and that’s never the best time to think about what you tell.”

But the guidelines add that social media can also play a positive role in helping victims and families after attacks.

It points out that coverage can help people by appealing for help, getting questions answered, or paying tribute to those who have been killed.

‘Basic decency’

Martyn HettImage copyright@DANHETT
Image caption29 year-old Martyn Hett lost his life in the Manchester attack

Dan Hett, whose brother Martyn died in the Manchester attack, said he was inundated by media attention.

“I had a couple of bad run-ins with people physically turning up at my house, my parents’ house and my place of work,” he told the BBC.

“It was incredibly inappropriate. We’d not even confirmed he’d died at this point, so everything was incredibly raw.”

Mr Hett welcomes the guidelines: “Overall I’m very much in favour of clear guidance being put in place for people, but to be honest I think some basic decency should really cover most of it.”

Patient confidentiality

The guide warns NHS staff against “accidentally revealing something about the incident which is not already in the public domain.”

It says: “Often in terror incidents the receiving hospitals are not named in the media straight away, so don’t post that you’ve had a busy shift dealing with victims, as this will confirm something which isn’t already known.”

It reminds staff to maintain patient confidentiality and cautions them against tweeting rumours.

But Prof Chris Moran, NHS England’s clinical lead for trauma, said social media helped doctors respond in the aftermath of the Manchester attack.

“Staff in Manchester were alerted quickly and got to their hospitals before a major incident was even declared,” he said.

“This real-time reporting helped NHS staff anticipate injuries, numbers of casualties and what they would be dealing with.”

He added: “The flip side to the coin is that misinformation on social media spreads fast and can cause lots of problems, including increased anxiety for patients, families and staff.”

Getting Physical With a Personal Trainer


Image result for Getting Physical With a Personal Trainer

FRIDAY, Sept. 8, 2017 (HealthDay News) — You might think that hiring a personal trainer is a luxury reserved for the rich. But even just a few sessions can add up to big fitness gains and a great return on investment in yourself, according to the American Council on Exercise.

The role of a personal trainer is to improve your level of physical fitness. He or she will assess your abilities and design a program that includes strength, flexibility and cardio work. Balance, coordination and weight loss might be other goals.

Personalized instruction is especially important for beginners in general and those starting strength training, so that you learn proper form from day one and use the appropriate amount of weight for your current condition.

But regardless of your exercise experience level, you’ll get the most out of workouts from a personal trainer because they’ll be designed to meet your goals efficiently.

Motivation is another benefit of working with personal trainers. They know how to encourage and challenge you on a regular basis. Also, you’ll gain educational insights. A trainer will explain why certain exercises work for your body type and show you how to do them correctly.

If money is tight and you can’t afford to work out with a trainer on an ongoing basis, hire a pro on a limited basis, to design or refresh a workout plan for you. Aim for at least three sessions to learn correct form, how much weight to lift and how many minutes of cardio are best.

Make sure the trainer you work with is certified by a leading sports fitness organization, such as the American Council on Exercise or the American College of Sports Medicine.

Pioneering type 1 diabetes therapy safe

Aleix Rowlandson

The first trial of a pioneering therapy to retrain the immune system and slow the advance of type 1 diabetes has shown it is safe.

The disease is caused by the body destroying cells in the pancreas that control blood sugar levels.

The immunotherapy – tested on 27 people in the UK – also showed signs of slowing the disease, but this needs confirming in larger trials.

Experts said the advance could one day free people from daily injections.

Aleix Rowlandson, from Lancashire, was diagnosed in 2015 aged 18.

“Your blood sugars affect how much energy you have,” she told the BBC.

“If they’re high, they can make you feel tired. If they’re low, you can feel shaky.

“I’m more optimistic knowing that the study has gone well and they can use that to find further treatments.

“Even if it doesn’t help me, myself, and it might help other people in the future, I’m very happy.”

Aleix’s immune system is attacking her beta cells, which release the hormone insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable.

As a result, she has to inject insulin several times a day.


Aleix is taking part in the trials of immunotherapy at the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’.

It is an attempt to stop her diabetes by tapping into the immune system’s natural checks and balances.

The body’s defence system is primed to attack hostile invaders.

But it also has “regulatory T cells”, which calm the immune response and prevent it attacking the body’s own tissues.

Immunotherapies try to get regulatory T cells on-side by exposing them to fragments of proteins found in beta cells.

Prof Mark Peakman, from King’s College London, told the BBC News website: “This is a landmark in the sense it’s the first time it has been done.

“Importantly, [the trial] shows the overall safety is good and there is some evidence we’re restoring the balance and getting some regulatory T cells activated.”

Patients given the therapy did not need to increase their dose of insulin during the trial.

However, it is too soon to say this therapy stops type 1 diabetes and larger clinical trials will be needed.

And further types of immunotherapy that should deliver an even stronger reaction are already underway.

Beta cell saver

The trial focused on patients newly diagnosed with type 1 as they still have about a fifth of their beta cells left.

Even retaining these cells would make it easier to manage the condition, but the ultimate goal is to intervene even earlier to hopefully prevent the disease starting.

However, it is not likely to help people diagnosed with type 1 years ago.

Prof Peakman added: “At that stage, most of the beta cells have gone and we don’t find, with any therapies tried, any evidence of regeneration so it seems unlikely to help someone who has had the disease for a while.”

All the volunteers were injected either every two or four weeks for six months.

Karen Addington, the UK chief executive of the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “Exciting immunotherapy research like this increases the likelihood that one day insulin-producing cells can be protected and preserved.

“That would mean people at risk of type 1 diabetes might one day need to take less insulin, and perhaps see a future where no-one would ever face daily injections to stay alive.”

Red meat: Good or bad for health?


[A plate of fried bacon]

Red meat contains numerous vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthful, balanced diet. In recent years, however, its reputation has been severely blemished, with studies suggesting that red meat intake can increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. But is it really that bad for us? We investigate.

Red meat is defined as any meat that comes from mammalian muscle. This includes beef, lamb, pork, goat, veal, and mutton.

For many households, red meat is considered a food staple, with some of us consuming beef, lamb, and pork in different variations on a daily basis.

Last year, the average person in the United States is estimated to have consumed around 106.6 pounds of red meat. Although this might appear a high intake, it is a significant reduction from the average 145.8 pounds consumed per capita in 1970.

Over the past 10 years alone, red meat consumption has fallen by around 10 pounds per person, with 2014 seeing the lowest intake of red meat since 1960, at just 101.7 pounds per person.

A shift toward plant-based foods

According to a 2016 Harris Poll, approximately 8 million adults in the U.S. are vegetarian or vegan, with concerns about animal welfare being the driving factor.

However, it seems that millions more of us are opting for plant-based foods over meat-based products because we believe that they are more healthful. The 2016 Harris Poll found that 37 percent of U.S. adults “always” or “sometimes” eat vegetarian meals when eating out, with 36 percent of these citing health reasons for their choice.

A number of studies have suggested that when it comes to health, a plant-based diet is the way to go. In December 2016, a position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics claimed that a plant-based diet can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 62 percent, as well as reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

“If you could bottle up a plant-based prescription, it would become a blockbuster drug overnight,” commented paper co-author Susan Levin, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.

It is not only the health benefits associated with plant-based diets that are steering us away from red meat, however, but the health risks that might arise from eating red meat. We take a look at what some of these risks are.


When it comes to red meat intake, cancer is perhaps the most well-established health implication.

In October 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report concluding that red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” meaning that there is some evidence that it can increase the risk of cancer.

Additionally, the WHO concluded that processed meats – defined as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation” – is “carcinogenic to humans,” meaning that there is sufficient evidence that processed meat intake increases cancer risk.

To reach these conclusions, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group reviewed more than 800 studies assessing the effects of red and processed meats on various types of cancer.

They found that each 50-gram portion of processed meat – which primarily includes pork or beef – consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

The IARC also uncovered evidence of a link between red meat intake and increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

It is thought that cooking red meats at high temperatures – through frying or barbecuing, for example – is what contributes to an increased cancer risk.

According to the National Cancer Institute – a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – cooking meats at high temperatures can lead to the production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are chemicals that have been shown to increase cancer risk in animal models.

However, the report from WHO concluded that the role of HCAs and PAHs in human cancer risk is not fully understood, and from their review, there was not enough data to determine whether the way meat is cooked influences cancer risk.

Kidney failure

Kidney failure – whereby the kidneys are no longer able to filter waste products and water from the blood – is estimated to affect more than 661,000 people in the U.S.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are among the most common causes of kidney failure, but in July 2016, one study suggested that red meat intake might be a risk factor.

Published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the study reported a dose-dependent link between red meat consumption and risk of kidney failure. For example, participants who were in the highest 25 percent of red meat intake were found to have a 40 percent increased risk of kidney failure, compared with those in the lowest 25 percent.

“Our findings suggest that these individuals can still maintain protein intake but consider switching to plant-based sources; however, if they still choose to eat meat, fish/shellfish and poultry are better alternatives to red meat,” says study co-author Dr. Woon-Puay Koh, of the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.

Heart disease

Heart disease remains the number one killer in the U.S., responsible for the deaths of around 610,000 people in the country every year.

An unhealthful diet, high in saturated fat and cholesterol, is a well-known risk factor for heart disease. A number of studies have suggested that red meat falls into that category, raising the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions.

A 2014 study of more than 37,000 men from Sweden, for example, found that men who consumed more than 75 grams of processed red meat per day were at a 1.28 times greater risk of heart failure than those who consumed under 25 grams daily.

Another study, published in 2013, reported an association between red meat intake and increased risk of heart disease, but this link was not attributed to the high saturated fat and cholesterol content of red meat.

The researchers, from Columbia University in New York, found that gut bacteria digest a compound in red meat called L-carnitine, converting it into a compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO).

In mice, the researchers found that TMAO led to the development of atherosclerosis – a condition characterized by the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Although there are numerous studies linking red meat intake to poor heart health, other research challenges this association.

A recent study by researchers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, for example, found that eating 3 ounces of red meat three times weekly did not lead to an increase in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


Diverticulitis is a condition whereby inflammation occurs in one or more of the sacs that line the wall of the colon, which are called diverticula.

This inflammation can lead to a number of severe complications, including abscesses, perforation of the colon, and peritonitis (infection and swelling in the lining of the abdomen).

While the specific causes of diverticulitis are unclear, it has been suggested that a high-fiber diet can raise the risk of developing the condition.

Earlier this month, a study published in the journal Gut suggested that eating high a

mounts of red meat may also increase the likelihood of developing diverticulitis.

Compared with men who reported eating low quantities of red meat, those who reported eating the highest quantities were found to have a 58 percent greater risk of developing diverticulitis.

Why does hair turn gray?

grey hair

As you look in the mirror in the morning, you see that inevitable fate has struck: your first gray hair! Whether you are in your 20s or your 50s, gray hair catches up with all of us eventually.

During hair growth, melanocytes make pigment and pass it to hair progenitor cells at the base of the hair follicle. These cells, in turn, transform into the various components of the growing hair.

When our hair grows, pigments are continuously being incorporated, which results in our unique hair color. The cells responsible for this process are the pigment-producing melanocytes at the base of the hair follicle.

In normal hair growth, the follicle produces hair at a rate of around 1 centimeter per month for several years.

But all the cells in our body become increasingly damaged during our lifetime, and these melanocytes are eventually lost. When all the melanocytes are lost in a particular hair follicle, the next hair that grows will be gray or white.

The biology of hair growth is rather complex, with a multitude of specialized cells involved in hair follicle structure and function. Scientists continue to unravel the process of human hair growth and pigmentation.

What controls pigmentation?

Humans have two different types of pigment. Eumelanin is responsible for black and brown colors, while pheomelanin is responsible for orange and yellow.

Genes determine the mixture of pigments that each individual produces, which is why hair color is often similar within families.

The exact mechanisms that control pigmentation are not yet clear. However, recent research points to a finely tuned interplay between several cells in the hair follicle.

Hair progenitor cells are reported to release a protein called stem cell factor, which is a requirement for the production of pigment by melanocytes. In mouse studies, the researchers showed that if this protein is absent, hair color is lost.

Once the hair stops growing, the hair follicle undergoes dramatic structural changes and enters a rest period. During this process, melanocytes naturally die.

However, melanocyte stem cells in the hair follicle normally produce a new set of melanocytes at the start of the next hair growth cycle.

Once the new hair starts to grow, these melanocytes once again ensure that pigmentation is available. But when the melanocytes are damaged or absent, the hair that is produced lacks color and can look gray or white.

How does poor sleep affect our ability to learn? Study investigates

[woman sleeping]

Most of us know that a good night’s sleep is key for happiness and productivity, and that conversely, a night of poor sleep can have negative effects on our performance during the day. But a new study manages to find precisely the brain area responsible for learning new skills and shows how it can be affected by poor sleep quality.

Most of us know that a good night’s sleep is key for happiness and productivity, and that conversely, a night of poor sleep can have negative effects on our performance during the day. But a new study manages to find precisely the brain area responsible for learning new skills and shows how it can be affected by poor sleep quality.

Poor sleep keeps synapses excited, blocks the brain’s ability to learn

Next, the researchers evaluated the participants’ ability to learn new movements. In the morning, the subjects’ learning performance was at its highest, as expected.

However, as the day progressed, they continued to make more and more mistakes. Again, this was expected.

After a night of restorative sleep, the participants’ learning efficiency spiked again. But after their night of manipulated sleep, their learning efficiency did not improve as significantly. In fact, the morning after a night of manipulated sleep, the participants’ performance was as low as on the evening of the previous day.

The reason why this happens, according to the researchers, is that during the manipulated deep sleep, the neurons’ synapses did not “rest” as they normally would during restorative sleep.

During the day, our synapses get excited as a response to the stimuli that surround us. During sleep, however, these synapses restore themselves and their activity “normalizes.” Without this restorative period, the synapses stay maximally excited for too long. Such a state inhibits neuroplasticity, which means that learning new things is no longer possible.

“In the strongly excited region of the brain, learning efficiency was saturated and could no longer be changed, which inhibited the learning of motor skills,” explains co-lead author Nicole Wenderoth, professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at the ETH Zurich.

To ensure that they located the right brain area responsible for deep sleep, the researchers repeated the experiment by assigning the same task but manipulating a different region of the brain.

This did not result in any changes to the participants’ performance.