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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

By: Julian Libin

Back in 2013 there was a motion in the Australia High Court on whether isolated parts of the human gene sequence were patentable. In 2014 the motion went through as ruling that they were. The implications of this allow snippets of the unmodified human genome to be priced and traded through a myriad of private entities such as different hedge funds, insurance, or sovereign wealth funds. There has been significant backlash regarding this new law, both before and after it was passed. Many voices exclaim the dangers that come along with patenting genetic code. It can slow or even prevent important research concerning anything related to the human body and its inputs or outputs. One real life example would be the patenting of BRCA1, a gene which if mutated is associated with inherited ovarian and breast cancer. Cancer Voices Australia was outraged, but their cries went unheard. This is now an area of cancer research with sticky red tape.

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By: Timothy Jennings

Japan’s healthcare system is often touted as one of the best in the world. They have one of the highest life expectancies, one of the lowest maternal mortality rates, and the second lowest infant mortality rate. Japan accomplishes this with relatively low healthcare expenditure per capita and a national insurer, known as the Statutory Health Insurance System, which provides universal primary coverage. It is thus exciting to hear about new treatments coming out of this world class system. In a recently published Forbes article, it was announced that Xofluza, a new influenza treatment, was approved in Japan. The groundbreaking factor about this drug is that it has been shown to kill the flu virus in 24 hours in clinical trials in both Japanese and American patients. This was compared to three days for the standard treatment of Tamiflu. The pharmaceutical company responsible, Shionogi, claims that this will reduce transmission of influenza and limit morbidity and mortality from the illness. Because of this, Xofluza has been given fast-tracked approval in Japan and should be released later this year. In the United States and other countries, additional approval is required with estimates of a 2019 release.

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by Kimi Sharma

As it was every Sunday morning, my e-mail inbox had been inundated with TED talks that my father thought would explore the untarnished brilliance of individuals in society and help incite my dormant passion to bring about change. I was expecting the usual group of talks by respected and inspiring doctors through which my father hinted at his burning desire for me to attend medical school despite my fervent rejection of the idea. So on that Sunday I watched a TED talk that largely reinstated my faith in an individual’s undying determination to aid others.

Sanjit “Bunker” Roy founded The Barefoot College on the grounds of self-sufficiency of a population now and into the future no matter what the background and abilities of the individual. While Roy came from a wealthy and well-educated background, he sought to create a place where those without the credentials, degrees or certificates could take part in the learning process to provide for themselves in the long run. Per request of those that the Barefoot College was to serve, Roy describes it as “a place of learning and unlearning: where the teacher is the learner and the learner is the teacher.” He highlights the absence of anyone outside the community with a qualification or degree and praises the outstanding achievements of the communities where most are illiterate. (more…)

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By Mariana Villalba-Guerra

This post discusses an article by Noam N. Levey in the Los Angeles Times discusses a list made by doctors of the medical procedures, tests and therapies that are overused and often unnecessary.

Medical overuse as defined by the National Partnership for Women and Families is when treatment is given without medical justification. “It includes treating patients with antibiotics for simple infections or failing to follow effective options that cost less or cause fewer side effects” (National Partnership for Women and Families, 2009). While this article does not give an exhaustive list of medical treatments that are being overused in the US, it does mention that although there is overuse in the US this does not mean that with more treatment and test come better outcomes. As mentioned in the article, U.S. physicians perform more tests and more elective procedures than most other industrialized countries do. In some cases such as with cancer we have better survival rates that in the rest of the world but we are still lagging when it comes to other illnesses.

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By Hena Thakur,

The advancing technological state of the current world has come to characterize daily life. Technology has penetrated our social lives, businesses and homes, and more recently is staged to expand its presence in the medical setting.  The New York Times published an article entitled, “Apps Alert The Doctor When Trouble Looms,” which highlights the testing being done on cellphones equipped with an application to monitor the movement, location, and relative social interaction of a patient via the number of text messages and phone calls the individual makes each day. If there appears to be a significant change in an individual’s physical or social behavior, the primary care physician is notified and the patient will receive a follow up call or visit to discuss the situation. Physicians and developers, alike, hope this process will serve as an early detection system for certain conditions, such as severe pain, depression, or other diseases that render an individual unfit to seek the medical attention they may need.

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By Kim Clark

I doubt that mosquitoes would top anyone’s list of favorite things. In fact, I would wager that they would not be found on the list at all. Mosquitoes are a problem. If you are lucky, after they make a meal on your blood, they leave you with red bumps that itch for days. And if you are not, they may leave you with a life-threatening disease, such as malaria, dengue fever or yellow fever.

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Of the many problems that plague developing nations, lack of access to potable water consistently tops the list. Because of the issue’s prevalence, a multitude of solutions have been suggested, and a multitude of solutions have failed, either partly or completely. One notable instance of this is the Roundabout Outdoor PlayPump Water System, which despite some successes, has largely failed in its goals. (more…)

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