Monday, June 27, 2011

New Scientist: Do we need citizen medicine?

Pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and drugs. All of them have, at one point or another, saved our lives. But are they always helpful? Janet Krska and Tony Avery discuss the possibilities of suffering from adverse drug reactions that may actually kill you. Fevers, aches, nausea and many more effects on the body may be caused by drugs. Although most of them are written on the box some may be specific to each human being and their physiology. It seems that patients can actually report their ADR's toa Yellow Card system in the UK. This system analyzes each particular ADR and if enough people suffer from it, will alert the proper pharmaceutical company to modify their drug or totally remove it from the market. Similar systems function across the whole European Union.

"ADR's have reached epidemic proportions... increasing at twice the rate of prescriptions. The European Commision estimated adverse reactions kill 197,000 EU citizens annualy, at a cost of €79 billion. "

 This is actually the first time I have heard of such report systems and the article gives the same view. Over 90 per cent of ADR's are not reported, patients reports are not taken seriously and medical professionals do not take action when ADR's are reported directly to them. Most patients are scared that healthcare officials will dismiss their symptoms as common side effects of the drug. In my humble opinion, patient reporting could be a very useful tool in detecting the pharmaceuticals that are of more danger than helpfulness. Medicine has to accept aid from sources that are not professionals since ADR's cannot be solely identified by them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Scientist: Proteins Protect against Heart Break

Pills that protect from heart break. And no, not the romantic kind. A rich dormant stem cell called thymosin beta-4 present in the innermost layer of the sac which surrounds the heart could be useful in both preventing a heart attack and repairing the cardiac muscle after such an attack occurs. As always the stem cell was tested on mice since they have similar organ systems to us. If daily injections of beta-4 were made the mice would survive even the most deadliest heart attack as well as regrowing their heart muscle much faster afterwards. If the testing also works on human subjects this could provide an opportunity to fight heart disorder effectively. A tablet taken orally could save hundreds of lives as well as precious resources of hospitals that try to effectively treat the mycocardial infarction.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Scientist: Quantum leap?

Supercomputers. The stuff of science fiction of the late 1970's. They could communicate (artificial intelligence) and calculate impossible mathematical problems in a few seconds. They were at the peak of their intelligence. At times even smarter than we are. Although some of this is exageration some supercomputers are already in development and promise to be just what mathematicians and physicists need to solve their problems. They are called quantum computers because they use the process called "quantum annealing" . This optimizes any task that the computer has to carry out by replacing normal binary bits with quantum bits or aptly named qubits. Due to superposition of these bits, a quantum computer can check all the possible solutions from a group simultaneously rather than analyzing them bit by bit.

"D-wave has not presented evidence that its machine can solve problems faster than a classical computer"

The computer is called D-wave. There are some scientist however that disagree that the computer could actually replace any normal binary computer at all. Before going commercial these issues must be addressed and thoroughly analyzed so that consumers are happy with their new product. Testers say that the D-wave exhibits some quantum properties but not enough to actually speed up calculations.