Tag Archives: Health

A Real-Life Body Clock

GROW

A blood test says you’re aging too fast. Now what?

HOLLY MANN remembers a time — it must have been twelve years ago — when she started feeling old. Then 27, the US Army veteran found that she could no longer comfortably exercise. She was sapped of energy, and carried pain in her shoulders, hip, knees, and wrists. “I had a lot of issues that I would frankly associate with somebody who was two decades older than me,” she says. The doctors said that her symptoms stemmed from months of undetected carbon monoxide poisoning. They couldn’t tell her any more than that. Ms. Mann was desperate to feel better — really, she says, to feel younger.

Consulting the internet, she started tinkering with her diet. She tried new workouts. She ordered capsules of Vitamin This and Supplement That. And a few years in, after incremental ups and downs, she started to see real improvements. Though she still faced her share of low-energy days, by 2020, Mann felt noticeably better. She was curious: how much better? Had she, possibly, turned back the hands of time?

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At Some Colleges, the Fall of Roe Will Weaken Student Health Care

WIRED

As students return to school, many will find restricted campus access to abortion services and information—and perhaps reproductive care in general.

ON JUNE 24, an independent women’s health center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, received cease-and-desist orders from the state’s attorney general for its abortion services. The order came immediately after the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade. The clinic’s operations manager told local news that her team spent that day canceling more than 100 appointments. The clinic sits right across the road from the University of Alabama and was one of only three providers in the state.

As a new school year begins on college campuses across the country, many students will move to states that promise them fewer rights now than when they applied to school last winter, or when they accepted enrollment offers this spring. On some of those campuses, health centers—fearing legal consequences for their staffers—will likely roll back what they can offer students, both in terms of care and information about how to access abortion services or pills elsewhere. Some health advocates worry that the chilling effect may even spread to conveying general information about birth control and sexual health.

“It’s going to have devastating effects,” says Gillian Sealy, chief of staff with the nonprofit Power to Decide, which advocates for reproductive rights. “In many instances, this is the place that a young person might go to get their health needs met.” Unplanned pregnancies diminish the likelihood that a student will continue their education. So having the power to choose is paramount, she says.

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Can Disgusting Images Motivate Good Public Health Behavior?

WIRED

Graphic images have long been tools of campaigns against smoking and STDs. Researchers want to know if they can work for infectious diseases like Covid.

EVERY NOW AND then, I remember the Slideshow. This presentation about sexually transmitted infections was infamous among my fellow South Florida seventh graders. If you got your middle school sex ed elsewhere, it might be hard to imagine just how graphic its slides were. But being gross was the point: If kids saw the symptoms of untreated gonorrhea, the reasoning went, then disgust would sway them from reckless decisions.

Down in the basic wiring of our brains, disgust motivates avoidance. You’re less likely to go on a second date with a first date who smells bad. If a pigeon picks at your sandwich, you might opt to go hungry. Public health data backs this up: When cigarette packaging shows graphic pictures of smokers’ diseased organs, attempts to quit smoking double. “A vivid image is much more powerful than just abstract numbers,” says Woo-kyoung Ahn, a professor of psychology at Yale University. “Disgust is a powerful emotion rooted as an evolutionary adaptation that helps us expel and avoid harmful substances.”

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How Abortion Clinics Are Racing to Prepare for a Post-Roe America

WIRED

Access to reproductive care depends on more than red states vs. blue states—but that will matter. Here’s how the future could vary across the country.

BY THE END of June, abortion may no longer be a federally protected right. With its Dobbs ruling, the Supreme Court may empower individual states to ban abortion outright if they so choose. As a result, policy experts expect 26 states to enact some form of a ban. In 22 states, laws or amendments are already written—13 are “trigger bans” set to kick in the moment of an official SCOTUS ruling, and the other half will come in the days, weeks, or months that follow.

This will be a minefield for people with unwanted pregnancies. Its contours will feel familiar: Red states (according to electoral maps) tend to limit access; blue states tend to preserve it. Across the country, clinics in blue states like Illinois and Colorado are staffing up to prepare for an influx of patients from nearby red ones. Some are expanding their call center staffing, online services, or financial aid to patients. State governments are even considering new legislation to protect—and finance—abortion access. “It’s literally a line item in the budget,” says Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization for reproductive rights. “They want to help support people who have to travel. States are also understanding that their own residents are impacted by the need to pay for abortions.”

“All of us in blue states are expecting to see more people,” agrees Sue Dunlap, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. “And, frankly, we’re already seeing more people.”

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These Nanobots Can Swim Around a Wound and Kill Bacteria

WIRED

Researchers have created autonomous particles covered with patches of protein “motors.” They hope these bots will tote lifesaving drugs through bodily fluids.

THERE’S ALWAYS BEEN something seductive about a nanobot. Comic books and movies implore you to imagine these things, thousands of times thinner than a human hair and able to cruise around a body and repair a bone or heal an illness. (Or, if they’re more nefarious, simply explode.) Their scale is unfathomably finite. Their possibilities, sci-fi will have you believe, wildly infinite. While that incongruity makes it perfect for the denizens of a writers’ room figuring out how to kill James Bond, it’s also a sort of curse. Surely we can’t take tech like this seriously. Can we?

It turns out, the nanobots are among us.

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This Blood Test Detects Cancer in Dogs. But Do You Want to Know?

WIRED

A startup just showed that its OncoK9 test accurately sounds the alarm for aggressive and advanced cancers. The catch? These often have no cure.

IT WAS TIME for Cici Pepperoni’s annual check-up, but Marina Inserra, the 7-year-old pit bull mix’s owner, wasn’t worried. Inserra worked as a veterinary assistant at the San Diego office where Cici was getting her exam, and as far as she knew, Cici was perfectly fine.

Along with the checkup, Inserra agreed to enter Cici in a clinical study by a company called PetDx that had partnered with her office. The company wanted healthy dogs to donate blood to help validate a test to screen for multiple cancers at once—a liquid biopsy.

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Drones Have Transformed Blood Delivery in Rwanda

WIRED

The autonomous aircraft have shuttled blood to rural, mountainous areas for years. A new analysis proves they’re faster than driving.

SIX YEARS AGO, Rwanda had a blood delivery problem. More than 12 million people live in the small East African country, and like those in other nations, sometimes they get into car accidents. New mothers hemorrhage. Anemic children need urgent transfusions. You can’t predict these emergencies. They just happen. And when they do, the red stuff stored in Place A has to find its way to a patient in Place B—fast.

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The War in Ukraine is a Reproductive Health Crisis for Millions

WIRED

Russia’s invasion is making it harder to deliver babies and provide birth control, abortion services, and other essential care.

THE WAR IN Ukraine is becoming a crisis of reproductive health. Over the next three months, more than 80,000 Ukrainian people are expected to give birth, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). That’s about 1,000 deliveries per week. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15 percent of pregnancies—in a war zone or not—will require skilled medical care for a potentially life-threatening complication.

Women have already given birth in underground shelters and in subway stations. UNFPA posted a woman’s firsthand account of delivering a baby in Kyiv on the first day of the conflict. “I was lucky,” she wrote, “it did not happen in the basement.”

“Babies don’t wait because there’s a war. Periods don’t stop because there’s a war,” says Caroline Hickson, the European regional director for International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Experts are raising concerns about both the short- and long-term tolls of neglecting sexual and reproductive care in Ukraine, including surrogacy and abortion services, disease prevention, and help for survivors of sexual assault. “More than 50 percent of the population are women. And these are non-negotiable needs,” Hickson says.

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To Test Cancer Drugs, These Scientists Grew ‘Avatars’ of Tumors

WIRED

Growing organoids in dishes and xenografts in mice lets scientists recreate a living person’s tumor—and test dozens of drugs against them at the same time.

IN 2018, ALANA Welm found herself in an exciting, yet burdensome, position. The University of Utah breast cancer research lab where she leads joint projects with her husband, Bryan Welm, had created lab-grown versions of real tumors isolated from living cancer patients. Each cancer had been translated into two kinds of biological models: xenografts, made by implanting tissue into mice, and organoids, miniature clumps of tissue grown in plastic dishes.

Each simulated cancer was a way to test which of about 45 drugs, some experimental and others approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, might perform best for the real patient. During testing on one patient’s organoids, the researchers isolated a drug that effectively killed its cancer cells. That was the exciting bit. The burden: Welm had no right to do anything about it. She couldn’t tell the patient or her doctor. “We were just doing this for research,” says Welm.

This particular drug had already earned FDA approval to be used against breast cancer, but it wasn’t approved for this patient’s type of cancer. So Welm dialed up her university’s Institutional Review Board, an ethics oversight group.“We called them and said: We found this, we really think we need to let them know,” Welm recalls. The board agreed; the team could bring the patient’s physician into the loop. “That really was an eye-opener,” Welm says. “Wow, we can actually make a difference!”

Yet by the time Welm reached the physician, it was too late. The patient passed away shortly after. “It was heartbreaking,” she says. But it was also motivating: The Welms’ team doubled down on efforts to refine their methods and turn their research into a clinical tool.

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This Plastic Dot Sniffs Out Infections Doctors Can’t See

WIRED

Keeping wounds covered can help them stay clean. But if bacteria grow beneath the bandages, things can get dangerous.

LIFE, AT ALL scales, leaves behind chemical fingerprints. Some are scents we can pick up with our noses: Jasmine petals lend their sweet aldehydes; an upstairs neighbor leaves his noxious amines in the stairwell. “But there are also gasses that we can’t smell, because they’re just that basic kind of background,” says Andrew Mills, a professor of chemistry at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom. “Things basically undergoing life, turning oxygen into carbon dioxide.”

Mills specializes in detecting volatile chemicals, from stinky sulfides to odorless CO2. His lab has focused on sensing gasses as signatures of strange life in undesirable places: Think contaminated ground beef and—more recently—infected wounds. In a study published last month in the journal Chemical Communications, Mills unveiled a simple CO2 detector that can be inserted into dressings for chronic wounds. It changes color when it senses rising concentrations of the gas, a tell-tale sign of dangerous infections.

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