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Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Parkinson’s Disease Research

Subtle changes in behaviour may warn of early-onset of Parkinson’s Disease before it becomes diagnosable. One question is how to measure this? PDLab have published research detecting PD using machine learning to analyse users’ typing pattern, which is a pretty clever, unobtrusive source of data.

Similarly, this research demonstrates that early-onset Alzheimers can be seen through changes in writing style (example table below taken from paper).

Patterns of linguistic changes expected in normal aging and dementia

Linguistic marker Normal aging Dementia
    Vocabulary size Gradual increase, possible slight decrease in later years Sharp decrease
    Repetition Possible slight decrease/increase Pronounced increase
    Word specificity Possible slight increase/decrease Pronounced decrease
    Word class deficit Insignificant change Pronounced deficit in nouns; possible compensation in verbs
    Fillers Possible slight increase Pronounced increase
    Overall complexity No change or gradual decline, possible rapid decline around mid-70s Sharp decline
    Use of passive Possible slight decrease Pronounced decrease
    Auxiliary verb Be-passives dominate Get-passives dominate
    Agentless passive Moderate decrease Greater decrease

There’s also an interesting radiolab podcast on this latter research.

Source: PDLab – research into Parkinson’s Disease

Cheap bits to view tiny blobs! Not sure how the lenses are made.

Foldscope – The $1 Unbreakable Origami Microscope – Popular Mechanics.



3D-printed pump keeps damaged hearts beating in time – health – 11 September 2013 – New Scientist.


(Image: Amanda Voisard)

3D replicas of unusual patient hearts are being printed at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC by reconstructing 3D models from 2D computerised tomography or data. The 3D printed models enable surgeons to familiarise themselves with the anatomy and even perform dry run operations.

That’s a clever use of all the 2D imagery from the scans!

3D printer shows surgeons secrets of strange hearts – health – 21 May 2013 – New Scientist.

Progress in printing with living cells has brought the future one step closer with the first printed functioning human liver section. Normally either thin sheets of cells are produced or living cells are deposited onto a 3D printed inert scaffold. One technique being developed prints with blobs of stem cells that enable structures closer to real tissue.

This latest research has managed to print a 4mm x 0.5mm section of functioning liver by printing out 20 layers of living liver cells and blood vessel lining cells. The blood vessel lining cells provide structure and provide nutrients to keep the 3D culture alive for 5 days.

The living tissue provides incredible scope for testing drugs and treatments on cultured organs.

3D printer makes tiniest human liver ever – health – 23 April 2013 – New Scientist.