The Skin Gun Saves Burn Victims

This is a fascinating look at a potential solution for helping burn victims. It is just fascinating to me.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXO_ApjKPaI

Special Forces- Science Explains Their Reaction To Stress

This is a very interesting article about why some people handle stress better than others do. Dr. Andy Morgan of Yale Medical School conducted research to determine why some people handle stress better than others do.

His research took him to Fort Bragg which where the Army’s elite Airborne and Special Forces school is located. Let’s take a look at an excerpt from the article.

“For Morgan, POW school was the perfect place to study who survives the best under acute stress. If you think it’s just training and the soldiers know they’re not really in serious danger, consider what Morgan discovered. During mock interrogations, the prisoners’ heart rates skyrocket to more than 170 beats per minute for more than half an hour, even though they aren’t engaging in any physical activity. Meanwhile, their bodies pump more stress hormones than the amounts actually measured in aviators landing on aircraft carriers, troops awaiting ambushes in Vietnam, skydivers taking the plunge or patients awaiting major surgery. The levels of stress hormones are sufficient to turn off the immune system and to produce a catabolic state, in which the body begins to break down and feed on itself. The average weight loss in three days is 22 pounds.

Morgan’s research—the first of its kind—produced some fascinating findings about who does the best job resisting the interrogators and who stays focused and clearheaded despite the uncontrollable fear. Morgan looked at two different groups going through this training: regular Army troops like infantrymen, and elite Special Forces soldiers, who are known to be especially “stress hardy” or cool under pressure. At the start or base line, the two groups were essentially the same, but once the stress began, and afterward, there were significant differences. Specifically, the two groups released very different amounts of a chemical in the brain called neuropeptide Y. NPY is an abundant amino acid in our bodies that helps regulate our blood pressure, appetite, learning and memory. It also works as a natural tranquilizer, controlling anxiety and buffering the effects of stress hormones like norepenephrine, one of the chemicals that most of us simply call adrenaline. In essence, NPY is one of the fire hoses that your brain uses to extinguish your alarm and fear responses by keeping the frontal-lobe parts of your brain working longer under stress.

Morgan found one very specific reason that Special Forces are superior survivors: they produce significantly greater levels of NPY compared with regular troops. In addition, 24 hours after completing survival training, Special Forces soldiers returned to their original levels of NPY while regular soldiers were significantly below normal.”

So if this NPY serves as a sort of natural anti-anxiety drug I have to ask the obvious question. Can we find a way to produce it? Maybe I am being naive, but from a laymen’s perspective it sounds like it could be a great resource for people. It might allow some people to stop taking their meds.

Another part of the article that I thought was interesting is the section in which they discussed heart rate variability. Take a look at this:

It turns out that the best survivors don’t have a lot of heart-rate variability. Instead, they’ve got “metronomic heartbeats”—their hearts thump steadily like metronomes—with almost no variability between beats. That is, the intervals between the beats are evenly spaced. Morgan believes that a metronomic heartbeat is an easy way to detect good survivors and high neuropeptide Y releasers. It makes sense biologically because your brainstem, which controls your heartbeat, has a high density of neuropeptide Y.

Part of what I found interesting was that the article says that metronomic heartbeat is associated with early heart disease and sudden death. So there is a question about whether this is really a benefit. It is good if you are a soldier or in some sort of very stressful profession.

But if it is tied to heart disease the negative can potentially outweigh the positive. Nice to stay calm, but not at the expense of not living past fifty.

Potential Health Benefits of Blueberries

I thought that this article on WebMD was interesting.

In the study, presented at Experimental Biology 2009, researchers fed rats bred to become obese either a high-fat or low-fat diet enriched with whole blueberry powder or carbohydrates as 2% of their total diet.

After 90 days, the rats fed blueberries had less abdominal fat, lower cholesterol, and improved glucose control and insulin sensitivity. The latter two factors are markers of how well the body processes sugar for energy and are related to diabetes risk.

These health benefits of blueberries were evident in rats fed both high- and low-fat diets enriched with the blueberry powder. But the benefits were greatest among those who ate a low-fat diet.

In addition to the other heart health benefits of blueberries, those fed the low-fat blueberry diet also lost body weight and fat mass compared to those on the high-fat diet.

Although more research is needed to confirm these results in humans, a related study presented at the same conference showed that men with risk factors for heart disease who drank wild blueberry juice for three weeks seemed to experience slight improvements in glucose and insulin control.

Should You Be Scared about The Swine Flu

Take a look at this CNN story:

(CNN) — There had been no confirmed deaths in the United States related to swine flu as of Tuesday afternoon. But another virus had killed thousands of people since January and is expected to keep killing hundreds of people every week for the rest of the year.

That one? The regular flu.

An outbreak of swine flu that is suspected in more than 150 deaths in Mexico and has sickened dozens of people in the United States and elsewhere has grabbed the attention of a nervous public and of medical officials worried the strain will continue to mutate and spread.
Experts are nervous that, as a new strain, the swine flu will be harder to stop because there aren’t any vaccines to fight it.

But even if there are swine-flu deaths outside Mexico — and medical experts say there very well may be — the virus would have a long way to go to match the roughly 36,000 deaths that seasonal influenza causes in the United States each year.

“That happens on an annual basis,” Dr. Brian Currie said Tuesday. Currie is vice president and medical director at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York.”

Is That A Camera In Your Eye

Talk about playing Eye Spy. Wired has the story of a man who intends to place a miniature camera in his eyesocket. Don’t worry, he isn’t going to remove a live eye to do this. Apparently he had one removed a number of years ago. You can even see a short video of the surgery he had to extract it.

Click here for the full story or just settle for the excerpt I am going to post.

“When you completely lose an eye it is a difficult thing to let go of,” he says. “The eye has an emotional attachment. It is a window to your soul.”

Spence wore an eye patch for a while, which he says looked cool. But once he started thinking about having a camera in his eye, Spence got in touch with Steve Mann, a professor at the University of Toronto. Mann is one of the experts in the world of wearable computing and cyborgs — organisms that blend natural and artificial systems.

“There are a lot of challenges in this,” says Mann, “from actually building a camera system that works, to sending and receiving images, to getting the correct shape of the camera.”
Even in the age of miniaturization, getting a wireless video camera into a prosthetic eye isn’t easy. The shape of the prosthetic is the biggest limitation: In Spence’s case, it’s 9-mm thick, 30-mm long and 28-mm high.

While that might seem like plenty of room in an age when digital cameras are squeezed into unimaginably slim and compact phones, it actually isn’t. The average area available inside a prosthetic eye for an imaging sensor is only about 8 square mm, explains Phil Bowen, an ocularist who is working with Spence. Also, a digital camera has many more components than the visible lens and the sensor behind it, including the power supply and image-processing circuitry. Getting a completely self-contained camera module to fit into the tiny hollow of a prosthetic eye is a significant engineering challenge.

That’s where Professors Huang and Rogers’ research could come in handy. Three months ago, the duo published a paper that showed how a new sensor built out of a flexible mesh of wire-connected pixels could replace the traditional flat imaging chip as the light sensor for a camera. The mesh is made from many of the same materials as a standard digital-camera sensor, but it has the ability to conform to convoluted, irregular surfaces — like the back of a synthetic eyeball.
“Our cameras might more naturally integrate with a prosthetic eye, due to their hemispherical shapes,” says Rogers. “One might also argue that they can provide a more human-like perception of the world.”

Then there’s the question of how the prosthetic eyeball (the outer shell for the camera) will be made. The eyeball chassis has to close shut and be watertight.

Traditional prosthetic eyes are single pieces made with polymethyl-methacrylate (PMMA), a flexible polymer that is also used in dentures. To fit a camera in, Bowen redesigned the prosthetic eye into two pieces that could snap shut.

But with a camera inside there’s something new to worry about. The modified prosthetic eye will be heavier than traditional ones and that could affect the eye socket, says Bowen. “The weight might stretch out the lower lid,” he says, potentially disfiguring the face.