Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

By SAM ROBERTS

Julius Youngner, an inventive virologist whose nearly fatal childhood illness destined him to become a medical researcher and a core member of the team that developed the Salk polio vaccine in 1955, died on April 27 at his home in Pittsburgh. He was 96.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. Stuart Youngner.

Dr. Youngner was the last surviving member of the original three-man research team assembled by Dr. Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh to address the polio scourge, which peaked in the United States in the early 1950s when more than 50,000 children were struck by it in one year. Three other assistants later joined the group.

Dr. Salk credited his six aides with major roles in developing the polio vaccine, a landmark advance in modern medicine, which he announced on April 12, 1955.

The announcement — that the vaccine had proved up to 90 percent effective in tests on 440,000 youngsters in 44 states — was greeted with ringing churchbells and openings of public swimming pools, which had been drained for fear of contagion. Within six years, annual cases of the paralyzing disease had declined from 14,000 to fewer than 1,000.

By 1979, polio had been virtually eliminated in developed nations.

“I think it’s absolutely fair to say that had it not been for Dr. Youngner, the polio vaccine would not have come into existence,” Dr. Salk’s son, Peter L. Salk, president of the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation and a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said in an email.

While Dr. Youngner, who was 34 at the time, remained at the university and made further advances in virology, he and other members of the team remained embittered that Dr. Salk had not singled them out for credit in his announcement speech.

The printed version was prefaced with the phrase “From the Staff of the Virus Research Laboratory by Jonas E. Salk, M.D.,” and a United Press account quoted him as crediting his original three assistants, who had joined him as early as 1949 — Dr. Youngner, Army Maj. Byron L. Bennett and Dr. L. James Lewis — as well as three others.

“The really important thing to recognize is that the development of the polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh was a team effort,” Dr. Peter Salk wrote.

He added, “There is no question that my father recognized the importance of the team, and if there were circumstances in which that wasn’t adequately expressed, I would feel that it needs to be expressed now and very clearly so.”

In 1993, Dr. Youngner crossed paths with Dr. Salk for the first time since Dr. Salk left for California in 1961. According to “Polio: An American Story” (2005), by David M. Oshinsky, Dr. Youngner raised the 1955 announcement speech in confronting Dr. Salk.

“Do you remember whom you mentioned and whom you left out?” the book quoted him as saying to Dr. Salk. “Do you realize how devastated we were at that moment and ever afterward when you persisted in making your co-workers invisible?”

Asked later, though, whether he regretted having worked for Dr. Salk, Dr. Youngner replied: “Absolutely not. You can’t imagine what a thrill that gave me. My only regret is that he disappointed me.”

Dr. Youngner’s contribution to the team was threefold.

He developed a method called trypsinization, using monkey kidney cells to generate sufficient quantities of the virus for experiments and production of the vaccine. He also found a way to deactivate the virus without disrupting its ability to produce antibodies. And he created a color test to measure polio antibodies in the blood to determine whether the vaccine was working.

He later contributed research to understanding interferon as an antiviral agent in the treatment of cancer and hepatitis; to the development (with Dr. Samuel Salvin) of gamma interferon, which is used against certain infections; and to advances that resulted in vaccines for Type A influenza and (with Dr. Patricia Dowling) equine influenza.

“As a direct result of his efforts, there are countless numbers of people living longer and healthier lives,” Dr. Arthur S. Levine, the University of Pittsburgh’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of its medical school, said in a statement.

Julius Stuart Youngner was born on Oct. 24, 1920, in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where he survived lobar pneumonia, a severe infection of the lungs. His father, Sidney Donheiser, was a businessman. His mother was Bertha Youngner. He took her surname when his parents divorced.

After graduating from Evander Childs High School in the Bronx at 15, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in biology from New York University in 1939 and a master’s and doctorate of science in microbiology from the University of Michigan.

Drafted into the Army in World War II, he worked on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and at the University of Rochester, testing the toxicity of uranium salts. He said he learned of the project’s goal of building an atomic bomb only when it was dropped on Japan.

He was working at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, when the University of Pittsburgh hired him as an assistant professor in 1949 to assist Dr. Salk. He was a professor of microbiology and medical genetics at the university School of Medicine and chairman of the department of microbiology (biochemistry and microbiology were added later) from 1966 until his retirement in 1989.

His first wife, the former Tula Liakakis, died in 1963. Besides their son, Stuart, a psychiatry and bioethics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Dr. Youngner is survived by his wife, the former Rina Balter; a daughter, Lisa, an artist, also from his first marriage; three grandchildren; and a half brother, Alan Donheiser.

Dr. Youngner’s infectious curiosity, as a colleague characterized it, generated hundreds of scholarly papers and more than 15 patents. He was president of the American Society for Virology from 1986 to 1987.

When he was 7, Dr. Youngner nearly died from the pneumonia he had contracted when bacteria ate through his chest and infected a rib. An effective vaccine for pneumonia and antibiotics would not be invented for nearly two decades.

“So they strapped my legs to a table, and two nuns held my arms and another held my head and they prayed while they operated on me,” he recalled in an oral history interview in the early 1990s with the National Council of Jewish Women. “To this day I can remember the feeling of the saw on that rib.

“Later in life, when I had to have some minor surgery,” he said, “I put it off for years because I was so affected by this episode.”

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/science/julius-youngner-dead-salk-polio-vaccine-researcher.html?_r=0&referer=https://www.google.com/

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To create a new drug, researchers have to test tens of thousands of compounds to determine how they interact. And that’s the easy part; after a substance is found to be effective against a disease, it has to perform well in three different phases of clinical trials and be approved by regulatory bodies.

It’s estimated that, on average, one new drug coming to market can take 1,000 people, 12-15 years, and up to $1.6 billion. Here is a short video on the current process.

Last week, researchers published a paper detailing an artificial intelligence system made to help discover new drugs, and significantly shorten the amount of time and money it takes to do so.

The system is called AtomNet, and it comes from San Francisco-based startup AtomWise. The technology aims to streamline the initial phase of drug discovery, which involves analyzing how different molecules interact with one another—specifically, scientists need to determine which molecules will bind together and how strongly. They use trial and error and process of elimination to analyze tens of thousands of compounds, both natural and synthetic.

AtomNet takes the legwork out of this process, using deep learning to predict how molecules will behave and how likely they are to bind together. The software teaches itself about molecular interaction by identifying patterns, similar to how AI learns to recognize images.

Remember the 3D models of atoms you made in high school, where you used pipe cleaners and foam balls to represent the connections between protons, neutrons and electrons? AtomNet uses similar digital 3D models of molecules, incorporating data about their structure to predict their bioactivity.

As AtomWise COO Alexander Levy put it, “You can take an interaction between a drug and huge biological system and you can decompose that to smaller and smaller interactive groups. If you study enough historical examples of molecules…you can then make predictions that are extremely accurate yet also extremely fast.”

“Fast” may even be an understatement; AtomNet can reportedly screen one million compounds in a day, a volume that would take months via traditional methods.

AtomNet can’t actually invent a new drug, or even say for sure whether a combination of two molecules will yield an effective drug. What it can do is predict how likely a compound is to work against a certain illness. Researchers then use those predictions to narrow thousands of options down to dozens (or less), focusing their testing where there’s more likely to be positive results.

The software has already proven itself by helping create new drugs for two diseases, Ebola and multiple sclerosis. The MS drug has been licensed to a British pharmaceutical company, and the Ebola drug is being submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for additional analysis.

https://singularityhub.com/2017/05/07/drug-discovery-ai-can-do-in-a-day-what-currently-takes-months/

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

By Vanessa Bates Ramirez

In recent years, technology has been producing more and more novel ways to diagnose and treat illness.

Urine tests will soon be able to detect cancer: https://singularityhub.com/2016/10/14/detecting-cancer-early-with-nanosensors-and-a-urine-test/

Smartphone apps can diagnose STDs:https://singularityhub.com/2016/12/25/your-smartphones-next-big-trick-to-make-you-healthier-than-ever/

Chatbots can provide quality mental healthcare: https://singularityhub.com/2016/10/10/bridging-the-mental-healthcare-gap-with-artificial-intelligence/

Joining this list is a minimally-invasive technique that’s been getting increasing buzz across various sectors of healthcare: disease detection by voice analysis.

It’s basically what it sounds like: you talk, and a computer analyzes your voice and screens for illness. Most of the indicators that machine learning algorithms can pick up aren’t detectable to the human ear.

When we do hear irregularities in our own voices or those of others, the fact we’re noticing them at all means they’re extreme; elongating syllables, slurring, trembling, or using a tone that’s unusually flat or nasal could all be indicators of different health conditions. Even if we can hear them, though, unless someone says, “I’m having chest pain” or “I’m depressed,” we don’t know how to analyze or interpret these biomarkers.

Computers soon will, though.

Researchers from various medical centers, universities, and healthcare companies have collected voice recordings from hundreds of patients and fed them to machine learning software that compares the voices to those of healthy people, with the aim of establishing patterns clear enough to pinpoint vocal disease indicators.

In one particularly encouraging study, doctors from the Mayo Clinic worked with Israeli company Beyond Verbal to analyze voice recordings from 120 people who were scheduled for a coronary angiography. Participants used an app on their phones to record 30-second intervals of themselves reading a piece of text, describing a positive experience, then describing a negative experience. Doctors also took recordings from a control group of 25 patients who were either healthy or getting non-heart-related tests.

The doctors found 13 different voice characteristics associated with coronary artery disease. Most notably, the biggest differences between heart patients and non-heart patients’ voices occurred when they talked about a negative experience.

Heart disease isn’t the only illness that shows promise for voice diagnosis. Researchers are also making headway in the conditions below.

ADHD: German company Audioprofiling is using voice analysis to diagnose ADHD in children, achieving greater than 90 percent accuracy in identifying previously diagnosed kids based on their speech alone. The company’s founder gave speech rhythm as an example indicator for ADHD, saying children with the condition speak in syllables less equal in length.
PTSD: With the goal of decreasing the suicide rate among military service members, Boston-based Cogito partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to use a voice analysis app to monitor service members’ moods. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital are also using the app as part of a two-year study to track the health of 1,000 patients with bipolar disorder and depression.
Brain injury: In June 2016, the US Army partnered with MIT’s Lincoln Lab to develop an algorithm that uses voice to diagnose mild traumatic brain injury. Brain injury biomarkers may include elongated syllables and vowel sounds or difficulty pronouncing phrases that require complex facial muscle movements.
Parkinson’s: Parkinson’s disease has no biomarkers and can only be diagnosed via a costly in-clinic analysis with a neurologist. The Parkinson’s Voice Initiative is changing that by analyzing 30-second voice recordings with machine learning software, achieving 98.6 percent accuracy in detecting whether or not a participant suffers from the disease.
Challenges remain before vocal disease diagnosis becomes truly viable and widespread. For starters, there are privacy concerns over the personal health data identifiable in voice samples. It’s also not yet clear how well algorithms developed for English-speakers will perform with other languages.

Despite these hurdles, our voices appear to be on their way to becoming key players in our health.

https://singularityhub.com/2017/02/13/talking-to-a-computer-may-soon-be-enough-to-diagnose-illness/?utm_source=Singularity+Hub+Newsletter&utm_campaign=14105f9a16-Hub_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f0cf60cdae-14105f9a16-58158129

By Cari Romm

You may have heard of foreign-accent syndrome, a rare and mysterious condition in which someone suffers a brain injury and suddenly — true to the name — begins speaking in a new accent. Last year, for example, a woman from Ontario began speaking in the regional accent of the Canadian East Coast after a stroke, despite the fact that she’d never visited or met anyone from that particular part of the country. Just a few months ago, a woman in Texas developed a British accent following dental surgery.

Both women are members of a pretty exclusive club: Scientists estimate that foreign-accent syndrome strikes just one person in the world each year. And as Time reported earlier this week, a Georgia high-school student has taken the step further: Sixteen-year-old Rueben Nsemoh, recently woke up from a coma speaking fluent Spanish.

The patient: Last month, Nsemoh developed a severe concussion during a soccer game, when another player accidentally kicked him in the head. When he woke up after three days in a coma, according to Time, he’d lost his English, but he could still speak: His first words were “tengo hambre,” Spanish for “I’m hungry” — and his family quickly discovered that he could now speak the language fluently, despite the fact that he had previously known only a handful of Spanish words.

The diagnosis: This isn’t the first time a patient has walked away from a head injury with a newfound linguistic ability: In 2014, an Australian man came to and discovered that he now spoke fluent Mandarin; in 2010, the same thing happened to a Croatian teen with German and a British man with French.

But these cases, like Nsemoh’s, can’t simply be explained as an extension of foreign-accent syndrome, which researchers believe isn’t really the development of a new accent at all: It’s a sign of damage to the area of the brain that controls the motor functions of speech. Any resemblance to a real foreign accent, then, is coincidental — the new speech pattern is just a new way of forcing words out of the mouth, affecting their sounds in random ways.

Seemingly absorbing an entire language overnight, on the other hand, has little to do with motor skills and everything to do with linguistic knowledge. While Nsemoh’s family hasn’t yet received an explanation for his newfound grasp of Spanish, Time noted that he’s heard the language in the past, from his brother (who studied abroad in Spain) and his classmates, meaning it’s not entirely new. For now, that remains just a clue, though the teen’s doctors may not have much longer to solve the case — for the past few weeks, their patient has been slowly regaining his English and losing his Spanish. This one, it seems, may remain un misterio for the ages.

by Lorenzo Tanos

The mind-controlled robotic arm of Pennsylvania man Nathan Copeland hasn’t just gotten the sense of touch. It’s also got to shake the hand of the U.S. President himself, Barack Obama.

Copeland, 30, was part of a groundbreaking research project involving researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In this experiment, Copeland’s brain was implanted with microscopic electrodes — a report from the Washington Post describes the tiny particles as being “smaller than a grain of sand.” With the particles implanted into the cortex of the man’s brain, they then interacted with his robotic arm. This allowed Copeland to gain some feeling in his paralyzed right hand’s fingers, as the process worked around the spinal cord damage that robbed him of the sense of touch.

More than a decade had passed since Copeland, then a college student in his teens, had suffered his injuries in a car accident. The wreck had resulted in tetraplegia, or the paralysis of both arms and legs, though it didn’t completely rob the Western Pennsylvania resident of the ability to move his shoulders. He then volunteered in 2011 for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center project, a broader research initiative with the goal of helping paralyzed individuals feel again. The Washington Post describes this process as something “even more difficult” than helping these people move again.

For Nathan Copeland, the robotic arm experiment has proven to be a success, as he’s regained the ability to feel most of his fingers. He told the Washington Post on Wednesday that the type of feeling does differ at times, but he can “tell most of the fingers with definite precision.” Likewise, UPMC biomedical engineer Robert Gaunt told the publication that he felt “relieved” that the project allowed Copeland to feel parts of the hand that had no feeling for the past 10 years.

Prior to this experiment, mind-controlled robotic arm capabilities were already quite impressive, but lacking one key ingredient – the sense of touch. These prosthetics allowed people to move objects around, but since the individuals using the arms didn’t have working peripheral nerve systems, they couldn’t feel the sense of touch, and movements with the robotic limbs were typically mechanical in nature. But that’s not the case with Nathan Copeland, according to UPMC’s Gaunt.

“With Nathan, he can control a prosthetic arm, do a handshake, fist bump, move objects around,” Gaunt observed. “And in this (study), he can experience sensations from his own hand. Now we want to put those two things together so that when he reaches out to grasp an object, he can feel it. … He can pick something up that’s soft and not squash it or drop it.”

But it wasn’t just ordinary handshakes that Copeland was sharing on Thursday. On that day, he had exchanged a handshake and fist bump with President Barack Obama, who was in Pittsburgh for a White House Frontiers Conference. And Obama appeared to be suitably impressed with what Gaunt and his team had achieved, as it allowed Copeland’s robotic arm and hand to have “pretty impressive” precision.

“When I’m moving the hand, it is also sending signals to Nathan so he is feeling me touching or moving his arm,” said Obama.

Unfortunately, Copeland won’t be able to go home with his specialized prosthesis. In a report from the Associated Press, he said that the experiment mainly amounts to having “done some cool stuff with some cool people.” But he nonetheless remains hopeful, as he believes that his experience with the robotic arm will mark some key advances in the quest to make paralyzed people regain their natural sense of touch.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3599638/paralyzed-mans-robotic-arm-gets-to-feel-again-shakes-obamas-hand/#xVzFDHGXukJWBV05.99

by AVI ASHER-SCHAPIRO

Earlier this year, a Syrian American orthopedic surgeon was shopping with his two toddlers at a Walmart in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he heard the familiar ping of a notification from WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service: A teenager had been shot in the leg and the bullet had passed straight through his tibia. The fractured bone punctured his skin like a spear. Although it was the surgeon’s day off, he took the call—as an expert in complex bone operations, this was his specialty.

But this was no ordinary case. His patient was over 6,000 miles away, awaiting care in a makeshift medical clinic in Madaya, a town in Syria some 28 miles from Damascus. The clinic is only a 45-minute drive from Damascus Hospital, but it might as well be on the other side of the world. Madaya, a rebel-held town controlled by the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, has been held under siege by Hezbollah, which is fighting on behalf of the Syrian government, since last July. Hezbollah won’t let anything in or out of the town; it was a Hezbollah fighter, locals say, who shot the teenager in the leg.

At the Madaya clinic that day, two men were on duty: a 25-year-old who had been a first-year dental student when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, and a veterinarian in his mid-40s. Gangrene had begun to spread down the patient’s leg, and the dental student, in a series of frantic texts, was asking the surgeon in Michigan what to do. As he walked through the parking lot of the Walmart, the surgeon picked up the phone and called the dental student, guiding him through the steps: Immediately load the patient up with antibiotics. Scrub the wound. Clear away as much dead tissues as possible without agitating the patient. Splint the leg.

“Any other call I would have ignored,” the surgeon admitted to me when we spoke in early August. But he knew that the dental student had nowhere else to turn. He is the only orthopedic surgeon in the “Madaya Medical Consultants,” a group composed of over two dozen, mostly Syrian American doctors, whose specialties include pediatrics, obstetrics, and pulmonology. They meet, digitally, in a WhatsApp chat room that supports the Madaya clinic around the clock. Most of the doctors in the group quoted in this story asked not to be identified, for fear of endangering their families in Syria. Rajaai Bourhan, a resident of Madaya, introduced me to the Madaya clinicians, whose identities I’ve also left anonymous for similar reasons.

Throughout Syria, more than 500,000 people are now under siege. The vast majority are penned in by pro-government fighters, their survival hinging on the medical know-how of the doctors, nurses, or medical students who happen to be trapped with them. In clinics like the one in Madaya, medical expertise is increasingly hard to come by, and remote medicine is often the only way patients with complex ailments can receive a semblance of care.

In Madaya, a year-long blockade enforced by a series of Hezbollah checkpoints, backed up by deadly minefields, has separated its 40,000 civilians from the rest of the country. The town hasn’t received a humanitarian-aid convoy since May, and only the most gravely injured or sick are allowed safe passage out. These evacuations require complex negotiations with rebels in other parts of Syria, in a high-stakes human trade.

This places a tremendous burden on the Madaya clinicians, the town’s two remaining full-time medical workers. Neither man has ever set foot in a medical school. The town’s most-skilled medical practitioner, a nurse with a background in anesthesiology, managed to escape last spring after receiving death threats.

But even the stifling siege can’t keep out wi-fi, which permeates the town thanks to a cluster of nearby cell-phone towers operated by Syriatel, the Syrian cellphone giant owned by Rami Makhlouf, President Bashar al-Assad’s cousin. In February 2016, a pulmonologist in Indiana who grew up outside Madaya realized he could use that wi-fi to smuggle medical advice past the blockade. During the winter of 2016, Madaya’s food stores emptied out. Dozens starved to death, and the health clinic swelled with malnourished patients. As the body count rose, the pulmonologist—a board member of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMs), a humanitarian organization staffed by Syrian American doctors—grew increasingly desperate to boost the capacity of the town’s small clinic.

“It was the only way I could think of to help,” the pulmonologist told me recently. SAMs runs similar telemedicine programs in other parts of Syria, but Madaya is one of the only besieged areas without any trained doctors. After the anesthesiologist nurse fled, he knew the clinic would need more help than he alone could provide.

In February, the pulmonologist wrote an SOS on his Facebook page (he’s shared the posting, but asked me not to make it public since it includes names of doctors who want to remain anonymous) asking Arabic-speaking doctors to join a WhatsApp chat room that would become Madaya Medical Consultants. Within 24 hours of posting the message, over two dozen doctors joined, he recalled. Not wanting to overcrowd the group, he eventually started turning people down.

The dental student remembered the first time the doctors in the WhatsApp group helped him make a diagnosis. The day after the pulmonologist introduced him to the group, a child, whose body was body swollen and misshapen, was brought into the clinic. One of the group’s pediatricians helped identify the patient’s ailment as kwashiorkor, a disease brought on by extreme protein deficiency. First identified during a famine in West Africa in 1935, its name comes from a Ghanaian term for a child whose mother does not have enough breast milk to feed it. To treat the condition, a pediatrician in Chicago helped devise a formula using vegetable proteins that accustoms children to a high-protein diet. “We were so thankful that these doctors from so far away would volunteer their time to help us,” the dental student said.

The five-year civil war has plunged the Madaya clinicians into the deep end, forcing them to perform medical procedures that push them far beyond their training. They have treated countless gunshot victims, performed seven amputations, over a dozen C-sections, and diagnosed everything from meningitis to cancer, they told me during multiple conversations over WhatsApp and Facebook. “I’ve learned as I go,” the dental student said when we chatted over Facebook in August. “God willing, I am able to help as many people as possible.”

But there are limits to what they can do. Every day, one member of the group, a Virginia-based internist, obsessively checks the WhatsApp group for new messages: at 4 a.m. when she wakes up to breastfeed her newborn daughter, or on her lunch break at her clinic. In recent weeks, she has been trying to help the Madaya clinicians diagnose a woman who suddenly lost her vision, without warning, and is experiencing hallucinations. If a patient walked into her clinic with those symptoms, the internist said, she would immediately order an MRI. But since there’s no MRI machine in Madaya, she and three other doctors have been working to diagnose the woman “empirically,” trying out different medications the clinic happens to have and seeing if they work.

In July, as the internist recovered from the birth of her second child, she helped the Madaya clinicians perform a C-section on a woman pregnant with twins. The veterinarian, fortunately, was comfortable making the incision. But he was unprepared for all the blood the mother would lose after giving birth to two babies. So the internist explained that the woman needed a transfusion. She advised the dental student to transfer two units of blood every 30 minutes—the gap between transfusions was critical, she explained, to allow time to observe whether the mother was having an allergic reaction to the blood.

The whole exchange took place in a series of rapid-fire text messages. Though the Madaya clinicians sometimes send photos or videos of their procedures, the town’s patchy cell-phone-enabled internet service can’t reliably stream videos, and only sometimes supports phone calls. In the end, the C-section was a success; the newborns and mother are healthy and back at home. Still, no amount of hands on experience—even crash courses in surgery and complex diagnostics—can substitute for formal training. “Sometimes, talking to those two is like speaking with a first-year medical student,” the internist said. “You never know what they will know or what will be new to them.”

Doctor Silvia Dallatomasina, the medical-operations manager for Doctors Without Borders’s Syria office, explained that almost everywhere across the country “the medical staff is young or inexperienced, out of their comfort zone.” That dynamic is supercharged in Madaya. “There’s no second clinic to fall back on. You can’t bring in a doctor from a neighboring community,” explained Valerie Szybala, the executive director of the Syrian Institute, a nonprofit that helps run Siege Watch, a project monitoring Syria’s besieged communities. “For patients, there is nowhere to go. It’s that clinic, or nothing.”

At times, the group does indeed resemble a classroom. For hours every day in the chat group, doctors and the Madaya clinicians discuss the merits of different antibiotics, or analyze the urine of a patient, or try to devise a workaround for a surgery. The orthopedic surgeon in Michigan recently taught the dental student how to perform minor hand surgery without general anesthetic by suppressing a nerve in the hand to temporarily numb a wounded finger. “We became more professional, more precise,” the dental student said. “In some ways, its been an academic experience, learning things I had no way of knowing before.”

“We thank God for the group,” the veterinarian told me at the end of a full-day shift at the clinic, via a WhatsApp audio message. “Without them, we would have more questions than answers.”

For many of the doctors in the WhatsApp group, the digital thread tethering them to Madaya has become an obsession. The pulmonologist described constantly looking at his phone, even while driving in traffic, to make sure the group is answering all the questions that come up. “I can’t let it go,” he said. “My soul is attached there.” The orthopedic surgeon said he checks the chat room “multiple times every day.” Before the WhatsApp group, he had to switch off the television whenever it showed images of the Syrian civil war, overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness. “I just shut my brain up. I didn’t want people even talking to me about it,” he said.

For the past five years, he has been in touch with his family in Aleppo, the northern province that’s become the center of the Syrian conflict in recent months. When his cousins talk about the horrors of life in a war zone, all he can say is “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” leaving him feeling “like a jackass,” he said. Though he has no personal connection to Madaya, the WhatsApp group has given him a feeling of concrete solidarity with those suffering in Syria.

Born and raised in Damascus, the internist hasn’t been able to return to her native Syria or see her parents in five years. The WhatsApp group, she said, offers her a “portal” back into her homeland, a rare opportunity to alleviate suffering. She still has fond childhood memories of Madaya: She and her sister used to drive there from Damascus to buy rare fruits smuggled into Syria from across the Lebanese border.

Remote medicine, of course, is not enough to keep Madaya healthy. Many of the conversations in the WhatsApp group fizzle out as the doctors realize the clinic doesn’t have the right medicine or equipment—or that the Madaya clinicians can’t perform the needed procedures, like brain surgery or a lumpectomy. At that point, the doctors will promise to pray for the patient, and the chat room goes silent. When asked if these dead ends discourage him, the pulmonologist paraphrased a verse from the Koran: “If we save one life, it is as if we are saving the whole of humanity.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/08/syria-madaya-doctors-whatsapp-facebook-surgery-assad/496958/


Joshua Neally had only been driving his Tesla Model X for a week when he found himself suffering a medical emergency.

Joshua Neally says he suffered a pulmonary embolism late last month while behind the wheel of the Tesla Model X, which features auto-driving technology, that he had purchased a week earlier.

“It was kinda getting scary. I called my wife and just said, ‘something’s wrong,’ and I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping, kind of hyperventilating,” the attorney from Springfield, Missouri, told KY3 News. “I just knew I had to get there, to the ER.”

Instead of pulling over to call 911 and wait for an ambulance, the 37-year-old father said he was able to direct his car to the nearest hospital.

Neally told Slate he doesn’t remember much after that. He said he’s fully aware, however, that the blockage in his lungs could have killed him or caused him to pass out behind the wheel.

Roughly one-third of people with an untreated or undiagnosed pulmonary embolism don’t survive, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Neally’s health scare occurred about three months after a Tesla driver in Florida was killed when his self-driving car crashed into a semi truck. The incident inspired a federal investigation into the company’s auto-piloting technology.

Neally knows about that accident, but is still grateful for his experience with the vehicle.

“It’s not going to be perfect, there’s no technology that’s perfect, but I think the measure is that it’s better and safer,” he said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tesla-drives-man-to-hospital_us_57a8aee8e4b0b770b1a38886

Thanks to Michael Lutter for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.