Researchers create pandemic-level H1N1 virus variant

In an effort to learn more about how viruses work and how to help design new vaccines, researchers used a natural selection type of process to create a virus based on H1N1, but one that would be resistant to vaccination.  The sort of thing that, if it escaped the labs, could likely create a global pandemic.  Yikes.  I really question this line of research…though what scares me more is the potential for the same techniques to be used by sinister minds.  Science is awesome…but we must maintain our respect for nature.

Read more about it here.

10 health tests guys should be getting

I came across a neat article at Care2 called “10 Health Tests Every Father Should Get.” (most of those tests would apply to women, too!).  It’s a nice little reminder that I need to start going to a doctor more regularly for checkups!  I’ve become more focused on monitoring my health with an activity tracker and wifi scale…these will be further data points to keep track of.

The 10 tests they recommend are (read the link above for details):

  1. Blood Pressure
  2. Diabetes
  3. Cholesterol
  4. Colorectal Cancer
  5. Prostate Cancer
  6. Vaccines
  7. Audiogram
  8. Eye Exam
  9. Lipid Profile
  10. Electrocardiogram

Which has me wondering about Apple’s forthcoming Health App.  In iOS8 (due this fall), they’ll be offering a way to track all sorts of health metrics, and share that information with your doctor.  It has the potential to be a great place to keep track of results from the tests mentioned above…I can’t wait to try it!

DEKA arm receives FDA approval

deka_armDean Kamen’s DEKA R&D Corporation has been working on an advanced prosthetic arm for many years, and has just received FDA approval.  Next step is to find a manufacturing partner, then they can bring this device to market and provide a level of functionality not before available to amputees.  This arm is controlled by electrodes placed on the remaining portion of a wearer’s arm, and translates those signals into actions in the arm, and is the first of its kind to be able to perform multiple simultaneous robotic actions.  It may sound mundane..but this arm has enough control to allow users to pick up even fragile objects like grapes and eggs without breaking them, giving their users enormous gains in ability.

Check out the video below from 60 minutes to get a better sense of what this arm is all about:

BGF – a possible safe alternative to BPA?

The alternatives to BPA in plastics (like BPS) are quite likely no better than BPA itself…but there’s a new substitute being developed which has the potential to truly offer a safe alternative.  Bisguaiacol-F, or BGF, is made from a byproduct of the paper making industry called lignin.  These lignin fragments are converted into a compound that has a similar shape as BPA (and thus predicted to have similar mechanical/thermal properties), but a different molecular structure to help ensure it doesn’t produce hormone-like responses in the body.  More work remains, so the soonest we’d see BGF on the market is in five years or so.  In the meantime, minimize the use of plastics in food and beverage storage and serving.

Read more about BGF at phys.org.

The risks of BPA-free plastic

After the BPA scare of a few years ago, consumers generally felt safe buying BPA-free plastic products.  Well, I first reported on the risks of this last year, and now a new study warns of the dangers of these alternatives to BPA.  The bottom line is that these new plastics pose similar risks as BPA (follow the link above, this one, and also this one for more information).  My recommendation is the same – minimize your use of plastics in your food chain.  Use stainless steel or glass where possible.  Avoid aluminum water bottles too, as those are usually lined with plastic.  Keep in mind that in the US at least, manufacturers aren’t required to demonstrate the safety of chemicals like these before they go on sale to the public.

New class of antibiotics discovered

There’s some good news in the fight against ever-evolving bacteria and the resistance they’re building to common antibiotics (the ‘post-antibiotic era‘ we’re entering).  Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have discovered a new class of antibiotics (called oxadiazoles) that is proving effective against MRSA.  Of course, who knows how long it’ll take for MRSA to adapt and develop resistance…but for now, it’s great news.

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