Health


Orlando International Airport to scan faces of US citizens

21st June 2018

Florida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there.

The expected announcement Thursday at Orlando International Airport alarms some privacy advocates who say there are no formal rules in place for handling data gleaned from the scans, nor formal guidelines on what should happen if a passenger is wrongly prevented from boarding.

Airports in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York and Washington already use face scans for some departing international flights, but they don’t involve all international travelers at the airports like the program’s expansion in Orlando would. The image from the face scan is compared to a Department of Homeland Security biometric database that has images of people who should be on the flight, in order to verify the traveler’s identity.

U.S. citizens at these airports can opt out, but the agency “doesn’t seem to be doing an adequate job letting Americans know they can opt out,” said Harrison Rudolph, an associate at the Center on Privacy & Technology at the Georgetown University Law Center.

U.S. citizens at the Orlando airport will be able to opt out just like at the other airports if they don’t want to provide their photograph, Jennifer Gabris, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in an email. However, a notice about a possible rule change for the program states that “U.S. citizens may be required to provide photographs upon entering or departing the United States.”

The Orlando announcement marks a step up in the scope of the face scan program, Rudolph said.

“We’re not talking about one gate,” he said. “We’re talking about every international departure gate, which is a huge expansion of the number of people who will be scanned. Errors tend to go up as uses go up.”

Orlando International Airport had about 6 million international passengers in the past year.

 

 

source/read more :https://apnews.com/eade4e6efbf442328b0e1eefabd98f05

 

Mosquitoes Might Like Your Smell, But They Remember Your Swat, Study Finds

20th June 2018

Many states, especially those in the South, often refer to the mosquito as their “state bird,” a dry joke making light of the high prevalence of the bothersome bug. Whether it’s fearing the itchy welt or worrying about contracting a virus, many of us go to extremes to keep the pests away. You might think that bug spray or citronella candles are the best repellants, but a recent study found that swatting at mosquitoes may actually help them learn to stay away from you.

The study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech, confirmed what scientists already suspected: that mosquitoes remember the taste and smell of human blood and often pick on individuals whose blood is “sweeter” to them. That’s why your friend had a slew of bug bites during that last camping trip, but you only emerged with just a few. But the finding changed when researchers observed their behavior around people who shooed them away more; that is, mosquitoes, may remember the smell of sweeter blood, but they also remember the defensive measures taken against them.

The authors found that the brain chemical dopamine plays a role in a mosquito learning which hosts to attack and which to avoid. So while a person’s blood can be remembered as particularly delicious, so can their ferocious swatting techniques.

Clément Vinauger, assistant professor of biochemistry, and Chloé Lahondère, a research assistant professor, demonstrated that mosquitoes learn which individuals to attack and which to leave alone with aversive learning. They trained female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to associate certain odors, such as human body odor, with unpleasant vibrations and shocks.

After the training, the mosquitoes were put into an insect flight simulator, where they had to fly upwind and choose between the human odor and a control odor. The mosquitoes, even though before the training they preferred human odor, avoided it in the test.

Using sophisticated tools like CRISPR gene editing and RNAi, the scientists were able to isolate dopamine as the main mediator in mosquito adverse learning.

“Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly what attracts a mosquito to a particular human — individuals are made up of unique molecular cocktails that include combinations of more than 400 chemicals,” explains Lahondère in a release. “However, we now know that mosquitoes are able to learn odors emitted by their host and avoid those that were more defensive.”

 

 

 

source/read morehttps://www.studyfinds.org/mosquitoes-remember-human-smells-swats-study-finds/

Agribusiness giants Bayer and Monsanto clear US regulatory hurdles for $US66b mega merger

18th June 2018

A multi-billion dollar merger between the agribusiness giants Bayer AG and Monsanto has been approved by the US Department of Justice.

It has been two years since the companies announced the $US66 billion ($88 billion) proposal, with the US anti-trust regulator’s approval the last major regulatory step the deal needed before being officially inked.

Both companies sell a range of crop protection products (pesticides) and crop seeds in Australia, while Bayer also manufactures plastics, medical and veterinary products.

Together the companies control around 80 per cent of the global vegetable seed market, with Australia holding around three per cent.

The original terms of the proposal would have created a monopoly in the US herbicide-resistant cotton and canola seed market, but on Tuesday night the US Justice Department said it had worked through those issues during its year-long investigation into the deal.

“The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Bayer AG to divest businesses and assets collectively worth approximately $9 billion in order to proceed with its proposed $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto Company,” it said in a statement.

It is the largest-ever divestiture ordered by the Department of Justice, and includes anything in Bayer’s suite of products that already competes directly with a Monsanto product, including canola, cotton, soybean and vegetable seeds, as well as Bayer’s herbicide business — a competitor of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide Roundup.

Bayer already announced it would sell many of these assets to BASF, a fellow German company, and the largest chemical company in the world.

There is also a requirement for divestitures in both companies’ seed treatment businesses to “remedy competitive harm” from the overlap.

“Without the agreed-to divestitures, the proposed merger would likely result in higher prices, lower quality, and fewer choices across a wide array of seed and crop protection products,” the Department of Justice’s statement said.

“The merger also threatened to stifle the innovation in agricultural technologies that has delivered significant benefits to American farmers and consumers.”

No local competition concern

Australian farmers rely on a wide range of products from both companies, especially broadacre, vegetable and cotton farmers.

Many of the seeds, seed treatment, and pesticide products they use are sold through one of the companies.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said in March it would not oppose the merger because of the divestments ordered by European, Canadian and US competition regulators.

 

 

 

source/read more : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-30/bayer-monsanto-merger-gets-green-light-from-us-regulator/9814702

This nation faces a DNA dilemma: Whether to notify people carrying cancer genes

18th June 2018

Sometime in the future, U.S. researchers will be able to press a button and reliably identify the thousands of people who carry cancer-causing genes, including those that trigger breast cancer.

In Iceland, that day is already here. With a relatively uniform population and extensive DNA databases, Iceland could easily pinpoint which of its people are predisposed to certain diseases, and notify them immediately. So far, the government has refused to do so. Why? Iceland confronts legal and ethical obstacles that have divided the nation and foreshadow what larger countries may soon face.

Since the late 1990s, tens of thousands of Icelanders have agreed to contribute their DNA to a public-private science projects aimed at delivering medical breakthroughs. But in contributing their DNA — and in many cases, their medical records — these people never explicitly consented to be notified of personal health risks that scientists might discover.

Icelandic regulators have determined that without that explicit consent, neither the government nor private industry can notify people of these risks.

“That is utter, thorough bulls–t,” Dr. Kári Stefánsson, a world-renowned Icelandic neurologist and biotech leader who has been at the center of the nation’s DNA debate, told McClatchy in an interview in his Reykjavík office. “There is a tradition in American society, there is a tradition in Icelandic society, to save people who are in life-threatening situations, without asking them for informed consent. Should there be a different rule if the danger is because of a mutated gene?”

In Iceland more than anywhere, the promises of technology and “personalized medicine” are clashing with concerns over privacy and medical norms. In the United States and elsewhere, scientists and doctors will soon have the capability to tell people about their predispositions to diseases. But at what age should they be told, and with what caveats? Should researchers only tell individuals about diseases that can be prevented — such as with a mastectomy — as opposed to those they can’t stop, such as Alzheimer’s? And what if people don’t want to know?

source: https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/article213014904.html

Google Is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die

18th June 2018

A woman with late-stage breast cancer came to a city hospital, fluids already flooding her lungs. She saw two doctors and got a radiology scan. The hospital’s computers read her vital signs and estimated a 9.3 percent chance she would die during her stay.

Then came Google’s turn. An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. She passed away in a matter of days.

The harrowing account of the unidentified woman’s death was published by Google in May in research highlighting the health-care potential of neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve. Google had created a tool that could forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die.

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.

Hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers have been trying for years to better use stockpiles of electronic health records and other patient data. More information shared and highlighted at the right time could save lives — and at the very least help medical workers spend less time on paperwork and more time on patient care. But current methods of mining health data are costly, cumbersome and time consuming.

As much as 80 percent of the time spent on today’s predictive models goes to the “scut work” of making the data presentable, said Nigam Shah, an associate professor at Stanford University, who co-authored Google’s research paper, published in the journal Nature. Google’s approach avoids this. “You can throw in the kitchen sink and not have to worry about it,” Shah said.

Google’s next step is moving this predictive system into clinics, AI chief Jeff Dean told Bloomberg News in May. Dean’s health research unit — sometimes referred to as Medical Brain — is working on a slew of AI tools that can predict symptoms and disease with a level of accuracy that is being met with hope as well as alarm.

Inside the company, there’s a lot of excitement about the initiative. “They’ve finally found a new application for AI that has commercial promise,” one Googler says. Since Alphabet Inc.’s Google declared itself an “AI-first” company in 2016, much of its work in this area has gone to improve existing internet services. The advances coming from the Medical Brain team give Google the chance to break into a brand new market — something co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have tried over and over again.

Software in health care is largely coded by hand these days. In contrast, Google’s approach, where machines learn to parse data on their own, “can just leapfrog everything else,” said Vik Bajaj, a former executive at Verily, an Alphabet health-care arm, and managing director of investment firm Foresite Capital. “They understand what problems are worth solving,” he said. “They’ve now done enough small experiments to know exactly what the fruitful directions are.”

Dean envisions the AI system steering doctors toward certain medications and diagnoses. Another Google researcher said existing models miss obvious medical events, including whether a patient had prior surgery. The person described existing hand-coded models as “an obvious, gigantic roadblock” in health care. The person asked not to be identified discussing work in progress.

For all the optimism over Google’s potential, harnessing AI to improve health-care outcomes remains a huge challenge. Other companies, notably IBM’s Watson unit, have tried to apply AI to medicine but have had limited success saving money and integrating the technology into reimbursement systems.

Google has long sought access to digital medical records, also with mixed results. For its recent research, the internet giant cut deals with the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Chicago for 46 billion pieces of anonymous patient data. Google’s AI system created predictive models for each hospital, not one that parses data across the two, a harder problem. A solution for all hospitals would be even more challenging. Google is working to secure new partners for access to more records.

A deeper dive into health would only add to the vast amounts of information Google already has on us. “Companies like Google and other tech giants are going to have a unique, almost monopolistic, ability to capitalize on all the data we generate,” said Andrew Burt, chief privacy officer for data company Immuta. He and pediatric oncologist Samuel Volchenboum wrote a recent column arguing governments should prevent this data from becoming “the province of only a few companies,” like in online advertising where Google reigns.

Google is treading carefully when it comes to patient information, particularly as public scrutiny over data-collection rises. Last year, British regulators slapped DeepMind, another Alphabet AI lab, for testing an app that analyzed public medical records without telling patients that their information would be used like this. With the latest study, Google and its hospital partners insist their data is anonymous, secure and used with patient permission. Volchenboum said the company may have a more difficult time maintaining that data rigor if it expands to smaller hospitals and health-care networks.

Still, Volchenboum believes these algorithms could save lives and money. He hopes health records will be mixed with a sea of other stats. Eventually, AI models could include information on local weather and traffic — other factors that influence patient outcomes. “It’s almost like the hospital is an organism,” he said.

Few companies are better poised to analyze this organism than Google. The company and its Alphabet cousin, Verily, are developing devices to track far more biological signals. Even if consumers don’t take up wearable health trackers en masse, Google has plenty of other data wells to tap. It knows the weather and traffic. Google’s Android phones track things like how people walk, valuable information for measuring mental decline and some other ailments. All that could be thrown into the medical algorithmic soup.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/2018/06/18/google-is-training-machines-to-predict-when-a-patient-will-die

Landmark lawsuit claims Monsanto hid cancer danger of weedkiller for decades

23rd May 2018

At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate.

On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the global seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.

Last week Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products. Karnow ruled that the trial will proceed and a jury would be allowed to consider possible punitive damages.

“The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” Karnow wrote. “Thus there are triable issues of material fact.”

Johnson’s case, filed in San Francisco county superior court in California, is at the forefront of a legal fight against Monsanto. Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Another case is scheduled for trial in October, in Monsanto’s home town of St Louis, Missouri.

The lawsuits challenge Monsanto’s position that its herbicides are proven safe and assert that the company has known about the dangers and hidden them from regulators and the public. The litigants cite an assortment of research studies indicating that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicides, a chemical called glyphosate, can lead to NHL and other ailments. They also cite research showing glyphosate formulations in its commercial-end products are more toxic than glyphosate alone. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015.

Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies” that revealed dangers of its herbicides, and led a “prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince government agencies, farmers and consumers that Roundup was safe, according to Johnson’s lawsuit.

“We look forward to exposing how Monsanto hid the risk of cancer and polluted the science,” said Michael Miller, Johnson’s attorney. “Monsanto does not want the truth about Roundup and cancer to become public.”

 

 

 

 

 

source/read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/22/monsanto-trial-cancer-weedkiller-roundup-dewayne-johnson?CMP=share_btn_fb&page=with%3Aimg-2#img-2

 

 

Warning about procedure that REANIMATES human brain after death

8th May 2018

Yale University scientists announced last month they had managed to successfully bring the brains of 100 slaughtered pigs back to life.

The reanimated brains were kept in this state for 36 hours before they died.

And the team said the same procedure will work on primates – humans closest animal ancestor.

They hope the process could be used to further the study of human organs when they are outside the body, which could lead to huge medical advances.

Although the pigs never actually regained consciousness, the team believe it could be possible to actually restore some level of awareness.

But leading academics have branded the procedure nightmarish, saying it raises all kinds of ethical dilemmas.

Benjamin Curtis, a Nottingham Trent ethics and philosophy lecturer, said if it was done on humans it would be a “living hell” for them.

He said: “Even if your conscious brain were kept alive after your body had died, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied brain in a bucket, locked away inside your own mind without access to the sense that allows us to experience and interact with the world.

“In the best case scenario, you would be spending your life with only your own thoughts for company.

“Some have argued that even with a fully functional body, immortality would be tedious. With absolutely no contact to external reality it might just be a living hell.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/700985/yale-experiment-brain-reanimated-pigs-life-after-death

Mobile phone cancer warning as malignant brain tumours double

3rd May 2018

resh fears have been raised over the role of mobile phones in brain cancer after new evidence revealed rates of a malignant type of tumour have doubled in the last two decades.

Charities and scientists have called on the Government to heed longstanding warnings about the dangers of radiation after a fresh analysis revealed a more “alarming” trend in cancers than previously thought.

However, the new study, published in the Journal of Public Health and Environment, has stoked controversy among scientists, with some experts saying the disease could be caused by other factors.

The research team set out to investigate the rise of an aggressive and often fatal type of brain tumour known as Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM).

They analysed 79,241 malignant brain tumours over 21 years, finding that cases of GBM in England have increased from around 1,250 a year in 1995 to just under 3,000.

The study is the first recent effort of its kind to analyse in detail the incidence of different types of malignant tumours.

The scientists at the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE) say the increase of GBM has till now been masked by the overall fall in incidence of other types of brain tumour.

Last night the group said the increasing rate of tumours in the frontal temporal lobe “raises the suspicion that mobile and cordless phone use may be promoting gliomas”.

Professor Denis Henshaw, scientific director of Children with Cancer UK, which is allied to PHIRE, said: “Our findings illustrate the need to look more carefully at, and to try and explain the mechanisms behind, these cancer trends, instead of brushing the causal factors under the carpet and focusing only on cures.”

 

 

Bayer wins EU approval for $62.5 billion Monsanto buy

2nd April 2018

German conglomerate Bayer won EU antitrust approval on Wednesday for its $62.5 billion buy of U.S. peer Monsanto, the latest in a trio of mega mergers that will reshape the agrochemicals industry.

The tie-up is set to create a company with control of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market.

Driven by shifting weather patterns, competition in grain exports and a faltering global farm economy, Dow and Dupont, and ChemChina and Syngenta had earlier led a wave of consolidation in the sector.

Both deals secured EU approval only after the companies offered substantial asset sales to boost rivals.

Environmental and farming groups have opposed all three deals, worried about their power and their advantage in digital farming data, which can tell farmers how and when to till, sow, spray, fertilize and pick crops based on algorithms.

The European Commission said Bayer addressed its concerns with its offer to sell a swathe of assets to boost rival BASF, confirming a Reuters story on Feb. 28.

“Our decision ensures that there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets also after this merger,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“In particular, we have made sure that the number of global players actively competing in these markets stays the same.”

Vestager said the Commission, which received more than a million petitions concerning the deal, had been thorough by examining more than 2,000 different product markets and 2.7 million internal documents to produce a 1,285-page ruling.

The U.S. Justice Department, which is also reviewing the merger, said in a statement on its website that it would press on with its review and that the market in the two regions was quite different.

“While genetically modified seeds are largely prohibited in Europe, they are widely used throughout the United States,” the department noted. “The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice continues to examine the effects of the proposed transaction on American farmers and consumers.”

China has given conditional approval to the Bayer and Monsanto deal, which has won a green light in Brazil. It is currently being reviewed by Russian antitrust authorities too.

Australia said on Thursday it would not oppose the deal following the divestment commitment.

Bayer has already reached a deal to sell certain seed and herbicide assets for 5.9 billion euros ($7.2 billion) to BASF and to give it a license to its global digital farming data. It will also divest its vegetable seeds business to BASF.

 

 

 

 

source/read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-monsanto-m-a-bayer-eu/bayer-wins-eu-approval-for-62-5-billion-monsanto-buy-idUSKBN1GX14U

Tooth-mounted sensors track what you eat

28th March 2018

You may soon be able to monitor everything you eat in real-time, digitally through a tooth-mounted sensor.  New miniaturized sensors were developed by researchers at the Tufts University School of Engineering.

The small device, made of three layers, would track everything you consume, including glucose, salt and alcohol.  It would then transmit the data wirelessly to a mobile device.

A study set to be published in the journal Advanced Materials explores how the sensors could work in the future.  Researchers they the devices may eventually be able to detect a wider range of nutrients, chemicals and physiological states.

“In theory we can modify the bioresponsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals – we are really limited only by our creativity,” said Tufts professor Fiorenzo Omenetto, Ph.D., one of the authors of the study.

 

 

 

source/read more: http://www.fox5ny.com/news/tooth-mounted-sensors-track-what-you-eat