Archive for the ‘Health care’ Category

Beyond The 6 Million Dollar Man – Nano Technology and the Future of the Human Race

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We are a strange creature, us humans.  Rather than wait around for natural selection to weed out a defective trait, we have learned to use our tool making abilities to fashion some bit of technology that will correct the defect.  Eyes aren’t working well?  No need to let that diminish your fitness, we’ll just make glasses and you’re good as new.  Irregular heartbeat?  We’ll make you a pacemaker and you’re back in business.

Thus far there has been little outcry about the ethical implications of glasses, pacemakers, prosthetics and other restorative technology.  Our species has, however, reached a new threshold.  Through advances in genetic engineering and nano technology, we are entering the territory of not mere human restoration, but human enhancement.  We have moved beyond short circuiting our evolution, and now have begun exploring designing the human of the future.

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Why Stop At 2 When You Could Have 3 Biological Parents?

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Researchers have produced human embryos containing DNA from three people, a biotechnological proof-of-principle with profound medical and ethical implications.
To accomplish this, chromosomes were taken from one zygote — the single cell formed when sperm and egg fuse — and put into a zygote stripped of its original chromosomes, but left with its original mitochondria, which provide each human cell with energy.
… Mitochondrial swapping might seem less controversial than regular genetic engineering, because it involves metabolism rather than obvious physical traits. “On the other hand, when embryo manipulations for heritable changes start being done, even with the best intentions, we’re on slippery ground,” said Darnovsky.
“I think this strategy for handling mitochondrial disease is fascinating, important and ethical, but it certainly crosses the line of engineering genes,” said Art Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics. “It’s a quiet intrusion, but it crosses a line that a lot of people said shouldn’t be crossed.”


Written by Aaron Nee

April 28, 2010 at 8:11 am

The Nothing That Really Does Cure Anything (almost)

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On a similar note to the previous post regarding homeopathy, here are some interesting resources on the mysterious and wonderful placebo effect.

In 2002, the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute published study results that revealed a surprising difference between the patients receiving a placebo and the patients on the medication being tested.  Of those receiving the actual medication, a little more than fifty percent experienced a reduction in their depression symptoms, while thirty eight percent of the placebo recipients also saw an improvement in their symptoms.  The surprising revelation in the study was the fact that those patients who responded to the placebo experienced improved brain activity in a region of the brain that none of the other patients experienced, whether they were on the medication or placebo.  In fact those on the actual medication experienced diminished activity in that region of the brain.

You can hear a brief report on the study here.

The full text of the study is also available.
Radio Lab did a show on placebos that, as always, was great.  If you listen to only one thing linked to on this post, it should be Radio Lab.

If you are not all placeboed out, then you may enjoy listening to the very interest, uncut interview between Richard Dawkins and Professor of Psychology, Nicholas Humphry, in which placebos are discussed in their conversation about alternative medicine.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Written by Aaron Nee

April 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm