£6.7 Million Compensation for NHS Medical Mistakes

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 7 » £6.7 Million Compensation for NHS Medical Mistakes£6.7 Million Compensation for NHS Medical MistakesA 12-year-old boy is to receive medical negligence compensation after errors by hospital staff left him with serious brain injuries.On a morning in September 2006, the child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was taken to St Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth with stomach pains.Staff at the hospital failed to spot that the child, who was aged four at the time, was displaying signs of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia.As a result, he did not get the required treatment on time and he suffered a cardiac arrest, which led to him experiencing significant brain damage and serious disabilities.The boy’s family therefore took legal action against Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, the organisation that runs St Mary’s Hospital.A medical negligence compensation settlement in the amount of £6.7 million has now been agreed. This compensation will be used to fund the child’s extensive and long-term care needs, such as round-the-clock assistance and specialist technology to enable him to communicate.The boy will receive £3.2 million compensation in a lump sum up front, while he will be paid £265,000 compensation every year until he is 18. The compensation payments will then rise to £305,000 per annum for the rest of his life.Hospital Trust ApologisesPortsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has issued a formal apology to the boy and his family for the medical mistakes that were made at St Mary’s Hospital eight years ago. A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed that since liability was resolved in 2012, each party has been working together to agree a suitable compensation package.This was designed with the intention of both compensating the boy and his parents and providing them with adequate financial security for the future.The spokesperson said, “The Trust can confirm that a medical negligence compensation settlement has been reached in this case and that this has been approved by the Court. The Trust wishes them well.”Doctors ‘Should Have Listened’Speaking after the compensation settlement was agreed, the boy’s parents said that doctors should have listened to the concerns they had raised about the condition of their son.In a statement, they insisted that if this had been done, this “tragic” event “would have been easily avoided”. The parents have therefore urged other mothers and fathers to trust their instincts if their child is not well.”If you believe that something is wrong, then insist that action is taken by the doctors,” they commented. “Nothing will ever make up for the life that has been taken away from him.”The boy’s parents said their son’s life has been “completely ruined”, as his condition means he will miss out on a whole host of experiences. For instance, they stated that he will never be able to play on a beach, kick a football around with his friends, or attend his school prom.The parents went on to note that their son and his “enormous daily battle” have proved to be a source of inspiration to everybody that knows or has met him.”This is an absolute tragedy caused by medical mistakes that should never have happened,” they added.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Nous sommes les freebirthers by Stéphanie St-Amant

I’m up at 3 am with either food poisoning or a stomach bug…nothing better to do than hop online and distract myself.At Eric’s family reunion 2 years ago, I remember the exact same thing happening…mysterious gastro-intestinal malady, middle-of-the-night websurfing, puke bowl next to me on the couch. And unbeknownst to me, I was also pregnant!I don’t think that’s the case this time around, unless my Mirena IUD has failed me. This can happen, although it’s rare. A friend of mine and mother of 8 has gotten pregnant once on birth control and TWICE on IUDs! Both times the IUD came out with the baby.Anyway…I came across a fantastic article by Stéphanie St-Amant: Nous sommes les freebirthers. Enfanter sans peur …

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What Does a Judge do in a Personal Injury Case Trial?

The lawsuit process can be intimidating. When you’re injured and are considering filing a lawsuit, it’s hard to know where to begin. Even after hiring a lawyer and getting started, the process can be hard to figure out. What do you have to do? What does your lawyer do? What happens at trial? What happens between now and then?To help you understand the lawsuit process, let’s look at a one specific piece of the personal injury process: the judge’s role. Specifically, let’s look at what the judge will and won’t do if your case goes to trial.Judges, Cases and the LawIn a personal injury case, the judge serves as a trier of law. The trier of law is responsible for making a ruling over the legal issues brought up during the course of the trial.For example, a woman sues the driver of the car that struck her while she was riding a bike. Because the injured woman filed a lawsuit, it is up to her to prove that the other driver was at fault. …

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Car Crashes and Your Insurance Company

Drivers involved in car crashes often worry about what will happen to their insurance rates. There are millions of car accidents every year, most of which involve insured drivers, and each case is different. To understand what might happen to your policy if you are involved in the crash, you have to look at several different factors.The ClaimWhenever you are involved in a car accident that results in damage to a vehicle or an injury to a person, insurance companies are usually involved. When you are involved in an accident, one of the first things you typically have to do after making sure everyone is safe and collecting all the relevant information, is to call your insurance company. After calling the company you inform the agent or representative about what happened and that representative will assign your case a claim number. The company will then assign a claims agent or investigator to the case to begin an investigation.After the insurance company investigates the claim, reviews the coverage details, and determines who is at fault, it will then, typically, make a payment on the claim. This money is designed to bring you, or the other driver, back to the condition you were in before the crash. For example, if you are in a crash where the other driver was at fault and caused your car $1,500 in damage, the other driver’s insurance company will pay you $1,500 to repair your vehicle.The AftermathOnce the claim has been settled, drivers will then have to deal with the aftermath. Even though no two accidents are identical, here is what can happen.Your rates go up. You expected this one. …

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Learn More about Wrongful Death

A death caused by the negligent or unjust actions of another individual is referred to as a wrongful death. While all deaths are devastating to the family and friends of the deceased, wrongful deaths can be exceptionally traumatic due to the fact that they could have been prevented. A variety of accidents and intentional harms can lead to the wrongful death of others, including car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workplace negligence, and even acts of violence or murder. When the numbers are added up, it is clear to see how unfortunately common wrongful deaths can be.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 37,000 prescription drug-related fatalities occurred in 2009. The Department of Transportation reports that for the same year, 33,883 traffic accident fatalities occurred. Workplace accidents also contribute significantly, with over 4,500 accident-related fatalities reported in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that approximately 225,000 individuals die each year as a result of medical malpractice.When an individual suffers a wrongful death, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate is allowed under law to bring forth a civil case against the individual (or individuals) who were either partially or fully responsible for the death. In order to be successful, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was either negligent, acted with intent to cause harm, or was strictly to blame regardless of any fault attached to their actions (or failure to take action).Each state has its own wrongful death statutes that define time limits within which a wrongful death suit can be filed, and which often place specific regulations on the damages that can be pursued for individual types of accidents. In the aftermath of an unexpected and tragic death, bereaved family and friends are distraught, angry, and often in shock at what has transpired to their loved one. The complexity and individualistic nature of wrongful death laws and lawsuits underscore the importance just how important it is for grieving families to secure the help of a qualified attorney. …

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Contractor Fined after Worker Crushed by Steelwork

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Contractor Fined after Worker Crushed by SteelworkContractor Fined after Worker Crushed by SteelworkHCL Equipment Contracts has been fined in Court after serious safety failings were found to have contributed to an industrial accident.Serious injuriesThe case involved an unnamed 39-year-old man from Barnsley who was crushed under the weight of a collapsed steel framework.Leicester Magistrates’ Court heard that the employee, who was working with a colleague to cut steelwork into pieces, before dropping them into a frame, suffered “serious crush injuries” because of his employer’s neglect.Both of the men who worked on the cutting project wore harnesses and lanyards that were not suitable for the job they were doing, something that put them at risk of harm. After cleaning various parts of the structure they were dismantling, the men began to work on a standing conveyor.The duo aimed to weaken the component so that it would fall onto the platform they were standing on to make their job easier, but as the 39-year-old was finishing a cut the conveyor dropped to the floor earlier than had been expected.CrushedThe 380 kg object struck the man directly and fractured his sternum, broke two vertebrae, fractured eight ribs, broke a number of teeth and caused deep cuts in his skull that needed 58 stitches.Health and Safety Executive (HSE) bosses immediately sent inspectors to HCL Equipment Contracts after hearing about the accident in order to ascertain the facts of the case.Investigations at the site revealed widespread poor practice, including a lack of proper escape routes, as well as serious failings in the processes involved in scrapping large metal frameworks.For its part in the unnamed worker’s accident, HCL Equipment Contracts was given a large fine totalling £10,000 and told to pay £491 in costs after executives pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.”It could have been avoided”After the hearing at Leicester Magistrates’ Court finished, HSE inspector Tony Mitchell said, “HCL Equipment Contracts Limited was responsible for the welfare of its workers and for ensuring the dismantling work was carried out in a safe manner.”Our investigation found that if this work had been properly planned and risk assessed, and sufficient training given, it could have been avoided.”Tata SteelHCL Equipment Contracts is not the only steelworks company to have been fined by the HSE in recent months.In January, Tata Steel, an Indian manufacturing giant with a plant in south Wales, was fined £25,000 and told to pay £8,320 in costs after it pleaded guilty to three separate breaches of health and safety legislation.The case involved an employee, who had worked at the plant for 34 years, whose hand became trapped in a pair of steel pinch rolls, leading to serious crush injuries and the amputation of half of his index finger and part of his middle finger.HSE inspector Steve Lewis said, “This was a completely needless and entirely preventable incident that left an employee with a permanent impairment.”By Chris StevensonOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Drug Abuse Among Unsuspecting Professionals

Addiction does not discriminate and our drug and alcohol programs here at Harmony reflect this fact well – with programs for young adults, men and women in all stages of life.The need for more addiction rehabs to focus on professionals in their programs has been highlighted in the news recently with professionals under fire for drug abuse. Last week, a high school IT teacher in England was sentenced to over 3 years in jail and permanently banned from teaching after being caught with more than 100 grams of cocaine in a narcotics lab in his home.His sentencing came after an investigation found that he was involved in high-level supply of cocaine leading to his arrest in 2012. At first the teacher denied being a distributor and said …

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Tropical grassy ecosystems under threat, scientists warn

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that tropical grassy areas, which play a critical role in the world’s ecology, are under threat as a result of ineffective management.According to research, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, they are often misclassified and this leads to degradation of the land which has a detrimental effect on the plants and animals that are indigenous to these areas.Greater area than tropical rain forestsTropical grassy areas cover a greater area than tropical rain forests, support about one fifth of the world’s population and are critically important to global carbon and energy cycles, and yet do not attract the interest levels that tropical rainforests do.They are characterised by a continuous grass understorey, widespread shade-intolerant plants and the prevalence of fire, which all generate a unique and complex set of ecological processes and interactions not found in other habitats.Dr Kate Parr, from the School of Environmental Sciences, said: “The distinctive evolutionary histories and biodiversity values of these areas needs to be recognised by conservation managers and policy makers.”Whilst it is generally assumed that ‘more trees are better’ in tropical rainforest this is not necessarily the case for tropical grassy ecosystems and so the outcomes of global carbon and conservation initiatives, which include the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and its Reducing Emissions and Deforestation Forest Degradation schemes, need to be better considered when they are applied to tropical grasslands.”Any changes to the balance between human livelihoods and ecosystem function would have an impact on the use of land, the availability of resources and would affect the way the land functions including its climate.”The vast extent of tropical grasslands and the reliance of human welfare on them means that they deserve far more research and conservation attention than they currently receive.”Grazing, fuel and foodApproximately 20% of the world’s population depend on these areas of land for their livelihoods including their use for grazing, fuel and food. They also store about 15% of the world’s carbon.Tropical grassy ecosystems are associated with savannas and upland grasslands in Africa and savanna-type grasslands in India, Australia, and South America, representing diverse lands from open grassland through to densely canopied savanna.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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New wireless network to revolutionize soil testing

A University of Southampton researcher has helped to develop a wireless network of sensors that is set to revolutionize soil-based salinity measuring.Dr Nick Harris, from Electronics and Electrical Engineering, worked with a group of professors from the University of Western Australia (UWA) to produce the revolutionary sensor that can carry out non-destructive testing of soil samples.The sensor is capable of measuring the chloride (salt) in the soil moisture and linking up with other sensors to create a wireless network that can collate and relay the measurement readings. The network can also control the time intervals at which measurements are taken.The sensor is placed in the soil and measures the chloride levels in the soil moisture in a non-destructive way. These chloride levels make up a high proportion of the overall soil salinity.Dr Harris says: “Traditionally, soil-based measurements involve taking samples and transporting them to the laboratory for analysis. This is very labor and cost intensive and therefore it usually means spot checks only with samples being taken every two to three months. It also doesn’t differentiate between chloride in crystallized form and chloride in dissolved form. This can be an important difference as plants only ‘see’ chloride in the soil moisture.”The removal of a soil sample from its natural environment also means that the same sample can only be measured once, so the traditional (destructive) method is not suited to measuring changes at a point over a period of time..”The new sensors are connected to a small unit and can be ‘planted’ in the ground and left to their own devices. The limiting factor for lifetime is usually the sensor. However, these sensors are expected to have a lifetime in excess of one year. The battery-powered unit can transmit data and information by short range radio, Bluetooth, satellite or mobile phone network, as well as allowing data to be logged to a memory card to be collected later.The novel device allows up to seven sensors to be connected at a time to a single transmitter allowing multi-point measurements to be simply taken.Dr Harris adds: “These soil-based chloride sensors can benefit a wide range of applications. Large parts of the world have problems with salt causing agricultural land to be unusable, but the new sensors allow the level of salt to be measured in real time, rather than once every few months as was previously the case.”At plant level, probes can be positioned at continuous levels of depth to determine the salt concentration to which roots are exposed and whether this concentration changes with the depth of the soil or in different weather conditions. …

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Look back at US soybeans shows genetic improvement behind increased yields

Soybean improvement through plant breeding has been critical over the years for the success of the crop. In a new study that traces the genetic changes in varieties over the last 80 years of soybean breeding, researchers concluded that increases in yield gains and an increased rate of gains over the years are largely due to the continual release of greater-yielding cultivars by breeders.”This research in some ways looks back and informs us how soybean varieties have changed. It’s useful to document these traits and changes,” said Brian Diers, a University of Illinois plant breeder and researcher on the study. “We can show that we really have been successful at increasing yield.”But this study is also about the future of the soybean crop.”The study has actually created quite a lot of interest among soybean breeders because they want to understand what’s happened, and when we look at physiological traits, we can see what has been changed. This gives us clues about what traits we should focus on in breeding for future increases based what has been inadvertently changed over time as we have selected for yield,” he said.Diers and a multi-institutional team of researchers evaluated historic sets of 60 maturity group (MG) II, 59 MG III, and 49 MG IV soybean varieties, released from 1923 to 2008, in field trials conducted in 17 states and one Canadian province during 2010 to 2011.The experiments included plant introductions (PIs) and public cultivars obtained from the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection housed at the National Soybean Research Center at the U of I, as well as from varieties provided by Monsanto, Pioneer, and Syngenta.In the process of documenting the genetic changes, the researchers observed an increase in yields over the past 80 years that is equivalent to one-third of a bushel per acre per year increase.Diers said that the researchers estimated that about two-thirds of the yield increases in farmer’s fields are due to new varieties that breeders have introduced with the other third due to other reasons such as improved agronomic practices.”When we compare old varieties to new varieties, the new varieties do yield much better than the old varieties. When we look at the data more closely, the yield increases have actually accelerated starting in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s different for each maturity group, but current yield increases are greater than they were earlier,” Diers said.This research also showed that when compared to old varieties, plants in the new varieties are shorter in height, mature later, lodge less, and have seeds with less protein and greater oil concentration.”The new varieties tend to mature later within these maturity groups, which is something that theoretically shouldn’t happen because we classify these varieties based on when they mature. So theoretically MG II varieties should mature at the same time now as one back in the 1970s, but this is not the case,” Diers said. “Probably over time, people have been selecting varieties that are a little bit later and later, and these changes have accumulated. In some ways, it’s not a bad thing, because farmers are planting earlier than they did back in the 1970s so they actually need varieties that will mature later than back then. …

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Will your grandmother’s diet increase your risk of colon cancer?

Will a multi-generational exposure to a western type diet increase offspring’s chance of developing colon cancer? Will cancer-fighting agents, like green tea, help combat that increased risk?Those are the two questions Abby Benninghoff, an assistant professor in Utah State University’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, will attempt to answer thanks to a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”Simply put, if your grandmother ate a poor diet, will green tea be beneficial for you or not,” Benninghoff said.Benninghoff and her two collaborators, Korry Hintze and Robert Ward, both associate professors of nutrition, dietetics and food sciences, have developed a diet that mimics typical U.S. nutrition for studies of human cancer using animal models. In this case, rodents with cancer will be studied, which will allow Benninghoff to look at the effects of the diet on multiple generations in a short period of time.Benninghoff, predicts that green tea will have a greater benefit to those mice that are exposed to the western diet than those on a healthy diet. She also believes that the more generations exposed to the western diet, the greater the risk of colon cancer in the offspring.”In the end, what we’re hoping is to be able to determine if there are certain populations that would benefit from a diet modification, an increase consumption of green tea,” Benninghoff said. She also hopes the consequences of this diet will be better understood for the benefit of future generations.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Utah State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Zebrafish discovery may shed light on human kidney function

Researchers say the discovery of how sodium ions pass through the gill of a zebrafish may be a clue to understanding a key function in the human kidney. The findings from a collaboration between Mayo Clinic and the Tokyo Institute of Technology appear in the online issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.The researchers discovered a protein responsible for gas exchanges in the fish gill structure. Specifically they studied and characterized the Na+/H+ (sodium/hydrogen) exchanger named NHE3, responsible for controlling sodium and hydrogen ions across the gill. The researchers also directly demonstrated that NHE3 can function as a Na+/NH4+ (sodium/ammonium) exchanger.”This is significant because the fish tends to mimic the process in humans,” says Michael Romero, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic physiologist who works in nephrology. “This is the true beauty of comparative physiology– a lot of the organs function by very similar processes, down to ionic transfer.”In this case the protein allows the sodium ions to be absorbed from the forming urine while at the same time discarding waste from normally functioning cells, thus keeping the body in balance and serving as an energy saving system. The researchers say the same NHE3 protein performs a similar function in the intestine, pancreas, liver, lungs and reproductive system.The gill is used in the fish as a transport system: sodium ions are nutrients and ammonium carries away waste. It’s a key process allowing zebrafish to extract sodium ions from fresh water. In humans, NHE3 is involved in the acid-waste control system in the kidney, but there hasn’t been a good analysis of that process in humans. Part of this acid-control process in the human kidney is “ammoniagenesis” which requires the initial part of the kidney tubule (proximal tubule) to export ammonia/ammonium. Physiologically, it has been assumed that NHE3 can perform a Na+/NH4+ exchange, but this has never been experimentally demonstrated.Ammoniagenesis and increased renal sodium bicarbonate absorption are partly under the control of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), which means that this work enhances understanding of human hypertension. …

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Breast cancer drug found in bodybuilding supplement

In a letter to The BMJ this week, researchers explain that, for more than 30 years, bodybuilders have taken tamoxifen to prevent and treat gynaecomastia (breast swelling) caused by use of anabolic steroids.Usually, tamoxifen is sourced from the illicit market, they say. However, bodybuilding discussion forums have speculated that a dietary supplement called Esto Suppress contains tamoxifen because the label listed one of its chemical names.The researchers purchased four samples at different times between late 2011 and early 2012 and analysed their contents. Tamoxifen was found in three out of the four samples at different concentrations (3.8 mg, 0.9 mg and 3 mg).The product label suggested a dosage of two capsules a day, which in the case of sample 1 may have provided 7.6 mg of tamoxifen (10-20 mg is used clinically for treating gynaecomastia).It is not known whether the Esto Suppress currently being sold still contains tamoxifen, but since the 2000s a growing number of off-the-shelf “food,” “herbal,” or “dietary” “supplements” — aimed at gym goers and people wanting to lose weight or enhance their sex lives — have contained pharmacologically active substances, explain the authors.These include anabolic steroids, erectogenics (to stimulate erections), stimulants, appetite suppressants, and anxiolytics (to treat anxiety).Often the substances are not listed on the labelling, and products may be marketed as “natural,” exploiting the belief that they are safer and healthier options, they add. In other cases, such as with Esto Suppress, only an obscure reference is made to the substance, such as a chemical name.They warn that most users “will be unaware that they are taking these substances” and urge healthcare professionals to ask their patients about their use of “supplements” and report suspected adverse reactions.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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With their amazing necks, ants don’t need ‘high hopes’ to do heavy lifting

High hopes may help move a rubber tree plant (as the old song goes), but the real secret to the ant’s legendary strength may lie in its tiny neck joint.In the Journal of Biomechanics, researchers report that the neck joint of a common American field ant can withstand pressures up to 5,000 times the ant’s weight.”Ants are impressive mechanical systems — astounding, really,” said Carlos Castro, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University. “Before we started, we made a somewhat conservative estimate that they might withstand 1,000 times their weight, and it turned out to be much more.”The engineers are studying whether similar joints might enable future robots to mimic the ant’s weight-lifting ability on earth and in space.Other researchers have long observed ants in the field and guessed that they could hoist a hundred times their body weight or more, judging by the payload of leaves or prey that they carried. Castro and his colleagues took a different approach.They took the ants apart.”As you would in any engineering system, if you want to understand how something works, you take it apart,” he said. “That may sound kind of cruel in this case, but we did anesthetize them first.”The engineers examined the Allegheny mound ant (Formica exsectoides) as if it were a device that they wanted to reverse-engineer: they tested its moving parts and the materials it is made of.They chose this particular species because it’s common in the eastern United States and could easily be obtained from the university insectary. It’s an average field ant that is not particularly known for it’s lifting ability.They imaged ants with electron microscopy and X-rayed them with micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) machines. They placed the ants in a refrigerator to anesthetize them, then glued them face-down in a specially designed centrifuge to measure the force necessary to deform the neck and eventually rupture the head from the body.The centrifuge worked on the same principle as a common carnival ride called “the rotor.” In the rotor, a circular room spins until centrifugal force pins people to the wall and the floor drops out. In the case of the ants, their heads were glued in place on the floor of the centrifuge, so that as it spun, the ants’ bodies would be pulled outward until their necks ruptured.The centrifuge spun up to hundreds of rotations per second, each increase in speed exerting more outward force on the ant. At forces corresponding to 350 times the ants’ body weight, the neck joint began to stretch and the body lengthened. The ants’ necks ruptured at forces of 3,400-5,000 times their average body weight.Micro-CT scans revealed the soft tissue structure of the neck and its connection to the hard exoskeleton of the head and body. Electron microscopy images revealed that each part of the head-neck-chest joint was covered in a different texture, with structures that looked like bumps or hairs extending from different locations.”Other insects have similar micro-scale structures, and we think that they might play some kind of mechanical role,” Castro said. …

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Beta blockers and perioperative care: EHJ editorial addresses controversy

Since the end of 2011 when the scientific work of Professor Don Poldermans was first scrutinized there has been controversy in the medical world about the use of beta blockers in perioperative care.The recent publication — and retraction for proper peer reviewing and revision — in the European Heart Journal (EHJ) of a paper by Professors Cole and Francis from Imperial College, questioning whether beta blockers in perioperative care could lead to a mortality increase brought the topic back into the public eye.The EHJ has published an editorial today addressing these questions.In the editorial, Professors Thomas Lscher, Bernard Gersh, Ulf Landmesser and Frank Ruschitzka highlight, among other points, that jumping to conclusions may be particularly dangerous for both physicians and patients. In this respect, they pointed out that:The meta analysis is mainly driven by the POISE trial that used very high dosages of metoprolol immediately before surgery with further uptitration, which is not recommended by the ESC Guidelines Different dosing and starting time of betablockade before surgery may importantly determine outcome A registry published in 2013 in JAMA supports the use of perioperative blockade, at least in non-vascular surgery Until today, only one of Prof Poldermans’ manuscripts has been retracted, so the validity of his large beta blocker DECREASE trial published in the NEJM remains uncertain (3) A proper clinical trial is needed in order to assess whether the use of beta blockers starting at a low dose several days before surgery — as has been recommended by the ESC Guidelines of 2009 — might be beneficial or harmful The ESC Task Force led by Professors Steen Dalby Kristensen and Juhani Knuuti, is carefully revising all existing evidence and will present a new version of the ESC Guidelines on “Pre-operative Cardiac Risk Assessment and Perioperative Cardiac Management in Non-Cardiac Surgery” by this summer. These will try to answer two major issues: 1 Should beta blockers be continued in patients scheduled for surgery who are already on them? 2 Should beta blockers be started in patient undergoing surgery who have never received them previously? Whether beta blockers in perioperative care are protective, safe or harmful continues to be a subject of debate. The new ESC Guidelines will try to clarify some of the controversial issues. As stated jointly by ACC/AHA/ESC (4), in the meantime, the current position is that “the initiation of beta blockers in patients who will undergo non-cardiac surgery should not be considered routine, but should be considered carefully by each patient’s treating physician on a case-by-case basis.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by European Society of Cardiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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‘Friendly’ robots could allow for more realistic human-android relationships

Two ‘friendly’ robots, including a 3D-printed humanistic android, are helping scientists to understand how more realistic long-term relationships might be developed between humans and androids.ERWIN (Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network) is the brainchild of Dr John Murray, from the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln, UK. It is now being used as part of a PhD study to find out how some of the human-like thought biases in robot characteristics affect the human-robot relationship.It is hoped the research will not only help scientists to understand and develop better, more realistic relationships between humans and ‘companion’ robots, but that it could also help to inform how relationships are formed by children with autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder.PhD student Mriganka Biswas said: “Cognitive biases make humans what they are, fashioning characteristics and personality, complete with errors and imperfections. Therefore, introducing cognitive biases in a robot’s characteristics makes the robot imperfect by nature, but also more human-like.”Based on human interactions and relationships, we will introduce ‘characteristics’ and ‘personalities’ to the robot. If we can explain how human-to-human long-term relationships begin and develop, then it would be easier to plan the human-robot relationship.”When two people interact for the first time, if the two different personalities attract each other, a relationship forms. But, in the case of conventional human-robot interaction, after gathering information about the robot, the robot’s lack of identifiable characteristics and personality prevents any relationship bond developing.ERWIN has the ability to express five basic emotions while interacting with a human.Mriganka said: “Robots are increasingly being used in different fields, such as rescuing people from debris, in medical surgeries, elderly support and as an aid for people who have autism.”For the latter two especially, robots need to be friendly and relatively more sympathetic and emotive to its users. A companion robot needs to be friendly and have the ability to recognize users’ emotions and needs, and to act accordingly. So, for each category the robot needs to form a ‘long-term’ relationship with its users, which is possible by continuous interactions and the robot having its own personality and characteristics.”Scientists will be collating data from the robot’s interactions with humans, while also employing a 3D-printed humanoid robot and Keepon — a small yellow robot designed to study social development by interacting with children.Its simple appearance and behaviour are intended to help children, particularly those with developmental disorders such as autism, to understand its attentive and emotive actions.The ‘non-emotive’ Keepon will be used in the research project to study the different reactions people have to it compared to the emotive ERWIN. The aim is to discover which is most effective in engaging with participants, and whether those interactions are long or short-term.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Lincoln. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Prototype of single ion heat engine created

Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg are working on a heat engine that consists of just a single ion. Such a nano-heat engine could be far more efficient than, for example, a car engine or a coal-fired power plant. A usual heat engine transforms heat into utilizable mechanical energy with the corresponding efficiency of an Otto engine amounting to only about 25 percent, for instance. The proposed nano-heat engine consisting of a single calcium ion would be much more efficient. The main aim of the research being conducted is to better understand how thermodynamics works on very small scales. A pilot prototype of such a single-ion heat engine is currently being constructed at Mainz University.As the physicists explain in an article recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the efficiency of heat engines powered by thermal heat reservoirs is determined by the second law of thermodynamics, one of the fundamental concepts in physics. It was as far back as 1824 that Frenchman Nicolas Carnot calculated the maximum possible efficiency limit of such engines, now known as the Carnot limit. In the case of the newly proposed nano-heat engine, the scientists have been theoretically able to exceed the classic Carnot limit by manipulating the heat baths and exploiting nonequlibrium states.Calculations and simulations made about a year ago showed for the first time that the thermo-dynamic flow in an internal combustion engine could be reproduced using individual ions. The idea was to use a calcium 40 ion, which has a diameter a million times smaller than that of a human hair, for this purpose. “Individual ions can basically act as the piston and drive shaft or, in other words, represent the entire engine,” explained Johannes Ronagel of the Quantum, Atomic, and Neutron Physics (QUANTUM) work group of the JGU Institute of Physics. …

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Researchers discover how brain regions work together, or alone

Stanford researchers may have solved a riddle about the inner workings of the brain, which consists of billions of neurons, organized into many different regions, with each region primarily responsible for different tasks.The various regions of the brain often work independently, relying on the neurons inside that region to do their work. At other times, however, two regions must cooperate to accomplish the task at hand.The riddle is this: what mechanism allows two brain regions to communicate when they need to cooperate yet avoid interfering with one another when they must work alone?In a paper published today in Nature Neuroscience, a team led by Stanford electrical engineering professor Krishna Shenoy reveals a previously unknown process that helps two brain regions cooperate when joint action is required to perform a task.”This is among the first mechanisms reported in the literature for letting brain areas process information continuously but only communicate what they need to,” said Matthew T. Kaufman, who was a postdoctoral scholar in the Shenoy lab when he co-authored the paper.Kaufman initially designed his experiments to study how preparation helps the brain make fast and accurate movements — something that is central to the Shenoy lab’s efforts to build prosthetic devices controlled by the brain.But the Stanford researchers used a new approach to examine their data that yielded some findings that were broader than arm movements.The Shenoy lab has been a pioneer in analyzing how large numbers of neurons function as a unit. As they applied these new techniques to study arm movements, the researchers discovered a way that different regions of the brain keep results localized or broadcast signals to recruit other regions as needed.”Our neurons are always firing, and they’re always connected,” explained Kaufman, who is now pursuing brain research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. “So it’s important to control what signals are communicated from one area to the next.”Experimental designThe scientists derived their findings by studying monkeys that had been trained to make precise arm movements. The monkeys were taught to pause briefly before making the reach, thus letting their brain prepare for a moment before moving.Remember, the goal was to help build brain-controlled prostheses. Because the neurons in the brain always send out signals, engineers must be able to differentiate the command to act from the signals that accompany preparation.To understand how this worked with the monkey’s arm, the scientists took electrical readings at three places during the experiments: from the arm muscles, and from each of two motor cortical regions in the brain known to control arm movements.The muscle readings enabled the scientists to ascertain what sorts of signals the arm receives during the preparatory state compared with the action step.The brain readings were more complex. Two regions control arm movements. They are located near the top center of the brain, an inch to the side.Each of the two regions is made up of more than 20 million neurons. The scientists wanted to understand the behavior of both regions, but they couldn’t probe millions of neurons. …

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A simple new way to induce pluripotency: Acid

An unusual reprogramming phenomenon by which the fate of somatic cells can be drastically altered through changes to the external environment is described in two papers in this week’s Nature.Postnatal somatic cells committed to a specific lineage are shown to be converted into a pluripotent state (capable of differentiating into nearly all cell types) when exposed to an environmental stress, in this case short exposure to low pH. This reprogramming process does not need nuclear manipulation or the introduction of transcription factors — thought to be necessary to induce pluripotency — so the work may have important implications for regenerative medicine.Reprogramming in response to environmental stress has been observed in plants, whereby mature cells can become immature cells capable of forming a whole new plant structure, including roots and stalks. Whether animal cells have a similar potential has been a challenging question, but one that Haruko Obokata and co-authors have addressed. They demonstrate that mammalian somatic cells can be reprogrammed when stressed by low-pH conditions, and call the phenomenon stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP).So-called STAP cells have some characteristics that resemble embryonic stem cells, but the STAP cells only have a limited capacity for self-renewal. In a second paper, Obokata and colleagues investigate the nature of STAP cells and suggest that they represent a unique state of pluripotency. The researchers also demonstrate that under pluripotent stem-cell culture conditions STAP cells can be transformed into robustly self-renewing stem cells, similar to embryonic stem cells.Together, these findings reveal that cells in the body have the potential to become pluripotent and provide new insights into the diverse cellular states.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Nature Publishing Group. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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