Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Can Sound Be Used To Assess One’s Brain’s Health?

Though it may seem counter intuitive from the layperson’s perspective, but can sound be used as a brain analysis tool?

By: Ringo Bones 

It is now a well-accepted physiological fact that one of the serious side effects of brain disorders is impaired hearing. That fact was put to work by Arnold Starr and two other researchers from the University of California at Irvine, who developed a way to make use of psycho-acoustical hearing impediment to locate disorders in the brain. Would such a method prove to be a very useful new diagnostic tool - as in using sound as a brain analysis tool -  to assess how healthy one’s brain is? 

The procedure is begun by placing electrodes on the patient’s scalp and earlobes. A series of loud clicks is then sent in rapid succession through earphones worn by the patient. As the nerve impulse generated in the inner ear by each click travels through the brain circuitry, it is detected by a super sensitive tracking system, isolated from each other activity in the brain by a computer and recorded. The result is a graph whose peaks represent the activity level at seven critical relay points along the auditory route. If there is brain damage near a relay point, that peak will be missing. In a person of normal hearing there would be no missing peaks, therefore showing negative results for brain disorders. 

The system has several advantages over other methods of diagnosis: it does not require the patient to describe what he or she hears – or even to be conscious during the procedure. But most important, says Arnold Starr, Irvine’s chief of neurology and one of the developers of the technique says that “for the first time we can get information from the depth of the brain, and with a procedure that takes about four minutes.”   

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ebola: The Savior of the American Tobacco Industry?

With the tobacco sourced ZMapp as the leading reliable candidate for stopping the current Ebola pandemic, has Ebola inadvertently saved the embattled American tobacco industry? 

By: Ringo Bones

With the recent 23-billion US dollar lung cancer settlement of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and the anti-tobacco use campaign of former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop during the Reagan Administration, making the conclusion that the American tobacco industry is currently embattled may be a bit of an understatement. But with the current Ebola pandemic sending fear and panic to the world’s global public health policymakers, could Ebola not only save the embattled American tobacco industry because of ZMapp – the current tobacco sourced sole reliable cure for Ebola – but might make the American tobacco industry a prospective leader in the global healthcare industry?  

As of late, the second-largest tobacco company in the United States – the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company – is currently paying the widow of a lung cancer victim a settlement worth 23 Billion US dollars, which, at present, is the largest court-approved wrongful death settlement payout. Add to that the increasing legislation of “generic packaging requirements” of brand-name cigarettes replete with graphic picture warnings of how deleterious tobacco cigarette smoking can be to ones health, it’s a no-brainer that America’s leading tobacco firms, and probably the rest of the world, are now probably hard at work retooling their company’s image and future outlook. But will the current Ebola epidemic, ironically, thrust America’s and the rest of the world’s leading tobacco companies into the healthcare and pharmaceutical business? 

Though negotiations between the top brass of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Prof. Charles J. Arntzen, Ph.D. – the inventor of the Ebola cure ZMapp while working at Mapp Biopharmaceutical.Inc. – is probably yet to happen or yet to get the press coverage it rightfully deserves, it is now a well-known fact that the tobacco plant derived ZMapp is, at present, the most effective and most economically viable to produce cure for Ebola. Thanks to Professor Arntzen “toying with the tobacco mosaic virus – the virus that causes the tobacco mosaic disease – during the last eight years that was originally intended as a cure for cystic fibrosis, the genetically modified tobacco sourced ZMapp has recently proved its worth for saving the lives of Ebola infected healthcare volunteers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. 

From the global pharmaceutical industry’s perspective, even though Ebola the disease was discovered back in 1976, the search for a cure / vaccine was never pursued with the current fervor because only a handful people got affected by the disease in the extremely remote parts of Africa and the unfortunate Ebola sufferers at the time died before they managed to infect other people. In short, making an Ebola vaccine / cure back in 1976 is considered not economically viable by the world’s pharmaceutical industry. Even though the next batch of ZMapp are yet to be “pharmed” from the next harvest of genetically modified tobacco plants, the “competing” Ebola vaccine that has a planned 3,000 doses for 2015 has an effectiveness that is still in question in comparison to ZMapp.