Ispectrum explores topics that people want to read about because they are relevant to them. It is a free, bi-monthly magazine about science, psychology, archaeology, technology, health and more. The magazine utilizes not only a variety of popular scientific content, but also current scientific research, new ideas and original articles.
A paper titled ‘Maneuverability of Magnetic Nanomotors Inside Living Cells‘ has been recently published in ‘Advanced Materials‘. In the paper, the authors have demonstrated, for the first time, that internalization and subsequent manipulation of helical shaped artificial magnetic nano robots, called nanomotors, inside a living cell. This has a tremendous potential in delivering payloads to specific locations within the cell which is not possible till date. This finding can open up new biomedical applications like intracellular sensing and delivery, and also inspire fundamental studies in cell biology and biophysics.
Abstract: Spatiotemporally controlled active manipulation of external micro‐/nanoprobes inside living cells can lead to development of innovative biomedical technologies and inspire fundamental studies of various biophysical phenomena. Examples include gene silencing applications, real‐time mechanical mapping of the intracellular environment, studying cellular response to local stress, and many more. Here, for the first time, cellular internalization and subsequent intracellular manipulation of a system of helical nanomotors driven by small rotating magnetic fields with no adverse effect on the cellular viability are demonstrated. This remote method of fuelling and guidance limits the effect of mechanical transduction to cells containing external probes, in contrast to ultrasonically or chemically powered techniques that perturb the entire experimental volume. The investigation comprises three cell types, containing both cancerous and noncancerous types, and is aimed toward analyzing and engineering the motion of helical propellers through the crowded intracellular space. The studies provide evidence for the strong anisotropy, heterogeneity, and spatiotemporal variability of the cellular interior, and confirm the suitability of helical magnetic nanoprobes as a promising tool for future cellular investigations and applications.
Full paper: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/adma.201800429
Huge majority ‘too scared’ to confront the litter louts
Most Britons hate litter, but are too nervous to confront people dropping rubbish in the street, it seems.
News stories of people being assaulted or even killed after they’ve faced up to litter louts have made many Britons think twice about doing the same themselves, a major waste management company has found.
This fear of ‘street rage’ doesn’t stop a significant number from dropping litter themselves if there isn’t a rubbish bin nearby, BusinessWaste.co.uk has learned.
“People’s attitude to litter is the stereotype of the British character in a nutshell,” says BusinessWaste.co.ukspokesman Mark Hall, “We put up with a lot of inconvenience and rude behaviour, but we are generally to polite or too nervous to speak out.”
A poll of over 3000 people conducted for the company found that:
94% would not confront someone they saw dropping litter
3% said they would confront a litter lout, depending on the circumstance
3% didn’t know
Of the 3% who said they would confront somebody, the reply was conditional on the circumstances.
“Definitely not if they looked like a yob,” one person told us, while another said “It would probably be OK but manners have disappeared and I should have to say anything.”
The 94% were overwhelming in their reasoning: “I don’t want to get beaten up” and “Not my problem” were the two most popular answers. These answers have a minor grounding in reality, with small numbers reporting abuse or worse in return:
12% said they had confronted somebody and got rude comments in return
One person said they had confronted somebody and have been physically attacked
“I once shouted at somebody who threw a whole bag of fast food waste out of the car window at traffic lights,” we were told, “All I got was a stream of abuse in return. That’s our country all over, isn’t it?”
In fact, assaults and serious incidents leading to death are relatively rare, but cause nervousness among the general public because they get wide publicity.
The third most popular reason for not calling out litter louts came as a surprise: “I don’t want to be one of those people who moans all the time”, and “I don’t want to be seen as a ‘do-gooder'”, people told BusinessWaste.co.ukresearchers.
“That’s a depressing sign of the times,” says Mark Hall, “We’re living in a world where doing the right thing is frowned upon because it gets you the reputation for being a moaning Victor Meldrew character.”
However, it’s not entirely about people’s reluctance to be seen as do-gooders, with the poll finding one unexpected outcome when it comes from canine littering:
6% said they’d make a comment about somebody letting their dog foul the pavement or a park without picking it up
This rises to 18% if the witness is a fellow dog owner
“We thought people would be more nervous of calling out a dog owner, but it’s actually the opposite,” said Hall. “There’s a greater moral obligation to clean up dog mess,” so it probably makes people that little bit braver knowing they have right on their side.”
Despite saying they disliked litter, asked if they would drop litter in the street if there wasn’t a bin nearby and there weren’t any witnesses, the answers were just a little bit depressing:
31% said they would
69% said they’d find a bin or take their rubbish home
But one respondent had a word of warning: “I thought I didn’t have any witnesses, dropped a burger box, and the CCTV got me. There was a council bloke waiting for me at the next corner with a £60 fine. Bang to rights.”
BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall says that street litter – which costs councils tens of millions of pounds every year – wouldn’t be a problem if people’s attitude to dropping litter changed.
“Friends don’t let friends drop litter in the street,” he says, “But it’s the fear of unpredictable strangers that puts people off speaking out more often.”
Eating fatty fish increases the size and lipid composition of HDL particles in people with impaired glucose metabolism, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. These changes in the size and lipid composition of HDL particles make them beneficial for cardiovascular health. Published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, the study also found that camelina sativa oil decreases the number of harmful IDL particles.
The researchers studied the effects of camelina oil and fatty fish intake on the size and composition of cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins. The HDL lipoprotein is commonly known as “the good” cholesterol, although the health effects of HDL particles actually are dependent on their size and composition. Earlier research has shown that large HDL particles are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, whereas a small HDL particle size may increase the risk. The IDL lipoprotein, on the other hand, is the precursor of LDL, which is also known as “the bad” cholesterol. Previous studies have shown that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have a beneficial effect on lipoprotein size and composition. Camelina oil, on the other hand, is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid whose associations with lipoproteins aren’t well understood yet.
The study involved 79 Finnish men and women aged between 40 and 72, and with impaired glucose metabolism. Study participants were randomly divided into four groups for a 12-week intervention: the camelina oil group, the fatty fish group, the lean fish group, and the control group. People in the lean and fatty fish groups were instructed to eat lean or fatty fish four times a week, and people in the camelina oil group were asked to use 30 millilitres of camelina sativa oil daily. Participants in the control group were allowed to eat fish once a week, and the use of camelina oil and other oils containing alpha-linolenic acid, such as rapeseed oil, was prohibited.
The researchers found that eating fatty fish increased the size and lipid composition of HDL particles, and that the use of camelina oil decreased the number of harmful IDL particles. Both of these changes can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Eating lean fish, however, was not associated with changes in the number, size or composition of lipoprotein particles.
For further information, please contact:
Suvi Manninen, Doctoral Student, University of Eastern Finland, Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, suvi.manninen(at)uef.fi
Research article: Suvi M. Manninen, Maria A. Lankinen, Vanessa D. de Mello, David E. Laaksonen, Ursula S. Schwab, Arja T. Erkkilä. Intake of fish alters the size and composition of HDL particles and camelina sativa oil decreases IDL particle concentration in subjects with impaired glucose metabolism. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, published online 12/04/2018, DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201701042.
University of Eastern Finland
Press release, 18 April 2018
There are differences in the availability of orphan medicines between different European countries, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows.
Orphan medicines are pharmaceutical products developed specifically for the treatment, prevention or diagnostics of rare diseases. Rare diseases are life-threatening or permanently disabling medical conditions, and they affect some 30 million people in Europe and more than 300,000 people in Finland alone. People suffering from a rare disease do not always have access to the medicines they need. Factors limiting the availability of orphan medicines include them not entering the markets or their financial burden on the patient or society being too high.
The study focused on the availability and distribution channels of ten orphan medicines used in outpatient care in 24 European countries. On average, five of the ten medicines were available on the markets, but there was variation between the countries. All ten medicines were available only in three countries: the Netherlands, Malta and Poland. Five to nine medicines were available in ten countries: Austria, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Four countries, namely Latvia, Lithuania, Turkey and Belarus, did not have any of the medicines studied available.
Typically, rare medicines were dispensed to patients at pharmacies. Other dispensaries, such as hospitals or health centres, were also quite commonly used. When orphan medicines were dispensed to patients at pharmacies, a part of the price was often paid by the patient, whereas hospitals and health centres typically dispensed the medicine free of charge.
The study also explored whether the European countries studied had implemented policies to regulate decisions relating to the pricing and reimbursement of rare medicines specifically. Typically, no policies applicable to rare medicines alone were in place; instead, decisions on rare medicines were made on the same grounds as decisions on other medicines. However, 13 countries reported some type of a special arrangement. In Latvia and Russia, for example, rare medicines come under a separate budget, and countries such as Spain, Lithuania and Hungary have set special conditions on the reimbursability of rare medicines.
The study was carried out in April 2016 via a survey sent to the members of a network of authorities dealing with pharmaceutical product pricing and reimbursement in Europe, and 24 countries responded. The study was funded by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Kela, and the University of Eastern Finland.
For further information, please contact:
Researcher Kati Sarnola, University of Eastern Finland, kati.sarnola(at)uef.fi, tel. +358 29 522 35 24
Head of Research Jaana Martikainen, Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Kela, jaana.martikainen(at)kela.fi, tel. +358 40 192 3827
Research article: Sarnola Kati, Ahonen Riitta, Martikainen Jaana E, Timonen Johanna: Policies and availability of orphan medicines in outpatient care in 24 European countries. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00228-018-2457-x
University of Eastern Finland
Press release, 24 April 2018
Frequent sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, according to a new international study. In a 15-year follow-up study, people taking a sauna 4-7 times a week were 61% less likely to suffer a stroke than those taking a sauna once a week. This is the first prospective large-scale study on this topic, and the findings were reported in Neurology.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, placing a heavy human and economic burden on societies. The reduced risk associated with sauna bathing was found by a team of scientists from the Universities of Eastern Finland, Bristol, Leicester, Atlanta, Cambridge and Innsbruck.
The findings are based on the population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) study and involved 1,628 men and women aged 53 to 74 years living in the eastern part of Finland. Based on their frequency of taking traditional Finnish sauna baths (relative humidity 10-20%), the study participants were divided into three groups: those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna 2-3 times a week, and those taking a sauna 4-7 times a week.
The more frequently saunas were taken, the lower was the risk of stroke. Compared to people taking one sauna session per week, the risk was decreased by 14% among those with 2-3 sessions and 61% among those with 4-7 sessions. The association persisted even when taking into account conventional stroke risk factors, such as age, sex, diabetes, body mass index, blood lipids, alcohol consumption, physical activity and socio-economic status. The strength of association was similar in men and women.
Previous results from the KIHD study at the University of Eastern Finland have shown that frequent sauna bathing also significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. According to the researchers, mechanisms driving the association of sauna bathing with reduced stroke may include a reduction in blood pressure, stimulation of immune system, a positive impact on the autonomic nervous system, and an improved cardiovascular function. In a recent experimental study, the same group of scientists also showed that sauna bathing has acute effects on the stiffness of the arterial wall, hence influencing blood pressure and cardiac function parameters.
For further information, please contact:
Professor Jari Laukkanen, jariantero.laukkanen (a) uef.fi, tel. +358 50 5053013
Sauna bathing reduces the risk of stroke in Finnish men and women: A prospective cohort study. Kunutsor, Setor; Khan, Hassan; Zaccardi, Francesco ; Laukkanen, Tanjaniina; Willeit, Peter; Laukkanen, Jari A. Neurology, 03.01.2018. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2625-0273
University of Eastern Finland
Press release, 3 May 2018
Nesta warns of danger that, without public involvement, AI technology could make NHS harder to access, or squeeze out doctor-patient dialogue
New survey shows that 85% of the public have already consulted Google about symptoms when unwell, and 1 in 3 say they would be comfortable having a conversation with an AI app about whether they should see a doctor
Urgent NHS action needed to use ‘People Powered AI Principles’ and involve patients ‘before it is too late’
Apps which use Artificial Intelligence for diagnosis and triage could be commonplace in GP surgeries and A&E within five years, if artificial technology fulfils technologists’ predictions, according to a new report released today by Nesta.
However, Nesta’s Confronting Dr Robot report warns that, whilst effective AI advice and triage could be very appealing to both a health service that is under severe pressure, and to patients that are already routinely googling their symptoms, there are big risks in putting machines between patients and doctors.
As AI looks set to become the front door to the NHS, it has to be developed in a way that will help and not hinder healthcare. Nesta urges NHS, government and doctors to ‘act before it’s too late’ by involving patients and practitioners in the design of this rapidly-emerging field of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare.
The report follows last week’s appointment by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, of Dr Eric Topol – an expert in cardiology, genetics and digital medicine – to look into how tens of thousands of NHS staff could be trained to use artificial intelligence and robotics. *
Confronting Dr Robot says that the decisions being made now will determine if AI technology could either:
free up capacity, reduce waiting times and make it simpler for patients to get to see a doctor
Or, risk making the NHS harder to access, squeeze out doctor-patient dialogue and adversely affect people with complex social and health needs.
Pressure is mounting on the NHS to find solutions to capacity problems, particularly in GP and A&E services. Around one in five GP and A&E visits* are for minor ailments or conditions that could be treated at home (sprains, ‘flu and insect bites are some of the largest categories of self treatable conditions that come to A+E). If AI is to alleviate pressures through a triage role – and if patients are to be confident in accessing it – the technology and the medical advice needs to be robust.
The report is published as a new national survey by Populus for Nesta shows:
85 per cent of people say they have consulted Google about their symptoms when feeling unwell, and of these, 68 per cent say they have done so in order to decide whether they should see a doctor
one in three people (34 per cent) said that they would be comfortable following suggestions by a health app on things they could do to help manage the health issue themselves, if the app concluded they didn’t need to see a doctor
Yet, 44 per cent of people say they would be uncomfortable having a conversation with an artificial intelligence app or website about whether or not they needed to see a doctor, and of these, 65 per cent said that they would be concerned that AI wouldn’t understand their needs
While services struggle with capacity issues, tech giants are seeking to develop potentially huge tech-health markets, and are scrambling to harness big data and AI to develop systems to address the demand.
Report author and head of strategy for Nesta’s Health Lab, John Loder, underlines the need for NHS and government to act now to ensure patients are at the heart of technology firms’ development of services: “Within five years, AI could be the first thing many people using the NHS might encounter – and it has the potential to make things simpler, more accessible more responsive and put patients in control. But, if patients and doctors are not put in the ‘driving seat’ of its development, and soon, the technology risks creating more of a barrier than an open door, offering opaque advice and dehumanising healthcare.”
Geoff Huggins, director for digital health and social care, Scottish Government, adds, “It’s clear that there’s great potential and opportunity for technology to better assist practitioners and patients alike. But we have to do this in a way that is complementary and not simply introduce technology because it exists and is possible.Striking the balance where technology gives people more power and better results will be the key.”
The Nesta report highlights three main areas where AI is likely to be applied by the NHS, and the consequences for patients, depending on how well it is developed and implemented:
Direct to consumer advice and triage. AI could enable an app or a ‘chatbot’ to elicit symptoms and interpret these to offer self-management hints or advice to seek further medical help. This could help solve a major issue of inappropriate use of limited healthcare resources. However, it could also generate a flood of unnecessary demand from false positives or risk-adverse advice, and could widen health inequalities – for example by disempowering those without access to technology.
Giving early signs that a health problem is worsening. AI can extract complex data in real time and inform patients that they need to seek urgent care – for example, by assessing breathing sounds of people with congestive heart failure to spot signs of deterioration. This could make the health system more dynamic and responsive. However, it might replace individualised conversations or generate unnecessary concerns.
Getting an automated second opinion. AI could sit alongside doctors to offer a second opinion on diagnosis and treatment of a patient, or enable patients themselves to seek a second opinion. This could empower patients and improve healthcare decisions but might also change the power dynamics in health, and create additional cost pressures.
Loder concludes, “The danger is that the NHS reaches for what it’s offered by the commercial market to solve some its problems – but that could lead to creating other problems elsewhere if systems are not designed around the needs of patients and front line staff. What Nesta wants to see is a people-powered and data driven health system that makes the most of resources – from patients’ motivation to data, as well as the knowledge and commitment of health professionals ”