tech

Robot Therapy: Can a Software Program Treat Depression?

Although traditional talk-therapy sessions are conducted face-to-face, advances in smartphone technology and video-calling have significantly altered the age old “therapy couch” model and brought talk therapy into the lives of people who aren’t able to visit a therapist regularly. Further advances in artificial intelligence may mean that someday patients might not need a therapist at all – just a computer program. Image: The Doctor Is In Your Pocket by Juhan Sonin /CC by 2.0 Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston have developed and tested a computer program that directly interacts with patients, in between their regular therapy sessions, that helps to reinforce outcomes from the group therapy and teach techniques to manage stress. Advances in conversational artificial intelligence have enabled computer scientists to develop software programs that interact with patients, either through voice or text, in such a natural way that some patients’ brains respond to these programs the same way they would when talking to a human. These programs are known as “conversational agents,” and they have been particularly successful at psychological evaluations, as studies have shown that patients may be more likely to give open and honest responses when they believe they are speaking to a computer program rather than a human. The researchers at Northeastern found that, when combined with group therapy visits, patients who used the conversational agent along with their group sessions had significantly better...

Robots Are The Future Dentists in China

Scientists from both the Fourth Military Medical University’s Affiliated Stomatology Hospital in Xi’an and Beihang University’s Institute of Robotics in Beijing, China have developed hardware and software capable of autonomously performing dental implant surgeries within a margin of error of 0.2 to 0.3 millimeters — in short, robots have taken over as dentists in China. By supporting this research, the national government is attempting to address China’s shortage of dentists along with the high surgical error rate currently seen in their dental industry. Although medical staff were present during the successful pilot operation, they did not intervene in the one-hour surgery. If being a medical doctor isn’t your thing and want to be a dentist, check out the top medical schools in the world. Dentistry is a great career path and can lead to living a secure life. If you have decided to go with dentistry, you have to consider which school is the best to complete your course. Being part of the medical field, you will have great earning potential. If you like interacting with different people every day, but do not see yourself as a doctor, dentistry might be a great option for you. Before you can become a dentist, you are going to have to consider where to study and this is where I come in. Here is a list of the top dental schools in the...

Pig DNA is Considered Identical to Human DNA

Scientists at Recombinetics are conducting research on pigs in an effort to accelerate cancer cure development and potentially create a sustainable source of genetically-matched human organs for transplantation. While experiments involving farm animals are nothing new in the world of medical research, the pigs at Recombinetics farm in Minnesota are unique because they have been modified to express human traits using TALENs technology. Cancer has been cured in mice models many times, but the same techniques do not seem to translate well in humans. The company believes the 98% similarity between the human genome and the pig genome may help close the gap between successful cures in animal models and resulting efficacious treatments and/or cures for humans. Click here to read more about this company’s research on CNBC. Earlier this year, researchers were able to identify that DNA Bacteria can store information, like hard drives: Researchers at Harvard Medical School have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to encode five frames of a vintage motion picture into the DNA Bacteria of E. coli bacteria. By reducing each frame into a series of single-color pixels and matching each color to a DNA code, the scientists were able to string together DNA strands that represented the video frames. Non-biological information has been encoded into DNA before, going back as far as 2003. However, this is the first time living organisms have been used as the message’s vessel. Living...

A New ‘Cancer Pen’ Can Help Detect Tumors

In an effort to reduce the risk of re-operation in surgeries for the removal of cancerous tissue, scientists have been developing tools to bring fast and accurate tissue analysis directly to the operating room. A few weeks ago, our Video of the Week featured the work of an MIT research team that’s built a portable multiphoton microscope that can be employed during surgery with the same goal. Michael Giacomelli, PhD, Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his laboratory team have developed a portable system for multiphoton imaging (portable MPM) of large tissue samples within an operating surgical suite. “The system enables true 10x/20x/40x imaging at video rates using VH&E rendering to produce virtual histology images in real-time.” The technology is currently being tested in breast cancer surgeries, since many lumpectomies result in second surgeries to remove more tissue after histology from the first surgery is complete. With imaging taking place during surgery, these subsequent reoperations may be reduced significantly. Currently, doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering are considering the tool and/or technique for skin cancer and prostate cancer as well. Researchers at the University of Texas have now developed a ‘cancer pen’ that is connected to a mass spectrometer that can comfortably reside in an operating suite. The MasSpec Pen, when pressed against the tissue in question, releases a droplet of water that collects some elements of the contacted tissue, and is then sucked back into the device...

The Future Prescription Drugs Being Developed Right Now

At any one time, there are hundreds of drugs being developed around the world. Some of them could change the way we treat conditions such as lung cancer and asthma. Here are six drugs currently in development that have a real chance of finding their way onto shelves. Drugs are a very touchy subject for aspiring doctors — medical students have definitely taken the time to learn about prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry forms a big portion of the affairs that physicians carry out everyday. From the drugs prescribed to the clinical trials conducted, medicine is closely intermingled with the development and use of new medications. However, issues arise when the reporting on the safety, efficacy, and utility of these drugs remains undisclosed due to certain conventional procedures. If you are a medical student who has gone through clinical rotations, you might likely have had this experience (especially on the surgical floors). If you are just starting medical school, it’s something to look forward to! Medical students must also keep cognizant of the opioid epidemic. All it took was one-hundred words to kill over hundreds of thousands of Americans. A new report from the New England Journal of Medicine tells the story of how this short doctor’s note helped facilitate today’s American opioid epidemic. Read more about it here. Since opioids were not widely used forty years ago, so doctors did not have...

We’re One Step Closer To Identifying Parkinson’s Disease

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have devised a diagnostic tool for identifying Parkinson’s disease (PD) in patients who may not yet display any motor symptoms. The importance of such a tool lies in the fact that by the time motor symptoms appear, there is usually already irreversible damage to brain tissues. Dinesh Kumar, PhD, the chief investigator on the study, says “many treatment options for Parkinson’s only prove effective when the disease was diagnosed early.“ The team at RMIT built custom software that analyzes a patient’s spiral-drawing style via pen, paper, and a digital drawing tablet. Although the team admits to some limitations within their initial studies, the 93% accuracy rate of early PD diagnosis is spurring additional research and hope for achieving a reliable diagnostic method for identifying PD early. We’ve come a long way to identifying Parkinson’s disease. Earlier this year, researchers have developed an instrument that can identify seventeen diseases, including Parkinson’s. A new instrument has recently been developed to diagnose disease in a non-invasive, cost effective manner. Based on the idea of the breathalyzers used to identify and quantify alcohol consumption, this device would allow for specific programmable disease detection in still healthy individuals. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that are expressed by the body when pathologic processes occur. Currently, seventeen diseases can be identified with breath analysis with an accuracy of eighty-six percent. Researchers were able to...

Cows Might Be The Future For HIV Vaccines

Until recently, no one has identified an immunogen capable of eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (Bnabs) for HIV vaccines in either human or animal models. However, a 2017 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) research initiative has immunized four cows with the soluble cleaved trimer BG505 SOSIP in an attempt to produce these Bnabs – and has succeeded. Since antibodies in cows are approximately 4 to 5 times longer than typical human antibodies, the cows antibodies have a greater chance of penetrating the sugars surrounding the HIV virus and neutralizing it. There is not yet a clear path to achieving the same results in humans, but according to the director of vaccine research at the NIAID, John Mascola, MD, while the study “doesn’t tell us how to make a vaccine for HIV in human patients […] it does tell us how the virus evades the human immune response.” How far have we come from HIV Vaccinations? It has been a long road in the battle against HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began in the early 1980s. However, in 2013, the virus hit what was widely referred to as a tipping point when, for the first time, more people were newly being treated with antiretroviral drugs than became newly infected with HIV. Despite this milestone, there are still 35 million people estimated to be living with HIV today — 19 million who are estimated to be unaware of their HIV-positive status — and 2 million more people are being infected each year....