Surgeons Perform UK’s First Operation Using Apple’s Vision Pro Headset

Surgeons in the United Kingdom have performed the first operation in the country using Apple’s Vision Pro headset. TechSpot reports: During a recent operation to repair a patient’s spine at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, a scrub nurse working alongside the surgeon used the Vision Pro to help prepare, keep track of the procedure, and choose the right tools, reports the Daily Mail. This marked the first operation in the UK where the Vision Pro was used. The software running on Apple’s headset during the operation comes from US company eXeX, which has made similar programs for Microsoft’s HoloLens. It offers nurses and technicians both holographic and touch-free access to the surgical setup and the procedural guides from within the sterile field of the operating room, according to the press release. The software also tracks each stage of an operation and can measure how well the op went compared to previous procedures performed by other surgeons.

“It eliminates human error and eliminates the guesswork,” said Suvi Verho, lead scrub nurse at London Independent Hospital. “It gives you confidence in surgery.” While this marked the first time that the Vision Pro was used during a UK surgery, the first-ever time the device was used in an operating room was last month, just three days after its release, when Orlando resident and world-renowned Neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Masson wore it during several spine reconstruction surgeries. “We are in a new era of surgery, and for the first time, our surgical teams have the brilliance of visual holographic guidance and maps, improving visuospatial and temporal orientation for each surgical team and for each surgery in all specialties,” said Masson.

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University of Alabama Pauses IVF Services After Court Embryo Ruling

Following a recent ruling from the state supreme court, the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system said it is pausing all in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments for fear of criminal prosecution or punitive damages. On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are “children,” entitled to full personhood rights, and anyone who destroys them could be liable in a wrongful death case. The Hill reports: “We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments,” the health system said. […] It is standard practice in IVF to fertilize several eggs and then transfer one into a woman’s uterus. Any remaining normally developing embryos can be, at the patient’s request and consent, frozen for later use. But legal experts say it’s unclear if the standard practice is illegal in Alabama and could make IVF virtually inaccessible in the state.

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the best-developing embryo will be transferred into a patient for an attempt at a pregnancy while the rest are frozen for later use, in case the first one does not develop into a live birth, or the patient later desires another child. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 238,126 patients underwent IVF treatment in 2021, resulting in the births of 97,128 babies, the last year for which statistics were available. There are 453 IVF clinics nationwide.

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Early Blood Test To Predict Dementia Is Step Closer As Biological Markets Identified

Researchers have made significant progress toward developing a blood test that can predict the risk of dementia up to 15 years before clinical diagnosis. The Guardian reports: Hopes for the test were raised after scientists discovered biological markers for the condition in blood samples collected from more than 50,000 healthy volunteers enrolled in the UK Biobank project. Analysis of the blood identified patterns of four proteins that predicted the onset of dementia in general, and Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia specifically, in older age. When combined with more conventional risk factors such as age, sex, education and genetic susceptibility, the protein profiles allowed researchers to predict dementia with an estimated 90% accuracy nearly 15 years before people received clinical confirmation of the disease.

For the latest study, blood samples from 52,645 UK adults without dementia were collected and frozen between 2006 and 2010 and analyzed 10 to 15 years later. More than 1,400 participants went on to develop dementia. Using artificial intelligence, the researchers looked for connections between nearly 1,500 blood proteins and developing dementia years later. Writing in Nature Aging, they describe how four proteins, Gfap, Nefl, Gdf15 and Ltbp2, were present in unusual levels among those who developed all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia. Higher levels of the proteins were warning signs of disease. Inflammation in the brain can trigger cells called astrocytes to over-produce Gfap, a known biomarker for Alzheimer’s. People with raised Gfap were more than twice as likely to develop dementia than those with lower levels.

Another blood protein, Nefl, is linked to nerve fibre damage, while higher than normal Gdf15 can occur after damage to the brain’s blood vessels. Rising levels of Gfap and Ltbp2 was highly specific for dementia rather than other brain diseases, the scientists found, with changes occurring at least 10 years before people received a dementia diagnosis. The researchers are speaking to companies to develop the test but said the cost, currently at several hundred pounds, would need to come down to make it viable.

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WHO Warns Against Using Artificial Sweeteners

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday released guidance on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), recommending against using them to control body weight. From the report: The recommendation is based on the findings of a systematic review of the available evidence which suggests that use of NSS does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children. Results of the review also suggest that there may be potential undesirable effects from long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults. The recommendation applies to all people except individuals with pre-existing diabetes and includes all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners that are not classified as sugars found in manufactured foods and beverages, or sold on their own to be added to foods and beverages by consumers. Common NSS include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.

The recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products containing NSS, such as toothpaste, skin cream, and medications, or to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives containing calories and are therefore not considered NSS. “Replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control in the long term. People need to consider other ways to reduce free sugars intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages,” says Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety. “NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”

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Sugar-Powered Implant Successfully Manages Type 1 Diabetes

Researchers have developed a novel fuel cell implant for type 1 diabetes that can successfully produce and release insulin when triggered. New Atlas reports: The fuel cell itself, which resembles a teabag that’s slightly larger than a fingernail, is covered in a nonwoven fabric and coated with alginate, an algae-derived product used widely in biomedicine because of its high degree of biocompatibility. When implanted under the skin, the cell’s alginate soaks up body fluid, allowing glucose to permeate the surface and flow into the power center. Inside the cell, the team developed a copper-based nanoparticle anode that splits glucose into gluconic acid and a proton to generate an electric current. “Many people, especially in the Western industrialized nations, consume more carbohydrates than they need in everyday life,” [Martin Fussenegger from the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich] said. “This gave us the idea of using this excess metabolic energy to produce electricity to power biomedical devices.

The fuel cell was then coupled with an insulin capsule featuring the team’s beta cells, which could be triggered to secrete insulin via electric current from the implant. Overall, the two components provide a self-regulating circuit. When the fuel cell powered by glucose senses excess blood sugar, it powers up. This then stimulates the beta cells to produce and secrete insulin. As blood sugar levels dip, it trips a threshold sensor in the fuel cell, so it powers down, in turn stopping the insulin production and release. This self-sustained circuit could also produce enough power to communicate with a device such as a smartphone, which allows for monitoring and adjusting, and even has potential for remote access for medical intervention. The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Apple Is Reportedly Closer To Bringing No-Prick Glucose Monitoring To the Watch

According to Bloomberg, Apple’s quest to bring blood glucose monitoring to the Apple Watch is now at a “proof-of-concept stage.” The last remaining hurdle is for it to be made smaller. Engadget reports: The technology, which uses lasers to gauge glucose concentration under the skin, was previously tabletop sized but has reportedly advanced to the point where an iPhone-sized wearable prototype is in the works. The system would not only help people with diabetes monitor their conditions, but would ideally alert people who are prediabetic, the insiders say. They could then make changes that prevent Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.

The project has supposedly been in development for a long time. It began in 2010, when an ailing Steve Jobs had his company buy blood glucose monitoring startup RareLight. Apple is said to have kept the effort secret by operating it as a seemingly isolated firm, Avolonte Health, but folded it into a previously unknown Exploratory Design Group (XDG). CEO Tim Cook, Apple Watch hardware lead Eugene Kim and other top leaders have been involved.

Any real-world product is likely years away, according to Bloomberg. The industry also doesn’t have a great track record of bringing no-prick monitors to market. In 2018, Alphabet’s health subsidiary Verily scrapped plans for a smart contact lens that would have tracked glucose using tears. Even major brands with vast resources aren’t guaranteed success, in other words, and it’s not clear how accurate Apple’s solution would be.

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Amazon Closes $3.9 Billion Deal To Acquire One Medical

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Amazon on Wednesday said it had closed its $3.9 billion deal for primary care provider One Medical. Amazon agreed last July to acquire One Medical to deepen its presence in health care, and “dramatically improve” the experience of getting medical care. Amazon has long had ambitions to expand into health care, buying online pharmacy PillPack in 2018 for $750 million, then launching its own virtual clinic for chronic conditions, and prescription perks for Prime members. The deal gives Amazon access to One Medical’s more than 200 brick-and-mortar medical offices in 26 markets, and roughly 815,000 members.

The purchase was the first major deal announced since CEO Andy Jassy took the helm from founder Jeff Bezos in July 2021, and Jassy has indicated he sees health care as a major area of expansion. In a statement, he said health care is ripe for disruption, citing long appointment times and the complexities of primary care. “Customers want and deserve better, and that’s what One Medical has been working and innovating on for more than a decade,” Jassy said in a statement. “Together, we believe we can make the health care experience easier, faster, more personal, and more convenient for everyone.” Amazon said it would discount One Medical memberships for U.S. users to $144 from $199 for the first year, regardless of whether they’re a Prime subscriber.

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Maryland Motor Vehicles Agency Wants To Know About Your Sleep Apnea

“Man goes to the doctor for a sleep apnea diagnosis, a few months later he gets a letter from the state of Maryland about his sleep apnea — and they won’t tell him how they found out about it,” writes Slashdot reader schwit1. NBC4 Washington reports: Dr. David Allick, a dentist in Rockville, was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea in June 2022. Months later, he received a letter from the MVA requesting additional information about his diagnosis in order “to determine your fitness to drive.” The September 2022 letter noted failure to return the required forms, which included a report from his physician, could result in the suspension of his license. Allick said he isn’t clear how the state learned about his medical diagnosis. But more importantly, he said he was previously unaware of a little-known Maryland law requiring people to report their sleep apnea diagnosis to state driving authorities. Allick said he still has questions about what prompted the ordeal. “Everybody I talked to — nobody’s heard of anything like this,” he said, also acknowledging: “I’m sure they want to keep the roads safe.” schwit1 adds: “How is this not a HIPAA violation?”

The investigation team at NBC4 Washington found that Allick is one of 1,310 people whose sleep apnea diagnoses “have led to medical reviews by the Maryland MVA.” The state department didn’t have data on how many of these Maryland drivers have had their license suspended.

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Cryonics Company Charges a Monthly Subscription Fee (Plus Your Life Insurance Payout)

“To date, about 500 people have been put in cryogenic stasis after legal death,” writes a Bloomberg Opinion technology columnist, “with the majority of them in the U.S.

“But a few thousand more, including Emil Kendziorra, are on waiting lists, wearing bracelets or necklaces with instructions for emergency responders. ”

Kendziorra, 36, runs Berlin-based Tomorrow Biostasis GmbH, one of the first cryonics businesses in Europe to join a market dominated by American firms organizations like The Alcor Life Extension Foundation and The Cryonics Institute. The former cancer doctor has several hundred people on his firm’s waiting list. They skew to their late 30s, male and tend to work in technology. Patients can choose to have their entire body preserved and held upside down in a four-person dewars, a thermos-like aluminum vat filled with liquid nitrogen, or just preserve their brain, which is cheaper.

Kendziorra says cryopreservation overall has become less expensive over the past few decades on an inflation-adjusted basis, a claim that he bases on historic prices published by his peers, who he says are making a collective effort to bring down costs. That could be critical to shifting cryonics from a fringe pursuit to something a little more mainstream, especially since it is no longer just for billionaires like PayPal Inc. co-founder Peter Thiel (who has reportedly signed up with Alcor). Kendziorra, for instance, has made cryonics just another monthly subscription by capitalizing on insurance, he told me during a Twitter Spaces discussion on cryonics last month. His customers pay a 25-euro ($26.54) monthly fee to Tomorrow Biostasis, and they also make the company the beneficiary of a minimum 100,000-euro life insurance payout upon their legal death. Kendziorra says that covers the full cost of cryonics including the biggest outlay: maintenance over the next century or so.

All told, most of his customers are paying about 50 euros a month for both the company’s subscription fee and the life insurance policy for the option of a long sleep at death. Of course, most companies don’t survive for more than a century, so Tomorrow Biostasis also partners with a non-profit group in Switzerland to carry out the storage of customers on its behalf…. The domain itself is largely funded by wealthy individuals including CEOs of tech companies, angel investors and scientists, Kendziorra says, adding that for them to invest in his own firm, their primary motivation shouldn’t be “monetary” but rather to help further the field.

The mechanics all sound sensible, but that still leaves the question of whether cryonics will work, medically speaking. Doctors and scientists have used words like quackery, pseudoscience and outright fraud to describe the field. Clive Cohen, a neuroscientist from Kings College London, has called it a “hopeless aspiration that reveals an appalling ignorance of biology.” The Association of Cryobiology has compared it to turning a hamburger back into a cow.

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