30 01 2012

MIT’s Hugh Herr demonstrates the latest generation of robotic ankles… which he wears on both of his legs!
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By age 17, Hugh was considered a rock climbing prodigy. Media coverage of his extraordinary athletic accomplishments heralded him as one of the best climbers in the United States. In January 1982, while attempting to summit Mount Washington in New Hampshire, Hugh and a fellow climber were caught in a blizzard and stranded on the mountain for three nights in -20F degree temperatures. By the time they were rescued, the climbers had suffered severe frostbite. Both of Hugh’s legs were amputated below the knees. Following months of surgeries and rehabilitation, Hugh was doing what doctors had believed unthinkable: climbing again. Using prostheses that he designed, Hugh climbed at a more advanced level than he had before the accident, making him the first person in history with a major amputation to compete at an elite level against persons with normal physiologies. After his climbing career, Hugh pursued academics. Hugh is currently director of the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab where he focuses on developing wearable robotic systems that serve to augment human strength, endurance and agility. Hugh has advanced novel bionic technologies, including a computer-controlled artificial knee, an active ankle-foot orthosis, and the world’s first powered ankle-foot prosthesis. These devices are advancing an emerging field of engineering science that applies principles of biomechanics and neural control to guide the designs of human rehabilitation and augmentative devices. The computer-controlled knee, which is outfitted with a microprocessor that continually senses the joint’s position and the loads applied to the limb, was named to the list of Top Ten Inventions in the health category by TIME magazine in 2004. The robotic ankle-foot prosthesis, which emulates the action of a biological leg and, for the first time, provides amputees with a natural gait, was named to the same TIME top-ten list in 2007. Also in 2007, Hugh was presented with the 13th Annual Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment. Hugh’s story has been told by Alison Osius in Second Ascent, The Story of Hugh Herr, a Discovery Channel feature story, and in a National Geographic movie, Ascent: The Story of Hugh Herr. [en línea] New York (USA):, 30 in January of 2012 [REF. December of 2010] Available on Internet:

Dawn of Social Networks

26 01 2012

Ancient humans may not have had the luxury of updating their Facebook status, but social networks were nevertheless an essential component of their lives, a new study suggests.

The study’s findings describe elements of social network structures that may have been present early in human history, suggesting how our ancestors may have formed ties with both kin and non-kin based on shared attributes, including the tendency to cooperate. According to the paper, social networks likely contributed to the evolution of cooperation.
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“The astonishing thing is that ancient human social networks so very much resemble what we see today,” said Nicholas Christakis, professor of medical sociology and medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and senior author on the study. “From the time we were around campfires and had words floating through the air, to today when we have digital packets floating through the ether, we’ve made networks of basically the same kind.”

“We found that what modern people are doing with online social networks is what we’ve always done—not just before Facebook, but before agriculture,” said study co-author James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, who, with Christakis, has authored a number of seminal studies of human social networks.

The findings will be published January 26 inNature.

Roots of altruism

The natural world, red in tooth and claw, has a gentle side. While individuals compete fiercely to ensure the proliferation of their progeny, a few animals, including humans, also cooperate and act altruistically. Researchers have wondered if human social networks are a product of modern lifestyles, or if they could have emerged under the kind of conditions that our distant ancestors faced. This question has been challenging for classic evolutionary theory to explain neatly.

For cooperation to arise, an altruistic act, like sharing food with a non-relative, must have a net benefit for the sharers. Otherwise, purely self-serving individuals would outcompete and eventually replace the selfless. All theoretical explanations for the evolution of cooperation—kin selection, reciprocal altruism, group selection—rely on the existence of some system that allows cooperators to group together with other individuals who tend to share.

“If you can get cooperators to cluster together in social space, cooperation can evolve,” said Coren Apicella, a post-doctoral research fellow in Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School and first author on the paper. “Social networks allow this to happen.”

While it is not possible to quiz our distant ancestors about their friendships or habits of sharing and collaborating, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Cambridge have characterized the structure of social networks among the Hadza, an ethnic group in the Lake Eyasi region of Tanzania, one of the last surviving groups of hunter gathers. (There are less than 1,000 Hadza left who live in the traditional way).

Getting connected

The Hadza lifestyle predates the invention of agriculture. The Hadza eat a wide range of wild foods, foraging for tubers, nuts, and fruit and hunting a great variety of animals, including flamingos, shrews, and giraffes. Honey is one of their favorite foods, known by half a dozen different names in Hadzane, their primary language.

Apicella took the lead in collecting the data for the study, interviewing 205 adult Hadza over the course two months, measuring their tendency to cooperate and mapping their friendships.

Apicella, Fowler and Christakis designed the study and experiments, working with Frank Marlowe, lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology of the University of Cambridge, and author of the only book-length ethnography on the Hadza in English.

Collecting the data was not easy. The nomadic Hadza roam over 4,000 rugged square kilometers. Apicella and her research assistants travelled the region by Land Cruiser battling mud-drenched trails—at one point forcing her and her colleagues to pave the ground with felled trees—and, on an earlier trip, even fleeing a horde of marauding elephants.

In order to construct a social network, Apicella and her colleagues took a dual approach.  First, they asked Hadza adults to identify individuals they would prefer to live with in their next encampment. Second, they gave each adult three straws of honey and were told they could give these straws as gifts to anyone in their camp. This generated 1,263 campmate ties and 426 gift ties.

In a separate activity, the researchers measured levels of cooperation by giving the Hadza additional honey straws that they could either keep for themselves or donate to the group.

When the networks were mapped and analyzed, the researchers found that co-operators and non-cooperators formed distinct clusters.

The researchers also measured the connectedness of people with similar height, age, handgrip strength, etc., and other characteristics, such as food preference. They also analyzed the transitivity of friendship—the likelihood that one’s friends are friends with one another, and other network properties.

The structure and dynamics of the Hadza hunter-gatherer social networks were essentially indistinguishable from existing social network data drawn from modern communities.

“We turned the data over lots of different ways,” said Fowler. “We looked at over a dozen measures that social network analysts use to compare networks and pretty much, the Hadza are just like us.”

“Human beings are unusual among species in the extent to which we form long-term, non-reproductive unions with other members of our species,” said Christakis. “In other words, not only do we have sex, but we also have friends.”

Previous work by Christakis and Fowler, who are coauthors of the book “Connected,” has shown that our experience of the world depends on where we find ourselves within social networks. Particular studies have found that networks influence a surprising variety of lifestyle and health factors, such as how prone you are to obesity, smoking cessation, and even happiness.

For the researchers, the Hadza offer strong new evidence that social networks are a truly ancient, perhaps integral part of the human story.

This research was funded by the National Institute on Aging and by the Science of Generosity Initiative of the University of Notre Dame.

—Written by Jake Miller [en línea] Boston (USA):, 26 de enero de 2012 [REF. 25 in January of 2012] Available on Internet:

Scientists confirm that the touch screens of smartphones can detect biomolecules

23 01 2012

Advance in research, the scientists speak of a future where touch screens as the smartphones could be able to eliminate time in doctors waiting rooms or even the possibility of detecting cancers. The technology of touch screens can be used for detecting biomolecular matter as done in medical testing.

So a group of researchers have confirmed in the Advanced Institute of science and technology in Korea (KAIST). According to Hyung-gyu Park, who conducted the study:

“It all started from the idea that touch screens working through the recognition of electronic signals from the touch of the finger, so the presence of specific proteins of DNA are also known.”

According to the researchers, touch screens of smartphones, PDAs or tablets work by the detection of loads electronic of the body of the user on the screen. In this way, biochemical such as proteins and DNA molecules also have these specific electronic loads.

The experiments carried out by the team showed that these screens could recognize the existence and the concentration of DNA molecules, which would be the first step for a day they were able to use to carry out medical examinations.

“We have confirmed that touch screens are capable of recognizing DNA molecules with almost a 100% accuracy, almost in the same way that you would a conventional medical equipment. This equality believe that it is possible with the proteins.”

“There are proteins known in the medical world as those that are used to diagnose liver cancer... might be able to view the status of the patient's liver.”

The next step according the researchers is the development of a type of film in the reactive materials that can identify specific biochemical substances, probability in the hope that this will enable touch screens to recognize different Biomolecular materials.

Be that as it may, is a first step. As they themselves explain, Nobody will be blood or urine onto a screen. It is thought that the samples would be placed in a system that then would be introduced on the phone or in a module which in turn would be connected to the phone.

“in this way..., the location and concentration of the sample would be recognized in the same way that recognizes the touch of your fingers.”

Professor Hyun Gyu Park ( It belongs to the Department of chemical engineering and Biomolecular (BK21 Program), of the KAIST, 291 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-701 (Korea) [en línea] Madrid (Spain):, 23 de enero de 2012 [REF. 23 in January of 2012] Available on Internet:

1.100 compañías publicarán los pagos a médicos en EEUU

19 01 2012
The new health legislation promoted by the Obama administration will require companies that have at leasta funded productby the public health system to disseminate all their payments to doctors.

According to the official estimate, more than 1.100 medicines and medical technology companies will have to provide complete information on any payment specialists (including minimum cost invitations, as put food on a working meeting).

According to published‘ The New York Times’, the Government shall carry out inspections review the records of the companies to ensure that they comply with the law and not skip payments. The information will be available in a public database.

Thefinesfor violating the rule of transparency will be of 10.000 $ per each payment that is ignored. Companies that hide information deliberately will face fines up to $ 1 million.

So far, the publication of this type of information was voluntary and only 12 companies had made public its payments to doctors. The web siteProPublicaIt has developed a project using this information, called“Dollar for Docs”, It includes a database open to readers. Sales of medicines for the 12 companies including at work accounted for in 2010 around the 40% of the pharmaceutical market in United States.

Payments to doctorsthey are legal, but there is a debate about the influence that can have in some cases on the choice of treatments and the prescription of drugs. Several studies have shown that they may influence the decision of the physician.

America's public health system (Medicare, for retirees, and Medicaid, for people with few resources or minimum income) they have an annual budget for superior medical technology and drugs to the 100.000 millions of dollars.

The patron saint of the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S. has supported these “transparency measures” but he asked that payments to medical information is disseminated in the appropriate context so that the collaboration between industry and specialists in fields such as medical education or the development of medicines can understand. [en línea] Madrid (Spain):, 19 de enero de 2012 [REF. 18 in January of 2012] Available on Internet:

Age-related effects of multiple sclerosi may prove reversible

16 01 2012

Harvard stem cell researchers and scientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have found that the age-related degeneration in conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) may be reversible.

The researchers, co-led by Associate ProfessorAmy Wagersof Harvard’s Department ofStem Cell and Regenerative Biologyand theHarvard Stem Cell Institute, have found that impairment of the body’s ability to replace protective myelin sheaths, which surround nerve fibers and allow them to send signals properly, may be reversible, offering new hope that therapeutic strategies aimed at restoring efficient regeneration can be effective in the central nervous system throughout life.

In a proof-of-principlestudypublished in the journalCell Stem Cell, the researchers report that defects in the regeneration of the myelin sheaths surrounding nerves, which are lost in diseases such as MS, may be at least partially corrected after exposing an old animal to the circulatory system of a young animal. Myelin is a fatty substance that protects nerves and aids in the quick transmission of signals between nerve cells.

Amy Wagers, stem cell researcher

Using a surgical technique, the researchers introduced an experimental demyelinating injury in the spinal cord of an old mouse, creating small areas of myelin loss, and then exposed those areas to cells found in the blood of a young mouse. By doing so, they found that the influx of certain immune cells, called macrophages, from the young mouse helped resident stem cells restore effective remyelination in the old mouse’s spinal cord. This rejuvenating effect of young immune cells was aided in part by the greater efficiency of the young cells in clearing away myelin debris created by the demyelinating injury. Prior studies have shown that this debris impedes the regeneration of myelin.

“Aging impairs regenerative potential in the central nervous system,” said Wagers, who is based at theJoslin Diabetes Center, and who co-led the study with ProfessorRobin Franklin, director of the MS Society’sCambridge Centre for Myelin Repairat the University of Cambridge. “This impairment can be reversed, however, suggesting that the eventual development of cell-based or drug-based interventions that mimic the rejuvenation signals found in our study could be used therapeutically.”

This could be particularly useful, she said, in treating MS, which typically spans many decades of life, and thus is likely to be influenced by age-dependent reductions in the ability of myelin to regenerate. In MS, the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin sheath and prevents nerve fibers in the brain from sending signals properly, which can cause mild symptoms such as limb numbness or more serious ones like losing the ability to walk or speak. As people with MS age, remyelination decreases significantly, eventually causing permanent loss of nerve fibers.

“For MS sufferers,” said Franklin, “this means that, in theory, regenerative therapies will work throughout the duration of the disease. Specifically, it means that remyelination therapies do not need to be based on stem cell transplantation, since the stem cells already present in the brain and spinal cord can be made to regenerate myelin, regardless of a person’s age.”

Other Harvard co-authors of the study were Tata Nageswara Rao and Jennifer L. Shadrach of Wagers’ lab. [en línea] Boston (USA):, 16 de enero de 2012 [REF. 12 in January of 2012] Available on Internet:

Spanish doctors, most proponents the benefits of ICT to improve health care

12 01 2012

A study by the consulting firm Accenture reveals how the Spanish doctors are physicians who see more advantages to the new technologies of information and communication (ICT) with a view to the improvement of health care.

Thus emerges from the results of a study carried out between 3.700 doctors in eight countries (Spain, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore and United States).

In particular, the 82,2 per cent of Spanish doctors create technology involves better coordination between health care and the limits of the service; an improvement of the processes of work between different organizations (82%) and better access to qualitative data for clinical studies (81,8%).

On the other hand, American doctors are less enthusiasts since it only between a 57 and 58 per cent supported these statements.

In addition, the vast majority of Spanish doctors considered the technology applied to the field of health to improve the quality in the treatment decision-making (74%), reduce errors (71,7%) and improve the health of patients (67%).

According to Javier Mur, Accenture partner and head of health in Spain, Portugal, Africa and Latin America, “the degree of implementation of ICT in healthcare in Spain is high and clearly above the European average, because, among other causes, to considerable investments made in recent years”.

Although the survey shows similar views among the collective doctor of the eight countries studied, the medical Spanish and Singapore are the more positive compared with their counterparts in United States, Canada and Australia, the more sceptical in this order.

In the same way, most of the doctors in all countries considered that technology provides common benefits, including better access to quality for clinical trials data (71%), greater coordination of care (69%) and a reduction in medical errors (66%).

However, Some physicians are even his skepticism before the benefits of the technologies and their application in health care.

In fact, a percentage of doctors in all countries does not believe that the technology can reduce unnecessary procedures (43,6%), improve access to services (43%) or improving outcomes for patients (39,2%).


One of the key indicators of skepticism among physicians is the age, with differences between the views of elders of 50 years, due to his level of knowledge and use of information technologies, and the young doctors, that show a greater predisposition to consider the positive impact of these techniques.

Like this, more than the 72 percent of physicians under the age of 50 years consider that these technologies will improve coordination between the bases and the limits of the service and more than the 73 percent you will offer improved access to quality for clinical trials data.

These percentages vary among the greatest physicians of 50, Since only the 65 and 68 percent respectively the same advantages they perceive.

Finally, the study also measured the use of twelve different features of technologies applied to the health, as electronic references of other physicians, orders ‘ online ’, communication with patients and other clinicians through a secure e-mail and e-prescriptions. The report confirms that doctors more accustomed with these technologies are those who have a more positive attitude about the benefits associated with. [en línea] Madrid (Spain):, 12 de enero de 2012 [REF. 10 in January of 2012] Available on Internet:

Sheila Nirenberg: To prosthetic eye to treat blindness

9 01 2012

At TEDMED, Sheila Nirenberg shows a bold way to create sight in people with certain kinds of blindness: by hooking into the optic nerve and sending signals from a camera direct to the brain.

[ted id=1309]

Sheila Nirenberg is a neuroscientist/professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, where she studies neural coding – that is, how the brain takes information from the outside world and encodes it in patterns of electrical activity. The idea is to be able to decode the activity, to look at a pattern of electrical pulses and know what an animal is seeing or thinking or feeling. Recently, She's been using this work to develop new kinds of prosthetic devices, particularly ones for treating blindness. [en línea] New York (USA):, 9 in January of 2012 [REF. December of 2011] Available on Internet:

Major medical advancements thanks to the convergence between biology and technology

5 01 2012

In the field of health is taking an increasing convergence between biology and technology. Imagine a future in which your doctor is a machine?? Or you can print kidneys or bones replacement?? Robotic prosthesis?, cell phones that control our levels of sugar or augmented reality to detect, for example, a skin cancer?

Although many of these technologies are still in diapers, you would be surprised to know how close we are to employ some of these resources in medicine and how they revolutionise medical treatments in the next decade. A 3D printer related content to regenerate bones cell phones to find out if a medicine has been forged on the iPhone, the new stethoscope??

Goodbye to doctors?… Human?

Some will recall that machine that scanned the health of the protagonists of Star Trek. It was precisely to see this series of science fiction than to Walter Brouwer, one of the founders of the company Scanadu, inspired to raise the manufacture of the Medical Tricorder.

We are talking about Artificial Intelligence, This series of programs that think and come to conclusions based on processing and data contrast.

The concept is to develop a device capable of obtaining various patient data (such as blood pressure or the presence of infections from the analysis of the blood or saliva) and from them produce a diagnosis and design a treatment.

The X-PRIZE Foundation proposed a $10 million prize for who to develop this technology. There is already a dozen of companies working on a model and aims to be commercially available in three or five years.

For its part, other programs smart as Siri Apple and IBM's Watson are already joining the world of medicine.

Combined with cloud computing systems, they can become personal doctors in power our cell phones.

Printing kidneys

3D printers, increasingly more affordable, will give much to talk about in many areas, but in medicine could be particularly revolutionary. If a patient has lost a leg, These machines could scan the striped member and develop a prosthesis that fits to the extent and the patient's skin color.

But the concept goes a lot further and could put an end to the drama of those patients in need of an organ transplant.

The idea is to replace the “ink” He used these machines by stem cells to manufacture kidney, livers or hearts, using the DNA of the patient, What would prevent rejections. We are talking about the bioimpresion and it is not a new concept.

Years ago that this possibility is raised, but only recently seems to be, never better said, materializing.

In March of 2011, the researcher Anthony Atala, of the Institute of medicine regenerative Wake Forest in United States, an auditorium integer surprised during a Conference to print a kidney in live.

True that the kidney was not functional, but it was made from human tissue.

Liquid hospital

Jorge Juan Fernández, Director of the area of EHealth and health 2.0 Click Hospital Sant Joan de Deu Barcelona, is the first drive “liquid hospital” of Spain, project aimed at hospitals to virtually beyond its walls to interact both with the patient and with the rest of the medical community.

This is done through various internet resources, from accounts on Facebook where, for example, offer health tips, pages are collected where recent publications in the field of medicine, or Twitter accounts with links to Conference videos aimed at parents worried about their children's health control.

The digital information of Hospital Sant Joan de Déu offer is wide and transcends continents.

In 2010 It began to broadcast both Spain and Latin America a Webcast (live broadcasting over the internet) with courses and training for doctors and nurses, that lets you follow the courses in real-time or deferred.

As for the patient, says Fernandez, with social networks becomes a kind of “Health correspondent”, providing information to participate, or your opinion, and interacting differently with the doctor.

Years ago, that the concept of liquid hospital is spreading in United States.

In this country, 575 centres already have a Youtube account, 1.068 they have an account on Facebook, 814 on Twitter and 149 published blogs, According to, information page on social networks for health centers.

In that country, years ago to work with social success as a click PatientsLikeme (patients like me) or click CureTogether (Heal us together), where patients with similar ailments share their experiences or knowledge, and even where crowdsurcing click campaigns can drive (massive outsourcing).

Sensors and applications

In the last year we have seen a boom in applications for smart phones and the medicine is not exempt from them.

Very soon we can control our health using our cell phones.

Imagine the situation: a phone that accessing our medical record, that monitor your heart rate and sends the data to the cloud to make see them the doctor.

They are already very popular, especially in United States, applications such as Fitbit o Jawbone UP, it help us to keep us in shape.

At the end, These applications are converted to what you mentioned at the beginning of this article, a kind of machine that scans the State of our health and that automatically produces a diagnosis or treatment.

A resource, that could have a big impact especially in developing countries, with little access to health services.

Apart from the cell, electronics experts are also developing all kinds of sensors. Small and inexpensive devices that can measure our temperature or pressure and transmit these data over the Internet.

The thin line between the human and the robot

“They are technologies that are mixed with biology. This will be increasingly more and there will be the debate on the boundary between the human and the machine”, explains Fernández.

Refers to the development of Orthopedic Implants Bionic, as those who leads the South African athlete click Oscar Pistorius, broker who practice this sport with a species Scythe-shaped prosthesis.

But it also highlights the emergence of the first exoskeletons, that perhaps it could in the future do walking subjects people.

They are robotic exoskeletons that detect nerve impulses emitted by the brain to the muscles.

For I have done, transcending the world of medicine, United States is investing millions in the development of mechanical exoskeletons for Marine Corps units, in order to increase its capacity. [en línea] London (United Kingdom)BBC.coco, 5 de enero de 2012 [REF. 4 in January of 2012] Available on Internet:

RODES Dr: Biomedical scientific aspects to develop in the coming years

2 01 2012

John Rodes

President Health Research Institute clinical-IDIBAPS

In the 20th century has produced a great scientific progress as he had ever observed in the history of mankind. This great scientific progress has also happened in the field of biomedicine. Must be borne in mind that the fundamental objectives of medical research have been increasing hope and quality of life of the human being. These objectives have been achieved far since the life expectancy at birth was of 47.3 in the year 1900 While in the year 2008 was already 81.7 years (79.1 years in men and 84.3 years in women). (Figs. 1 and 2).

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

The most frequent causes of death have also changed. In the years 1900 most patients died from infections, especially pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhea (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3

However in the year 2010 the causes of death heart diseases are more prevalent, cancer and cerebrovascular disease (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4

This increase in life expectancy has been due not only to the biomedical research but also to other political and socio-economic factors (nutrition, health, housing and public health measures). However there is to emphasize that since the second world war biomedical innovation (new drugs, and new diagnostic and surgical procedures) It has been the fundamental cause for increase in life expectancy as dramatically. These new innovations have been the most important cause qua has determined that in the latter 30 years expenditure on health has grown 2.8% per year faster than the rest of the economy in most developed countries (1). When parsed into that age has detected an increase in life expectancy can be to the first decades of the 20th century the 80% years of life expectancy increase took place before the 65 years of age, However nowadays the situation has changed. In effect, the 80% the increase in life expectancy is thrown later in the 65 years. These data clearly indicate that the aim of the biomedical research must be reoriented. At the moment is a priority to conduct research that will improve the quality of life of citizens. In this sense, In addition, It is recommended that you deepen knowledge of the aging process and chronic diseases (2). So it is essential to strengthen the basic biomedical research (Genetics, Molecular Biology) and support the creation of institutes of health research to stimulate translational research. Today biomedical research centres should include a University Hospital with a large capacity to develop clinical research of proven scientific level and facilitate the incorporation of basic researchers from the University or from the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. These institutes as well as having a powerful critical mass, They must be multidisciplinary, possessing a powerful technological platforms (Genomics, Metabolomics, Proteomics, Bioinformatics, BioBank, Vivarium, among others). .

This is the only way to ensure the realization of quality research, international and highly competitive. The creation of monographic centres in biomedicine today have no place in a rational scientific policy.


1-Fuchs, VR. New priorities for future biomedical innovations. N Engl J Med 2010; 363: 704-705.

2-Schoenborn AC, Heyman. Health characteristics of adults age 55 years and over: Unitated States, 2004-2007. National Seashore. Health Stat Report 2009;16:1-31.