Medical Research Gets Its Own App

It may lack the glitz of the $10,000 gold-plated AppleWatch that debuted this week, but Apple’s new foray into open-source medical research is turning its share of heads in health care.

As part of its “Spring Forward” launch program, Apple unveiled ResearchKit, an app that integrates with its HealthKit app to provide medical researchers with access to data from users who sign up and consent to participating in a particular study—also transformed by Apple into a simple online process.

The app is open-source, which will allow researchers to use ResearchKit in a wide variety of studies, and with non-Apple devices. According to an article in MobiHealth News, apps already created with ResearchKit focus on Parkinson disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and breast cancer.

Full story of ResearchKit app at APTA

Only 1 in 10 Receive Palliative Care Worldwide

Around the world, 90% of people in need of palliative care don’t receive it, according to a new study released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA). The report, which focused on end-of-life care, shows that the bulk of the need is related to noncommunicable diseases including stroke, cancer, and heart disease.

The study found that over 20 million people require palliative care at the end of life, with nearly 70% of those in need being adults over 60, and 9% being children. According to a press release announcing the report, “the number of people requiring this care rises to at least 40 million if all those that could benefit from palliative care at an earlier stage of their illness are included.”

Full story of palliative care at APTA

Many with diabetes unaware of vision loss

Less than half of people with diabetes-related eye disease have been told about it, which means they’re also missing out on treatment that could save their sight, U.S. researchers say.

In nationwide surveys of adults with diabetic macular edema – a condition that can ultimately lead to blindness – just 45 percent of respondents said they had been informed by their doctor that diabetes had affected their eyes. Nearly 30 percent already had vision loss in the affected eye.

It’s important to catch the signs of diabetic macular edema (DME) early because it can be treated, Dr. Neil M. Bressler said. He led the study at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Hospital in Baltimore.

Diabetes commonly causes DME, which is a thickening of the eye’s retina. That change can be detected in an eye exam that includes dilation of the pupils. Left untreated, DME is likely to cause progressive vision loss.

Degeneration of the retina in people with diabetes, known as diabetic retinopathy – which is often caused by DME – is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., Bressler and his colleagues write in the journal JAMA Opthalmology.

Many U.S. medical authorities recommend annual eye checks for diabetics to monitor early signs of vision problems, but many people with diabetes do not get the proper type or frequency of eye care.

Full story of diabetes and vision loss at Zee News

Zen and the Art of Alzheimer’s

I sat across the room from my father on Thanksgiving night. He looked at me pointedly. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“I’m Mary,” I answered.

“Mary… ” he prompted.

“Mary McLaughlin,” I said, wondering if he would recognize that my last name was the same as his.

“Mary McLaughlin,” he repeated slowly. He listened to the syllables as they floated in the air. Then he shook his head. No, it didn’t ring a bell.

My father, a few months shy of his 91st birthday, has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Though he still has good days, he has forgotten most of the things that just a few years ago he would have listed as evidence of a life well-lived — his three college degrees; his two successful careers; his five grown children; his 57-year-and-counting marriage to my mother. They — we — are all shadows now. Glimpses. Points of information that he finds fascinating and puzzling, but that evaporate almost as soon as they are spoken to him.

It’s all lost.

I’ve played that Thanksgiving night conversation through in my head a hundred times since it happened and it stings every time I do. And then, with each replay, I continue through to the second part of our conversation until I get to the part that salves the sting.

Full story of the Zen of Alzheimer’s at The Huffington Post

Helping change the world’s view of Alzheimer’s, the online community of more than 6 million people caring for elderly loved ones, has released Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer’s—a compelling and unprecedented account that explores the human side of Alzheimer’s, as told by three families whose lives have been forever altered by this disease.

“We spent a great deal of time analyzing thousands of questions, answers and comments about Alzheimer’s on,” said Joe Buckheit, Founder and President. “It became clear that even with all the information available, people wanted to know more about how this disease impacts real life.”

To answer their questions and provide further insights, Fade to Blank takes you inside the lives of three courageous families living with Alzheimer’s—from their views, in their words. It demonstrates that there is so much more to this devastating disease than its finality: more love, more hope, more humanity.

“No one has ever presented the ‘human’ side of Alzheimer’s in this way before,” said Anne-Marie Botek, author of Fade to Blank and editor-in-chief of “The unfiltered sentiments expressed by these incredible men and women have the power to truly transform the way Alzheimer’s is perceived.”

Full story of the world’s view on Alzheimer’s at The Sacramento Bee

NSAIDs may help reduce depression for osteoarthritis sufferers

For people with a painful cartilage condition, common pain relievers may have small benefits for depression symptoms as well, a new study hints.

Depression is more than twice as common among people with osteoarthritis, which happens when cartilage wears down around the hands, lower back, knees or other joints.

As many as 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To help manage their pain, those patients often take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or naproxen.

“This work suggests that anti-inflammatory agents may play a role in reducing the burden of depression,” senior author Dr. Michael E. Farkouh of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said.

His team’s study includes data from five previous trials of over-the-counter NSAIDs and prescription Celebrex, a NSAID manufactured by Pfizer, which provided the Celebrex results. In each of the trials, people with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to take one of those medications or a drug-free placebo pill for six weeks.

Full story of depression and osteoarthritis at MedCity News

Alzheimer’s research at crossroads (VIDEO)

For years, scientists and drug companies zeroed in on clumps of brain plaques as a trigger for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer's Research at a CrossroadsScientists theorize that these clumps, known as beta amyloid plaques, crowd the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, killing nerve cells and scuttling memory and thinking.

But pharmaceutical companies have come up empty on developing a drug that removes these plaques and slows or halts memory deterioration, despite spending billions of research dollars.

Some scientists now question whether amyloid is the correct target.

“There really hasn’t been any clinical benefit,” said Dr. Richard Caselli, a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Tests showed that some drugs could clear amyloid plaques, “but, lo and behold, the dementia continues to progress, and people continue to die.”

Still, amyloid believers, such as Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix and Washington University in St. Louis, aren’t ready to give up the fight for a blockbuster, plaque-clearing drug to beat a disease that is projected to afflict 8 million Americans by 2030.

Full story of Alzheimer’s research problems at USA Today

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For Some With Alzheimer’s, Occupational Therapy Can Bring Welcome Relief

Putting mirrors in unexpected places and keeping old photo albums handy might just make life a bit easier for people with Alzheimer’s and those who live with and care for them.

Occupational Therapy Can Help with Alzheimer's PatientsThey’re among suggestions offered by occupational therapists as ways to modify daily life as the degenerative brain disease takes its course.

“In some cases, occupational therapy has been overlooked for Alzheimer’s disease, but it can make such a difference in keeping people at home when you learn how to set up the environment for success and safety,” said Chad Morton, an occupational therapist who’s managing director of therapy services for Amedisys Home Health Services in Baton Rouge, La.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy can help people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers by:

  • Helping the person with Alzheimer’s do things independently,
  • Keeping the person with Alzheimer’s safe,
  • Preventing falls and other injuries,
  • Safeguarding against wandering,
  • Helping families maintain an emotional connection.

“Our primary objective with occupational therapy is to keep people as independent as possible and doing their activities of daily living — like eating, bathing, dressing and grooming,” Morton said. “We can attempt to rehabilitate anything that’s important to a person.

Full story of occupational therapy for Alzheimer’s patients at Health News

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Academy’s Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Dementia Initiative Tackles Obstacles to AD Prevention

AD and Dementia PreventionThe New York Academy of Sciences’ Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Initiative(ADDI) today gathered leaders from industry, government, and academia for the first of a two-day workshop titled, “Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease — What Will It Take?”

The goal of the workshop is to develop a shared roadmap that will lead to additional drug development, which is currently hindered by extensive clinical trial processes. Very few drugs are currently approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease and none effectively targets the underlying cause of the disease. Currently, more than 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to grow to 14 million by 2050 if left unchecked.

During the first day of the conference, working groups focused on unique challenges related to disease prevention, with special attention to applying methods of adaptive clinical design that provide greater flexibility to redesign clinical trials at interim states so as to capitalize on positive early results. The aim of such an effort, which has been successfully applied to other diseases such as cancer, is to make drug development more efficient and cost-effective.

Full story of AD and Dementia prevention at The New York Academy of Sciences

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Treating chronic pain as a disease in its own right

Treating Chronic Pain as a DiseaseA conference being held in Dublin this week will focus on chronic pain as ‘a disease in its own right’

Most people and even most doctors have trouble understanding pain as being anything other than a symptom of an illness. It was always understood that pain was a manifestation of an underlying condition and not a condition in itself.

That notion is slowly changing as doctors come to realize that chronic pain, mostly located in the lower back, is a medical condition itself. Other forms of chronic pain can be headaches lapsing into migraine, pains in the bones and pains in the stomach. It is a function of a poorly designed nervous system.

The classification of chronic pain as a disease in its own right is the theme of a conference taking place Thursday-Saturday in the Convention Centre Dublin. Entitled Chronic Pain – A disease in its own right and a major healthcare problem, it amounts to an attempt by specialists to raise awareness among the public about the status of chronic pain as a condition.

Full story of chronic pain as a disease at Irish Times

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