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The most current and concise informative articles from the medical world.

Robotic gait training for kids with CP

Engineers at Columbia University have published a pilot study demonstrating the success of a robotic training system in improving posture and walking in children with cerebral palsy. The children participated in 15 training sessions in which they wore a tethered pelvic assist device (TPAD)—a pelvic belt attached to several wires—while walking on a treadmill. The device is programmed to apply downward force to re-train underperforming leg muscles, particularly the soleus.

Researchers are now planning larger clinical trials for the TPAD gait-training system, and are considering studying its use in children with hemiplegic/quadriplegic CP.

“Shooter” video games may damage the brain

A Montreal study published recently in Molecular Psychiatry has found a possible link between playing first-person shooter video games and the loss of grey matter from the brain’s memory centre. The four-year neuroimaging study looked at the impact of action video games on the hippocampus (a part of the brain that is crucial for orientation and memory) of almost 100 participants. After 90 hours of playing popular shooting games such as Call of Duty, Killzone and Medal of Honor, brain scans tended to show participants suffered a loss of grey matter in this area. And the more depleted the hippocampus becomes, the more a person is at risk for developing depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

Not all games, according to the researchers, have this negative effect. When participants played three-dimensional platform games, such as Super Mario which emphasize spatial orientation, there was an indication of increased grey matter in the hippocampus.

Canada last in health care accessibility

Canada ranks ninth among 11 high-income countries in terms of health-system performance, according to US-based think tank the Commonwealth Fund. The UK scored highest overall in the newly released report, with Australia and the Netherlands close behind. Highlighting the need for improvement, Canada scored last in accessibility and performed poorly in health outcomes and equity. The only two areas in which Canada did not rank near the bottom were care process and administrative efficiency.

Altering human heredity?

In a first for genome editing, a research team led by Oregon Health & Science University has safely repaired a disease-causing gene in human embryos, targeting a heart defect (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) that is best known for killing young athletes. This represents a big step toward one day preventing a list of inherited diseases.

While this was laboratory research only and is nowhere near ready to be tried in pregnancy, the findings suggest that scientists might alter DNA in a way that protects not just one baby from a disease that runs in the family, but that child’s offspring as well.

Sugar and cancer link now clearer

After a nine-year study, Belgian scientists say they have made an important discovery in the relationship between sugar metabolism and cancer. Using yeast cells for their research, the team found that an influx of glucose caused an overstimulation of Ras proteins the same proteins often found mutated inside human tumours allowing the cells to grow at an accelerated rate. The finding sheds light on how cancer’s ability to speedily metabolize sugar (known as the Warburg effect) stimulates tumour growth, and might have a far-reaching impact on tailor-made diets for patients with cancer.

Spotlight on…

Canadian Transplant Society. Founded in 2009, the Canadian Transplant Society is dedicated to furthering the goals of transplant medicine across Canada. It seeks to help the thousands of people in Canada who are waiting for transplant organs, and to raise awareness of this life-and-death issue. It works to bring proven cures to people who need them by raising awareness of organ donation and encouraging Canadians to register as donors. The Canadian Transplant Society also aims to make life-saving organ transplant units available to all provinces, and to supply any other needed equipment and services that benefit organ donation.

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