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Jeremy Hunt Wants Doctors’ Judgements To Be Replaced By Computers

Jeremy Hunt has made a call to make the NHS safer by removing medical decisions out of the hands of doctors and letting computers and protocols decide aspects of care instead.

The Health Secretary said that the controversial approach had worked in parts of the American healthcare system and that the NHS should go down the same route.

“The truth is that safety in healthcare is actually about adopting protocstock-footage-caucasian-male-female-medical-team-members-using-tablet-computer-hospital-rooms-shot-on-red-epicols so that you are eliminating judgment from areas where you know you’ve got a proven way that works better and allowing doctors to spend their time in areas where you really do need their judgment,” Jeremy Hunt told a fringe meeting organised by the Reform think-tank at the Conservative Party conference being held in Manchester.

The Health Secretary gave an example of a hospital in America where the production techniques of a Japanese car company had been replicated and applied to the healthcare. He said that this hospital had benefited from the new approach and that patients safety was better than ever.

He went on to argue that removing doctors from these equations would help reduce costs in the NHS wihtout affecting patient care.

“One of the safest hospitals in the world is Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle. They developed their incredibly high standards by copying the production techniques used by Toyota and this was very controversial when they started on this journey 10 years ago,” he said.

The Virginia Mason is a hospital for teaching with over 300 beds. In 2002 the hospitals managers visited the factories of Toyota in Japan as part of a traning course. It is a private hospital and charges its patients for treatment.





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A Paralysed Man Has Walked Again Using Only Brain Power

A 26-year-old man who suffered an injury 5 years ago that made him physically unable to walk has taken his first steps using only the power from his brain, according to a report in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation. It is the first time that an individual who is unable to walk due to spinal cord injury (SCI) has purposefully operated a noninvasive brain computer interface (BCI) system for overground walking in real time, giving hope for the feasibility of developing BCI brain implants to help people to walk again.

Surveys indicate that for people who have paraplegia due to SCI, being able to walk again is a high priority on the way to improving their quality of life. Sixty-percent of them say they would be willing to use a BCI implant if it would help them to walk. Most people who become paralysed due to SCI achieve mobility from a wheelchair, but the sedentary lifestyle that ensues often leads to further problems such as heart disease. Not only do these cause further suffering to the individual, but they also contribute to medical costs.

Video provided by New Scientist

The study, led by Dr. Zoran Nenadic of the University of California, shows that it is possible for someone to use their own brain power to be able to walk again. The participant underwent training and tests for 19 weeks to prepare the walk. In each session, he gained more control and completed more and more tests. Initially, mental training was needed to reactivate the walking ability within the brain. From a seated position, and wearing an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap that read his brainwaves, the participant learned to control an avatar in a virtual reality environment. He also underwent physical training to recondition and strengthen the muscles in his legs.

Next, he practiced walking while suspended 5 cm above the ground, in order to be able to move his legs freely without supporting himself. On his 20th visit, he used these skills and an EEG-based system to walk along a 3.66-meter course on the ground. He wore a body-weight support system for aid and to stop him from falling. The author of the report adds that he was also able to carry on a light conversation during the walk, without interfering with the system, suggesting good real-time control.

Robotic exoskeletons and functional electrical stimulation (FES) have been used to achieve mobility, but they have disadvantages. First, they cannot exploit the neuroplasticity of the pathways between the brain and the spinal motors pools. Second, they lack the supra spinal control that an able body intuitively has. They also have the inconvenience of tending to rely on switches controlled manually. The researchers believe that if a system can be developed without these drawbacks, it would drastically improve the quality of life of individuals who are unable to walk due to SCI.

Spinal cord stimulation using BCIs offers hope of regaining voluntary lower extremity movements to those with SCI. It would enable intuitive and direct brain control of walking via an external device. If the feasibility of such a device can be established through successfully testing it among enough people, a fully implantable BCI could be developed, that might restore the ability to walk in a way that resembles nature.

In the words of Dr. Nenadic;

“Once we’ve confirmed the usability of this noninvasive system, we can look into invasive means, such as brain implants. We hope that an implant could achieve an even greater level of prosthesis control because brain waves are recorded with higher quality. In addition, such an implant could deliver sensation back to the brain, enabling the user to feel their legs.”

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Organs Age At Different Rates According To A New Study

A study using animals suggests ageing is not a gradual decline of the entire body all at once, but a more disordered process with some organs ageing faster than others. How each individual organ ages depends on its cellular proteins and its physiological function in the body, new research from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies proposes.

“Ageing is associated with the decline of protein, cell, and organ function,” wrote the authors in their study. “We identify 468 differences in protein abundance between young and old animals.”

Ageing, in clinical terms, is a progressive deterioration of organ function as the cells and proteins within organs decline. Meanwhile, the activity levels of genes decrease as animals age, past studies have shown, with most genes showing similar changes across all of the organs. However, a recent study using state of the art technologies on mice tissue concluded the vast majority of proteins remain unchanged in number with age. These recent findings made the issue of age more confusing.

How exactly does ageing affect proteins, then, if it doesn’t decrease their numbers? the scientists wondered. Do age-related changes differ from organ to organ?


Co-first authors of the study, Dr. Brandon Toyama of the Salk Institute and Dr. Alessandro Ori of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory combined genomics and proteomics in their examination of young and old rats. By focusing on both genes and proteins at once, these two researchers and their colleagues were better able to analyse cellular changes in the animals’ livers and brains. What did they discover?

First, they were able to identify 468 differences in protein abundance between the younger and older animals. Second, they observed another set of 130 proteins showing age-related differences in terms of their location within cells, their phosphorylation state, or some other characteristic that would affect either the activity level or function of proteins.

Essentially, then, these discoveries expanded the list of proteins modified by age.

The scientists most dramatic finding? Most of the age-related differences in proteins could be found in just one organ or another for example the brain ageing faster than the liver. In fact, a larger proportion of proteins in the brain were affected by ageing compared to the liver. The reason why, the researchers theorized, is because cells in each of these organs function uniquely. Throughout adulthood, for instance, cells in the liver are frequently replaced. By contrast, neurons in the brain are non-dividing and must survive for the entire lifetime. And so they feel the effects of ageing most.

Based on their new findings, the researchers define ageing as an organ-specific deterioration of the cellular proteome. Going forward, they plan to study differences between individuals, nevertheless, the researchers believe this current work provides “a rich data resource to stimulate further studies of ageing.”