Category: Technology

“I’ll have what she’s having”

published date
January 2nd, 2007 by

FDA plans to allow cloned meat, according to the Wall Street Journal:

[T]he Food and Drug Administration said it couldn’t find any differences between meat and milk from healthy conventionally bred adult cattle, pigs and goats and that from healthy cloned animals and their offspring. As a result, the agency said it would probably allow the meat and milk of these cloned animals and their offspring to be sold without any special labeling to alert consumers.

Here’s what we can look forward to (from an earlier Washington Post article)

Farmers and companies that have been growing cloned barnyard animals from single cells in anticipation of a lucrative market say cloning will bring consumers a level of consistency and quality impossible to attain with conventional breeding, making perfectly marbled beef and reliably lean and tasty pork the norm on grocery shelves.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is a little whacked:

“The government talks about being science-based, and that’s great, but I think there is another pillar here: the question of whether we really want to do this,” said Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America.

Backscatter chatter

published date
December 13th, 2006 by

There’s been talk recently of using new “backscatter” machines for passenger screening to detect explosives and other dangerous items that a metal detector would miss. Most of the commentary has been about the threat to privacy, since the machines essentially look through your clothes. That’s to be dealt with by degrading the images to a certain extent.

I’m not too worried about privacy. After all, how much privacy and dignity do we really have left at airport checkpoints these days any way. On the other hand, backscatter is produced by radiation. In other words passengers will be going through X-ray machines. Patients are getting exposed to some alarmingly high doses of radiation from CT without anyone taking notice, so I wondered about the effects of backscatter on frequent fliers like me who might go through them hundreds of times every year.

I got some reassurance from a Health Physics Society article, which reports that it would take 200 screening scans in one year to reach the federally-defined Negligible Individual Dose. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers it safe to hit at least 25 times this number, or 5000 scans per year.

Meanwhile Rapiscan, a maker of backscatter systems, says each full-body scan is equivalent to what a person gets in five minutes from background environmental radiation.

I’m not an expert on this topic but from what I’ve read so far I’m not as alarmed as I thought I might be.

Blown Away

published date
November 9th, 2006 by

Blown Away

Using a regular blow dryer, or better yet a modified one called the LouseBuster, does a better job of killing lice and destroying their eggs than chemicals or combing. The blow dryers seem to dry out the lice, killing them. It’s not the type of treatment that lice are likely to evolve resistance to, either. I’m happy about the results, because I’m against hysterical anti-lice policies.

The best blow drying technique, according to MedPage Today was to use the LouseBuster:

The most effective hot-air method was the LouseBuster machine, invented by some of the researchers, in combination with a coarse comb attachment on the hose. It delivered twice the air volume of a handheld hair dryer and eradicated significantly more lice and eggs than comb control.

The authors have filed patents on the LouseBuster, so I’m not sure we can completely trust this research. I also found the discontinuation statistics interesting:

  • 2% among the 54 patients tested with the bonnet-style dryer,
  • 4% in the 26 participants treated with the handheld blow dryer using hair divided into 10 sections,
  • 4% among the 27 children treated with the handheld blow dryer and hair in 20 sections,
  • 13% of the 15 children treated with the wall-mounted dryer, and
  • 0% in both of the 18-patient LouseBuster groups.

I’m guessing users of the LouseBuster weren’t allowed to give up!

Saying no to CT

published date
November 2nd, 2006 by

Saying no to CT

Advanced CT scanners have revolutionized trauma care and provided physicians with lots of information to aid diagnosis and track treatment progress. Utilization has gone through the roof, which is good news for radiologists and hospitals but bad news for payers. There has been no significant progress in holding the line on imaging costs, the way there has been on drugs, for example.

But there is growing concern over the high dosage of radiation that some patients receive from CT scans, according to the Wall Street Journal. A chest CT exposes the patient to 8-10 millisieverts of ionizing radiation. That’Â’s 100 to 1000 times as much as a chest x-ray, and about half of the exposure received by the average atomic bomb survivor in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Some patients get dozens or even hundreds of scans. No doubt not all those scans are necessary.

I’ve always been leery about medical radiation exposure. My mother was conservative about letting us have our teeth x-rayed, and she was probably right. If payers want to rein in CT costs, they’d be wise to tap patient safety concerns. However, if they aren’t careful they will just drive up the use of MRI, which costs even more.

Making peace between perfume wearers and asthmatics?

published date
October 13th, 2006 by

Making peace between perfume wearers and asthmatics?

From the BBC (Creating a stink in the name of science), about the work of a professor in Tokyo:

One of the most ambitious devices his team has built is a sophisticated “odour recorder” which can sniff an object and then reproduce its smell using a host of chemicals.

If you present the recorder with a shiny red apple, the electronic nose will take a cursory sniff, analyse the odour and then draw up a recipe of chemicals needed to recreate it.

When you want to replay the scent, the device mixes the ingredients and pumps the smell of apples back at you.

The system is already attracting interest from the scent industry. As the professor excitedly showed off his gadgets, two executives from a large Japanese fragrance firm eagerly watched.

Many but not all perfumes trigger asthma. Since each perfume is made up of tens of ingredients it is likely that only a few of the ingredients are asthma triggers. If a company stocks its odor reproducer only with asthma-safe chemicals it can produce asthma-safe perfumes. Once it becomes clear that some perfumes are asthma safe, there will be a strong incentive for other companies to follow suit.

Thanks to Mickey.