After attempts to use non-human primates as a source of scarce organs for transplant, doctors have turned to pigs for a variety of reasons. They’re now making great progress against the largest hurdle—rejection. One of the world’s foremost xenotransplantation experts discusses how the process might work and what the future might look like for millions of potential organ and tissue recipients.
Dr. David Cooper, Professor of Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Co-Director, UAB Xenotransplantation Program
Scientists are discovering that our food preferences are much more than a matter of taste, and that taste itself is more complicated than we thought. Psychology also plays a role. An expert discusses what determines preferences, such as why some people like jalapeno peppers & black coffee, and some don’t.
Dr. Rachel Herz, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, and author, Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship With Food
Trauma at such an early age that we don’t remember it can still have lifelong effects. A study in the journal Developmental Science screened nearly 200 pre-teens for stressful experiences in infancy and toddlerhood, asking if they’d gone through stressors such as parental divorce, a move to a new hometown, or the death of a loved one. Then they were given structural MRI’s… which showed a much greater likelihood of a smaller hippocampus in the brain of the traumatized youth. That can lead to memory deficits.
If you get one of your knees replaced, there’s a pretty good chance it will lead to having the other knee done within five years. A study in the Journal of Orthopedic Research shows that happens to nearly a quarter of people who have total knee replacement surgery… possibly a result of abnormal walking patterns after the first replacement. Researchers say physical therapy after knee replacement should aim to normalize walking movement to avoid the need for a second surgery.
And finally… if you’re in a stressful situation, think about your Valentine. A study in the journal Psychophysiology shows that visualizing your romantic partner is just as effective at lowering your blood pressure as actually having them there to comfort you. It could be one reason having a sweetie is good for your health.
Scientists have discovered that the way parents talk to their infants has a huge effect on their intellectual development and later success. Experts discuss why and how parents should hold “conversations” with their babies.
Dr. Anne Fernald, Associate Professor of Psychology, Stanford University
Dr. Kimberly Noble, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Columbia University
Professional athletes are among the most superstitious of all people. While we may be tempted to think these rituals have no effect on performance, psychologists say that if an athlete believes it helps, then it actually does. Experts explain how superstitions work in sports and in life.
Dr. Stuart Vyse, author, Believing In Magic: The Psychology of Superstition
Cancer deaths are continuing to decline. In fact, a report from the American Cancer Society trumpets a major milestone—cancer death rates have dropped every year for the last 25 years. Overall, they’ve dropped 27 percent since 1991… but some cancers are even more striking. For example, lung cancer death rates are down by 48 percent among men. Breast cancer death rates are down by 40 percent, and prostate cancer death rates have dropped by 51 percent.
Parents of teenagers are remarkably pessimistic that schools are keeping their kids safe. A study in the Journal of Community Health shows that 36 percent of parents believe their local high school is “highly likely” to have a shooter incident in the next three years. The study finds that the majority of parents are dissatisfied with the systems schools have in place to counteract gun violence.
Two drugs commonly prescribed for type two diabetes may significantly raise the risk for heart attacks. The drugs, sulfonylureas (sul-fon-eye-loor-ee-ahs) and basal insulin, are often prescribed when metformin doesn’t work. But a study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that patients who take basil insulin are twice as likely to experience cardiovascular harm, and those taking sulfonylureas are 36 percent more likely to be harmed than patients taking newer second-line drugs. Experts say the results should prompt large scale changes in how type two diabetes is treated.
And finally… more than half of people who take medical marijuana for chronic pain admit they’ve driven while under the influence… and one in five users say they’ve driven while they were “very high” in the last six months. The study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence surveyed medical marijuana users in Michigan… where recreational marijuana is also legal. Researchers say they’re troubled that users don’t think there’s much risk to driving under the influence of pot… but they admit they’re not sure how marijuana affects driving for people who use it every day.
Since the introduction of antibiotics in World War II, doctors have prescribed courses of treatment that typically ran longer than necessary. Bacterial resistance is forcing a reevaluation, shortening courses sometimes to just a few days and even prompting doctors to advise not using all pills if patients feel better.
Dr. Brad Spellberg, Chief Medical Officer, Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center
Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Dr. Louis Rice, Chairman, Department of Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University