A provocative new paper published in Nature suggests that neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be transmissible through certain medical procedures. It’s an alarming claim—but one that will require more proof if it’s to be accepted by the scientific community.
We already know prion disease can be transmitted via surgical instruments. The supposition is prion diseases are more common and responsible for more neuro-pathology than we have given them credit for. There is no data or evidence – especially not a study of 8 patients who suffered from an incredibly rare neurodegenerative disorder which we don’t fully understand, to support this.
How many times would you give your neighbor an electric shock to earn a few extra bucks? Your answer could be more malleable than you think. A new study finds that two common drugs—an antidepressant and a treatment for Parkinson’s disease—can influence moral decisions, a discovery that could help unravel specific mechanisms behind aggression and eventually help researchers design treatments for antisocial behavior.
A simple injection is now all it takes to wire up a brain. A diverse team of physicists, neuroscientists and chemists has implanted mouse brains with a rolled-up, silky mesh studded with tiny electronic devices, and shown that it unfurls to spy on and stimulate individual neurons.
The implant has the potential to unravel the workings of the mammalian brain in unprecedented detail. “I think it’s great, a very creative new approach to the problem of recording from large number of neurons in the brain,” says Rafael Yuste, director of the Neurotechnology Center at Columbia University in New York, who was not involved in the work.
Apple’s keynote this week produced a lot of hype-worthy news, as such Apple announcements often do. Laptops with no ports! Wearables with five-figure price tags! And who could forget the claims that the iPhone is now going to transform medical research? The keynote seemed to imply that iPhones, and ResearchKit, would transform our smartphones into medical tricorders, ready to diagnose Parkinson’s disease or atherosclerosis at the tap of a screen. Not so fast.
As much as Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as a force for good, disrupting this and pivoting that, it sometimes forgets that there’s a wider world out there. And when it comes to using devices in the practice of medicine, that world contains three very important letters: FDA. That’s right, the US Food and Drug Administration, which Congress has empowered to regulate the marketing and research uses of medical devices.
The author isn’t saying that Apple will need FDA approval (or IDEs) for iPhones or other Apple products. As far as I know, there are no rumors that Apple is making a medical device. He’s saying that with Apple’s marketing push into biomedical research applications, the researchers or developers may end up falling under FDA regulations for medical devices. It’s like the situation for 23andMe.