Monday, April 26, 2010

News Briefs: April 26, 2010

Psychedelics Offering a Cure?
Eriene-Heidi Sidhom

Like many Americans, Dr. Clark Martin, a clinical psychologist, suffered through depression. Dr. Martin fell into depression after chemotherapy for kidney cancer and none of the traditional methods were helping him recover until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience as part of an experiment at Johns Hopkins University, involving psilocybin, an ingredient in mushrooms. He claims this six-hour experience helped him overcome depression and entirely transformed his personal relationships. Similar studies, using psychedelics, have yielded encouraging results, but review boards have set up strict guidelines to avoid there being an exaggerated perception about the drugs’ risks and benefits. However, despite positive results from multiple studies there is still limited public money granted for research, although nonprofit groups like the Heffter Research Institute have supported research efforts.

Reference: Tierney, John (2010, April 11). Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning in Again. The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2010 from

A Decline in Death from Childbirth
Adam Snider

Due to factors including lower pregnancy rates, higher income which correlates to better nutrition and healthcare, better education, and an increased prevalence of hospitals staffed with skilled workers has lead to a worldwide decrease in maternal mortality rates. Improvements made in India and China stand out as major contributors to this important improvement in public health. In other regions, AIDS is a dominant factor in maternal mortality rates. These findings contradict the dominant view that maternal mortality rates cannot be combated. However, many advocates of women's health resisted the publishing of this data, fearing that the news would reduce public support for their cause. This opinion was contested by other medical professionals. The interviewed Dr. Horton argued that public knowledge of this information demonstrates that public support and donation is having a positive effect.

Reference: Grady, Denise. (2010, April 13). Maternal Deaths Decline Sharply Across the Globe. The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2010 from

Sources to Aid Donor Identification
Namratha Rao

Donor identification for patients suffering from conditions of poor cell development such as immune system diseases primarily needs allergenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). In order to widen the pool of donors, four primary sources are suggested: blood or bone marrow of adult unrelated donors, of mismatched relatives, the umbilical cord stem cells and a combination of various donor sources. There is hope that the body’s own somatic cells can act as a source of stem cells.

Reference: JAMA. 2010;303(14):1421-1422

Study Shows that Robots can Aid Stroke Patients
Kanupriya Tewari

A randomized trial has recently shown that rehabilitation assisted through the use of robots actually results in some improvements in motor function and quality for patients who suffer from chronic disability following a stroke. The New England Journal of Medicine’s researchers reported online that significant progress has been observed in basic motor function and time taken to complete everyday tasks for the robot-assisted group at only 36 weeks, as compared with usual care. Albert Lo, MD, PhD, of the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Rhode Island, and his colleagues have cited that these findings "provide evidence of potential long-term benefits of rehabilitation and challenge the widely held clinical belief that gains in motor function are not possible for long-term stroke survivors.” Results demonstrated that compared with usual care, robot-assisted therapy was superior on one of the secondary endpoints, the Stroke Impact Scale, which measures quality of life and social participation. Certain criticisms have come up, however, such as that it might have been difficult to observe between-group differences because of the effects of certain patient characteristics, like depression. Nonetheless, "the potential for robotic therapy after stroke remains enormous," Steven Cramer, MD, of the University of California Irvine, wrote, noting that “robots never get tired, can design training regimens in reproducible ways, reduce the need for human oversight, can measure performance during therapy, and can provide simultaneous cognitive training by interfacing with computers.”

Reference: Neale, Todd. (2010, April 16). Robots May Aid Stroke Recovery. MedPage Today. Retrieved April 25, 2010 from
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