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This High School Student Has Created a Device to Help Parkinson's Patients

When Utkarsh Tandon was 10 years old, he saw a YouTube video of Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch. The tremors of the former heavyweight champion sparked his curiosity, and soon, Tandon was reading about Parkinson’s disease. The wheels in his head were already turning on how he could help those who suffered from it.

Fast forward to a few years later when Tandon was in a computer science class, studying machine learning. While researching, he stumbled upon a study in which a phone was secured to the hands of Parkinson’s patients and used to assess their tremors. With that, Tandon was on his way to creating OneRing—a 3-D printed wearable device that was just funded (twice over) on Kickstarter.

Named for the prized ring in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, OneRing goes on a patient’s finger and monitors their movements throughout the day. It categorizes those movements based on severity into three categories: dyskinesia, bradykinesia, and tremor. The time-stamped data then appears on an iOS app in the form of a daily report, helping patients and doctors best determine a course of treatment.

The plastic ring contains a box on top that holds a Bluetooth microchip, not unlike other wearable devices like the Fitbit. And like other wearable devices, Tandon is still working on making the design a little more fashion-friendly. He told FastCoDesign: "It has to be something people want to wear. I want to make it look good while it's doing the diagnosis in the background."

OneRing actually started as a 2014 science fair project when Tandon was a high school freshman. He created a machine learning model that did essentially what the product does today—gathers and classifies information on Parkinson’s patients. He won, and received a grant from the UCLA Brain Research Institute, which propelled the development.

Check out OneRing and hear Tandon explain the device in the video above.

[h/t FastCoDesign]

Images via Kickstarter.

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

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Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
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Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

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