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Power Lines and Cell Towers May Cause Pain for Amputees

For decades, a small but vocal subset of people have attributed their pain, dizziness, and fatigue to power lines, cell towers, and cordless phones. Some of these people resort to extreme measures to isolate themselves from electromagnetic fields (EMF), relocating to remote areas or even caves in an attempt to protect themselves. It’s reasonable to think that EMF might have some effect on our bodies; after all, electricity is one of the things that keeps our bodies running. But with no hard evidence to back them up, these complaints have generally been written off as psychosomatic. Now, scientists say they’ve found evidence that EMF can indeed cause pain in some people. The findings were published last month in the journal PLOS One.

Retired Major David Underwood lost his left arm in the Iraq War. Underwood and a number of other amputees have no doubt that EMF trigger their nerve pain. “When roaming on a cellphone in the car kicked in, the pain almost felt like having my arm blown off again," he said in a press release. “I didn’t notice the power lines, cell phones on roam or other electromagnetic fields until I first felt them in my arm.”

Underwood mentioned this phenomenon in a conversation with Mario Romero-Ortega, a bioengineer at the University of Texas, Dallas. The scientist was intrigued. He decided to find out if the EMF really could be to blame for Underwood’s excruciating nerve pain. He was especially interested in the role of the neuroma, a type of painful nerve growth common after amputation.

Romero-Ortega and his colleagues began their research with two groups of lab rats. The rats in the control group were otherwise healthy, while rats in the second group had sustained nerve injuries similar to those in amputated limbs.

Once a week for eight weeks, the researchers exposed all the rodents to a rat-sized dose of the EMF, similar to the amount of exposure you’d get just by living your life in a populated area. They found that four weeks in the experiment, 88 percent of the “amputee” rats showed a pain response during EMF exposure. Like human amputees, the rats also developed neuromas as their injuries healed.

The researchers then gave half of those rats surgery to remove their neuromas and tested them all again. Even without the neuromas, the injured rats’ pain persisted.

"Many believe that a neuroma has to be present in order to evoke pain. Our model found that electromagnetic fields evoked pain that is perceived before neuroma formation; subjects felt pain almost immediately," Romero-Ortega said in a press release. "My hope is that this study will highlight the importance of developing clinical options to prevent neuromas, instead of the current partially effective surgery alternatives for neuroma resection to treat pain."

The researchers say their study is clear evidence that EMF can cause pain to those with nerve damage. After all, Romero-Ortega noted in the press release, it’s not like the rats could have been faking or imagining it. "In our study, the subjects with nerve injury were not capable of complex psychosomatic behavior. Their pain was a direct response to man-made radio-frequency electromagnetic energy."

And while the study was conducted on rats, the researchers believe their results can “very likely” be generalized for humans.

Romero-Ortega showed retired Major Underwood a tape of the “amputee” rats during EMF exposure. “It was exactly the same type of movements I would have around cell phones on roam, power lines and other electromagnetic fields," said Underwood, who has served on congressional medical committees and been exposed to some of the best doctors in the world. "It is pretty amazing that a few short conversations with this team led to validation of what I, and many others, experience."

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New Cancer-Fighting Nanobots Can Track Down Tumors and Cut Off Their Blood Supply
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Scientists have developed a new way to cut off the blood flow to cancerous tumors, causing them to eventually shrivel up and die. As Business Insider reports, the new treatment uses a design inspired by origami to infiltrate crucial blood vessels while leaving the rest of the body unharmed.

A team of molecular chemists from Arizona State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences describe their method in the journal Nature Biotechnology. First, they constructed robots that are 1000 times smaller than a human hair from strands of DNA. These tiny devices contain enzymes called thrombin that encourage blood clotting, and they're rolled up tightly enough to keep the substance contained.

Next, researchers injected the robots into the bloodstreams of mice and small pigs sick with different types of cancer. The DNA sought the tumor in the body while leaving healthy cells alone. The robot knew when it reached the tumor and responded by unfurling and releasing the thrombin into the blood vessel that fed it. A clot started to form, eventually blocking off the tumor's blood supply and causing the cancerous tissues to die.

The treatment has been tested on dozen of animals with breast, lung, skin, and ovarian cancers. In mice, the average life expectancy doubled, and in three of the skin cancer cases tumors regressed completely.

Researchers are optimistic about the therapy's effectiveness on cancers throughout the body. There's not much variation between the blood vessels that supply tumors, whether they're in an ovary in or a prostate. So if triggering a blood clot causes one type of tumor to waste away, the same method holds promise for other cancers.

But before the scientists think too far ahead, they'll need to test the treatments on human patients. Nanobots have been an appealing cancer-fighting option to researchers for years. If effective, the machines can target cancer at the microscopic level without causing harm to healthy cells. But if something goes wrong, the bots could end up attacking the wrong tissue and leave the patient worse off. Study co-author Hao Yan believes this latest method may be the one that gets it right. He said in a statement, "I think we are much closer to real, practical medical applications of the technology."

[h/t Business Insider]

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New Peanut Allergy Patch Could Be Coming to Pharmacies This Year
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About 6 million people in the U.S. and Europe have severe peanut allergies, including more than 2 million children. Now, French biotechnology company DBV Technologies SA has secured an FDA review for its peanut allergy patch, Bloomberg reports.

If approved, the company aims to start selling the Viaskin patch to children afflicted with peanut allergies in the second half of 2018. The FDA's decision comes in spite of the patch's disappointing study results last year, which found the product to be less effective than DBV hoped (though it did receive high marks for safety). The FDA has also granted Viaskin breakthrough-therapy and fast-track designations, which means a faster review process.

DBV's potentially life-saving product is a small disc that is placed on the arm or between the shoulder blades. It works like a vaccine, exposing the wearer's immune system to micro-doses of peanut protein to increase tolerance. It's intended to reduce the chances of having a severe allergic reaction to accidental exposure.

The patch might have competition: Aimmune Therapeutics Inc., which specializes in food allergy treatments, and the drug company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. are working together to develop a cure for peanut allergies.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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