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New Exoskeleton Helps Children With Spinal Muscular Atrophy Walk

About 1 in 10,000 children is affected by spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic, degenerative disease that attacks the nervous system and weakens muscles, often leading to serious mobility issues. While there's no cure for SMA, scientists at the El Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in Madrid have recently unveiled a project designed to give children with the disease the ability to stand and walk again.

The adjustable, robotic exoskeleton is made out of aluminum and titanium, and attaches to the body with a harness and straps at various points on the legs. A computer is connected to five motors in each leg of the device that work in tandem as the user's artificial muscles. The wearer controls the exoskeleton, thanks to highly sensitive sensors that detect and respond to the wearer's smallest muscular movements, and then execute them. The exoskeleton's battery lasts for five hours on a single charge, which can provide more time for muscle training therapy.

"The number one drawback in developing this type of pediatric exoskeleton is that the symptoms of neuromuscular illnesses—such as spinal muscular atrophy—change over time, as much in the articulations as in the body," Elena Garcia of CSIC said in a statement. "It’s fundamental to have an exoskeleton capable of independently adapting to these changes. Our model includes intelligent joints, which alter the brace’s rigidity automatically and adapt to the symptoms of each individual child at whenever required."

The patented technology is currently in the preclinical phase, so it's not available to everyone just yet. But with the project, the team hopes to begin to help patients with SMA stand upright and walk—an ability that not only helps in an immediate sense, but also serves to stave off scoliosis and other complications common to those who've lost mobility. 

[h/t Laughing Squid]

Images courtesy of CSIC

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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Knock-Off Versions of Nerf Ammo Can Cause Serious Eye Injuries
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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Nerf toy guns and their foam projectiles, as marketed and manufactured by Hasbro, are virtually harmless when used as instructed. But, as reported by CNN, a recent paper in the UK medical journal BMJ Case Reports is providing a reality check when it comes to using the mock weapons and off-brand ammo improperly.

Three unrelated patients were treated at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London with ocular injuries that were sustained as a result of being "shot" with Nerf guns. Two adults had bleeding and inflammation in the eye; one 11-year-old had bleeding, inflammation, and damage to the outer retinal layer. All three suffered what the paper described as "significant ocular trauma." Attending doctors treated their swelling, and all symptoms resolved within a few weeks.

So what happened? In the case of one patient, a Nerf play session went awry as a result of using non-licensed ammo that isn't subject to Hasbro's quality control measures and may be made of harder materials as a result. On their Nerf landing page, Hasbro cautions users to "never modify any Nerf blasters or other Nerf products. Use only the darts, water, rounds, and discs designed for specific Nerf blasters."

Pediatric ophthalmologists interviewed by CNN recommend that protective eyewear be used whenever anyone is playing with Nerf weapons. It's also advisable never to aim for the face when shooting and to avoid attempting to modify the weapons to shoot faster or farther.

[h/t CNN]

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Here's What You Need to Know Before Getting Inked or Pierced, According to Doctors
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iStock

Getting inked or pierced is a rite of passage for many teens and young adults. But before getting that belly ring or butterfly on your back, experts want you to be aware of the risks, which are reviewed in a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to NPR, it's the first set of recommendations the professional association has ever released on the practices.

Forthcoming in the October 2017 issue of Pediatrics and available online, the report provides a general assessment of the types and methods used to perform body modifications, along with potential health and social consequences. Here are a few main takeaways:

—It's unclear how often tattoos cause health complications, but they're generally believed to be rare, with the greatest risk being infection. One recent study found that nanoparticles in ink can travel to and linger in lymph nodes for an extended period. That said, you should check with your doctor to make sure all of your immunizations are up to date before getting either a tattoo or piercing, and that you're not taking any immunity-compromising medicines.

—Before shelling out your hard-earned cash on a tattoo, make sure it's something you'll likely still appreciate in five to 10 years, as it costs anywhere from $49 to $300 per square inch to remove a tattoo with lasers. (This might provide all the more incentive to opt for a small design instead of a full sleeve.)

—About half of people 18 to 29 years of age have some kind of piercing or tattoo, according to Dr. Cora Breuner, who is chair of the AAP committee on adolescence. Many individuals don't regret getting one, with some reporting that tattoos make them feel sexier. But while millennials appear to be cool with metal and ink, hiring managers might not be too pleased: In a 2014 survey of 2700 people, 76 percent said they thought a tattoo or piercing had hindered their chances of getting hired, and nearly 40 percent thought tattooed employees reflected poorly on their employers.

—Not all tattoo parlors are created equal, as each state has different regulations. Keep a close eye on whether your artist uses fresh disposable gloves, fresh needles, and unused ink poured into a new container. This helps prevent infection.

—The advice is similar for getting pierced: Make sure the piercer puts on new, disposable gloves and uses new equipment from a sterile container. Tongue piercings can cause tooth chippings, so be careful of that—and remove any piercings before you play contacts sports.

The full report is available online.

[h/t NPR]

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