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French Scientists Are Paying Men $17,000 to Lie in Bed for Two Months

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French researchers are seeking young, healthy men willing to embrace their inner sloth for science. As The Guardian reports, scientists from the Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology (Medes) need male volunteers to spend two months in bed so they can study the effects of microgravity—the state of virtual weightlessness—on the human body. Subjects will be paid around $17,000.

According to experiment coordinator Arnaud Beck, the goal is to reproduce the weightlessness experienced by astronauts at the International Space Station. Prolonged weightlessness can affect the cardiovascular system, and can also cause vertigo and low blood pressure, in addition to bone density loss, muscle atrophy, and other side effects. These effects can differ depending on whether an astronaut is male or female, as NASA has found. Still, this study includes only men.

Arnaud and his colleagues want to study the harmful physical effects of prolonged weightlessness, and find ways to prevent them. The end goal is “to enhance astronauts’ performance and to ready them for their return to Earth,” according to a press release issued by the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency.

During the experiment's first 15 days, scientists will run tests on the subjects. After that, the bed-ridden men will spend 60 days on their backs, their upper bodies positioned in a slight downward incline. As the CNES explains, this position simulates the effects of weightlessness, as it shifts blood towards the upper body, “causing the same changes in blood volume, cardiac performance and vascular resistance as in space.”

In addition, half of the volunteers will take antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food supplements, and the other half will serve as a control group. Subjects will be monitored, so researchers can see how the drug cocktail affects their bodies as the physical side effects of weightlessness kick in.

Subjects can’t get up to eat, bathe, or even go to the bathroom, as they’re required to keep at least one shoulder touching the bed or its frame at all times. (In short, participants should be prepared—and willing—to use a bedpan for two months.) During the experiment's final 15 days, subjects will spend time recovering from their “weightless” two months, and the scientists will conduct additional tests to see how the experience—and the supplements—affected them.

The upcoming bed-rest study is technically part of a two-part experiment, launched by the Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology last winter. One group of volunteers stayed in bed from January 2017 until April 2017, and the incoming group will remain prostrate from September to November.

Want to get paid to spend two months in bed? Volunteers must be non-smoking males, between the ages of 20 and 45, who are healthy and in good physical shape. The application is available online.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Health
New Test Can Differentiate Between Tick-borne Illnesses
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Time is of the essence in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Fortunately, one new test may be able to help. A report on the test was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Ticks and the diseases they carry are on the rise. One 2016 study found deer ticks—the species that carries Lyme disease—in more than half of the counties in the United States.

The two most common tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. are Lyme disease and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Although their initial symptoms can be the same, they’re caused by different pathogens; Lyme disease comes from infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. We don’t know what causes STARI.

"It is extremely important to be able to tell a patient they have Lyme disease as early as possible so they can be treated as quickly as possible," microbiologist and first author Claudia Molins of the CDC said in a statement. "Most Lyme disease infections are successfully treated with a two- to three-week course of oral antibiotics." Infections that aren't treated can lead to fevers, facial paralysis, heart palpitations, nerve pain, arthritis, short-term memory loss, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

But to date, scientists have yet to create an accurate, consistent early test for Lyme disease, which means people must often wait until they’re very ill. And it’s hard to test for the STARI pathogen when we don’t know what it is.

One team of researchers led by experts at Colorado State University was determined to find a better way. They realized that, rather than looking for pathogens, they could look at the way a person’s body responded to the pathogens.

They analyzed blood samples from patients with both early-stage Lyme disease and STARI. Their results showed that while all patients’ immune systems had mounted a response, the nature of that response was different.

"We have found that all of these infections and diseases are associated with an inflammatory response, but the alteration of the immune response, and the metabolic profiles aren't all the same," senior author John Belisle of CSU said.

Two distinct profiles emerged. The team had found physical evidence, or biomarkers, for each illness: a way to tell one disease from another.

Belisle notes that there’s still plenty of work to do.

"The focus of our efforts is to develop a test that has a much greater sensitivity, and maintains that same level of specificity," Belisle said. "We don't want people to receive unnecessary treatment if they don't have Lyme disease, but we want to identify those who have the disease as quickly as possible."

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Google Can Warn You When Your Allergies Are About to Go Haywire
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How much allergy medication are you going to need today? Google can tell you. Well, it can give you a forecast, at least, as The Verge reports.

Google announced on August 16 that the search engine will now auto-populate search results for pollen and allergy information with allergy forecasts from The Weather Channel. The integration will include the most recent pollen index and allergy forecast data, showing a 5-day forecast detailing whether you’re likely to feel seasonal allergy symptoms throughout the week.

An animation shows a scroll of Google’s search results for pollen with allergy forecasts.
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If you have the Google app, you can set it to send push notifications when the pollen count is notably high that day, so you know to sequester yourself safely indoors. Hopefully you don't live in a city like Jackson, Mississippi, which in 2016 was named the worst city in the U.S. for allergy sufferers. There, your phone may be pinging every day.

While you can already find this information on sites like Pollen.com, having it show up immediately in search results saves you a few extra clicks, and frankly, it’s far more readable than most allergy and weather forecast sites.

Too bad a search engine can't cure our sneezes and watery eyes, though. Time to stock up on Kleenex, get a jumbo bottle of allergy meds, and maybe buy yourself a robot vacuum.

[h/t The Verge]

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