Weekly Good News Update

Happy post-Thanksgiving! While we’re all in the mood to be grateful, here are a handful of things we might take a moment to appreciate:

How Nanotech Bandages could supercharge first aid

About half of all diabetics suffer from nerve damage, or neuropathy, which might mean a blister or a cut escapes notice until it progresses into something more serious. Diabetes also can lower blood circulation and immunity, which may slow healing. Now, researchers are devising solutions by upgrading run-of-the-mill balms, dressings and sutures with nanotechnology designed to speed and improve healing. The latest innovations include ointments that contain nanoparticles loaded with substances that trigger the migration of new skin cells to a targeted area, as well as scaffolds for these cells to populate.

That sounds good, but this sounds even better, if mysterious:

U.S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages

Despite fears that dementia rates were going to explode as the population grows older and fatter, and has more diabetes and high blood pressure, a large nationally representative survey has found the reverse. Dementia is actually on the wane. And when people do get dementia, they get it at older and older ages. … The new study found that the dementia rate in Americans 65 and older fell by 24 percent over 12 years, to 8.8 percent in 2012 from 11.6 percent in 2000.

Hard to beat the above for good news, but here’s something I’m glad to see. Have you been concerned about the “superbugs” and the dire trouble we’d all be in if any kind of little unimportant surgery meant possibly dying of some awful infection? Me, too! So I’m happy about this:

Predatory bacteria can wipe out superbugs, says study

Shigella bacteria make 160 million people ill each year, and more than a million die, largely through contaminated food. … Tests in a laboratory dish showed the predatory bacteria caused the population of superbug Shigella to collapse 4,000-fold.

Now, Shigella isn’t exactly the specific pathogen I lose sleep about, but still, maybe we’ll see breakthroughs soon that’ll let us relegate multiple-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to the dustbin of history. Faster, please!

Here’s something related, possibly more directly applicable to the kind of hospital-acquired infections that most worry me:

New material inhibits bacteria without penicillin

The mesoporous material Upsalite is shown to inhibit growth of bacteria associated with acne and hospital acquired infections. In a study published in ACS Omega, researchers at Uppsala University have shown that the mesoporous magnesium carbonate Upsalite exerts strong bacteriostatic effect on Staphylococcus epidermidis. … Staphylococcus epidermidis is an opportunistic bacterium that has received the most attention for causing hospital acquired infections (HAIs), and can readily become resistant to antibiotics. It is also associated with acne as well as infections of intravascular devices and complications in patients with implanted prosthetic material. The results open up for development of materials inhibiting bacterial growth without the use of antibiotics for e.g. dermal applications.

Here’s another promising development in medicine:

New machine in use in Connecticut treats tendinitis, foot pain without surgery or anesthesia

Alex Horjatschun was in excruciating pain from tendinitis, caused by a bone spur on his heel. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a definite 10. “… after the first treatment (the pain) seemed to really subside and after the third treatment it was like night and day … The pain now is maybe a 1, if that.

Oh, yeah, I remember my brief but excruciating experience with foot pain. Last year, I think? How fast our memory of pain fades, luckily. This treatment seems to have been worked into a nice double-blind study, so that’s very promising.

Possibly trivial, but to put a cherry on top of all this medical good news:

Daily chocolate consumption is inversely associated with insulin resistance and liver enzymes in the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg study

This study reports an independent inverse relationship between daily chocolate consumption and levels of insulin, HOMA-IR and liver enzymes in adults, suggesting that chocolate consumption may improve liver enzymes and protect against insulin resistance, a well-established risk factor for cardiometabolic disorders.

Have some dark chocolate! It’s totally medicinal!

Here’s something that may prove to be considerable practical use, but just to shake things up, it’s not related to medicine:

Graphene Solar Absorber Could Enable Cheap Thermal Desalination

[R]esearchers at Nanjing University in China have developed a solar absorber material made from graphene oxide that enables a solar approach to desalinating water without the need for solar concentrators and thermal insulation. The result could be a low-cost, portable water desalination solution ideally suited for developing countries and remote areas.

Okay, and this last one is not “good news” so much as just interesting:

Scientists to test theory about light that could completely change our view of the universe and prove Einstein wrong

[T]he theory suggests that actually in the very early universe, light might have travelled much faster than its current speed. The speed of light – 186,282 miles per second – has always been seen not only as a constant but as the maximum speed of anything in the universe. … “The theory, which we first proposed in the late 1990s, has now reached a maturity point – it has produced a testable prediction. If observations in the near future do find this number to be accurate, it could lead to a modification of Einstein’s theory of gravity. … The idea that the speed of light could be variable was radical when first proposed, but with a numerical prediction, it becomes something physicists can actually test. If true, it would mean that the laws of nature were not always the same as they are today.”

Weird! But cool.

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