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Monday
Dec032012

WATCH: Twins Caught Fighting in the Womb

Dr. Marisa Taylor-Clarke, Imperial College, London(NEW YORK) -- Sibling rivalry can apparently begin even before birth and researchers in London have remarkable footage of twins fighting for legroom in the womb.

The footage shows the legs of the smaller of the two fetuses extending into the space of the larger fetus, as if trying to push it back or kick at it, although it's not certain what is really going on between the fetuses.

"If you've got two fetuses in the womb, they can't possibly stay in their own space," Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, division chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, told ABC News.

Greenfield is hesitant to call the movement fighting, but she still finds the video interesting.

"Twins have been kicking in wombs for millennia," said Greenfield. "Only now we're able to experience it like this."

The scientists used cinematic-MRI, which utilizes magnetic resonance imaging to string together moving pictures from inside the body. Unlike CAT scans, the procedure does not use radiation and is far safer for the fetus.

The video comes from a study aimed at diagnosing a rare but increasingly more common condition unique to identical twins. Called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, the condition causes the twins' blood flow to essentially become interconnected. One baby inevitably loses out to the other, receiving less blood, and stops growing. The other baby then grows dangerously fast, putting it at risk of cardiovascular complications and premature birth.

Doctors hope cinematic-MRI technology, which has been used on pregnant women before, will become a more common tool for identifying twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome as more innovations that fix the life threatening issue become available.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec032012

Football and Brain Damage: Evidence of a Link Mounting

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research is strengthening the link between long-term brain damage and playing football.

ESPN and PBS' Frontline are working on a documentary and report that scientists have discovered 28 new cases of chronic brain disease in football players who have died -- 15 of them, former NFL players.

One researcher says the sheer volume of cases proves no one can deny there's a problem.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec032012

Pesticides in Tap Water Linked to Food Allergies

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As food allergies become increasingly common, a new study offers the first proof that they may be linked to pesticides found in tap water.

Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology used existing government data to see whether people with more dichlorophenols in their urine were more likely to have food allergies.  Dichlorophenols are a kind of chlorine in certain pesticides that are known to kill bacteria -- and in theory, they could be killing the naturally occurring bacteria in humans’ digestive systems, causing food allergies.

“We wanted to see if there was an association between certain pesticides and food allergies, and we were specifically interested in dichlorophenols because those were the ones that had this antibacterial effect,” said lead researcher Dr. Elina Jerschow.  “When researchers have compared bacteria from the bowel in healthy kids versus bacteria in the bowel for kids that have lot of allergies, they’ve noticed a big difference.”

The number of children and teens with food or digestive allergies in the United States has increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, according to a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  That’s about three million people under age 18.

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies, according to the CDC report.  Symptoms can range from mouth tingling to anaphylaxis, which is the swelling of the throat and tongue and can lead to death.

Jerschow clarified that the researchers were only looking for a statistical association, meaning they were not able to examine patients to see how these chemicals physically caused their allergies.  Because it’s only an association, these findings could mean that the chemicals caused the food allergies, or it could mean the food allergies caused the chemicals in the urine.  That part is not yet clear.

“While the study does not allow concluding that pesticides are responsible for the allergies, it certainly raises the possibility and justifies pursuing the kinds of studies that can help sort of if these pesticides are, indeed, the cause,” said Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, who directs the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center at North Shore University Hospital.  He was not a researcher involved in the study.

Spaeth said the study's findings fit in with growing evidence that pesticide exposure can damage the immune system, which could increase allergies as well.

Researchers were surprised to find that dichlorophenol levels in urine didn’t vary between urban and rural areas, Jerschow said.  They concluded that even those who opted for bottled water instead of tap water could ingest the pesticide chemical from eating fruit, fruit juices and foods with cocoa powder, like chocolate.

As such, Jerschow said the research is still too preliminary to suggest that Americans should change their eating or drinking habits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec032012

Arizona Woman Nearly Dies as Brain Fluid Leaks Out Nose

Courtesy of The University of Arizona College of Medicine(NEW YORK) -- For more than four months, a clear, tasteless liquid leaked out of Aundrea Aragon's nose whenever she bent over, but doctors reassured her that it was only allergies.

"It wasn't even dripping, it was pouring out of my nose," said Aragon, a 35-year-old mother from Tucson, Ariz.  "If I looked down or bent over, it would literally pore out of the left side of my nose.  I had no control at all."

Even though doctors "blew off" her concerns, Aragon said that "deep down," she knew something was seriously wrong.

And there was: Her brain was leaking cerebrospinal fluid through two cracks in the back of her sphenoid sinus, a condition that could have killed her.

"I am still kind of in shock," said Aragon, who had surgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center in October.  "I was very fortunate.  They said I could get meningitis and go into a coma and die."

Aragon's condition -- a cerebrospinal fluid leak -- is rare, occurring in only 1 in 100,000 or 1 in 200,000 patients, according to her surgeon, Dr. Alexander G. Chiu, chief of the division of otolaryngology.

Most often it is seen in overweight patients who have high cranial pressure, and the sinus "pops open."  Sometimes a car accident or head trauma can cause a tear.

"In her case, it was more of a freak thing," said Chiu, who has treated only about 100 cases.

The danger isn't the loss of fluid, according to Chiu, but rather infection.

"You are constantly making brain fluid," he said.  "It can be fatal when there is a connection between the cleanest part of the body, the brain, and the dirtiest part, the nose."

Chiu and his colleague, neurosurgeon Dr. G. Michael Lemole, used an endoscopic method to access the sinus and patch up the two sinus cracks.  They entered the sinus through the nose and grafted skin over the leaky spots.

"Scar tissue grows over the graft and it protects her for the rest of her life," Chiu said.  "It shouldn't happen again -- she's so young."

Still, Aragon will have to be monitored several times a year.

"She's not leaking anymore, but we have to make sure she doesn't spring a new leak," her doctor said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec032012

Obsessed with Checking Your Phone? You’re Not Alone

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Have you ever pulled out your phone while watching TV or walking down the street just to see if anyone has called, texted or tweeted.  Well, you are not alone.

According to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 67 percent of cellphone owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, calls, tweets, etc., totally unprompted by a beep, ringing or vibration.  Of that 67 percent, 18 percent say they do that “frequently.”

Many psychologists and experts have long said that the brain gets a slight dopamine hit when people see a new message or e-mail.  As Michael Chorost wrote in his book World Wide Mind, “When you see you have a new e-mail you don’t know who it’s from or what it’s about, e.g., how gratifying the message will be -- so you hope for that dopamine hit you’ll get if its good.”

The same goes for those mobile alerts and text messages, Chorost writes.

However, Aaron Smith, the author of the Pew report, points out that another reason many check their phones is because of the social expectations.

“One factor may be the social expectation of availability.  People tended to say that their friends were more likely to chide them for not responding promptly, than for being too attached to their phone,” Smith said.

Still, many don’t actually view their phone as a “time-waster,” the report says.  Only 3 percent agreed with the statement that their phone “costs you time because you are constantly being distracted and interrupted.”  

Only 11 percent of cell owners say that they themselves worry they are spending too much time with their phone.  Twelve percent of cellphone owners say people tell them they spend too much time looking at the phone.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec022012

Older Women Who Get Steroid Injections for Back Pain May be at Greater Risk for Bone Loss, Study Says

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A small study suggests that older women who get steroid injections in the spine to treat lower back pain may be at risk for bone loss in their hips, Health Day reports.

Although anti-inflammatory steroid medications used to treat diseases like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis are known to decrease a person's bone mass over time, it hasn't been clear whether steroid shots, which can be used to treat lower back pain, are connected to bone loss, Health Day says.

In this study, a team of researchers tracked bone-density changes in 28 women who chose steroid injections to treat their back pain and compared their findings with a control group of women who were about the same age. Researchers found that women in the steroid group lost six times more bone mass in the hip than the control group did, even though they said the absolute decrease was "slight," and the extent to which the treatment alone is to blame for bone loss is not clear, according to Health Day.

The findings were reported in the Dec. 1 issue of the journal Spine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Bread That Lasts Months?

Hemera/Thinkstock(LUBBOCK, Texas) -- The company Microzap says it has found a way to keep bread free of mold for two months, according to the BBC.

The company zaps the bread using a microwave array that kills the spores that create mold. While it all sounds a bit technical, the company also claims the patent-pending process can be completed without damaging the quality of the food.

The hope is that the technology, which can also be used on other foods and even pet treats, will dramatically reduce the amount of food that is wasted. Additionally, Microzap researchers say the technology can be used in food processing plants to reduce the occurrence of salmonella contamination.

As for the future, Microzap is currently working on developing a process to treat homes and hotels infested with bed bugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Harvard Approves Campus Kinky Sex Club

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Fifty Shades of Grey has hit the Ivy League as Harvard University, home to some of the nation’s top scholars, sanctioned a student bondage and kinky sex club on campus Friday, according to The Crimson.

“Harvard College Munch” started as seven students meeting during their lunch hour to discuss quirky sex interests. Now, it’s grown to 30 members, and is one of 15 student organizations that will be approved by the Committee on Student Life.

“The impact on campus will be that students who feel outside of the sexual mainstream will now have a safe space to talk about their interests, to feel socially validated, and to build a community,” Harvard psychology lecturer and a sex columnist Dr. Justin Lehmiller, told ABC News.

Students interviewed within the group were granted anonymity by the school paper. The founder, referred to as Michael, says recognition by Harvard’s administration means members will be able to put up posters for events and recruit around campus.

“It’s a little hyperbolic for me to get teary-eyed and paternal about sophomores, but it’s really a joy to see the experience they will have now,” Michael told The Crimson.

Another member, known as Mae, told the student newspaper that finding a “kink” group meant finding a home on campus.

“I didn’t think that anyone was even remotely interested [in kink] on campus,” Mae said. “It’s a community where you can feel safe, and you can feel comfortable talking about [kink].”

“Kink” is most commonly used to refer to BSDM: bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism.

“But keep in mind that BDSM interests are very broad and that the really extreme activities people typically associated with BDSM are actually quite rare,” Lehmiller said.

Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal says the university recognizes 400 independent student organizations, which must comply with a number of requirements, “ranging from submitting an organizational constitution to agreeing to the nondiscrimination and anti-hazing policies.”

“The college does not endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization,” Neal told ABC News. “Rather, it ensures that independent student organizations remain in compliance with all applicable provisions of the Handbook for Students.”

“Munch” applied for official recognition last semester, but had problems with their constitution and finding a stable adviser.

The organization also created a safety team of people who direct students who have faced abuse or trauma to appropriate resources on campus.

“Pretty much everyone who joins this club always thought they were alone,” Michael told The Crimson.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Aimee Mullins: Double Amputee a Model, Athlete, Inspiration

Robert Prezioso/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Aimee Mullins has amazing athletic accomplishments, a successful modeling career, and has earned accolades as a motivational speaker. They are such great accomplishments that some people are surprised when they learn that this pillar of strength stands atop prosthetic legs.

Mullins' life is a testament to going beyond labels, to seizing the opportunities inside each of us.

Mullins was born without shinbones, the result of a condition called fibular hemimelia. At the age of 1 she had both of her legs amputated at the knee.

Doctors told her parents she might never learn to walk, but Mullins defied their limited expectations. With aid of prosthetic legs she not only learned to walk, she learned to run -- and fast.

Mullins was a star athlete at Georgetown, becoming the first amputee to compete on an NCAA track team. She went on to compete in 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, setting three world records in the 100m, 200m and long jump.

In 1999, Mullins was invited to model on the runway for designer Alexander McQueen on hand-carved wooden legs complete with six-inch heels.

"I started to hyperventilate," Mullins told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "I was backstage with Kate Moss and all these incredible supermodels -- Naomi Campbell. And I was opening the show. And I thought, 'Aimee, you've done the Olympics, you can do this.'"

 

Mullins called the show a "seminal moment" in her life.

"It was beautiful and to have people respond to prosthetics, something that had always represented sadness or loss or not quite the real thing, and have them respond in awe and even coveting them," she said. It "was the kind of empowerment that -- I've never been the same since."

The McQueen show is but one highlight in a successful modeling career. Mullins became the face of a L'Oreal campaign for True Match and was named as one People's 50 Most Beautiful People.

But all the praise hasn't stopped her from being humble.

When asked for the secret to her success, she is quick to honor her supporters -- "people who said, 'Yes, Aimee, we can create anything between where your leg ends and the ground. Yes, we can make you as tall as you want to be. Yes. we can play with your body's ability.'"

Mullins strives to be one of those people for others, traveling around the country giving inspirational speeches, encouraging everyone to harness perceived shortcomings as a springboard for achieving lofty dreams.

"Hand somebody the key to their own power," Mullins said during her speech at TedMed, a conference for bold ideas.

"My issue is with the word, 'disabled,'" Mullins said, "[when] we use it to describe a human being, especially a child. You know, I think there are certain words like 'illegitimate' that should not be used to describe a person. And certainly, we have come far enough in our technology that our language can evolve, because it has an impact. I want a child who thinks, 'Wow, what can I do with my new leg?'"

Mullins cautioned that subjective words like "disabled" can act as shackles.

"It's factual to say I am a bilateral-below-the-knee amputee," she said. "I think it's subjective opinion as to whether or not I am disabled because of that. That's just me."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Five Shocking Confessions of a Surgeon

Jochen Sand/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Dr. Marty Makary is one of the leading surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and the author of Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care, in which he pulls back the operating-room curtain to air what he claims are hospitals' dirty secrets.

Have you ever been operated on by a Dr. Hodad? If the name doesn't ring a bell, that doesn't mean you haven't. Click through to learn more and read Dr. Makary's revelations.

A Third of Surgeries Aren't Needed

Surgery is big business, Makary said, and few who've seen the bill after an operation would disagree. Almost a third of the time, it's also unnecessary, he claimed. "By and large, many doctors are still paid on what we call in the industry an 'eat what you kill' model," Makary said. "If you do an operation, you will go home with a thousand or two thousand dollars more than if you didn't do the operation." "The incentives are huge," he continued. "If you look at pap smears, back surgery, heart stents -- there is a lot out there that we are doing that we shouldn't be doing."

Beware of Doctor Hodad

Makary said bad doctors are more common than you think. "Every hospital has a doctor that was locally referred to as Hodad [in] the places that I rotated through," Makary said. Hodad? "Hands of death and destruction." What's even scarier, Makary said, is nobody ever tells Dr. Hodad's patients. In one case he saw, the patients were easily seduced by Dr. Hodad's bedside manner. "Patients requested him," Makary said. "Celebrities, CEOs, famous people would fly in from around the world just to have him operate on them.

Operating Under the Influence

"Health care is a funny field; you can have a DUI and walk right into the operating room the next morning. The [Federal Aviation Administration] would never allow that, because there are national guidelines for pilots ... arguing that it's part of public safety," Makary said. So it's not part of public safety to prevent having a woefully hung-over surgeon operate on you? "These are the problems that happen when you have people who are in over their head and the oversight is very poor," Makary said. Take Dr. Kristin Howard, a recent "Doctor of the Year" at Newton Wellesley Hospital, in Massachusetts. Authorities said she was caught on tape this month tearing out of a supermarket parking lot, under the influence of alcohol and pills she had prescribed herself. When she was stopped by police, she was wearing scrubs, and she reportedly told them she was on her way to the hospital. Howard has pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence and drug charges. "If the rate of substance abuse in America is around seven to 10 percent, why do we think it's lower for doctors?" Makary said.

Doctors With Baggage

Doctors who make medical mistakes often go on to inflict pain and suffering again, Makary said. He said the problem was systemic. "You can lose your license in one state and then just hop over to the other state and not disclose what happened. Many people who lose their license in health care become doctors in an adjacent state," he said. In his book Makary tells the story of a doctor who was interviewing for a position at his hospital. She impressed everyone in her interviews, but when Makary's hospital emailed her last employer, they shot one word back. "'Run,'" Makary recalled. "You just can't really tell much from a sit-down conversation with a doctor," Makary said. "[The applicant] impressed us, and she probably is impressing people who she is treating [somewhere else]."

VIPs Get Worse Care

"Most VIPs, most wealthy people in the United States, get the worst medical care," Makary said. "The reason is that doctors will go out of their way to do something special for them. And that's when things go bad." He told of a foreign VIP who came to Makary's hospital for an operation. "Instead of going to the pre-operative checklist room where a series of checks are done before going into the operating room ... someone thought it would be good for them to skip it and go right into the operating room. Well, I sent that patient right back out to the pre-operative hold area and said, 'We have got to do our standard check that we do for everybody.'"

Watch the full story on ABC's 20/20: True Confessions TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio