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Category Archives: Health

Health Reform Law Gaining Wider Acceptance

To be sure, Americans remain sharply divided over the legislation, with slightly more than one-third (36 percent) of adults saying they want the law repealed and 21 percent saying they want it to remain as is. Another 25 percent would like to see only certain elements of the law modified, the poll found.

“The public is still divided, mainly on partisan lines, as to whether to implement or repeal all, parts, or none of the health care reform bill,” said Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor.

The poll, conducted earlier this month, found that support for the legislation clearly breaks down along party lines. Almost two-thirds of Republicans (63 percent) said they wanted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act repealed, compared to 9 percent of Democrats.

But while poll respondents were split about the law as a whole, many strongly supported key elements of the bill, “with the notable exception of the individual mandate [the requirement that all adults purchase health insurance] which remains deeply unpopular,” Taylor said.

That support for certain components of the law seems to be increasing slowly with time. For instance, 71 percent of those polled now back the law’s provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those already sick. At the end of 2010, 64 percent supported this provision.

Other provisions that are showing a slow but steady rise in acceptance since November 2010 include:

  • Allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26 — 57 percent in January 2012 versus 55 percent in November 2010.
  • Creating insurance exchanges where people can shop for insurance — 59 percent versus 51 percent.
  • Providing tax credits to small businesses to help pay for their employees’ insurance — 70 percent versus 60 percent.
  • Requiring all employers with 50 or more employees to offer insurance to their employees or pay a penalty — 53 percent versus 48 percent.
  • Requiring research to measure the effectiveness of different treatments — 53 percent versus 44 percent.
  • Creating a new Independent Payment Advisory Board to limit the growth ofMedicare spending — 38 percent versus 32 percent.

But the most controversial aspect of the law — the so-called individual mandate that requires all adults to have health insurance or face a fine — remains widely unpopular, with only 19 percent of those polled supporting it.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law starting in late March.

“It’s clear that people really appreciate key reforms that are in the Affordable Care Act and it demonstrates how important it is for people to know that those reforms actually are embodied in the legislation,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan group that says it’s dedicated to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

The problem is that many people don’t know what’s actually in the law, as previous polls, including some conducted by Harris Interactive/HealthDay, have shown.

“People do not understand the health reform bill,” said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative public policy research organization in Dallas that says it backs private alternatives to government regulation and control. “This reflects a failure all the way around on the part of backers of the bill, critics and the health-care media. No one’s explained how this works.”

Pollack pointed out that some provisions of the Affordable Care Act aren’t scheduled to take effect until 2014.

The poll also found that, by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin, people think health care reform should be addressed by each state separately, rather than at the federal level.

A fair amount of the current Republican primary race to challenge President Obama in the November election has focused on pledges to repeal much or all of the health care act.

Slightly more than half of those polled — including 61 percent of Republicans — said they knew that when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he supported a law that provides health insurance to many people in the state. The law is similar to the federal law signed by Obama in March 2010.

Most poll respondents said they had little or no idea what the Massachusetts law has — and has not — accomplished. The legislation, which includes an individual mandate, has provided coverage to a majority of state residents, is popular with most people in the state, but has yet to contain costs.

The poll was conducted online Jan. 17-19 with 2,415 adults 18 years of age and older. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted, where necessary, to bring them into line with their actual proportions of the U.S. population. So-called “propensity score weighting” was also used to adjust for respondents’ likelihood to be online.

Ticks that spread Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a mysterious, chronic condition that can lead to devastating symptoms, and a new study suggests the ticks that spread it may be increasing in numbers.

The report, published Wednesday in the Journal of Medical Entomology, found that the blacklegged tick and the western backlegged ticks, two vectors of Lyme, have now been reported in nearly half of all U.S. counties. The last comprehensive survey of the ticks’ presence was published in 1998, Science Daily reported.

By using a similar method to the one used in 1998, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observed that the backlegged tick has been reported in more than 45 percent of counties compared to 30 percent in 1998. Compared to 1998, the backlegged tick is considered established in twice the number of counties today, Science Daily reported. The western backlegged tick, meanwhile, only increased from 3.4 to 3.6 percent of counties.

The Northeast has seen the biggest spread of the backlegged tick, while the nusiance’s presence in the South has stayed stable.

“This study shows that the distribution of Lyme disease vectors has changed substantially over the last nearly two decades and highlights areas where risk for human exposure to ticks has changed during that time,” said Dr. Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist at the CDC, according to Science Daily. “The observed range expansion of the ticks highlights a need for continuing and enhancing vector surveillance efforts, particularly along the leading edges of range expansion.”

The symptoms of Lyme can often be mistaken as the flu, but prompt treatment with antibiotics can aid treatment. The CDC recommends using insect repellent, reducing the tick habitat, applying pesticides and removing ticks quickly to help prevent Lyme.

Research team develops new diagnostic tool to identify tinnitus in animals

A team of researchers from Wayne State University has developed a behavioral tool that may significantly aid in understanding the underlying mechanisms of tinnitus, ultimately leading to new drugs and treatment methods.

According to Jinsheng Zhang, Ph.D., professor and associate chair for research in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in the School of Medicine, professor of communication sciences and disorders in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and corresponding author of the recently published paper, “A Conditioned Behavior Paradigm for Assessing Onset and Lasting Tinnitus in Rats,” in PLOS ONE, nearly 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus. Roughly defined as ringing in the ears, tinnitus is often associated with other conditions such as ear injury, age-related hearing loss or traumatic brain injury-related neurological disorder. Currently, there is no objective test to measure tinnitus; therefore, there is no way to assess tinnitus onset, severity, longevity and a number of other factors.

Zhang and his team have developed an optimized conditioned licking suppression behavioral testing method for tinnitus in rats. Advancements in behavioral testing for animals are vital, since while there are many different behavioral tests, many have certain shortcomings. These shortcomings can include an inability to identify which specific animals have tinnitus, whether the tinnitus is short- or long-lasting, if the tinnitus has a pitch, and which specific days the animals have tinnitus. In addition, some tests may take one or more months to train the animals, and other tests — like the popular gap-detection method — may need further study to determine their validity.

“In our study, we have trained rats to lick a spout during different sounds and to avoid licking during silence,” said Zhang. “The behaviors are considered evidence of tinnitus, provided that hearing loss and reaction to sounds are accounted for.”

The team developed a training regimen and testing parameters that have multiple strengths. This allowed them to determine which individual rats had tinnitus, if the tinnitus had a pitch, the specific days that an animal expressed tinnitus, and whether the tinnitus was short- or long-lasting. Their method also enabled rats to be trained in a little over two weeks.

“While there are many methods for determining if an animal has tinnitus,” said Zhang, “most do not simultaneously possess the same number of strengths that our test has.”

Robust tinnitus testing in animals can be paired with other methods, such as testing brain activity on an electrical and chemical level, which may improve investigations into what exactly causes tinnitus. It may also allow rapid testing of pharmaceutical drugs or medical devices that can treat stressful tinnitus. In the future, our tinnitus testing method and treatment strategies could be used in humans, which will help the many individuals suffering from this condition.”

Athlete with brain cancer to run 7 marathons on 7 different continents in 7 days

More than a decade ago, BethAnn Telford was diagnosed with brain cancer. On Monday, she’ll set off on the first of seven marathons she plans to run on seven continents in seven days.

Telford, who lives in Fairfax County, Virginia, hopes to raise $1 million for Washington, D.C. non-profit, Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, Fox 5 NY reported. So far, she’s raised more than $800,000.

In 2004, Telford got the first sign of the tumor in her brain during the Marine Corps Marathon.

“Mile 19 and I felt a huge pop in my head, almost like going up in a plane,” Telford told Fox 5 NY. “The hardest thing in my life so far was telling my parents that their child was probably going to die from brain cancer.”

She’s undergone several brain surgeries and re-learned how to talk and walk again before jogging and then running.

“I’m blind in my left eye,” she told the news station. “I have not driven in the last 12 years because I seizure. I also have a major issue with my bladder. Due to my brain cancer, my bladder shut down several years ago.”

Additionally, since Telford uses a catheter, she’s more concerned with bathroom breaks than the long distances.

With those challenges, Telford will first start her 183 miles of running in the World Marathon Challenge, organized by Global Running Adventures, by flying from Chile to Antarctica to run on January 23. The Challenge then travels to Chile, Miami, Madrid, Marrakech, Dubai and ends in Sydney on January 29.

By the end of her adventure, Telford will have traveled 60 hours by plane.

Telford plans to wear 14 pairs of sneakers designed by pediatric cancer patients.

“I just have to look down or remember all these kids that I have been blessed to come in contact with and know that is what this is all about,” Telford told Fox 5 NY. “It is not me traveling the world. It is not me proving I can do this. It is we need to find a cure.”

Why We Sleepiness When Sickness Strikes ?

It’s well known that humans and other animals are fatigued and sleepy when sick, but it’s a microscopic roundworm that’s providing an explanation of how that occurs, according to a study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. A study published this week in eLife reveals the mechanism for this sleepiness.

Working with a worm’s simple nervous system shows how a single nerve cell named ALA coordinates an organism-wide response to sickness. During sickness, cells are under stress, and organisms experience sleepiness to promote sleep and recover from the cellular stress. In the worm, this sleepiness is caused by release from the ALA neuron of FLP-13 and other neuropeptides, a group of chemicals that send signals between brain neurons.

“Sleep is vitally important in helping both people and animals to recover during sickness,” said senior author David M. Raizen, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Neurology and a member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology. “Similar signaling may operate in humans and other animals to regulate sleep during sickness. These findings create a launching pad towards future research into the mechanisms for illness-induced sleepiness in humans and other organisms.”

These findings reveal that FLP-13 causes sleep by turning down activity in the nervous system cells that help keep an organism awake. Researchers examined genetic mutations to determine which genes cause the worms to fall asleep when FLP-13 is released. This revealed that worms with mutations that cause them to lack a receptor protein called DMSR-1 on cell surfaces do not become sleepy in response to FLP-13. This indicates that DMSR-1 is essential for FLP-13 to trigger sleep.

Next experiments will target whether illness-induced sleepiness in humans and other mammals is triggered via a similar mechanism. If so, this research may be a critical step towards developing drugs to treat human fatigue associated with sickness and other conditions.

School curricula are a reflection of society’s expectations

In a pioneering project, researchers studied the development of school curricula in Switzerland’s three main language regions. This SNSF-funded project clearly showed that ever since the Swiss school system was created in 1830 the importance and content of every subject in the curriculum, whether language, history, handicraft or physical education, has been in flux.

In primary schools, history lessons in the 19th century primarily consisted of story telling. Foreign languages — French or German, depending on the language region in which the school was located — were introduced as a school subject for economic reasons. The awareness of the importance of foreign languages in supporting national unity did not develop until many years later. German as the school subject we know today only came into being very gradually. Initially the focus was on teaching pupils the essentials of reading and writing, with grammar and literature only being added much later. Physical education was made a compulsory subject as a matter of military policy, and it is still regulated at the national level today. Handicraft for boys (i.e. technical crafts such as woodwork or metalwork) was only introduced at the end of the 19th century — considerably later than handicraft for girls — as a response to the economic crisis. Shorthand has long since vanished from the curriculum in secondary schools, and government and politics was temporarily a school subject only in the canton of Ticino, even though its introduction has been repeatedly called for since the 1870s.

These are just a few of the insights obtained from the interdisciplinary research project entitled “Transformation of school curricula since 1830,” which the SNSF funded via the “Sinergia” programme (see text box below). This project illustrated for the first time how the teaching system in schools and the allocation of resources to individual subjects have changed since 1830 in the country’s main language regions.

The knowledge system in schools is renegotiated continuously

“From a historical perspective we can see that what has to be taught and learnt in schools has by no means always been what we assume today to be an integral or essential part of the curriculum. The knowledge system in schools is ultimately a normative standard that can only be understood in a social and historical context,” explains Lucien Criblez, the overall manager of the SNSF project and since 2008 Professor of Education at the University of Zurich with a focus on historical education research and analysis of education policies.

Approximately 25 researchers in five teams from Switzerland’s three main language regions — representing the universities of Geneva and Zurich, and the universities of teacher education in Northwest Switzerland, Zurich and Ticino — participated in the SNSF project. They reconstructed and analysed the curricula — the content of textbooks/schoolbooks, teaching aids and syllabi — from ten cantons (Aargau, Bern, Basel-Stadt, Fribourg, Geneva, Lucerne, Schwyz, Ticino, Vaud and Zurich) covering a period of around 150 years. The ten cantons selected as the focus of the work were chosen so as to reflect a balanced mix of factors including language region, religion (Catholic and Protestant cantons) and urban centres/rural areas. The analysis of curricula looked at the entire range of subjects, while the analysis of textbooks focused on history, government/politics, native language and foreign languages, i.e. subjects that are of significance in matters of national identity and national policy.

Science as reference for school subjects

The researchers found not only that the components and contents of school curricula have changed over the course of time, but also that educational reformism, which is generally regarded as the phase of major educational innovations in the first third of the twentieth century, did not have a strong influence on this development. Rather, the rise of the natural sciences in the final third of the 19th century exercised a considerably greater influence. As Lucien Criblez explains, “The insights arising from the natural sciences brought new knowledge into the classroom in the 19th and 20th centuries, and this changed the knowledge system in our schools. The new lessons in natural science subjects were simply added on top of the existing subjects, thus overloading the school curriculum. One consequence of this was the launch of a comprehensive debate on the overworking of pupils at school.” The role of the sciences in schools intensified between 1960 and 1980, when areas such as the social sciences (i.e. educational science and psychology) were added to the subjects in disciplines such as history, German, Romance languages, mathematics, etc. This also changed the roles of the various players who define education policy in the schools: “Whereas school superintendents and the directors of teachers’ colleges had once decided what was to be taught in schools, the curriculum was now being influenced by scientists and as well by teachers to an ever greater extent,” Criblez points out. During the same period, didactics became established as a technical field yielding scientifically grounded knowledge about teaching methods.

Parallels to the current debate on school curricula

A historical examination of what was taught and learnt at school and the legitimation of the school knowledge system shows that school performs fundamental social tasks, i.e. it is a function of society. As Criblez notes: “The school curriculum and knowledge system are subjected to a permanent process of negotiation. This is apparent in the current debate on curricula and foreign languages. Social negotiation processes on such issues are essential. There are, for example, no scientifically decisive findings telling us which foreign language we should learn first. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ here. The answer can thus only be the outcome of a negotiation process, which ultimately depends on the historical context, on the expectations placed on schools by society and on political majorities.” Even the frequently voiced complaint about the “economisation” of schools is nothing new: after all, the creation of the secondary school in the 1830s was largely based on economic considerations.

Within the scope of the “Sinergia” project, nine dissertations, due to be published in the next two years, and a post-doctoral thesis are currently in preparation. Around two million Swiss francs were budgeted for the associated research.

Lap band surgery benefits

Lap band surgery has significant benefits for severely obese teenagers and, despite its controversial nature, should still be considered as a first option to manage obesity during adolescence, a new study has found.

Led by University of Adelaide researchers, in collaboration with Flinders Medical Centre, and published in the journal Obesity Surgery, the study is the first to show medium to long-term follow-up (3-5 years) of lap band surgery in Australian adolescents.

The research followed 21 severely obese teenagers between 14 and 18 years who had Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (lap band surgery) in the South Australian Health Service.

Severe obesity is associated with serious physical and psychological conditions affecting quality of life. Australian revised National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines for obesity management say that lap band surgery should be considered in adolescents with severe obesity — that is with a body mass index (BMI) over 40 kg/m2 or over 35 kg/m2 (weight/height2) with the presence of obesity-related diseases and who don’t respond to medical treatment. However there is no data available in Australian adolescents beyond 24 months post-surgery.

“We are talking about a group of adolescents with severe obesity and significant health and psychological problems related to their increased weight — this is not for everyone,” says corresponding author and Paediatric Endocrinologist Dr Alexia Peña, who is a Senior Lecturer with the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute.

The study found that weight and BMI improved significantly at all follow-up times following surgery from three months through to 45 months and, in some cases, as long as five years. BMI loss was between 7.1 and 14.7 kg/m2.

“The median BMI reduction of 10 kg/m2 with the lap band is a good result when compared to BMI reduction using the few medications available or lifestyle measures, which is around 1-3 kg/m2,” says Dr Peña. “Lap band surgery is reversible and allows time for adolescents to mature to make a more informed decision on a permanent surgical procedure if required later on in life. This is not the case for other surgeries currently offered for obesity management.

“It is also important that teenagers undergoing this surgery have access to an experienced surgeon as part of a multidisciplinary paediatric team of doctors and Health professionals to ensure there is long-term regular follow-up.”

Paediatric surgeon Mr Sanjeev Khurana, who did all the lap band surgeries between 2009 and 2013, says lap band surgery is a reversible surgical procedure that can be safely used in teens with severe obesity.

“Although gastric banding has been controversial and is currently less used in adults with severe obesity, lap band surgery is one of the most studied surgeries for obesity management, has a high safety record and can be a temporary option to manage severe obesity during adolescence,” says Mr Khurana, who is also a Senior Lecturer in the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Paediatrics.

“Our findings support lap band surgery as a safe and effective option for management of adolescents with severe obesity — provided it is performed by an experienced surgeon and managed afterwards in a paediatric multidisciplinary environment with regular follow-up until adulthood.”

Person-to-person contact may cause most drug-resistant TB

 The worst form of drug-resistant tuberculosis isn’t just arising from inadequate treatment, it’s mostly being spread from person to person, according to a new study of hundreds of cases in South Africa that has important implications for how the deadly disease is treated.

Researchers tracked TB that is resistant to at least four key drugs and found that 69 percent of the victims had never received treatment, an indication that they had acquired it from others with extensively drug-resistant TB.

TB develops resistance to drugs when it is attacked with lackluster therapy, allowing the slow-growing bacterium to become insensitive to well-established therapies. Strains that are simultaneously resistant to at least four drugs have been reported in 105 countries.

“For many years, there was this thought that maybe drug-resistant TB strains might not be able to be transmitted as efficiently a regular TB strains,” coauthor Dr.. Neel R. Gandhi of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta told Reuters Health by phone.

The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine “turn this idea on its head,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Atlanta who was not involved in the research.

The study team’s estimate that two thirds of the cases are surfacing because the disease is spreading by person-to-person contact “is mostly likely a minimum estimate,” Gandhi said.

“This is an epidemic we’ve known about for 10 years and we don’t seem to be making a dent in it,” he said. “And that may be because the driver isn’t what we thought it was.”

“It raises the possibility of turning the clock back to the 1930s and 1940s” and requiring infected people to live in sanitariums so patients can’t inadvertently spread the disease, Schaffner said. “You also have to do better at diagnosing them earlier. We’re going to have to be a lot more aggressive in finding the infected people early. These are substantial public health challenges.”

Drug resistance has gotten so bad, the rate of successful treatment can be less than 40 percent if a person acquires an extensively drug-resistant strain. It can be particularly deadly in people who also harbor HIV, the AIDS virus. In South Africa, where the new study was done, there has been a 10-fold increase in the number of extensively drug-resistant cases in the past decade. One in 36,000 are now infected.

The team of researchers used contact tracing to find where the TB patients were spending at least two hours per week, trying to uncover any links.

They found 31 clusters of the disease, the largest of which accounted for 84 percent of the 404 patients they studied.

Living with someone with TB accounted for most of the acquired cases, although the disease was also spread in the workplace (representing 13 percent of cases) or in other community settings such as a church, bar, beauty salon or prison (accounting for 8 percent of cases).

“Certain networks spanned multiple homes, family generations, and community settings,” the study team writes.

Complicating control is that people can be infectious before they know they have drug-resistant TB.

“We know people transmit (the disease) for weeks or months before they come for a diagnosis,” said Gandi, an associate professor of epidemiology, global health and infectious diseases at Emory.

“You have to focus on stopping the chain of transmission,” he said. “You have to identify early and intervene early. When you diagnose, drug susceptibility should be part of that diagnosis. And we have to do a better job creating facilities where transmission doesn’t take place, particularly in healthcare settings, hospitals, homeless shelters in the United States and in schools and workplaces.”

The other researchers involved in the study were from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, the province of 10.3 million people where the study was done.

Bed Bugs Can Bypass Pitfalls of Inbreeding

Bed Bugs Cincinnati

 Bed bugs appear to breed with their close relatives, an adaptation that not only ups their “yuck” factor but also enhances the tiny bloodsuckers’ ability to thrive, two new studies find.

Entomologists from North Carolina State University did a genetic analysis of bed bugs taken from infested apartment buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey. Their analysis showed the bugs had low genetic diversity, meaning that close relatives had mated with one another.

In most species, breeding with close relatives means genetic mutations accumulate, and offspring are more likely to be sickly or infertile, which hurts the species over time, explained study author Coby Schal, a professor of entomology. Yet, inbreeding doesn’t seem to bother bed bugs.

Just one “mated” female could be enough to start a nasty infestation, because her offspring will mate with each other, and so on. In the North Carolina building, for example, about one-quarter of about 90 apartments had bed bugs.

“Infestations are generally founded by just one female, and the fact is that theinfestation can sweep through a building because the bed bugs are able to withstand inbreeding,” Schal said. “We don’t understand the genetic mechanism that allows them to do that, but it’s not uncommon among insects associated with humans, especially those that don’t fly, such as cockroaches.”

In a second study, the researchers analyzed the genetic make up of bugs from 21 infestations in households from Maine to Florida, and also found evidence of inbreeding.

The research was to be presented Tuesday at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) annual meeting in Philadelphia.

After nearly vanishing by the 1950s, bed bugs now show up in homes, hotels and dorm rooms throughout the United States and the world, experts said. The explanation for their re-emergence isn’t fully understood, but it’s suspected that the bugs have developed a resistance to the pesticides used to kill them. Those pesticides include pyrethroids, commonly found in cans of insect spray, and DDT, which is banned in the United States but still used in other countries, Schal said.

A third study to be presented at the meeting, by researchers from University of Kentucky, found that killing resistant bed bugs takes 10,000 times more pyrethroid insecticide than destroying a strain of bed bugs never exposed to the insecticide.

The good news is bed bugs are not known to carry disease, although some people can have allergic reactions, said Dr. Peter Hotez, president of ASTMH. “While it’s an annoyance, there shouldn’t be cause for alarm,” he said.

More research is needed to confirm the inbreeding findings and the theory that pesticide resistance is to blame for the resurgence, Hotez said. But, “if you have insecticide resistance and inbreeding, those two findings suggest we could be looking at larger bed bug problem in the coming months and years,” Hotez said.

Though often associated with unsanitary conditions, bed bugs aren’t attracted to dirt, experts said. They are more likely to be found in poorer buildings, but that’s likely because of lack of resources to pay for expensive extermination, Schal said.

Fumigation with pesticides can eradicate bed bugs from a building, but it may take multiple efforts because of resistance, Schal said. Another technique involves sealing off a building and heating the interior to between 120 and 130 degrees, which kills the bugs and their eggs. But that can be costly and requires specialized equipment, he said.

Adult bed bugs are reddish-brown and oval-shaped. Before feeding, the adult bed bug is relatively flat. After feeding, it becomes a darker red.

During the day, they hide in cracks and crevices, box springs and mattress seams. At night, they come out to feed. “If they’re hungry, they will bite pets, but they much prefer humans,” Schal said.

Bed bug mating — known as “traumatic insemination” — is “quite an amazing story,” Schal said. Males pierce the body of a female and insert sperm into her bloodstream, where it seeks out a sperm storage organ. She can keep it there for weeks before using it to fertilize her eggs, which she’ll lay at a rate of about one a day.

“It doesn’t matter if they are brother and sister, or mother and son, they can mate and start a whole new population,” he said.

In other research to be presented at the meeting, researchers said they’re learning more about bed bugs’ “alarm pheromones,” which, when sensed by the bugs, cause them to run away. Presumably, alarm pheromones could be used to send bed bugs scurrying toward insecticides, researchers said.

Because the research was presented at a medical meeting, the conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

A new approach to medical implants

 Medical implants like stents, catheters and tubing introduce risk for blood clotting and infection — a perpetual problem for many patients.

Colorado State University engineers offer a potential solution: A specially grown, “superhemophobic” titanium surface that’s extremely repellent to blood. The material could form the basis for surgical implants with lower risk of rejection by the body.

It’s an outside-the-box innovation achieved at the intersection of two disciplines: biomedical engineering and materials science. The work, recently published in Advanced Healthcare Materials, is a collaboration between the labs of Arun Kota, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering; and Ketul Popat, associate professor in the same departments.

Kota, an expert in novel, “superomniphobic” materials that repel virtually any liquid, joined forces with Popat, an innovator in tissue engineering and bio-compatible materials. Starting with sheets of titanium, commonly used for medical devices, their labs grew chemically altered surfaces that act as perfect barriers between the titanium and blood. Their teams conducted experiments showing very low levels of platelet adhesion, a biological process that leads to blood clotting and eventual rejection of a foreign material.

A material “phobic” (repellent) to blood might seem counterintuitive, the researchers say, as often biomedical scientists use materials “philic” (with affinity) to blood to make them biologically compatible. “What we are doing is the exact opposite,” Kota said. “We are taking a material that blood hates to come in contact with, in order to make it compatible with blood.” The key innovation is that the surface is so repellent, that blood is tricked into believing there’s virtually no foreign material there at all.

The undesirable interaction of blood with foreign materials is an ongoing problem in medical research, Popat said. Over time, stents can form clots, obstructions, and lead to heart attacks or embolisms. Often patients need blood-thinning medications for the rest of their lives — and the drugs aren’t foolproof.

“The reason blood clots is because it finds cells in the blood to go to and attach,” Popat said. “Normally, blood flows in vessels. If we can design materials where blood barely contacts the surface, there is virtually no chance of clotting, which is a coordinated set of events. Here, we’re targeting the prevention of the first set of events.”

The researchers analyzed variations of titanium surfaces, including different textures and chemistries, and they compared the extent of platelet adhesion and activation. Fluorinated nanotubes offered the best protection against clotting, and they plan to conduct follow-up experiments.

Growing a surface and testing it in the lab is only the beginning, the researchers say. They want to continue examining other clotting factors, and eventually, to test real medical devices.