Saturday, 29 September 2012

Electronics for the Body

US scientists have created "ultra-thin electronics that dissolve inside the body" ( As can be seen from the video on the BBC website (link above), the electronic 'plate' appears to 'melt' away. "The components are made of silicon and magnesium oxide, and placed in a protective layer of silk. The speed of melting is controlled by the silk. The material is collected from silkworms, dissolved and then allowed to reform. Altering the way the dissolved silk crystallises changes its final properties - and how long the device will last" (

These electronics are classed as "transient electronics" ( The aim is for the electronics to "function for medically useful time frames but then completely disappear via resorption [reabsorption] by the body" due to the "remarkable feature of modern silicon electronics  and its ability to remain physically invariant, almost indefinitely" (

In terms of medical uses the team of researchers are finding uses for the technology having testing in "rats a device that heats a wound to kill off bugs. There are also ideas around using the technology to slowly release drugs inside the body or to build sensors for the brain and heart. John Rogers, a mechanical science and engineering professor at the University of Illinois, said: 'Infection is a leading cause of readmission, a device could be put in to the body at the site of surgery just before it is closed up'" ( Another huge benefit is that "medical implants will never need to be surgically removed" ( meaning that surgery does not need to be repeated to remove what may have been out in place. So, the electronics can be programmed to completely disintegrate once they have performed their task.

"As for concerns of toxicity, they say the materials are non-toxic and that in one device they used less of the mineral magnesium than is found in a multivitamin" (


Sunday, 23 September 2012

ME and CFS

ME and CFS "Myalgic Encephalopathy and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" ( respectively.

These are just two of the names assigned to an illness which affects a "currently estimated 250,000 people in Britain, but is an illness of uncertain cause. All types of people at all ages are affected" (as above) which means that it has a serious affect on people in all walks of life from young people in education or work to those who are beyond both education and work. "The predominant symptom of ME/CFS is usually severe fatigue" ( and can occur with "painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances, poor memory and concentration" (first link). The illness therefore has a huge impact on people's day-to-day lives, as expressed by the writer of this blog (, a sufferer of CFS who says;

"Think back to the worst dose of flu you’ve ever had - not a bad cold but the real thing. I’m talking about the sort of flu that makes it almost impossible to get out of bed in the morning - sometimes it IS impossible. I’m talking about the sort of flu that leaves you totally exhausted and ill when all you’ve done is walk a few yards. I’m talking about the sort of flu that overwhelms your joints and muscles with excruciating pain, the sort that fills your head with cotton wool so that if you try to read a book, the words mingle confusingly then swim off the page, leaving you feeling dizzy and sick.
Imagine these symptoms not lasting seven or ten days as with the flu, but for year after miserable year."
People try to adapt to the illness to minimise the effect that it has on their lifestyle and relationships. People who wish to carry on with work or with education are generally advised to "apply the principles of pacing" ( This is so as not to put a huge demand or stressful workload on the sufferer. Others "find a relaxation technique of benefit and try to couple this with a form of gentle exercise" (
Having given a very brief overview of the illness and a few treatments to do with therapy and active management, drug treatments (although not specialist for curing the illness) are also available, varying by case. It is clear to see that it affects the life of the sufferer very severely. As well as the diffuclties faced by the sufferers there are complications that arise in diagnosis due to there being "no examination findings which can confirm the diagnosis. There has to be a process of elimination (the exclusion of other conditions) before a diagnosis of ME/CFS can be made" ( This therefore makes it very difficult for doctors in terms of action plans/active management and may rely on taking time and trying different methods to understand what actually is wrong. This could be a very stressful and worrying time for those who are suffering from the illness but have no diagnosis or plan to deal with the symptoms. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Singing for Dementia

Reading an out of date New Scientist (22 May 2010) I found a story about dementia saying that "singing to elderly people with dementia helps them form new memories" (22 May 2010 pg12 by Nora Schultz). It has also been proved that "people with Alzheimer's disease are better at remembering events from their past when music is played" (same reference).

The breakthrough in this story (or was a breakthrough back in 2010!!) is that sufferers of dementia find it extremely difficult to remember things that have happened very recently i.e. what they have had for lunch, but can remember past events that mean a lot to them/ well in the past when stimulated.

A trial was carried out by "Brandon Ally and his team at Boston University" who were "inspired inspired by the report of a man with Alzheimer's who could recall current events if his daughter sang the news to him to the tune of familiar pop songs" (same reference).

What they found from their trial of "13 people with Alzheimer's" that by giving "the lyrics from 40 unfamiliar children's song to read, half accompanied by the actual song and half by spoken word" and the results showed that "those with Alzheimer's were able to recognise 40% of the original lyrics that had been accompanied by song but only 28% of those read to them."

Granted that this isn't a huge increase in the percentages it is a significant difference of 12%. But it was also reported that "we don't yet know why singing should help, but Ally said that music engages areas of the brain, including subcortical regions, that are typically spared until later on in dementia."

But singing has also been used in other ways for dementia sufferers such as in getting patients to "cope better with their symptoms and improve their quality of life" (