Boris Liedtke’s picture

By: Boris Liedtke

In May 2019, a California jury found Monsanto’s weed killer, Roundup, to be a “substantial factor” in the cancer suffered by a couple and ordered the U.S. agrochemical company to pay them $2 billion in damages. This was the third and largest verdict against Monsanto, now owned by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, over its decades-old product.

A judge slashed the award to $86.7 million in July 2019 after Bayer appealed, but it is cold comfort for the company. An estimated 13,400 similar Roundup cancer cases are pending in state and federal courts across the United States. European investors and Bayer’s management are in shock at the size of the settlements.

Multiple Authors
By: Lola Butcher, Knowable Magazine

Any patient scheduled for surgery hopes, and maybe assumes, that his surgeon will do a high-quality job. Surgeons know better. Nearly three decades of research have made clear that some hospitals and surgeons have significantly better outcomes than others.

Exactly how to measure the quality of a surgeon’s skills, however, is up for debate. Surgical volume—the number of operations of a specific kind performed at a hospital or by an individual surgeon—is known to be a good marker for quality. But it’s not perfect. For example, looking only at hospitals that perform at least 125 bariatric surgeries per year, a recent review found that the rate of serious complications ranged from less than 1 percent to more than 10 percent.

David Moser’s picture

By: David Moser

Technology companies are frequently driven by their engineering processes. Of course product quality is regarded as most important, and that quality can be tested and measured with numbers and data. Such companies also frequently align their core identity with the engineering that belies their innovation. Their top executives often started out as engineers and keep looking primarily through their engineering lens as they become company leaders. Although it makes perfect sense, this approach is misguided.

Samantha Maragh’s picture

By: Samantha Maragh

I didn’t understand what people were asking me when I was a kid. The question would come in several different forms. Sometimes it was, “What are you?” Other times it was, “Where are you from?” I would answer with things I knew to be true, like, “I’m a girl,” or, “I’m a person,” or, “I’m from Maryland,” in a sincere, but failed, effort to satisfy my questioner.

I later came to understand that these people actually wanted to know my ethnicity. I grew up in a stereotypical melting-pot USA kind of place, otherwise known as Howard County, Maryland, where many neighbors and classmates were of various ethnic backgrounds. Even in this melting pot, I was different. I am of mixed ethnicity: My mom’s half is Afro-Caribbean by way of Jamaica, and my dad’s half is East Indian by way of the West Indies. I couldn’t be placed in one bin, and I was keenly aware from the questions I received that I was different. This made me want to understand this “otherness,” and that is what sparked my love of human genetics.


Credit: Mark Esser/NIST

Daniel Hess’s picture

By: Daniel Hess

We all expect hospitals to be open and operating when we need them, but extreme weather events like hurricanes are a strain on resources and pose significant challenges for hospitals.

Closing a hospital is an extreme action, but several hospitals in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina did just that before the arrival of Hurricane Irma in 2017.

With more than 300 hospitals and a higher share of older adults than any other state, Florida had a critical issue facing emergency planners during those storms.

As a professor of urban planning, I have studied emergency planning and evacuation and also co-authored an extensive report on how hospitals coped with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustav. Hospitals plan for catastrophic events, but there are always lessons to be learned.

Hospitals try to stay open and care for patients already hospitalized as well as those who suffer injury or illness from a storm. Here’s how they do it.

Sharona Hoffman’s picture

By: Sharona Hoffman

A career as a physician has traditionally been considered to be among the best vocations that talented students can pursue. That may no longer be the case. All too many doctors report that they are unhappy, frustrated, and even prepared to leave the profession.

That should worry all of us. The physician burnout crisis is likely to affect our quality of care and our access to healthcare providers.

According to a recent study, 44 percent of U.S. doctors suffered at least one symptom of burnout, and some studies have identified even higher burnout rates. By contrast, researchers have found only a 28-percent burnout rate in the general working population.

Peter Rose’s picture

By: Peter Rose

On May 26, 2020, the new European Union Medical Device Regulation (MDR) will finally take effect. By that date, all Class I manufacturers wishing to continue their trading activities within the EU market must have effectively completed the transition from the previous medical device directive and be fully compliant under EU MDR.

This statement alone may be surprising to certain Class I manufacturers, who assume that their products’ classification as low-risk devices under the previous directive will exempt them from all this EU MDR commotion. These presumptions are misguided because classification requirements listed in the EU MDR are relevant to all manufacturers, irrespective of past classification.

With this deadline in sight, it is crucial that all manufacturers familiarize themselves with these regulatory changes and promptly make a start on implementing necessary measures. Those that fail to achieve compliance on time will be left behind, and their products removed from the market. In light of this industry bustle, this article aims to advise Class I manufacturers about the primary alterations that the EU MDR will enforce, as well as offer practical steps that manufacturers can begin to follow.

David L. Chandler’s picture

By: David L. Chandler

As a cucumber plant grows, it sprouts tightly coiled tendrils that seek out supports to pull the plant upward. This ensures the plant receives as much sunlight exposure as possible. Now, researchers at MIT have found a way to imitate this coiling-and-pulling mechanism to produce contracting fibers that could be used as artificial muscles for robots, prosthetic limbs, or other mechanical and biomedical applications.

Although many different approaches have been used for creating artificial muscles, including hydraulic systems, servo motors, shape-memory metals, and polymers that respond to stimuli, they all have limitations, including high weight or slow response times. The new fiber-based system, by contrast, is extremely lightweight and can respond very quickly, the researchers say. The findings have been reported in the journal Science.

The new fibers were developed by MIT postdoc Mehmet Kanik and MIT graduate student Sirma Örgüç, working with professors Polina Anikeeva, Yoel Fink, Anantha Chandrakasan, C. Cem Taşan, and five others. The group used a fiber-drawing technique to combine two dissimilar polymers into a single strand of fiber.

Multiple Authors
By: Sarah Webb, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

What you see in the image below is a lobe of a liver, times two. On the right, a flesh-and-blood one, removed from a transplant donor; and on the left, one created from plastic to represent bile ducts, arteries, and veins, which were laid down, layer by layer, by a 3D printer. The goal of such technology is to help surgeons plan and practice complex procedures, and train new surgeons with simulators that respond as a patient would.

Surgeons navigate complex anatomical terrain as they manipulate scalpel and suture to cut and stitch precisely and quickly. Their job is made harder by the fact that human anatomy is far from uniform. To properly prepare, they routinely use two-dimensional images from computerized tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to plan.

But increasingly they are turning to realistic 3D models that are specific for individual patients.

Such models are already used to educate patients, to do general training, and to plan and practice especially difficult procedures. But in the future, 3D models, be they physical or virtual, could become routine tools for training surgeons or mapping procedures in advance.

Grant Ramaley’s picture

By: Grant Ramaley

Although the “new approach” to regulating medical devices has always given more urgency to higher-risk medical devices, this is not the case for the European Medical Device Regulation (MDR). Class 1 medical devices must fully comply with the regulation by May 26, 2020, or be shut out of the region. 

This could be more problematic for dental products, which are inherently lower risk. Rubber dams and dental operating lights will have to comply before MRIs and pacemakers. 

To ensure that medical device manufacturers of class 1 devices understand that they must comply immediately on May 27, 2020, when the new regulation goes into effect, the European Commission states this plainly in its “Fact Sheet to Medical Device Manufacturers.”

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