Issue 27: STD in California, Right to Try Act & Virtual Cadaver

Record STD Epidemic in California
Wear Condoms. Image:William Trinkle

2017 was a sexy year in California in all the wrong metrics. Record number of more than 300,000 cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) were reported; a whopping 45% increase since 2013. These include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. This is especially troublesome for pregnant women because they also had record breaking stillbirths due to congenital syphilis.

Trump Signs Right to Try Act
Trump Kissing a Boy Next to an ALS Patient. Image: Patch
Okay, we wrote about this a couple issues ago, and it has now been fully signed by our POTUS on Wednesday. The Right to Try Act aims to allow patients with diseases with no approved medications to try drugs that are in development, but not approved by the FDA yet. But don't go out trying the wildest herbs for anyone sick around you. The drug has to have passed Phase 1 of the FDA and needs to be in clinical trial. It's often a long journey for drugs to go through three phases and get the FDA's stamp, so this is a pretty big deal for those struggling with devastating diseases like ALS, for which there are some drugs in trial but not approved yet. (Remember those ice bucket challenges?) But also remember that the drugs in trials are super expensive and might not even be available to those who ask for them. It sounds like a basic right, but we didn't really have it. Oh, and this was also bi-partisan. Surprise!

Gut Monitoring Capsules
A Scientist and His Creation. Image: MIT
The idea of swallowing capsules to monitor our gut has been in the news for quite a long time, but a recent report in the journal Science shed new light to the technology. The Ingestible Micro-Bio-Electronic Device capsules will carry engineered bacteria that will get lit once it detects a particular disease biomarker. The results will be shown on your smartphones, conveniently. We'll see who gets to administer these wonderbug-infused balls and how much they cost. For now, we know they work in pigs and that patients with disorders like colitis and irritable bowel syndrome might benefit from them.

3D Printed Eyes
Man With Two Eyes Intensely Staring. Image: Internetmedicine

Recently, scientists in the UK at the University of Newcastle have developed a way to create corneal tissue using cheap 3D printers. Basically the scientists took corneal stem cells from a healthy donor and mixed them with alginate and collagen. This mixture served as the bio-ink for the 3D printer. If you think this is trivial - it's not. Worldwide 10 million people have damaged corneas and are in need of surgery while more than 5 million people are completely blind because of damaged corneal tissue. Using this technology scientists could print corneal tissue in the shape and contour of an individual's patient's eye. This could help alleviate the need for doing corneal transplants from donors. If clinical trials are successful the technology could reach patients in 5-10 years.

Virtual Cadaver
No Touching Please Image: Artec 3D
Cadavers are hard to come by nowadays. The economist noted that there is a worldwide shortage since more doctors are being trained to help take care of the baby boomers while the supply is still the same. To deal with this issue, scientists in France have used 3D scanners to create virtual cadavers. The company responsible for the software is Artec 3D and they aim to create detailed scans of the major anatomical structures in the human body so that med students don't have to complain about how they smell like formaldehyde.