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Health Talk Recommends: Electrical stimulation helps paralyzed patients move once again

Neuroscientists may have broken new ground in the fight against paralysis.

In new research published today in the journal Brain, a collaborative team of researchers from the University of Louisville, the University of California-Los Angeles and the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in Russia outline how they used neuromodulation and epidural spinal cord stimulation to coax new signals from the brain to the legs of four patients previously paralyzed below the waist. Each patient’s paralysis was the result of spinal cord injury.

While the neuromodulation device was powered on and sending electrical signals down their spines, each man in the study was able to voluntarily move their limbs and support own weight. Each patient has even regained control of their bladder and bowels while regulating their own body temperature and blood pressure.

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Health Talk Recommends: Why Pakistan’s polio problem is of global concern

For most Americans, polio is a concern relegated to the past. The crippling disease once plagued so many, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but in the decades since vaccines were developed in the 1950’s, the condition has been eradicated in the United States. The disease is still active in a handful of places, however, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Nigeria.

Now, according to reports by Reuters, polio cases are on the rise in Pakistan and appear to be linked to a strong anti-vaccination policy by the Taliban, which maintains a presence along the country’s northern border.

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Health Talk Recommends: Sugar Love (A not so sweet story)

In a fascinating National Geographic feature appearing this month, writer Rich Cohen provides a look at just how sugar grew from crop to luxury spice to dietary staple. It’s an interesting read.

Cohen profiles how, in our early history, sugar’s popularity rose as empires expanded. As our exposure to sugar increased, the demand for access fueled European expansion as national leaders sought new territories possessing cane-friendly climates. In a sense, as humanity’s exposure to sugar grew, so did our appetite for the sweet stuff.

Cohen writes:

“Sugar was the oil of its day. The more you tasted, the more you wanted. In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

From there, Cohen outlines how the body perceives sugar and why as our intake creeps upward, so does the danger to our body. He points out what many simply might not know: your body metabolizes glucose and fructose differently. And sadly, fructose is what gives table sugar (and most of your favorite snacks) their sweetness.

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