For as large a role as it plays in modern medicine -- from testing to treatment -- the mechanics of the placebo effect remain a remarkably ill-understood mystery. A team of researchers at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School may have just had a break in the case, though. According to a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, the researchers have identified the first ever genetic difference between patients who respond to placeboes and patients who don't. Finding a genetic marker for the placebo effect might impact how some diseases are treated, but its real value could be in revolutionizing the way clinical trials are conducted and new drugs are approved for use.
The tongue is a strong muscle that plays a role in our ability to speak and digest (and taste) food. But for paralyzed individuals, the tongue could also be the key to gaining some mobility. Researchers at Northwestern University, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and the Shepherd Center in Atlanta have launched a clinical trial of a tongue drive system for wheelchairs. The system is based on first piercing users' tongues with a magnetic stud. A headset with sensors that can read the magnetic signals emitted from the piercing is worn by the user, who moves their tongue to signal the desired movements of their wheelchair. For example, pointing the tongue to the upper left corner of the mouth will signal the wheelchair to move forward.
Exciting news: Researchers have commenced the first human clinical trial for embryonic stem cell therapy. On Friday, they injected human stem cells into a patient with a spinal injury, probing the possible use of stem cells to restore the ability to walk and to give greater control of bodily functions. Should the results of this limited-scale human trial prove safe, not leading to pain or tumor growth, scientists will be able to test the efficacy of human stem-cell treatment.