SciTechBlog
January 12, 2010

Wi-Fi 'allergies' leave man homeless

Posted: 11:31 AM ET

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a man claiming to suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity is suing his neighbor for refusing to disconnect her electronic devices.

Santa Fe, New Mexico resident Arthur Firstenberg claims that his neighbor Raphaela Monribot's use of electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, compact fluorescent lights and dimmer rheostats is aggravating his "electromagnetic sensitivity" and causing him to get sick.

"Within a day of [Monribot] moving in, I began to feel sick when I was in my house," Firstenberg writes in his affidavit. "The electric meter for my house is mounted on [Monribot's] house. Electromagnetic fields emitted in [Monribot's] house are transmitted by wire directly into my house."

A request for preliminary injunction claims Fristenberg's condition has left him homeless. Fristenberg "cannot stay in a hotel, because hotels and motels all employ wi-fi connections, which trigger a severe illness. If [Firstenberg] cannot obtain preliminary relief, he will be forced to continue to sleep in his car, enduring winter cold and discomfort, until this case can be heard."

The Santa Fe New Mexican notes "Firstenberg's motion is accompanied by dozens of notes from doctors, some dating back more than a decade, about his sensitivities."

However, scientific studies such as this 2005 trial at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Germany suggest electromagnetic sensitivity is strictly a psychosomatic disorder.

The major study endpoint was the ability of the subjects to differentiate between real magnetic stimulation and a sham condition. There were no significant differences between groups in the thresholds, neither of detecting the real magnetic stimulus nor in motor response.

We found no objective correlate of the self perception of being "electrosensitive." Overall, our experiment does not support the hypothesis that subjectively electrosensitive patients suffer from a physiological hypersensitivity to EMFs or stimuli.

Do you acknowledge Fristenberg, and others claiming electronic sensitivity, may be suffering real physiological effects and should be allowed to live free from electronic devices? Or should treatment be strictly psychological?

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Filed under: cell phones • computers • Medicine • mobile phones • online news • science


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July 18, 2008

It's alive! It's alive!

Posted: 10:03 AM ET

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have regenerated a rat's heart in the lab hoping they can do the same for a human heart.

The three stages of a rat's heart decellularization. Photo by Thomas Matthiesen

With a rat's heart, they removed its existing cell structure by washing it off with a soap solution much like shampoo. After this decellularization process, they introduced new heart cells from another rat and attached it to a machine that functions like a body - complete with blood supply, blood pressure and a pacemaker.

"The first couple of days we didn't see much. By day four we actually saw tiny microscopic beating and by day eight it was the home run. We could actually see beating in the heart," says Professor Doris Taylor.

Taylor and her team are now working with a pig's heart because it resembles a human heart in size and shape. An actual transplant to a human is still many years away but Taylor says it is a possibility.

"It's not unreasonable to think that we could take a pig heart, remove all the cells and then if you needed a heart, take stem cells from your body, grow them in a dish and transfer them to a pig heart and make a heart that matches your body."

Researchers also say the same process can be done for other organs like the liver and kidneys.

What do you think? If you needed a new heart, would you wait until a suitable donor appeared or would you accept a pig's heart? Do you think stem cell research is the future or are there ethical implications?

Paulo Nogueira - Producer, CNN Science & Technology

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Filed under: Medicine • science • Stem cell research


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July 17, 2008

Grandma’s Got a New Pair of Shoes

Posted: 09:57 AM ET

Well they’re not moon shoes, but a new device called the iShoe developed by an MIT graduate student may have your grandmother channeling her inner astronaut.

Lieberman demonstrates how sensors on the iShoe insole can diagnose balance problems.

That’s because Erez Lieberman and researchers at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology are designing new sensory insoles that may soon help doctors diagnose balance problems in senior citizens before major falls occur.

It’s based on a technology astronauts now use every time they return to earth, and one that Lieberman himself helped develop while an intern at NASA.

“The problem NASA faces is that the altered-gravity environment of spaceflight messes with the astronaut’s sense of balance,” says Lieberman, “[This technology] is currently being used to evaluate astronaut balance after return from zero-G.”

Lieberman and the iShoe team are now testing a new version of the technology; one that can help the elderly by analyzing pressure distribution on their feet.

“If we flag the existence of the problem early, a doctor or physical therapist can come in and make a better determination of the causes,” says Lieberman, “We can detect all kinds of effects. If a patient closes their eyes, our insole will know.”

With more than 250,000 Americans breaking their hips each year during major falls and 1-in-4 dying within a year of their injury, the device would be a welcome help to doctors, patients, and their families. In fact, it was his grandmother’s death after a fall that first inspired Lieberman to apply the NASA technology to senior citizens.

In the future, Lieberman hopes that iShoe will be equipped with technology that would help correct a patient’s balance issue as it occurs. It could even sound an alert when a fall occurs.

“Eventually we hope to provide subtle auditory and vibrational cues which will help the person adjust their balance. These cues will help them stand up straight and walk around confidently,” Lieberman says.

The iShoe team expects their product to be on the market with in two years.

- Julia Griffin, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: Medicine • NASA • Scientists


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