The experience of a Windsor, Ont., couple who returned from a Caribbean vacation with their feet severely infected with parasitic worms is a cautionary tale of what travellers to some warm-weather destinations might encounter — and how they might avoid a similar fate, says a tropical medicine specialist.
There will be a super blue blood moon on Wednesday and a total lunar eclipse, events that by themselves are not uncommon but combined they make for a spectacular night for skywatchers in Western Canada.
Scientists have created a hair-thin implant that can drip medications deep into the brain by remote control and with pinpoint precision.
Tested only in animals so far, if the device pans out it could mark a new approach to treating brain diseases — potentially reducing side effects by targeting only the hard-to-reach circuits that need care.
"You could deliver things right to where you want, no matter the disease," said Robert Langer, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose biomedical engineering team reported the research Wednesday.
Stronger and safer treatments are needed for brain disorders ranging from depression to Parkinson's. Simply getting medications inside the brain, past what's called the blood-brain barrier, is a hurdle. It's even harder to reach its deepest structures.
Pills and IV drugs that make it inside trigger side effects as they wash over entire regions of the brain. So doctors have tried inserting tubes into the brain to pump drugs closer to their targets, but that risks infection and still isn't accurate enough. The most targeted success to date is a cancer treatment, a wafer placed on the site of a surgically removed brain tumour that oozes out chemotherapy.
The MIT team's next-generation approach: a customizable deep-brain implant that can deliver varying doses of more than one drug on demand.
The researchers constructed two ultra-thin medication tubes and slid them into a stainless steel needle that's about the diameter of a human hair. That needle, built as long as needed to reach the right spot, gets inserted through a hole in the skull into the desired brain circuitry.
An electrode on the tip provides feedback, monitoring how the electrical activity of targeted neurons change as the medication is delivered.
The needle is hooked to two small, programmable pumps that hold the medications. The plan: Thread the pumps somewhere under the skin for a fully implantable system, dubbed MiNDS for miniaturized neural drug delivery system. The pumps can be refilled with an injection, and if more than two drugs are needed, additional reservoirs could be added like in a printer ink cartridge, Langer said.
Lab rats gave MiNDS its first test.
Researchers implanted the needle into a movement-related brain region that Parkinson's disease damages. To mimic that disease, the implant dripped out a chemical that made the rats move abnormally, including repeatedly turning clockwise. Next, the researchers turned off that chemical and infused saline through the system's second channel, ending the Parkinson's-like behaviour, MIT lead author Canan Dagdeviren reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Another experiment in a monkey showed delivering that same chemical into a different region altered how the targeted brain cells fire.
"There's a lot of therapeutic potential for this," said Tracy Cui, a bioengineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She wasn't involved with the MIT study but also is developing this kind of technology.
Numerous groups are working on implants to deliver neurologic drugs in different ways, Cui noted. While additional testing is needed before such a system could be tried in people, she said these kinds of tools are important for research thanks to the feedback showing how neurons react to different compounds.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health; MIT has applied for a patent.
With Valentine’s Day looming, here’s an elegant entree that any basic cook can execute with ease. I’m talking about duck breasts with a five-ingredient sauce, the making of which requires all of 15 minutes of hands-on time.
But first, let’s address a few common misconceptions about duck. Pekin duck — the kind of duck called for in this recipe and the one most readily available at stores and online — is not gamy. It’s also not fattening, especially if you remove the skin. (I’ll confess that I love the skin. It’s where all of the crispiness lives.)
Finally, though, there are at least three other reasons to roll with a duck breast on this special occasion, none of which has anything to do with health: it’s scrumptious, it cooks as quickly as a steak or a pork chop, and it’s a great landing pad for any of the sauces you would put on either of those meats.
The sauce in this recipe for Sauteed Duck Breasts is a classic of French cuisine: shallots, wine, cream, mustard and peppercorns. The cream doubles as a thickener because that’s the superpower it develops when it’s reduced. Don’t have green peppercorns at hand? Use crushed black peppercorns. Or, if you’d prefer to lose the sauce’s peppery bite, leave out the peppercorns entirely.
Two tips about cooking duck breast: First, let it cook for the majority of the necessary time with the skin side down so that the skin becomes crispy and the fat is rendered out. Leave the hot fat in the pan as it accumulates; it helps to melt even more fat from the skin. Secondly, be sure to let the duck breast rest after it’s been cooked. As with any other animal protein, cooking the breast chases its juices to its outside layers. As the breast rests, the juices are reabsorbed, which prevents the duck from drying out when sliced.
SAUTEED DUCK BREASTS
Start to finish: 40 minutes (15 minutes hands-on)
2 Pekin duck breast halves (about 8 ounces each)
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon drained green peppercorns in brine
Using a very sharp knife, lightly score the skin on each duck breast half in a crisscross pattern, all the way down but not through the meat. Pat the duck dry. Sprinkle the skin side lightly with the salt and in a large, cold skillet, place the duck, skin side down. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the fat starts to render out into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking the duck breasts until the skin looks very crispy, about 8 minutes. Do not pour off the fat; the liquid fat in the pan helps to render out the fat in the skin.
When the duck skin is crisp, transfer the breasts to a plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan (reserve it for another use, such as sauteeing vegetables). Return the duck to the skillet, skin side up, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the duck to a clean plate, skin side up. Cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Add the shallots to the pan and cook them over medium heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine to the skillet, increase the heat to high and simmer until the wine is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Add the cream, bring it to a boil and simmer until it is reduced by one-third and thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, peppercorns, duck juices from the plate the duck is resting on and salt to taste.
To serve: Put the duck breasts on a cutting board, skin side down, and slice them very thin at an angle. Transfer the slices to each of two plates and spoon some of the sauce over each portion.
Nutritional information per serving: 439 calories; 247 calories from fat; 27 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 245 mg cholesterol; 590 mg sodium; 4 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 38 g protein.
When Ottawa announced changes to EI parental leave benefits last year that will allow new mothers to receive benefits for 18 months, Heather Wilson was excited about the possibility of spending more time with her baby.