Stories We're Following

News + Insights from Around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line


Should an Olympian's Testosterone Levels Matter?

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"The ruling also meant that South African runner Caster Semenya . . . was able to compete without being forced to take testosterone-suppressing drugs. She would also escape further invasive screenings"

Until recently, female Olympians with naturally high levels of testosterone
had to undergo medical interventions before they were allowed to race. (CNN)

Bottom Line: Between 5 to 10% of women suffer from hyperandrogenism (naturally high levels of testosterone), and it's one of the most common female hormonal disorders. In 2011, the International Association of Athletics Federations began testing athletes for hyperandrogenism, claiming it could confer an unfair advantage. In order to meet eligibility standards, athletes had to take testosterone-supressing drugs and/or undergo surgical interventions. Last year, India's fastest female runner, Dutee Chand, successfully fought the ruling. But the question remains: Even if one's biology did provide a slight competitive advantage, does it matter? And isn't that part of what we celebrate about great athletes?


‘Brain Training’ Technique Helps Paraplegic Patients Feel Again

“Eight paraplegics – some of them paralysed for more than a decade by severe spinal cord injury – have been able to move their legs and feel sensation… one has been able to leave her house and drive a car. Another has conceived and delivered a child, feeling the contractions as she did so.”

A new technology appears to have given some paraplegics
partial recovery of movement and sensation. (The Guardian)

Bottom Line: Eight paraplegic Brazilian patients participated in a training regimen that involved immersive virtual reality training, visual-tactile feedback, and walking with a custom-designed lower-limb exoskeleton. The results surprised everyone. At different stages and levels of success, the patients went from total absence of touch-sensation to the capacity to sense pain, pressure and vibration. Some patients reported partial restoration of muscle movement. None of them can walk unaided, but one woman has been able to make walking movements with her legs, while suspended in a harness. 


Warranties May Be the Next
Trend in Medicine

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“The drug has to deliver what you say or we don’t pay.”

—In Europe, a new gene therapy for a rare disorder comes with a
$665k price tag and a money-back guarantee. (MIT Technology Review)

Bottom Line: Children born with a rare immune deficiency disease known as ADA-SCID have no immune protection from normal bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can become life-threatening. Until recently, the treatment for ADA-SCID was a bone marrow transplant—which comes with its own risks. However, a new gene therapy treatment in Europe called Strimvelis appears to be curative. Strimvelis is one of the most expensive one-time treatments ever sold, and its money-back guarantee may be an indicator of how we will treat (and pay) for rare diseases in the future.


Skin Sensors Can Tell You When
You've Had One Too Many

“When you're out at a party or at a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you've been drinking”

—Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable sensor
that can accurately measure blood alcohol level from your sweat. (Science Daily)

Bottom Line: Every 53 minutes, someone in the United States will die from a motor vehicle crash that involves
an alcohol impaired driver. This new wearable technology, while still in the clunky early phases, could one day
provide an accurate and convenient way to self-monitor alcohol consumption.


What Do Olympians Eat?

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"The athletes also didn't follow popular fads, like avoiding gluten, or restrict themselves from eating particular foods or food groups. They even indulged in the occasional sweet or drink."

—It's not only their rigorous schedule that helps Olympic
athletes perform their best. It's also what they put on their plate. (Vox)

Bottom Line: Depending on the physical demands of their sport, there was great variation in the number of calories an athlete consumed per day. Across the board, however, all of these athletes primarily eat unprocessed, wholesome foods when they are training. If it's true that you are what you eat, then these Olympians have discovered diets that deliver maximal success. So, what foods would help you to be your most successful self?