Numerous studies, including a big one published in Pediatrics earlier this year, have shown that adolescents are getting less sleep than ever before. But most teens are unlikley unaware of the dangers of sleep deprivation – and that’s something that a group of Stanford clinicians is trying to change. Rafael Pelayo, MD, with the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, and colleagues recently gave a “crash course” on sleep, and the importance of getting enough, to students at nearby Menlo-Atherton High School. ABC7 captured the story in the video above.
It’s Match Day: Good luck, medical students!: Small envelopes containing big news were handed out to medical students at Stanford, and those at 155 medical schools across the country, on March 20. A story on the day’s happenings can also be found here.
The lesson plan guides students as they investigate new collective search algorithms in species of ants that haven’t been studied – and there are more than 14,000 species to learn about. Ants may not encounter microgravity on Earth, but they search in every other kind of environment. The results might offer suggestions on how to program robots for rescue and exploration. Collective search algorithms are used to program rescue robots to search efficiently. When robots search dangerous territory for humans, it may be most effective, and cheapest, to mimic ants and not require the robots to report back to a central controller.
“Deborah Gordon is a scientist who wants to reach out to classroom teachers who are preparing our future scientists and citizens,” [Tammy Moriarty, PhD, a professional development associate at Stanford’s Center to Support Excellence in Teaching] says. The lesson plan engages students with a scientific inquiry that does not have a predictable answer. As a result, the students are actually doing science, including collecting and observing wild ants and looking for patterns in their behavior.
Students will use technology, such as cell phone photography or video, to record ant behavior and see how ants go about searching a new area thoroughly. Using affordable and commonly available materials, the students will build an enclosure that allows them to observe ant behavior as the ants explore a new area. Then they will measure the ants’ movements, to see how the ants coordinate their search and how well they cover the area. When student researchers record their results in an online database, the data will be available to other students and scientists.
It’s true that the work of these young scientists is unlikely to have direct applications to human health. But anything that interests kids in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, as this lesson plan does, is a good thing in my book – and could potentially steer them towards a career in medicine or biomedical research.
Apple’s new ResearchKit, and Stanford Medicine’s MyHeart Counts iPhone app, were highlighted on ABC’s Nightline on Friday. Michael McConnell, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and principal investigator for the MyHeart Counts study, was interviewed, telling business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis around the 4-minute mark that the app will “definitely” change the way his job works. “It gives us a whole new way to do research,” he explained. “Traditionally reaching many people to participate in research studies is quite challenging. The ability to reach people through their phone is one major advance.”
There was a lot of excitement at the medical school campus today, where 77 students found out where they’ve been “matched” for their residencies. Norbert von der Groeben captured the celebration through a series of photos; watch for more on the morning’s event here on Monday.
2-24-15: Any parent of young children is likely familiar with the warnings: It’s not okay to give your baby peanut butter, or any other peanut product, before he or she turns one. Don’t do it! These instructions are so imprinted on my brain that I practically did a double-take when I came across headlines about new research suggesting that infants should, indeed, be fed peanut products – in order to prevent the development of peanut allergies.
This isn’t the first time that the benefits of giving allergenic foods to babies have been outlined, but the language surrounding this study has been particularly strong. As the writer of a New York Timesblog entry explained, the authors of the study and accompanying editorial “called the results ‘so compelling’ and the rise of peanut allergies ‘so alarming’ that guidelines for how to feed infants at risk of peanut allergies should be revised soon.” He went on to outline the study findings:
In the study, conducted in London, infants 4 to 11 months old who were deemed at high risk of developing a peanut allergy were randomly assigned either to be regularly fed food that contained peanuts or to be denied such food. These feeding patterns continued until the children were 5 years old. Those who consumed the foods that had peanuts in them were far less likely to be allergic to peanuts when they turned 5.
We’ve all been waiting for the results of this landmark study to confirm the shift in the paradigm of when to introduce foods into the diet. Early introduction of peanut in the right infants can prevent peanut allergy. Dr. [Gideon Lack, the leader of the study] and colleagues were able to show an 80 percent reduction in peanut allergy in children who started eating peanut early and incorporated it into their regular diet.
Chinthrajah believes the guidelines on babies and peanut products should be revised, “because peanut allergies affect 2 percent of our population in the U.S. and most people do not outgrow this allergy.” But, as other experts have done, she cautions that not everyone should introduce peanuts and other foods into their diet early. “Those who are ‘high-risk’ – who have other allergic conditions such as eczema or other food allergies – should consult with their allergist to see if it would be safe to introduce peanut into their child’s diet,” she advised.
Over the weekend, we reached a milestone on Twitter: Our @StanfordMed feed now has 100,000 followers. We’re happy to be followed by so many people (it seems like just yesterday that we were feeling giddy over the 50,000 mark), and we hope you’ll consider following us if you don’t already.
It’s no secret that exercise offers a plethora of health benefits; tons of research has established that. But I was still heartened to read about a new study showing that physically active middle-aged women had lower risks of heart disease, stroke and blood clots than did their inactive counterparts. (I read about the work on my phone as I walked home from a barre class last night, which made me feel especially happy about having had just worked out.)
Researchers from University of Oxford looked at data from 1.1 million women in the United Kingdom, who were followed for an average of nine years. From an American Heart Association release:
In the study:
Women who performed strenuous physical activity— enough to cause sweating or a faster heart beat — two to three times per week were about 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease, strokes or blood clots compared to participants who reported little or no activity.
Among active women, there was little evidence of further risk reductions with more frequent activity.
Physical activities associated with reduced risk included walking, gardening, and cycling.
Lead author Miranda Armstrong, MPhil, PhD, commented that “inactive middle-aged women should try to do some activity regularly,” but then noted that the results suggest that “to prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, our results suggest that women don’t need to do very frequent activity.” That’s good news, ladies!