Ready for the “Pollen Vortex?”

Layer of pollen inside a loft in Atlanta, Ga., in March 2007. (Courtesy flickr/Brooke Novak)

Layer of pollen inside a loft in Atlanta, Ga., in March 2007. (Courtesy flickr/Brooke Novak)

The polar vortex that swept across a large swath of the United States has messed with the natural order of things and, experts say, could lead to an unusually harsh allergy season being referred to as the “pollen vortex.”

Spring is getting a late start after record-setting cold temperatures and snowfall in many parts of the U.S., delaying the release of pollen by trees, grass and weeds. Thanks to colder temperatures, the daily pollen count has been 50 percent or below the average for this time of year, Dr. Susan Kosisky, head of the U.S. Army Centralized Allergen Extract Laboratory, told NBC News.

The delay could lead to a “perfect storm of pollen” in the coming days and weeks and a more intense allergy season than usual, according to The Washington Post. “If it warms quickly, everything is going to pollinate at once,” Dr. Estelle Levetin, biology professor at the University of Tulsa told The Post.

Almost 45 million Americans suffer from nasal allergies and another 25 million from asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma alone accounts for $18 billion in hospitalization costs and lost productivity, according to the foundation.

You might be more likely to be affected by allergies if you live in Louisville, Memphis, Baton Rouge, Oklahoma City or Jackson, Miss., which rounded out the top five metropolitan area where spring allergies are expected to be most challenging. The foundation’s annual “Allergy Capitals” report lists 100 areas based on the average pollen count, the use of allergy medication , and the availability of allergy specialists.

Here are some tips from allergy and asthma specialists on how to survive the season:

  • Shower before bed to wash off any pollen on your skin, and toss the clothes in the hamper.
  • Use a neti pot to wash out pollen from the sinus.
  • Keep windows closed and set your car air to recirculate.
  • Watch the pollen count to determine whether to limit outdoor activities.
  • Wear large sunglasses to keep pollen out.
  • Get tested for seasonal allergies.
  • Use a dose counter if you’re using an inhaler.

[Sources: AAFA, USA Today, ABC News, The Washington Post]

 

 

 

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Introducing the HumBug Noise Eliminator

humbug_fpA-M Systems is proud to offer to our customers another high quality instrument designed to improve electrophysiological recordings at an affordable price: The HumBug Noise Eliminator from Quest Scientific. The ‘HumBug’ Line Noise Eliminator removes line frequency noise from electrophysiological signals without filtering or requiring ongoing user attention. That means more time getting results, and less time solving continuously evolving noise and ground loop problems. The Humbug has been used successfully in neurophysiology laboratories worldwide.  For a short time, receive free ground shipping on any Humbug sold and shipped to an address in the continental United States or Canada.

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Join Us for the Unveiling of Optopatcher and SIU at Neuroscience 2013

Optopatcher: Micropipette Holder with Integrated Fiber Optics for Optogenetics

The Optopatcher combines a recording electrode with an optical fiber in a compact holder for optogenetic applications.

Welcome to Neuroscience 2013! We’re unveiling the optopatcher, a new tool for optogenetics, as well as Model 3820 Stimulus Isolator, at our booth (#1729) today.

The optopatcher is a new micropipette holder with an integrated optical fiber and a recording electrode for optogenetic activation in in-vivo patch clamp protocols. The compact electrode holder is compatible with many connectors and capillary glasses and eliminates the need for a second manipulator.

Model 3820: Stimulus Isolator

Model 3820: Stimulus Isolator

Also on display are our MultiStim: Programmable 8-Channel Stimulator (Model 3800) and Stimulus Isolator (Model 3820) as well as the Model 2400 Patch Clamp Amplifier and a range of intra- and extracellular amplifiers.

Stop by our booth (#1729) and say hi to Dr. Jon Bakin and Dr. Dave Mittmann who’ll be happy to answer your questions.

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Optopatcher: Micropipette Holder with Integrated Fiber Optics for Optogenetics

Optopatcher: Micropipette Holder with Integrated Fiber Optics for Optogenetics

Optopatcher eliminates the need for a second manipulator for optogenetic activation by combining a recording electrode and an optical fiber in the same holder.

The optopatcher is a new micropipette holder with integrated optical fiber to allow simultaneous patch-clamp recording and optogenetic activation. The design eliminates the need for a separate manipulator for optical stimulation.

The optopatcher was developed by A-M Systems under the guidance of its inventors, Dr. Ilan Llampl, Dr. Yonatan Katz and Dr. Ofer Yizhar of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Dr. Jochen Staiger of the Georg-August University in Germany.

Dr. Katz et al. hope the optopatcher’s compatibility with recording equipment will facilitate the use of optogenetics in neuroscience research. In the paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods earlier this year, they concluded:

we designed an electrode holder for simultaneous intracellular patch-clamp recording and optical stimulation, and showed examples of recorded cortical neurons in anesthetized mice. The optopatcher prevents the need for a second manipulator and for insertion of the optical fiber into the tissue. It can be also used for any other type of recordings that make use of glass capillaries, such as LFP recording and single unit recording. Without any modifications, the optopatcher can be utilized for in vitro recordings in brain slices or organotypic cultures and can be also used for discrete or concurrent photolysis of caged compounds.

The optopatcher is available with the most common connectors used on patch clamps:

  • Axon’s Threaded Collar,
  • Axon Axopatch,
  • Axon Axoclamp, and
  • standard BNC used by Heka and A-M Systems.

It can accept just about any capillary glass diameter between 1.2 mm and 2.0 mm O.D.; and custom diameters can be ordered.

Dr. Jonathan Bakin, the neuroscience and physiology product manager, and Dr. David Mittmann, the lead engineer, will be at Neuroscience 2013 in San Diego to answer your questions. Stop by Booth #1729, and check out the optopatcher.

 

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Smartphone As a Medical Device: Is It Useful?

Smartphones can easily transform into simple diagnostic tools, such as a heart monitor, ultrasound, otoscope, ophthalmoscope, stethoscope, blood pressure monitor and even a spirometer. It’s been shown that telemedicine can improve outcomes, reduce hospital admissions and ultimately cut mortality rates. But whether the adoption of smartphones as remote monitoring tools will become widespread enough to have an impact remains unanswered.

Ravi Parikh, a Harvard medical student and contributor to MedGadget, noted recently:

As difficult as I find them, the otoscope and other traditional tools will remain a large part of medical practice for the near future. And to be fair, doctors grew up training with these tools; learning the smartphone physical would come with time and opportunity costs. But doctors should also realize the deficiencies in some of these older technologies and how smartphones can address them.

To demonstrate the usefulness of smartphones as routine diagnostic tools, MedGadget organized a “Smartphone Physical” at this year’s TEDMED in Washington, D.C. Most of the tools were attachments that turn ordinary iPhones into a state-of-the-art ophthalmoscope or an ECG machine.

SpiroSmart, however, used only a user’s lip reverberation and iPhone’s built-in microphone to measure common spirometry values, such as FEV1, FVC and PEF. SpiroSmart’s creators, at the University of Washington’s Ubiquitous Computing Lab, say that when compared to clinical spirometers, the app returned a mean error  of 5.1%. The lab has reportedly applied for regulatory approval with the FDA to market the software as a viable home diagnostic tool.

One smartphone-based medical device that has received not only FDA’s blessing, but also a lot of media attention is AliveCor’s ECG monitor. Cardiologist Eric Topol has used the iPhone-based single-lead ECG to evaluate passengers during onboard emergencies when no other tools were available.

The device wasn’t intended to be a replacement for 12-lead ECGs used in clinics and hospitals. Yet citations show its accuracy is remarkable when compared to a 12-lead ECG. The benefit of portability is obvious. And at one-tenth the cost of a traditional 12-lead monitor, a $199 investment in a portable heart monitor, or in a rumored, consumer version, seems like a no brainer. But not everyone’s heralding the dawn of smartphone-based medical devices.

In an essay published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year, Dr. Caroline Wellbery laments the distracting aspects of technology especially during doctor-patient interactions. “The threesome with our devices has altered the terms of our engagement,” she writes. She describes the computer as “a sort of enchanting—and ever-distracting—mistress to the plain and stolid wife of… physician-patient conventions.”

Still there’s no shortage of smartphone-inspired medical devices that promise to make diagnoses easier and our lives healthier. Fraunhoffer’s Institute for Applied Information Technology is set to unveil its latest remote, mobile diagnostic and monitoring tool at Biotechnica 2013 next month.

(Courtesy Fraunhoffer Press Release 12.09.2013)

Designed for remote and continuous monitoring of the elderly, Fraunhoffer’s device houses the following:

A nano potentiostat measures biochemical information in a patient’s assay, e.g. glucose, lactate or cholesterol levels. A fluorescence sensor is used to detect color-marked biomarkers. A SpO2 sensor monitors heart rate and arterial oxygen saturation.

Data from the sensors are then processed by an app which also transmits the results to the attending physician’s office for monitoring, according to Fraunhoffer.

At UCLA Professor Aydogan Ozcan, a prolific inventor of new imaging technologies, has come up with a portable fluorescence microscopy platform, which along with your smartphone, can detect fluorescent-labeled polystyrene particles that are about 100 nm in diameter.

OzcanNanoCameraIn the study published in ACS Nano, Prof. Ozcan’s team repeated the experiment with individual human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), which can be life-threatening to the immunocompromised, neonates as well as transplant recipients. Individual HCMV virions, about 150 nm to 300 nm in diameter, were also fluorescent-labeled and detected with the smartphone ‘microscope.’

Prof. Ozcan’s team concludes that this smartphone-based fluorescence imaging platform

… could be used for specific and sensitive imaging of subwavelength objects including various bacteria and viruses and, therefore, could provide a valuable platform for the practice of nanotechnology in field settings and for conducting viral load measurements and other biomedical tests even in remote and resource-limited environments.

A few smartphones and all of the attachments mentioned above could fit in a small carry-on bag which would allow a clinician to bring a mobile laboratory and an examining room to the farthest corners of the world.

Results from smartphone spirometry, like the one offered by SpiroSmart, could easily be used by clinicians to detect sudden changes in condition without a daily visit  by a patient to a pulmonary lab. It’s not a replacement for clinical spirometry, but a prototype for cheap, daily spot checks for those who would otherwise skip or couldn’t afford such tests.

What do you think of smartphones as medical devices? Share your comments in the space below.

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HydroMax Heat and Moisture Exchange (HME) Filter: Tool for Passive Humidification

HydroMax Heat and Moisture Exchange (HME) Filter by A-M Systems

HydroMax™ combines heat and moisture exchanger (HME) with a viral and bacterial filter for passive humidification applications in anesthesia, respiratory care and critical care. After an extensive development and testing phase, HydroMax rivals or exceeds the specifications, including moisture output and resistance to flow, of many HME filters out there today.

Learn more about its features and specifications and contact us today for a sample and/or a quote.

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Eve Marder of Brandeis Wins 2013 Neuroscience Prize

Join us in congratulating Eve Marder of Brandeis University, this year’s recipient of the Gruber Foundation Neuroscience Prize. Dr. Marder is being lauded for her pioneering research into the 30-neuron central-pattern generator in the decapod stomatogastric-ganglion (STG) and her continuing contribution to the neuroscience community.

Researchers at the Marder Lab have been focusing on how neural circuits maintain homeostasis despite neuromodulation as well as external inputs, such as environmental temperature. [Rinberg A, Taylor AL, Marder E (2013) The Effects of Temperature on the Stability of a Neuronal Oscillator. PLoS Comput Biol 9(1): e1002857. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002857]

Marder is also a member of the inaugural working group of President Obama’s ambitious Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (Brain) Initiative.

She is scheduled to receive the neuroscience prize and deliver the Peter and Patricia Gruber Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego in November.

Visit the Marder Lab to learn more about its research as well as the Marder Lab’s Wiki for protocols and supplies.

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New Pulmonary Function Test Kits Feature Elliptical PFT Filters

PFT Kit E for Spirometry

Integrated, elliptical mouthpiece on the VBMax e-Series PFT filters are available in kits with a rubber nose clip, a disposable rubber mouthpiece and both.

You can now get pulmonary function test kits with VBMax™ e-Series PFT filters, which we launched a few weeks ago. PFT kits combine essential disposables for pulmonary function testing, such as a filter and a nose clip, in a single package.

In addition to a VBMax e-Series filter, each of the new PFT kits contains a rubber-padded nose clip and/or a rubber mouthpiece.

The disposable rubber mouthpiece, which  might seem redundant, can offer additional comfort to patients who have difficulties creating a tight seal.

  • PFT Kit E includes a VBMax e-Series filter, a nose clip and a rubber mouthpiece
  • PFT Kit F includes a VBMax e-Series filter and a nose clip
  • PFT Kit G includes a VBMax e-Series filter and a rubber mouthpiece

If your patients prefer PFT filters with a round patient connector, which can be used with or without a paper mouthpiece, Kits A, B and C are still available.

Let us know if you’d like a sample of any of our PFT kits or of our VBMax e-Series PFT filters.

 

 

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Welcome VBMax e-Series PFT Filter!

VBMax e-Series Pulmonary Function Test Filter

Meet the VBMax e-Series line of PFT filters! We’re excited to introduce the latest member of the VBMax™ family of pulmonary function test filters.

The patient-side of the new filter features an integrated elliptical mouthpiece that eliminates the need for an additional paper mouthpiece. But if you prefer, a disposable thermoplastic rubber mouthpiece can slip over the elliptical connector with a tight seal.

Unlike many other PFT filters with elliptical connectors, the mouthpiece of the VBMax e-Series has a gentle downward curve that conforms to the natural arch of your mouth. And the form didn’t come at the expense of function.

Like the standard VBMax PFT filters with a round connector, the e-Series PFT filters exceed standards published by the American Thoracic Society and the European Respiratory Society.

The e-Series VBMax PFT filters are individually packaged and come in a case of 50. Depending on the quantity, a case of PFT filters costs as low as US$48.75, or US$0.98 per filter. Contact us today for a sample!

 

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Women at Higher Risk of COPD

Women are at higher risk of developing COPD than men are in the United States, according to the COPD Foundation’s illustration published in November. The Foudation, which encourages research into the debilitating disease and promotes awareness, highlighted the gender-related differences on International Women’s Day.

COPD Foundation: Women and COPD

An early study of COPD patients for gender-related clinical differences showed that women appeared to develop the chronic condition at younger ages, had more exacerbations, and experienced more dyspnea than men. The Spanish-led study was published in the journal Chest in 2005.

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2010 affirms the earlier findings and called for more studies:

Female gender was associated with lung function reduction and more severe disease in subjects with COPD with early onset of disease or low smoking exposure. The findings may suggest a gender difference in susceptibility to the lung-damaging effects of cigarette smoking, but alternative explanations should be considered.

In the U.S., women were more likely than men to report having COPD (6.7% vs. 5.2%), according to a survey conducted by a division of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of the disease decreased with higher education and/or income.

Internationally prevalence of COPD among women has increased to a point where the disease affects men and women almost equally, says the World Health Organization. At least one reason for the increase, the group says, is an increase of tobacco use among women in wealthier countries.

If you think you’re at risk of developing COPD, visit the COPD Foundation for tips and more information. Also ask your physician for spirometry, a simple pulmonary function test designed to identify and/or asses asthma, COPD and other lung-related conditions.

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