If your muscles are just as stressed as you are, grab a TaoTronics massage gun. Down to $76 with a coupon clip and promo code KINJATT003S, you’ll have six gun attachments and 10 speed levels to really get into the deep tissue of your legs, shoulders, and wherever else you’ve got a little tension.
All told, it’s $54 off the list price right now when you clip the coupon and then pop in the code at checkout. It has a 4.9-star rating from 800+ reviews, too, so customers are loving the relief it brings.
This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher in October 2020 and updated by Andrew Hayward with new information on 02/25/2021.
Doctors say that a Michigan woman’s untimely death last fall was caused by covid-19 unknowingly spread through a double lung transplant. It’s likely the first clear case of covid-19 linked to transplantation. Another doctor contracted the viral illness through the procedure, but survived.
The woman’s tragic case was detailed in a report published earlier this month by doctors at the University of Michigan Medical School, in the American Journal of Transplantation. According to the report, the woman needed the transplant because of her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her donor was a woman who had recently died of severe brain injury from a car accident. Standard screening, including a nasal and throat swab test for the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) on the donor and recipient, turned up nothing unusual and the procedure appeared to go off without a hitch.
Three days following the transplant, however, the recipient spiked a fever and began to have trouble breathing. A nasal swab test initially showed no traces of the coronavirus, but she obviously had pneumonia and a later direct test of her lungs came back positive for the virus. Over the next two months, the woman’s condition only worsened, and she developed septic shock. Though she was treated with antivirals, convalescent plasma, and ECMO (a last resort medical device that takes over for the heart and lungs), the woman succumbed to her illness 61 days after her transplant.
The donor had no history indicating recent exposure to the coronavirus or symptoms of covid-19 prior to her death, along with a negative nasal swab test. But doctors had held onto a fluid sample collected from her lungs and when they tested it after the recipient became sick, it came back positive. Genetic sequencing of the virus found in both the donor and recipient showed they were nearly identical, effectively proving the recipient’s infection came from the tainted lungs. A third person—one of the woman’s surgeons who handled the lungs—became sick and tested positive for the virus soon after the procedure, and this infection was also traced back to the donated lungs. The surgeon recovered, however, and no other member of the transplant team was affected.
There have been other suspected cases of covid-19 spread through transplantation, but this is thought to be the first known case to demonstrate transmission by using genetic sequencing. Despite the tragedy of this death, however, it’s likely still an incredibly rare risk. This same month, scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked into eight suspected cases of covid-19 linked to organ donation documented between March to May 2020. They ultimately concluded that the most likely source of transmission in these cases “was community or healthcare exposure, not the organ donor.”
G/O Media may get a commission
Rare as it might be, the Michigan doctors do think more can be done to ensure the safety of organ recipients and their doctors during this time, particularly when lungs are being transplanted.
“Transplant centers and organ procurement organizations should perform SARS‐CoV‐2 testing of lower respiratory tract specimens from potential lung donors, and consider enhanced personal protective equipment for health care workers involved in lung procurement and transplantation,” they wrote.
The findings from a new clinical trial released Wednesday may point the way to an elusive goal: a safe and effective drug that helps reduce obesity in people.
The study found that people with obesity given a treatment currently used for type 2 diabetes lost significantly more weight than a control group, with one-third losing 20% or more of their body weight. Those in the experimental group also experienced greater improvements in other markers of health. However, the long-term health effects of the treatment are not yet known, meaning we do not yet know how effective or safe it is as an obesity treatment.
The drug is called semaglutide, and it’s been approved in the U.S. since 2017 to help people with type 2 diabetes. Semaglutide helps increase the body’s production of insulin, the hormone that plays a big role in controlling our blood sugar (people with type 2 diabetes either stop making enough insulin or stop responding to it as normal, which causes the unstable blood sugar levels that characterize diabetes). It does this by mimicking the human glucagon-like peptide-1 hormone, also called GLP-1.
GLP-1 is one lever of the body’s system that regulates our sense of hunger and metabolism. After eating, it’s usually released into the gut at high enough levels to curb our appetite. That’s likely why one commonly reported side effect of semaglutide in patients with diabetes has been reduced appetite and weight loss. And because obesity, a common risk factor of type 2 diabetes, often involves a dysfunctional metabolism, it’s also why some scientists have hoped that the drug could be retooled into a genuine obesity treatment.
This new Phase III trial (called STEP-1) was funded by Novo Nordisk—the makers of semaglutide—and involved nearly 2,000 patients over the age of 18 recruited in 16 countries from June to November 2018. The volunteers had all reported trying to lose weight unsuccessfully at least once and either had a body mass index over 30—the cut-off for obesity—or a BMI of 27 along with health complications likely related to their weight, but not including diabetes. (BMI, it should be noted, has been criticized as too imprecise to be a reliable marker of health). The findings were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
G/O Media may get a commission
All of the volunteers were encouraged to take on a reduced-calorie diet and exercise more. They also all received individualized counseling from dietitians once a month, either in-person or over the phone. But about half were randomized to receive a weekly injected dose of semaglutide, while the other received a placebo shot. Each dose of semaglutide was 2.4 milligrams, higher than the 1 milligram dose used for diabetes treatment.
By the end of the 68-week trial (which nearly all participants completed), the results were clear. Those on semaglutide experienced an average weight loss of 33 pounds, while the placebo group experienced an average loss of six pounds. Two-thirds of the treatment group lost at least 10% of their baseline weight, while one-third lost at least 20%. They also saw more substantial improvements in waist circumstance, blood pressure, and self-reported quality of life.
On the face of it, the findings are nothing short of tremendous, given the relative lack of options for people who seek to address their obesity with pharmaceuticals. (There are several drugs currently approved in the U.S. for obesity, but none have shown the degree of success seen here.)
“The findings of this study represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity,” said Rachel Batterham, an obesity researcher at the University College London in the UK who helped lead one arm of the trial, in a statement released by the university. “No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss—this really is a gamechanger. For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery.”
Despite the promising news, at least some outside experts are more cautious about the study’s implications. In an accompanying editorial, Julie Ingelfinger and Clifford Rosen—both medical doctors and editors with NEJM—called the results a “good beginning.”
In the trial, semaglutide was well-tolerated overall, even at a higher dose, with symptoms like nausea, diarrhea and vomiting more common in the treatment group. But Ingelfinger and Posen point out that other research has suggested that it could raise the risk of more serious health problems like pancreatitis. In mice, it’s been associated with certain thyroid tumors when taken as a pill, which is why the drug isn’t currently recommended for people with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, a hereditary condition that raises the risk of thyroid cancer.
They also note that obesity is a chronic condition. And despite the length of the 68-week trial, we still don’t know how effective, safe, or practical it would be for someone to take a weekly injected dose of semaglutide over the long term. These potential risks and limitations don’t mean that the drug can’t be used for obesity, but it does mean that scientists will need to keep evaluating whether its benefits outweigh its harms if it wins regulatory approval. Some health experts and activists have also questioned the value of obesity treatment in general, arguing that doctors should strive to improve people’s health at any size, while recognizing that weight loss may not be the optimal goal for some.
“In sum, we have a long way to go to control the obesity epidemic, but STEP 1 serves its name well,” they wrote.
Regulatory health agencies like the Food and Drug Administration will soon have to weigh these questions themselves, since Novo Nordisk is already planning to submit the drug for approval as an obesity treatment in Europe, the UK, and the U.S.
New research released Wednesday underscores the role of obesity in type 2 diabetes. It suggests that obesity plays a major factor in up to half of new diabetes cases that occur annually in the U.S.
The link between obesity and type 2 diabetes—a condition where blood sugar levels become uncontrollable and stay too high—is well established. But the authors say their new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, provides a more recent estimate on how often obesity contributes to diabetes, one that relies on longer term data than past studies have used. The study was led by researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
They looked at years of data from two sources. One was the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a yearly survey that asks a nationally representative group of Americans about their lifestyle and eating habits. The other was the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), an ongoing study of over 6,000 volunteers who have had their health tracked since 1999 in order to study heart disease. The combined data gave the researchers two different ways to study the health of Americans over a long period of time, particularly middle-aged to older people.
Between 2001 to 2004, according to the NHANES data, about 34% of Americans between the ages of 45 and 79 met the criteria for obesity (a body mass index, or BMI, of 35 and over); by the years 2013 to 2016, that had changed to 41%. In the MESA data, 11.6% of participants with no preexisting diabetes developed the condition over a median length of nine years. And those who were obese in the MESA study were about three times as likely as non-obese people to eventually develop diabetes during that period (20% versus 7.3%).
Based on both the MESA and NHANES data, the researchers estimate that obesity is now associated with 30% to 53% of new diabetes cases seen annually. The impact of this relationship isn’t equal across all groups of people, though. Both obesity and type 2 diabetes are more common among people of color than whites, and Black and Hispanic Americans are also more likely to die from diabetes. But the connection between obesity and diabetes was actually strongest in white women, despite this group having the lowest obesity rates overall.
G/O Media may get a commission
“Our study highlights the meaningful impact that reducing obesity could have on type 2 diabetes prevention in the United States. Decreasing obesity needs to be a priority,” said lead study author Natalie Cameron, a resident internal medicine physician at Northwestern University in Chicago, in a statement released by the American Health Association, which helped fund this study along with the federal government. “Public health efforts that support healthy lifestyles, such as increasing access to nutritious foods, promoting physical activity and developing community programs to prevent obesity, could substantially reduce new cases of type 2 diabetes.”
Other research has found that the incidence of new diabetes cases in the U.S. declined between 2008 and 2018, even as the obesity rate has climbed over that same time. But the rate of new annual cases hasn’t dropped in people younger than 20, and diabetes is still the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., having contributed to 87,647 deaths in 2017. The authors are also worried that the covid-19 pandemic could further worsen the situation, both directly and indirectly (some research has even suggested that covid-19 infection can directly contribute to new-onset diabetes).
“The greater severity of covid-19 infection in individuals with obesity is concerning because of the growing burden of adverse health consequences they could experience in the coming years; therefore, further efforts are needed to help more adults adopt healthier lifestyles and hopefully reduce the prevalence of obesity,” said senior study author Sadiya Khan in a statement.
Fitbit already gives you the ability to monitor your heart health, stress, and blood oxygen levels on some of its watches. Now the company is eyeing blood glucose-monitoring with a new feature in the Fitbit app.
The addition is good news for those with diabetes, as well as anyone with a medical condition that might need to track their blood sugar. But to be clear, this isn’t a non-invasive alternative to pricking your finger with a glucometer. This is a software update that allows users to log or import their blood sugar levels, and then see how they relate to other health metrics like sleep, exercise, and food over time. The app will also let users set personalized ranges so they can potentially identify other factors that might affect their blood sugar levels. You can also enable on-wrist reminders to log your blood sugar.
Fitbit Premium users will get a few more perks, like seeing how frequently their glucose levels fall within a target range each month and other data trends. Premium users will also get the ability to share their blood glucose data via Fitbit’s Wellness Report feature.
While users can manually log their measurements, Fitbit says anyone who uses the OneTouch Reveal app from LifeScan can also automatically import their data. The company says that it plans to integrate with other meters and apps soon. To enable the feature, you can go into the Fitbit app’s Discover tab, hit Health & Fitness Stats, and add Blood Glucose. (If you don’t see it there yet, you might have to wait a bit as Fitbit says the feature will be rolling out this month.)
G/O Media may get a commission
More broadly speaking, it looks like blood glucose-monitoring might be the Next Big Thing in health tech. Rumor has it that both Apple and Samsung are working on ways to non-invasively monitor blood sugar in their next smartwatches. We also saw a non-invasive blood glucose-monitoring smartwatch prototype at this year’s CES. These are definitely more ambitious than what Fitbit’s currently offering, but those watches also may never see the light of day. A device that inaccurately reports blood sugar levels could be far more life-endangering than say, one wonky ECG reading, so these proposed devices will also need FDA clearance before they hit the market.
Fitbit’s feature doesn’t need FDA clearance because it’s strictly a tool to help you monitor your data. That said, it does come with a disclaimer: This is not a replacement for a proper diagnosis from your doctor, nor is it something you should base your treatment on without talking to a physician.
Fitbit is also making its health features accessible to more users by extending access to its Health Metrics dashboard. The feature was introduced with the Sense and Versa 3 this past fall, but now it’ll be available for Versa 2, Inspire 2, and Charge 4 users, though you’ll be limited to the trends from the past week. As with blood glucose monitoring, Fitbit Premium members will gain the ability to see personal ranges within that dashboard as well. Charge 4 users also get a little SpO2 treat in an upcoming update that will allow them to see readings directly on-wrist; they’ll also be able to view SpO2 and skin temperature data in the dashboard. Meanwhile, Fitbit Sense users in Canada, New Zealand, and U.S. territories will also get the ECG app this month as well.
A bonafide treatment for the common cold has eluded scientists for decades. But recent animal research from a team in Australia suggests that their experimental drug—delivered via nasal spray—could help the immune system fend off all sorts of respiratory infections. The treatment is now set to be tested out in a clinical trial of people in a matter of weeks.
The treatment is called INNA-X and is being developed by Ena Respiratory, a biotech company in Australia. The therapy is intended to buff up the immune system through activating a class of proteins called Toll-like receptors (TLRs). TLRs play a key role in the innate immune system, which is the first line of defense against foreign pathogens. This innate immune response not only attacks germs but also rallies the rest of the immune system into action.
“We have discovered that INNA-X primes the innate immune system in the airways so that when a virus enters your body (nose or throat) and initiates infection, your immune system is able to respond much more quickly and control the virus in the crucial first days after exposure to the virus,” Nathan Bartlett, a virologist at the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute who is working with Ena to study the drug, told Gizmodo in an email.
Though the development of INNA-X began before the pandemic, the treatment should ideally offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes covid-19, as well as the many viruses that cause the common cold, such as rhinoviruses. In two recent animal studies published last month, that seems to be the case.
One study conducted in ferrets—animals that are very vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2—found the drug could reduce replication of the coronavirus by up to 96% when compared to natural infection. Another study in mice found that INNA-X could boost the innate immune response against rhinovirus, leading to lower viral loads and lessened inflammation caused by viral infection. That study found that the drug could still affect airway cells taken from people with asthma, a condition known to dampen people’s natural immune response to respiratory viruses.
G/O Media may get a commission
Successful studies in animals or human cells don’t always translate to a successful drug in people, of course. And even if INNA-X is successful, it wont be the perfect common cold cure we’re all hoping for. The immune-boosting effect of the drug is thought to last for about a week, so one dose wouldn’t protect people through the full cold and flu season (that said, other preclinical research has suggested it can be safely taken repeatedly). But it might still be a useful treatment for people at high risk of exposure or if taken soon after a confirmed exposure. In the context of covid-19 or future pandemics caused by similar viruses, the company hopes it could be used as a prophylactic to bridge the gap before an effective vaccine is available.
The next step of Ena’s research will test out a candidate for human use called INNA-05. This small Phase I clinical trial will only examine the safety of the treatment in healthy volunteers recruited in Australia, not its effectiveness. But the company has said that the drug could be available for use in as soon as 18 months if it continues to show promise in human trials.
Fecal transplants, already being studied as a treatment for colon infections and type 2 diabetes, may also help the body fight cancer, new U.S. government-funded research suggests. In a small clinical trial, some patients with advanced cancer who received the transplants began responding to treatments that hadn’t worked earlier, which either stabilized or shrunk their tumors.
The goal of a fecal transplant is to use a donor’s stool to reset a person’s gut microbiome, the neighborhood of bacteria that live along our digestive tract. The gut microbiome helps the body regulate everything from metabolism to a properly functioning immune system, and an unbalanced microbiome is thought to cause or increase the risk of many health problems, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain infections. By seeding their digestive tract with the bacteria from a donor’s stool, it appears to be possible to grow a healthier gut microbiome.
Currently, fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is only considered an effective treatment for recurrent gastrointestinal infections caused by Clostridioides difficile, which can be fatal. But there are ongoing trials testing its use for other conditions. This new study, led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, looked at FMT as a sort of booster for another emerging treatment, cancer immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy uses drugs to amplify the immune system’s ability to find and kill cancer cells. These drugs include immune checkpoint inhibitors, which remove the natural limiter that some cancers use to avoid detection by T cells. Though immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown great promise in treating advanced forms of cancer, some people’s tumors continue to resist suppression by the immune system even after treatment. Some researchers have theorized that resetting the gut microbiome of these patients will also make these tumors become vulnerable to immunotherapy.
G/O Media may get a commission
“Cancer therapies often rely on stimulation of anti-tumor immune responses, raising the possibility that the gut microbiota could influence host responses to cancer therapeutics via the immune system,” study author Giorgio Trinchieri, chief of the Laboratory of Integrative Cancer Immunology in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, told Gizmodo via email.
The study involved 15 patients with advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, who had previously not responded to treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. These patients received transplants from other patients with advanced melanoma who had responded to therapy (often, patients first receive a dose of antibiotics to help clear out their existing microbiome, but not in this study). The donor stool was examined for any potentially dangerous germs—a precaution that’s become standard in the wake of several illnesses and one death tied to fecal transplants carrying drug-resistant bacteria in 2019.
Afterward, six out of the 15 patients began to respond to treatment. In one patient, their tumors have continued to shrink for over two years and counting, while four others have had their cancer stabilize, with no signs of disease progression for at least over a year. (The sixth patient appeared to respond completely to immunotherapy but died soon after treatment from complications of an unrelated surgery.)
“In these patients, the tumor was rapidly progressing and life expectancy was short,” Trinchieri noted. “Stable disease and tumor shrinkage would represent a significant improvement of patients’ survival and quality of life and may result in long-term survival and, in some cases, cure.”
Both the gut microbiome and immune system of these patients also showed signs of having favorably changed following transplant, allowing for a better response to the therapy. And the transplants themselves were well-tolerated, though the immunotherapy did likely cause minor side effects in some patients, including fatigue. The findings were published in the journal Science on Thursday.
The study, according to Trinchieri, is one of the first to show that altering the gut microbiome can improve a person’s response to immunotherapy. And while this is only a proof-of-concept study, it also demonstrates the potential of targeting the microbiome in general for treating cancer.
Despite this potential, more work has to be done with larger groups of patients before poop transplants could become a standard of care for difficult cancer cases. The team’s research and others is starting to identify the types of bacteria most likely to improve immunotherapy response, as well as the patients most likely to benefit from a transplant. They’re also keeping track of the patients who have responded to FMT, while using their donated poop for other studies.
In the future, this transplant technique—which requires a colonoscopy—may not even be the preferred method of delivery. Instead, Trinchieri said, perhaps we could get by only using a pill that contains the bacteria. Thankfully, some studies are already exploring that method, as well as using FMT for other types of cancer.
The future of cancer treatment might involve personalized vaccines meant to manage or even prevent relapses—at least if new research published Thursday continues to pan out. In a small clinical trial, high-risk melanoma patients given such a vaccine were able to create a long term, durable immune response to their cancer, scientists said. They also remained alive four years after the initial treatment, with most being actively disease-free.
Cancer vaccines have been a highly sought-after goal by scientists for decades. There are two vaccines that can protect against viral illnesses known to raise the risk of certain cancers, HPV and hepatitis B. But developing a broadly effective vaccine that can directly prevent cancer from occurring has been a more difficult task, thanks to the very nature of cancer. For one, cancer cells are mutated versions of the cells found in our body, so our immune system can’t recognize them as an enemy as easily as they can a virus. And because each cancer is specific to each person, it’s not so simple to create a vaccine that works for everyone.
In recent years, though, there have been advances in developing cancer vaccines on a more personalized level. Researchers have discovered that tumors carry proteins on the surface of their cells that aren’t found on normal cells and can make them look different to our immune system. These proteins are called neoantigens. By creating vaccines that train the immune system to better recognize these neoantigens, scientists theorize, we can give our bodies a better chance in fighting off a familiar cancer.
Scientists at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts and elsewhere have been working on one of these vaccines (called NeoVax) for the skin cancer melanoma as well as glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer and one that’s very difficult to treat. While their work has shown that the vaccine is well-tolerated and appears to create an immune response in patients, only short-term results have been available so far. Their new paper, published in Nature Medicine, suggests that their vaccine is working over the long haul, too.
“These neoantigens are the result of mutations found in a specific tumor—it’s something that’s created on an individual level. So our vaccines have to be tailor-made to a patient’s cancer,” study author Patrick Ott said by phone. “But what’s new is that by using genomics and sequencing, we’ve been able to identify these mutations much faster and in a more cost-effective way than before.”
G/O Media may get a commission
They gave NeoVax to eight patients considered at high risk for future, possibly fatal recurrences of advanced melanoma. Then they tracked their health over the next four years, periodically taking blood samples to study the body’s immune response to the cancer, in particular tumor-specific T cells.
The vaccine was given to the patients about 18 weeks following surgery to remove the tumor. Ott and his team found that volunteers continued to carry T cells specific to the neoantigens their vaccine had trained the immune system to remember. In some people, they also saw T cells that were recognizing other neoantigens specific to their tumor. That’s an indication that their immune systems are adapting to any lingering tumor cells in the body by creating even more weapons against them. All eight patients were still alive after nearly four years, with six appearing to be disease-free at last check-in.
Right now, it takes at best three months from a person’s diagnosis for scientists like Ott to create a personalized vaccine. But it’s possible that someday these vaccines could be created in a much shorter time, following a simple doctor’s visit. And though they may not be the “universal” cancer vaccine we’re all hoping for, Ott doesn’t see any reason why these vaccines couldn’t eventually be made to help prevent relapses of any type of cancer.
The vaccines can likely be combined with other treatments. Two patients in the study with cancer that spread elsewhere were given immune checkpoint inhibitors, drugs that allow the immune system to better target tumor cells. In these patients, the group found evidence that tumor-specific T cells had found their way to the metastasized tumors.
In the future, Ott and his team hope to refine their vaccine technology to create even more potent immune responses that, combined with drugs like immune checkpoint inhibitors, can manage advanced cancer cases. They’re also now testing out their vaccine with other cancers, while continuing to monitor their existing patients.
Skincare can be challenging, and sticking to a routine can get, well, boring at times. But self-care during a pandemic is important— or so I keep hearing, anyway— so why not indulge yourself in something new to give your skin a boost in these dry winter months?
This ice roller comes in lots of colors for just $11 and can be used to give your face a relaxing and soothing massage. It can also help your skin look a little less puffy after you maybe didn’t get enough sleep or you had a good cry. Use it with a face mask for an extra relaxing experience.
I’m dying to try this new product, which is just 100% Niacinamide powder from The Ordinary. Niacinamide just seems to really react well with my skin, and it seems to mix well with a variety of skincare ingredients. It’s also only $6!