29 April 2013

Arm lifts grow in popularity

Story originally appeared on USA Today.

The growth of obesity surgery is leading to an increase in arm lifts.

"Arm lifts" have become one of the fastest-growing varieties of plastic surgery, a new study shows.

More than 15,000 women underwent an arm lift in 2012, an increase of more than 4,000% since 2000, according to a report out Monday from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The popularity of the procedures isn't driven by a desire to look as good as Michelle Obama does in a sleeveless sheath.

Instead, the surgeries are growing because more people are losing massive amounts of weight, usually through obesity surgery, says David Reath, a plastic surgeon in Knoxville, Tenn., and chairman of the public education committee for the plastic surgeon society.

About 200,000 Americans a year undergo some kind of weight-loss procedure, such as gastric bypass, says Jack Fisher, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, from Nashville.

While surgery can help people lose weight and fat, it doesn't decrease the amount of skin, Reath says. People who lose 100 pounds or more can be left with a lot of extra skin.

"Once skin is stretched out, it becomes like a broken rubber band," Fisher says. "Even when you lose weight, the skin doesn't go back to its normal shape."

Patients sometimes refer to this extra skin as "bat wings," Reath says. Depending on a patient's weight loss and body type, some also opt for surgery to remove extra skin from the abdomen or all around their mid-section, a procedure called a "body lift."

The extra skin can make it harder for patients to wear clothes -- or enjoy their new look, Reath says.

"When they see themselves in the mirror, they don't see themselves at an appropriate weight," Reath says.

The number of cosmetic surgeries increased by 3% last year, to nearly 1.7 million, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. When non-surgical options such as botox injections are included, Americans had more than 10 million cosmetic procedures last year.

Arm lifts aren't for everyone.

The surgeries can cost $5,000 or more out-of-pocket, Fisher says. And they leave patients with a scar that stretches from their elbow to their armpit.

Doctors say women who want to look like the first lady will have to earn their triceps the same way she did: at the gym.

25 April 2013

Olivia Newton-John postpones Vegas gig

Story originally appeared on USA Today.

Big sis, Rona Newton-John, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

If you were hoping to see Olivia Newton-John on stage in Las Vegas in the coming months, you're out of luck.

The star has had to postpone her upcoming Flamingo residency substituting for Donny and Marie Osmond's away dates even before tickets had gone on sale and the official announcement had been made, reports the Las Vegas Sun.

Olivia, 64, has revealed to Entertainment Tonight that her big sister, Rona, has been diagnosed with cancer.

Olivia, who battled breast cancer 20 years ago, said in a statement that she had received the "very sad news" that Rona has been diagnosed with "brain cancer. In light of this news, I have decided to postpone my forthcoming Las Vegas residency to spend time with her and our family."

She went on to say, "As a cancer 'thriver' myself, as many people are, I am very aware of the importance of love, support and family during this journey she is about to begin. I want to thank everyone in advance for respecting our privacy during this difficult time."

Brad Johnson paying physical price for long NFL career

Story originally appeared on USA Today.

Brad Johnson took countless hits in a long NFL career, and says he never thought about the physical toll on his body -- but now, at age 44, he deals with it every day

ATHENS, Ga. -- Brad Johnson's plan for this April day is a light one — tutor a young quarterback on throwing mechanics in the afternoon, have dinner with his family in the evening.

But first he has to get out of bed and down the stairs of his home. It's the hardest part of his day, every day.

"I go down one step at a time with two feet. One step. One step. One step," the 44-year-old former NFL quarterback says. "My 73-year-old dad was visiting and I told my son to help him get his suitcases up the steps. He walks slow and he's got a bad knee. He starts walking and my son turns to me and he says, 'Dad, he walks just like you.'

"I never thought it would be like this."

Retired since 2008, Johnson says he's happier today — mentoring young quarterbacks and coaching his sons in football and basketball — than he was during his 17 seasons in the NFL. He won a Super Bowl and made enough money to spend most of his time with his family — wife, Nikki, and their sons, ages 10 and 12.

But it all came with a price, one that more than 200 rookies will begin to face this summer after this week's NFL draft.

Johnson's advice: "You've got to do the work. You've got to put in the time. Otherwise, you'll be passed by somebody that's better than you. If you can play, you play."

And the pain? "You live with it."

For Nikki, it's hard to witness. "I hate it for him. ... I think about what it will be like 10, 20 years from now," she says.

'Give your body to the game'

In the fall of 1997, Johnson began to feel a crick in his neck, he says.

In his second-to-last season with the Minnesota Vikings, Johnson was sent on a few quarterback sneaks in short-yardage situations in losses to the Detroit Lions and New York Jets. Over time, his neck stiffened up.

When it was time to drive to the stadium for a Monday night game vs. the Green Bay Packers, Johnson realized he couldn't safely operate a car. He asked his mother to take him.

"My neck was hurting but I didn't understand what was going on," he says.

Early in the game, Johnson attempted a pass to wide-open Cris Carter, streaking 30 yards down the seam. Johnson's lame-duck throw fell woefully short.

"I knew something was wrong but I couldn't explain it," he says. "I was in the huddle thinking, 'I don't know if I can throw a screen pass.' "

Johnson was pulled in the third quarter after fumbling twice. A grip test later revealed he had 9% strength in his right hand. He couldn't even palm a football.

He had surgery the next day to correct nerve damage between the C4 and C5 vertebrae in his spine. Carter, now an analyst for ESPN, remembers thinking of Johnson as a warrior, not unlike most of the quarterbacks he played with in his 16 NFL seasons.

"He was doing his absolute best to stay in the game," Carter says. "That's the nature of being in the NFL and the nature of playing that position. You have to be super mentally tough and you have to be a leader: Guys are watching. He was doing what was expected of us."

Today, when Johnson bowls with neighborhood friends or works out quarterbacks at local schools, his right hand will shake from fatigue, a consequence of that 1997 surgery.

"Deacon Jones said you have to give your body to the game," Johnson says. "You look at him and his fingers are crooked. His eyes are probably crooked, too. But he's right — you have to give your body."

Coaching as an outlet

The incoming high school freshman waits, football in hand, as Johnson wobbles to a spot near the 10-yard line at Prince Avenue Christian School in Bogart, Ga.

The right-handed quarterback has thrown a pass over the middle while rolling to his left. It's a football no-no. Bow-legged, pigeon-toed and teetering like a stack of bricks, Johnson leans in.

"You start throwing across the grain like this, you're going to start throwing interceptions," he says. "I do it. You'll do it. Aaron Rodgers will do it.

"You ever see those signs, 'Beware the dog?' There's a dog over here, and he's going to make that interception."

Johnson spends most of his days here, coaching individuals and teams on the football field, or basketball teams in the gym. When he's not working with kids, he hosts ping-pong and air hockey tournaments for friends. Winner takes a homemade championship belt.

When he retired after the 2008 season following two years as a backup with the Dallas Cowboys, Johnson sat around for a week wondering what he was going to do with his life. He soon discovered coaching.

"He's plugged in all over the place," says Richard Ricketts, the athletics director at Prince Avenue. "He lives on competition. He's always got something going."

Ricketts says he jokes with Johnson when he labors up a set of stairs on campus or steps onto a school bus. And despite the evidence of the game's toll, he doesn't know Brad or Nikki to have qualms about Max and Jake playing football.

"Her family's all football through and through, too," Ricketts says. "She's been around it her whole life."

But for Nikki, the sister of Georgia football coach Mark Richt and a former physical therapist who often nursed Brad's injuries, it can be hard to watch the boys play, knowing what the game did to their father.

She says football is so much faster now, at all levels, than when Brad played.

"But I would never want to discourage them from doing something they would love," she says. "You want your child to follow their dreams and you want to give them as much wisdom as you can about it, and make their own decisions."

Heavy painkiller use

Johnson's pain could be classified as chronic as early as 2002, when he says he started receiving injections of the painkiller Toradol before games.

Commonly used in operating rooms, Toradol is a non-narcotic approved by the FDA in 1989. The drug is not physically addictive, but it was the subject of a lawsuit filed in 2011 in which a group of players said NFL teams inappropriately administered the drug en masse before games while neglecting to tell players it could mask their ability to self-assess injuries, such as concussions.

Johnson says he needed the drug to numb pain from tendonitis in his throwing elbow and shoulder, as well as three major injuries.

In 1998, during the second game of his final season in Minnesota, a second-half play was whistled dead for a pre-snap penalty. The offensive line heard the whistle over the raucous dome crowd. The defensive line did not. One rusher hit Johnson high, the other low, breaking his right ankle.
In 1999, Johnson had surgery to correct microfractures in his left knee. Two months later, doctors went back in to correct the problem. That summer with the Washington Redskins, he needed to wear three rubber knee braces on top of one another "to get any kind of push," he says.
In the 14th game of the 2002 season vs. the Lions, Johnson scrambled for a few extra yards on third and 10, hoping to set up a game-winning field goal. Detroit defensive tackle Shaun Rogers -- all 320 pounds of him -- caught Johnson 3 yards downfield and fell firmly on top of him, cracking the transverse processes in his vertebra.
A few months after the injury against the Lions, Johnson led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past the Oakland Raiders for a Super Bowl victory, a first and only for Johnson and the franchise.

Over the next six seasons, with three teams, he continued to receive pregame Toradol shots, Johnson says.

"I didn't think I could play without it," he says. "It wasn't an addiction — I don't even take Advil now. It was like, 'I'm so sore, I don't know if I can actually play.' I felt like I had to have it to play."

Nikki says she never thought to stop him from playing hurt: "I would never say anything like that. I knew that Brad knew how much his body could take."

In contrast with what the lawsuit alleges, Johnson says players in his locker rooms weren't lined up to take the shots. But a teammate, former Bucs offensive lineman Roman Oben, now retired at 40, said half of the starters were taking Toradol shots, including himself.

"We all took shots before games," Oben says. "We were an older team. We did what we had to do to win. We don't want anybody to feel sorry for us. We signed up for it."

Johnson and Oben didn't join any related lawsuits against the NFL. As more than 2,000 players fight a court battle with the league over head injuries, Johnson says he has never had a concussion, but he describes scenarios that say otherwise.

"Now I might have a play where I ask the running back which way he turns to get the ball, and he'd remind me. But I'd get it back. You get knocked, but I wasn't like, 'I've got to get out of the game.' "

Oben says it's unlikely Johnson went all those years without a concussion.

"If you get hit and you hit your head on the turf and you get up because that's what you've been doing since you were a kid and you don't want the next guy to take your job, that's how you deal with it," Oben says. "He's a football player who happens to be a quarterback. I've blocked for Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers and some other great QBs, and as a leader and a quarterback and a competitor, Brad's my favorite.

"This is a tough guy who could step into the huddle and you knew things were going to work out."

'I never thought about it'

After retiring, Johnson sought and earned Line of Duty disability payments from the NFL, provided when a player suffers "substantial disablement arising out of NFL football activities."

He is also is one of many former NFL players seeking worker's compensation payments in California, which has allowed pro athletes from non-California teams to seek such benefits from their employers. A bill written by Assemblyman Henry Perea of Fresno would exclude athletes from out-of-state teams.

Down the road, Johnson could get up to $5,250 toward the cost of a joint replacement surgery.

When he retired after the 2008 season, Johnson was due five years of health insurance paid for by the NFL. After that, the NFL benefit ends unless Johnson develops a neuro-cognitive disease or an ailment that precludes him from being employed. In 2006, the league established health reimbursement accounts, funded at $25,000 per year of service for players who qualify, and offers other financial support through the Player Care Foundation.

Johnson says the league has made strides in protecting player health, but he would like to see the NFL provide health insurance for life for its 18,000-plus former players.

And if not for all of them, for the future retirees playing right now.

"A lot of it to me is about the years of service, how much wear and tear they actually took and injuries that have happened," he says. "I know how I feel now every day that I wake up. I wish there was health insurance depending on years of service.

"I do think the league has done a better job as far as providing better benefits. I don't know if they can backtrack for all the guys who played. But for the future players, I wish they would extend those benefits."

He looks at former Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who had both knees replaced at 50, and knows the same is likely in his future. Johnson has a pronounced limp, due to the microfractures in his left knee that caused him to put added pressure on his right knee.

"I know (knee replacement) is coming," he says. "I never thought about it until now. When I played, I never thought I would need anything like that."

18 April 2013

The Effect of Sugar on Cancer

Story originally appeared on Bel Mara Health.

There have been many warnings about the negative impact of sugar consumption on our health; however, recent research has uncovered another reason we should all fight that craving for sweets.

Medical research suggests that sugar is toxic and assists in cancer development. One Harvard professor has gone as far as to state that if we limit our sugar intake we will “decrease” our chances of cancer. Doctor Lewis Cantley is head of Beth Israel Cancer Centre and has conducted extensive studies on the effects of sugar on the body. His findings have been the source of much discussion in the medical community and in the media.

Sugar and Cancer Development

Cantley’s research has confirmed what other scientists have suspected…that sugar can induce cancer. Sugar causes the hormone insulin to increase and it is believed that the insulin acts as a trigger to promote some types of cancer.

Studies indicate that one-third of cancers, including common types of cancers like breast and colon have insulin receptors. Insulin binds to these receptors and signals them to consume glucose. The cells in our body need glucose in order to survive, but it appears as if cancer cells are also using it to grow. Essentially what is happening is that instead of glucose going to the muscles of the body, it is going to the tumors to help them grow.

Researchers are trying to develop medications to cut-off the glucose supply to cancer cells to keep the tumors from growing; however this type of advancement could be several years away. In the meantime, doctors like Cantley are suggesting we stay away from sugar to lower our cancer risk.

Americans consume one-hundred and 30 pounds of fructose per person, per-year. That works out to 1/3 of a pound per-day. Years ago we got our fructose from fruits that were high in fiber. The fiber would help slow the absorption of the fructose. Today there are countless options on the grocery story shelves when it comes to fructose and other types of sugar filled products. Sugar based items can be obvious, but the sweet substance can also be hidden in a lot of processed foods.

Nutritionists point out that limited intake of sugar and a diet high in antioxidants is achievable for many people. Vitamin C and E, Beta-Carotene and Zinc are high in antioxidants. They are often recommended by nutritionists and dieticians for supporting the immune system.

Sugar and Cancer Risk – The Connection

Sugar may not be acting alone as a cancer development factor. Some previous studies suggest that cancer cells like sugar because they make use of a protein called Akt which promotes glucose metabolism. With normal cells, growth factors control metabolism and cell survival. Eliminating these factors results in loss of glucose metabolism and it leads to cell death. With cancer cells, glucose metabolism is maintained and cell death does not occur.

Cancer risk depends on a number of factors, including lifestyle. The Sugar/Cancer studies bring diet to the forefront once again and give us yet another reason to take a serious look at how much sugar we eat.  From a strictly dietary perspective the World Health Organization suggests that no more than 10 per cent of our total daily calories come from added sugar. Heart specialists suggest no more than 100 calories per-day. More research is needed before Cancer experts can put a cap on sugar amounts; however, medical professionals like Dr. Lewis Cantley recommend avoiding sugar whenever you can.

17 April 2013

Blast injuries like those in Boston difficult to treat

Story originally appeared on USA Today.

Blast injuries, caused by the sort of explosions that occurred in Boston Monday, can be some of the most difficult and complex injuries to treat.

Blast injuries, caused by the sort of explosions that occurred in Boston Monday, can be some of the most difficult and complex injuries to treat.

The "blast wave" from the explosion acts like "an invisible wall of energy." Its tremendous energy can inflict massive internal injuries, says Mark Morocco, associate professor of emergency medicine, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

"Blast injury is one of the most challenging constellation of injuries," says John Chovanes, trauma surgeon at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., and an Army reservist who has done three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has treated dozens of blast victims.

In one explosive event, Chovanes says, a victim can suffer the blunt trauma of a high-speed auto accident from the high-pressure blast wave, the penetrating destruction of multiple bullet wounds from the shrapnel and potentially a swath of disfiguring burns.

The rapid pressure wave can instantly inflate the stomach with air, then immediately suck it out. Such pressure is many times worse than the sudden pressure changes that people feel in their ears when a plane changes altitude. The force can rupture intestines, collapse lungs and knock the brain around inside the skull, he says.

"You can have disruption of brain function without any physical finding," Morocco says. "You can have internal injuries even without any obvious bleeding."

Boston hospitals reported that many patients had injuries to their lower legs.

That's consistent with a bomb placed at ground level, such as in a backpack, Morocco says.

"Bits of leg can be blown away from the pressure wave, which is like a big wind," Morocco says. "It knocks you down."

In addition to creating a massive shock wave, an explosion can also cause shrapnel or other bits of metal to slice through flesh like a knife, Morocco says.

While no city is ever completely prepared for the kind of horror that beset Boston Monday, the city's emergency management system is about as good as it gets, says Richard Zane, chair of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

"Boston has one of the most robust mass casualty plans of any city in the United States," says Zane, who previously worked in Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital for 14 years. "I'm certain this response was so well orchestrated because they have planned for this before, they have drilled for this before."

Boston is home to some of the best regarded hospitals in the world.

Beyond the skill of its surgeons and staff, however, the city also has an integrated emergency response system — including police, fire and others — to coordinate and direct care in an emergency. That ensures that patients are portioned out to hospitals evenly, so that individual facilities aren't overwhelmed.

Coordinating care at the scene of a disaster can save lives, Morocco says, through making hard choices about which patients need to be taken first to a hospital, which can wait and which are too injured to even try.

Even patients with extensive injuries are likely to survive if treated within "the golden hour," Morocco says. Patients who languish more than an hour without treatment often don't make it.

That's a lesson doctors learned in World War II, Morocco says. Battlefield medicine in subsequent wars, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have taught civilian doctors better ways to save lives and treat serious injuries, he says.

"Everybody who's been deployed is really chilled by what we saw (in Boston) because it's such a familiar sight," says John Holcomb, a retired Army colonel who provided medical care to troops during several combat tours.

Current and former military doctors say the lessons learned from the carnage of roadside bomb explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan that left more than 1,700 American troops missing limbs after more than a decade of war, are being communicated to trauma systems nationwide and hopefully played a role in saving lives in Boston.

"The only silver lining of any war is really the advances in medical trauma care that comes out of it. A world-class expertise resides in the military with exactly these types of injuries," Holcomb says. "The surgical principles have been honed in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Andre Campbell, a trauma surgeon at San Francisco General Hospital, says, "The trauma surgeons and medics in Boston are going through what our military doctors go through."

Advances in the use of tourniquets, blood-clotting battle gauze, blood transfusion and surgery have led to about a 95% survival rate for the wounded of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the greatest number of them blast injuries, doctors say.

Battlefield doctors also have learned to give blood transfusions earlier, instead of relying on saline, Campbell says. Special silver-containing dressings also can help burns heal, he says.

Many patients, and even physicians, have died to provide this information, Campbell says. "We learned a lot from their sacrifices," Campbell says.

The Iraq and Afghan wars also have brought about dramatic improvements in rehabilitation techniques and computerized prosthetics that provide significant improvements in long-term quality of life.

"When (victims) get to the point of being able to get up and around, we will certainly return the survivors to a pretty high functioning level sooner than I think would have happened previously," Holcomb says.

As for how this affects Americans psychologically, they once again will be hit with the feeling that "it could happen anywhere, close to us," said Laurie Richer, medical director of the Trauma Recovery Center at the University of California-San Francisco.

People will be on hyper alert all over the country. People might start to question whether they want to attend something that has a large crowd. Some events might be canceled."

Parents should ask their children what they've heard, and ideally keep them away from television and other visual images of the attack, Richer said. "Some of those images are going to be very difficult and you don't want to expose children to that, it can have long and lasting effects."

Mostly parents need to reassure children that they will be safe and that their families, their teachers and the police are there to keep them safe.

The good news is that in general people are very resilient. "I happen to see the 5 to 15% of people who don't recover easily from trauma," said Richer, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating those who've been in conflict zones and exposed to violence. "But close to 85% of the people who experience trauma will recover fully and there won't be any lingering symptoms. We need to remember how resilient human beings are."

16 April 2013

Magnetic-button shirts help those who have Parkinson's, arthritis

Story originally appeared on the Detroit News.

Raleigh, N.C.

A small gesture by a big-time quarterback inspired Maura Horton to start her own business -- and to help her husband in the process.

Horton's husband, Don, a former N.C. State University assistant football coach, has Parkinson's disease. After one 2009 road game, the coach was having trouble buttoning his shirt. He was tired from the stress of the game, and his fine motor skills were failing him.

The team, however, was in a hurry. Only about 10 minutes separated them from the locker room and their bus. And Horton usually needed 30 to 40 minutes to dress himself.

Russell Wilson, whose own father was suffering from diabetes at the time, noticed the coach. The former Wolfpack quarterback, who now plays for the Seahawks, buttoned the coach's shirt for him.

In that moment, a business was born.

"Don came home and said he was embarrassed," Maura said. "It was the first time we had addressed his challenges because we just really didn't talk about it."

So she set out to create an easier way for her husband to get dressed. Ultimately, she developed MagnaReady, a line of men's buttonless dress shirts with magnetic closures aimed to help those with limited mobility.

It's not just a business idea for Horton, 43. Above all else, she hopes the company will raise awareness about Parkinson's. Katie Couric's father died from the disease in 2011, and the television personality posed this question to her readers online: "How has it affected your life?"

"Parkinson's disease makes me laugh, cry, experience humility and strength," Horton responded. "Watching my husband's path with Parkinson's changes daily. ... I can only hope someday that Parkinson's outward symptoms will be as accepted as a beautiful bald-headed cancer survivor!"

Company raises awareness

Although Horton set out to develop a product that would help her husband, she found through research that her shirts could also help stroke patients and those with ailments such as arthritis.

She also is in the process of creating coats for children that feature the magnet closures. That line is scheduled to launch in time for the Christmas season.

"I think it's going to help a lot of people, not just myself," said Don Horton, 55. "It's a great idea, and it's going to affect a lot of people out there."

Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects motor skills. It is caused by a dopamine deficiency in the brain. There is no cure.

"There are four cardinal features," said Dr. Patrick Hickey, a neurologist and Parkinson's expert at Duke University Medical Center. "Resting tremors, slowed movement, stiffness or rigidity, and balance problems."

According to Hickey, only 10 percent of patients are diagnosed before the age of 45. There is typically a lag time between when symptoms begin and when a diagnosis is made.

Horton was diagnosed at 48.

"I just noticed him being tired," his wife said. "And one time we were getting off of a bus at a bowl game and I thought, 'Something's not right.'"

After the diagnosis, the coach was faced with how to handle his career and his family.

For 35 years, his life had consisted mostly of football, from his playing days at Wittenberg University in Ohio through his coaching career at nine different colleges. Horton ended up confiding in former Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien.

"He didn't want anyone else to know, and that was fine with me," O'Brien said. "We'd go year-to-year and we'd see what he can handle and the rigors and requirements of the job, and we'd address it at the end of each year."

Horton left N.C. State in 2012 after O'Brien was dismissed. Since then, he has been helping his wife with the business and serving as her sounding board.

"I come at it from a girl's perspective, but I am selling a man's product," Maura said. "And he'll say, 'That sounds a little feminine.'"

Maura has sold more than 1,000 MagnaReady shirts, and she hopes to eventually get them into retail stores such as Belk and Macy's.

Trial and error magnets

Before the company launched, she was able to get preorders from two distributors: Buck & Buck, a clothing line that targets home health care and nursing home residents, and Daily Grommet, an online store that promotes and sells products that have unique stories behind them.

Turning the idea into a finished product took some trial and error. She experimented by adjusting the construction of other button-down shirts. She sewed magnets into the back of French-placket shirts and eventually used shirts with traditional plackets to keep the magnets from being visible.

She worked with different magnets of different strengths before finding the right one. Anything too strong and it would be too hard to get undressed. Anything too weak and the shirt would open too easily. She was also careful in the direction the magnets were installed so that jewelry didn't stick and open the shirt. The finished product, which sells online for $54.99, uses nonfunctioning buttons to keep the look of a button-down shirt.

After completing her prototype, Horton realized the magnets rusted when the shirts were washed. And dry cleaning wasn't an option for places such as assisted living facilities, where many of her targeted customers would be residing.

Those rusty shirts led her to China, where she found a place that would produce and seal the magnets. Through a colleague, she was introduced to Georgia-based Overton Apparel, which produces the clothes in Honduras.

"Sourcing is not a fun part of the fashion world, for sure," she said. "It's hard. Pricing, language barriers, quality issues."

Horton began having magnets shipped from China to Honduras, where the shirts are being produced and up-fitted. From there, the shirts are sent to a warehouse in Cincinnati, where they are then shipped to customers. The process takes about four weeks, Horton said. The shirts are patent pending in the U.S.

After creating her first shirts, Horton needed funding. So she made a video and auditioned for the ABC TV show "Shark Tank," in which inventors get capital for their products. That's when a friend gave her audition tape to an investor who agreed to fund her idea, bypassing the show.

In January, Don had his first of three deep-brain stimulation surgeries, a procedure in which fine wires are passed through two targets in the brain. It's helpful for those whose medications no longer alleviate symptoms throughout the day, Hickey said.

"The wires go to this area and are connected to a battery pack like a pacemaker," Hickey said. "Through different manipulations of settings, these wires can be manipulated to improve the features of Parkinson's."

Because Don now wears the device, he can no longer wear the magnetic shirts, which bear a pacemaker warning.

It's possible for strong magnets to turn the pacemaker's battery pack on and off, Hickey said.

So Maura is faced with another challenge and another opportunity to help her husband.

"I could fall on my face," she said. "But at least I'll bring some awareness to the disease."

How to order

MagnaReady shirts cost $54.99 each and are available online at magnaready.com. A portion of its proceeds go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

02 April 2013

One drug to rule them all: Researchers find treatment that kills every kind of cancer tumor

Story originally appeared on the New York Post.

Researchers might have found the Holy Grail in the war against cancer, a miracle drug that has killed every kind of cancer tumor it has come in contact with.

The drug works by blocking a protein called CD47 that is essentially a "do not eat" signal to the body's immune system, according to Science Magazine.

This protein is produced in healthy blood cells but researchers at Stanford University found that cancer cells produced an inordinate amount of the protein thus tricking the immune system into not destroying the harmful cells.

With this observation in mind, the researchers built an antibody that blocked cancer's CD47 so that the body's immune system attacked the dangerous cells.

So far, researchers have used the antibody in mice with human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate tumors transplanted into them. In each of the cases the antibody forced the mice's immune system to kill the cancer cells.

"We showed that even after the tumor has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumor or slow its growth and prevent metastasis," said biologist Irving Weissman of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California.

One side effect of the treatment was that healthy cells were subjected to short-term attacks by the mice's immune system, but the effect was nothing in comparison to the damage done to the cancer cells.

Weissman's group recently received a $20 million dollar grant to move their research from mouse to human safety testing.

01 April 2013

McConnell: ObamaCare's failures

Story originally appeared on USA Today.

New study shows higher health care costs. Law needs to be pulled out by its roots.
The non-partisan Society of Actuaries last week said that because of Obamacare, insurers could pay an average of 32% more for medical claims. Those costs will be passed onto those who buy insurance on the individual market in the form of dramatically higher premiums.

The new report is further proof that this law is failing to deliver on its promises --and that the opponents were right to be skeptical. According to the new study, medical cost increases in my home state of Kentucky could be as high 34%. In states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, the actuaries predict an 80% increase. This will be a crushing financial blow to hardworking families across the country who are just scraping by as it is.

With wages stagnant and gas and tuition prices skyrocketing, these premium increases will be especially devastating for middle-class families. Obamacare would also be a threat to American jobs. This was recently confirmed by the Federal Reserve, when it said that employers are now citing the law as a chief reason for planned layoffs and a reluctance to hire.

Democrats ignored these warnings of unintended consequences. As then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously put it at the time, we'd "have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it". The result of that irresponsible approach has been even worse than any of us imagined. Earlier this month, the Obama administration issued some 848 pages of Obamacare regulations -- in a single day.

This means there are now nearly 20,000 pages of regulations associated with this law. No wonder applying for Obamacare will be as complicated as doing taxes. One draft application is more than 60 pages long.

During the health care reform debate, most Americans I spoke with acknowledged that our health care system was far from perfect. These people wanted reform, but they wanted the right reforms, not some grand scheme that increased our debt, expanded the government, raised premiums, killed jobs and forced Americans off the plans they currently have and like. However, the latter is just what they got.

The more we learn about Obamacare, the clearer it becomes that there is just no way to fix it. It costs way too much, and it's not working the way they said it would. If we have any hope of fixing the U.S. health care system without crippling our economy in the process, Obamacare must be pulled out by its roots. Only then will we be able to start over with common-sense reforms that actually improve the quality of care and lower costs for individuals and families across the country.

What Americans need and want is something that Obamacare sorely lacks -- a little legislative humility. Washington shouldn't pretend that it has a magic wand to waive that will solve something as complex as health care. When you try that, what you get is 2,000-page laws and 10 times that in new regulations, which make things worse.

Washington needs to listen more and dictate less. That means freeing states from costly mandates, allowing them to innovate, and encouraging them to work together to lower costs. Now more than ever, the answer is to repeal and replace.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the Senate Republican Leader.