This lab in the hand is worth two in the clinic

Do you find yourself saying, “Gee, I sure wish I had a mass spectrometer here so I could run these diagnostic tests now instead of going to a lab to analyze these samples?” Lucky for you, there’s an app for that. Well, there’s a device that presumably comes with an app, and for the small price of $550 it’ll turn your smartphone’s camera into a portable mass spectrometer. The spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI)-analyzer can analyze blood, urine, and saliva samples as accurately as most clinic-based instruments, and can perform the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics. This has really cool public health implications in terms of portability and cost. Great job, University of Illinois bioengineers!

We’re rebranding to InsightCountry

OK, not really, but a study released in the Schizophrenia Bulletin has us thinking that getting away from city life may be good for a while. The study reports that kids growing up in urban environments are more likely to be exposed to violent crime and adverse neighborhood social conditions—which increases their chances of experiencing psychosis. These unfortunate kids are 40 percent more likely to have a psychotic experience by age 18 as compared to their rural peers. Candice Odgers—one of the senior study authors—noted that psychosis treatments are usually focused on the affected individual, but perhaps we should also look at improving the communities around these individuals to prevent the symptoms from showing up in the first place. Related FastPoll™ question below!

A heartfelt thank you from arteries to legislators

Above pun intended, a recent Jama study shows that legislation to reduce trans-fats in foods has a direct and almost immediate beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. The study looked into a 2007 trans-fat ban that was enacted in nine New York counties, translating to trans-fat elimination in bakeries, restaurants, and other public food spots. Just three years after the ban took effect, New Yorkers living in these areas experienced a 6.2% reduction in heart attack and stroke hospitalization, compared to those in eight counties with no trans-fat restrictions in place. Great news for heart health! Here’s your trans-fat education, including a list of common foods to avoid. Your ticker will thank you.

4. The ethics of “good enough”

That’s what Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders, WHO, and other experts are discussing. The West African Ebola crisis led to a push for accelerated access to treatments, arguing that using a potential therapy with promising results in animal studies is OK during a major public health crisis. Meaning, even if the FDA hasn’t approved it for use in humans, patients should still have access (in some circumstances). MSF’s article in The Journal of Medical Ethics seeks to define these “exceptional circumstances” and the goals of using unproven therapies. This could be a tipping point for research ethics. Good news, since there’s still no approved treatment for Ebola.