New software helps correct computer posture

Country’s first neuro-intensive care unit opens at Sheba Medical Center; urine test can help aid early prostate cancer detection.

By
August 21, 2011 04:26
[illustrative photo]

Computer technology keyboard 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Catherine Benson)

Despite the many benefits of using computers, they can also cause musculoskeletal disorders in some workers who use them on a daily basis. A multidisciplinary team at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center has shown the utility of using self-modeling webcam photos to reduce the risk of such disorders, especially in the hands, wrists, arms and legs.

In an article soon to appear in Applied Ergonomics, Dr. Meirav Taieb-Maimon and Prof. Bracha Shapira from BGU’s department of information systems; Prof. Julie Cwikel of the Center for Women’s Health Studies and Promotion; Dr. Ella Kordish from occupational health and epidemiology; and Dr. Naftali Liebermann from Soroka’s orthopedic surgery department describe their innovation.

The pop-up photos show a worker the ideal working posture compared with his current posture as a reminder to sit in a more ergonomically sound fashion. This study was funded by a grant from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry to support the incorporation of video and computer-based technology to address occupational health.

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The researchers conducted an experiment with 60 university and hospital employees who work at computer terminals. Their results showed that the webcam pop-up photos were a more effective method of training than conventional ergonomic training. Both interventions had a greater effect on older workers and those already suffering musculoskeletal pain. The photo-training method had a greater positive effect on women than men, and the changes were sustained over time.

“Our innovative intervention using photo-training combines conventional ergonomic training with automatic visual feedback,” explains Taieb-Maimon. “The system provides continual feedback on working habits. This gives real-time feedback on working posture, as they contrast the photo of their current sitting style with the photo of themselves sitting in the recommended ergonomically correct position they were taught at the beginning of the experiment.”

Both types of training – traditional and photo-training – were effective, but the pop up type was shown to be more effective for older workers, workers who already had musculoskeletal problems, and for women as compared to men.”

INTENSIVE CARE FOR NERVES

The country’s first neuro-intensive care unit opened recently at Sheba Medical Center. The unit, headed by Prof. Moshe Hadani, is aimed at serving patients in the Tel Hashomer Hospital’s neurology and neurosurgery departments. Among the potential patients are those who suffered brain trauma, a severe stroke, spinal cord damage or who recently had brain surgery.

A team of senior physician and nurses staff the unit, which is well equipped with machinery to monitor neurological conditions. In addition to intensive care is an intermediate recovery unit before patients are transferred to the relevant department for rehabilitation. Medical staffers are also able to conduct clinical trials related to strokes, brain activity and brain cancer.

EARLY DETECTION OF PROSTATE CANCER

A new urine test can help aid early detection of and treatment decisions about prostate cancer, according to a study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology. Results of the study appeared this month in Science:Translational Medicine.

The test supplements an elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening result, and could help some men delay or avoid a needle biopsy. At the same time, it could identify men at highest risk for prostate cancer. The test looks for a genetic anomaly that occurs in about half of all prostate cancers – an instance of two genes changing places and fusing.

This gene fusion, TMPRSS2:ERG, is believed to cause prostate cancer. Studies in prostate tissues show that the gene fusion almost always indicates cancer. But because the fusion is present only half the time, the researchers also included another marker, PCA3. The combination was more predictive of cancer than either marker alone.

“Testing for TMPRSS2:ERG and PCA3 significantly improves the ability to predict whether a man has prostate cancer,” says lead author Dr. Scott Tomlins, a pathology resident at the U-M Health System. “We think this is going to be a tool to help men with elevated PSA decide if they need a biopsy or if they can delay having a biopsy and follow their PSA and urine TMPRSS2:ERG and PCA3.”

The researchers looked at urine samples from 1,312 men at three academic medical centers and seven community-based hospitals. The men all had elevated PSA levels and had gone on to receive either a biopsy or prostatectomy to remove their prostates. The researchers evaluated the urine samples for TMPRSS2:ERG and PCA3 and stratified patients into low, intermediate and high scores, indicating their risk of cancer; they then compared this to biopsy results.

Biopsies indicated cancer in 21 percent of men from the low-score group, 43% in the intermediate group and 69% in the high group. Further, the urine test scores correlated with how aggressive the cancer was, based on tumor size and Gleason score (a measure of how abnormal the cells look). Only 7% of men in the low-score group had an aggressive tumor, while 40% of those in the high-score group did.

“Many more men have elevated PSA than actually have cancer, but it can be difficult to determine this without biopsy. This test will help in this regard. The hope is that this test could be an intermediate step before getting a biopsy,” says senior study author Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan, director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology.

Prostate biopsies are done with a needle in an office setting, but they do pose some discomfort and risk to the patient. In addition, a biopsy can offer an incomplete picture, since urologists are testing the prostate as a whole, rather than a specific lesion.

The combined TMPRSS2:ERG and PCA3 test is not yet available as a prostate cancer screening tool. The Michigan Center for Translational Pathology is working with Gen- Probe Inc., which has licensed the technology, and hopes to offer it to U-M patients within the year.


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