Childbirth, even with an epidural, is no picnic, as every mother knows. But besides anesthetics, there are ways for women to relieve the pain – even by themselves. An electrical device based on transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) safely uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief. A small, battery-powered machine about the size of a TV remote control is connected via two electrodes from the machine to your skin.Women in labor, even before they enter the delivery room, can place the electrodes on the area of pain or at a pressure point, creating a circuit of electrical impulses that travels along nerve fibers.When the current is delivered, some experience less pain as the electricity from the electrodes stimulates the nerves in an affected area and sends to the brain signals that block or scramble normal pain signals.Pain experts also suggest that the electrical stimulation of the nerves can help the body produce natural painkillers called endorphins by blocking the perception of pain.The wearer sets the TENS machine for different wavelength frequencies, such as a steady flow of electrical current or a burst of electrical current, and for intensity of electrical current. It is used not only for pain during childbirth but also to treat pain that results from cancer; bone, muscle, joint or bone pain from osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia; as well as lower- back pain, neck pain, tendinitis and bursitis.Experts generally consider TENS to be safe, although the machine could cause harm if misused, so ask your physician or physical therapist to show you how to use TENS properly.Yad Sarah, the voluntary organization that lends out medical equipment and offers many other services to the ill, lonely and elderly, has bought hundreds of TENS machines that will be transferred to its many branches around the country for lending out. Officials said they took the decision after conducting a poll of women who have used its smaller number of TENS device until now. Most of them expressed satisfaction with it and said it helped relieve their pain and calm then.Women (and others) who want to borrow the device from Yad Sarah can go to a branch and get it by paying a small deposit that they will get back when they return the device. For hygienic reasons, one must buy the set up electrodes for one’s personal use.HISTORICAL LOVE AFFAIR WITH INDULGENT FOODS Our desire for indulgent meals may be over 500 years old, according to an analysis of European paintings that shows meat and bread were among the most commonly depicted foods in paintings of meals from the 16th century.“Crazy meals involving lessthan- healthy foods aren’t a modern craving,” said lead author Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell food and brand. “Paintings from what’s sometimes called the Renaissance period were loaded with the foods modern diets warn us about – salt, sausages, bread and more bread.”For the study, published in Sage Open, researchers started with 750 food paintings from the past 500 years and focused on 140 paintings of family meals.Of the 36 Renaissance paintings, 86 percent depicted bread and 61% depicted meat, while only 22% showed vegetables.Interestingly, the most commonly painted foods were not the most readily available foods of the time. For example, the most commonly painted vegetable was an artichoke, the most commonly painted fruit was a lemon, and the most commonly painted meat was shellfish, usually lobster. According to the authors, these paintings often featured food that was indulgent, aspirational or esthetically pleasing.In the end, “Our love affair with visually appealing, decadent or status foods is nothing new,” said co-author Dr. Andrew Weislogel, curator of earlier European-American art at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art. “It was already well-established 500 years ago.”SOURASKY IMPROVES CANCER CARECancer patients at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center can now benefit from a test to determine whether they are suited for immunotherapy, thus improving their chances for survival.Dr. Gilad Weiner, head of the molecular pathology lab, said Sourasky is the first hospital in the country, and one of the few in the world, authorized to perform such personalized medicine tests. Immunotherapy is a major shift in oncology treatments, as it activates the patient’s own immune system against cancer cells and can destroy the malignancy.It is suited to only some patients and certain types of tumors, however. A robot and other advanced equipment brought to Tel Aviv from Denmark are used for the tests.The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of pembrolizumb (Kytruda) for treating melanoma or lung cancer by working with the immune system. Research has found that the higher the expression of a protein called PDL-1, the more effective the treatment.The cancer patient must bring for testing a sample of the tumor taken in a biopsy or a past operation.The test is not yet included in the basket of health services, so it costs the patient NIS 2,000.MICRONEEDLE SYSTEM TO MONITOR DRUGS Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland have created a microneedle drug-monitoring system that could one day replace costly, invasive blood draws and improve patient comfort. The new system consists of a small, thin patch that is pressed against a patient’s arm during medical treatment and measures drugs in their bloodstream painlessly without drawing any blood. The tiny needle-like projection, less than half a millimeter long, resembles a hollow cone and doesn’t pierce the skin like a standard hypodermic needle.“Many groups are researching microneedle technology for painless vaccines and drug delivery,” said researcher Sahan Ranamukhaarachchi, a doctoral student in UBC’s faculties of applied science and pharmaceutical sciences, who developed this technology.“Using them to painlessly monitor drugs is a newer idea.”Microneedles are designed to puncture the outer layer of skin, which acts as a protective shield, but not the next layers of epidermis and the dermis, which house nerves, blood vessels and active immune cells. The microneedle created by Ranamukhaarachchi and his colleagues was developed to monitor the antibiotic vancomycin, which is used to treat serious infections and is administered through an intravenous tube. Patients taking the antibiotic undergo three to four blood draws per day and need to be closely monitored because vancomycin can cause life-threatening toxic side effects.The researchers discovered that they could use the fluid found just below the outer layer of skin, instead of blood, to monitor levels of vancomycin in the bloodstream. The microneedle collects just a tiny bit of this fluid, less than a millionth of a milliliter, and a reaction occurs on the inside of the microneedle that researchers can detect using an optical sensor. This technique allows researchers to determine the concentration of vancomycin quickly and easily.“This is probably one of the smallest probe volumes ever recorded for a medically relevant analysis,” said pharmaceutical sciences Prof. Urs Hafeli.