27E93C3A-83B9-4595-91CE-57506165869F Created with sketchtool. The Check Up – Robot Babies, Parkinson’s Diagnoses, and Fruity Cyanide

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  Last updated September 20, 2017 at 8:27 pm

The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web.


Cyanide and Happiness


Let’s start this week with the story that made our whole office laugh – you can decide for yourself if we’re too morbid! A man in Victoria gave himself cyanide poisoning by not only taking commercially available apricot kernel extract, but making his own. He believed this would fight cancer in his body – which, spoiler alert, it won’t. What apricot kernel extract will do is convert to cyanide in the body and starve cells of oxygen (which is how his doctors discovered the issue in the first place). The thing that split sides around our desks was that he elected to keep taking the extract. It’s a cautionary tale against the dangers of alternative medicine, but hey – if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.


Cheap, Easy, and Effective Parkinson’s Diagnosis


Parkinson’s disease is really scary, and it’s often not diagnosed until symptoms are severe enough that nerve cells have suffered permanent damage. Researchers from RMIT have created an incredible new tool that diagnoses Parkinson’s with 93 per cent accuracy any symptoms pop up. All the patient has to do is trace a spiral pattern on paper or a tablet, and software does the rest. The earlier a diagnosis is confirmed, the more effective treatment can be, so this cheap and easy test has huge potential to help people all over the world.


The Future is Female (Robot Babies)


How do you feel about robot babies? Intrigued? Squicked out? Scared? Unsure? Well, meet BabyX and find out! This artificially intelligent 3D rendering of an 18-month-old girl (based on the creator’s daughter) is part of a project to humanize AI systems. BabyX is an attempt to put together the cognitive and the emotional, and deliver a wholly realised AI experience. For now, BabyX is confined to a computer screen, but just like a real baby she’ll be crawling before we know it!


American Teens Missing Their Cervical Cancer Vaccines


Last week’s news about decreasing the number of Gardasil shots from three to two became even more crucial this week – only 43 per cent of American teenagers finish the full course of their HPV vaccine that would ultimately protect against cervical cancer. There are so many factors contributing to this statistic, but it shouldn’t matter that a life-saving vaccine takes three jabs. Here we are in the real world though – clearly fewer steps along the path to full vaccination will get more people there. And it should follow that this will improve Australia’s statistics too – while we’re nowhere near as low as the states, we’re not at 100 per cent.


Bodies for Science


And finally, take a look at what happens when a deceased body is donated to science. This story is a touchingly intimate look at the realities of giving this generous gift.



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About the Author

Casey Harrigan
Casey Harrigan (@caseyharri) is a Contributing Editor for The Body and Culture on Australia’s Science Channel. Her academic background is in science communication, and her professional background is in science and factual television. Don’t get her started talking about sci fi movies, comedy, interesting animal facts, or Beyonce because she will never stop.


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