News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized form.

1. Tiny finger device allows the blind to read

Visually impaired people usually rely on mobile apps such as the KNFB Reader that translates text to speech. The app reads the page out loud through a photo taken. But sometimes it is difficult to ensure that the photo captures all the text and apps can have trouble reading a complex layout such as a menu or newspaper.

A device, nicknamed HandSight, developed by a team from the University of Maryland, can now help. A tiny camera measuring one millimetre across sits on the tip of the finger, while the rest of the device clasps onto the finger and wrist. The user just has to follow a line of text with their finger and a nearby computer reads it out.

Audio cues such as pitch changes or haptic buzzes such as gentle vibrations help the reader to stay in line with the text. So far, 19 people have tested the technology out, spending a couple of hours reading passages from a magazine-style page and a school textbook. On average, 63 to 81 words per minute were read and only a few words were missed.

2. The Stork is as or could be more effective than IVF

An over-the-counter conception kit, called The Stork, was found that is it 20% as effective as the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) method. The new data comes just two years after the device's launch, whereby hundreds of couples all over the world have cited positive results.

The device costs £100 in the UK and US$80 in the US, a stark comparison to IVF, which costs at least £5,000 in the UK and US$12,000 in the US. The data states that the kit has helped 150 British couples since its launch and other couples globally as it is sold in the US and Australia as well.

However, experts believe that the figure could be much higher as parents are unwilling to share their own experience - as infertility is an intensely private and personal issue. The data is solely based on couples who voluntarily contacted the company.

The Stork uses intra-cervical insemination to increase chances of becoming pregnant.

3. Providing medical students hands-on experience with life-like dummies

Hands-on experiences for medical students and graduates are vital and with the rates of body donors dropping, cadavers are limited. To address the problem, Richard Arm, a researcher from Nottingham Trent University has created a very realistic medical dummy that surgeon trainees can practice with.

The dummy's skin and organs are made from silicone gel and fibres, creating a realistic look and feeling. The dummy also has artificial blood running through its 'veins' and has air pumped into the lungs, imitating a breathing patient.

The realistic imitations can also learn how to mentally prepare for surgeries. The prototype is still under development and Arm is looking to include a brain, eyes and pancreas by December 2017.

4. NNI develops score sheet to screen for dementia-like symptoms in stroke patients

A team of Singaporean researchers from the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) have developed a new tool to gauge the risk of developing dementia-like symptoms, allowing early intervention.

The score sheet looks at indicators such as a person's age, level of education, stroke history and degree of brain shrinkage after stroke. 400 people have been tested so far, proving the effectiveness of the score sheet.

It is currently undergoing further validation, but the plan is to implement the sheet as a routine screening process for all stroke patients at NNI.

The focus has traditionally been on recovering from post-stroke physical impairment, said Prof Nagaendran, who is from NNI's neurology department. "Very little attention has been given to the mental status, but a lot of patients and their caregivers suffer because of this mental impairment."

5. Drug used to treat multiple sclerosis can also heal traumatic nerve injuries

The University of Rochester Medical Centre suggests that a drug that is currently used for multiple sclerosis can be used for the treatment of traumatic nerve injuries that are sustained in car accidents, sports injuries, or in combat.

The drug, 4-aminopyridine (4AP) has been studied for 30 years for use in treatment of chronic disease but shows beneficial signs for acute nerve injury and that its benefits remain even after the treatment has stopped.

The drug helps in the repair of myelin, which traumatic nerve injuries remove or damage. When 4AP is taken daily, the myelin damage is repaired and nerve function returns. The effect was only shown in mice.

However, the potential use for combat soldiers has attracted the military to the study, with the Department of Defense of the US, granting the project S$1 million and clinical trial proposals have been approved by the FDA. MIMS

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