TIME celebrities

Joan Rivers ‘Resting Comfortably’ in New York City Hospital

FILE  Comedian Joan Rivers Hospitalised After She Stops Breathing Following An Operation On Her Vocal Chords
Joan Rivers attends the 2009 Mardi Gras VIP party at the Zeta Bar of the Hilton Hotel in Sydney on March 5, 2009 Mike Flokis—Getty Images

Comedian was scheduled to perform Friday in Red Bank, N.J.

Updated 7:39 a.m. Friday

Joan Rivers, the 81-year-old comedian and television personality, was rushed from a doctor’s office to a New York City hospital on Thursday morning after she went into cardiac arrest, according to the Associated Press.

“This morning, Joan Rivers was taken to The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she is being attended to. Her family wants to thank everybody for their outpouring of love and support,” Sid Dinsay, a spokesman for the hospital, said in a statement. Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, said Thursday that Rivers is “resting comfortably” after the episode.

Rivers, who rose to national fame with her 1965 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, was scheduled to perform on Friday in Red Bank, N.J. The Count Basie Theatre said in a statement on its website that Rivers’ show has been postponed and that they “look forward to hosting the iconic comedienne in the near future.”

The entertainer gave a talk on Wednesday at the Time-Life building, where TIME is based, and had told the audience she had no physical ailments — even calling herself “lucky” — according to a reporter who was at the event. Rivers said she does not restrict what she eats and joked that the processed foods and fake sugar may be what preserves the body.

With reporting by Dan Kedmey

TIME Infectious Disease

How Nigeria Is Keeping Ebola at Bay

APTOPIX Nigeria Ebola
Nigeria health officials wait to screen passengers at the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 4, 2014. Sunday Alamba—AP

Fears that Africa's most populous country would become a tinderbox for the disease have so far not come to fruition

Ebola is still running rampant in parts of West Africa. Over 1,500 people have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where authorities have risked unrest by imposing nationwide curfew and quarantine zones.

But in nearby Nigeria, the government has largely contained Ebola in a single cluster traced back to the first imported case, and reported a total of only six deaths. The death of a doctor in Port Harcourt, in the south of the country, initially raised fears of a second outbreak when it was revealed on Thursday—but it soon emerged that his infection was also linked to the first Ebola case.

Health experts say that while more Ebola cases can’t be ruled out, Nigerian authorities quickly and effectively reacted to contain the disease, tracking people who had contact with patients, conducting widespread testing and quarantining suspected victims. “The response of the government has been robust,” said John Vertefeuille, who leads the Nigeria Ebola response team of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ebola arrived in Nigeria on July 20, when Liberian-American financial consultant Patrick Sawyer flew from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. Sawyer collapsed at the airport and was taken immediately to hospital, reducing chances of infecting more people in Lagos, a city of more than 21 million people.

He infected a few people before he was isolated, as doctors didn’t initially suspect Ebola and didn’t take full precautions. All other confirmed cases were traced back to him; eight have recovered, with only one case still being treated in isolation.

When the government realized Ebola had arrived on Nigerian soil, it acted quickly to coordinate international health organizations including the CDC, the World Health Organization, and recently Médecins Sans Frontières. It invited those groups to “come to the table and… insert themselves into those structures that the government has formed,” said Vertefeuille.

The work is divided into the management of confirmed cases who are treated in an isolation center in Lagos, and epidemiology and contact tracing, key to containing the virus.

Confirmed cases are treated in isolation, while those the victims made contact with pre-diagnosis are visited daily at their homes. If they develop symptoms, they too are taken to quarantine and tested. Nigeria began its program of contact tracing with Sawyer, and currently has more than 100 people under surveillance in Lagos.

But one man slipped through the net, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Thursday. A Nigerian man who had contact with Sawyer developed symptoms and evaded surveillance, traveling to the oil industry hub of Port Harcourt last month, where he was treated by a doctor for his symptoms.

The man recovered and returned to Lagos four days later, after a manhunt for him had begun. The doctor, however, had contracted the virus and died on Aug. 22. The government has now begun contact tracing for him, and 70 people are now under surveillance there.

The man who escaped surveillance was an isolated case, Chukwu said. The fact that most people being treated at hospital have survived and were soon discharged has encouraged people under surveillance to cooperate. “Initially when we started we had one or two stubborn cases, but now they’re all cooperating,” he said.

As well as taking a rapid response approach to Ebola cases, the government has also been acting to stop the spread of misinformation about the disease. It has been issuing bulletins explaining how the disease spreads, and attempting to dispel rumors about unorthodox “cures” that have spread on the streets and on social media.

Benjamin Akinola, a 65-year-old retired army officer, said he and his wife bathed with and drank water with salt after a rumor suggested it could prevent Ebola. They stopped after hearing on the radio that it led to the death of some people. “People stopped it, and this is what the government is telling us,” said Akinola.

The government has also been pushing for better personal hygiene practice. Guards at supermarkets, banks, restaurants, and clubs will often spray people’s hands with sanitizers before entering.

The public relations operation seems to be working. Lawrence Obioha, a 43 year old newspaper seller in Lagos said initially fewer people attended his Sunday church service out of fear of Ebola. “Gradually it’s picking up,” he said. “There’s a lot of relief now that they know that at least there’s a response to treatment.”

While fears that Africa’s most populous country would become a breeding ground for the disease have so far proven unfounded, officials in Nigeria are under no illusion that the virus has been stamped out. “We have not eliminated the disease. We have not eradicated it,” said Chukwu. Over 200 remain under observation, and the infection is still raging in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The battle against Ebola will continue in Nigeria for some time yet.

“This really could be a long and a hard fight,” said David Daigle, a spokesman for the CDC team on Ebola in Nigeria. “We’re optimistic, but we know that this is like a forest fire and if there’s just one ember left in place it could easily start back up.”

TIME Aging

Magnets Can Improve Your Memory

Magnet
Magnet Getty Images

A continuous jolt of magnetic pulses to the brain can improve memory a study shows

Targeting a particular part of the brain with magnetic pulses may be a non-invasive way to improve memory, a new published in the journal Science study shows.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered that by using a procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)—which has shown potential as a non-pharmacological way to treat stubborn depression—they can change memory functions in the brains of adults. The initial goal of the study was to determine whether a memory-related brain network could be manipulated, and whether that manipulation could lead to improved recall.

The researchers hypothesized that remembering events requires several brain regions to work together with the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in memory. If there was a way to stimulate these regions, they could sync up better, which would improve memory and cognition. “[The research] was more of a hunch than I’d like to admit,” says study author Joel Voss, a assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern, who has studied memory for years. “I am interested in this network, and whether we can actually improve this system.”

To test this, Voss and his team of researchers had 16 healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 40 undergo MRIs so the researchers could learn the participants’ brain structures. Then, the participants took a memory test which consisted of random associations between words and images that they were asked to remember. Then, the participants underwent brain stimulation with TMS for 20 minutes a day for five days in a row. TMS uses magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain. It doesn’t typically hurt, and has been described by some as a light knocking sensation. The researchers stimulated the regions of the brain involved in the memory network.

Throughout the five days, the participants were tested on recall after the stimulation and underwent more MRIs. The participants also underwent a faked placebo procedure. The results showed that after about three days, the stimulation resulted in improved memory, and they got about 30% more associations right with stimulation than without. Not only that, but the MRIs showed that the brain regions became more synchronized by the TMS.

Though the improvement was relatively small, Voss says they want to test the efficacy in other populations—like those who are aging or those who are starting to deal with the first stages of memory loss. The effects may be more pronounced in an “unhealthy” person because a healthy person will have a more normal baseline to start from, and there’s not as much room for improvement.

TMS is FDA approved as a treatment for depression. The procedure is used to stimulate regions of the brain in a depressed person that are inactive and involved in mood regulation. As TIME covered in May, TMS is currently used when a patient doesn’t respond to antidepressants, but some researchers think it could be used as a first-line treatment. Voss has been involved in some research in the past involving TMS for depression, and it was looking at that MRI data that helped him piece the puzzle together for his hunch that the brain memory system could be stimulated with positive results.

The new research is still very experimental and only looked at a small population. But it’s still intriguing. “This is not a treatment that someone could ask their doctor for. It’s still in very early stages,” says Voss. “But I think it has more promise than anything developed yet.”

TIME Cancer

IBM Watson’s Startling Cancer Coup

A general view of IBM's 'Watson' computing system at a press conference at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on January 13, 2011 in Yorktown Heights, New York.
A general view of IBM's 'Watson' computing system at a press conference at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on January 13, 2011 in Yorktown Heights, New York. Ben Hider—Getty Images

For the early part of its existence, IBM’s Watson supercomputer was a bit of a carnival act. It could perform feats of computational magic, win on Jeopardy, and whip up crazy burrito recipes at SXSW. But Watson is designed to become IBM’s money-making, Big Data platform, earning its keep across a variety of industries. In New York, the company announced that a Watson-enabled group of researchers was able to speed the process of discovery to uncover new targets for cancer research.

“We’re moving from a time where Watson helps answer questions to one where it tackles the questions that don’t have answers,” says IBM vice president John Gordon, Watson’s boss.

Using a Watson app developed with Baylor College of Medicine called KnIT (Knowledge Integration Toolkit) that reads and analyzes millions of scientific papers and suggests to researchers where to look and what to look for, a Baylor team has identified six new proteins to target for cancer research. How hard is that? Very. In the last 30 years, scientists have uncovered 28 protein targets, according to IBM. The Baylor team found half a dozen in a month.

More than 50 million research papers have been published, and that is doubling every three years. “Not only are our databases growing; they are growing faster than we can interpret all the data that they contain,” says Dr. Olivier Lichtarge, a computational biologist and professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor Med who is one of KnIT’s developers.

Lichtarge and colleagues used KnIT to read 23 million MedLine papers, including 70,000 studies on a protein called p53, which is a tumor suppressor. The p53 protein is associated with half of all cancers. They also looked at other proteins called kinases—there are more than 500 of them in humans—that act as switches in turning p53 off and on. In cancer, mutations cause the switching function to go haywire, which lets cancer cells run amok. Using the KnIT analytics, the team was able to identify six previously unknown kinases that affect the p53 protein.

It sounds like Google for scientists—which already exists—but Watson’s calling card is its natural language and cognitive abilities. The program doesn’t just sift through the literature and spit out the search matches—it interprets the papers, looking for previously unseen connections involving proteins, drugs and molecular mechanics. Then it builds a graphic analysis to help the researchers see those connections. “You are not looking for an answer,” says Gordon. “You are looking for a chain across the papers. If we were playing pool: you would see all the direct shots. What would be less obvious are the combinations.”

At the end of the data-mining and analyses, Watson generates hypotheses for the scientists to consider, along with the probabilities that it has picked the right targets.

To test the process, researchers cut Watson’s reading material off at 2003, and then asked it to suggest protein targets to investigate. It came up with nine. Over the next decade, seven of them were actually discovered.

For IBM, it’s a kind of road test of Watson Discovery Advisor, a cloud-based service that the company is launching. The target: some $600 billion is spent annually on research and development by large corporations. IBM sees thousands of applications in everything from finance, engineering and science to law enforcement–basically any place where data is piling up faster than humans can absorb it. Other companies are doing likewise of course, as Big Data has the potential set off another wave of expansion in cloud services.

Watson has its limits. It isn’t going to do the scientists’ homework, the nuts and bolts of research; nor is it going to replace scientific intuition. “Let me be clear that nothing replaces good critical reading, in depth, by a specialist of a research paper,” says Lichtarge. “It doesn’t tell the scientist what to do: it suggests possibility,” he adds. Watson may be recommending bank-shots in the game of medical research, the scientists are still going to have to make them.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

You’re Eating More Trans Fat Than You Think, Study Finds

Scan the grocery store shelves, and you’ll find “0 grams of trans fat” labels nearly everywhere you look. But a new study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease finds that trans fat is still present in many foods, even in those that make the ‘0 grams’ claim.

Trans fats slip into packaged foods via partially hydrogenated oils, cheap vegetable oils that prolong shelf life and contain trans fat. But even if partially hydrogenated oils appear on the label, companies are allowed to claim the product contains 0 grams of trans fat, as long as the amount is limited to between 0-0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. That’s the case for most products containing the oils, the study finds. Of the 4,340 top-selling U.S. packaged foods it surveyed, 9% of them listed partially hydrogenated oils in their ingredients, and 84% of those claimed to have 0 grams of trans fat per serving.

“It’s hard for consumers to know how much trans fat they’re consuming,” says Christine Johnson Curtis, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control at New York City’s Department of Health and one of the study’s authors. Some of the foods with the most trans fat were baked goods, snacks, frozen foods, and products with seasoning in them, according to the study. In the cookies category, 35% of products contained partially hydrogenated oils.

Studies link trans fats an increased risk of heart disease, and the Institute of Medicine concluded that there’s no safe level of artificial trans fats. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it’s considering revoking the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status of trans fats.

How will trans-fat-favoring foods be affected? Every category the study analyzed had products free of partially hydrogenated oils. “That means there are always options out there that are trans-fat free,” Curtis says. You may just have to wade through a lot of partially hydrogenated oils to find them.

TIME Obesity

Obese and Pregnant: An Intervention That Works

Pregnant Pregnancy
Getty Images

A new study shows comprehensive programs for weight management can help obese women have healthy pregnancies

Obesity during pregnancy is a dangerous mix for both mom and baby. A mother’s obesity during pregnancy is linked to a greater likelihood for gestational diabetes, birth injuries, miscarriage, and a higher rate of C-sections. A child born to an obese mother is at a higher risk of developing obesity down the line, too.

A new study, which is published in the journal Obesity, shows that pregnancy risks can be lowered if women partake in a motivating program to get them on a healthier lifestyle, and gain fewer pounds during pregnancy. The program uses methods that have long been shown to work when it comes to keeping health in check, and if followed, both mom and baby could be safer.

Given that about a third of adult Americans in the U.S. are obese, a significant number of women will be obese during pregnancy. That’s why the Institute of Medicine recommends that obese women gain 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy compared to normal weight women who are advised to gain 25 to 35.

However, some research suggests that limiting the amount of weight gained for obese women even more can lower the risk for complications. On Thursday results from a study called Healthy Moms showed that if obese women instead just maintain their weight, they are increasing their likelihood for a safe pregnancy.

The study looked at 114 obese women—those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and up—and had half of the woman participate in an intensive program that consisted of regular meetings, calorie goal, weigh-ins and food and exercise diaries. The other women met with a dietitian once, and received some information about healthy eating.

The findings showed that women enrolled in the comprehensive program gained 7 pounds less than the women who did not participate in the intensive program. Two weeks after the women delivered, the women undergoing the program were about six pounds lighter than they were at the start of the study, whereas the other group of women were about three pounds heavier. Birth and delivery complications were about the same among the two groups, but a smaller percentage of women in the intervention group had babies that grew too fast in the womb compared to the other women.

TIME psychology

Over-Confident People Are Seen as Smarter, Even When They’re Not

Young businesswoman, portrait
Getty Images

Fooling yourself can help you fool others into thinking you're not a fool

Turns out “fake it till you make it” is actually real. A new study found that over-confident students were more likely to be perceived as smart by their peers, regardless of their actual grades.

Researchers at Newcastle University and University of Exeter found that students who over-estimated their own grades tended to be perceived as more talented, and students who under-estimated their grades were seen as less talented, regardless of their actual capabilities. “Our results support the idea that self-deception facilitates the deception of others,” concluded Shakti Lamba and Vivek Nityananda in their study published Wednesday in Plos One. “Overconfident individuals were overrated and underconfident individuals were underrated.”

Because the study was focused on students studying psychology and anthropology, subjects that generally attract more female students, the sample size was female-biased. But while Lamba and Nityananda acknowledged that previous studies have found that men tend to be over-confident and women tend to be under-confident, their research found that gender had no effect on how people perceive self-assured men and women.

The researchers also warned that over-confidence can have more of an effect on individual decisions like picking a mate or hiring for jobs, resulting in self-deceptive and risk-prone people being promoted to powerful roles. “Promoting such individuals we may be creating institutions such as banks, trading floors and armies, that are also more vulnerable to risk,” they wrote.

In other words, even if you’ve made it, you’ll probably keep on faking it.

TIME Infectious Disease

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Heads to Human Trials

A group of young volunteers wear special uniforms for the burial of Ebola victims in Kenema, Sierra Leone on Aug. 24, 2014.
A group of young volunteers wear special uniforms for the burial of Ebola victims in Kenema, Sierra Leone on Aug. 24, 2014. Mohammed Elshamy—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

National Institute of Health announces human trials for Ebola vaccine

An experimental Ebola vaccine will soon enter phase one of a clinical trial on humans, the National Institute of Health said Thursday.

Initial testing will take place at the NIH’s Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, while the NIH is in the process of working out tests in Ebola-stricken West Africa. The vaccine was developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) along with top pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The NIH will soon launch other phase one trials of this vaccine as well as another developed by Canada’s Public Health Agency.

The NIAID/GSK vaccine will be tested in a small number of healthy adults who do not have the Ebola virus to see if their bodies create an immune response. The vaccine has already been successfully tested on monkeys.

Here’s how the vaccine works: When a study participant receives the vaccine, one part of the Ebola virus’ genetic material will be delivered to the participants’ cells–but the gene will not replicate. Instead, the cells of the participant will start to express an Ebola protein that will, hopefully, spur an immune response in the participant.

“It is important to know that the Ebola genetic material contained in the investigational vaccine cannot cause a vaccinated individual to become infected with Ebola,” the NIH statement reads. The NIH says simultaneous trials of the NIAID/GSK vaccine and other experimental vaccines will roll out in September.

Testing procedures for experimental Ebola vaccines have been expedited in the wake of the ongoing outbreak in West Africa, which has led to more than a thousand deaths so far. Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for the Ebola virus, though it is survivable with proper treatment.

TIME Infectious Disease

Nigeria Confirms First Ebola Death Outside Lagos

Nigeria Ebola
Nigerian health officials wait to screen passengers at the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria on Aug. 4, 2014. Sunday Alamba/AP

Doctor who died in southeastern city marks Nigeria's sixth Ebola death

Nigeria confirmed Thursday the country’s first Ebola-related death outside Lagos, the country’s main international transit hub.

The victim, an unnamed doctor who died in the southeastern oil city of Port Harcourt, marks Nigeria’s sixth Ebola death in a recent outbreak of the disease primarily affecting West Africa. He is believed to have been infected by a man linked to Nigeria’s first Ebola case, Patrick Sawyer, who died in Lagos shortly after arriving there from Liberia.

The yet-unnamed doctor had died last Friday, but Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu waited until Thursday to confirm the case, the BBC reports. The doctor’s wife has been put under quarantine, while an additional 70 people suspected to have had contact with him are being monitored in Port Harcourt.

While the death marks a blow to Nigeria’s efforts to contain the disease, Mr. Chukwu noted that while “the problem is not over . . . Nigeria is doing well on containment, all the disease in Nigeria were all traced to Patrick Sawyer.”

The Nigerian government said Wednesday that schools in the country would not reopen until October 13 in order to help prevent the outbreak from spreading.

Recent figures from the World Health Organization suggest Ebola has infected more than 3,000 people and killed over half of its victims, largely in West Africa. More than 240 health workers have been infected with the deadly virus, for which there is no vaccine or cure, though it is treatable and survivable. Ebola is not airborne, and is spread only when humans come into contact with the bodily fluids of those infected with the virus.

West Africa’s health ministers will be meeting later Thursday to discuss measures to address what’s become the largest-ever Ebola epidemic.

[BBC]

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