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Home Eye Pressure Gauge in the Works

Eye measurements

(Sakuie, Pixabay)

23 Sept. 2020. An easy-to-use device for measuring intraocular pressure responsible for glaucoma is in development by University of Pittsburgh biomedical engineers. The home tonometer, designed to interact with a smartphone app, is funded by a four-year, $1.1 million award from National Science Foundation.

Glaucoma is the name given to a collection of eye conditions resulting in damage to the optic nerve that in advanced stages can lead to vision loss. In most cases of glaucoma, abnormally high intraocular pressure in the eye results in the optic nerve damage. The Glaucoma Research Foundation cites reports from World Health Organization showing glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting more than 60 million people.

The device for measuring intraocular pressure is a tonometer, which in most cases today requires a clinician or trained caregiver to administer. Because of the device’s often complex requirements, intraocular pressure measurements are taken infrequently, providing an incomplete assessment of pressure changes over time, missing spikes or troughs during the day and through sleep-wake cycles.

Researchers at University of Pittsburgh’s engineering school propose an easy-to-use device for individuals to measure their own intraocular pressure during the day and routinely capture the data for their physicians. A team led by civil and environmental engineering professor Piervincenzo Rizzo is applying the physical principle of solitary waves that propagate at a constant velocity, while maintaining their shape, which can apply to acoustic or light waves. The researchers say this is the first time the solitary wave principle is being applied to ophthalmology.

The proposed device is a cylinder placed over the eye. A trigger sends acoustical waves into the eye, with a sensor to capture and measure returning waves indicating intraocular pressure in the eye. “We’re proposing to use a special family of acoustic waves that can interact with the eye, bouncing back like an echo,” says Rizzo in a university statement. It’s like shouting into a small room versus a large one. The properties of the echo depend on the properties of the room.”

The pressure-reading device is expected to be connected by Bluetooth to a smartphone app to track changes in pressure over time. Data from the app are also expected to be transmittable to physicians and for insertion into electronic health records.

Rizzo’s Laboratory for Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural Health Monitoring studies wave propagation, — including  ultrasound, infrared, thermography, and acoustic — in a variety of contexts. The lab’s research covers a highly diverse set of applications, including train rails, bridge stability, gas well pipes, transmission lines, and dental implants.

The Pittsburgh team includes engineering colleagues and associates from the university’s affiliated UPMC medical center. Ian Conner, director of UPMC’s glaucoma service and a participant in the project notes, “This technology really has a lot of potential to enable non-clinicians, and even patients themselves, to reliably assess intraocular pressure, which will allow their doctors to better tailor their treatments.”

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How Technology Makes a Difference at Home

– Contributed content –

Smart home graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

23 Sept. 2020. You have a lot of things that play a massive part in helping improve your life, and this is something you are going to need to keep in mind. Technology is one of the most important things in life right now, and it can influence so many areas of your life in so many different ways. Try to work on doing as much as possible to make the most of technology and the way in which it can influence your life.

Everything we do on a daily basis these days is influenced by technology, and this is something you are going to need to make the most of. So, the more you can do to keep things moving forward, the better it will be. Make sure you focus on taking things to the next level, and try to understand why this matters. Here are some of the best ways of using technology to make a difference at home.

Work from home

Working from home is one of the best things you are going to need to work on over the lockdown period. You have to make sure you have processes in place to allow you to work from home as much as you possibly can. It is important to make sure you focus on doing what you can to utilize technology as much as possible working from home. This is essential during this pandemic, and you need to make sure you get the best possible internet connection, and computer that you can use to work from home. Make sure you focus on this as much as possible, and there are a lot of ideas that play a role in this as much as you possibly can.

Home entertainment

Home entertainment ideas are really important for helping you to navigate lockdown and try to make sure you do as much as possible. Make sure you do as much as you can to come up with ideas that are going to allow you to get through lockdown, and home entertainment is one of the best ways of being able to do this. Try to come up with ideas that can help you to make the most of your home entertainment, and you should take a look at Troypoint’s guides and tutorials so you can maximize the best way of unleashing your Fire Stick and other streaming services.

Smart home

There are a lot of things that you need to consider when it comes to technology and how you can use it to improve your home. This is something that you are going to need to work on as much as possible, and trying to develop a smart home is one of the best ways of using technology to help with that. Smart homes are the future and they are becoming more and more popular, and this is something that you should look to implement in your home. Now, there are a lot of things that you need to consider here, and this is something that plays a part in helping with this.

These are some of the best and most important ways in which technology makes a massive difference to your life. Try to utilize technology in your life in the best way you possibly can, and there are a lot of factors that play a part in helping with this. Try to do as much as you can to make sure you are using technology every single day at home, and this is something you are going to need to work on as much as possible.

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Univ Lab, Company Developing Phone-Based Virus Sensor

Phone photo

(tookapic, Pixabay)

22 Sept. 2020. A biotechnology company is sponsoring university research on light waves reacting in characteristic patterns for detecting SARS-CoV-2 viruses by a smartphone camera. Hoth Therapeutics Inc. in New York is funding studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for technology that can lead to a mobile device for detecting the viruses responsible for Covid-19 infections.

Hoth Therapeutics develops biological drugs for skin conditions and antibiotics, particularly for stubborn bacterial biofilms that can aggravate skin infections. In March, Hoth formed HaloVax LLC in a joint venture with Voltron Therapeutics to develop a vaccine to protect against Covid-19 infections, based on a technology licensed from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The company also licensed the rights to develop a technology based on research at George Washington that uses plasmonic properties, where light waves excite electrons in characteristic patterns, for detecting the presence of certain biological molecules. In this case, the plasmonic properties are detected from a thin gold film coated with virus-specific proteins. In the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viruses, the detection proteins bind to the SARS-CoV-2 viruses, with light waves sent through an array of nanoscale holes detecting the changes in color from the altered wavelengths.

Hoth envisions a smartphone camera detecting the changes in wavelength and color, supported by a mobile app with algorithms for analyzing and interpreting the light waves for detecting SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Data from the app can then be sent to public health authorities to track new Covid-19 infections.

The research agreement announcement does not indicate the type of specimen provided by the user. In August, as reported by Science & Enterprise, Hoth and GWU began collaborating on a sensor detecting SARS-CoV-2 viruses in human breath, also using plasmonic properties, initially researched in the university’s engineering labs.

“What we need is a home-based test that is both inexpensive and simple to use that could quickly identify asymptomatic people shedding high levels of virus,” says GWU epidemiology professor Jeanne Jordan in a Hoth Therapeutics statement. “Such a test could be a game changer for identifying those at greatest risk of transmitting the virus to others. A home-based test could pave the way toward a safe reopening of schools and the economy.”

“There is a significant unmet need for rapid Covid-19 in vitro diagnostic devices that can be used at home or in other non-lab settings by patients,” notes Stefanie Johns, chief scientist at Hoth Therapeutics, adding “We plan to start discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration about the development plans for this novel technology in early 2021 to position the device for an emergency use authorization request.”

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Quick Crispr-Based Test Detects Malaria in Blood

Malaria clinic

Malaria clinic in Mali (USAID.gov)

22 Sept. 2020. A blood test designed for low-resource field settings is shown to quickly detect and distinguish between different malaria parasites needed to accurately diagnose the disease. A team from the Wyss Institute, a biomedical engineering research center at Harvard University, describes the test in yesterday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Malaria, according to World Health Organization, affected 216 million people in 2016, which extracts heavy social and economic burdens in developing countries. In 2016, some 445,000 people died from malaria, of which 90 percent were in sub-Sahara Africa. Children under the age of 5 are particularly susceptible to the disease. The disease is caused by infections from the Plasmodium parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. In humans, the parasite multiplies in the liver, then infects red blood cells. Symptoms, including headache, fever, and vomiting, occur 10 to 15 days following transmission from a mosquito bite.

People with Plasmodium parasites but not showing symptoms are difficult to identify in many parts of the world, since sophisticated genomic tools are needed to reliably analyze blood samples, which are not available to many local health authorities. A team led by James Collins, part of the core biomedical engineering faculty at Wyss Institute, is seeking a simpler, yet fast and reliable technology that can be deployed in remote regions to detect the presence of Plasmodium parasites in the blood. The test also needs to distinguish between the main types of Plasmodium to accurately diagnose the disease and prescribe treatments.

The researchers adapted a diagnostic technique using the gene-editing process Crispr, short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. Crispr is a genome-editing process based on bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. In this case, however, Crispr, is employed to edit RNA rather than DNA.

This extension of Crispr is called Sherlock, short for specific high-sensitivity enzymatic reporter unlocking, first developed at the Broad Institute, a joint genomics research center affiliated with Harvard and MIT. Sherlock uses Crispr editing enzymes that seek out specific genetic sequences in a specimen sample, and if detected in the sample, bind to and cut the RNA in nearby locations. In addition, Sherlock adds a reporter sequence to the RNA, a specific piece of synthetic RNA, which also gets cut by the editing enzyme, releasing a signal to identify the presence of the original target sequence. These reporter sequence signals can then be converted into a bioluminescent visual display that appears on an everyday material like paper and at room temperature.

The team further engineered the Sherlock process for use in low-resource field settings where refrigeration or even reliable electrical power are not available. Their process begins with a 10-minute blood sample-preparation stage with freeze-dried materials im ambient conditions, followed by analysis of the samples with Sherlock that provide either fluorescent or lateral flow strip, such as paper, readouts in about 60 minutes.

Tests in the lab with actual clinical blood samples accurately detected falciparum and vivax Plasmodium parasites with 100 percent true-positive sensitivity and 100 percent true-negative specificity. In addition, the tests were able to detect low volumes of parasites, meeting WHO’s recommended two parasites per microliter of blood detection target.

“This field-ready Sherlock diagnostic malaria assay surpasses the sensitivity and specificity requirements set by the WHO for a desired test that can be used to detect low parasite density in asymptomatic carriers of all major Plasmodium species,” says Collins in a Wyss Institute statement. “Its highly streamlined design could provide a viable solution to the present diagnostic bottleneck on the path to eliminate malaria, and more generally enable malaria surveillance in low-resource settings.”

A spin-off company, Sherlock Biosciences, licenses the Sherlock technology for fast diagnostics in the field, including for Covid-19, as reported by Science & Enterprise. However, the company is not developing an application for malaria, according to the competing interest statement in the journal article.

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Skeletal Stem Cells Enhanced for Bone Repair

Skull X-ray

(Daniel Alvarez, Pixabay)

21 Sept. 2020. Researchers in the U.K. created a bandage with enhanced human skeletal stem cells that in lab mice repairs simulated skull defects. A team from Kings College London describes its process in today’s issue of the journal Nature Materials (paid subscription required).

Kings College regenerative medicine researcher Shukry Habib and lab colleagues study stem cells for developing new cells and tissue, particularly signals inducing greater and more reliable production of new cells. A main focus of the lab is signals from Wnt proteins that regulate proliferation of cells, in early development and later in tissue growth and maintenance. Wnt proteins act locally, affecting only neighboring cells. Growing new cells and tissue from stem cells can be slow and unreliable, due to the fragility and short shelf life of stem cells. Thus the Habib lab studies ways of harnessing Wnt signaling to improve stem cells’ value to tissue repair,

In their paper, Habib and colleagues created and tested a stem cell bandage for bone repair, known as a Wnt-induced osteogenic tissue model, or Wiotm. The Wiotm is grown from human skeletal stem cells and collagen cells with Wnt signals to encourage new cell growth, yet still direct that growth into a three-dimensional structure for practical bone transplant and repair.

The researchers tested the Wiotm, grown in the lab in about a week, in a lab mouse induced with skull defects. The team says the transplanted Wiotm helped form new skull bone tissue consisting of both human and mouse cells that remained viable for eight weeks. The researchers say the Wiotm can be sealed to prevent unwanted leakage, or can be formulated into biodegradable bandage that’s absorbed by the recipient.

Kings College applied for a patent on a tissue regeneration patch that includes the Wiotm technology. The Habib lab is also preparing for eventual clinical trials with the Wiotm bandage.

“Our technology,” says Habib in a Kings College statement, “is the first to engineer a bone-like tissue from human bone stem cells in the lab within one week, and successfully transplant it in the bone defect to initiate and accelerate bone repair. The concept of the 3D-engineered tissue and the bandage has the potential to be developed to different injured tissues and organs.”

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Cancer Screening Analytics Company Acquired in $8B Deal

Blood sample vials

(Ahmad Ardity, Pixabay)

21 Sept. 2020. A company creating a blood test to screen for multiple types of cancer is being acquired by genomics analytics company Illumina for $8 billion in cash and stock. Grail Inc., in Menlo Park, California expects to make its Galleri blood test commercially available next year.

Grail’s technology tests blood samples for the presence of DNA circulating in the blood stream characteristic of tumors to detect, but also identify the type of cancer. Circulating tumor DNA, says the company, makes up only a small fraction of the DNA in blood, resulting in weak signals from tumor DNA, thus requiring intense analysis to separate these signals from background noise. Grail says it sequences DNA captured in blood generating a terabyte of data on each patient, with a deep level of analysis that includes machine learning to determine the type and severity as well as the presence of cancer.

The company was originally spun-off from Illumina in 2016, and uses Illumina’s next-generation or high-throughput sequencing along with machine learning and other data science tools for its analytics. Grail has two large-scale clinical trials underway evaluating its technology. The Pathfinder study is enrolling 6,200 participants, assessing individuals’ blood samples for indicators of 50 cancer types, with results sent to patients and physicians for appropriate diagnostic work-up.

The Summit study is recruiting 25,000 participants in the U.K. age 50 to 77, to detect multiple types of cancer, but particularly lung cancer. Individuals enrolled in the study will have a history of smoking that puts them at high risk for lung cancer, with follow-up for three years. in addition, participants will be tracked for another five years through national health registries and medical records.

Science & Enterprise reported on another clinical trial, also with results focusing on lung cancer. The Circulating Cell-Free Genome Atlas study enrolled some 15,000 participants with 10,500 participants are cancer patients while the remaining 4,500 are a cancer-free comparison group. Early results reported in December 2018 show an analysis of blood samples can detect and identify the presence of characteristic DNA indicating a person may have early stages of lung cancer.

Illumina, in San Diego, develops next-generation sequencing or NGS technology for advanced diagnostics across many disease types, but this acquisition is expected to insert Illumina more directly into early cancer screening and diagnostics, which the company believes will transform cancer care. Illumina already owns 12 percent of Grail stock, and is acquiring the rest of Grail’s shares for $3.5 billion in cash and $4.5 billion in Illumina stock.

Hans Bishop, CEO of Grail says in a statement, “We believe multi-cancer early detection technology could address a tremendous unmet need and reduce the cancer burden worldwide. Combining forces with Illumina enables broader and faster adoption of Grail’s innovative, multi-cancer early detection blood test, enhancing patient access and expanding global reach.”

Francis deSouza, Illumina’s president and CEO, adds, “Galleri is among the most promising new tools in the fight against cancer, and we are thrilled to welcome Grail back to Illumina to help transform cancer care using genomics and our NGS platform.”

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Shana Tova 5781

Honey and paple

Honey and apple, symbolic food for the new year (Edsel Little, Flickr)

19 Sept. 2020. Science and Enterprise is taking off today to observe Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. We wish everyone of any faith or without, a happy and healthy new year, 5781 in our calendar. We will resume regular posting on Monday.

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Mental Health Drug Company Raises $127.5M in IPO

NASDAQ share price display

(Julien Gong Min, Flickr)

18 Sept. 2020. A company developing a drug for depression based on synthesized compounds in hallucinogenic substances is raising $127.5 million in its initial public stock offer. Compass Pathways Plc in London offered 7,500,000 shares this morning on the Nasdaq exchange priced at $17.00, which by the closing bell at 4:00 pm ET rose to $29.00.

Compass Pathways develops treatments for depression and other mental illnesses from a synthesized version of psilocybin, an hallucinogenic compound found in so-called magic mushrooms, and considered a controlled substance under drug laws in the U.S. While psilocybin is not naturally addictive, it is used as a recreational drug to generate feelings of euphoria and sensory distortion. The drug can also trigger disturbing hallucinations, panic attacks, and anxiety, and is considered a risk for individuals with a family history of schizophrenia or early onset mental illness.

Compass Pathways was founded in 2016 by physician and medical researcher Ekaterina Malievskaia and technology entrepreneur George Goldsmith, a wife and husband team who dealt with depression in a family member. Development of psilocybin into a treatment for depression is based on earlier research with the substance in the U.S. at Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and UCLA, as well as institutions in the U.K. and Switzerland.

The company’s lead compound is COMP360, a synthetic derivative of psilocybin for people with depression that do not respond to current treatments. In October 2018, FDA designated COMP360 as a breakthrough therapy for treatment-resistant depression.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in April, Compass Pathways is testing COMP360 in a mid-stage clinical trial among 216 participants with treatment-resistant depression at 23 sites in Europe and North America. Participants in the trial are randomly assigned to receive one of three dosage levels of the therapy, then assessed on a standard rating scale of depression severity over 12 weeks. The company also plans to expand psilocybin therapy into other psychiatric disorders, develop digital technologies, and create new academic and clinical research partnerships.

According to the biotech industry newsletter Endpoints News, Compass Pathways originally planned raising $100 million in its IPO, but chose to expand the proceeds to $127.5 million. The company’s closing price of $29.00 per share today is 70.6 percent higher than the $17.00 IPO price, while the Nasdaq overall fell nearly 1.1 percent for the day.

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Point-of-Care Covid-19 Diagnostic Shows High Accuracy

CovidNudge unit

Blue circular CovidNudge cartridge sites inside the NudgeBox analyzer (Thomas Angus, Imperial College London)

18 Sept. 2020. A test for SARS-CoV-2 viruses in humans is shown in field tests to return diagnostic results in 90 minutes with accuracy comparable to the gold-standard RT-PCR test. Results of the CovidNudge tests developed by the company DNANudge in London appear in yesterday’s issue of the journal The Lancet Microbe.

While turnaround times for Covid-19 tests at central laboratories in the U.S. are now down to about two days, health care facilities still need their own molecular diagnostics for patients with comparable result quality, but in a much faster time. To fill that need, DNANudge, a spin-off enterprise from Imperial College London offers its CovidNudge test, a self-contained testing system with cartridges for depositing nasal sample swabs and analyzing deposited genetic material in the swab for signs of SARS-CoV-2 viruses responsible for Covid-19 infection.

Deep nasal swab samples, taken from the back of the throat, are inserted into the sample collection cartridge, the blue unit in the photo. There, RNA is separated from the sample and amplified, then analyzed with reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR within the unit. RT-PCR analysis, the so-called gold standard for molecular testing, usually requires a remote lab, but in this case, microfluidics, or lab-on-a-chip components in the larger NudgeBox perform the analysis on the spot. The WiFi-enabled CovidNudge transmits its data to a cloud-based analytical program. Results showing the absence or presence of the virus, negative or positive, are returned, according to the company within 90 minutes, to designated recipients, including the patient’s phone.

A team from Imperial College led by Graham Cooke, professor of infectious diseases, took 386 paired-sample nasal swabs in April and May 2020, when the U.K. experienced a higher infection rate than today. Participants, who agreed to give two nasal swabs, consisted mainly of health care workers serving Covid-19 patients (73% of participants), but also emergency room and admitted patients, at three London hospitals. The paired samples were sent to a remote lab for standard RT-PCR analysis or assessed in a CovidNudge unit.

The results show the CovidNudge results for emergency room and admitted hospital patients matched 100 percent with RT-PCR lab analysis. Among health care workers, 93 percent of CovidNudge samples matched in accuracy with their RT-PCR samples, with an overall true-positive sensitivity of 94 percent. Across all participants, true-negative specificity was 100 percent. Some 18 percent of participants overall were found with SARS-CoV-2 viruses, 67 in the CovidNudge group and 71 among the RT-PCR participants.

“These results suggest the test, which can be performed at a patient’s bedside without the need to handle any sample material, has comparable accuracy to standard laboratory testing,” says Cooke in an Imperial College statement. “Many tests involve a trade-off between speed and accuracy, but this test manages to achieve both.”

Biomedical engineering professor Chris Toumazou who co-founded DNANudge, believes the CovidNudge test has uses beyond health care facilities. “The platform is well suited to testing in primary care and community settings,” notes Toumazou, “with potential for use in non-health care settings such as care homes, schools, transport hubs, offices, and, to help bring the arts back, in theaters and venues. However, further studies of real-world effectiveness in non-clinical settings would be required prior to widespread deployment.”

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Wearable Device Shown to Relieve Migraine Pain

Brain activity graphic

(Gordon Johnson, Pixabay)

17 Sept. 2020. Evidence collected from electronic neuro-stimulation devices shows for most people the wearable systems relieve migraine pain without other drugs. The findings from the study assessing the Nerivio device, made by Theranica Bio-Electronics Ltd. in Netanya, Israel, appear in yesterday’s issue of the journal Pain Medicine (paid subscription required).

Migraine is a neurological syndrome causing severe headaches along with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. In some cases, migraines are preceded by warning episodes called aura including flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in arms and legs. The web site Migraine.com estimates 37 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraines, and cites World Health Organization data indicating migraines affect 18 percent of American women and 7 percent of men.

The Nerivio system consists of a patch worn on the upper arm, with electrodes sending out neuromodulation pulses that electronically stimulate C-fiber nerves and block pain signals from reaching the brain. C-fiber nerves are one of the pain pathways in the nervous system. When a migraine occurs, the individual straps on the Nerivio patch and activates nerve stimulation through an accompanying smartphone app for about 20 minutes. The app’s software also checks for proper placement of the patch, monitors the neuromodulation session, and can link to health care providers that need to be alerted.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in May 2019, FDA authorized Theranica to market the Nerivio system in the U.S. for people age 18 and over experiencing acute migraine headaches, either with or without aura. The device is not authorized to treat chronic migraines. While the system requires a prescription, it can be used at home without supervision at the onset of a migraine.

This study is a post-marketing evaluation, with data collected from 1,384 individuals prescribed a Nerivio device between 1 Oct. 2019 and 31 March 2020. Post-marketing assessments seek to confirm findings from earlier clinical trials that test devices under carefully controlled conditions. In this case, the research team led by Dartmouth University neurology professor Stewart Tepper used real-world evidence generated by the devices themselves.

Nearly all participants (97%) used their Nerivio systems under the direction of a headache specialist, while the remainder used the devices in a telemedicine program. Participants recorded their symptoms when first encountered, then two hours, and 24 hours later.

Nearly six in 10 participants (59%) using Nerivio with headache specialists experienced pain relief from their migraine attacks within two hours, as did three-quarters (74%) of the telemedicine participants in at least half of the treated attacks. In addition, one in five (20%) participants using the device with headache specialists, and more than one-third of the telemedicine participants (36%) experienced complete pain freedom within two hours in at least half of the treated attacks. Adverse effects from the devices were experienced by less than 1 percent of participants.

“These are very positive results for migraine patients, and this is important news especially for individuals who are looking for drug-free treatment alternatives,” says Tepper in a Theranica statement released through Cision. Tepper notes that the device provides an added value of digital therapeutics. “Through the Nerivio mobile app, we were able to collect real time data from patients without burdening them, while enabling them to easily share their migraine data with their doctors, when they wanted to do so.”

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