Michael Hunter, MD
1 month ago
5 Drugs That May Increase Your Risk of Dementia
While our genes can't be changed easily, you can avoid some dementia risk factors. Today we discuss dementia and five drugs that may increase risk.
Memory loss appears to come with age, but we're not talking about forgetfulness. Sometimes losing your car keys isn't an indication of dementia. Dementia impairs the capacity to think, remember, or make judgments. Dementia hinders daily tasks.
Alzheimers is the most common dementia. Dementia is not normal aging, unlike forgetfulness. Aging increases the risk of Alzheimer's and other dementias. A family history of the illness increases your risk, according to the Mayo Clinic (USA).
Given that our genes are difficult to change (I won't get into epigenetics), what are some avoidable dementia risk factors? Certain drugs may cause cognitive deterioration.
Today we look at four drugs that may cause cognitive decline.
Dementia and benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepine sedatives increase brain GABA levels. Example benzodiazepines:
Diazepam (Valium) (Valium)
Alprazolam (Xanax) (Xanax)
Clonazepam (Klonopin) (Klonopin)
Addiction and overdose are benzodiazepine risks. Yes! These medications don't raise dementia risk.
USC study: Benzodiazepines don't increase dementia risk in older adults.
Benzodiazepines can produce short- and long-term amnesia. This memory loss hinders memory formation. Extreme cases can permanently impair learning and memory. Anterograde amnesia is uncommon.
2. Statins and dementia
Statins reduce cholesterol. They prevent a cholesterol-making chemical. Examples:
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) (Lipitor)
Fluvastatin (Lescol XL) (Lescol XL)
Lovastatin (Altoprev) (Altoprev)
Pitavastatin (Livalo, Zypitamag) (Livalo, Zypitamag)
Pravastatin (Pravachol) (Pravachol)
Rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor) (Crestor, Ezallor)
Simvastatin (Zocor) (Zocor)
This finding is contentious. Harvard's Brigham and Womens Hospital's Dr. Joann Manson says:
“I think that the relationship between statins and cognitive function remains controversial. There’s still not a clear conclusion whether they help to prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, have neutral effects, or increase risk.”
This one's off the dementia list.
3. Dementia and anticholinergic drugs
Anticholinergic drugs treat many conditions, including urine incontinence. Drugs inhibit acetylcholine (a brain chemical that helps send messages between cells). Acetylcholine blockers cause drowsiness, disorientation, and memory loss.
First-generation antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, and overactive bladder antimuscarinics are common anticholinergics among the elderly.
Anticholinergic drugs may cause dementia. One study found that taking anticholinergics for three years or more increased the risk of dementia by 1.54 times compared to three months or less. After stopping the medicine, the danger may continue.
4. Drugs for Parkinson's disease and dementia
Cleveland Clinic (USA) on Parkinson's:
Parkinson's disease causes age-related brain degeneration. It causes delayed movements, tremors, and balance issues. Some are inherited, but most are unknown. There are various treatment options, but no cure.
Parkinson's medications can cause memory loss, confusion, delusions, and obsessive behaviors. The drug's effects on dopamine cause these issues.
A 2019 JAMA Internal Medicine study found powerful anticholinergic medications enhance dementia risk.
Those who took anticholinergics had a 1.5 times higher chance of dementia. Individuals taking antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, overactive bladder drugs, and anti-epileptic drugs had the greatest risk of dementia.
Anticholinergic medicines can lessen Parkinson's-related tremors, but they slow cognitive ability. Anticholinergics can cause disorientation and hallucinations in those over 70.
5. Antiepileptic drugs and dementia
The risk of dementia from anti-seizure drugs varies with drugs. Levetiracetam (Keppra) improves Alzheimer's cognition.
One study linked different anti-seizure medications to dementia. Anti-epileptic medicines increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 1.15 times in the Finnish sample and 1.3 times in the German population. Depakote, Topamax are drugs.
3 months ago
Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, foresees the next trillion-dollar AI company
“I think if I had time to do something else, I would be so excited to go after this company right now.”
Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, recently discussed AI's present and future.
Open AI is important. They're creating the cyberpunk and sci-fi worlds.
They use the most advanced algorithms and data sets.
GPT-3...sound familiar? Open AI built most copyrighting software. Peppertype, Jasper AI, Rytr. If you've used any, you'll be shocked by the quality.
Open AI isn't only GPT-3. They created DallE-2 and Whisper (a speech recognition software released last week).
What will they do next? What's the next great chance?
Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, recently gave a lecture about the next trillion-dollar AI opportunity.
Who is the organization behind Open AI?
Open AI first. If you know, skip it.
Open AI is one of the earliest private AI startups. Elon Musk, Greg Brockman, and Rebekah Mercer established OpenAI in December 2015.
OpenAI has helped its citizens and AI since its birth.
They have scary-good algorithms.
Their GPT-3 natural language processing program is excellent.
The algorithm's exponential growth is astounding. GPT-2 came out in November 2019. May 2020 brought GPT-3.
Massive computation and datasets improved the technique in just a year. New York Times said GPT-3 could write like a human.
Same for Dall-E. Dall-E 2 was announced in April 2022. Dall-E 2 won a Colorado art contest.
Open AI's algorithms challenge jobs we thought required human innovation.
So what does Sam Altman think?
The Present Situation and AI's Limitations
During the interview, Sam states that we are still at the tip of the iceberg.
So I think so far, we’ve been in the realm where you can do an incredible copywriting business or you can do an education service or whatever. But I don’t think we’ve yet seen the people go after the trillion dollar take on Google.
He's right that AI can't generate net new human knowledge. It can train and synthesize vast amounts of knowledge, but it simply reproduces human work.
“It’s not going to cure cancer. It’s not going to add to the sum total of human scientific knowledge.”
But the key word is yet.
And that is what I think will turn out to be wrong that most surprises the current experts in the field.
Reinforcing his point that massive innovations are yet to come.
The Next $1 Trillion AI Company
Sam predicts a bio or genomic breakthrough.
There’s been some promising work in genomics, but stuff on a bench top hasn’t really impacted it. I think that’s going to change. And I think this is one of these areas where there will be these new $100 billion to $1 trillion companies started, and those areas are rare.
Avoid human trials since they take time. Bio-materials or simulators are suitable beginning points.
AI may have a breakthrough. DeepMind, an OpenAI competitor, has developed AlphaFold to predict protein 3D structures.
It could change how we see proteins and their function. AlphaFold could provide fresh understanding into how proteins work and diseases originate by revealing their structure. This could lead to Alzheimer's and cancer treatments. AlphaFold could speed up medication development by revealing how proteins interact with medicines.
Deep Mind offered 200 million protein structures for scientists to download (including sustainability, food insecurity, and neglected diseases).
Being in AI for 4+ years, I'm amazed at the progress. We're past the hype cycle, as evidenced by the collapse of AI startups like C3 AI, and have entered a productive phase.
We'll see innovative enterprises that could replace Google and other trillion-dollar companies.
What happens after AI adoption is scary and unpredictable. How will AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) affect us? Highly autonomous systems that exceed humans at valuable work (Open AI)
My guess is that the things that we’ll have to figure out are how we think about fairly distributing wealth, access to AGI systems, which will be the commodity of the realm, and governance, how we collectively decide what they can do, what they don’t do, things like that. And I think figuring out the answer to those questions is going to just be huge. — Sam Altman CEO
3 months ago
Can space-based solar power solve Earth's energy problems?
Better technology and lower launch costs revive science-fiction tech.
Airbus engineers showed off sustainable energy's future in Munich last month. They captured sunlight with solar panels, turned it into microwaves, and beamed it into an airplane hangar, where it lighted a city model. The test delivered 2 kW across 36 meters, but it posed a serious question: Should we send enormous satellites to capture solar energy in space? In orbit, free of clouds and nighttime, they could create power 24/7 and send it to Earth.
Airbus engineer Jean-Dominique Coste calls it an engineering problem. “But it’s never been done at [large] scale.”
Proponents of space solar power say the demand for green energy, cheaper space access, and improved technology might change that. Once someone invests commercially, it will grow. Former NASA researcher John Mankins says it might be a trillion-dollar industry.
Myriad uncertainties remain, including whether beaming gigawatts of power to Earth can be done efficiently and without burning birds or people. Concept papers are being replaced with ground and space testing. The European Space Agency (ESA), which supported the Munich demo, will propose ground tests to member nations next month. The U.K. government offered £6 million to evaluate innovations this year. Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, and U.S. agencies are working. NASA policy analyst Nikolai Joseph, author of an upcoming assessment, thinks the conversation's tone has altered. What formerly appeared unattainable may now be a matter of "bringing it all together"
NASA studied space solar power during the mid-1970s fuel crunch. A projected space demonstration trip using 1970s technology would have cost $1 trillion. According to Mankins, the idea is taboo in the agency.
Space and solar power technology have evolved. Photovoltaic (PV) solar cell efficiency has increased 25% over the past decade, Jones claims. Telecoms use microwave transmitters and receivers. Robots designed to repair and refuel spacecraft might create solar panels.
Falling launch costs have boosted the idea. A solar power satellite large enough to replace a nuclear or coal plant would require hundreds of launches. ESA scientist Sanjay Vijendran: "It would require a massive construction complex in orbit."
SpaceX has made the idea more plausible. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket costs $2600 per kilogram, less than 5% of what the Space Shuttle did, and the company promised $10 per kilogram for its giant Starship, slated to launch this year. Jones: "It changes the equation." "Economics rules"
Mass production reduces space hardware costs. Satellites are one-offs made with pricey space-rated parts. Mars rover Perseverance cost $2 million per kilogram. SpaceX's Starlink satellites cost less than $1000 per kilogram. This strategy may work for massive space buildings consisting of many identical low-cost components, Mankins has long contended. Low-cost launches and "hypermodularity" make space solar power economical, he claims.
Better engineering can improve economics. Coste says Airbus's Munich trial was 5% efficient, comparing solar input to electricity production. When the Sun shines, ground-based solar arrays perform better. Studies show space solar might compete with existing energy sources on price if it reaches 20% efficiency.
Lighter parts reduce costs. "Sandwich panels" with PV cells on one side, electronics in the middle, and a microwave transmitter on the other could help. Thousands of them build a solar satellite without heavy wiring to move power. In 2020, a team from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) flew on the Air Force's X-37B space plane.
NRL project head Paul Jaffe said the satellite is still providing data. The panel converts solar power into microwaves at 8% efficiency, but not to Earth. The Air Force expects to test a beaming sandwich panel next year. MIT will launch its prototype panel with SpaceX in December.
As a satellite orbits, the PV side of sandwich panels sometimes faces away from the Sun since the microwave side must always face Earth. To maintain 24-hour power, a satellite needs mirrors to keep that side illuminated and focus light on the PV. In a 2012 NASA study by Mankins, a bowl-shaped device with thousands of thin-film mirrors focuses light onto the PV array.
International Electric Company's Ian Cash has a new strategy. His proposed satellite uses enormous, fixed mirrors to redirect light onto a PV and microwave array while the structure spins (see graphic, above). 1 billion minuscule perpendicular antennas act as a "phased array" to electronically guide the beam toward Earth, regardless of the satellite's orientation. This design, argues Cash, is "the most competitive economically"
If a space-based power plant ever flies, its power must be delivered securely and efficiently. Jaffe's team at NRL just beamed 1.6 kW over 1 km, and teams in Japan, China, and South Korea have comparable attempts. Transmitters and receivers lose half their input power. Vijendran says space solar beaming needs 75% efficiency, "preferably 90%."
Beaming gigawatts through the atmosphere demands testing. Most designs aim to produce a beam kilometers wide so every ship, plane, human, or bird that strays into it only receives a tiny—hopefully harmless—portion of the 2-gigawatt transmission. Receiving antennas are cheap to build but require a lot of land, adds Jones. You could grow crops under them or place them offshore.
Europe's public agencies currently prioritize space solar power. Jones: "There's a devotion you don't see in the U.S." ESA commissioned two solar cost/benefit studies last year. Vijendran claims it might match ground-based renewables' cost. Even at a higher price, equivalent to nuclear, its 24/7 availability would make it competitive.
ESA will urge member states in November to fund a technical assessment. If the news is good, the agency will plan for 2025. With €15 billion to €20 billion, ESA may launch a megawatt-scale demonstration facility by 2030 and a gigawatt-scale facility by 2040. "Moonshot"
4 months ago
The Unlocking Of The Ultimate Clean Energy
The company seeking 24/7 ultra-powerful solar electricity.
We're rushing to adopt low-carbon energy to prevent a self-made doomsday. We're using solar, wind, and wave energy. These low-carbon sources aren't perfect. They consume large areas of land, causing habitat loss. They don't produce power reliably, necessitating large grid-level batteries, an environmental nightmare. We can and must do better than fossil fuels. Longi, one of the world's top solar panel producers, is creating a low-carbon energy source. Solar-powered spacecraft. But how does it work? Why is it so environmentally harmonious? And how can Longi unlock it?
Space-based solar makes sense. Satellites above Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) enjoy 24/7 daylight. Outer space has no atmosphere or ozone layer to block the Sun's high-energy UV radiation. Solar panels can create more energy in space than on Earth due to these two factors. Solar panels in orbit can create 40 times more power than those on Earth, according to estimates.
How can we utilize this immense power? Launch a geostationary satellite with solar panels, then beam power to Earth. Such a technology could be our most eco-friendly energy source. (Better than fusion power!) How?
Solar panels create more energy in space, as I've said. Solar panel manufacture and grid batteries emit the most carbon. This indicates that a space-solar farm's carbon footprint (which doesn't need a battery because it's a constant power source) might be over 40 times smaller than a terrestrial one. Combine that with carbon-neutral launch vehicles like Starship, and you have a low-carbon power source. Solar power has one of the lowest emissions per kWh at 6g/kWh, so space-based solar could approach net-zero emissions.
Space solar is versatile because it doesn't require enormous infrastructure. A space-solar farm could power New York and Dallas with the same efficiency, without cables. The satellite will transmit power to a nearby terminal. This allows an energy system to evolve and adapt as the society it powers changes. Building and maintaining infrastructure can be carbon-intensive, thus less infrastructure means less emissions.
Space-based solar doesn't destroy habitats, either. Solar and wind power can be engineered to reduce habitat loss, but they still harm ecosystems, which must be restored. Space solar requires almost no land, therefore it's easier on Mother Nature.
Space solar power could be the ultimate energy source. So why haven’t we done it yet?
Well, for two reasons: the cost of launch and the efficiency of wireless energy transmission.
Advances in rocket construction and reusable rocket technology have lowered orbital launch costs. In the early 2000s, the Space Shuttle cost $60,000 per kg launched into LEO, but a SpaceX Falcon 9 costs only $3,205. 95% drop! Even at these low prices, launching a space-based solar farm is commercially questionable.
Energy transmission efficiency is half of its commercial viability. Space-based solar farms must be in geostationary orbit to get 24/7 daylight, 22,300 miles above Earth's surface. It's a long way to wirelessly transmit energy. Most laser and microwave systems are below 20% efficient.
Space-based solar power is uneconomical due to low efficiency and high deployment costs.
Longi wants to create this ultimate power. But how?
They'll send solar panels into space to develop space-based solar power that can be beamed to Earth. This mission will help them design solar panels tough enough for space while remaining efficient.
Longi is a Chinese company, and China's space program and universities are developing space-based solar power and seeking commercial partners. Xidian University has built a 98%-efficient microwave-based wireless energy transmission system for space-based solar power. The Long March 5B is China's super-cheap (but not carbon-offset) launch vehicle.
Longi fills the gap. They have the commercial know-how and ability to build solar satellites and terrestrial terminals at scale. Universities and the Chinese government have transmission technology and low-cost launch vehicles to launch this technology.
It may take a decade to develop and refine this energy solution. This could spark a clean energy revolution. Once operational, Longi and the Chinese government could offer the world a flexible, environmentally friendly, rapidly deployable energy source.
Should the world adopt this technology and let China control its energy? I'm not very political, so you decide. This seems to be the beginning of tapping into this planet-saving energy source. Forget fusion reactors. Carbon-neutral energy is coming soon.
4 months ago
Twisted device investigates fusion alternatives
German stellarator revamped to run longer, hotter, compete with tokamaks
Tokamaks have dominated the search for fusion energy for decades. Just as ITER, the world's largest and most expensive tokamak, nears completion in southern France, a smaller, twistier testbed will start up in Germany.
If the 16-meter-wide stellarator can match or outperform similar-size tokamaks, fusion experts may rethink their future. Stellarators can keep their superhot gases stable enough to fuse nuclei and produce energy. They can theoretically run forever, but tokamaks must pause to reset their magnet coils.
The €1 billion German machine, Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), is already getting "tokamak-like performance" in short runs, claims plasma physicist David Gates, preventing particles and heat from escaping the superhot gas. If W7-X can go long, "it will be ahead," he says. "Stellarators excel" Eindhoven University of Technology theorist Josefine Proll says, "Stellarators are back in the game." A few of startup companies, including one that Gates is leaving Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, are developing their own stellarators.
W7-X has been running at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany, since 2015, albeit only at low power and for brief runs. W7-X's developers took it down and replaced all inner walls and fittings with water-cooled equivalents, allowing for longer, hotter runs. The team reported at a W7-X board meeting last week that the revised plasma vessel has no leaks. It's expected to restart later this month to show if it can get plasma to fusion-igniting conditions.
Wendelstein 7-X's water-cooled inner surface allows for longer runs.
Both stellarators and tokamaks create magnetic gas cages hot enough to melt metal. Microwaves or particle beams heat. Extreme temperatures create a plasma, a seething mix of separated nuclei and electrons, and cause the nuclei to fuse, releasing energy. A fusion power plant would use deuterium and tritium, which react quickly. Non-energy-generating research machines like W7-X avoid tritium and use hydrogen or deuterium instead.
Tokamaks and stellarators use electromagnetic coils to create plasma-confining magnetic fields. A greater field near the hole causes plasma to drift to the reactor's wall.
Tokamaks control drift by circulating plasma around a ring. Streaming creates a magnetic field that twists and stabilizes ionized plasma. Stellarators employ magnetic coils to twist, not plasma. Once plasma physicists got powerful enough supercomputers, they could optimize stellarator magnets to improve plasma confinement.
W7-X is the first large, optimized stellarator with 50 6- ton superconducting coils. Its construction began in the mid-1990s and cost roughly twice the €550 million originally budgeted.
The wait hasn't disappointed researchers. W7-X director Thomas Klinger: "The machine operated immediately." "It's a friendly machine." It did everything we asked." Tokamaks are prone to "instabilities" (plasma bulging or wobbling) or strong "disruptions," sometimes associated to halted plasma flow. IPP theorist Sophia Henneberg believes stellarators don't employ plasma current, which "removes an entire branch" of instabilities.
In early stellarators, the magnetic field geometry drove slower particles to follow banana-shaped orbits until they collided with other particles and leaked energy. Gates believes W7-X's ability to suppress this effect implies its optimization works.
W7-X loses heat through different forms of turbulence, which push particles toward the wall. Theorists have only lately mastered simulating turbulence. W7-X's forthcoming campaign will test simulations and turbulence-fighting techniques.
A stellarator can run constantly, unlike a tokamak, which pulses. W7-X has run 100 seconds—long by tokamak standards—at low power. The device's uncooled microwave and particle heating systems only produced 11.5 megawatts. The update doubles heating power. High temperature, high plasma density, and extensive runs will test stellarators' fusion power potential. Klinger wants to heat ions to 50 million degrees Celsius for 100 seconds. That would make W7-X "a world-class machine," he argues. The team will push for 30 minutes. "We'll move step-by-step," he says.
W7-X's success has inspired VCs to finance entrepreneurs creating commercial stellarators. Startups must simplify magnet production.
Princeton Stellarators, created by Gates and colleagues this year, has $3 million to build a prototype reactor without W7-X's twisted magnet coils. Instead, it will use a mosaic of 1000 HTS square coils on the plasma vessel's outside. By adjusting each coil's magnetic field, operators can change the applied field's form. Gates: "It moves coil complexity to the control system." The company intends to construct a reactor that can fuse cheap, abundant deuterium to produce neutrons for radioisotopes. If successful, the company will build a reactor.
Renaissance Fusion, situated in Grenoble, France, raised €16 million and wants to coat plasma vessel segments in HTS. Using a laser, engineers will burn off superconductor tracks to carve magnet coils. They want to build a meter-long test segment in 2 years and a full prototype by 2027.
Type One Energy in Madison, Wisconsin, won DOE money to bend HTS cables for stellarator magnets. The business carved twisting grooves in metal with computer-controlled etching equipment to coil cables. David Anderson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, claims advanced manufacturing technology enables the stellarator.
Anderson said W7-X's next phase will boost stellarator work. “Half-hour discharges are steady-state,” he says. “This is a big deal.”