Posts Tagged ‘Medicine’

Immune Systems Tricked Into Accepting Foreign Organs

March 9, 2012 2 comments

Scientists have been experimenting with ways to trick the body’s immune system into accepting foreign donated organs, and it seems that they have finally succeeded. Of eight kidney transplant patients who have been treated with this new approach, five have managed to avoid taking anti-rejection drugs a year after their surgery. These organs were accepted into their bodies no matter the blood type, from a mismatched unrelated organ donor.

I know that this is an incredible stride in medicine, as it flings doors wide open for patients to avoid a lifetime of drugs to keep their body from rejecting the organs, and even better, now finding organs for needy people will be much more successful if nearly anyone can be a math, regardless or blood type or familial relation.  And one patient, 47-year-old Lindsay Porter of Chicago, is completely free of anti-rejection drugs nearly two years after her kidney transplant.

Typically, patients have to take pills to suppress their immune systems from recognizing a foreign object, such as a new organ, and rejecting it, rendering the organ completely useless for anyone else, and for the patient’s body as well. To get transplant recipients to accept the donor organ, the team needs to condition” them by suppressing their body’s bone marrow with chemotherapy and radiation before transplanting the donor’s bone marrow, the soft fatty tissue inside bones. Bone marrow contains immature blood-forming stem cells that give rise to all blood cells, including immune system cells.

They try to use donor derived cells to achieve the full cohesion and matching in the patient’s body. Meanwhile, the transplant recipient is given radiation and chemotherapy to suppress the immune system, a process intended to prepare them for accepting the donor’s stem cells. They also get implanted with an enriched mix of the donor’s stem cells as well as their own, which tries to create a more natural environment for these two types of cells to “coexist peacefully.”

What kind of future benefits do you guys think this new way of doing surgery can bring? I personally think that the possibilities are nearly endless.


Type 1 Diabetes Rising

February 1, 2012 6 comments

This is a very interesting article about type 1 diabetes (the autoimmune disease that begins in childhood and used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes) is on the rise all around the globe, rising at a rapid rate of 3-5% a year. The puzzle is that no one can seem to figure out why.

Researchers have several theories, and the most important observation is that this is a global increase, therefore whatever is driving these rates up is worldwide. Researchers suggest something environmental- “So investigators have had to look for influences that stretch globally and consider the possibility that different factors may be more important in some regions than in others.”

One of the prominent explanations is obesity. I agree with this explanation, because it would coincide with trends of higher obesity rates across the world every year. With these obesity rates increasing, and type 1 diabetes also increasing, the trends can be correlated.

The author of this article ends the article by saying that he hopes that we can find a “cure” for type 1 diabetes before this trend shoots up even further and becomes out of control. I say that we already have found a “cure”- or at least a prevention. Eating right and keeping your body healthy and balanced has shown to stabilize insulin levels to where shots are not even needed. There are numerous case studies where people who already have diabetes have made large lifestyle changes to foods excluding any kind of saturated fats, artificial flavors, and trans fats.

Should people start being more conscious of what they eat?

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A New Branch of Medicine

November 21, 2011 1 comment

Have you ever wondered what life would be like in the sky? How different it would be or what challenges we’d face? Now, more than ever, is a good time to start thinking about that. An article titled Challenges in Aerospace Medicine Education talks about this new branch of medicine that world  should pay close attention to.

This article basically talks about the difficulty in aerospace medicine, research and training. The article quotes that aerospace medicine and training represents a dream for many and a challenge for most. Firstly, aviation medicine is defined as a preventative medicine in which the patients are people like pilots and aircrews. This field of medicine focuses on the diseases that people in flight related medicine are susceptible to.

Aviation medicine, whether we know it or not, is a up and coming expanding job market. Some of these occupations include and flight surgeon or an aviation medical examiner. Back to the article, the issue here is that not enough research is being done on this limited pool of patients. Since aviation is fairly new, there is a great potential for much to be discovered. Aviation medicine is a lot more evident in the military than with everyday civilians, especially in Canada. As compared to the United Kingdom, which has had aviation medical training since 1945, the United States and Canada are extremely far behind. Why is aerospace medicine research so limited in North America? The main reason is the lack of familiarity with the field. Another reason is the resources for this kind of research are limited and scarce. Lastly, there is no funding or responsibility on this raw medical field. The government especially would rather spend money on something they know works, such as conventional medicine.

Although I found this article to be rather interesting,  I don’t understand the reasoning that they can’t conduct research because there isn’t enough information about the field.  The whole point of research is so that we can learn more about it. But at the same time private institutions wont want to fund an unknown field. There’s so much uncertainty to be taking that kind of chance. In addition I think since aerospace medicine is such an emerging field and nowadays so many people fly on a daily basis, research is something that should thoroughly be considered. Maybe one day we could be even operating in the air or in space.


Uncle Sam reluctant to let Mari Juana cure PTSD

November 16, 2011 1 comment

When you are sick, do you prefer to take one medication that dampens or significantly relieves your symptoms, or take one medication per symptom? Pepto-Bismol for example relieves headache, nausea, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea (YEA Pepto-Bismol!). Now would you rather take Pepto-Bismol or one medication for headache, one for nausea, one for indigestion, etc.? (Also which is more cost effective.) I would rather have Pepto-Bismol personally because it is one substance, with multiple applications, that has a short set list of side effects that can be controlled. Now I want you to imagine that you are an Iraq War veteran who was sent home because you endured a IED attack that left you with only a segment of your right arm, and numerous years of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I am fairly certain that if any of us were being shot at several times a day, and in audible range of large explosions we would have a quite a few persistent nightmares. This is the life that Sgt. Ryan Begin, as well as an estimated 37% of this generation’s vets, lived for six years before he received his authorization card last March to smoke medical marijuana. However, it wasn’t until Begin reached the bottom before anyone considered the possibility that the 80+ pills a day he was taking was causing him further psychological distress due to the extended list of side effects. He obviously slipped into a long period of drug abuse, overdoses, arrests which landed him in mental institutions on several occasions.

Now Begin has eliminated his dependence on each of the 80+ drugs he was on, and replaced them with four to five joints a day. “Using marijuana balances me out,” he says. “It takes those peaks and valleys of PTSD and it softens them. It makes my life manageable.” If all it takes is a little THC to subtle his PTSD, why won’t the government even allow preliminary studies as to the effectiveness of the drug on PTSD sufferers.

The article provides two of the many flimsy reasons why the government officials of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shut down the first study proposed to analyze and research marijuana’s effects on PTSD— Before I state the reason, I must add that NIDA runs the only source of marijuana for medical studies (makes things a little harder, don’t you think). Firstly, they state that there are too many health, safety and property issues that would arise from allowing patients to smoke outside medical facilities. Second, (when they realized that there were numerous ways around the first statement) they went straight for Dr. Sue Sisley, who was the chief researcher on the study. The officials simply said that Dr. Sisley was too inexperienced in treating PTSD patients and therefore should not perform such a study.

I’m no expert, but if health concerns are an issue for medical facilities, which don’t want their other patients exposed to the marijuana smoke, why not build a room with a window and a large vent. Just as simply, if experience is an issue, why not just let Dr. Sue work with a researcher who is experienced; or two, or three. I think there are many solutions to these bogus arguments presented by the officials at NIDA and I do believe that medical marijuana should be at least tested to evaluate its effects on PTSD patients. Currently, without any research ever done, how can NIDA know what the effect of marijuana will be?


In my mind medical marijuana should be tested to say the least. If its chemicals relieve stress, anxiety, nightmares, and even some of the other debilitating symptoms of PTSD, why won’t officials approve it? What are your thoughts?

Programmable cells

November 14, 2011 1 comment

I was reading my daily Science articles and came across a very interesting article titled,An ‘Operating System’ That Runs on Cells Could Create Whole New Life Forms. It is about how scientists are working to develop reprogrammable cells. These cells could then be programmed to do a whole bunch of useful tasks. There goal is to get a working  programmable cell so that the field of synthetic biology can take off as a larger field of science. If the field takes off then scientists will be able to get to work on cells that can “clean up unwanted carbon from the air, pull pollutants from drinking water, attack pathogens inside the human body, and protect food sources from agricultural pests.” My thought is this, though. Would it be possible to design a programmable virus that is immune to vaccines and that can be controlled in how it spreads. People could use this technology for bad and spread an evil ultimate that is unstoppable. I know the chances are slim but it could happen. What are your thoughts on how this technology could be applied? Is there any sort of downsides that you guys could see to a technology like this?

Video Games and Surgeons

October 28, 2011 4 comments

Think you’re good at COD and Assassin’s Creed (I’m beter)? Maybe you should invest in a life-changing career in Surgery. Yep, I said it surgery. According to a study done a few years ago, surgeons and surgeon residents who reported on a quiz that they played videogames frequently or during their off time were actually better at laparoscopic surgery than those who were recorded as not playing videogames frequently.

The subjects recorded their individual videogame playing habits on a quiz administered by the researchers. The three distinguishing categories were frequently, less frequently, and not at all. After recording each individual’s information, they put the surgeons and residents through a laparoscopic surgery simulator (thin instruments very similar to to excessively long chopsticks are inserted into one or more small incisions through the skin along with a small camera that is inserted into an additional small opening). This procedure is generally used for gallbladder removal, gynecological procedures, and numerous other procedures that used to require large, invasive cutting and stitching.

(Aren’t you just dying to know what the results were) It was found that the surgeons and residents who used to be frequent video gamers were significantly better than those who did not play video games at all. In fact, on average those video gamers were 33 percent faster and made 37 percent fewer mistakes than those who did not play video games. (Interesting ain’t it) But it is important to also note that these are all successful professional surgeons and surgical residents who simply played a 3-5 hours a week, NOT pale kids who never see any other light besides the television and computer screens. But the results did yield the trend that the more the gamers played, the better their speed and accuracy was on the simulator. Those who were actually avid gamers managed to perform 47 percent faster and with as much as 39 percent fewer mistakes.

On a more serious note, though the subjects may not have been necessarily distinguished, world renown people in their fields, they are still professionals who have worked relentlessly to achieve their respected titles. Although the article does not specify a reason why surgeons who played video games are better laparoscopic surgeons than those who did not, I’m going to infer (as a fellow gamer) that it has to do with dexterity. Video games are designed to be complex worlds with difficult tasks that are only achievable through the player’s understanding of the game, ingenuity, and manipulation skills. But at the same time being smart does not necessarily mean you will be a good gamer, you must also be dexterous and have good hand-eye coordination. These are skills that are developed and modified the more you play. Supposing the simulator and procedure are similar in a gamer’s eye, it is not too surprising that these skills would find applicability in surgery. Who knows, maybe shooting people and racing cars on Saturday mornings may aid my pre-med career.

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UW Conference: Issues in Healthcare Controlling African American Minds and Bodies

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment

For my First Year University Writing Seminar, I chose a session called “Issues in Healthcare Controlling African American Minds and Bodies”. Only one of our representatives presented. The presentation was named “Mind Control: The Effects of Poverty on Black Mental Health”. The Presentation discussed the reasons why Blacks don’t get the mental health they need. One of the points that hit home to me was the discussion of the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community. Later, evening I read Priyanka Kaur’s blog post “Science and Disney” and I wondered if may we should spice up our blog posts. So, here is a video I found on blacks and mental health called “Snapping the Chain: Ending Mental Health Stigma in the African American Community” from youtube.


This video really hit home for me. I have family who refuse to get psychological evaluations because of the stigma of mental illness. Additionally, the outside world’s only view of African Americans with mental illness are prisoners, homelessness, and extreme violence. It is those views that continue to push down those with mental illness and make others afraid to get diagnosed.

What do you see when you think of people with mental illness? Are their other cultures that place a stigma on mental health? What do you think about this problem in the African American community? Does the media perpetrate these ideas about the mentally ill? Do you see a solution in science? Tell me what you think.