Archivo de la etiqueta: Medicine
The patient sits on the bed, his head wrapped in thick gauze bandages. He looks his doctor in the eye and says, “You just turned into somebody else… You almost look like somebody I’ve seen before, but somebody different. That was a trip.”
No, 47-year-old Ron Blackwell hadn’t taken any psychedelic drugs. He wasn’t delirious or psychotic following the brain surgery he had recently undergone. Instead, he was responding to signals from electrodes implanted in his brain to help determine the source of his seizures. By coincidence, the test electrodes had been placed in his fusiform gyrus, the brain region involved in recognizing faces.
“Your nose got saggy and went off to the left,” Blackwell said, describing the changes he was seeing in his doctor Josef Parvizi’s face in a video released along with a new study. The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was led by Parvizi, who is an associate professor of neurology at Stanford.
While having surgery to treat epilepsy, Blackwell agreed to take part in an experiment led by Parvizi aimed at understanding what the fusiform region actually does and how specific it is to recognizing faces.
The human microbiome
Looking at human beings as ecosystems that contain many collaborating and competing species could change the practice of medicine
WHAT’S a man? Or, indeed, a woman? Biologically, the answer might seem obvious. A human being is an individual who has grown from a fertilised egg which contained genes from both father and mother. A growing band of biologists, however, think this definition incomplete. They see people not just as individuals, but also as ecosystems. In their view, the descendant of the fertilised egg is merely one component of the system. The others are trillions of bacteria, each equally an individual, which are found in a person’s gut, his mouth, his scalp, his skin and all of the crevices and orifices that subtend from his body’s surface.
A healthy adult human harbours some 100 trillion bacteria in his gut alone. That is ten times as many bacterial cells as he has cells descended from the sperm and egg of his parents. These bugs, moreover, are diverse. Egg and sperm provide about 23,000 different genes. The microbiome, as the body’s commensal bacteria are collectively known, is reckoned to have around 3m. Admittedly, many of those millions are variations on common themes, but equally many are not, and even the number of those that are adds something to the body’s genetic mix.
And it really is a system, for evolution has aligned the interests of host and bugs. In exchange for raw materials and shelter the microbes that live in and on people feed and protect their hosts, and are thus integral to that host’s well-being. Neither wishes the other harm. In bad times, though, this alignment of interest can break down. Then, the microbiome may misbehave in ways which cause disease.
That bacteria can cause disease is no revelation. But the diseases in question are. Often, they are not acute infections of the sort 20th-century medicine has been so good at dealing with (and which have coloured doctors’ views of bacteria in ways that have made medical science slow to appreciate the richness and relevance of people’s microbial ecosystems). They are, rather, the chronic illnesses that are now, at least in the rich world, the main focus of medical attention. For, from obesity and diabetes, via heart disease, asthma and multiple sclerosis, to neurological conditions such as autism, the microbiome seems to play a crucial role.
A bug’s life Sigue leyendo
Written by Agent X | //menwithpens.ca
Author’s note: I wrote this post while picturing James Chartrand leaning forward, squinting into a computer, wondering when all the aches and pains would go away. As always, I swooped in to rescue someone who probably doesn’t want my help.
Editor’s note: At the moment of reading this post, I was actually sitting casually (meaning, slumped, not straight), leaning to the left with my elbow propped on the chair, my shoulders forward, and my head tilted. It doesn’t sound comfy… I swear it was.
There is no off switch to adaptation. Our bodies are pretty smart and they’re always getting better at whatever they’re doing. If we teach our bodies good habits, adaptation rewards us. If we teach our bodies bad habits, adaptation is a punisher.
This is usually bad news for writers, or anyone else who spends a lot of time typing. When was the last time you were with a bunch of writers and thought Wow, everyone has such great posture!
Nope. Our heads are usually too far forward on our necks. Our shoulders slump forward. When we stand at rest, our hands don’t fall naturally to our sides, but they rotate internally to the point where our palms face the wall behind us. Not good. We have gotten better… at getting worse.
So what does this have to do with writing? Sigue leyendo
by Roni Caryn Rabin
The enormous health benefits of gastric bypass operations kick in before you even drop the pounds
Before her gastric bypass surgery two years ago, Mary Ellen Sweeney weighed in at 344 pounds and suffered from type 2 diabetes. Her blood sugar levels were so out of control that sweet desserts were forbidden. But now, as she sits in a restaurant at the Jersey shore, she orders a slice of raspberry Linzer torte that’s served on a streak of chocolate sauce, with whipped cream on the side. She can indulge because three days after she had a gastric bypass operation, a remarkable thing happened: Her diabetes disappeared. Sigue leyendo
The Medical RevolutionWhere are the cures promised by stem cells, gene therapy, and the human genome?
By Emily Yoffe
Dr. J. William Langston has been researching Parkinson’s disease for 25 years. At one time, it seemed likely he’d have to find another disease to study, because a cure for Parkinson’s looked imminent. In the late 1980s, the field of regenerative medicine seemed poised to make it possible for doctors to put healthy tissue in a damaged brain, reversing the destruction caused by the disease.
Langston was one of many optimists. In 1999, the then-head of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Dr. Gerald Fischbach, testified before the Senate that with “skill and luck,” Parkinson’s could be cured in five to 10 years. Now Langston, who is 67, doesn’t think he’ll see a Parkinson’s cure in his professional lifetime. He no longer uses “the C word” and acknowledges he and others were naive. He understands the anger of patients who, he says, “are getting quite bitter” that they remain ill, long past the time when they thought they would have been restored to health.
The disappointments are so acute in part because the promises have been so big. Over the past two decades, we’ve been told that a new age of molecular medicine—using gene therapy, stem cells, and the knowledge gleaned from unlocking the human genome—would bring us medical miracles. Just as antibiotics conquered infectious diseases and vaccines eliminated the scourges of polio and smallpox, the ability to manipulate our cells and genes is supposed to vanquish everything from terrible inherited disorders, such as Huntington’s and cystic fibrosis, to widespread conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Not long ago, a friend of mine turned me on to an interesting book entitled The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande.
Although Dr. Gawande hails from the medical field, I found his book interesting because he explores, in great detail, a topic that spans almost every aspect of our lives: how to get things done. But rather than focus exclusively on the medical profession, Gawande explores the tools that other professions use to manage complexity. He examines a wide range of specialties, including architects, pilots and chefs, to learn their techniques.
What he finds is that, across the board, these industries rely heavily on checklists to succeed, even when the task at hand seems too complex for a simple recipe. He examines how the checklist can be implemented in operating rooms to eliminate human errors, reduce infections and ultimately save lives. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can read Malcolm Gladwell’s review of the book over at Amazon. Sigue leyendo