December 28, 2011

Weird/crazy medical news

1. So, you’d think that stomach acid would dissolve things like pens, especially if one’s been sitting in it for 25 years.  Or at least render it non-functional.  Not so the case for this lady:–works.html?ITO=1490

It’s also a good reminder to doctors not to dismiss what patients say, regardless of how lucrative it sounds, because strange things do happen!

2. This is an interesting story of how a woman was “saved by her son while he was in the womb” because he apparently kicked a tumor from her stomach to her appendix.  It was her first realization that something was wrong and needed to be checked out (due to the extreme pain) and she got the necessary treatment and is doing well.

I also thought it was a good demonstration of how journalists can put a particular spin/slant on a story to make it appeal to the emotions of the readers in a certain way or enhance the sensationalism (“wow, a baby saved his mom before he was even born!” vs. the depressing “a pregnant woman finds out she has cancer”).  Regardless, I’m glad they are both doing well 🙂

3.  This last one is not really weird or crazy, but it is medical/health-related!  Although we all probably already know that exercise and running is good for us, here is even more evidence to support that theory:

Apparently, running helps stimulate neurogenesis (growing of new neurons), angiogenesis (growing of new blood vessels), helps memory and decision-making centers in the brain, and helps stave off depression.  Yay, exercise!  I would imagine that a lot of it has to do with better circulation of blood flow (and therefore oxygen) in the body and the brain.  And I’ve read/heard a lot about how exercise helps depression… maybe instead of prescribing drugs for this, we should be prescribing exercise regimes (monitored, at least for the first month or so to ensure compliance)!  Hmm, food for thought.

December 5, 2011

Interesting reads

Haven’t had much time to update lately, but here are some (semi-) medically relevant links that I’ve read fairly recently that I thought were interesting.

1.  Apparently, some people are working on growing meat from cells (called “invitro meat”) through bioreactors.  It’s an interesting concept, and would eliminate the need to kill animals for food.  I wonder if vegans are vegetarians who are currently on their respective diets because they are against cruelty to/killing of animals would be fine eating this kind of meat.  At any rate, it is much better than the Japanese poop burger solution to this problem (and this one is actually real, at least as far as I can tell :P)

2.   We’re currently studying microbiology in med school for these next couple of weeks, so this article on an antiviral therapy fits right up our alley.  As a general rule, there are lots of treatments for bacterial infections through antibiotics, but there aren’t very many that target viruses effectively, and those that do only target a specific virus, or have many bad side effects.  However, these scientists seem to have created something called a “Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer” (DRACO), which basically only targets cells with viral dsRNA and causes them to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death).  They’ve shown that it’s effective in 15 different viruses and that it does not harm normal, uninfected cells.  Pretty exciting.  I would like to see them apply this to more chronic, life-threatening viruses as well in the future though, such as HIV, hepatitis A-C, etc.  But it’s definitely a hopeful start.

3. Teaching Good Sex – This article was about a high school sex ed teacher that came up with innovative activities and ideas for his students, encouraging discussion and challenging his students to think deeper about the questions at stake.  While I’m not advocating for premartial sex by any means, I think the style of teaching is a great one – to give students a place where they feel comfortable asking hard questions and examine their own feelings, insecurities, and plain curiosities, in a safe environment.  Much better to be frank about it rather than to hide things under a corner and hope things don’t happen.  And I like how the class is a balance – it’s neither the idea of “abstinence is the only way,” nor is it the resigned attitude of “let’s talk about/pass out condoms so you guys can do it safely, since you’ll be doing it anyway.” Rather, it is a medium through which better understanding can be made.  Honestly, I think once questions and concepts are demystified and can be seen more analytically (and appreciated for its wonder), people are much more likely to make informed decisions, and less likely to do things out of (presumed) peer pressure or curiosity.  That’s my opinion on almost anything by the way, not just this topic.

4. Finally, here is a more somber article (but a great read!) one of my classmates posted on our class Facebook page (don’t get intimidated by the length of the sidebar – most of it is due to comments).  It’s an interesting commentary on how when doctors have to make life or death choices for themselves, they often choose the route with the least medical interference and go peacefully.  This is because they “know enough about modern medicine to know its limits…They want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will happen—that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with CPR (that’s what happens if CPR is done right).”  The rest of the article also addresses this discrepancy between what patients think they want, versus what is reasonable and what the doctors would advise.  There is so much hidden pressure and confusion in the system we currently have ingrained in us that contribute to the tragedies in medical care happening all the time.  We are so caught up in the idea of prolonging life, doing “everything possible” to save someone, but how do we know it would not cause undue and prolonged suffering instead?  Because of this mentality, most people don’t even realize there’s another choice.  The author mentions how “[A]mazingly, studies have found that people placed in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who are seeking active cures.”  Death that is pain free and with dignity.  How lovely.  I am a first year medical student, and already, if I am ever confronted with a terminal condition, I am leaning towards the choice of letting go (medically) and enjoying my last days in peace.

Happy reading!

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