sanguinemare

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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