April 7, 2014

Link dump

Since I also have accumulated many many tabs since the last time I posted, here are some medical/science-y related things that I found interesting (this was originally going to be part of the previous post, but I realized I have too many things to share, and the post was getting too long, haha).  In no particular order:

3-D floating, holographic bodies have now been developed at the University of Michigan to help with anatomy/dissection!  I’ve actually seen some of the virtual anatomy lab tables they mention in the article at some of the AAMC conferences before and thought they were really neat (just too expensive for our school probably), but this takes that a step even further!  It would be even cooler if they could add tactile information (like perhaps a pressure glove that can help simulate what things should feel like)

Here’s a really neat article on using Disney to reach an autistic child – which I love both because it’s a very moving story, and because it’s another reason to love Disney 🙂  It show how important it is in medicine/healthcare to think outside the box – how thinking creatively to a problem can help connect people in totally unexpected ways.  Which actually also reminds me of this moving story of Carly.

Here’s a few articles relating to music:
1) Ever get a song stuck in your head?  That’s called an “earworm” – great name huh?  You can thank the Germans for that.  This article briefly outlines what types of songs/conditions get songs like “Let it Go” stuck in our heads.
2)  Here are some random facts about listening to music and how it can affect your life.  These are all presumably based on research (I have to admit I did not go and check all the links for the studies behind these, but at least they have them so you can look them up yourselves if you want to verify the information presented).
3) If you loved The Sound of Music as much as I did growing up, and ever wondered what the real von Trapp family was like (yes, they were real people!), here is a comparison of the movie with the true history/personality of the von Trapps.

Here’s a few articles relating to nutrition sciences:
1) Visceral fat (known as the “bad” fat around your organs, which if accumulated may be detrimental to your health) has been linked to cells expressing the Wt1 gene, which may continue to act as a source of this fat in adults, modifiable through diet.  These cells are also the ones that may develop into the protective lining (mesothelium) around these visceral fat areas. Pretty interesting!
2)  A pretty good article that discusses the use of antibiotics potentially contributing to the obesity epidemic, and also touches upon one of the mechanisms behind it through modification of the gut microbiome.  Something to think about I think, for the future – truly, physicians need to be good stewards of antibiotics and not just give them out to anyone who has the sniffles or asks for them (not only for this reason, but because of the increasing cases of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that are now cropping up due to overuse of these meds).
3)  Apparently, there are two forms of the major milk protein casein that can be dominant in milk – A1 and A2.  According to this article, milk with predominantly A1 protein has been linked to a variety of diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even autism or schizophrenia, while A2 is more digestable by humans.  However, as the article says, “the evidence is far from conclusive”, so take it with a grain of salt (especially given some of the comments below).  I do think t’s an interesting concept though, and one that might merit investigation.

And finally, people are starting to believe the Black Death in Europe in the Late Middle Ages was actually a pneumonic plague (spread from human to human through the air), rather than bubonic (disease form that causes infection through the lymphatic system in humans, spread by rat fleas).  Makes sense to me – I always thought it seemed to spread way too quickly for fleas to be the culprit.

That’s it for now, but there’s a whole other window with even more (older) tabs that I have yet to get to… hopefully that happens soon…


edit: Well, it looks like I was wrong, and I only have a couple more links (most of the other tabs were funding sources that I was looking into for a potential overseas research thing I was looking into, hah.  So just ended up bookmarking most of those).  So here are the other links:

Here’s a good resource if you’re interested in knowing what the latest consensus is in science about nutrition and how it affects cancers of various types/areas.

Speaking of areas in the body, here’s an um… enlightening article on what the female pleasure areas look like when they wake up, so to speak.  Kind of interesting, and also makes sense.  Share it with your SO’s, folks.

And finally, just because it’s too good not to share (and since it’s exactly what I’m doing right now, it seems to fit well), here is a non-scientific, but still interesting and very amusingly accurate picture of why people procrastinate.  And also an equally hilarious and illustrated follow-up to the article, including a few words of advice on how to beat the habit.

September 21, 2013

Turning back the hidden curriculum, how reading novels improves your brain, and one of the keys to happiness

In the medical profession, people talk a lot about the “hidden curriculum”, which is the message that we as medical students get indirectly from peers, faculty, residents, and other higher-ups in the hierarchy chain.  This can be anything to lecturers casually slipping in jokes about how everyone in the profession drinks to things like how being a primary care physician is both too easy and too hard to do well (that is in itself another discussion).  But one thing that also trickles down is the unspoken expectation that doctors need to be “professional,” which sometimes may seem synonymous with “emotionless,” which over time translates to jaded physicians.  This is something I sometimes worry will happen to me when I come back from my PhD based on stories from friends, and something that I actively want to fight, even during my PhD.  That’s why what this article in the NY Times is talking about, as well as the Healer’s Art course mentioned in it, is something I strongly agree with.  I think this is a dialogue that should always be kept open among students and faculty alike.  Healing is not merely about the healing the physical body, but also the mind and soul as well.

Here’s another interesting article about how reading something affects your brain, and helps your brain process information in a similar way as if you were actually experiencing the action physically.  I also like this paragraph, as it somewhat justifies my love of fiction hehe 😛 (and also supports my belief that children should not be allowed to watch TV all day, especially at a young age): “Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television.”  Of course there’s always the argument that fMRI’s are not that great of a way to determine what’s actually going on, as it’s mostly correlation and depends heavily on interpretation, but still an interesting thought nonetheless.

And lastly, here is a fun, touching experiment that helps validate a scientific study that one of the things we can do that is a key contributor to happiness is expressing gratitude.

February 24, 2013

Genetically Modified (GM) foods and regulation

So I have relatively recently decided to pursue my PhD studies in Nutritional Science.  It is off the beaten path for most MD/PhD’s, and even more so at this school where I’ll be the first to go through with it (more on that later perhaps), but because of it, I am taking some Nutri-sci classes while finishing up my 2nd semester of my last pre-clinical years (aka 2nd year of med school).

2 weeks ago, our topic was Integrative medicine – a topic near and dear to my heart since I started the Integrative and Alternative Medicine Interest Group at my school this year (again, more of that in another post perhaps).

Last week (and my current homework assignment) is on genetically modified foods, aka GM foods or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).  Since we have to do some write-ups about it, and I thought there were interesting discussions about them in these links, I thought I’d share them here in case anyone is interested.  It seems to be a pretty controversial and polarizing topic, although it also seems most people in the US wouldn’t mind them as much as long as the foods were labeled and people could have a choice in the matter.  Other countries abroad seem to be much more concerned about it however, going so far as to ban goods from the US that contain it.

Here’s the NOVA/Frontline video of it on youtube that gives a background of the issue.  Here’s also a supplemental interactive PBS website where you choose whether you agree or disagree with GM crops based on what you know and they’ll present the opposite argument.  You do that 6 times, and then you can look at all the arguments and see what you think after. Here’s also a WebMD article about GM foods and the issues associated with it.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, or just really like reading Bills, here is the official Bill for Initiative 522 on genetically engineered foods (from the Washington State Legislature website).  Otherwise, here’s the more people-friendly version.  They had the hearing for the Bill on Feb 14 this year (Happy Valentine’s Day hah), so I guess we’ll see what happens with that.

I personally am more on the fence for this issue I suppose.  As I am someone who is more for natural products, I tend to stay on the side of preferring non-GMO foods for myself.  However, in countries that are ravaged by a blight on their most important crops, or who are having trouble feeding all their people, such as the case of the Hawaiian papaya or the African sweet potato shown in the video, I think it’s fine to use GMO’s against that specific disease or problem to help feed people, as long as it is safe and is the best alternative.   I do, however, think it is a good idea to label GMO foods, because I support the idea of the right of people to know what they are consuming and to make the decision for themselves.  Not because I necessarily think GMO’s are unsafe, but because we ought to allow people to make informed choices for themselves.  After all, isn’t that what nutritional labeling is all about in the first place?

Other factors to consider that the links bring up include things like the potential introduction of toxins and allergens people, or antibiotic resistance (which are used as markers for genetic recombination) developing in natural gut bacteria or in the environment.  On the other side, they say that the foods have all been tested for safety and “substantial equivalence” in what their products contain compared to the original, and they have been approved by the USDA (which regulates what you can grow), FDA (which regulates if things are safe to eat) and the EPA (which regulates whether things are ok for the environment).  It can also be said that GMO’s are better for the environment than the current widespread use of pesticides, which target a much larger variety of animal/plant life in neighboring areas.

So, yay or nay on GMO foods?  Just some food for thought for ya ;P


Edit:  Hey look at that!  Whole foods recently announced that it would require all GMO-containing foods to be labeled in all stores in Canada and the US by 2018!  It’s apparently the first national store to set a deadline for labeling of GMO foods.  Pretty neat 🙂

December 19, 2012

A very late post of interesting articles

This is probably a new record for me – having articles open on my computer for 5 months just chilling there until I get time to post them up.  As they accumulate, they have also been increasing the workload of my poor, abused laptop of over 5 years.  (Speaking of – anyone know of any good computers/tablets to buy lately?  Black Friday/Cyber Monday is almost here lol.) Clearly, I wrote this in November, but it is now mid/late December while I’m updating so I guess it’s now been 6 months.. anyways. (Still would love to hear if anyone has good tablet ideas though!)

So here they are, in approximately chronological order:

1. This one was really horrifying to me… I don’t know about you, but I definitely would not consider getting part of my toe shaved off just so they could look thinner.  Apparently, there’s a new fad going around the plastic surgery circuit where people feel they are “toe-bese” and thus go get their toes cut open and trimmed.  It was this post on xanga that first brought this to my attention (like 5 months ago…) and here is the article/video they were getting their info from.  Now don’t get me wrong – if the width of the toe is actually causing a major problem physically, I could understand it.  But just for looks?  :\

2. An interesting and perhaps provocative essay on what really causes people to get fat was posted on the NY Times in June. This article on the results of a clinical trial by Dr. David Ludwig (Boston Children’s Hospital) suggests that the cause of obesity is not really due to fat consumption, but rather to excess carb consumption!  Interestingly enough, my parents recently went to a seminar by this lady (English name Sara) for those who can read Chinese. She was actually a Fulbright Fellow.  She actually also advocates a much lower carb-fat ratio than we (especially Americans) usually.  She also has different ideas of which types of fat are good (normally now, we all believe canola/vegetable oil is the healthiest, but she actually is a proponent of using animal fats for cooking – there’s a lot more to be said on the subject, but I’ll refrain here unless people want more elaboration.  But I will say that I personally have gotten better with certain weird symptoms since eating her diet in late October, and have also lost about 10 pounds of mostly fat weight easily since then, and my parents look a LOT younger and healthier… it actually surprised me how young they looked when they’d visited, after they’d only been on that dietary guideline for a month).

3.  I was talking with a friend earlier in the year about vaccinations and how I wasn’t sure if I would vaccinate my child or not (*gasp*, yes, I know) and another friend had said she and her family was not vaccinated and she probably wouldn’t vaccinate her children either.  Why you might ask?  Well, there are definitely potential side effects to all medications, vaccines included, some of which include death or encephalitis, which is not generally that well known in the public, or even really addressed in medical school.  While from a public health standpoint, it is understandable why vaccines are a good idea, but from an individual standpoint, there is cause for consideration.  So the friend I was talking to had a completely opposite idea of vaccines, but he also likes looking things up, so he stumbled upon this website (Why I Don’t Vaccinate My Children), which seems to have a lot of journal-backed information about what vaccines are made of and potential side effects.  I haven’t personally had time to read everything, but I did skim through some and check the articles, so it does seem legit if you’re interested in exploring the issue.

4. This social/demographic trend article on The Rise of Asian Americans I thought was interesting just because… well, probably because I am Asian-American, and I can resonate with some of the values and stuff said here, but also found the stats intriguing.  Perhaps we will begin to be a group that becomes more involved and makes an impact on American society someday (soon?).  I already see it starting in some areas, so it’s pretty exciting 🙂

5.  Ok, this is for those interested in the debate about marijuana and its effects.  Recently, a study was published that shows persistent use of cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana – specifically, the genus of the plant) starting from a young age results in cognitive and neurological decline that was not reversible even after stopping use of it.  We also just learned in medical school in our neuro module that there is currently speculation and some research that says smoking pot at an early age (18 or younger) significantly increases the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.  In addition, almost 50% of schizophrenics (if I’m quoting that right) smoke pot.  Correlation doesn’t equal causation true, but a few longitudinal studies are showing that cannabis use significantly increases the chance of getting a psychosis-related illness, and if one was genetically predisposed to schizophrenia, it would cause the symptoms to develop earlier, leading to a worse prognosis and outcome.  Here’s an article that goes in a little more history of these findings.

6. Here’s something interesting for the runners and endurance athletes – a recent article suggests that running too much for too long may take a toll on the heart that is worse than the benefits that can be gained from the exercise.  Some key passages to note: “In a study involving 52,600 people followed for three decades, the runners in the group had a 19% lower death rate than nonrunners, according to the Heart editorial. But among the running cohort, those who ran a lot—more than 20 to 25 miles a week—lost that mortality advantage.” And also “Opinion is nearly unanimous among cardiologists that endurance athletics significantly increases the risk of atrial fibrillation, an arrhythmia that is estimated to be the cause of one third of all strokes.”  This was also in there “Meanwhile, according to the Heart editorial, another large study found no mortality benefit for those who ran faster than 8 miles per hour, while those who ran slower reaped significant mortality benefits,” which is a good thing for me, since I don’t think I can actually run faster than that hah.  Not all experts agree of course, but it’s something to keep in mind.

7. Everyone knows Einstein was a genius – so what was it about his brain that was different from ours?  Or perhaps more accurately, what changed in his brain while he was making his calculations, and can we use it to understand people’s capabilities now?  I’m sure we all know/suspect his brain looks pretty different, but didn’t know how different until 14 pictures from the autopsy were recently brought to light.  Apparently, his frontal and prefrontal cortices (areas of the brain responsible for conscious/abstract thought, planning, and executive function) had more folds than normal, as well as his occipital lobe (visual processing).  He also had an extra fold in his right parietal lobe, which is the side that deals more with awareness (amongst other things).

8. Speaking of brains, here’s a fun article on how training your brain can help stave off the effects of memory loss and cognitive decline as we age.  And of course, it’s also promoting the product Lumosity, which I (am somewhat ashamed? to say) have been playing somewhat consistently over the last two months.  While I have certainly gotten better at the games, I’m not quite as sure whether or not my brain is progressing, but it’s kind of fun and pretty quick as a daily stress reliever.

9. And the last thing I have for you all today is a small article on the benefits of green tea and skin cancer, from a professor I talked with a while back when trying to pick a research mentor for a lab rotation.  On that note, I also found this website on different teas and tea/herbal products (don’t know if their products are any good but was interested in checking it out)

Whew!  Finally cleaned out a good set of tabs. 😀  That’s my gift to myself over the break hehe.  I am now back at home and gloriously stuffing my face at every meal.  Here’s to being done with 1.5 years of med school!

Happy holidays! 🙂

November 21, 2012

More interesting reads!

My blog notes that this has been sitting here as a draft since 6/6/12.  That is pathetic.  My extreme apologies for things in life have been hectic.  As I have much more I need to post, I won’t be able to do these justice, but I’ll at least try to summarize briefly before each one.

1. This article in the New York Times, while not necessarily novel in content, was a poignant piece on how we are so “connected” with each other through technology, that perhaps we have lost the ability to truly communicate and be with each other when we’re actually with each other.  I would encourage everyone to read this and think about how you live your daily lives, and whether maybe it would be a good thing to disconnect with the world in your phone, iPad, or computer, and just exist in the here and now with those around you.  Here is The Flight from Conversation.

2. Gardening has long been a favored pastime of many, but did you know it is actually good for your health (both psychologically and physiologically)?  Apparently one of the bacteria commonly found in soil has been shown to help boost serotonin (a natural “mood-booster” in the brain) in mice!

3.  This one is for all the pre-med’s out there – things are changing in the world of doctors.  No longer are the brusque surgeons the mold – instead, the AAMC and medical schools are starting to look for people who are more understanding of others.  As the MCAT has been revamped with two extra sections (and I have heard removal of organic chemistry, although that may just be hearsay) , this will likely affect the classes pre-meds are expected to take in the future, and potentially change the patient-doctor interaction drastically in the future.  For more information, visit the AAMC website on the new MCAT (offered in 2015).

4.  Ever wonder what that smell is every time you go to your grandparents’ house?  Here’s an article on the phenomenon of “old person smell.”

5.  Last on this post is this crazy story of probably the youngest doctor in modern times.

More links to follow shortly (hopefully!)

June 4, 2012

Food for thought

Throughout my classes in med school, no matter what organ system we are covering, we are always given statistics and risk factors for diseases.  Included in those lists are invariably obesity, diabetes, and smoking.  A few professors even explicitly say that the top two things people could do to present illness and disease is to quit smoking and lose weight.  Given that, do you think it’s ok for doctors to refuse non-emergency treatment for patients who don’t stop smoking or lose weight?  Well, according to this article, 54% of doctors in the UK apparently do.

Personally, I have to say I agree with them.  Maybe it’s my Asian upbringing, which teaches holistic lifestyle practices, but I do believe that a doctor should not be expected to be a miracle worker.  If a patient refuses to cooperate with their own health, a doctor should not be obligated to treat that person when it may do them no/much less benefit, and also uses up resources that someone else might have benefitted a lot more from.

It’s like the issue of compliance – whether patients follow what doctors tell them or not (things like taking medications on time, getting refills on time, coming to scheduled appointments and follow-ups, etc).  Doctors often decide on treatment regimes based not only on the medical condition, but on patient compliance.    Which makes sense.  You don’t want to send someone home with medications if you know they might forget to take it at the right times, for example, especially if it’s critical that they take it to prevent something bad from happening.  Instead, you might want to keep them in the hospital for a few days and have them on an IV drip to ensure the medication will be given at the right times and dosage.

So  why isn’t the same true for patients who don’t agree to take initiative in their own health and well-being?  Of course, it can be argued that people of lower education may not grasp the severity of the situation, which may be true, although it can also be argued that part of a physician’s job is to be an educator in healthcare.

Along those lines, perhaps part of what doctors need to learn is how to communicate effectively and connect with patients so that they will listen to their medical advice.  This article gave a few good tips on how to get people to listen to you better, which I thought could be useful both in and out of the clinic.

I guess that’s enough rambling for now.  Thoughts?

April 8, 2012

Happy Easter! More interesting reads

Happy Easter everyone!

To celebrate, here are more interesting articles that have been sitting in my browser tabs for ages:

1. The 8-hour Sleep Myth

Ah sleep.  We all need more of it.  This article however, has an interesting take on exactly how we should get our daily dose of sleep, arguing that we were meant to actually have 2 sleep periods rather than a single one through the entire night.  Not sure how convinced I am about the article, but it is interesting to think about, especially in light of the new Hunger Games series, which brings the question of survival to the forefront.  (I still wish that people who talk about how novel an idea the Hunger Games are knew about Battle Royale, the Japanese movie that had a very similar premise, but came out almost a decade earlier, in 2001.  I have yet to see it, but hope to soon.  And I think even before that movie, it was a short story.  Anyways, moving on).

2. Speaking of sleeping and beds, women (who like having intercourse without procreative consequences) around the world, rejoice!  Male Birth Control

So, I don’t know how true this is, but apparently, a form of male birth control has been found through clinical trials in India that is “100% effective,” and reversible!  Don’t believe me?  Read the article for yourself.  Basically in requires injection of the vas deferens (the tube the sperm go down to come out of) with a polymer gel that breaks apart sperm, and if you want to reverse it, you just inject something else (I guess to break down the gel), and you can make babies again in 2-3 months.  Supposedly these trials have been going on for 25 years, and it has been shown to be safe.  I do wonder whether there’s any data on the children that are born after the reversing of the gel… It’s certainly an intriguing concept though.

On another note, I wonder if people would get up in arms about this from an ethical/religious standpoint.  Because unlike female contraception, which can be seen as abortion (such as the morning after pill) if one believes life begins at conception, male contraception would prevent the conception in the first place.  However, it could perhaps be argued that this would destroy potential life, which is what procreation was meant for in the first place.  Or maybe people won’t care at all.  We shall see I guess.

3. Clothing and perception: the White Coat

And now, for a psych experiment!  It seems that when people (undergraduates in this case) are given a white coat to wear, it will help them have heightened awareness and attention… but only if they are told it is a doctor’s coat, as vs. a painter’s coat (even though it is the same coat).

I do agree with the ending paragraph though.  I think that the effect does wear off over time, although some remnant is still there, especially for symbolic clothing – like a military/police uniform… and I guess the white coat, too (but it depends on the situation).  White coats in labs no longer mean much to an actual scientist, because in most labs, (sadly for safety officers and possibly the scientists’ own personal health), people don’t actually wear the coats most of the time.  But for the medical doctor, it may mean more, because you wear it right before seeing patients.  At least for us, at my school, the only time we are required to wear our white coats is if we’re going to see patients, so for us med students, I guess it’s symbolic.  But even I, as a first year, am starting to treat it as just another (somewhat bothersome) article of clothing I need to put on. So maybe the social phenomena in this study is something that happens only for people who perceive the symbolism of something that is not of their own profession/religion/culture/etc.

Random thought(s):  I wonder why the URL link says r=2 on it, even though the article is one page long.  Wonder what r=1 is?  *checks*  Oh… same article. lawls.  I also enjoyed the correction at the end because I actually was wondering at the ambiguity of the sentence talking about the hot drinks, thinking it didn’t really make sense for people to rate people with hot drinks in their hands as personally warmer, but it would make sense perhaps for people who held hot drinks to think others were personally warmer.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a dork.

4.  And now, fatty/fried food lovers rejoice!

For a study in Spain now shows that fried foods do not in fact increase your risk for heart disease and  death!  Of course, this is a GREAT example of why you should never read articles at face value and should instead always read them in context, because, as you can even see in the limitations and conclusions of the study, “Our results are directly applicable only to Mediterranean countries with frying methods similar to those in Spain. Firstly, oil (mainly olive and sunflower) rather than solid fat is used for frying in Spain…Secondly, consumption of fried foods in Spain is not a proxy for fast food intake. Fast foods are generally prepared by deep frying with oils used several times, and are consumed mostly away from home…Moreover, we can assume that oil is not reused many times for foods consumed at home; however, the cardiovascular effects of food fried with overly reused oils merit further research,” amongst other things.

And on a more somber note: Doctors Cheated on Exams

This one is an interesting read that I’ve had as a tab since almost the beginning of the school year since I never got around to reading it (until now).  It talks about cheating in the Board certification exam for radiology – basically how for years, radiology residents would memorize certain questions on the exam, and get together with other radiology residents to compile a list (called the “recall”) and send it to the next year’s residents.  That of course, is blatantly cheating – in med school, we all have to sign an Honor Code before each test stating we will not cheat or engage in that kind of behavior… in fact, one student got kicked out this year for violating the Honor Code.  And yet, this is happening all the way at the residents’ level?  Quite surreal.

Of course, you have to wonder a bit at the guy (Webb) who complained about this practice to superiors and started this big investigation because he was trying to take the high moral road… but 1. he failed the first round (would he have brought it up if he had done well/passed?) and 2. his unprofessionalism, which resulted in his firing – “He was reprimanded last year for making “sexual comments” to another doctor and for “other conduct unbecoming an officer.” That led to his firing from the radiology program.”  That doesn’t seem to moral to me.

My personal thoughts are to wonder whether there are any test prep materials like Princeton Review or Kaplan for these kinds of tests like there are for so many other things (SAT’s to GRE’s to MCAT’s, to USMLE Step 1 test books).  If not, though I don’t condone the practice of copying the test questions and answer choices directly, I can see why the recalls could be helpful as a resource in terms of practicing test-style questions and seeing what areas one needs to study more (just like any other test prep book).  However, if there ARE test prep materials, then I wonder why residents don’t use those instead.

It is interesting to note that this issue only seems to pertain to the radiology specialty in partiular. “Dr. Kevin Weiss, president and CEO of the American Board of Medical Specialties, said he had not heard about anything similar to the radiology testing issue in other medical specialties. The ABMS is the umbrella group for 24 boards and 152 specialties and sub-specialties.”

And with that, I now conclude the second round of interesting medical reads on zee internetz.

Happy Easter everyone! 🙂

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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