Inside the insectary - "These gene drives, they're able to copy themselves. So instead of half of the offspring inheriting the gene drive, almost all of them do. So what happens is that it spreads and it spreads and it spreads. And this is the fantastic thing. Because it allows that gene to be selfish in a population. And in a very short amount of time you can actually transform an entire wild population into a modified population. It's powerful." (previously: 1,2,3)
Maia Szalavitz [mefi's own maias] talks about her new book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction on Fresh Air with Terry Gross (transcript) - "We have this idea that if we are just cruel enough and mean enough and tough enough to people with addiction, that they will suddenly wake up and stop, and that is not the case."
Jamie Love has spent years battling global drug companies, unshakable in his belief that even the world’s poorest people should have access to life-saving medicines. Is it time that our own government listened to him? [slguardian]
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
New Ebola vaccine shows 100% success rate in clinical trial. Today the World Health Organization has announced that the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine had a 100% success rate in preventing onset of the disease if administered within 10 days of exposure (n=4,000). In response to the current outbreak in West Africa that has afflicted over 27,000 and killed over 11,000, this collaborative effort led by the WHO pushed the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months. Official paper from The Lancet here (pdf).
The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
Dr. Mark Crislip is a Infectious Disease specialist—an ID doc. He's also the master of a vast* multimedia empire, all parts of which are inflected with his insistence upon scientific evidence and many with a dry, sarcastic sense of humor: the president of the Society for Science-Based Medicine, he also writes articles for the affiliated website Science-Based Medicine; he runs the Quackcast, a podcast that reviews Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicines (SCAMs) from an evidence-based perspective; the Persiflagers Infectious Disease Puscast, which reviews the infectious disease literature; and his blog on Medscape, Rubor, Dolor, Calor, Tumor, is the basis for the third of his podcasts (and my favorite): A Gobbet O' Pus. As Crislip puts it: "A cool ID case, a stupid joke and a factoid you can use. What more do you need?" *For certain quantities of vast. [more inside]
There's been an ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With 122 cases so far, this is the worst outbreak since 2007's 264-case outbreak. The worst outbreak was 2000-2001's 425 cases. What makes this one different is the way it has spread so widely. [more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
In the late 1740s, John Wesley—a British evangelist and the co-founder of Methodism—published Primitive Physick, or, An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases. The tome gave regular people ways to cure themselves, using items they could find in their own homes. - Here are some of his suggested home remedies.
A rare disease is defined as any condition affecting fewer than 200,000 patients in the United States. More than 7,000 such diseases exist, afflicting a total of 25 million to 30 million Americans.. One of them, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), might be approaching a cure. [more inside]
291 diseases and injuries + 67 risk factors + 1,160 non-fatal complications = 650 million estimates of how we age, sicken, and die
As humans live longer, what ails us isn't necessarily what kills us: five data visualizations of how we age, sicken, and die. Causes of death by age, sex, region, and year. Heat map of leading causes and risks by region. Changes in leading causes and risks between 1990 and 2010. Healthy years lost to disability vs. life expectancy in 1990 and 2010. Uncertainties of causes and risks. From the team for the massive Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. [more inside]
Drug-resistant and "extensively" resistant strains make containment and treatment of tuberculosis ever more difficult. Fortunately, researchers based in Switzerland have (re-)discovered a naturally-made antibiotic called pyridomycin, which will kill isoniazid-resistant M. tuberculosis bacteria.
A new malaria vaccine has been shown effective in large-scale field trials. After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges. In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis. [more inside]
The Summer 2011 issue of Stanford Medicine Magazine is about "Surviving Survival": The Woman Who Fell To Earth / Khmer Rouge on Trial / A Kid Again / Her Stroke of Insight / RxErcise [more inside]
The Burns Archive is a collection of over 700,000 historical photographs that document disturbing subject matter: obsolete medical practices and experiments, death, disease, disasters, crime, revolutions, riots and war. Newsweek posted a select gallery this past October, as well as a video interview and walk-through with curator and collector Dr. Stanley B. Burns, a New York opthalmologist. (Via) (Content at links may be disturbing to some.) [more inside]
Epidemiology: Study of a lifetime. "In 1946, scientists started tracking thousands of British children born during one cold March week. On their 65th birthday, the study members find themselves more scientifically valuable than ever before." [more inside]
According to new data released by the CDC yesterday, more Americans are surviving cancer thanks to advances in increased early detection and treatment. CDC analysis shows an unprecedented 20% increase in survival rates between 2001 and 2007, which is nearly a quadruple increase since 1971. [more inside]
Wake Forest University's slogan for their baseball team in 2011 is 'What are you willing to sacrifice to help make this team better?' "Head coach Tom Walter's intent was to have his players thinking about sacrifice bunts, moving runners over, and giving up personal glory to help the Demon Deacons improve as a team. But what Walter chose to sacrifice is greater than simply hanging in on a curve ball and taking one for the team. Walter gave up a kidney." [more inside]
"During World War I, the [US] Army lost 7 million person-days and discharged more than 10,000 men because they were ailing from STDs. Once Penicillin kicked in in the mid-1940s, such infections were treatable. But as a matter of national security, the military started distributing condoms and aggressively marketing prophylactics to the troops in the early 20th century." [more inside]
Are the Rules That Determine Who Can Donate Blood Discriminatory? Canadian AIDS researchers Dr. Mark Wainberg and Dr. Norbert Gilmore say that while the ban on blood donation from men who have sex with other men may have been ethically and scientifically justified in the 1980's, it no longer makes sense. (CMAJ.) Even though the US FDA reaffirmed their long-standing ban in 2007, they plan to revisit the policy in June. [more inside]
The FDA has yet to approve stem cell therapies for general use in medicine, but that hasn’t stopped doctors in Colorado from providing them anyway. [more inside]
Detecting a handful of diseases with comic book ink and a postage stamp (well, not quite, but the technology is related to the ink and it's on a postage stamp sized piece of paper). What's best is that the result is a simple visual that can be sent to doctors far away for recognition.
What if we could rid the world of AIDS? The notion might sound like fantasy: HIV infection has no cure and no vaccine, after all. Yet there is a way to completely wipe it out - at least in theory. What's more, it would take only existing medical technology to do the job.[more inside]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
Superbugs. "The new generation of resistant infections is almost impossible to treat."
Rehabilitating Carson: "Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?" [more inside]
Are you batshitinsane? Viruses and/or bacteria may be the cause.
Retrospectacle on the Plague. Shelley Batts is a neuroscience PhD candidate who writes the great blog Retrospectacle [Prev]. She's recently posted a series on the bubonic plague: It's real and perceived causes (1 2), the bizarre medical garb doctors used, and modern cases of Yersinia pestis* infection in the U.S. and the world.
"Researchers found that failing to publish negative findings inflated the reported effectiveness of all 12 of the antidepressants studied." See also: Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature. [more inside]
Robin Prosser was a former concert pianist and systems analyst who suffered from an autoimmune disease similar to lupus for over 20 years. The disease left her in constant pain and made her allergic to most pharmaceutical painkillers. Only medical marijuana brought her relief, but last spring the DEA seized her medicine. Unable to cope with the chronic pain any longer, she committed suicide on October 18th. [Via Andrew Sullivan.]
Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, pediatrician Eugeniusz Łazowski and his friend Stanisław Matulewicz fabricated a fake typhus epidemic to save Polish Jews from the Nazis. Knowing that typhus-infected Jews would be summarily executed, non-Jews were injected with the harmless Proteus OX19, which would generate false positives for typhus. [more inside]
Drugs Banned, Many of World’s Poor Suffer in Pain "Millions of people die in pain because they cannot get morphine, which is legal for medical use in most nations." [Via TalkLeft.]
Diseases of the Skin by Gary M. White & Neil H. Cox. All you ever wanted to know about how bad your skin could be - full of images. Possibly NSFW, as some groin photos are included.
Living with half a brain - hemispherectomy, probably the most radical procedure in neurosurgery
Glaucoma [w/Flash audio. NB: mouse-over bottom-left for Elvis. Obviously]
Physicians and scientists around the world even go as far as to state that smoking leads to premature death. Don’t we all know someone who smokes constantly, even heavily, yet is still living — or has lived — to the mature age of eighty, ninety, and older? Furthermore, the MDs and PhDs state that smoking causes cancer and emphysema. If this diagnosis were definitive, wouldn’t these afflictions affect all smokers equally, rather than the small percentage that it actually does affect?
The Access to Essential Medicines Campaign is an initiative by Medecins Sans Frontieres that seeks to "lower the prices of existing medicines in developing countries, to bring abandoned drugs back into production, to stimulate research and development for neglected diseases that primarily affect the poor, and to overcome other barriers to access." HIV is one target disease. The Campaign's press releases, press clips and reports on HIV give a good picture of recent developments. In light of this evidence, does anyone care to step up and defend "big pharma" and the governments of the wealthy North? Have we/they "done enough"? What would "doing enough" look like, given the scope of the crisis?
For years, it's been observed that some people infected with HIV never develop full-blown AIDS. Now American and Chinese scientists think they know why. But remember kids, barebacking is still dangerous, and a cocktail is not a cure. Maybe this research will change all that.