Watch for more on this to come…

My husband shared this TEDMed talk with me tonight, and I wanted to share it with you, along with Dr. Attia’s blog. It takes courage for doctors to deviate from traditional wisdom or the accepted dogma and consider new approaches to existing problems. However, I’ve found that, in my own personal experience, the evidence he seems to be describing is accurate: I’ve found that eating more whole grains and fewer refined carbohydrates is far better for me and my diet than any low-fat approach ever attempted (low-fat seems to always actually result in higher cholesterol for me, meaning that my body compensates for the lower dietary intake by raising the production, indicating an internal imbalance that diet alone can’t correct).

I’ll be following Dr. Attia, and I hope to have more information for you in the months and years to come.

A new approach to drug development…

The NIH recently announced a pilot program to help speed up drug development. Most drug development focuses on finding new molecules or compounds to treat existing disorders. The new program is looking for researchers to find uses for existing compounds, hopefully reducing both the cost and time involved in developing new drugs.

Using Viruses to Fight Bacteria?

In Tbilisi, Georgia (the country, not the state), Dr. Revaz Adamia is trying something different in the war against bacteria: instead of using antimicrobial drugs, he’s treating infections with a special class of viruses instead.

Why use viruses? The class in use, bacteriophages, target only bacteria, not the human infected. As a result, the virus infects and kills the infection that was making the patient sick. When the bacterial infection is gone, the virus, now without a host, dies off.

This solution is an alternative to the increasing problem of antimicrobial resistance. Many bacteria are increasingly resistant to the drugs used to treat patients infected with them. The most well-known case of resistance is MRSA, or Methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that frequently causes skin and respiratory infections or food poisoning. Resistant bacteria no longer respond to the drugs once used to treat infections, making treatment of patients increasingly difficult.

Scots Scientists To Trial Synthetic Human Blood

Yesterday, I drove to my local donor center, went through the short screening that determines if I’m healthy enough to donate, and then gave blood. My blood type, O-, is known as the “universal donor”, meaning it can be safely donated to anyone in an emergency, without having to check the recipient’s blood type first. (I, on the other hand, can only safely receive O- blood, so while my blood can be safely donated to everyone, my body is very picky about what it will accept.)

Because I’m a universal donor, when the waiting period between donations is up (it takes 56 days for red blood cells to replenish themselves), I often get a phone call or email encouraging me to come in. I rarely need it – I make sure, when I leave, that I note when I’ll be eligible again, set a reminder in my calendar, and then work it into my schedule. But I still get the reminders – less than half of the population can safely donate, and not enough of us do.

That lack of volunteer donors creates a problem: the demand for blood often exceeds the supply. Science has been seeking an answer to this problem for decades, including producing synthetic blood products. However, nothing has replaced human blood… until now.

Actually, that’s not even really fair to say. Scientists in Scotland have gotten permission to pursue human trials of a synthetic blood product, but this product still has a human source. Grown from human stem cells, it takes a source of immature, not-yet-differentiated blood cells, clones them, and then mass produces blood from this stem cell line. Nor are these the controversial embryonic stem cells – these come from adult donors.

So this synthetic blood has an entirely human source, but is then mass produced outside of a human body. Before it can be widely accepted in hospitals around the world, it must go through rigorous testing, and this is the step being carried out now in Scotland. The first human trials have been approved. This means that healthy men and women will be given the new blood product and monitored. As long as there are no adverse reactions, testing will continue.

I’m certain there will always be a need for donors like me. But the fact that we may have a viable alternative means that maybe, someday, people need never die from a lack of safe blood again.

So what’s a doi?

Straight from the wiki:

digital object identifier (DOI) is a character string (a “digital identifier”) used to uniquely identify an object such as an electronic document.

It is similar to an ISBN, which serves to uniquely identify books, but uniquely identifies electronic documents. It must be purchased, registered, and maintained. Thus, any document with a DOI is more likely to come from a reputable source.

New Human Body Part

Science is forever growing as we continue to search and explore. In an article published in Ophthamology, a new body part was described that will require textbooks to be re-written and that is already changing the understanding of certain disorders.

Thanks to electron microscopy and donated corneas, a new layer in the human cornea, part of the eye, was discovered. Named for it’s discoverer, Dua’s layer is the final layer of the cornea and was found after each layer of cells in the cornea were separated by puffs of air and scanned individually.

Electron microscopy fires electrons over the surface of or through a sample, able to discern images as small as 50 pm. Most light microscopes, by contrast, are limited to images no smaller than 200 nm, or 200,000 pm.

Another article on today’s Supreme Court ruling…

This time from The Scientist. Seriously, this is only good news. Thanks to Paula A. for the link to this article! (I may interview her for a future article – she is part of my inspiration to become an immunologist, because she’s the first one I’ve ever known!).