Research

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Well, it turns out there aren’t really gators in Gatorade.  The drink was named as such because a University of Florida coach – team name Gators – worked with a researcher to find a way to replenish fluids in his heat exhausted, wilting athletes.  And Gatorade was born. Read more on What’s In Gatorade? Gators?…

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It is very hard for straightforward and presumably honest medical researchers to give us much of anything objective about something that has been labeled “alternative medicine”.  Maybe there should only be two kinds of medicine.  Good and not good; helpful and not helpful. I was minding my own business – well, as much as ever — when I found an article about chelation as a preventative for heart disease.  It basically says that chelation seems to “work”.  But it also seems that some people are ashamed to find this out and don’t want too many people to take advantage of this as a treatment option.  This makes about as much sense as most of what I have read recently about medical research, but I do have one way to put it in context. I have spoken at some alternative medicine meetings where I have proselytized about the effectiveness of high dose vitamins — chelated, to pass the blood-brain barrier.  I have been told that I would be skewered by colleagues.  Colleagues never seem to have much worried about what I have to say.  As a matter of fact, the world seems to have a pretty bad track record as far as listening to what I say. Read more on Chelation As Preventive Therapy for Heart Disease…

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Topic:  Research Fraud

For someone who has been a part of many clinical trials, I will be the first to admit that I have very little training in research design or statistics.  Oh, the hours I’ve spent surreptitiously curled up on the sofa of a doctors’ lounge or my own apartment, thinking that somebody paid somebody a lot of money to write “science” so I could figure out how and why I would know things.  It pretty much worked. There were a few mentions of statistics at my delightfully thorough prep school, but there was not so much as a word at medical school.  The research types were always hanging around medical school settings — their brains rented and services bought by the medical side of things — as they did not make much money.  We did receive some wonderful instruction from clinicians as to how to evaluate research literature and decide how to apply it to our practices.

I have a vivid memory of an endearing shy and spindly instructor during a course required for incipient biologists at Boston University.  He had Jewish afro hair, coke bottle bottom glasses, and a more than passing resemblance to a young Woody Allen.  Oh, how he despaired that we were mostly going to be money-chain doctors as opposed to truth-chasing scientists. I remember that once, and only once, did he reach fiery intensity in that class. “Nothing will be published unless the probability that it actually shows what it is supposed to show is greater than 19 out of 20, that means p>.05.  But nobody wants to admit what that really means.” Oh, how silent we were, on the edge of our chairs. Read more on Research Fraud Isn’t Reported To The Public…

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In the National World War II museum, it is easy and even triumphant and pride-generating to look back and see some of the scientific advances made during World War II.  There’s no doubt that science is advancing.  But I wonder if our ethics can keep pace.

I am fairly proud of Teflon.  And synthetic cortisone is widely used and may have saved plenty of lives. It’s a steroid that knocks down the action of the immune system.  When a medical substance becomes cheaper and easier to use and known to the public, then it runs a real danger of getting overused.  Most concern about overuse is focused on illegal steroids taken by athletes.  Nevertheless, everything that can be helpful and fast may make things worse. One example would be the over-prescribing of steroids to kids with allergies.

Penicillin had been invented before WWII, but its use did not become widespread until WWII.  Of course, it took people awhile to find out about the ability of bacteria to develop resistances to antibiotics.  This has led to newer and stronger antibiotics, which would not be the worst thing in the world. Unfortunately, the excessive use of antibiotics has led to untreatable infections, such as methicilline-resistant strep and an untreatable strain of tuberculosis. Read more on Science and War (and Ethics)…

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I think we’d all agree that kids have tough choices to make at every turn, and this includes what they eat and drink.  A thick, sloppy sandwich served with fries and a sugary soda, or a salad of mixed greens and vegetables from every color of the rainbow with a side of vinaigrette.  Yeah, I get it.

But c’mon, does anyone really think that creating junk food laws for kids is going to help? Read more on Making Criminals of Overweight Children…

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Maybe the folks who continue to argue against stem cell research are just afraid their own stem cells could beat them at a game of checkers.

Listen, I want to live forever.  Not like in the song “Fame,” but like in the way that most of us would do anything to live.  Or like the guy who had to leave the country to get life-saving treatment for cancer of the trachea.  Now he is alive when everyone thought he wouldn’t be. It’s a treatment he couldn’t get in the States.  In the States, stem cell benefits are masked by misinformation and fear.

Okay, so I had a metabolic disease that threw me into a coma and nearly killed me a few times.  But here I am to talk about it.  I think about it every blessed day and I find myself grateful to this universal intelligence.  Yes, I am a theist. But I still live in a personal world where I would do anything to live. Read more on Stem Cell Benefits Masked By Fear and Misinformation…

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It’s always convenient to have somebody else to blame, but I’m afraid that doctors are mostly to blame on this one.   They call them hospital acquired infections” and they are killing patients who should otherwise be just fine.

Like this writer’s father, who walked into a ritzy New York academic hospital with what used to be called “walking pneumonia.”  He went on to die of – you guessed it – a “hospital acquired infection.”

Walking pneumonia is basically an infection of the lungs that may cause a cough — or even a painful cough — and makes it hard to breathe. Typically, it does not hurt the patient’s general well being enough to make her or him an invalid, a hospital inpatient, or certainly not an intensive care inpatient. This guy’s dad should have easily made it home. Read more on Medical Science Develops Harmful Products…

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I was a 2nd year resident in neurological surgery when there was news that a single neuron could link with a single computer wire and messages could travel from the one to the other. Nobody in my doctors’ lounge seemed to care.

Brain In A JarI remember seeking out a psychologist who had a fairly high tech research background, to see if he was anywhere nearly as excited as I was. To say “no” is a gross understatement.

He told me about an idea which long before that had been both funded and forgotten.  The idea had been one of a prosthetic frontal lobe.  Frontal lobe of the brain, among other things, tells people what is “appropriate” socially. The one example I will never forget is the physician who (inappropriately) peed in his pants on rounds, and ended up having a frontal lobe tumor. So the idea was that somebody who had a hunk of frontal lobe excised to get rid of the tumor, or presumably some other kind of illness, could have a teency-tiny computer to hold in their hand that would do some frontal lobe kinds of things that they no longer could.

The attempt to develop this happened on the east coast, presumably sometime after Noah’s flood, and the funding dried up just like that great flood did.

Of course, another possibility is that men do not much care where and when they pee.  I doubt this, since I had a patient in Oklahoma who had purchased a fair amount of real estate in his life and thought it necessary and appropriate to “mark” it in the same way a dog marks his territory.  Yes, it involved peeing in public, but the fellow had no known frontal lobe pathology at the time.

Ah, those Oklahoma men. Read more on Maybe Those People Who Annoy Can Get A Prosthetic Brain…

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Why can’t science be fun?

I mean, sure – I’d love to see cancer cures, and schizophrenia cures and even more on the promising telomeric theory of living forever.  But sometimes, we learn a lot of things that seem – if not useless, then inconsequential –and they prove invaluable later on in ways we can never predict.

Would you like to know in advance if a pop song is going to be a big hit?  I’m sure some people would.  Believe it or not, that has been the topic of recent research. Okay, so it is a small study.  Who would fund further research on this one? There is a certain part of the tender adolescent brain (remember, our brains don’t get completely myelinated until age 28.  That means we do not have all the fatty-insulation around the nerves to conduct impulses) that reacts in a very interesting way to music. Based mostly on animal studies, the ventral striatum seems to be associated with emotions that generate behavior.  This differentiates it from the dorsal striatum, which has mostly sensorimotor control.   Makes sense.  Although they are similar, these two different types of behavior are slightly different.  Sometimes we decide what we want to do by what we feel physically.  If it is too cold, we go for a jacket.  The sensory input probably goes through at least a couple of brain centers, like thermoregulation. Read more on Using Science To Predict Pop Music Hits…

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This is the quotation that was next to my picture, smiling and cuddling an electron microscope, in my high school yearbook: “Seek truth and do not part with it…” Yeah, I can’t be the first person who had that idea in mind at least a little bit when considering a research career.  

There is a truth about the universe that is being revealed slowly.  It takes us a while to get things right.  I remember telling some people who thought religion and science were at odds with each other that perhaps whatever deity you believe in will only reveal what people will understand. 

If an apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head was God’s way of revealing the laws of gravity to him, it was probably because the work of Galileo had already paved the way for this knowledge to be revealed.  For the TRUTH to be revealed.  Yet Newton was not ready for genetic recombination. Now, most scientists I know would accept that as universal truth.   But, as Jack Nicholson said to Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men,” — ” You can’t handle the truth…” (from the script by Aaron Sorkin). Read more on There Is Science and Then There is Military Science…

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