Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category:
Stem cell research has always been a controversial subject, especially in the US. One of the big reasons is the use of aborted fetuses for these purposes. And abortion is a touchy issue. Obesity is also a touchy issue, but in a different way. Whereas, there are personal, religious, emotive forces behind the pros and cons of abortion, no one would ever argue that obesity is a good thing. However, those who are obese may feel some powerful negative connotations that are degrading.
Given that, it might be good news to these people that scientists have found that they can create stem cell lines more efficiently with adipose tissues. Since one-third of Americans are classified as overweight or obese, scientists will have more than adequate resources from which to make stem cells. Should further research reveal that these adipose tissues can be harvested from people and be used towards research and development of cures for numerous medical diseases, then the negative connotations may be turned into something more positive.
Obese people who donate their fat cells may be hailed as heroes to those suffering from chronic medical problems who are awaiting cures. Furthermore, the donation of those cells may help them lose some of their weight, thereby reducing their health risks. It seems to be a win-win situation for all if it develops that future stem cell research will be focused on using adipose tissue.
In other news, scientists are looking at using women’s own fat tissue from various body parts to be used in breast augmentation. Sounds like it would be a lot safer than saline/silicone alternatives. Not only that, it can help reshape a woman’s figure. Though I am no advocate for breast augmentation, I think the idea is a good one. I’d prefer it if my body could redistribute the fat that way naturally.
It is very frustrating for the average public to make any sense of health reporting these days. It is no wonder that people no longer listen. It can become irresponsible reporting as well.
Just a few days ago, there was a report that marijuana may help stop osteoporosis. The work was done in mice, of course. But they stated that cannabis is harmful to young bones, but protective in older bones. What’s interesting, and confusing, is that the cannabis’ interaction with the cannabis receptor activates the receptor to cause destruction, yet it prevents bone loss in older mice. It did not reveal how it did this, but the study showed that there was less fat in bones, which is a marker of healthier bones in humans. First of all, we cannot always equate mice and human models. Secondly, were there confounding factors that could explain the decrease in fat in bones? Is it safe to say that less fat in older mice bones meant protection?
Now, another report states that a study in Spain shows moderate drinking can boost bones. The study defined moderate drinking as being up to 5 units a day; yet, experts warn that more than two drinks will harm bones. Since we also know that each person’s ability to tolerate drinking is variable, how can we really estimate moderate drinking? By tolerance, I do not refer to sobriety, but to liver damage. Furthermore, it is not the alcohol, but the natural products that go into the drinks that confer the benefit. So, shouldn’t they concentrate on studying the “phytoestrogens” rather than stating the benefits of drinking?
It is hard to say whether it’s the media or the scientists who are doing the research who are doing a disservice to the general public by reporting on such contradictory findings. And, especially when the research involves such controversial issues. Will they next be calling for leniency on the use of alcohol and marijuana? Of course, those who support such “mildly illegal” drugs will hail these scientific reports as more evidence of their utility.
It will be dangerous to advocate the use of alchol and marijuana to treat osteoporosis, especially as they will increase the likelihood of falls, which is one of the biggest risks for fractures, regardless of how strong the bone is.
It’s interesting that a recent study regarding macular degeneration, which recommended eating oily fish to prevent progression of the disease, mentioned omega-3 but not lutein.
For the past few years, the antioxidant lutein was believed to be so beneficial that ophthalmologists recommended it to their patients. But, this new study shows mixed results. Of course, the focus was on omega-3, which showed to be protective for eye health against age-related macular degeneration. The use of additional antioxidant vitamins, unfortunately, seemed to negate the positive benefits in early macular degeneration. However, it did show benefit in advanced stages.
The recommendation on oily fish limits it to twice a week. Experts warn that too much oily fish would lead to accumulation of low levels of pollutants. So, every advice has a silver lining.
I eat quite a lot of fish and I wear glasses. I don’t have macular degeneration, but I suppose I should avoid taking vitamins in case I should develop macular degeneration and push it to an advanced state. Eat fish – don’t take vitamins. Take vitamins – don’t eat fish? The article did not address whether omega-3 or lutein had more benefit.
Unbelievable. Incredible. There are not enough exclamations to describe the kind of reaction an ordinary person would have to the story of a paramedic who put his own needs before that of a critically ill person.
Of course, the decision might not have been his, thus an investigation is pending. But, regardless of the authority who demanded that the paramedic end his shift, his first moral priority should have been for the welfare of the patient he was carrying. Though paramedics may not be bound by the Hippocratic oath, they essentially agree to similar codes of ethical conduct.
Imagine a doctor, in the middle of a life-saving code, deciding to go off shift. That just wouldn’t happen, not unless some extraordinary circumstances where another doctor is available and can take over immediately. In this case, a paramedic is called to transport a stroke patient to the hospital. He takes a detour to the ambulance station so that he can go off shift and another driver takes the patient to the hospital, where he ends up dying because he did not receive treatment immediately.
Now, you might argue that the patient would have died anyway. But, is that the way we should trivialise someone’s life. There was a possibility that he could have been saved had intervention taken place in the recommended time frame. As such, the patient arrived at the hospital outside of the time frame. (Remember the Natasha Richardson case.) The driver could have been excused for going off-shift had a driver been available along the way to the hospital, rather than off the route.
So, what was the motive for choosing to go off-shift rather than completing his route then returning to the ambulance station? Was there a demand for him to turn in? Or, did he just feel that his duty ended at such and such a time? Should you be in the emergency health field if you only want to work your shift and forget about it? What happened to overtime in cases of emergency? Surely, exceptions to limiting pay exists in such cases. It costs more in the long-run when you become too tight-fisted to allow for flexibility in shift work hours.
It sounds like something straight out of a horror story. In fact, I cannot recall the name of the book, but the plot still haunts me. The story involved a father, his triplet sons, and the fiancee of one of them. The eldest is a successful surgeon, following in his father’s footsteps. The middle son is fairly responsible and has a beautiful fiancee. The youngest is a scoundrel, who is jealous of his middle brother. The eldest, trying to save a young boy, loses his hand in a sawing machine. The father is extremely angry, as this affects the son’s ability to continue working. On the other hand, the black sheep is wasting his life. So, what does he do? He forces the youngest son to give up his hand to his brother. The son, of course, does not like it, but the father manages to amputate him and transplants the hand to the other son. You can guess what happens next. The evil hand takes over the new owner, causing him to do unspeakable acts that he would never have done. In the end, the father realises this and chops off the hand. (Sorry if I gave it away, but I can’t even remember the title of the book.)
This story came to mind when I read an article on the BBC about how some people would refuse a donor organ from a “bad” person. In fact, a scientist stated that some organ transplant recipients felt that they had taken on some of the donor’s characteristics. Though transference of personalities through organs cannot really be studied, and therefore, has been dismissed as a possibility, can we really be sure? How can we explain these recipients’ feelings? Is it the immunosuppressants making them feel different? I have heard of family members saying that the recipients acted differently from before.
Of course, organ donation is done under completely anonymous conditions, so that the recipient cannot pick and choose who their donors are, much less, know their personalities. But, I wonder, has anyone ever gone back to find out something about their donors, especially, if they ever experienced a change in personality? That would be a very interesting research topic. It may sound frivolous, but if there is any truth in it, would it change the transplant programme in any way?
Is it right for parents to withhold treatment for their children? There is still lingering debate about this. It is even more complicated when the child is a young teen, who may be mature enough to make his/her own decisions.
Not to long ago, there was the case of the 13-year old British girl who chose not to undergo heart surgery. She had battled cancer since childhood and the treatments resulted in heart damage. If she did not undergo a heart transplant, it was likely that she would die. But after many years of suffering and realising that the transplant meant a lifetime of immunosuppressive therapy, which has a lot of complications, she chose not to proceed. Her parents backed her on this. But the government agencies were not convinced, and for a while, there was a brouhaha over the issue. Finally, the courts were convinced that the girl was mature enough to make up her own mind. Needless to say, she also made a reasonable decision. She could have gone either way and no one would have faulted her. But the fact that she could give good reasons for her decision showed her maturity. It was nevertheless a very difficult decision, and I cannot even contemplate being her parent at that crucial time.
More recently, we hear the story of a 13-year old boy in America who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a very curable type of cancer. After one treatment, he and his family decided they wanted to go the alternative route. Though his father agreed with this, he was not aware of his wife’s intentions when she and her son failed to show up for a court hearing, and instead, chose to flee.
Granted, we were not given full details of the case, but one does wonder how much the child and his parents understood the situation. We do not know if the child suffered such adverse reactions that he did not wish to continue medical treatment. We do understand that the mother was a believer in “traditional” or alternative healing practices. But even the alternative practitioner was surprised at her flight. The fact that she panicked and fled makes me wonder if she had the maturity to make a reasonable decision.
My own prejudices against alternative therapies aside, I cannot understand why someone would turn down treatment that has been shown to be effective and life-saving, to try something unproven. I have known people to use alternative therapies to “complement” medical therapy, which in my mind, is perfectly acceptable. But to reject legitimate treatment for a lot of hocus-pocus is irrational, illogical, incomprehensible, and completely dangerous. In such cases, if you separate the parent and child, you will probably find that the child cannot give adequate reasons for his decision and that he can only mimic his parent’s reasons. In some cases, you might discover that with careful logical reasoning, he may even change his mind. But then, can we suppose that the child reached his decision of his own accord? It becomes a serious ethical question that the courts will have to answer.
I’m glad to hear the mother returned with her son. But what will the decision be regarding his treatments?
Now that they’ve come up with a male contraceptive jab, they are looking for volunteers in order to test it.
The hormonal injection is given every 8 weeks and causes sperm production to decrease. Previous research has shown that the injections are safe and that sperm count does return to normal months after discontinuing the injections.
The research is being conducted at the University of Manchester in England, but other international sites are also involved. They are asking for men in stable relationships to come forward. The trial will last for 6 months, and they require that the couple use no other methods of contraception. This means that volunteers will need to be prepared for whatever consequences may result from potential failures.
I cannot believe these experts (Professor Malcolm Law, Richard McManus, Jonathan Mant) are calling for everyone above the age of 55 to start taking blood pressure pills. One of them is a pioneer of the so-called “polypill”. Is he advocating the use of blood pressure pills because he has a financial stake in this? Isn’t there a conflict of interest?
Though others support him, there are some who reasonably point out that regardless of the safety profile of many blood pressure medicines, there are always potential side effects. If it didn’t have side effects, it would be the perfect pill, and no such medicine has yet been produced. Furthermore, most doctors I know would recommend dietary changes and exercise as the first steps to reduce blood pressure.
These so-called experts claim that beyond a certain age (what age?) we all have high blood pressure and would benefit from medicine to reduce strokes. How stupid is that? Not all have high blood pressure. In fact, many have very low blood pressures. These people need to start thinking about individuals rather than their pocket books.
The causes for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia are varied. Alzheimer’s is associated with development of tangles in the brain, causing disruption in communication between cells. It is also associated with atrophy, or deterioration of the brain. Dementia has many causes and Alzheimer’s is only one of them. But what makes a person prone to dementia? The answer is unknown, but genetics is clearly one of the reasons. Yet, as with any other genetic disease, experts believe that a healthy lifestyle may avert potential risks. After all, we know that environment can influence how our genes behave.
In the past, experts have recommended healthy eating and exercising as ways to combat or prevent dementia. One of the main causes of dementia is stroke. We know that diet and exercise can help prevent strokes. But exercise is not just physical, it can be mental. Experts believe that exercising your brain can prevent or delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. A recent study in the UK pointed out that people who retired from work at a later age, thereby exercising their minds and bodies more, were less likely to suffer from dementia early.
I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say baloney to all this research on Alzheimer’s and dementia. Certainly, I believe that keeping the mind active helps to create connections between your brain cells. I like to indulge in mental exercises, as it does keep me alert and focused. However, as with all research, there is always another to dispute it. Similarly, it might not bear out very well in real life. Who’s to say that by working past the age of retirement you are delaying dementia? Isn’t it possible that the people who retired early were the ones who were already suffering from dementia? I have known people to quit working because their performance at work was declining. They were later diagnosed with dementia. Does the research show this? Did they even address this?
Alzheimer’s was once associated with lower socioeconomic class. But that is no longer the case. What’s apparent is that those who are highly intelligent perform better on the simple dementia tests, so they are not diagnosed as early as those who were less educated. They are more likely to deny that something is wrong and may be so stubborn about it that they do not seek medical attention until later. Though it does not hurt to advocate good, healthy eating and exercising your mind and body, I have seen too many seemingly healthy people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to think that it all boils down to that. Conversely, I have seen unhealthy, uneducated people outliving the best of us with much of their original brain intact. So, I am more cynical, or skeptical, about all these “new” research showing diet and exercise helps in dementia.
It’s time they focused more on treatment of this disease, as we can see the trend in life-expectancy is increasing, rather than on meaningless ways to prevent it. The diet and exercise theme has been done to death. If they want to discover other effective means for people to take control of their lives and prevent dementia, by all means, go ahead. But, I have concluded that the answer to the root cause of dementia still eludes us and we need to combat the disease right now. We appear to be closer to finding treatments than the cause. It is possible that we may be able to find ways to prevent the formation of tangles. Now, wouldn’t that be more useful research?
Just to highlight the importance of sex to humans, a Kenyan man is suing a group called the Women’s Development Organisation for urging women to boycott sex. This was to force Kenyan political leaders to work together for common good. Apparently, the ban is not working, and now the “common man” is suffering under the stress and strain of having his conjugal rights denied.
Sex is a basic human/animal need. In humans, we know that it reduces stress. And, of course, in a marriage, it may help reduce strain. The Kenyan man, Mr. James Kimondo, also claims that he has suffered other physical and psychological problems, such as mental anguish, lack of concentration, backache, and sleeplessness.
I think the ban was a good idea. It has been tried before, but it does not seem to be working now. It’s possible that this is due to one political rival’s wife participating in the ban, but the wife of the other is not. It cannot move the leaders if not all their wives are in on it.
But it would be silly if they allow such a case to go to court. Though the group encouraged women to participate, there was no pressure for anyone to do so. This should be a personal issue that Mr. Kimondo and his wife should work out. Or, if Mr. Kimondo has any political clout, he should use it to push his leaders.