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Showing posts with the label Medicine

This 56 year old woman is happy about having a brain stroke [Video]

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Every four minutes a person dies in the United States of a stroke! Much like a heart attack, a stroke can happen at any time and to any body, irrespective of their age, sex or standard of living. Strokes occur when blood supply to the brain is affected. This might be due to a a block in the blood vessel or rupturing of the blood vessel, both of which, deprive the brain cells of essential nutrients and more importantly oxygen, and they die. When brain cells die, they take away with them some unique ability they were conferring before the event of the stroke. So, after a stroke, some people lose their control over some muscles, some may forget names, some lose their identity, while most become partially paralyzed. Any which way, stroke is a debilitating condition and usually worsens the quality of life of the person affected and no one can be happy about it. 
Except, Jill Bolte Taylor! A neuroanatomist by profession, Dr. Taylor was studying the brain at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource …

Transplanting a dead heart is now possible! [Coffee-byte]

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In a ground breaking discovery in organ transplantation, doctors in Australia have been successful in transplanting a heart that had stopped beating for about 20 minutes. Usually, hearts are received from donors who have been declared brain dead but whose hearts are still beating. In this case, the heart had stopped beating but was then revived and then transplanted into a patient suffering from congenital heart failure. This transplantation was conducted at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney with the help of an innovative new device called OCS Heart.
The biggest constraint for heart transplants is that beating hearts can be kept on ice for only up to 4 hours within which they need to be transported and transplanted. This constraint majorly reduces the radius within which a heart can be transplanted to a needy donor. In addition to this, there is also a risk that cold conditions used during transportation may alter the activity of the heart which can be detected only after the heart …

Living with malaria

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Everyone in India, at some point in their lives, may have been infected with malaria. Now this may sound a little out there, but may not be something far away from reality. Just recently, Times of India reported that 67 people died in Tripura of malaria in the last month alone, and 55 among them, were children. The north eastern state of our country is amongst one of the most gravely hit regions when it comes to malarial outbreaks, along with the other red zone regions, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Pondicherry. 
Malaria has been around in India for quite a while now. In fact, the discovery of its vector- the mosquito was done here in India by Sir Ronald Ross who bagged the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery. There are about 250 million people affected every year with the malarial parasite, out of which nearly 2 million succumb to the disease. In India, alone we face a daunting number of around 30,000- 50,000 deaths caused due to malaria each year, most of them …

Alzheimer's disease: The peanut butter test!

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A tablespoon of peanut butter might help determine if you are developing Alzheimer's disease. As bizzare as it might sound, researchers at the University of Florida have been successful in demonstrating that a dollop of peanut butter and a ruler is all you to need to test patients for early signs of Alzheimer's disease. Development of such a simple test will greatly help clinicians diagnose Alzheimer's earlier and give them an opportunity for earlier intervention.

The idea of using peanut butter came to a graduate student, Jennifer Stamps, who while working in the department of neurology at the University of Florida, noticed that patients suspected for Alzheimer's were not being tested for their sense of smell. The idea behind testing patients for their smelling ability came from the fact that the first cranial nerve in the brain has an olfactory function, or in simple terms carries the smell from the nasal cavity to the brain and is one of the first nerves to be affect…

Sildenafil citrate: How Pfizer sold the wrong drug to the right people!

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In 1989, researchers Peter Dunn and Albert Wood, working at the Pfizer’s research facility at Kent, England, were able to synthesize a drug that could be used to treat patients with high blood pressure and chest pain. Called Sildenafil citrate, this drug could inhibit functioning of the enzyme, cGMP-specific phosphodiestrase type 5, simply called PDE-5, making blood vessels more receptive to nitric oxide in the blood, further leading to the relaxation of the arterial wall and regulation of blood pressure. Like every other drug discovery, Sildenafil citrate, too, now had to go through rigorous clinical trials before being able to actually help patients. Phase I clinical trials were conducted at a hospital in Wales which did not progress very well. In addition to the regular side-effects such as headache, impaired vision and indigestion, sildenafil was also found to result in unintended penile erections in male subjects. What was even worse for Pfizer is that the study found that the d…

Leptin can help you lose weight?

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Leptin is a small hormone produced by the adipose tissues (fat cells) in our body and functions as a signal for the amount of fat present in the body. Depending on the 'Leptin' signal received, the brain can instruct our stomach to stop demanding food or our mouth to stop eating, thereby reducing food intake. So, in theory, more the amount of leptin in your body, lesser will you eat and it would be a a breeze to keep your weight in control. Of course, there is a catch.
The effect of Leptin was discovered in 1994 in a study involving voraciously eating obese mice. When these mice were given leptin injections, their craving for food dropped and they returned to normal body weight. So, scientists attempted to cure obesity in humans with the help of leptin injections. But, during trials, large amounts and frequent doses of leptin had to be injected to gain significant weight loss in highly obese patients. Also, large doses resulted in redness of skin at the site of injection for c…

7 facts about Polyomaviruses

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Over the last few decades, cancer has become a commonly known disorder. Advances in modern medicine have brought in newer methods of cancer detection and treatment thereby improving the quality of life. But two facets  of cancer still remain elusive to us, a permanent cure as well as a well defined cause.
Different theories have been hypothesized to explain the emergence of cancer in first place. Various studies have been conducted around these theories and we have managed to come up factors such drinking, smoking, gene mutations etc. that might increase one's susceptibility to cancer but no defined cause. One of the tangible cause we have so far are viruses.
Known to us since 1950s, Polyomaviruses are viruses that possess the ability to cause multiple (poly) tumors (-oma). These are close relatives of the Papillomaviruses that are known to cause warts or non cancerous tumours in humans. For quite some time, we knew of only two Polyomaviruses that could infect humans. But studies…

Cell: “I’m not ruled by my genes”

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One often comes across the phrase “It’s in my genes” in our day-to-day life. Less than a century after their discovery, the words 'DNA' and 'genes' are commonly used by all and are also a common topic of speculation in the academic as well as the non-academic world. Some scientists believe that "the living body/cell is just a mere vehicle produced and used by the genome to carry on information ahead in time generation after generation”.
Readers with a biology background are aware of the “Central Dogma of Molecular Biology”; for others let me just brief it. It proposes that DNA in genes produces RNA which in turn produces proteins that give a phenotype to  an individual. It also states that the transfer of information is unidirectional  (DNA to cell ) and not the other way round. This is considered to be the basis of molecular biology.
I would like to discuss a few implications of crediting DNA /genes with life in a cell.
Is Inheritance a property of just the DNA?
It i…

Is Asafoetida the panacea we were looking for?

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Known as devil dung, stink gum etc. ferula, commonly known as 'hing' in Hindi, Asafoetida is a pungent smelling sap of an underground rhizome that grows primarily in Iran, Afghanistan, China and India. Famous in many cuisines as a flavour enhancer, asafoetida has long been an important ingredient in traditional remedies for combating trouble in the digestive tract, respiratory tract and even been used as a traditional contraceptive. Ferula asafoetida is also a popular home medicine for cough, cholera and chronic bronchitis. Because of its pungent odour and taste, it is many times used as a cure for hysteria as well.

But like every traditional remedy, the medical value of Asafoetida is not taken very seriously. This trend of disregarding local medicines and home remedies can somewhere be related to the lack of having sufficient scientific backing. And like many home remedies, the trend of following it blindly through generations, doesn’t really help its cause in an age of growin…