research

23 and Me and me Part II: Spit Take

Friday afternoon I dashed off to the post office to pick up a parcel containing, simply, a test tube. Part two of my 23 & Me journey begins. The box contains merely test tube paraphernalia and a small sheet of instructions. I impatiently played with the tube for a half hour, because I had just had a sip of coffee and you can’t give your sample until you’ve had nothing in your mouth for at least a half hour. When you first open the box, you are greeted by a very aggressive note which tells you to STOP! and not do anything else until you register your test tube online– this is, of course, so that you can get your results later on down the road. I eagerly registered and was actually able to use the 23 & Me app on my iPhone to do this, which was pretty neat. While I was waiting for the coffee to leave my spit, I started to fill out the questionnaire too– the first question asked me if I thought I was underweight or overweight. Not a great way to start a conversation, man. Something no one mentions is that it’s actually somewhat difficult to spit as much as you need to into this test tube. There’s a black line that you must fill the test tube too, not including bubbles.  It...

Could Hibernating Improve Surgical Outcomes?

If I could be a western fat-tailed dwarf lemur – I wouldn’t . But they are really cute and funny little creatures, and we do happen to have one thing in common. We’re both super good at sleeping. The lemur is the closest genetic cousin of humans that hibernates for long periods. And, while humans are not able to hibernate just yet, researchers at Duke University studying these animals believe that by identifying the mechanism these animals use, it could one day be possible AND could have significant health applications. Everyone can appreciate a good night’s sleep – especially med students. And, it’s well known that being well rested provides multiple health benefits: improved cognitive functioning, increased longevity, reduction of inflammation, healthy weight maintenance, stress reduction etc. So what if humans could hibernate? Researchers at Duke University believe that inducing a torpid state in humans could become a good practice in surgeries. Many organs, especially the brain, are extremely sensitive to hypoxia which often occurs when undergoing surgery. In a torpid state, temperature is often reduced during REM sleep, lowering metabolic rate, leading to decreased cellular demand for oxygen. This decreased demand for oxygen could thus reduce the risk of damaging the organs and translate into safer surgeries with more beneficial outcomes. Sounds great. Now how do hibernate? When studying the lemur, researchers discovered that they are the only...

Jay Duker: What Does a Study on Twins Tell Us About AMD?

Jay S. Duker, MD, Director of the New England Eye Center, discusses the AREDS studies, which aimed to determine the causes of age-related macular degeneration and the modification of those risk factors found to be associated with the disease. Read more about the AREDS...

Rafael Yuste: How We’re Decoding the Entire Human Brain Within a Few Decades

  Rafael Yuste, MD, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience at Columbia University, discusses the research goals of the brain activity map project. He explains the purpose of this ground breaking research is to develop tools that will allow scientists of the future to measure the activity of every neuron in the brain. The Brain Activity Map was recently cited by the Obama administration as the next big step to advancing medicine.   Read more about the Brain Activity Map.   Featured image from Flickr/Ars...

New Therapy to Reduce Symptoms of Autism via Cord Blood Stem Cells

Michael Chez, MD, Director of Pediatric Neurology at Sutter Health, examines the vast potential for the use of cord blood stem cell therapy in the treatment of autistic features of autoimmune disorders. Animal models and clinical trials indicate stem cells may modify nervous cell function as well as improve motor skills and speech.   Read more about Michael Chez,...

23 and Me (& Me), Part I: A Twenty-Something Explores Her Genome

I was saving up to buy a desk so that I can stop writing from bed (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that) but instead, I decided that for $100, I would send my spit to 23 & Me and find out everything that science can tell me about my DNA. 23 & Me is a genotyping service started by the woman who is married to a co-founder of Google–Anne Wojcicki. It used to be a lot more expensive to have this genotyping done; upwards of $1,000 when the project was piloted, but due to grants and funding for more research, Wojcicki has been able to significantly decrease the price, hoping that will entice folks to participate. Playing into, perhaps, our natural curiosity about our bodies and our sometimes incessant narcissism (something that social media has used to its advantage from the get go: Myspace, anyone?), 23 & Me offers us a glimpse into the inner framework of our very being. That being said, it is only a portion of our DNA that can be genotyped. For purposes of liability, I presume, there are many disclaimers throughout the entire service that enumerate the minor detail that just because their lab doesn’t find you to have one of the 2 mutations that they’re testing for, that would possibly cause a disease, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have one...

Death’s Design

Ajay Verma talks about the inevitability of human death. He speculates that death is built into us. He goes on to suggest that we carry a biologic blueprint for death that may include “grim reaper” mechanisms. Filmed at FutureMed, in February, 2012, at Singularity University.     Featured image from...