research

Self-mutilation or Scientific Innovation…or Both?

Ever think about practicing a surgical technique on yourself? What about inventing one? Werner Forrsmann was kind of a bad ass in that way. As a young medical student in Germany, he survived his preliminary medical training and went on to do his residency in Berlin in 1929. There, he became sort of fascinated with the idea of getting to the heart of the matter, you might say. He wanted to devise a way to get medicine directly to the heart of a sick patient without having to crack open their chest and probably kill them. After what we can assume included many sleepless nights, many missed opportunities for poon tang, and probably a lot of drinking that was fueled by despair rather than pleasure, the 26 year old genius went to his advisor with a proposal for an experiment that he was requesting permission to undertake. He had this “theory” that if you inserted a small tube into a vein near the elbow, you could run that tube up the vein directly into the heart, thereby creating a direct route to deliver life-saving medicine. Now, by today’s standards, that doesn’t seem ridiculous at all. In fact, it almost seems passe. But in 1929, it was nothing short of murderous (or suicidal in his case). His superior responded with complete, unwavering doubt: any treatment that interfered directly with the heart’s...

The “Shocking” History of ElectroConvulsive Therapy

The use of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for the treatment of mental illnesses such as severe depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder spans the course of more than seven decades. For sufferers of schizophrenia, ECT represented the long awaited miracle cure for a disease once “seen as a death sentence” by patients and physicians alike.[1] In 1938, Italian neurologist Ugo Cerletti revolutionized the technique of ECT by introducing the use of electric current to conduct shock therapy. However, as the years progressed ECT faced antagonistic treatment from the field of psychiatry. In concert with the air of social change illustrated by the many reform movements of the 1960s, ECT underwent extensive scrutiny by human rights activists, members of the antipsychiatry movement and patients alike.     Nintendo  By the 1970s the environment surrounding ECT had been completely transformed into a  regulated and restrictive atmosphere. This transformation coincided with the new era of bioethics beginning to take shape and one of its historic events: Henry Beecher’s 1966 New England Journal of Medicine whistle-blowing article. From that point forward “the genie of informed consent could not be contained within the bottle of research” and just as quickly as the article surfaced did authorities such as the FDA and NIH set fourth requirements for the implementation of a new concept called informed consent.[2]  Fred Frankel, a member of Beecher’s ethics committee from Massachusetts General...

Supplement or Detriment: The Danger in Your Daily Gummies

Thinking like the doctor… Medication adherence is one of the biggest problems of healthcare today. Over one-third of patients prescribed medications never even fill the prescription. Half of those who actually receive a prescription follow it correctly. Treatments for precise ailments that are proven based on years of studies, trials, and experiments and not necessarily more expensive than supplements are ignored while nutritional supplement usage skyrockets. WHY??   Disney -versus- Thinking like the patient… You’re studying for exams and the only food delivery still open is Dominoes, which you’ve had for dinner the past three nights. You know you’re not getting the nutrients you need to function your best cognitively, physically, or emotionally, so some protein powder or vitamin gummies would perfectly make up for that, right? Both perspectives seem fairly reasonable. The doctor just can’t wrap her head around why her patients put so much blind trust into potentially detrimental pills with minimal (if any) evidence behind them while frequently ignoring their prescriptions. The patient is conscious of her poor health choices and feels proud and responsible for taking her health into her own hands. Conscious of the effect she is expecting, she likely may see a change because of her expectations.   However, it is important to be aware of the harms that these supplements can cause as well. The FDA outlines some of these issues nicely....

The Rare Rarity of a Ravenous Condition

Dear Sam, First of all, let me start by answering the question in your last letter. I am not well or unwell, just different. I am in a state of mind and body so rare that it is inconceivable for the everyday human being. I was about to say “normal” rather than “everyday,” but what exactly is normal? Is being able to sleep for seven hours at a stretch normal? Maybe for people without insomnia. What about being able to feel pain? Clearly I am one of the few lucky (or unlucky) ones who would be considered abnormal by that standard! Yes, you’ve guessed it right. I have Hereditary Sensory Neuropathy Type I (HSN Type I). Here’s what my hotshot neurologist stated as he triumphantly claimed the diagnosis of my condition: “Chris, based on the multitude of tests we have run and the differential diagnoses we have ruled out, it appears to me that you may have Hereditary Sensory Neuropathy Type I. It is a rare, genetic condition. The reason you are unable to feel pain or temperature changes in your extremities is because the nerves in the area have degenerated. Our main cause of concern is maintaining your health as it stands and preventing any grave injuries than may result from your pain insensitivity. In patients like you, it is not uncommon to have injuries that go undetected...

Groundbreaking Cancer Treatment

Check out this incredible video of some new groundbreaking cancer treatments. In medical school, especially the first year, students are often exposed to a lot information that pertains to cancer, as well as some popular and commonly used drugs to treat cancer. It is always amazing to see what researchers are coming up with in modern medicine.     In a study conducted by the Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute for Cancer Research, scientists found that a combination of two melanoma treatments from Bristol-Meyers Squibb was able to halt cancer progression for up to 12 months in approximately 60% of cancer sufferers. The international trial involved 945 patients receiving a combination of two immunotherapy drugs, ipilimumab and nivolumab. James Larkin, FRCP, PhD, the UK’s Chief Investigator for numerous clinical trials in cancer-related research, says that combining these two drugs is like “taking two brakes off the immune system [sic] rather than one so the immune system is able to recognize tumors it wasn’t previously recognizing and react to that and destroy them.” (via BBC News) However, it should be noted that the occurrence of side effects such as headache, fatigue, and rash were almost doubled versus treatment with just one of the drugs. Excited to learn more?? Click here to read more about this research on BBC...

As Bad As It Gets, At Least You’re Not Having Sex With a Duck

Yeah, med students have it tough. But this short video about the duck’s substantial … um, evolutionary adaptations will make studying for the USMLEs seem like a walk in the park....

Scientists are Growing Mini Brains to Study Neurological Disorders

  Austrian researchers are growing cerebral organoids, a form of human tissue that resembles a developing brain, in order to study neurological disorders. The organoids are developed from adult fibroblasts (skin cells) and manipulated into pluripotent stem cells, able to develop into a myriad of body parts. The researchers are able to coax the stem cells into becoming neurons which they study to learn more about neurological diseases like autism or schizophrenia as well as potential cure.   Click here to read an article about this research in Technology...