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...

Doctor’s Without Borders Reports Unprecedented Chemical Victims in Syria

An announcement from Doctors Without Borders has confirmed that three hospitals in Syria’s Damascus have reported over 3,600 patients arriving at their clinics with neurotoxic symptoms. Of the 3,600 patients who arrived within three hours, 355 have been reported dead. Doctors Without Borders, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), says that patients arrived with symptoms such as convulsions, excessive saliva, and pointed pupils, all signs of a neurotoxic agent. MSF has been using atropine to treat the patients. There is much concern over the violation of international humanitarian law, due to the belief that the source of the neurotoxin was a biological warfare attack. Did Syria use chemical weapons against its own people, including thousands of children? The answer to this question has not yet been definitively answered but the United States has already readied troops to intervene if indeed this was a violation of the international humanitarian law. WARNING: Images are graphic and disturbing Read the announcement published by Doctors Without Borders. Featured image is a screen shot from the video...

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...

“Memory Hacks” Part I: The Baker/baker Paradox

What can medical education take away from a USA Memory Champion?! In 2006, Joshua Foer won the USA Memory Championships by, among other things, memorizing the order of a 52 card deck in a staggering 1 minute and 40 seconds. Other events in the competition included remembering the most names of strangers and reciting the most lines of poetry. Perhaps more astounding is that Foer had been covering the event as a journalist in 2005 and, in just one year, had trained himself to the level of USA champion.  Foer chronicled his incredible journey in a New York Times bestseller, Moonwalking with Einstein, and a famous TED talk watched over 250,000 times. Medical students are often told during the first-week of school that studying will be “like drinking water from a firehose”. Indeed, the pace and volume are certainly ramped up in comparison to college. While a 4-unit class at UC Santa Barbara would cover 30 hours of material over a 10-week period, exams at my medical school typically engrossed 35 hours of lecture crammed into a mere 2 weeks. Breaking down the lectures, I found between 15-20 testable details in each lecture making for 525-700 items to learn for each exam. Tracking the hours I spent studying for an exam showed I was spending about 75 hours in order to memorize up to 700 testable points. The fact...

Molecular Movies: A Visual Study Aid

The start of med school can be tricky. A syllabus that could have taken months at your undergraduate institution can be condensed into just a few weeks. Figuring out how to keep up with all the information is tough, especially because every person learns differently. And to top it all off, there are no shortage of study aids from review books to flash cards to apps. What’s a newbie med student to do? If you’re the kind of person that learns best visually, then we may have the perfect fix for you: molecularmovies.com. It’s basically a website that has aggregated many of the best educational animations out there on the web for topics in biology and medicine. If you’re someone like me, trying to figure out cell biology or biochemistry by interpreting the movement of molecules from words on a page can be daunting. But a short animation can really help make the relationships and interactions memorable. This site takes away all the hassle of having to search on youtube/google by giving you the best animations topic by topic. Here are a couple of examples from the site: DNA Replication: Breast Stem Cells: The Whole Brain Catalog: There are many more categories including: Apoptosis, Viruses, Development, the Immune System, etc. Note: Some of the links may not be working on this site, but overall, it’s a pretty expansive playlist. Featured...

An “Almost” Doctor’s Guide to MSG: 6 Utterly Wrong Myths

Admit it. We’ve all teared back the crisply sealed cover of cup noodles, salivating at the thought of slurping up those curly strands of savory instagoodness. But as soon as you finish your delicious meal, that soft creeping euphoria of drowsiness (that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that its 3am and you’ve been studying for an endocrinology exam the past 6 hours) begins to overcome you. Must be all that MSG you just choked down. As one of the most widely despised and misunderstood food products in the world, Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG, has gone through quite the journey. A recent article by Buzzfeed contributor John Mahoney sheds light on the whirlpool of myths on MSG, focusing on the titillating rise of the “umami craze” and one chef’s quest to perfect the “5th basic taste”. For these chefs, the path to understanding umami inevitably leads them to MSG, which is chemically identical to the glutamic acid they’re creating from scratch. And yet Chang wouldn’t think of using MSG in his restaurants today. He told me he doesn’t even use it at home, despite being a professed lover of MSG-laced Japanese Kewpie mayo. After decades of research debunking its reputation as a health hazard, and uninterrupted FDA approval since 1959, MSG remains a food pariah — part of a story that spans a century of history, race, culture, and science...

The 6 People You’ll Date in Med School

The Intensivist Medical Geneticist Neurologist Oncologist Gastroenterologist General Surgeon Special thanks to docimuger for allowing us to repost this curated...

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