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Category Archives: Medical Issues

Heartbeats and Art

First a little semantics: Arrhythmia actually means “without rhythm.” So the only true arrhythmia is asystole or cardiac standstill, which means the heart has no rhythm and simply sits there quietly. Not a good thing. Not compatible with life.

The proper term is dysrhythmia, which means an “abnormal rhythm.” There are many different types of these.

Some are slow:

Sinus Brady

Others are fast:

SVT

We all have dysrhythmias but most of us are totally unaware they are happening. Other folks experience palpitations—-an awareness of a cardiac irregularity. These can sometimes be alarming and I regularly see patients in my office with this complaint.

Beethoven

But can your heart’s rhythm effect your creativity? Did a dysrhythmia contribute to Beethoven’s musical prowess? Did Shakespeare’s heart beat in iambic pentameter?

As a cardiologist, I’m not sure I buy into this but it is intriguing:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287809.php

 

Do Astronauts Hallucinate?

It has long been known that isolation can lead to all sorts of psychological problems, including delusions and hallucinations. Prisoners in isolation, who have limited interaction with others, can suffer just such effects.

In medicine, we see it frequently. Someone has surgery, and then for whatever reason (complex surgical problems, complications, co-morbidities, etc.) must linger in the ICU for a few days. This is a form of isolation as they are limited in their activity and in who they see and talk with on a regular basis. Sort of like prison isolation. Not to mention they might be receiving medications for pain, sleep, or agitation, each of which can alter mental function. After as little as a couple of days, the person can become confused and disoriented and suffer delusions, such as everyone is trying to kill them, or they are being held prisoner and undergoing some alien experimentation, as well as hallucinations where they see, feel, and hear things that don’t exist. Seen it hundreds of times. It’s that common.

icu

It even has a name: ICU Psychosis.

Astronauts are in a similar situation. They spend months in an enclosed, monotonous environment, interacting with the same people, day after day. It’s like prison, or an ICU. Do they also develop delusions and hallucinations? It seems that the do. In fact, I would be surprised if they didn’t.

astronaut-moon

So, during a trip to Mars, where isolation is very real, could such psychiatric problems jeopardize the mission? You bet. NASA takes this seriously and has begun studies into such long-term deprivations.

HI-SEAS

MedNet: ICU Psychosis: http://www.medicinenet.com/icu_psychosis/article.htm

NIH: Intensive Care Unit Psychosis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2154033/

Astronauts and Hallucinations: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/05/hallucinations-isolation-astronauts-mental-health-space-missions

NASA Trains Astronauts to Bins, Tranquilize Unstable Crewmates: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/02/25/nasa-trains-astronauts-to-bind-tranquilize-unstable-crewmates/

NASA Has Guidelines for Dealing With Psychosis in Space: http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070224/news_lz1n24read.html

Mars One Astronaut Training Program: http://www.mars-one.com/faq/selection-and-preparation-of-the-astronauts/how-are-the-astronauts-prepared

NASA’s HI-SEAS Training Program: http://www.sci-news.com/space/science-nasas-hi-seas-team-hawaii-mars-mission-02220.html

 

Medicine Is Strange: Stone Man Syndrome

f1

Medicine has a lot of very strange disorders in its catalog of maladies.

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP or Stone Man Syndrome) is one of them.

http://thechirurgeonsapprentice.com/2014/12/17/disturbing-disorders-fop-stone-man-syndrome/

 

Hacking Pacemakers For Murder No Longer the Perfect Crime

Pacemakers can be hacked but that’s not news. We’ve known that for a while.

St_Jude_Medical_pacemaker_in_hand

Newer models are even easier to hack than were the older models. Progress being what it is. Most pacemakers are interrogated and adjusted in the doctor’s office or the Pacemaker Clinic by placing a “wand” over the pacemaker and then using an attached computer to retrieve data stored inside and/or change the parameters of the pacemaker—-changing sensing, pacing thresholds and rates, that sort of thing. Many newer models allow for more remote access—-from several feet away. Think “blue tooth” for a pacemaker.

Heart-039-s-Natural-Pacemaker-2

F1.large

This more “remote” access allows for hacking to take place without direct contact with the patient. The pacemaker can be changed, even turned off, which in someone who is “pacemaker dependent” for their heartbeats can be catastrophic, even deadly. Fortunately most pacemaker recipients are NOT pacer dependent so even if the device is turned off they would still do fine. Maybe a bit weak, tired, and dizzy, but not dead from heart stoppage.

Now it seems that, though this can still be done, traces are left behind. Makes getting away with such tampering more difficult.

Guess you crime writers will have to find another way to off your characters who have pacemakers.

 
 

Want To See Something Very Small? DNA Replication Visualized

This is cool. You probably remember from high school biology that DNA copies itself as the first step in cell division. This is how we grow and how we replace lost or damages cells.

 

id37740

 

The replication process begins when the two strands of our double-stranded DNA “unzip.” That is, they split form one another. Then each stand rebuilds its complementary strand in a complex biological process. This yields two identical strands of double-stranded DNA, each of which becomes the nuclear material for the two identical cells when the division process is completed.

Current DNA analysis mirrors this natural phenomenon. State of the art DNA profiling employs the combination of the Polymerase Chain Reaction and Short Tandem Repeat analysis (PCR-STR). It’s the PCR portion that utilizes this natural process of replication, which is also called “amplification.”

Now it seems someone has used electron microscopy to visualize this process.

Amazing.

DNA Replication RCN.com: http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/D/DNAReplication.html

You Tube: DNA Replication Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27TxKoFU2Nw

How Stuff Works: DNA Replication: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/dna3.htm

DNA Forensics: From RFLP to PCR-STR and Beyond: http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2004/09/dna-forensics-rflp-pcr-str-and-beyond

 

 

Honey and “Super Bugs”

Bees-1-atroszko-sxc

Here’s a first aid tip——if you find yourself out in the boondocks and suffer an injury and help is far away, clean the wound as best you can and find a beehive. Yes, a beehive. It just might save your life.

Honey applied to open wounds lessens the chance of infection. This has been empirically known for a couple of millennia. Hopefully you’ll never have to test this treatment method, but if so it just might help.

But can honey’s unique antibacterial properties be useful in treating the new antibiotic-resistant “super bugs” that seem to appear with increasing frequency? The answer is a definite maybe.

Check out these articles:

ACS: http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2014/march/honey-is-a-new-approach-to-fighting-antibiotic-resistance-how-sweet-it-is.html

NIH, NLM: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Medical Issues

 

Can Learned Fear Be Inherited?

Every species has information necessary for individual and species survival hard-wired in its DNA. It’s all part of the evolutionary dictum of survival of the fittest. Some “know” to hang together in groups to ward off predators and survive; others “know” to hunt in packs to ward off group starvation. Some “know” to burrow into the ground to hide during the vulnerable sleep period; others “know” to climb the tallest trees for the same reason. Much of this behavior is ingrained; some is learned from other group members. Of course the ingrained knowledge is passed along but can the learned behavior be also?

So the question becomes: can learned fear be inherited? Can it be passed on to future generations? Can this fear alter the DNA of the individual and can this altered DNA be passed along to its offspring?

For mice, at least, it seems that it is. In an interesting study conducted at Atlanta’s Emory School of Medicine, mice were found to pass on learned fear to their offspring. And then to the offspring’s offspring.

 

White Mouse

I wonder which one of my parents passed on a fear of sharks? No, wait a minute, that was Jaws. Or perhaps it’s simply common sense.

 

images

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Medical Issues

 
 
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