Makes my brain explode — but now it can be repaired

It’s almost impossible to discuss this article without leaping out of the chair and waving my arms around, squealing with the sheer thrill of its deep and wide implications for treatment and understanding:

Precisely Engineering 3-D Brain Tissues

Using a 3-D printer, transparencies, and binder clips, these wunderkinder can create neural tissues that mimic the cellular proportions and relationships of real, living brains.

On this basis, here are some possibilities discussed in the article:

  • Watch how brain tissue responds under different circumstances, leading to new understanding of brain growth, disease progression and structure-dependent brain abnormalities.
  • Repair damaged brain tissue. With historic rates of traumatic brain injury in the most productive age group, this alone is world-changing.
  • With samples from patients, custom brain cultures can be grown, and drugs tested against them, targeting drug treatment that works on the first trial. This saves people who need CNS-affecting drugs countless weeks and months — even years — of untold misery, as different drugs get pushed through their systems in an effort to find one that works.

Harvard Med and MIT at their collective finest.

The great challenge, of course, is getting this OUT of the lab and INTO the populations that need it. I hope it’s not kyboshed by those whose profits depend on the current ineffective, inefficient, expensive, and unspeakably brutal systems of CNS treatment.

Let good medicine prevail.

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Closed-heart aortic valve replacement, good surgery and good science

Here is an article from a San Antonio, Texas paper about replacing the aortic valve in the heart without cracking the chest, but instead using a minimally-invasive catheter technique:

http://www.kens5.com/news/New-heart-valve-replacement-doesnt-involved-open-heart-surgery-146475805.html

This is absolutely thrilling news. Open-heart surgery is one of the most inherently worrisome and fraught forms of surgery, with an unbelievably painful post-op recovery phase. Simply cracking the chest is a big deal, and anything they do after that might be tricky but it’s not nearly as shocking to the body.

Taking the chest-cracking out of heart surgery is the single biggest change we can make to safer, saner, faster-healing, less complicated heart surgeries. We WANT people to survive the experience intact, we really do!

Aortic valve issues are, as I recall from my ICU/Telemetry nursing, one of the more common heart issues; although it’s not often life-threatening, it is often life-limiting, because without that “aortic kick” that the heart gets from a good, solid snapping-closed of the aortic valve during a heartbeat, the pumping action just isn’t as good, and that has knock-on effects that can pile up over time.

Weak aortic valves can contribute to everything related to an impaired heartbeat, including blood pressure, vessel competence (think of congestive heart failure and tissue swelling/edema), and most obviously to cardiac hypertrophy, where an underpowered heart grows extra muscle to try to push blood around. What that really does is create more demand for blood from the heart itself, and push more blood back out the incompetent aorta!

Now that surgery can correct aortic valve issues without open-heart surgery, watch the medical news over the next 2-3 years: you’re going to see a lot more studies directly relating aortic valve problems to other conditions, like those mentioned above. Why now? Because, once a problem can be solved, physicians are much more willing to look at the problem directly.

Just like the rest of us. :)

It’s important to note that, for people with CRPS who have to avoid surgery as much as is compatible with life, and for those with dysautonomia for other reasons, this surgery is a game-changer. No longer do we have to choose between increasingly incompetent valves and a lifelong upsurge in agony, disruption, and dysregulation. Now, we can have a surgery that goes near two major nerve bundles but, if properly done, touches neither; solves the problem and gives us our hearts back; and lets us get on with making the best of our lives.Talk about a win/win!

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News flash: the gut and brain are connected!

The obvious scatological humor will be left alone. Guys, you know what I mean. (Girls who were outnumbered by your brothers, you too.)

I started to blog this article because the forehead-smacking tone of the revelation that the gut might relate to the brain was a bit too much for me. On closer examination, it looks like the misplaced drama is the writer’s, not the scientists’.

One of the places where serotonin is released is in the gut, where it helps digest proteins. That’s the most obvious “duh” moment here. Moreover, as those of us who remember our embryology know, the inter-relationships and constant correspondence between neurology and gut, gut and immunity, immunity and endocrine system, endocrine and neurological system are all too intense and interlocked for words.

Most studies make brutally clear that these so-called systems are medically treated as separate and distinct, but our bodies never got that memo. It’s all the same system, as far as the body is concerned.

Much of this researcher’s recent work focuses on neurology of the gut — enteric neurology. It’s a real thing now. His prior work focused on the biological environment in the gut, or the intestinal microbiota.

// START Word geek goes wild:
Sometimes, I just love medical terminology for the way it rolls, hops, and bounces off the tongue. Enteric neurology. Intestinal microbiota. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Maybe that last one doesn’t work so well.
// END Word geeking.

If you can stand the medical and chemical jargon, it’s worth looking into some of his work. It’s probably not a stretch to call it prescient, in that it is likely to lay the foundations for our emerging understanding of the gut as a more complex and self-managing, yet interlocked, set of systems than we’ve ever imagined before.

I can’t find the original science article, just this unsatisfactory and superficial overview. It says that intestinal microbiota affect the person’s mood and feelings, and that it’s possible to deliver specific probiotics (like yogurt species, naturally-fermented cole slaw, certain cheeses and the like) in order to have a specific benefit to the neurological system.

If you were an empiricist, like me, it would sound like “eating good, living food leads to better mental health,” which healers have been saying for millenia. But far be it from me to steal such well-researched thunder.

Link list:

Science Daily article:
A Gut-Full of Probiotics for Your Neurological Well-Being

Credentials of lead researcher, Prof. Lyte:
Mark Lyte, Ph.D., M.S., MT (ASCP)

Wikipedia’s digest (sic) of the enteric nervous system (this seems basically congruent with the uber-geeky medical studies I looked at on the subject, so I accept it as a decent primer):
Enteric Nervous System

Couldn’t find a good overview that didn’t involve more dead rodents than I could, er, stomach.

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Curing the incurable: type 1 diabetes in mice, with 78% success rate

Next Big Future: Gene therapy reverses type 1 diabetes in mice with 78% success rate

Intriguing approach: providing gene therapy to both protect and rebuild the Islets of Langerhans, which means blocking the T cells from the islet cells without compromising them otherwise.

For an early trial of a complex therapy, this is rather brilliant and very promising. Of course, humans are not mice, but type 1 diabetes is generally type 1 diabetes – or something very similar.

Next up: a cure for CRPS, Alzheimer’s, and AIDS. Hey, it could happen.

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A job well begun …

I have CRPS-1/RSD/causalgia, and when your condition has more than one name, it’s a bad sign. I was a nurse, I was a tech writer, and I remain fascinated by health and technology.

Some parts of my brain have blown gaskets, but examining the science relating to neurology/immunology/endocrinology — and mulling how it could work in real life — seems to go just fine. It’s appropriate to both my professions that I want to track, document, and share what I learn.

You’re invited to watch and engage in this interesting journey. It’s taking place at an unimaginably rich, burgeoning age of technological development and biological understanding.

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