Stem cell research is really whizzing along

Pluripotent stem cells (that is, the kind that could be turned into many different types of tissue) were successfully grown from urine:

This is a little weird even for me, but intriguing as hell.

It’s normal for a tiny number of cells from the draining parts of the urinary system to wash away in urine. Throwing off very many is not healthy. However, given a tiny number of healthy cells, they managed to tweak the epithelial cells (the cells that form the “skin” of a space) of the renal system into being able to turn into a variety of other cells, including nerve cells that could grow and connect to other nerve cells.

Caveat emptor: manufactured stem cells are not like Mother made. There is always something they do that’s not in the original specification.

This article makes the point, at the end, that this is a starting point and that the stem cells it produces, and the differentiated (that is, specialized) cells that grow from them, really need to be evaluated before those of us who need new nerves (or kidneys, or whatevers) should start to cheer and break out the champagne.


Neuroscientists map a "new" target to wipe pain away

This article discusses the role of the peptide CDB3 in modulating the specific calcium channel signals that transmit chronic pain:

This article says it’s a “novel” peptide, but last I heard, CDB3 was a cannabinoid, one of a couple hundred constituents derived from a medicinal plant cultivated for thousands of years, being researched by the likes of Prof. Robert Malamede in Colorado… For, among other things, specific & benign interference in calcium-channel signaling in pain pathways.

Let’s keep our signals clear, even if we want to muddle pain’s signals.


Acupuncture helps where conventional medicine can’t even diagnose

A valid diagnosis is necessary to getting appropriate alopathic (that is, conventional Western) medical care. (This is why “House” is such a popular show: there’s a lot of inherent drama in wrong diagnoses, because they can lead to chaos, suffering and hideous deaths.) Unfortunately, fully 20% of those who seek ongoing care don’t get one.

No pressure.

The Chinese were developing diagnostic strategies before my British Isles ancestors were even sure how babies were made, so I view this intensely patronizing, very cagy terminology with a jaundiced eye, but the study itself looks pretty good:

As well as dramatic improvements in function and well-being, it’s interesting to note that these patients made changes in their daily lives, because they felt their acupuncturists really cared (and probably because they knew what they were talking about.)

Do you have any idea how hard it is to persuade people to change the way they eat, move, sleep? Most people would rather put up with hideous suffering and tons of needless ill-health rather than change the pattern of their days. It’s incredibly hard to make those changes, and speaking as someone who has had to change all that and more, I’m still not sure why it’s so staggeringly hard.

But these practitioners of a well-structured form of acupuncture did it, and did it consistently.

— Or rather, their patients did, given the combination of good info and perceptible support. Now THAT’s a therapeutic relationship.


Antidepressants: Are we sufficiently confused yet?

I was overmedicated on multiple antidepressants for over a year. A friend of mine is in the midst of a pharmacologic circus as her shrink tries to get her chronic CRPS, fibromyalgia, and concomitant brutal depression under control. As normal people try to make decisions about how to handle this hugely profitable category of drugs, I can only hold their hands and wish them luck. Here are some fun studies to think over at 2 in the morning:

Anti-inflammatories reduce effectiveness of antidepressants. This is especially fun for people with pain:

Antidepressants may not totally fix your depression. A candidate for the “No Really??” Award:

This set of links reaches a stunning low. All these studies are fairly recent. Hold onto your seats …

Behind Curtain #1:

Behind Curtain #2:

And the final insult:

We know that antidepressants don’t help a lot with mild to moderate depression. That’s when you lay off the sugar and learn to meditate; once you’ve meditated enough to be able to get your butt out, you start with the fresh air and activity, cut back on the starchy fatty food, and stock up on vegetables and meat.

– Have fruit at breakfast. If you’re not a breakfast person, have just that bit of fruit.
– Don’t skip lunch.

Why? Because minor blood sugar issues are major contributors to depression. And, for reasons science has not yet caught up with, fruit starts the day properly. I theorize that it provides a digestible dose of sugar, an insulin-friendly dose of fiber, and just enough electrolytes to ease your brain into the day.

Ironically, science has finally found a definite benefit to depression: We people with depression are better at analytical reasoning — and are considerably more persistent:

This is a study you can whip out when someone tells you you’re depressed because you’re weak-willed. Weakness of will is lack of persistence combined with poor reasoning. You are considerably stronger-willed than most of the un-depressed people you know!

And that’s another thing I’ve been saying for years 🙂


News Alert: U.S. drug shortages threaten patients

Huh. Who needs a pulse, anyway. 
For the record, morphine (in doses 1/5 to 1/2 the pain-killing dose) is used in heart attacks and congestive heart failure. Why? Not just because it’s fun… 
Morphine opens the blood vessels in and around the heart and lungs. When you’re having a heart attack, that’s exactly what you need: nice wide vessels. In congestive heart failure, opening up that circulation means that the fluid that got stuck in the wrong spaces can get cleaned up and carried away by the blood pumping through the lovely spongy tissue in your lungs. Suddenly you can breathe!
Also, in both these life-threatening conditions, your mind gets filled with a sickening sense of dread that can only make matters worse. However, even in small doses, morphine alleviates that terrible feeling and you can perceive things more normally again, deal with people around you, and get a grip on things. 
Clinically, I love morphine. It’s a life-saver. I only wish I could use it myself, but I have an odd reaction to narcotics; it’s liable to stop my insides so fast and so completely I get poisoned to death by my own waste. It opens up the core circulation, but it closes down my bowels!
I don’t even need to editorialize that. Go wild. 
As for this article, let me be clear: the pharmaceutical companies’ whining, in the face of a decade of stunningly lax corporate regulation and world-record profits year after year, utterly fails to impress me. 
The article discusses “consolidation” as contributing heavily to these problems. That refers to large companies buying up smaller ones, then cutting away the parts that don’t make outrageous amounts of money or that don’t fit the buying company’s self-image. “Consolidation” is news-speak for megacorps. The ways the pharmaceutical consolidations were handled was pretty interesting, if you can forget about the body count. 
Begin forwarded message:

From: “The Washington Post” <>
Date: May 1, 2011 6:42:31 PM PDT
Breaking News Alert: U.S. drug shortages threaten patients
May 1, 2011 9:41:07 PM

Doctors, hospitals and federal regulators are struggling to cope with unprecedented drug shortages in the United States that are endangering cancer patients, heart attack victims, accident survivors and a host of other ill people.

For more information, visit



Re-Learning Aids

I originally created this blog as a place to digest articles on medicine and biomedicine — especially as they relate to real, live human beings of the kind who need to use medicine and biomedicine. After all, needing it means our systems are not quite normal.

I have a condition that punches holes in my memory and cognition. This means that, even though this biomedical stuff is meat and drink to me, I have to look up things that — with my old brain — I used to know like the back of my hand. (That is, the hand where the CRPS started, naturally.)

Really basic things, like the handful of neurotransmitters each with its many jobs, or the role of the pituitary gland and its intense relationship with … well, with every other regulatory part of the body.

So I’ll post a couple of tutorials on these subjects here, for both you and me to refer to at need. If I’m really clever, I’ll post them as pages which you can access easily; for now, I’ll be happy to get them up at all. Soooo ….

Coming soon:
– A quick rundown on neurotransmitters, with interesting dietary notes.
– Tutorial on the Limbic-Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis.