Category Archives: Medicine

Just replace these with Jane Hamsher, Josh Marshall, ….

Obama presser.jpg

A Quick Note to Huffington Post

If Huffington Post wants to have credibility and gain its vaunted #1 spot as the most trusted online new source, there is only one thing it needs to do – ditch the woomeisters Chopra and RFK Jr., and get in their place some people from the reality-based community.
People are sick of conservative, emotion-based, gut-feeling decision-making that screwed up the country over the past 28 years. Why allowing the Left fringe equivalents into the mix? It is them that make a lot of people untrusting of Huffington Post.
Will Huffington Post publish and defend this piece about the potential fraud leading to all the autism-vaccine connection crappola?
This is your test. Do it, and perhaps you’ll gain credibility with the reality-based community. Stick by your woomeisters instead, and your credibility is gone. Over. Out. Kaput.
(Hat-tip: Phil Plait)
Vaccines and autism–can we stick a fork in it now, please?
Why am I not surprised? It looks as though Andrew Wakefield probably falsified his data
Scientific Misconduct and the Autism-MMR Vaccine Link
Important Information on the MMR Vaccine-Autism Link
Anti-vax study a case of scientific fraud?
Was the original autism-vaccine data faked?

Science Cafe – Sleep and Sleep Disorders

This month’s Science Cafe (description below) will be held on February 17th at The Irregardless Cafe. We will be meeting Dr. Yvette Cook from the Rex Hospital Sleep Disorders Clinic. She will be talking with us about sleep patterns and why people may have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. I have attached an article Dr. Cook recently wrote for a Rex Healthcare newsletter that you may find of interest. I hope that many of you can come – it should be a very interesting and informative discussion.
Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
6:30-8:30 pm with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Location: The Irregardless Café, 901 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh 833-8898
The significance of sleep and dreams has been a subject of interest for centuries. But it took discoveries by scientists (electrical activity of the brain, Rapid Eye Movement sleep) to spur the creation of a new clinical field — Sleep Medicine. The ensuing creation of the polysomnogram (sleep study) has been instrumental in helping sleep physicians evaluate different sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs, sleepwalking and narcolepsy. Now the general population and the medical community are beginning to recognize the impact of sleep disorders on society.
About the Speaker:
Yvette R. Cook is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. She has a private practice in Cary (Cary Neurology & Sleep Disorders, Inc.) specializing in the field of sleep medicine and serves as Medical Director of Rex Sleep Disorders Center, an accredited Sleep Center devoted to the evaluation of patients with sleep disorders.

Effects of Developmental Exposure to Bisphenol-A on the Ovary and Brain


Even if you haven’t heard of Bisphenol A (BPA), you’ve likely been exposed to it. The endocrine disrupting compound is common in plastic infant bottles, water bottles, food cans and lots of other products. Scientists debate its dangers but the National Toxicology Program (based in RTP) acknowledges BPA as a source of “some concern” due to its possible harm to the brains and behavior of fetuses, infants and children.
On Wed. Feb. 18, at noon, come hear NCSU assistant biology professor Heather Patisaul share what she’s finding about BPA’s potential permanent effects in a talk entitled “Effects of Developmental Exposure to Bisphenol-A on the Ovary and Brain.”
Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this invitation to anyone you would like to see included. RSVPs are required (for a reliable slice count) to
Directions to Sigma XI:

Science Saturday: Doctors’ Obligations – ethics by SciBlings

Listen to my SciBlings Janet and Pal,MD discuss scientific and medical ethics:

Department of Justice poised to ban all non-dog Service Animals

This is your weekend reading – lots of it, some fascinating, some enraging, but perhaps if enough people are aware and scream loudly enough, something can be done:
Assistance Monkeys, Ducks, Parrots, Pigs and Ducks … Should the law protect them?
More Follow Up on NYT Story About Assistance Creatures
More Assistance Creature Follow Up – The History of Service Monkeys, Plus Monkey Waiters
Newsflash! DOJ ADA Changes Leaked — All Animals Set to Be Banned Except Dogs
DoJ’s Rationale Behind Banning Non-Canine Service Animals
DOJ’s Proposal and Rationale for Allowing Psychiatric Service Animals (dogs only)
Service Animals on the Radio, a Horse Fetching a Beer, Plus Blog Maintenance Downtime

Scarlett Johansson – Bioterrorist?

You may have heard the story that Scarlett Johansson had a cold when she appeared on Jay Leno’s show the other day. And you may have heard that she got the cold from her ‘The Spirit’ co-star Samuel L. Jackson. And you may have heard that she had to blow her nose into a tissue during the show. And you may have heard that this particular tissue is now up for sale on eBay. And you may have heard that all proceeds of this sale will benefit USA Harvest, the charity of Scarlett Johansson’s choice.
What you may not know is that, due to the content of the tissue being regarded as biohazard (or even bioterrorism), you may not be able to have it shipped to you if you live outside of United States.
Update: sold for $5,300

The U.S. Commitment to Global Health

Listen here to the The December 16, 2008 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture given by Dr.Harold Varmus:

Harold Varmus, former Director of the National Institutes of Health and co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer, is President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Varmus chairs the Scientific Board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health program and leads the Advisory Committee for the Global Health Division. He was a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, and is a co-founder of the Public Library of Science, a leading publisher of open access journals. In addition, he serves as co-chair of the Institute of Medicine’s committee on The U.S. Commitment to Global Health. The committee will issue its interim report on the day preceding the lecture.

Dr. Exotica

Tending to recent immigrants and other travelers, Carlos Franco-Paredes diagnoses diseases that few other physicians in North America have ever seen:

Q: What’s the most important diagnostic tool you use?
A: The Internet. We rely on it heavily, probably more than other specialists do. Online, we access recent medical journals from all over the world, including PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Journal of Infectious Diseases in Developing Countries. They have really good articles written by people on the local level. But beyond that, we use the Internet to keep up on what’s happening in various cultures. I read international newspapers and the Websites of the U.S. State Department and refugee organizations.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Low-Hanging Fruit is a website which collects data about drug/compound screens against parasitic organisms.
Michelle Arkin and James McKerrow explain:

The apples on the tree at the website represent links to data for the parasites indicated. In some cases, this data is a simple list of hits to be viewed by those individuals and agencies interested in rapid follow-up. In other instances, a more complete database can be accessed under “protocols and statistics” as compiled by Pipeline Pilot (Accelrys) software.

The currently most popular independent political websites

The latest press release from ComScore – Huffington Post and Politico Lead Wave of Explosive Growth at Independent Political Blogs and News Sites this Election Season – has all sorts of interesting statistics about relative traffic, etc., of the top independent (i.e., unaffiliated with MSM) websites and blogs. One tidbit I found particularly interesting:

Looking at the demographic profiles for the top three sites,, and, one can conclude that visitors to these sites tend to be older, wealthier, and more likely to be male than the average U.S. Internet user.
Of the three sites, skewed the oldest with 23 percent of its visitors age 55 and older, while skewed wealthiest, with 40 percent of its visitors earning at least $100,000 a year, and had the highest concentration of males at 57 percent., the site with the largest audience, was the most similar of the three when compared to the overall U.S. Internet audience. has the most old-timey look, is read by the DC circle-jerk including the MSM pundits who were duped into thinking that Drudge is trustworthy (and I am glad to see it slipping down), and Huffington Post is a mix of some of the best opinion with some of the worst that one can find on the Left – blatant sexism (especially towards Palin), anti-vaccination woo, animal rights crap, New Age medical quackery and such – not a place I visit often as it represents the worst of the Left (and exposes that not everyone who is liberal is actually a member of the Reality Community).
Glad to see that, and are high and rising – that is some of the best New Journalism out there.

UNC scientists comment in support of fruit fly research for understanding autism

As a follow-up to the yesterday’s press release, Dr. Manzoor Bhat and Joseph Piven, M.D., researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who use the Drosophila model system to study neurexin and its implications in the development of autism, have now released the video response – well worth watching:

Internet use ‘good for the brain’

Or so says this BBC article:

A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulates centres in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. The researchers say this might even help to counter-act the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down.

Diabetes Mellitus Explained

By SciCurious.

Importance of cell phones (not internet) in health-care in the developing world

Can You Heal Me Now?

While many Americans view cell phones as indispensable to their social and professional lives, more and more Africans are finding cell phones to be indispensable to good health. In sub-Saharan villages, for example, mobile phones are playing a key role in health care delivery, says Dr. Fay Cobb Payton, an associate professor of information systems and technology in the NC State College of Management.
“The pervasive use of mobile technology surprised me,” she says, noting cellular towers have arrived in many parts of Africa before land lines. “The Internet is an expensive proposition for many areas, but even in the smallest villages, people have mobile phones and use them widely.”
Nurses used to travel to rural villages and bring back notes about each patient, which had to be transcribed before a physician was consulted. Text messages, cell phone pictures, and cell phone video now allow nurses in the field to transmit patient conditions and histories directly to physicians in the clinic for faster consultations.
“It’s not enough to drop technology into an area,” she says. “We need to educate patients and physicians on the cost and care benefits and provide ongoing training so they become comfortable with using the technology to improve public health.”

Inside Duke Medicine

If you came to either the first or the second Science Blogging Conference (or both) you may remember that, among other goodies in your swag bag, you also got a copy or two of Inside Duke Medicine, the employee publication for the Duke University Health System.
And, you may remember it looked kind of….soooo last century 😉
Furthermore, it had its publishing model backwards – it was Print-to-Web, i.e., the well-crafted articles were first printed in hardcopy and then posted online almost as an after-thought.
Well, that model does not work, so Duke got smart and hired a visionary – Anton Zuiker
Over the past 18 months, Anton turned the publication around. Now, it is the way it should be – Web-to-Print. The news, stories, video clips and blog posts are constantly being added to the brand new website which, I may be biased but I think so, totally kicks ass!
Then, the best pieces get prepared for hardcopy print and get printed in the completely redesigned newsletter, for those who prefer to read on paper (or still have not discovered the ‘On’ button on their computers).
Anton describes the process in his own words. So, if you grab that RSS feed or make a bookmark, you will always be up-to-date on what’s happening at Duke Medicine.

A video is worth a thousand fliers

Vedran tells me that people from the Oncology Institute in Belgrade, who usually give women little brochures that describe breast self-exam in words, are now using – and loving – the two videos (originally from here) he has embedded into his Gynecology aggregator. Another win for Open Access.

Stem cells and veterinary medicine

NC State Is First University in Nation to Offer Canine Bone Marrow Transplants

Dogs suffering from lymphoma will be able to receive the same type of medical treatment as their human counterparts, as North Carolina State University becomes the first university in the nation to offer canine bone marrow transplants in a clinical setting.
Dr. Steven Suter, assistant professor of oncology in NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, received three leukophoresis machines donated by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Leukophoresis machines are designed to harvest healthy stem cells from cancer patients. The machines are used in conjunction with drug therapy to harvest stem cells that have left the patient’s bone marrow and entered the bloodstream. The harvested cancer-free cells are then reintroduced into the patient after total body radiation is used to kill residual cancer cells left in the body. This treatment is called peripheral blood stem cell transplantation.
The machines, once used for human patients, are suitable for canine use without modification, as bone marrow therapy protocols for people were originally developed using dogs.
“It’s not a new technology, it’s just a new application of an existing technology,” Suter says. “Doctors have been treating human patients with bone marrow transplantation for many years, and there have been canine patient transplants performed in a research setting for about 20 years, but it’s never been feasible as a standard therapy until now.”
Canine lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs, but the survival rate with current treatments is extremely low. Peripheral blood stem cell transplantation, in conjunction with chemotherapy, has raised human survival rates considerably, and it is hoped that dogs will see the same benefits.
“We know that dogs who have received bone marrow transplants have a cure rate of at least 30 percent versus about 0 to 2 percent for dogs who don’t receive the transplants,” Suter adds. “The process itself is painless for dogs – the only thing they lose is a bit of body heat while the cells are being harvested.”

A lot of medical procedures go through this circle: tested and perfected in animals, then applied to humans and further improved, then applied in veterinary medicine. For some “touchy” areas, e.g., stem cell research, the cycle may go in a different direction: testing in animals, then application in veterinary medicine, and, once that is shown to be a success, application to humans.

Surgery? Who would have thunk?

Providing Surgical Services Should Be Global Public Health Priority:

When you think of public health efforts in developing countries, you probably think of childhood vaccinations, programs for clean water, malaria and TB eradication campaigns. Surgery is rarely considered as a tool for improving the health of the world’s poorest people. Prompted by an article in their on-line journal suggesting that it should be, the editors of PLoS Medicine have added their voice to the discussion.

Towards a Data Sharing Culture

Towards a Data Sharing Culture: Recommendations for Leadership from Academic Health Centers:

Sharing biomedical research and health care data is important but difficult. Recognizing this, many initiatives facilitate, fund, request, or require researchers to share their data [1-5]. These initiatives address the technical aspects of data sharing, but rarely focus on incentives for key stakeholders [6]. Academic health centers (AHCs) have a critical role in enabling, encouraging, and rewarding data sharing. The leaders of medical schools and academic-affiliated hospitals can play a unique role in supporting this transformation of the research enterprise. We propose that AHCs can and should lead the transition towards a culture of biomedical data sharing.
The benefits of data sharing and reuse have been widely reported. We summarize them here, from the perspective of an AHC….

Aggregator of RSS feeds about Gynecology

Vedran keeps cranking these at an incredible rate (the first numbers indicate these aggregators are quite comprehensive and the feedback is that they are useful) – here is the latest one: Aggregator of RSS feeds about Gynecology

Bail John Out!

My old friend John Burns is in jail! OK, he voluntarily went there. But, the only way he can get out is if he pays bail, and the only way he can pay bail is if you donate to the Muscular Dystrophy Assocation in his name!

* $85 -Fund One Minute of Research
* $100 – Support Group Session
* $800 – Send one child to MDA Summer Camp
* $2,000 – Assist with Wheelchair or Leg Braces

The dog with a titanium leg

Dog to Sport New High-Tech Leg:

A German shepherd mix named Cassidy now has a chance to walk on all fours again, thanks to a surgical procedure conducted at NC State that has implications for the future of human prosthetics.
During a four-hour procedure last Thursday at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little, associate professor of orthopedics, inserted a titanium implant into the bone of Cassidy’s missing right hind leg. In three months, after the implant has time to fuse with the bone, Cassidy’s missing leg will be fitted with an osseointegrated prosthetic limb.
Marcellin-Little, and Dr. Ola Harrysson, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, are pioneers in the area of osseointegration, a process that fuses a prosthetic limb with an animal’s (or human’s) bones. The result is a custom-designed, limb-sparing prosthesis that behaves more like a natural limb- and a technique that could revolutionize human prosthetics.

Aggregator of RSS Feeds about disability and special needs issues

Aggregator of RSS Feeds about disability and special needs issues, another one made by Vedran. As always, you can contact him with suggestions for more feeds to add.

Aggregator of news about infectious diseases

Aggregator of news about infectious diseases, another one made by Vedran. As always, you can contact him with suggestions for more feeds to add.

Aggregated posts from the best (medical) educational blogs

Vedran is on the roll! Here is the aggregator for medical education blogs.

Pediatrics Feed Aggregator

Vedran has done it again:
Pediatrics Feed Aggregator

Oncology Blog Aggregator

I heard that this is how it happened: when I went to Belgrade and talked about OA at the med school at University of Belgrade, I mentioned that Vedran is the local Web guru for them if they need anything. Someone from the Oncology hospital was there and later she contacted Vedran and asked him to make a blog aggregator that pulls together what people are writing about cancer. So, he did it – the Oncology Blog Aggregator is now live. If you know of good cancer blogs that should be included in the aggregator, let me know in the comments.

Voluntary trepanation patient

Mo has the scoop – a fascinating interview with Heather Perry, one of the rare people who voluntarily underwent trepanation surgery.

I thought they were spineless to begin with…

But new research shows they lose spine gradually over the years. [via]

MedBlogging under scrutiny

The Health Blogosphere: What It Means for Policy Debates and Journalism:

The Kaiser Family Foundation is sponsoring a discussion about the growing influence of blogs on health news and policy debates. Only in the past few years has the blogosphere become mainstream. In the health policy arena, we now see policymakers, journalists, researchers and interest groups utilizing this new media tool to deliver information to their audiences. The briefing will highlight how the traditional health policy world has embraced blogging and will feature a keynote address by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, the first cabinet officer to author an official blog, followed by a moderated discussion with a variety of health policy bloggers and a media analyst.
Questions to be explored with the panelists include: Why do individuals and organizations blog? How does blogging impact the broader work of an organization? Are there different standards used when blogging versus other writing? Have blogs impacted the news business significantly? What kind of influence are blogs having on political and policy debates?

Unfortunately, the panel is heavily skewed toward Rightwing, Bush-loving, business-only types, with the brave exception of Ezra Klein.
Annie has a lot more information worth checking out. But you should tune in tomorrow at 1pm Eastern time and pitch in. Let’s reframe their discussion so it actually gets honest.

Light and Time

Two of my SciBlings have recently covered papers that my readers should find interesting:
Joseph: Bright Light and Melatonin Treatment Improves Dementia:

A study published in JAMA indicates that treatment with bright light alone (1,000 lux), or bright light combined with melatonin, can improve symptoms in patients with dementia. Melatonin alone appeared to have a slight adverse effect.

Chris Chatham : Time Perception: In the Absence of “Time Sensation?”:

In their newly in-press TICS article, Ivry and Schlerf review the state of the art in cognitive modeling of time perception – perhaps the most basic form of perception which has no sensory system dedicated to it.

HIV/AIDS awareness

After two years of raising awareness about living with HIV, Ron Hudson has decided to end the International Carnival of Pozitivities. The very last edition is now up on Black Looks.

Evolutionary Medicine

Bjoern Brembs alerts me to a cool new paper (OA so you can read the whole thing) – The great opportunity: Evolutionary applications to medicine and public health by Randolph M. Nesse and Stephen C. Stearns:

Evolutionary biology is an essential basic science for medicine, but few doctors and medical researchers are familiar with its most relevant principles. Most medical schools have geneticists who understand evolution, but few have even one evolutionary biologist to suggest other possible applications. The canyon between evolutionary biology and medicine is wide. The question is whether they offer each other enough to make bridge building worthwhile. What benefits could be expected if evolution were brought fully to bear on the problems of medicine? How would studying medical problems advance evolutionary research? Do doctors need to learn evolution, or is it valuable mainly for researchers? What practical steps will promote the application of evolutionary biology in the areas of medicine where it offers the most? To address these questions, we review current and potential applications of evolutionary biology to medicine and public health. Some evolutionary technologies, such as population genetics, serial transfer production of live vaccines, and phylogenetic analysis, have been widely applied. Other areas, such as infectious disease and aging research, illustrate the dramatic recent progress made possible by evolutionary insights. In still other areas, such as epidemiology, psychiatry, and understanding the regulation of bodily defenses, applying evolutionary principles remains an open opportunity. In addition to the utility of specific applications, an evolutionary perspective fundamentally challenges the prevalent but fundamentally incorrect metaphor of the body as a machine designed by an engineer. Bodies are vulnerable to disease – and remarkably resilient – precisely because they are not machines built from a plan. They are, instead, bundles of compromises shaped by natural selection in small increments to maximize reproduction, not health. Understanding the body as a product of natural selection, not design, offers new research questions and a framework for making medical education more coherent. We conclude with recommendations for actions that would better connect evolutionary biology and medicine in ways that will benefit public health. It is our hope that faculty and students will send this article to their undergraduate and medical school Deans, and that this will initiate discussions about the gap, the great opportunity, and action plans to bring the full power of evolutionary biology to bear on human health problems.

Zoonoses on my mind

More from SCONC:
Tuesday June 17 at 6:30-8:30 pm
Science Café – A ‘One Medicine’ Approach to a Changing World

NC State’s Barrett D. Slenning MS, DVM, MPVM will share with us the view that knowing about diagnoses and treatments of animals can benefit humans. The opposite is also true, given the fact that about 60 percent of all human pathogens are zoonotic diseases, transmissible between animals and people. Join us to learn how human and veterinary medicine can join forces to protect us with rapid responses to the outbreak of disease.

Location: The Irregardless Cafe, 901 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh

When Clocks Go Bad

Today in PLoS Genetics: a nice review of some interest to my readers: When Clocks Go Bad: Neurobehavioural Consequences of Disrupted Circadian Timing by Alun R. Barnard and Patrick M. Nolan:

Progress in unravelling the cellular and molecular basis of mammalian circadian regulation over the past decade has provided us with new avenues through which we can explore central nervous system disease. Deteriorations in measurable circadian output parameters, such as sleep/wake deficits and dysregulation of circulating hormone levels, are common features of most central nervous system disorders. At the core of the mammalian circadian system is a complex of molecular oscillations within the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus. These oscillations are modifiable by afferent signals from the environment, and integrated signals are subsequently conveyed to remote central neural circuits where specific output rhythms are regulated. Mutations in circadian genes in mice can disturb both molecular oscillations and measurable output rhythms. Moreover, systematic analysis of these mutants indicates that they can express an array of abnormal behavioural phenotypes that are intermediate signatures of central nervous system disorders. Furthermore, the response of these mutants to psychoactive drugs suggests that clock genes can modify a number of the brain’s critical neurotransmitter systems. This evidence has led to promising investigations into clock gene polymorphisms in psychiatric disease. Preliminary indications favour the systematic investigation of the contribution of circadian genes to central nervous system disease.

How YOU can help with malaria research

Social networking meets social conscience:

As reported today in the science journal Nature, aims to help in the stuggle against malaria. Rather than throwing buckets of money at big name Western research institutes, the new website aims to give smaller locally-based African projects a bigger profile.
Relying on grass-roots support from people who are concerned about poverty and disease, the website hopes to fund in-country research that would otherwise be overlooked by the big funders such as the Gates Foundation or NIH.
The site provides profiles of projects that individuals (that’s you and me!) can evaluate and choose to support.

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Open Access

OK, I posted a lot of pictures of Belgrade and my Mom’s food so far, but the real business was on Tuesday, when I gave two talks about Open Access, PLoS, Science 2.0, the future of the scientific paper, Open Notebook Science and science blogging.
In the morning, I gave a talk in the gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art in front of about 20 people, mostly specialist librarians. That session was recorded and, as soon as the podcast is available, I will link to it. There were many good questions asked at the end and the excitement was palpable.
Afterwards I gave an interview for Radio Beograd 202 which ran that same afternoon at 5pm as well as again next morning. I will get a CD of the recording and once I get home will turn it into a podcast and post it.
The next day I gave an interview for a popular show about Digital Culture on Radio Belgrade 2 which will run on Monday morning (I think) and will be available online as a podcast at some point in the future). On Tuesday I have to go to the Radio Belgrade 1 station to be on a very hip (they say “cult”) show in the morning – it is a call-in show, I understand, and will be interesting to do. At least by now, my ability to talk about all this in Serbian language has somewhat improved 😉
In the afternoon, I went to the Pediatric Center of the Medical School at the University of Belgrade, where I gave the presentation again, with perhaps less talk about blogs and more emphasis on Open Access publishing, especially in the medical area. There were about 30 people in the amphitheater, including my Mom, her student Vuk, three of my childhood friends (from elementary school and even before) – one of whom is a professor of Psychiatry – and two high school friends: one is a biomedical researcher and the other, Dr.Vera Zdravkovic who organized the event, is a pediatric endocrinologist and also a professor in the med school.
Again, the interest and enthusiasm were huge, with many excellent questions afterwards – we kept talking in the hall for quite a while afterwards. Perhaps the most important immediate result is that local people who can and should help each other – the researchers/physicians and the medical librarians – got to meet each other and understand how they can help each other find, produce, organize and share information. I think that in Serbia librarians will be the key to the move towards modern use of online technology in scientific and medical research and publishing.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both groups (librarians and researchers) got to meet Vedran, the guru of everything Open in Serbia who will be able to help them immensely with all aspects of opening their science to the world and managing the scientific and medical information.
The librarian of the Oncology Center, Ana Ivkovic, was at the afternoon talk. She runs a fantastic blog and she took some pictures from the event and posted them on Flickr.
The Director of the Pediatric Center is an amazing woman. I am not at all surprised that, under her leadership, her center is at the cutting edge of the use of technology in comparison to the rest of the Medical School. We had great discussion after the talk in her office and, afterwards, at lunch in the restaurant Frans. Frans is right next to the vet school and I spent many hours there during my vet-school years back in the 80s. It used to be a hole in the wall with a few tables inside and a few outside. Now it is an elite restaurant – and we joked that they made their first million off of me and my friends and all the beer we had there over the years.

Continue reading

Dude liveblogs own vasectomy

Internets are interesting places. One finds all sorts of strange things people post on there. But I hope that Abel’s vasectomy liveblogging will make many more men realize that the operation is quick, easy and painless. Perhaps more guys will elect to do it due to reading this post.

Bush promises $350 million for Neglected Tropical Diseases

World Health Organization announced a $350 million initiative as a five-year plan to control seven major tropical diseases in Africa:

Statement by WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan
I warmly welcome the initiative, announced today by United States President George W. Bush, to vastly increase funding for the integrated treatment of seven of the most important neglected tropical diseases: lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, blinding trachoma, onchocerciasis, and three soil-transmitted helminthiases. These are blinding, deforming, and debilitating diseases that affect the poorest of the poor. An intensified attack on these diseases delivers a blow against the poverty of millions of people.
I further welcome the ambition behind this enhanced commitment: to reduce dramatically and eventually control and eliminate diseases that have caused misery and sapped productivity since antiquity. The time is ripe for ambitious initiatives like the one announced today.
WHO and its multiple partners, including USAID, have established a firm foundation for moving forward with unprecedented speed – and the best-yet prospects for success. Highly effective drugs are available, and many are being donated by industry in large quantities. Strategies for integrated delivery have been devised, streamlining operational requirements and reducing costs. Moreover, the drugs are safe and simple to administer and all at-risk populations can be treated – an approach to mass prevention similar to that of childhood immunization. Efforts to increase coverage can begin immediately.
I welcome the challenge, made by President Bush today, for other donors to complement this US commitment of US$ 350 million over five years to treat these diseases.

Hey, even Bush can occasionally do what’s right, so give him the credit for it. Perhaps, with all this attention, we should not be calling these diseases “neglected” any more? Perhaps we should rename our youngest journal?
I hope other sponsors pitch in to complement the Bush offer and raise the fund to $700 mil.

Anna Kushnir interviews Rose Reis

In my daily interviews I always ask: what new blogs did you discover at the Conference? If anyone asked me that question – and you know it’s hard to surprise me! – one I’d pick would be the INFO Project blog run by Rose Reis, now my daily read.
Now, Anna (where did she get the idea, I wonder?) interviews Rose over on the JoVE Blog and the interview is worth your time. And yes, sooner or later, Rose Reis will be interviewed here as well – stay tuned.

An Onion? Not a cancer?

Yes and No. But the article is not from the ‘Onion’, it’s from the Hot Medical News. It’s about an onion, in a strange place….

NCSU helps Baghdad Zoo veterinarians

From Russ Williams, director of the N.C. Zoo Society.

Sports Doping at the Planetarium


On Thursday, February 7, SCONCs will migrate to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill. MPSC will open its exhibits to SCONC members for a special viewing at 6:00 p.m. in the NASA Digital Theater, followed by Morehead’s Current Science Forum at 7:00 p.m. in the Banquet Hall. This month’s topic, “Victory At Any Cost?” covers the arresting subject of performance-enhancing drugs. Dr. Mario Ciocca, head physician for six UNC athletic teams, will talk about the effects of steroids, growth hormones and other banned substances, and the science used to detect them. Ciocca will lead the public roundtable discussion to follow.
This is an issue with local ties in the Tarheel State. Years before Marion Jones’s admitted steroid use, she was a standout freshman on the UNC women’s basketball team that won the 1994 National Championship. Prior to her current legal and financial troubles, Jones owned a large home in this area.
RSVP for the SCONC meeting to Helen Chickering by Tuesday, February 5.


The Duke Medical Center News Office is seeking a Sr. Science News Writer to be responsible for planning, developing, implementing and analyzing strategic comprehensive and diversified media relations programs and tactics. Through direct support of Duke Medicine strategic objectives and the associated strategic plan, the Sr. Science News Writer accrues value to the Duke brand through local, regional and national news exposure.
The ideal candidate will have a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, English or a related discipline and at least 5 years of extensive media relations or science news reporting experience. The position requires the ability to edit copy and write science news effectively in several different formats and styles, identify stories that have the elements necessary for success, and understand the components of effective and successful video and online support for science news.
Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience. Duke offers a comprehensive benefits package. View the complete job description and apply online at: to
Requisition # 400166212 (Sr. Science News Writer). A cover letter outlining qualifications and a resume including professional references is required for consideration.
Duke University Health System is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action Employer.

The Dangers of Blogging, or, the Quest for Male Contraception

dice.jpg“Why isn’t there a birth control pill for men?” is the latest “Ask A ScienceBlogger” question. I am sure my SciBlings will rise to the occasion and explain both the biological and social barriers to the development, production and marketing of such a pill. I will be more light hearted, with a brief look at alternative methods proposed over the years intended to make guys temporarily infertile. Let’s start with this delightful, funny, yet informative, movie:

The movie can be found here, via Science of the Invisible (Thanks for the heads-up).
Perhaps this quack had a point after all! Would you mind getting mildly electrocuted so you could have unprotected sex for a while?
One of the factors often invoked to explain the decrease in male fertility in the developed world is the fashion of wearing tight jeans (didn’t work for me – look at my kids!), which increases the temperature in the scrotal region. Perhaps we can learn from the dolphins and devise ways to do exactly the opposite: kill sperm by heating the testes. People have actually tried this, sitting in hot baths for hours every day, with some anecdotal success.
Or we can infect men with norovirus. There is no way they will have sex at all if they are spending their time in the bathroom, trying to make the tough decision of which way to turn when projectile ejection of liquid is happening simultaneously at both the cranial and the caudal ends of the body.
Finally, going to the chemicals, there is an unwanted side-effect of some anti-depressants: Though there’s no problem with getting an erection (for hours!), they make it almost impossible to achieve orgasm or ejaculation. Perhaps we can study the underlying mechanism of this effect and devise a complex time-release pill that would work sort-of like this: first, Viagra gets into the system, ensuring erection; then, the drug mimicking the effects of anti-depressants kicks in blocking ejaculation; and finally, after a prescribed time, an anti-Viagra compound is released, effectively ending the show with no damage done.
What do you think, would guys go for it?
Or should they (as the movie above suggests) just blog around the clock?

The World AIDS Day

Tomorrow is the World AIDS Day:

The WAC’s slogan for their work is “Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise”. This is an appeal to governments, policy makers and regional health authorities to ensure that they meet the many targets that have been set in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and especially the promise of universal access to HIV treatment, care, support and prevention services by 2010. This campaign will run until 2010, with a related theme chosen for World AIDS Day each year.

So, I hope you choose to blog about this tomorrow and raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, rallying your readers to contact the relevant authorities/governments and remind them of their promises (and thank those who are already doing a lot).
If you are a science blogger or a medblogger, I hope you also use this opportunity to educate your readers about the disease, from whichever angle you think is important. If you are looking for information, I hope you do not mind my shameless promotion of my employer (but you all love PLoS already, don’t you?) and point you to a whole host of papers on AIDS published a couple of hours ago in PLoS Medicine.
Larry Peiperl reviews this special AIDS issue and here are the links to all the papers (at least you don’t have to pay to read them):
Elevated Risk for HIV Infection among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Low- and Middle-Income Countries 2000-2006: A Systematic Review
When Do HIV-Infected Women Disclose Their HIV Status to Their Male Partner and Why? A Study in a PMTCT Programme, Abidjan
N348I in the Connection Domain of HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase Confers Zidovudine and Nevirapine Resistance
Assessment of Recent HIV-1 Infection by a Line Immunoassay for HIV-1/2 Confirmation
Cytomegalovirus Retinitis: The Neglected Disease of the AIDS Pandemic
Antibody-Based HIV-1 Vaccines: Recent Developments and Future Directions
So, if one or more of these articles is of interest to you, or within the domain of your expertise, I will not get mad if you blog about it!

Shift Work labeled as a Probable Cause of Cancer

Shift Work May Be Cancer Risk:

In an announcement to be published Saturday in the journal Lancet Oncology, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, will label shift work as a “probable cause” of cancer.
The designation — rooted in the theory that the disruption of circadian rhythms could be a culprit — puts shift work on a par with ultraviolet radiation or anabolic steroids as suspected carcinogens, but does not say it is a definitive cause of cancer, such as cigarette smoking.

A random schedule of shifts – working a couple of days a week at night, a couple of days during the day – is the worst.
A phase-advancing shift-rotation (a week at night, followed by a week in the afternoon, followed by a week in the morning) is just as bad.
A slower, phase-delaying rotation (a month in the morning, followed by a month in the afternoon, followed by a month at night) is a little bit better.
Staying constantly on the night shift is almost as bad, mainly as it is almost impossible to keep it consistent, i.e., completely avoiding light during the day and exposing oneself to bright light during the night even on one’s days off. Social events and weekends produce a state of permanent jet-lag nonetheless.
But as in everything biological, there is a variation in population – some people are affected much more strongly than others. Let workers self-select their schedules as they can best feel on their own how the night work is affecting their physical and mental health.

More on the Tasmanian Devil cancer

As we are trying to help gather some funding to help the Tasmanian Devil from extinction due to the nasty infectious cancer, I thought it would be of interest to you to read more about it in this article: To Lose Both Would Look Like Carelessness: Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease to which I was alerted by a secret fan:

This paper uses the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) as a case study of the wider issue of how to manage an emerging disease threat that poses a serious conservation threat: how should you proceed when you know very little? This is a question common to many ecological problems; all environmental management operates in the face of uncertainty. If actions are postponed until higher-quality information is available, then it is likely that substantial costs will be incurred. Further, with emerging diseases or invasive species in general, it is likely that control will become more difficult or indeed impossible once the agent becomes established. Rapid action is therefore essential but will inevitably be based on incomplete knowledge.


Taz needs your help

Tasmanian Devils are suffering from a strange form of cancer, one that is infectious, i.e., it can be transmitted from one animal to another through contact.
The disease is devastating the population of this already endangered species and if some cure is not found quickly, the species will go extinct. Thus, the research and conversation work is needed in these six areas:

1. Investigating the tumour and its chromosomes, looking for clues to resistance
2.Keeping some area or areas of Tasmania free from the disease i.e. wild management
3.Maintaining backup captive populations of devils in Tasmania as ‘insurance’
4.Developing a diagnostic test for the disease
5.Developing a vaccine against the disease
6.Monitoring changes in populations affected by the disease

There is, however, not sufficient funding for all of this. But, we can all help – you can now donate funds to the University of Tasmania research and conservation effort and help save Taz from extinction.