Archive for November, 2013

New Hope For Glaucoma

Posted by on Wednesday, 13 November, 2013
Cartoon about glaucoma

WIDER?

A LEADING CAUSE OF BLINDNESS

We’re going to talk about something new in glaucoma research. I don’t want to raise false hopes since we’re a long way from a cure – we’re not even quite sure what’s going on with glaucoma even though it’s the second leading cause of blindness.  But we know more. And we can do more about it.

GLAUCOMA

You may think glaucoma is what happens when the pressure in the front of your eye gets too high. That’s how it was generally understood until now.

Well many people who have glaucoma seem to have normal eye pressure. So now the thinking has shifted to the nerves of the eye. High ocular (eye) pressure isn’t a good thing. Definitely. So we want to keep that under control. If the pressure is too high, the nerves in the eye won’t get as much blood flow and, obviously, that’s bad. But, in glaucoma, even when the pressure is normal the nerves of the eye  deteriorate.

Why? This is the thing that’s not well understood. Maybe, in some people, those nerves are just defective in some way. Or maybe there’s something wrong with the way oxygen is transported to them. The interesting new direction that glaucoma research has taken is that in addition to keeping a handle on eye pressure, we’re also monitoring the condition of the optic nerve and developing stuff to protect it. Let’s look at both strategies, okay?

Pressure first.

Physicians do want to keep eye pressure down. If there are signs of glaucoma, they want to lower it. This is true even if it is already “normal”. This is often done with drops. Patients, unfortunately, aren’t very good at this stuff. They might take drops at first. But this is a lifelong commitment. Stuff happens. They forget. They get distracted. Whatever! And the eyes get worse.

The other thing is that it’s hard to get drops into your own eye. They land on the desk, on the cheek, on the Persian carpet. But not in the eye. That’s another problem. Historically, doctors find it very hard to get good results when they have to rely on their patients to get the job done.

Jerry Helzner, Senior Editor for Opthalmology Management, wrote about tiny implantable devices that can release medications very consistently to keep the pressure down. This is a really good idea. And it may save a lot of eyes.

Now nerves.

This is the new stuff. This is where we pull away from the focus only on pressure and start looking at how to protect the nerves too. In this interview from newschannel5.com, Dr. Jeffery Goldberg (Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami) talks about a different kind of  implant. This one continuously delivers  a therapeutic dose of “neurotrophic growth factor” into the eye. What’s different here is that the aim is at keeping nerves alive.  It’s been tested on animals . Now it’s in human trials.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

 There are several “versions” of glaucoma. Here’s a fine article from the New York Times that explains more about the human eye and about how glaucoma develops.

FINISHING UP

There’s a lot more testing to be done and”breakthroughs” do have so many ways of disappointing once they do get to human trials. But moving to protect the nerves as well as lower pressure in the eye could change things for a lot of people who might, otherwise, lose their sight. If this doesn’t work out, something else will. Before we completely understand what’s going on with glaucoma, we will have better treatments.

If you think you might have glaucoma, please get your butt down to the doctor. You’ll be fine. But get on this. Early diagnosis and treatment is important, okay?

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The drawing? That’s one of mine. If you’re a regular reader, you probably recognize those two. They show up often.

To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline

 


Falling In Love More Dangerous Than Texting & Driving

Posted by on Tuesday, 12 November, 2013

 

funny cartoon about the dangers of falling in love

WHY THEY CALL IT “FALLING”

 

DID THEY REALLY SAY IT’S MORE DANGEROUS THAN TEXTING?

No, not exactly. But according to a study by Henk van Steenbergen  (The University of Maryland & Leiden University) being in love is pretty bad for your concentration.  The more your soul’s on fire, the worse it is.  The article was in the journal Motivation and Emotion. The study focused on people who were “newly smitten”. It was pretty obvious that they couldn’t think of much else and were, frankly, a danger to themselves and others.

If you’re going to the barbershop? Before he shaves your neck, ask about his love life. Seriously.

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The drawing is mine.


The Future Of The Stand-alone Camera

Posted by on Sunday, 10 November, 2013

 

Funny cartoon of someone using a camera

JUST A CAMERA

Your camera. How old is it?

That’s what I figured. Why would you buy a new one? You have your phone, right?

Eric Zeman (Information Week) says things are bad out there. Executives at Canon and Nikon  are walking around looking lost. Their stuff is sensational in every way. Smaller, easier to use, amazing in low light, better connectivity – all at great prices. What are they supposed to do? Give them away as door prizes when you open a bank account?

Meanwhile, you’re snapping away with your Galaxy s4 or your Iphone or your 41 mpixel Nikon Pureview.

Damn!

Camera companies claim all is well. When the global economy gets better, their sales will pick up.

Graveyard whistling? Would you want  the boss talking down the company’s future?

Here’s the thing.

My digital single lens reflex- what is it – ten years old? – takes great shots. My excellent Galaxy S4 does a good job with its camera and  its camera apps but for fast high resolutions shots – especially in low light – it can’t compete. Hey. I’m just being honest, okay?

When’s the last time I used the Nikon? I’m not sure. Probably not this year. I can’t seem to remember to throw it in the car anymore. I have the phone.

The early arrival of the future messes up some good stuff. It doesn’t make sense to have a daily newspaper anymore. It was so nice to sleep late on Sunday and have the paper spread out all over the bed with the dog rumping around in it while we ate bagels. Google News, my current news source, can’t seem to discriminate between bombastic idiots and real reporters. Maybe “crawlers” can’t tell the difference since they’re looking for links instead of great reporting.

The bummer is that cameras are good things. Smartphones might get that good eventually. But maybe not. Even the best displays are sketchy in bright sunlight and they are clumsy to hold for camera shots. Phone cameras continue to improve but maybe there is a limit to what can be done in such a small package.

On the other hand, smartphones have the huge advantage that they are there when you need them. That’s the thing. But if the sales of real cameras keep going down, won’t they run into “newspaper economics”? The less they sell, the harder it is to make a buck? Then they have to raise their prices to stay in business, right? The higher the price, the less they sell..  like that. An inglorious cycle.

There’s not much we can do. Just stand around and watch it shake out. Even Mister ScienceAintSoBad can’t change the consequences of the technical revolution.

One thing. I can charge up the Nikon and snap a photo of my foot.

It’s something.

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That’s one of my own cartoons.


Idea For Disposal Of Nuclear Waste Emerges

Posted by on Friday, 8 November, 2013
Funny cartoon about unfunny problem of nuclear waste

MAKING LIGHT OF IT

 

 IMPROVING THE SITUATION

Commercial nuclear power plants have been in use since the 1950’s and we still don’t know what to do with the stupid radioactive waste.

So we punt. In the US, we have over 100 nuclear reactors where the spent fuel is stored on site in casks and in “pools”.

Dumb? You bet it’s dumb! The reason we’re not smarter about this stuff is, as usual, politics but I can see from your face you don’t want to hear it.

Whatever! The question is what to do with it all. Dr. Neil Hyatt (Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield) has been working on the problem in England which is faced with a similar problem. His idea is to mix the “hot stuff” with slag from blast furnaces. This turns it into a glass. It also shrinks it down to roughly 15% of its original volume and locks it into a stable form in a “cost effective” manner.

Mister ScienceAintSoBad thinks Hyatt is going in the right direction. Reducing the volume and locking the stuff into an ultrastable form is a great idea. If our leaders can’t figure out a way to properly dispose of the stuff, maybe we can try encapsulating them in hot slag. It wouldn’t really solve anything but – be honest – wouldn’t it feel tremendously satisfying?

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 9 for Dr. Hyatt’s idea. It’s a good one.

 

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The drawing is one of mine


GOING TO STANDARD TIME COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE

Posted by on Wednesday, 6 November, 2013

Humorous cartoon show two people discussing the meaning of time.

 

THE SLEEP/HEART ATTACK CONNECTION

You just set your clocks, right? This time of year the day is so short we have to push some daylight towards morning so kids will be safe going to school. Did you know that changing the clocks can affect your chances of having a heart attack?

Here’s the thing.

Dr. Martin Young (University of Alabama,  Division of Cardiovascular Disease) talks about a Swedish study that showed heart attacks increase about 10% in spring, a day after the clock “springs back”, and they fall off when the clock “falls forward”. Why, isn’t totally obvious; it’s either tied to the position of the hands on the clock or to sleep deprivation. Mister ScienceAintSoBad votes for sleep deprivation.

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The cartoon is my own

 


A CREEPY TRUTH ABOUT PEOPLE IN A “VEGETATIVE STATE”

Posted by on Monday, 4 November, 2013

cartoon about healthcare proxy discussion

  VEGGED OUT BUT LISTENING

Remember the Terri Shiavo case?

Everybody was mad at everybody else.

The scientigentsia (me included) were appalled. Ms Shiavo was in a persistent vegetative state. She had no conscious awareness. Her husband said he loved her but the situation was hopeless and she should be allowed to die. Her parents said they loved her but she was ‘in there” and and no one had the right to make that decision for her.

After a long fight, the courts sided with the husband and Ms Shaivo was taken off of her feeding tube. After a while, she died.

Well the court was right. When the doctors finally got a look at Ms Schaivo’s brain, they could see most of it was gone. Like really gone. There were almost no neurons in the part where thinking occurs. She couldn’t have been aware.

But her story doesn’t apply to everyone in similar states. Maybe some can’t think at all. But some others may be in there.

Dr Srivas Chennu (Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit) used brain imaging MRI on  21 people who were either “minimally conscious” or in a vegetative state. They had the patients focus on certain things that the researchers recited while the doctors watched for a response. What they found is that one of the patients did well in their tests and three seemed to be aware but were pretty vague (couldn’t filter information). The rest didn’t do much.

What did Chennu prove?

Medically, it doesn’t seem to change the status of these very sick people. Only one out of the 21 showed good activity even by this standard. But a test like this could help get extra resources to the patients who need it most or find  better ways to communicate with them.

LOSE THE ATTITUDE

The real lesson is that science isn’t politics. No matter how you felt about Terry Shiavo, you need to lose the attitude. Not every patient in a vegetative or minimally conscious state is Terry Shiavo. If you let your ideas about science harden so that they resist new information, you might as well hand in your (metaphorical) white coat.

The study was published in the journal Neuroimage: Clinical.

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That drawing? I made it.

 


A Complete Disaster But -Who Knows? Maybe It’s Good For Business.

Posted by on Sunday, 3 November, 2013

Cartoon about bad news being god news

Dr. Alan Sorensen (Associate professor of economics and strategic management at the Stanford Business School) says you shouldn’t worry . Bad stuff happens and it doesn’t have to be a disaster because being notorious is almost as good as being glorious.

The study was based on a systematic look at book reviews. The bad reviews  – the really stinky ones – helped in the long run because, bad as they were, they got the name of the writer out there. Besides, who can read anymore? Maybe potential book consumers couldn’t tell a good review from a bad one. Especially if the wit is sardonic like my own.

Well here’s the thing.

Dr. Sorensen  worked hard. He looked at 240 reviews . Try that, okay? It takes forever. And he had to come up with a systematic way of normalizing his results so that he could crunch his numbers and reach a conclusion. But he (or someone) has stomped on the generalization pedal too hard. These were only book reviews. This doesn’t show  that an accidental poisoning at a fast food restaurant or several plane crashes in a row will be good for business.

The authors say that offers “interesting avenues for future research”. That’s for sure.

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Image by Mister ScienceAintSoBad

Note: I wrote the above article for Pirozzolo Company (http://pirozzolo.com/), a leading public relations company in Wellesley. It’s president and founder, Dick Pirozzolo, is fascinated by all the ins and outs of what it takes to shape public opinon.

I wish I could say the same. :)

 


DIALYSIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE SO BAD

Posted by on Friday, 1 November, 2013
cartoon about kidney dialysis

IF IT’S ON THE INTERNET..

 

She was funny, kind, and full of beans but her kidney’s were failing. The doctors said she needed to start dialysis which would mean regular visits to a dialysis center hooked up to machines to “clean” her  blood.

My aunt was was no dope. She wasn’t going around that corner.

She said –  I’ve had a good life. I don’t need to cling. It’s time.

But, you know how it is, right? You don’t get off that easy. The rest of us wanted her to at least give it a try, right? If you choose not to do it, there’s no going back. Look, it’s your choice, but wouldn’t it make sense to give it a few weeks?

She gave in, of course. She let herself be hauled to the dialysis center and, for months, she put up with the nausea, the abdominal pains, the lethargy, the headaches.

And then, one day, she had had enough.

That’s it, she said. I’m through. I’m not putting myself through that one more time.

And she didn’t.

She went home, said goodbye, fell asleep, and never woke up again.

None of us thinks she did the wrong thing but – dang! – we miss her.

Why get into all this? There’s a new option – something that wasn’t available to her.

OVERNIGHT DIALYSIS

Usually patients “get their blood cleaned” three times a week. The sessions last four hours.

It’s brutal. Most patients go home and collapse . By the time they feel better, it’s happening again. What if the process was stretched to say eight hours? Would slowing things down make it easier on the patients?

They tried it.  Dr. Ercan Ok (Ege University in Turkey) told the American Society of Nephrology’s 41st Annual Meeting all about it. The people in the study showed up three times a week just as they did before. But now they brought their PJs and spent the night. They slept through the sessions and woke up feeling much better than they did under the old regimen. It was much better tolerated with less side effects. The most exciting thing? The mortality rate plunged 78%.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad thinks overnight dialysis – even home dialysis when possible – is going to be very popular. I’m sure you know what I’m thinking, right? But I don’t have a time machine. And she had a really good life.

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The drawing is by me