Field of Science

Scientia Pro Publica 23: Medicine

Beginning | Biology | Conservation | Ethics | Medicine | Physics | Psychology | Conclusion

Joseph Lents is a student of pharmacology, and here he presents acetazolamide, an drug that can cure Altitude Sickness
Surprisingly when acetazolamide is used to treat altitude sickness, especially when used in prevention (before ascent), it slows the over-secretion of fluid in the corpus callosum assisting in the mitigation of the headache, nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue and changes in consciousness or gait. Additionally, studies have shown that those who take acetazolamide to treat altitude sickness had improved lung function and less difficulty sleeping after rapid ascent to altitude.

S. E. Gould has given up bacteria for viruses, and here tell us both about the Norovirus and Clinical Research. Journal article
The virus enters the body through the mouth, and invades the small intestine, resulting in lesions in the small intestine tissue and an increase in mucus production. This affects the absorption of nutrients, and leads to build-up of food in the stomach (which can't move down into the intestine) which in turn leads to vomiting and diarrhoea and generally feeling unwell.

One Elsevier journal, Medical Hypotheses, is apparently neither peer-reviewed, nor requiring that the medical hypotheses presented in published papers is correct, but just that they are crazy radical. Bob O'Hara objects to Elsevier's move to change these things (though he thinks peer-review would be a good idea) in Medical Hypotheses to be Falsified?
These questions have been brought into sharp relief by the journal Medical Hypotheses.This journal has, well, a reputation. The editor in chief, Bruce Charlton, has taken a deliberately different approach to the journal. Its aim is set out in its guidelines to authors:

The purpose of Medical Hypotheses is to publish interesting theoretical papers. The journal will consider radical, speculative and non-mainstream scientific ideas provided they are coherently expressed.

The journal has a reputation for publishing some weird stuff, including AIDS denialism. Charlton has a deliberate policy of selecting articles because they raise radical ideas, rather than because they look correct. Obviously, he's asking for some controversy, and now he's got it. The Scientist reports: Journal editor facing axe.

Two studies use whole-genome sequencing for disease discovery. Daniel MacArthur writes about the promises and the problems of that in Disease hunting with whole genome sequences: the good news, and the bad news. Journal article
The basic problem here is that we're still extremely bad at differentiating between mutations causing serious disease and perfectly benign polymorphisms - each of us have genomes littered with genetic variants that look like nasty mutations but have little or no effect on health. In fact, Lupski's genome illustrates this nicely: one of the mutations causing his disease is a premature stop codon that disrupts the function of a gene - but his genome also contains an additional 120 stop codons disrupting other genes, presumably without severe health effects.

For an individual, being a cheater can be highly advantageous, if you can get away with it, but for the population, it limits growth. This has important consequences for fighting bacterial infections, as Lucas Brouwers explains in Wolves, Bacteria and Cheaters Journal article
By using different grades of cheating, Jiricny and colleagues have shown the inherent vulnerability of cooperative systems. This work also might have clinical implications, since the Pseudomonas that infect patients suffering from cystic fibrosis seem to lose social functions over time, possibly because social cheaters emerge and overtake the cooperators. Non-conventional antibiotics that target the slower growing cheaters might be more effective in treating Pseudomonas infections.

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