Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Video Blog Break: Could You Ride This Bike?

I thought this video was pretty interesting on how our brains work and learn-- particularly his term about "brain plasticity".

We know that young children who suffer head injury can have much better outcomes than teens and adults. This has been proposed as the theory why.

What do you think? What does this bike experiment teach us about the way we think and learn?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Summer Blog Break

Hello Redwood's Fans!

On this Memorial Day-- I want to take a moment to thank all those who gave their lives for our country. Thank you to the families who remain behind for your sacrifice. I know the price of freedom is steep and am grateful every day for the rights I enjoy.

May God richly bless you.

Are you enjoying the sunshine? We, in Colorado, are not. It has been the grayest, cloudiest, rainiest May that I can ever remember-- which is good for me since I tend to like dark and stormy. However, I am starting to feel sorry for my fellow Coloradans who really do look forward to those sun shiny days.

Over the next several weeks-- we'll be taking a break from the medical mayhem and posting some fun, maybe even thought provoking, video clips. These are ones that I have enjoyed and hope you do to.

Enjoy the time with your family. Take a camping trip! Finish that novel you've dreamed of finishing.

In the mean time, I'll be preparing great medical posts for you to enjoy after July 4th!!

Party Hard!-- as we used to say in the 80s, but of course with responsibility at safety.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Science Fiction or Medical Breakthrough: Children with Three Genetic Parents

Recently, this headline grabbed my attention-- a child with three genetic parents. My first novel, Proof, dealt with a DNA genetic twist that made it difficult for law enforcement to put away the villain. So, as both a medical nerd and a suspense author, this concept intrigued me and set off several plot ideas in my mind.

What exactly are three-parent-babies?

A little science lesson first. Mitochondria are present in each of your cells. They are typically referred to as the "engine" or "powerhouse" of the cell. They provide the energy to run the cell kind of like a battery.

There are a group of diseases that affect the mitochondria and therefore can be passed to you genetically by your mother.

Science is using "three-parent" DNA in IVF to prevent these mitochondrial diseases, which can be very devastating, from being passed down from mother to child by replacing the mother's mitochondrial DNA with a donor woman's mitochondrial DNA. The first article I linked to above provides the best diagram I could find as to how they accomplish the genetic transfer.

How much DNA is provided by the donor? Approximately 0.1%.

This procedure is outlawed world wide and just recently gained approval in the UK. It has been performed in the US but was outlawed when one woman miscarried and three other children were born with disorders. It's not clear if the procedure is to account for these. Other healthy children have been born using this technology who are now in their teens.

Is this a good idea?

I think it remains to be seen. The articles I've read liken this to a bone marrow transplant. You're simply replacing broken batteries with new ones. Naysayers of course worry about manipulating someone's genetic code and the slippery slope to designer babies.

To me, I'm open to the technology but would be interested in seeing how many eggs are destroyed because the technology failed. I view life as beginning at conception so this worries me on that level.

Supporters say replacing dysfunctional mitochondria doesn't affect the child's overall genetics from their parents. It doesn't influence eye color, height, or intelligence. I've seen children suffer with mitochondrial diseases and to offer parents a "cure" is something I could support.

What about you? Does this kind of technology concern you? If so, why?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Science Fiction or Medical Breakthrough? Head Tranplants

Did your own head do a double take at the title of this post?

I know mine did when I first read this story.

Imagine it . . . someone being essentially decapitated and their head being placed onto another body.

This isn't science fiction-- but the real medical plan of Dr. Sergio Canavero-- head of the Turn Advanced Neuromodulation Group.

And-- he has a patient volunteering to be the first "guinea pig". A patient that suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease which is a form of spinal muscular atrophy which can lead to severe muscle weakness causing a person to become ventilator and wheelchair dependent.

I'm most familiar with this disease in working with kids who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) . Children who suffer from this illness have relatively short life spans of about two years-- though it obviously depends on what kind of medical care the family chooses such as life-long ventilator dependence.

This surgery could happen as soon as 2017.

Perhaps it is a worthy medical concept. I don't know how I feel about it ethically. What I do think is that it would be a great plot for a medical thriller.

What do you do when the new body rejects the transplant? What is it going to be like for a person's mind to be exposed to antibodies and hormones that it hasn't been exposed to? What if the person is female but the transplanted body is male? Could any of these things cause a person to go insane?

I personally don't see this type of surgery happening any time soon. As one article states-- the soonest something like this could possibly happen is 2117.


Nerves. The crux of the issue is the severing of the spinal cord. Even now, in accidents where the spinal cord is severed-- we don't have the medical technology available yet to repair it so that the person is "fully functional" and not wheelchair bound. I think until this technology is available-- a head transplant is still in the realm of science fiction.

What say you-- is a head transplant a good or bad idea?