#Minoan #Astronomy North Star #BronzeAge

double-axes-with-constellations

Bronze Age Crete is a tantalizing period for historians and archeologists. So much is known from the archeological record since the discovery of Knossos by Arthur Evans starting in 1900, but the written record is sparse and indecipherable. This mysterious language, Linear A, leaves opportunity for both academics and authors to imagine different scenarios. I belong to the latter group and this series of posts is best classified as historical fiction.

We know that the Minoans were a seafaring and agricultural society, so certainly would have carefully observed the night sky for navigation and planting purposes. The sailors’ first interest would have been a north star.

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Sailors in the modern era learned to follow the two farthest stars in the rectangular section of the big dipper to the first star in the handle of the little dipper. This star is Polaris and the brightest star in the little dipper. By a quirk of time, Polaris happens to be a very good north star.

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This was not true 3,500 years ago. While there was no true north star in that era, a star in the little dipper was the best approximation. Thus sailors could follow the nearest stars in the rectangular section of the big dipper to the last star in the little dipper. This star is Kochab and the second brightest star in the little dipper.

While these two constellations have been called Ursa Minor and Ursa Major since classical times (2,000-2,500 years ago), there is no reason not to imagine that Minoan saw their important symbol of the double ax, and named the north star the Bull Star.

Thus, when Minoan sailors looked for their bearings in the night, they located the large double ax and followed the lower edge of the head to the top edge of the small double ax. Having thus located the Bull Star they knew which was was north.

“May the Double Axes and the Bull Star guide you safely home.”

 

Categories: Bronze Age, Crete, Minoans | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

#Technology vs Wooden Shoes #geek #nerd

chambers_1908_sabot

Though sabotage predates the industrial revolution, it is often associated with the technology of the day and subversive efforts to impede technology, production and progress. Thus it is surprising that a World War II Sabotage Manual seems so current today.

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Here is some advice to sabotage organization and conferences that sounds like a Dilbert cartoon, but it was suggested in 1944 by the precursor of the CIA.

“Make ‘speeches.’ Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your.
‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.”
“Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.”
“Haggle over precise wordings of communications, …”

Some of the advice from 1944 could be summarized today as simply being an asshole.
“Act stupid.”
“Be as irritable and, quarrelsome as possible, without getting yourself into trouble.”

While other advice would pass today as normal behavior for many.
“Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations.”

However, some 70-year-old techniques are no longer effective or even possible.

Without physical copies, this is not longer effective to: “In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.”
Similarly, with electronic mail, this is impossible: “Hold up mail until the next collection.”

However, self-sabotage is still effective using some of this pre-computer filing techniques:
“Start duplicate files.”
“Misfile essential documents.”

Finally a couple of evergreen techniques show how people are people regardless of the technology.
“Apply all regulations to the last letter.”
“Spread disturbing rumors.”

All this serves to reinforce the truism that evolution does not move at the speed of technology. As fast as technology moves, people remain essentially unchanged.

 

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Spammers and Scammers on #Facebook #spam #scam

ss meme

Recently my Facebook account was attacked by a spammer and I became more interested in Facebook security. I go a lot of advice, much of it based on emotion and fear, so I did my research.

First of all Facebook is safer than general web surfing until you click on some link and get transferred out of Facebook to your favorite browser. There are two main risks within Facebook. The bad guys might spam your account, or they might steal your friends list.

I will tell you how to protect yourself and your friends in both these cases, but first here is some of the advice I received…

ss01

PROTECT YOUR FRIENDS LIST

The first important point is what caused my initial confusion. I found someone with “no friends,” and that set off red flags for me and pretty much everyone else. In retrospect, this was the completely the wrong reaction. If you want to protect your friends list from being farmed by scammers and spammers (something I now do and recommend), Facebook allows you to prevent anyone from seeing this list. [Instructions below.]

Just as you would publicly release your contacts list, it is good practice to protect your friends list on Facebook. The one risk in doing this is that ignorant people (like I was) might think you have no friends and avoid you. Small risk.

WHAT KIND OF FACEBOOK USER ARE YOU?

Let’s divide FB users into two groups: family and public. The family users have a limited number of friends and only accept new friends when someone new enters their intimate circle. FB provides many ways to protect these accounts and these features are widely publicized and promoted by Facebook and others. I will say nothing more about these users, except I have a separate family account for baby pictures, anniversaries, etc.

Now about the public users: the public users typically post to everybody. They are the ones with a more challenging situation and a need for advice. This remainder of this post is for them.

SPAM

Facebook spam is when someone posts an phishing or other annoying message on your Facebook account. If it is a friend, you can contact them or unfriend them. If it is not a friend, you can block them.

However, as I have learned the hard way, spam attacks can be quite annoying. I spent a few days deleting spam comments from every one of my posts from the beginning of the attack until I finally blocked this user.

Generally Facebook allows anyone to comments on all your public posts. However, there is something you can do for protection without completely shutting down the discussion. [Instructions below.]

FRIEND REQUESTS

If you have your contact list protected [recommended], the risk to you and your friends is minimal, but not zero. For this reason you might want Facebook’s assistance in screening those who send you friend requests. Your can restrict friend requests to be only from friends of friends [Instructions below.] You can also block all friend requests.

However, if you want to connect with a wide variety of people, you might let Facebook send you all friend requests, and you can check their page to see if you want to accept their request. Just remember not to make my mistake: If they do not display any friends, they are being careful to protect their own privacy and that or their friends … of it could be some other nefarious reason – use your judgement.

INSTRUCTIONS TO PROTECT FRIENDS LIST

Caveat: I couldn’t do this on my phone. The process is to (1) open your friends, (2) click the little pencil to edit, and (3) set “Who can see your friend list?” to only me. The other options  for “who can see” like everybody or friends are not recommended. Your friend list is like the contacts on your phone, private.

PF1PF2

Remember that when someone goes to looks examine your friends, they will see something like this. Also remember when you see this on someone’s account, they are protecting your information by not letting others see their contacts/friends.

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INSTRUCTIONS TO LIMIT SPAM

The most common spammer opportunity on Facebook is to post spam comments on your posts. This is because “Anyone who can see a post can like or comment on it.” However if you allow everybody to follow you, you can limit this.

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You limit comments by (1) going to settings, (2) clicking followers, (3) setting “who can follow” to everybody, and finally (4) setting comments on public posts to friends of friends or something more restrictive. This does not completely stop comment spam, but it can help.

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INSTRUCTIONS TO HAVE FACEBOOK SCREEN YOUR FRIEND REQUESTS

The first step to screen friend requests is to click settings while viewing your friends.

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The default setting is everyone can send you friend requests.

FR2

You can set it to friends of friends to have Facebook screen the requests you receive.

FR3

Facebook is a way for all of us to meet and interact with others who have different ideas and circumstances. Through Facebook I now have friends that I would have never met in any other way. I think this makes the world more friendly for all of us. I hope this helps you feel more comfortable as you venture out.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

#Science #Research done right. Is #fructose dangerous? #Experiment design. #Nutrition #Diet

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Relax. Get comfortable. This is a story of real science. It is not click bait. It will require some thought. It will appeal to your left brain. It has nothing to do with cats.

This post is about a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One titled Rescue of Fructose-Induced Metabolic Syndrome by Antibiotics or Faecal Transplantation in a Rat Model of Obesity. (Thanks to Dani for pointing this paper.)

Note this is not as authoritative as Science or Nature, but it is a couple of steps above Buzzfeed or Dr Oz.

Regardless, we are are going to review it and see how it is a example of good science.

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The paper opens with the assertion that fructose (aka Western Diet) is unhealthy: “A fructose-rich diet can induce metabolic syndrome, a combination of health disorders that increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”

For the purposes of a scientific paper, this bold statement is understood to be merely an hypothesis.

Previous research has hinted at this conclusion with data like “It has been estimated that in the US the load of free fructose has increased from 158.5 kcal per person per day in 1978 to 228 kcal per person per day in 1998,” paired with “This substantial increase has paralleled the increased incidence of obesity.” However, this is merely correlation and scientifically useless for anything other than suggesting a hypothesis.

As good scientists, the authors acknowledge “the contribution of high-fructose diets to the development of obesity remains controversial, since some authors have not observed unequivocal evidence linking fructose consumption with metabolic disorder.” Note that the fructose conclusion is controversial because the evidence does not support it. Nothing is said about media personalities and opinion polls.

These scientists want to design an experiment to test the hypothesis to generate more evidence. This new evidence might support or reject the hypothesis. This is the Scientific Method and how science works, just like your were taught in school.

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The first challenge these scientists must face is experimental design. As the hypothesis concerns people, it would be best to run the experiment on people. This won’t happen for two reasons. First, it is unethical to use people as test subjects. Among other criteria, the benefits must outweigh the cost, and the subjects must be protected from harm.

The experiment in question involves feeding subjects a diet expected to make them sick. This is not allowed.

[Aside: This restriction is why you see so many data analysis reports that try to figure out causes after the fact, by comparing people who happened to do one thing (eschew fructose) with people who happened to do another (consume lots of fructose). These reports come with many confounding factors, and are better for click-bait headlines than good science.]

The second reason people are not the test subjects is that they live too long. If we imagine that one needs to consume a high-fructose diet for 5% of their lifetime to see an effect, this is too long for people (around 4 years), but just right for rats (around 8 weeks). As lab rats are so important to medical research, the correspondence of rat age to human age is well studied and understood.

So the answer is to use short-lived rats. Much is known about rats, and particularly how to generalize from rats to people. Regardless, rats are also protected, and the experiment design is reviewed to protect the rats. (Rats are not protected as well as people, but they are protected.)

Treatment, housing, and euthanasia of animals met the guidelines set by the Italian Health Ministry. All experimental procedures involving animals were approved by “Comitato Etico-Scientifico per la Sperimentazione Animale” of the University “Federico II” of Naples.”

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The experiment divided the rats into two groups. The control group was fed a control diet and the experimental group was fed a fructose-rich diet. Aside from that single experimental variable, the scientists did their best to keep everything else the same. This is why these controlled experiments are so much better that those after-the-fact data studies mentioned above.

The energy content of the two diets was the same, because the composition was the same, except that half of the starch of the control diet had been substituted with fructose in the fructose-rich diet (Table 1). In addition, rats were pair-fed for the whole experimental period, by giving them the same amount of diet, both as weight and as caloric content. Each rat consumed the full portion of the diet fed them each day over the 8 week study period.”

Many tests were performed to evaluate the rats at the end of the experimental period. To spite the equivalence of caloric intake, the rats that consumed the fructose-rich diet had significantly more body fat.

At this point, their controlled experiment shows that the fructose-rich diet leads to increased body fat.

This is the common plaint of many dieters. Calorie and body fat do not correlate.

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At this point we have a nice experiment. We could possibly win a science fair with this, but these scientists took the next step.

They had shown that the fructose-rich diet causes a condition. They also believed that they knew the mechanism. Knowing the mechanism is even better than knowing a cause. Medical science moves forward when the mechanism is known.

This is why the discovery of vitamin C was more important than realizing that limes were a prophylactic for scurvy. Both discoveries were important, but the mechanism (vitamin C deficiency) led to new and improved treatments.

In the case of HIV/AIDS, no progress was made until the HIV virus was identified. Knowing the behaviors which transmitted HIV/AIDS was helpful, but the viral mechanism led to effective treatment.

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Now that the experiment had shown the existence of “fructose-induced metabolic syndrome,” the scientists hypothesized that the cause was a imbalance of micro-flora in the gut caused by the fructose-rich diet.

They further hypothesized that balance could be returned either with a targeted administration of antibiotics, or “faecal samples from control rats by oral gavage” to return balance. The fecal sample approach hypothesized that the control rats still had a healthy mix of gut micro-flora and introducing that healthy mix into the experimental rats would return them to a healthy balance and reverse the negative effects of their fructose-rich diet.

Happily (for the rats) both of these treatments improved the experimental rats’ condition.

Now that the scientists had experimentally shown they could cause fructose-induced metabolic syndrome and reverse it under controlled experimental conditions, we can all be confident that we are one step closer to understanding one cause and treatment for obesity and associated conditions.

There, that wasn’t so hard was it?

Post Script: I understand that no matter how difficult you might feel it is to reduce your consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (a major component of most non-diet soda pop), I imagine the yuch factor with fecal transplants is more off putting. However, as more is learned about gut flora, this may become a major new direction for medicine in the 21st century. Now might be a good time to start thinking positive thoughts about fecal transplantation.

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Live Long and Prosper #science #health

EscherichiaColi_NIAID

In the last two centuries, life expectancy has more than doubled from under 40 to over 70. This is the difference between parents burying their children and children not knowing both parents to today where grandchildren and grandparents are commonplace.

What has caused this dramatic extension in life expectancy? What has made living beyond 100 more common and childhood death more rare?

One suggestion might be antibiotics.

Smallpox_virus_virions_TEM_PHIL_1849

20th century medicine was about antibiotics. Starting in 1911, over 100 different antibiotics were released. Some of the big ones were penicillin, tetracycline, doxycycline, amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin. Anitbiotics treat a wide range of diseases including: anthrax, whooping cough, pneumonia, botulism, and STDs. If you plan an international vacation, your doctor will give you ciprofloxacin for “traveler’s diarrhea.”

None of this would have been possible were it not for the 19th century discovery: GERMS! For 1000s of years prior to the 1800s, western medical theory was about humors. Health was controlled by the four humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. When the humors were in balance you were healthy.

Streptococci

When they were out of balance, you’d get sick, and you might be told to exercise more, eat healthier, be positive, pray, or if you could afford it, a doctor might try to balance the humors with medicines and procedures. These included bleeding, laxatives, and expectorants.

Before we laugh at two millenia of western medical science, reread that previous paragraph. Much of that advice, with the exception of bleeding, is still offered today. Thus, if we are honest, we can see the attraction of this commonsense medicine that let so many die.

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The 19th century changed all this (or did it?) with the discovery of specific germs for “anthrax, cholera, tuberculosis, leprosy, diphtheria, gangrene … plague, scarlet fever, tetanus, typhoid fever, pneumonia, gonorrhea and meningitis.”

This was all good, but germ theory and antibiotics only sometimes helped when people got sick. Penicillin was given credit for saving many lives in World War II, but the real gains came from preventions more than cures.

CSIRO_ScienceImage_1977_Bat_Lyssavirus

The reasons that so many children and grandparents are alive is the long list of diseases that people growing up today have never seen — all thanks to vaccines.

Children are routinely protected from: chickenpox, diphtheria, influenza b, hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, pneumoccal, rotavirus, rubella, and tetanus. If you don’t recognize some of these diseases, it is not because they aren’t terrible or contagious, but because of vaccinations.

Bordetella_pertussis

Beyond these vaccines, if you are going to travel you might also get shots for meningitis, typhoid, and yellow fever.

The extension in life expectancy is not about cures, but about prevention.

The history of vaccination peaked during the period of 1880s (rabies) to 1950s (polio). However smallpox vaccination started much earlier in Asia with clear documentation in China during the 16th century, and vaccination development continues today, especially with the efforts to prevent Malaria.

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Quarantine … at home or away?

Scarlet Fever

Quarantine gets its name from a fourteenth century practice of requiring ships to dock in Venice harbor forty days before landing to prevent the spread of the Black Plague. (Quaranta is Italian for forty.)

While this sounds reasonable today, one has to wonder about the logic in a world where germs and contagious disease were unknown and inconceivable. Disease theory consisted of the imbalance of humors (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm) and various individual differences in environment, life style, and disposition. Two millenia of medical science barely recognized diseases as unique one from the other or contagious.

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Certainly some ships came from far away and had already seen plenty of time at sea, while others were local. Why quarantine all for forty days? Were there political, social, or racial reasons for these rules? Were exceptions made?

Quarantine started as an approach to isolate locations, originally ships, but later homes and villages were quarantined.

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An second approach was to isolate people. Quarantine locations began with leper colonies or lazarettos (after the parable of Lazarus). In this case, people were isolated at a location designated for that purpose. Again, recall that there was no concept of contagion. Most likely these people were isolated because others did not want to be near them or see them.

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Quarantine today is most often used in this second sense. At international borders pets may be sent to quarantine facilities.

In summary, some quarantine regimes are “no entry” regulations, much like the original Venician rules, but now extended beyond potentially sick people to include fruits and vegetables that can not be brought into places like California or Australia. Other quarantines are “no exit” isolations like the lazarettos. These are rarely seen today, though during the most recent Ebola panic in the United States, some people seemed ready to reinstate this practice.

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Father’s Day – anachronism, atavism, or reason to celebrate?

Father's Day

The Last Father’s Day?

There are two theories about fathers. One represented by Women After All by Melvin Konner believes that at best fathers are unnecessary, but at worst they are a threat to civilization and humanity. The alternate theory represented by Do Fathers Matter? by Paul Raeburn expounds that fathers are important and salvation for the futures

A brief digression. The fable of regret, dread, and fantasy.

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Long ago there lived a very happy snake. Each day the snake awoke afresh with no memory of any day before. The snake was happy.

One day the snake met a wizard who granted the snake three wishes. With each day new, the snake had never wanted anything.

But on this day it looked around at man, “Like man I wish to remember the past.” As the snake recalled its past life, it experienced regret for the first time, for mistakes, errors, and missed opportunities.

It had so much regret, it wished to be able to think of the future and plan. With its second wish, the snake experienced dread and fear.

With this broad purview, the snake made its final wish, “I wish to be able to fantasize and escape my miserable life.”

Thus the snake had learned the secret of true misery: Collect regrets from the past, use them to fill the future with dread, and, most of all, ignore the present.

Fathers

Do Fathers Matter? by Paul Raeburn is like the snake before the three wishes. Raeburn reviews evolutionary biology and history of fatherhood with a snakelike focus on a father’s contribution during each phase of reproduction: pre-conception, conception, during pregnancy, and during the various post-natal stages. At each point he shows the importance of the father’s participation. Like the snake, each day is unique and wonderful.

As reported by Raeburn, parthenogenesis is impossible. Current science shows that both males and females contribute unique and vital genetic material, so a new life is not possible with contributions from both sexes.

Each day is Happy Father’s Day.

Women After All by Melvin Konner personifies the miserable snake after the three wishes.

Konner reaches back to the evolution of sex noting that life started with only females. With regret he reports the evolution of a second sex (males), but with a more cheerful note, he reports that there are some examples of species reverting to the single sex (female) mode.

He shows that primate females (including humans) were usually in charge or equal, with the exception of the last few thousand years. These recent millennia were marked by brutal female subjugation, violence, and rape. For several sickening chapters, Konner shows that sex trafficking, slavery, and rape is universally practiced.

Konner mixes this regretful past with the assurance that future science will solve all the problems with parthenogenesis, and in a few decades male humans will be superfluous. Bottom line: Men should dread the future where they will be unnecessary.

The message seems to be that fathers need to straighten out or be consigned to a life of regret and dread as they are phased out.

Today is Happy Father’s Day, enjoy it while you can.

Be careful what you wish for.

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Taxol – A Natural Cure for Cancer?

Taxol

In this post we explore the cost to develop a natural product cure.

The National Cancer Institute’s web site declares, Paclitaxel, the most well-known natural-source cancer drug in the United States, is derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree. Paclitaxel is the generic name for Taxol, and an illuminating case in the development of natural medicines.

Flash back to the 1950s, a period of postwar optimism and prosperity. Science is making significant strides. Penicillin, accidentally discovered in mold, proved to be a potent antibiotic during World War II. During the same period, the scourge of World War I, mustard gas, was shown to be an effective chemotherapeutic agent (the first) against lymphoma. Medicine was transitioning mainly diagnoses to actual cures.

A key catalyst in the development Taxol was Mary Lasker, founder of the Lasker Foundation.  Through the American Cancer Society, she campaigned successfully to significantly increase the funding the the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Hoping to build on the success of natural sources (Penicillin) and chemotherapy (mustard gas), the NCI contracted with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to collect samples.  In 1962 they found what became Taxol.

Discovery of Taxol

Discovery of Taxol plaque: Near this location on August 21, 1962, Arthur Barclay and a team of botanists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture collected bark of the Pacific yew, Taxus brevifolla Nutt. Drs. Monroe Wall and Mansukh, of Research Triangle Institute, North Carolina, under contract to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, isolated Taxol from that sample.

So, just to summarize, TEN YEARS into the search, this important medication was discovered in the bark of the Pacific yew. 10 years.

Actually not much happened in 1962. Yews were already well known to be poisonous. People in Europe had been using this poison for over 2,000 years very effectively. Researchers tended to avoid yew poisons because the conventional wisdom was they these poisons had no specificity-they killed everything.

Monroe Wall and Mansukh Wani at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina accepted the challenge and by 1971 they isolated Taxol from the yew bark. Progress was slow because a 1/2 gram of Taxol required 12 kilograms of bark or 6 trees.

Interest waned another 5 years until Susan Horowitz and coworkers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City discovered the Taxol mechanism of action was unique and seemed to be effective against several cancers in animal models.

Let’s summarized again. Another 14 year of basic science before real interest is generated.  Studies in human cancer patients were begun at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and had some success.

In July 1977 Matthew Suffness of the NCI placed an order with the USDA for 7,000 pounds of bark, which meant killing about 1,500 trees. The environmentalists got involved, but research continued even though more and more trees were being harvested.

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In 1984, NCI began Phase I (safety) clinical trials. There were many other hurdles, but perhaps the major one was cleared when a team of Florida State University Taxol researchers led by Bob Holton synthesized the drug on Dec. 9, 1993-no more killing trees.

This was not a moment too soon, as the FDA had approved Taxol a year earlier. Taxol sales peaked at $1.6 billion in 2000.

Final summary: natural product from the Pacific yew in 1962 became an important anti-cancer treatment in 1993, over 30 years later, 30 years of biology, chemistry, experiments, and trials. No other industry invests so much money over such a long period as the pharmaceutical industry. Compare this to the investors in Google who saw tremendous returns on their investments when Google went public in less than ten years. Most high-tech investors expect their returns much sooner than 10 years even. Other industries have similar or even shorter time horizons.

Pharmaceutical companies are the heroes of capitalism.

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One pill makes you smaller… #SFRTG #IARTG #Kindle

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One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all

Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane

This is some of the research that contributed to the recently released Darwin’s Paradox: An international science mysteryhttp://amzn.to/2k8qJgi. “Doctor” Brian is in Mozambique and has been given pills to test for activity against a new disease. This raises all of the ethical issues associated with off-label drug use.

Grace Slick might have been singing about prescription drugs [I was there and I’m not talking]. If so, those pills would have been used off label. Off label is when a legal drug is used for something other than its FDA-approved indication. For example, drugs approved for bipolar disease or schizophrenia are often prescribed for depression, and blood thinners are prescribed for hypertensive and coronary heart disease.

This is legal. The FDA does not regulate the practice of the medicine, only the drug companies. For example, over three-quarters of children discharged from a hospital receive at least one off-label prescription.

What do you think about your doctor prescribing medications for you that have not been fully tested for safety or efficacy? What do you think about your doctor enrolling you, often without your knowledge, in an ad hoc science experiment?

Drugs are used off-label for many reasons. If a drug is generic, no one is motivated to spend the time and money to run the clinical trials required to get an indication approved, regardless of how safe and effective it is, or isn’t. Even if a drug is not generic, the approval process might not be deemed cost effective. Ironically, the larger the off-label market, the less a drug company would be motivated to fund a clinical trial. They (and the patients) are already benefiting from the sales, so why bother with the testing?

This is the conflict. If the doctors prescribe and the drug companies sell — all without clinical trials — who is protecting you? For example, estrogen medications were prescribed extensively to menopausal women to prevent coronary disease. It wasn’t until a government-sponsored trial found them to increase, not decrease, the risk of stroke and heart attack that this was curtailed.

You can think of each off-label prescription as a tiny clinical trial, without informed consent, without controls, without records, and without oversight. What do you think about being a test subject knowing that there is little chance that the result of your sacrifice and risk will add to scientific knowledge or benefit those who come after you?

Some might tell you the system is even more sinister. It turns out that drugs for rare diseases can be declared as orphan products. In this case the FDA streamlines (cuts corners) the approval process. This is good for those rare diseases, but once the drug is approved, it can be used off-label for whatever the doctors decide. This can be a cost-saving way for drug companies to get to market. For this reason, among others, drug companies are forbidden from promoting off-label uses. Regardless, drug companies have been penalized billions of dollars for violating the rules.

Who is protecting your well being? How can this system work at all?

This anxiety ignores one important fact of life. The fact of your unique DNA. People are different, and EVERY prescription (FDA approved or off label) is a science experiment. People respond individually to drugs. Side effects differ from patient to patient, ranging from benign headaches or muscle cramps to life-threatening reactions. Even popular over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like Tylenol(R) pose risks.

Doctors are the ones who read all that fine print and journals articles to be prepared and watchful for negative reactions from ALL prescriptions whether for FDA-approved or off-label.

In summary, around a billion off-label prescriptions are written each year with the overwhelming majority benefiting the patient. Like ALL medicine, there are benefits and risks, and doctors are the ones who balance them. Without doctors writing off-label prescriptions, millions would be suffering needlessly. It is the doctors who contribute the judgment that the bureaucracy can not.

So as Grace Slick recommended, “Go ask Alice,” especially if she is a doctor.

I am not an MD and am not giving medical advice.

For more information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538391/

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Best animal mother. Bats deserve your respect.

PikiWiki_Israel_11327_Wildlife_and_Plants_of_Israel-Bat-003

Over twenty percent of all mammal species are of the order Chiroptera, aka Bats. They live everywhere except Antarctica, and perform important tasks such control of insects and pollination. Yet people seem to hate them, and for so many reasons.

1. Their name? Chiroptera (kai-rop-ter-uh) is hard to pronounce. Just like food ingredients that some avoid because they can’t pronounce them, Chiropteras fall prey to this prejudice. How silly is this? Chiroptera means hand-wing. What could be cuter?

2. Vampire bats? Out of over 1200 species of bats, there are just three species of vampire bats, and they all live in Central and South America. Less than 10% of the world’s population lives anywhere close these bats, and they rarely prey on humans anyway. Forget the vampire thing.

3. Batman? Isn’t this a plus?

4. Disease? Also every news story about rabies, mentions bats. Even in places without rabies, bats are known as disease carriers. In Australia, famously rabies free, bats harbor Hendra Virus (HeV), Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), Menangle virus, Tioman virus, and Nipah virus. However lots of other mammals host zoonotic diseases (remember swine flu and bird flu). The taxoplasmosis risks to pregnant women from cats doesn’t do any to harm their supremacy in the Internet cute hierarchy.

5. Nocturnal? Could it be that people just dislike/fear nocturnal animals. That is unless they are cats (cute cats again), or owls, or koalas, or tree frogs, or fireflies, even large cats that would be happy to have you for lunch.

We should all learn so love bats, so for Mother’s Day, let’s look at bat mothers.

Being a bat mother is a serious challenge. First consider that a bat mom must fly while she is pregnant. Bat moms don’t take the easy way out of this one like birds with their tiny eggs and short gestations, or other mammals with small babies. Bat pups can weigh up to 25% of mom’s weight with a 6 month gestation. Assuming people could fly, imagine flying with a 30 pound near-term fetus. That alone is enough to celebrate Mother’s Day for Bats.

The mother bat normally limits herself to one pup at a time, just once a year. She has strategies to make sure the little bundle of joy has the best chances by giving birth when food is most abundant. This is done without help from the males, some of whom have the largest testicles, up to 8% of body weight as an indication of their priorities. Guys, your turn. Imagine 12 pound balls.

Bat mothers side-track the sperm to save it until the optimum time, or if they do get pregnant, they can suspend the development until the right time. These caring mother’s are prepared to give their children the best regardless of what the guys might be thinking. Happy Bat Mother’s Day, but maybe we’ll skip Father’s Day for the furry little flyers.

Once this bat child is born, it must be nursed. How long? It is that flying thing again. Bats can’t fly until they are adults. Mom nurses the little darling until it is adult size, again without any help from those men with the big balls and small brains. (That is a separate story, but science has discovered that testicle size and brain size are inversely correlated).

So Happy Mother’s Day to all the bats, most dedicated mother’s of the animal world. Next time someone says something bad about bats, we can defend them as dedicated, loving mothers.

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