Just quickly - didn’t feel I could post fluff like this without a ‘proper’ post before it.
Thanks to all the new followers over the last couple of days, We’re now over double of what I was hoping to writing for when I set this up (not going to say numbers, in true tumblr terms it’s pitifully small).
But thanks again, and if anyone wants a particular subject in a new post, or has any thoughts, please ask away.
Venomous snakes are present in every part of the world, with hundreds of different proteins in each venom, with the sole purpose of immobilising and/or killing prey. I know what you’re thinking here:
‘God! What an amazing source of new drugs for heart disease!’
No? You aren’t? The rest of us all were, honest…
Why can we use venoms to cure rather than kill? It’s because of how they alter our bodies control systems.
We see Cobras causing paralysis by targeting our nervous system, the proteins in their venom blocking any signals from passing through the synapse.
We see loads of snakes mess with the cardiovascular system, as causing blood pressure to fall through the floor is generally a sure fire way to take out your prey. Some Asps and Mambas can do this.
Others, particularly Vipers, stop your blood from being able to clot, in a pretty roundabout way. Through activating all the clotting factors in your blood, they all get used up, and so you can’t clot when you need to. This is called a ‘consumption coagulaopathy’, and many die from either massive internal bleeding, or severe external bleeding.
How can we use these venoms for new medicines though?
Well, as Paracelsus says (well, said, a good 500 years ago):
Alle Ding’ sind Gift, und nichts ohn’ Gift; allein die Dosis macht, daß ein Ding kein Gift ist.
Roughly: ‘The dose makes the poison”
We take venoms, and use them in ways that give an effect we, as doctors, want.
(an american copperhead, whose venom has been used in cancer treatments - image from Brian Gatwicke, click on picture for original)
People always say to wear sunscreen because the UV rays could cause damage to your skin cells that could potentially cause cancer.
Most recently a singular type of skin cancer has been on the rise, Cutaneous Melanoma. A type of cancer that is difficult to treat and…
The biggest news is this bit
However, this interferon lets the tumors grow because they repress the immune system and the body can’t kill the damaged cells that are now multiplying.
The interferon mentioned is IFN Ɣ (that symbol’s read as ‘gamma’, The website reporting the paper has had some funky formatting issues)
Normally it causes inflammation, bringing in loads of other white blood cells, and they destroy the tumour before it gets too out of hand. The fact that it’s doing EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what it’s supposed to is pretty strange. (and a little exciting, in a very geeky way)
It’s not the only chemical in the immune system that does that, loads of cytokines have the ability to ‘turn themselves off’ when they get to too high levels.
Want to read more? Here’s the paper it’s all reported from:
“It [Female Genital Mutilation] is torture. It is inhuman. It is degrading treatment of women. It is against the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and so many other conventions … There is no excuse for genital mutilation to live with us.”—
Ms Berhane Ras-Work, director of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children.
(This is far more global health than it is tropical medicine stuff, but still…)
This is NOT something you can chalk up to ‘cultural differences’. Maybe I’m being too much of an imperialist westerner but still, it’s assault in my mind.
The custom comprises a range of procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitals or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Not only does it confer no health benefits on girls and women but it can cause severe bleeding, urination problems, and lifelong consequences that include childbirth complications and deaths of newborns.
(If you can’t get access to the article, just message me and I’ll send you a copy)