Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Humming in Croatia: Imitation?

In my recent trip to Croatia, as we sat at an outdoor Café by the Watermill Town of Rastoke, I thought I saw a small hummingbird, just like the ones I have seen in Central America but smaller. But hang on, there are no hummingbirds in Europe. I took some photos anyway and looked it up later.

It was of course the Hummingbird Hawk-moth: Macroglossum Stellatarum

Imitation or what? Some Websites, notably Bird ones claim that the Moth imitates the Bird! Oh! Really, how do they know! You mean the dolphins imitate the sharks or the possums imitate primates. They should know as in Biology it is known as Convergent Evolution. After all, the Moth flaps its wings at 85/second and the Bird only up to 50/second.

They can withstand temperature as high as 45°C and they have an amazing visual system that iPhone has not quite caught up with.

You can read all about it here at PBS/Nature.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Scribbled File Fish: Tioman Island.

 Scribbled File Fish: Aluterus scriptus 

We were at Tioman Island about three years ago and I was not the only snorkeling that was surprised by how beautiful and un-bleached the corals were. Well, we do know so little and we need to be careful not to blame the wrong things. Tioman is nearer the Equator than many of the Great Barrier Reef Corals: so why the difference.

We have always been led to believe that bleaching of the world's coral reefs is final proof of global warming. Not quite according to the NOAA:

When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.

Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.

In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. The warm waters centered around the northern Antilles near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expanded southward. Comparison of satellite data from the previous 20 years confirmed that thermal stress from the 2005 event was greater than the previous 20 years combined.

Not all bleaching events are due to warm water.

In January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death. Water temperatures dropped 12.06 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the typical temperatures observed at this time of year. Researchers will evaluate if this cold-stress event will make corals more susceptible to disease in the same way that warmer waters impact corals.

These are doing fine at Tioman Island,  2.8167°N

All photos©2014 Am Ang Zhang

Medicine and Snorkelling: Think outside the box!

The first modern snorkel was invented by none other than Leonardo da Vinci, apparently at the request of the Venetian senate. It consisted of a hollow breathing tube attached to a diver's helmet of leather.

You may wonder why I wrote about snorkels in my book The Cockroach Catcher. The evolution of the snorkel tube makes me think about progress in medicine.

“... In those days we had snorkels that had a Ping Pong ball at the top end – a sort of umbrella handle at the top with the Ping PongBall inside a little cage so that it floated up to stop water coming in. ….

Imagine the shock when we went to the Great Barrier Reef and were given snorkels that bore no resemblance to the ones I used in my childhood. There was no Ping Pong ball in a cage and there was a drain at the bottom. The top was slightly curved with a clever design so that water from waves could not get in. Any water that managed to get in was drained away at the bottom. I looked at it and smiled. One must always question traditional beliefs. We can be blinded by what looks like a most sensible and reasonable approach – Ping Pong ball in a cage. ...

Medical Schools should remember to teach future doctors that without breaking rules and old dogma, no progress would ever be made in medicine....”
My Point is that doctors sometimes need to “think outside the box”.

Snorkelling is one of my favourite hobbies. I find it so relaxing and therapeutic. Slow breathing, say for 15 minutes a day, is now proven to help reduce blood pressure by a clinically significant amount. What better way to do it than in the sea, surrounded by fish and corals?                                                                                                                                                                       

The Cockroach Catcher on Amazon Kindle UKAmazon Kindle US      

American Psychiatric Association 2017: Lithium!

 Atacama where Lithium is extracted  © Am Ang Zhang 2015

Lithium: The Gift That Keeps on Giving in Psychiatry

Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH
June 16, 2017

At the recent American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in San Diego, an update symposium was presented on the topic of "Lithium: Key Issues for Practice." In a session chaired by Dr David Osser, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, presenters reviewed various aspects of the utility of lithium in psychiatry.

Leonardo Tondo, MD, a prominent researcher on lithium and affective illness, who is on the faculty of McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the University of Cagliari, Italy, reviewed studies on lithium's effects for suicide prevention. Ecological studies in this field have found an association between higher amounts of lithium in the drinking water and lower suicide rates.

These "high" amounts of lithium are equivalent to about 1 mg/d of elemental lithium or somewhat more. Conversely, other studies did not find such an association, but tended to look at areas where lithium levels are not high (ie, about 0.5 mg/d of elemental lithium or less). Nonetheless, because these studies are observational, causal relationships cannot be assumed. It is relevant, though, that lithium has been causally associated with lower suicide rates in randomized clinical trials of affective illness, compared with placebo, at standard doses (around 600-1200 mg/d of lithium carbonate).

Many shy away from Lithium not knowing that not prescribing it may actually lead to death by suicide. As such all worries about long term side effects become meaningless. 

Will the new generation of psychiatrists come round to Lithium again? How many talented individuals could have been saved by lithium?

APA Nassir Ghaemi, MD MPH
  • In psychiatry, our most effective drugs are the old drugs: ECT (1930s), lithium (1950s), MAOIs and TCAs (1950s and 1960s) and clozapine (1970s)
    • We haven’t developed a drug that’s more effective than any other drug since the 1970’s
    • All we have developed is safer drugs (less side effects), but not more effective
  • Dose lithium only once a day, at night
  • For patients with bipolar illness, you don’t need a reason to give lithium. You need a reason not to give lithium  (Originally by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin)

Lithium in Tap Water and Suicide Mortality in Japan.

Abstract: Lithium has been used as a mood-stabilizing drug in people with mood disorders. Previous studies have shown that highest levels of suicide mortality rate in Japan. Lithium levels in the tap water supplies of each municipality were measured using natural levels of lithium in drinking water may protect against suicide. This study evaluated the association between lithium levels in tap water and the suicide standardized mortality ratio (SMR) in 40 municipalities of Aomori prefecture, which has the inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. After adjusting for confounders, a statistical trend toward significance was found for the relationship between lithium levels and the average SMR among females. These findings indicate that natural levels of lithium in drinking water might have a protective effect on the risk of suicide among females. Future research is warranted to confirm this association.

"Many psychiatric residents have no or limited experience prescribing lithium, largely a reflection of the enormous focus on the newer drugs in educational programs supported by the pharmaceutical industry."

One might ask why there has been such a shift from Lithium.

Could it be the simplicity of the salt that is causing problems for the younger generation of psychiatrists brought up on various neuro-transmitters?

Could it be the fact that 
Lithium was discovered in Australia? Look at the time it took for Helicobacter pylori to be accepted.

Some felt it has to do with how little money is to be made from Lithium.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

2017 Nobel Prize: Learning for Learning’s Sake

Jeffrey C Hall (L), Michael Rosbash (C), Michael W Young (R). (2013 AP file photo)

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Awarded jointly to
Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young
for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm

This year’s prize, in other words, is a kind of rebuke. Basic science is under siege, particularly in the United States. Congressional Luddites love to highlight federally funded projects that, according to their own stunted definitions, pursue meaningless questions that don’t readily translate into talking points for a public that is intent on curing cancer or preventing Alzheimer’s disease. It is possible that, in today’s political environment, Hall, Rosbash, and Young would never have received money for their research. After all, do we really need to know what makes a fruit fly tick?

But, as the Nobel committee made clear this morning, the science that informs and occasionally upends our understanding of human health and disease often comes from unexpected places. Ohsumi used yeast cells to explore autophagy, but a similar garbage-disposal system exists in you and me. Similarly, studies of the circadian rhythm in flies have shed light on the genes and proteins that synchronize our own bodies with the day; they may lead to treatments for a wide range of maladies, from jet lag to obesity to heart disease. The joy of science is to learn for learning’s sake; whatever wondrous insights emerge may then be used to address the problems that we confront in our daily lives. The message embedded in today’s Nobel Prize announcement couldn’t come at a better moment—or a more fraught one.

Aug 11, 2013 ... This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who with tenacity and a prepared mind ...
Jul 26, 2009 ... He was the winner of the Nobel Prize for 2000. In his book In Search Of Memory, he remembered his arrival in New York in 1939 after a year ...

Oct 5, 2015 ... Three scientists from Ireland , Japan and China have won the Nobel prize in medicine for discoveries that helped doctors fight malaria and ...

Oct 9, 2008 ... The three winners of the Nobel Prize for chemistry are (from right) Roger Tsien of the University of California, San Diego; Osamu Shimomura, ...

Mar 3, 2008 ... However, you may be too late to get the Nobel Prize. Rodney Porter in 1972 was awarded the NobelPrize in Medicine for his ground breaking ...