Pakistan's scorpion hunters

In Pakistan, a black scorpion weighing 60 grams sells for around $50,000 to medical researchers. Al Jazeera's Maham Javaid investigates the country's scorpion trade and its possible harm to the country's ecosystem. From Al Jazeera:

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Shahid and Sohail, two friends who grew up together in a housing colony in Sindh province's Thatta district, have never been scared of the scorpion's venomous sting.

"As teenagers, we caught and killed scorpions as a game," Sohail told Al Jazeera. "Last year we found out that if we caught a live one, we could be instant millionaires."

On the hottest nights of the year, these hunters search for the nocturnal creatures in the 200-hectare dry forest behind their colony. Scorpions hibernate in cold weather, so Sohail says it is easier to catch them when it's hot.

Their broker, Faraz, is constantly in contact with other brokers who can sell the scorpion to foreign companies for thousands of dollars.

"I spend all my spare time connecting scorpion buyers with sellers," Faraz, who also works at Karachi Port Trust, told Al Jazeera. "When a big deal goes through, it will be like winning the lottery."

"The scorpion hunters of Pakistan

Scientific evidence of very brief "life after death"?

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The largest scientific study of "life after death" and near death experiences in cardiac arrest patients (who were resuscitated) suggests that some people may sustain several minutes of awareness after the heart stops.

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Lab-grown penises ready for testing

In the next few years, researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine hope to transplant lab-grown penises into people who need them due to congenital abnormalities, disease, or traumatic injury.

The penises are grown from the patient's own cells on a 3D collagen scaffold made from a donor penis. Studies on rabbits "were very encouraging," says tissue engineering pioneer Anthony Atala, director of the Institute. From The Guardian:

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Because the method uses a patient's own penis-specific cells, the technology will not be suitable for female-to-male sex reassignment surgery.

"Our target is to get the organs into patients with injuries or congenital abnormalities," said Atala, whose work is funded by the US Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which hopes to use the technology to help soldiers who sustain battlefield injuries.

As a paediatric urological surgeon, Atala began his work in 1992 to help children born with genital abnormalities. Because of a lack of available tissue for reconstructive surgery, baby boys with ambiguous genitalia are often given a sex-change at birth, leading to much psychological anguish in later life. "Imagine being genetically male but living as a woman," he said. "It's a firmly devastating problem that we hope to help with."

Dery on disease and art

Over at Thought Catalog, BB contributor Mark Dery goes deep into the pathological sublime with Richard Barnett, author of "The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration":

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Running as little as 30 minutes a week reduces your risk of early death

"Three's a crowd" by Thomas Rousing, a photo shared in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.


"Three's a crowd" by Thomas Rousing, a photo shared in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.

A study released this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that participants who ran less than one hour each week received the same health benefits as people who ran more.

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Sex toy in woman's vagina for 10 years

Physicians examining a Scottish woman were surprised (as was she) to discover that a five-inch sex toy had been inside her vagina for a decade.

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Heartbreaking photos of uninsured Americans waiting for care

Photographer Lucian Perkins documented the thousands of Virginians who camped out in cars and waited in the rain earlier this month to get access to basic dental, vision, and medical treatment at a traveling clinic.

Prescient Nature article on forgotten smallpox samples

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Yesterday, the CDC announced the discovery of several vials of smallpox virus, forgotten in a storage room since the 1950s. Back in April, Nature's Sara Reardon wrote about the risks (and benefits) of just this sort of thing.

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The dirty business of hospice care

Hospice used to be charity work run by religious organizations. Now it's big business, complete with all-too-predictable horrifying corruption unmasked in an expose by Ben Hallman at Huffington Post.

Lab mistakes are wasting millions in research funding

Medicine starts with cells in a petri dish. But, increasingly, scientists are realizing they’ve been studying the wrong cells, writes Maggie Koerth-Baker.

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Fake drugs and the plague that never lifts

To pharmaceutical firms, legitimate replicas and outright fakes are much the same: neither make them money. But to sufferers in the developing world, the difference is life and death. Charles Ebikeme on the big business of counterfeit medicine in the developing world.

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Squirrels contaminated my flesh!

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From the January 2014 issue of the journal Case Reports in Emergency Medicine: "While report of animal bites contaminating wounds is reported commonly, direct wound contamination with squirrel flesh has never been reported in the literature." Until now.

This is a story that involves a teenage boy, a 12 gauge shotgun, an injury to the right buttock, and (last, but not least) a squirrel.

According to the patient he was using the butt of his 12 G shotgun to dislodge a dead squirrel from a branch over his head during a hunting trip and shot himself with a load of birdshot in the right buttock. He presented with stable vital signs and reported no pain other than at the wound.

On physical exam the patient appeared in no distress with mild tachycardia with a heart rate of 116. A  cm deep wound on the right buttocks was hemostatic (Figure 1). The edges of the wound were black and ragged, while there was circumferential surrounding erythema that extended 4 cm beyond the wound. Rectal exam revealed normal tone without gross blood and no palpable foreign bodies near the rectum. Debris was observed in the margin of the wound. The rural transporting EMS personnel promptly identified the material as “squirrel parts.”

Copious wound irrigation with saline irrigation and debridement occurred in the emergency room, during which more pieces of animal flesh were found grossly contaminating the wound. There was also concern that the trajectory and final positioning of the buckshot in his buttock rested near the anus (Figure 2). Questioning of the patient revealed that the birdshot likely traveled through the rear pouch of his hunting vest which contained several squirrels killed earlier in the day.

(Via MedPage Today)

Image: Some rights reserved by Peter Trimming.

Could this simple sea creature hold the key to treating Parkinson's?

A comb jelly, via Whitney laboratory for Marine Biosciences, University of Florida.  REUTERS/Whitney laboratory for Marine Biosciences, University of Florida.


A comb jelly (University of Florida).

A scientist in Florida who studies simple sea animals known as comb jellies says he has discovered a path to a new form of brain development that may one day lead to treatments for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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A surgeon looks at Rodin's hands

Rodins hands dig preview final

For many years, Stanford University surgeon James Chang has been fascinated by Rodin's hands, sculptures made by the French artist in the 19th century. Chang uses Rodin's hands in what sounds to be a marvelous undergraduate seminar titled "Surgical Anatomy of the Hand: From Rodin to Reconstruction" in which he combines 3D scans of the sculptures, a process seen above, with medical imaging of human bones, nerves, and blood vessels.

Rodins hands dig preview final

Now, Chang has collaborated on an exhibition at Satnford that lies at the intersection of science and art. “Inside Rodin’s Hands: Art, Technology, and Surgery” opens next week at Sanford's Cantor Arts Center.

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Filmmaker seeks people with sleep paralysis experiences

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Do you have experience with sleep paralysis? Many scientists believe that sleep paralysis is the biological answer to such mysteries as spirit visitations, alien abductions, incubi/succubi, and out-of-body experiences. My old friend Rodney Ascher, director of the excellent film Room 237 and other movies, is making a documentary about the phenomenon and would love to hear from you. Rodney writes:

I'm working on on a new film - it's about Sleep Paralysis, a surprisingly common phenomenon where people wake-up totally frozen from the eyeballs down, unable even to make a noise, and they frequently see sinister intruders and other disturbing visions. I've been obsessed with it ever since it used to happen with me (in my case, I saw sort of a living, 3D shadow looming over in me in judgement).

The film is going to be largely built on interviews with people who've had vivid, first-person experiences with it (and have given some serious thought to what's really happening to them) - if anyone wants to share their stories, the easiest way is to contact us via the film's Facebook page.

The Nightmare: A Nonfiction Film About An Unreal Experience