The people who reportedly never sleep. Ever.

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Vietnamese gentleman Thái Ngọc claims that ever since he suffered a terrible fever in 1973, he hasn't slept a wink. There's also Ines Fernandez who says she's been awake for decades. Of course, these curious individuals and others with similar stories may actually be suffering from a very strange sleep disorder called sleep state misperception (SSM) in which the individuals think they were up all night but actually slept just fine. At Mysterious Universe, Martin J. Clemens looks at SSM and the very scary rare disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI), presented as total insomnia that can last the rest of the person's life, which is usually only 18 months or so after the onset of symptoms. From Mysterious Universe:

FFI is a neurological condition caused by a misfolded protein in the DNA of the afflicted, of which there have been only about 100 cases. That protein, called a prion protein, is known as PrPSc (PrPC in non-FFI subjects). Essentially, the prion form of the protein causes a change in certain amino acids – due to the protein strand folding incorrectly – which, when combined with other genetic markers, then affects the brain’s sleep centers. FFI is genetic, and therefore hereditary, but there is an even rarer form known as Sporadic Fatal Insomnia (sFI) that occurs spontaneously, the cause of which is not understood. You may wish to know that PrPSc is the same protein that’s responsible for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as Mad Cow Disease.

"The Woman Who Stayed Awake for 30 Years…Or Did She? Read the rest

How LSD became a brain hemorrhage patient's lifesaver

In GQ, Eric Perry writes about how a brain hemorrhage left him "depressed, stuck in a rut, and strangely fearful of death." Then he learned of new medical research on the benefits of psychedelic therapy to treat anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. So Perry signed up for his own acid test with others who were seeking solace via psychedelic experiences. From GQ:

My guide for the evening had accepted my 400 dollars, the price for my journey, in tie-dyed pants. It was my own fault I wasn’t tripping very hard—I’d told her, out of nervousness, I didn’t want to travel to other planets—though I suspected she knew less about the “sacraments” she was prescribing to us than she purported to. (“Do you know that Peruvians drip ayahuasca into the eyes of their newborns?” she’d told me earlier. “All Peruvians?” I’d asked, and she’d blushed.) Still, I liked her, partly because there was something in her eyes that made me think of the Wordsworth line from “Elegiac Stanzas”: “A deep distress hath humanized my soul.” I sensed there’d been some suffering in her past. Many of the participants, I noticed, had the same benignly haunted look. An ex-physician told us that ten years ago she’d been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer; she’d recovered, but couldn’t shake the feeling that it would return any second to finish her off. To allay her lingering fear of death, she’d enrolled in a psilocybin trial, and her “whole reality changed.” She divorced her husband and began to juggle motherhood and what full-time psychonauts call “The Work,” traveling the world to partake in aya ceremonies.

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Weird and wonderful medical and scientific museum

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We've posted previously about Steve Erenbgerg (Radio Guy)'s online collection of wonderful and strange antique scientific instruments, medical devices, anatomical models, and, of course, radios. SciFri took a video tour, above, of Erenberg's delightful real world cabinet of curiosities!

"Things of Beauty: Scientific Instruments of Yore" (YouTube)

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Man with inflatable penis implant will lose virginity to sex worker

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Last year, Mohammed Abad, 43, whose penis was destroyed when he was hit by a car as a child, received an 8-inch implant involving two tubes that inflate his reconstructed flesh phallus when he pumps it up via a button in his scrotum. The implant was the culmination of years of reconstructive surgery. These kinds of implants are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction. Abad has now announced that he will soon lose his virginity to a sex worker named Charlotte Rose, 35.

“I have waited long enough for this — it’ll be a great start to the new year," Abad said. "My penis is working perfectly now so I just want to do it. I’m really excited. I can’t wait for it to finally happen.”

Rose will travel from London to see Abad in Edinburgh.

"I am so honoured that he chose me to take his virginity," she said. "We plan to have a dinner date so we can get to know each other and then two hours of private time. I’m not charging him.”

(The British Journal)

More: "Man's 'Bionic Penis' Is Not So Rare After All" (LiveScience) Read the rest

The real bubble boy's impact on medicine

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David Vetter (1971-1984) suffered from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a disease that required him to live inside a sterile environment, a plastic "bubble." Eventually, he tested a special suit developed by NASA so that he could venture out of his bubble. Vetter's story partially inspired the 1976 TV movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," starring John Travolta (full film below), the asinine 2001 comedy "Bubble Boy," and a Seinfeld episode. Vetter's life and tragic death continues to help physicians understand and treat immunodeficiency diseases.

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Amazing face transplant gives firefighter new mug

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In 2001, the roof of a flaming building fell on volunteer firefighter Patrick Hardison, burning his firefighting mask onto his head. As a result, Hardison, now 41, has spent more than a decade without a face. Now, Hardison has the face of David Rodebaugh, a 26-year-old who died in a bicycling accident and donated much of his body for transplant. Surgeon Eduardo Rodriguez and a team at the New York University Langone Medical Center performed the facial transplant, "the most extensive" in history according to the hospital.

Hardison also received a new scalp, ears, ear canals, chin and cheek bones, and Rodebaugh's nose. Previously unable to close his eyes totally, he now has eyelids and also muscles for blinking.

New York University paid for the transplant, totaling $850,000 to one million dollars.

"Biography of a Face" (New York Magazine via CNN) Read the rest

The scientist who transplanted monkey heads

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You've likely read about Italian physician Dr. Sergio Canavero's plan to perform the first human head transplant? There is precedent with non-humans and it ain't pretty. In 1965, Dr. Robert J. White and his colleagues at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital transplanted the brain of one dog to another. "The transplant … acted as a second brain in the animal’s neck," according to Science News Letter. In the 1970s, White continued his experiments by transplanting rhesus monkeys' head onto other monkeys' bodies. (See the diagram above.)

Below, a special edition of The Midnight Archive profiles White, discusses similar research in Russia at the time, and touches on the ethical questions around these experiments. (Warning: this video is rather graphic.)

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The first drawings of neurons

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In 1837, Italian physician Camilo Golgi devised a reaction to stain the wispy dendrites and axons of neurons, making it possible to see brain cells in situ. In 1875, he published his first scientific drawing made possibly by his chemical reaction, seen here. It's an illustration of the never fibers, gray matter, and other components of a dog's olfactory bulb. "The First Neuron Drawings, 1870s" (The Scientist) Read the rest

Jesus spotted in a brain scan, but the patient's doctor doesn't see it

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A scan of a stroke victim's brain following emergency surgery reveals what her husband claims is a sign of divine intervention. A “figure” in the MRI looked to them both like an apparition of Jesus Christ. Read the rest

Sex probably won't give you a heart attack

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"Based on our data, it seems very unlikely that sexual activity is a relevant trigger of heart attack," said Ulm University medical researcher Dr. Dietrich Rothenbache about a new study. From UPI:
In relation to their heart attacks, only 0.7 percent of participants they'd had sex within an hour before their heart attack and more than 78 percent of participants said they hadn't had sex in at least 24 hours before having the heart attack. Based on this, and a total of 100 adverse cardiovascular events among the participants in 10 years of following up with them, researchers said sexual activity does not appear to be a risk factor for heart attack.

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Native American Church members fight harassment by authorities

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“Peyote Drummer,” photogravure, Edward Sheriff Curtis, 1927.

Editor's note: The Oklevueha Native American Church, or ONAC, is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legal freedom to observe Native American spiritual traditions. Some of these involve sacramental or medicinal use of various plants: Peyote, Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Cannabis, Mushrooms and others. I am an ONAC member. While law varies state by state, those who grow or use these plants--Native Americans, or otherwise--risk arrest, property confiscation, legal harassment, and police abuse. One of ONAC's members in California was recently arrested, and his property confiscated, shortly after local law enforcement were notified they have no right to do these things. ONAC is holding a press conference today to announce their response. —Xeni Jardin

There will be a press conference today, 2 PM at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa California, at 170 Railroad Street.

Noted Constitutional and Civil Rights Lawyer Matt Pappas will be announcing lawsuits and other legal actions against a number of Law Enforcement and County officials and entities.

These legal actions have become necessary because of repeated abuses of power and evidence of collusion by these groups to deprive members of the Native American Church of their Native Ceremonies and Sacraments by raiding their sacred grounds, confiscating their objects of worship and destroying the sacraments and medicines.

All of these items are protected under the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. These protections have repeatedly been upheld by numerous court cases around the country including the US Supreme Court, US District Courts and State Supreme Courts. Read the rest

Texas doctor's consent form for women seeking abortions

Redditor Mystharia terminated a pregnancy for medical reasons last week; her doctor gave her this consent form, mandated by -- and scathingly attacking -- the Texas legislature, which requires the doctor to enumerate an eye-wateringly detailed account of the foetal development before termination. (Icon: Kevin Dooley/CC-BY) Read the rest

Scientists: Music makes surgery patients feel better

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For more than a century, physicians have used music to make patients feel better before, during, and after surgery. A new scientific meta-study looks at the evidence and confirms that yes, listening to music has measurable pain-killing properties and reduces anxiety around surgery. Read the rest

Transgenic mouse company pays academics who cite them in papers

Cyagen also makes stem cells and other bio-research materials: they'll pay academics $100 in vouchers per citation, multiplied by the impact factor of the journal in which the paper is published. Read the rest

Physiology of "Bone Breaking" street dancing

My friends at Youth Radio interviewed a sports medicine physician, who used to dance with Cirque du Soleil, about the anatomy of "bone breaking," the incredible form of turf dancing where the performers rhythmically contort, pop, and flex their bodies in crazy ways.

Below, Youth Radio's earlier video about turf dancing.

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Video of man singing opera while undergoing brain surgery

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Professional singer Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne sang opera during neurosurgery for a brain tumor, at his physicians' request so they could monitor his singing ability and "avoid deficits after the procedure," he writes. Read the rest

Scientists growing new arms for monkeys

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Bioengineers are developing methods to grow new arms for monkeys using human progenitor cells that can become blood cells, vessels, and other tissue. Read the rest

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