Category Archives: Medicine

History of the Heimlich Maneuver

From the fantastic folks at RadioLab:

And a visual history too!



How a retrovirus replicates

This animation does a great job of explaining the devious infection methods of retroviruses, such as HIV. It also demonstrates how a variety of antiretroviral drugs interfere with those processes.


How a virus invades your body

Dot is Wallace & Gromit’s little sister

Talk about tiny, Dot is only a third of an inch tall!

Using a Nokia N8 smartphone and a CellScope, the team behind the Wallace & Gromit films has made the world’s smallest stop-motion animation film.

They made it to help celebrate the invention of the CellScope, a tiny hand-held microscope invented by a scientist at the University of California-Berkeley. It allows doctors to view and record things like ear aches and sore throats. It is basically a 50x magnification lens on a cellphone camera. (You can read more about it here.)

The animators also used a 3D printer to make 50 different versions of Dot, because she is too small to bend like they would other stop-motion animation characters. The figurine’s tiny features stretched the limit of the printer — any smaller and it would be hard to make distinct limbs. Each version of Dot was hand-painted by artists looking through a microscope.

Glowing cats shed light on AIDS

Medical researchers at the Mayo Clinic have developed glow-in-the-dark kitties as part of their search for a gene therapy that might cure people with AIDS.

The technique is called gamete-targeted lentiviral transgenesis. This is a fancy way of saying that  genes were inserted into the eggs of female cats before they were fertilized. In this case, the team inserted a rhesus monkey gene that is known to block cell infection. The gene specifically blocks infection by FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus, a virus similar to the human virus that causes AIDS. In the process, the researchers also inserted a jellyfish gene for tracking purposes. The jellyfish gene makes the kittens born from these altered eggs glow green.

This is the first time this sort of gene implant has succeeded in a carnivore.

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

A Life Both Wasted and Immortal

(Note: This book contains adults themes such as child abuse, incest, and venereal disease in a factual telling of a family’s history. These themes are neither detailed or glorified.)

I first heard about Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, in an episode of RadioLab, a science program that is broadcast on public radio stations, and is also available in podcast form. (If you’ve never heard RadioLab, I highly recommend it.)

Henrietta Lacks was a very poor, uneducated African American woman who lived in the south. She was raised in a family of tobacco farmers, and for much of her childhood lived in the same “home-house” that her family had lived in as slaves. She was, quite literally, born on the dirt floor of that home.

Although Henrietta Lacks died in 1951, she had what may have been the greatest influence on science of any woman who has lived. And, this happened without her knowledge or consent.

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