Category Archives: Health and Medicine

DO NOT PANIC ABOUT PLASTIC IN THE MICROWAVES!!!!

OK, there is a report just out that suggests that we are playing too fast and loose with food additives and other chemicals, and that we might want to draw back on some of that. Fine. We should maybe.

But I’ve already seen this report misconstrued, with panic ensued. I’ve seen people suggest that we should no longer use microwaves for food. Or that we should not dishwash plastic or put plastic containers in the microwave. And some other stuff.

For both of those behaviors, the concern is the potentially harmful BPA getting out into our food. If you put BPA laced objects in the microwave of dishwasher, that could be a problem.

The thing is, if you’ve been paying attention to BPAs all along, then you probaby don’t have BPA laced water bottles or microwavable containers, so there is NOTHING TO SEE HERE. Typical “Tupperware” (never actually Tupperware) wares typically don’t have BPA. Most water bottles don’t either.

Here’s the thing. This report covers a LOT of things, not just BPAs, not just microwaving things or cleaning water bottles. And, the report is pretty easy to read and very clear. Well, the whole issue of what to do and not do is not necessarily clear, but you can easily figure out what they are getting at.

There are two sources. Read them, and then you’ll know what all the buzz is about. An overview from the American Association of Pediatrics is here. The policy statement itself is here.

There are items of concern here, but if you simply stop using plastic in the microwave and think you are done, chance are that a) you did something useless and b) you are missing something important.

Read the darn thing!

Brain microbiome

Human brains, presumably mammal brains in general, do not have microbiomes. If they did, they would look like Donald Sutherland in that movie.

Also, a microbiome is not the same thing as an infection. A microbiome is a mutualistic (or similar) ecology of multi-celled organisms or part thereof (like, your gut or your eyeballs or something) and microbes, probably including multiple species or varieties. Brains do not have that. If there are microbes in the brain it is an infection.

There is some interesting research out there possibly linking infections and Alzheimers. It is unfortunately being couched in terms of microbiomes. Why? Mainly because science reporters are generally not scientists, so they don’t bump on errors like that? Maybe. But in this case, there seems to be an actual project that claims to be actually mapping out the brain’s microbiome, including “helpful” organisms.

Here is the article from the Harvard Gazette

And here is a Twitter Feed confirming what I say above.

If you have evidence to the contrary please post it below.

A human built lung has been successfully transplanted into an individual.

The individual is a pig, and one of several where things didn’t go so well, but this is a fairly spectacular result.

This isn’t a lung developed from scratch, quite. A lung is taken from a donor pig. That pig, of course, loses its lung and presumably is converted to other uses such as ham. That lung is then sripped of cells and liquid tissues, leaving just the connected tissues that make up a sort of non-cellular skeleton.

This skeleton is then seeded with cells and growth factors and such, and the cells find their proper location and re-constitute a pig lung.

This is not an ideal scenario for a lung transplant in a human, but it is a step in the right direction. The way it would work for humans is probably like this: You get a pig lung and remove the cells and blood. You get some cells from the recipient and bio-engineer them. Perhaps you remove the genes that cause the recipient to have a bad lung to begin with. You further bio-engineer the lungs to properly divide and propagate and migrate, to move the correct locations with the pig-lung-skeleton. Then you stick that lung in the recipient and sis-bam-boom, new lung.

The summary from the original paper:

Lungs are complex organs to engineer: They contain multiple specialized cell types in extracellular matrix with a unique architecture that must maintain compliance during respiration. Nichols et al. tackled the challenges of vascular perfusion, recellularization, and engraftment of tissue-engineered lungs in a clinically relevant pig model. Nanoparticle and hydrogel delivery of growth factors promoted cell adhesion to whole decellularized pig lung scaffolds. Autologous cell–seeded bioengineered lungs showed vascular perfusion via collateral circulation within 2 weeks after transplantation. The transplanted bioengineered lungs became aerated and developed native lung-like microbiomes. One pig had no respiratory symptoms when euthanized a full 2 months after transplant. This work represents a considerable advance in the lung tissue engineering field and brings tissue-engineered lungs closer to the realm of clinical possibility.

If your toddler falls from your window, will it necessarily die?

It is that time of year again. Children falling out the window awareness week is every week in the spring and early summer. Here is a repost about this topic, still relevant, because kids still keep falling out the window.


No! A surprising number of toddlers who manage to get their way through a window opening to fall to the pavement below live. Something just over three thousand toddlers do this every year in the US.
Continue reading If your toddler falls from your window, will it necessarily die?

NPR: For Every Woman Who Dies In Childbirth In The U.S., 70 More Come Close

This latest in a series of reports from NPR is out.

Over the past year, NPR and ProPublica have been investigating why American mothers die in childbirth at a far higher rate than in all other developed countries.

A mother giving birth in the U.S. is about three times as likely to die as a mother in Britain and Canada.

In the course of our reporting, another disturbing statistic emerged: For every American woman who dies from childbirth, 70 nearly die. That adds up to more than 50,000 women who suffer “severe maternal morbidity” from childbirth each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A patient safety group, the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, came up with an even higher figure. After conducting an in-depth study of devastating complications in hospitals in four states, it put the nationwide number at around 80,000.

I’m not going into great detail about this, but I do want to make a few related salient points. Continue reading NPR: For Every Woman Who Dies In Childbirth In The U.S., 70 More Come Close

Leopards Eat Feral Dogs, Limiting Rabies

I heard a story from a reliable source, who in turn heard it from a fairly reliable source. So believe it or not:

One day a resident of a Nairobi, Kenya — a fairly well off person who liked to collect things — called the police to report that his leopard had gotten out.

So, the police called around and got some leopard traps. Not hard in a place like Nairobi.

They put a dozen, maybe two dozen, traps around the area, in town.

That night and the next, they caught a half dozen or so leopards. None of them were the missing animal. All the caught leopards were wild. Continue reading Leopards Eat Feral Dogs, Limiting Rabies

This Year’s Super Bowl Controversy Will Be …

… I’m not sure. We will see if anyone takes a knee, or if Pink has a wardrobe malfunction. I’m sure there will be controversial ads (there is already a controversy about the bro-osity factor being so large during a #MeToo year). My wife actually knows several people who will be performing during half time, but that is not a big surprise because Minnesota is a very small town, dontcha know. Hey, Jimm Fallon stopped by at the Salzers, up in Champlin, for hot dish two nights ago. Anyway, I don’t expect the Wayzata (not pronounced way zatt ah) dance team to do anything tricky.

I will be keeping an eye on one thing, though… Continue reading This Year’s Super Bowl Controversy Will Be …

Trump Gives CDC List of Verbotene Wörter

The Trump administration has sent the CDC a list of words that they are verboten … er, sorry, forbidden, not sure why I keep reverting to the language of the FATHERLAND! … anyway, words that the CDC if forbidden to use in describing their budgetary needs.

The list includes these words: Continue reading Trump Gives CDC List of Verbotene Wörter

About 30 Thousand U.S. Newborns At Risk From Fracking per Year?

A new study based in Pennsylvania measured health indicators of children born far, near, and very near, fracking sites. The study showed an effect that reached out to about 3 kilometers, but that was much stronger within about 1 kilometer, from fracking sites. The effects included lower birth weight and similar differences that are associated with in utero stress.

Given this finding, it is estimated that about 29,000 newborns are born in fracking danger zones per year in the US. Continue reading About 30 Thousand U.S. Newborns At Risk From Fracking per Year?

Why is my poop green?

As a science blogger, I hear a lot of interesting questions, and this is one of the more interesting questions I’ve heard in a while. It is, I’m sure, rather disconcerting to notice that your feces are the color of a corroded penny, and not know why. Or, if your feces are the usual brown color that our species tends to produce, perhaps you’d like to know how to make your poop green for Saint Patrick’s day. Either way, read on:
Continue reading Why is my poop green?

Gene Therapy Is Starting To Be A Real Thing

Today, the an FDA advisory committee recommended that the FDA approve full clinical trials for a type of gene therapy that addresses a rare genetic condition causing deterioration of the retina. This is found in 8.6×105 of people world wide, so not many. the therapy involves injecting a virus bearing the preferred copy of the gene, the non-broken allele, into the eyeball, where the new gene somehow reduces, stops, and seemingly reverses, the deterioration.

The therapy was previously looked at in a preliminary study with a small sample of people. Here is the abstract from that study: Continue reading Gene Therapy Is Starting To Be A Real Thing

Is my penis too small, too big, or just right?

And by “my” penis I mean “your” penis, of course.

This is a perennial question. For some reason, which I do not understand, the feminist perspective (note: I’m a feminist) is often to belittle the question, but really, that isn’t fair. It is not that difficult to imagine how anyone would come to a question about whether or not a particular organ of the body, the head, the breasts, the butt, the thumb, is somehow out of proportion. The penis is just one of many body parts that people may obsess over, and the larger scale issue of the intersection between physical and mental health should not be put aside for the penis, even if it is the Organ of Continue reading Is my penis too small, too big, or just right?

What happens if I eat mold?

A common concern people have is the outcome of eating food that is moldy. This happens when you are not paying attention to what you are eating and suddenly realize that you just ate half a sandwich made with bread that has some mold on it. Then you go “Oh, crap, I just ate some mold” and then you google it to find out if you are going to die ….
Continue reading What happens if I eat mold?