Discussions in Medicine- Medicine in Sci-fi (Prompt #3)

The purpose of this blog series is to strengthen clinical reasoning skills, passion for medicine, and understanding of virtues, by facilitating brief, analytical discussions that involve comparing sci-fi medical topics to real-world medical topics. Drawing connections between medical science-fiction and medicine in the real world requires applying knowledge, which is a valuable way to strengthen critical thinking and creativity. Therefore, I have created an ongoing series of question prompts that will ask aspiring physicians to analyze a fictional medical scenario that I will make up (usually these will be derived from my Genotopia novel series), and then relate the fake, sci-fi health-related scenario to a real-life health-related scenario.

Premedical students, medical students, residents, physicians, and other healthcare professionals are invited to participate in answering these weekly question prompts that I will send through email. Participants will be asked to respond to these question prompts by drawing connections between the fictional medical scenario and a real-life medical scenario, coming up with their own scientific explanation for fictional diseases, critiquing the ethics in the scenarios, and analyzing a range of other medically-relevant topics.

This blog series should be enriching your passion in medicine, as well as clinical reasoning skills, so answering these questions should NOT be time-consuming. If you are interested in participating, please send me an email at michelle.dalson@duke.edu!

Here are the responses to Question Prompt #3 in my “Discussions in Medicine” blog series:

QUESTION PROMPT 3: In the Genotopia novel series, animals have been genetically modified with superpowers that can cure a multitude of bizarre diseases, and are referred to as “genopets.” One species of genopets is a Pomergranian, which is a Pomeranian with dark reddish fur (same color as a pomegranate) with a thick bushel of leaves growing around its neck like a bushy scarf. Pomegranates grow from that scarf-like bushel of leaves, and those pomegranates, like any normal pomegranate, are high in vitamin C. However, the ones that grow from the Pomegranians have curative powers for many immunological diseases, including HIV. In 1-2 sentences (or more if needed), make up a scientific, medical explanation for why the fruit from Pomegranians can cure a disease like HIV.

NOTE: Since this is medical science-fiction, your explanations do NOT have to be accurate at all! But they must make sense 🙂

RESPONSE 1: The pomegranates grown from the Pomegranians have an additional molecule that binds to vitamin C, resulting in an increase in its time spent in the body. The natural effects of vitamin C – including the increase of white blood cell production – are maximized with this extra time.

RESPONSE 2: The Pomegranians fruit may contain a special compound that stimulates the bone marrow and thymus, which is where B cells and T cells (the adaptive cells of the immune system) go to mature. Although many immunological diseases affect the adaptive immune system’s ability to remember viral or bacterial intruders and so prevent an organism from becoming “immune” to those infections, because the Pomegranian fruit contains this special compound their body is flooded with healthy B and T cells, which overwhelm most viruses and allow the organism to maintain a healthy immune system in spite of having a few infected cells.

RESPONSE 3: Here’s my ‘possible’ explanation: The fruit from Pomegranians actually contains small microorganisms that, when consumed, live symbiotically within a person’s body and act similarly to human immune cells. For example, in someone with HIV/AIDS who has low T-cell counts, the microorganisms would function like T-cells to improve the person’s immune function back to normal. They reproduce within the person’s body indefinitely as well, and generally perform functions to keep the person alive because their survival depends on the host’s survival too.

RESPONSE 4: The superpower that exists within this specific genopet produces pomegranates with extremely high concentrations of vitamin C with a special unknown substance that not only stops HIV from infecting new cells but also destroy the existing HIV cells.

RESPONSE 5: The pomegranates produce antibodies that replace the deficient antibodies of a person. This deficiency is what leads to an individual’s development of HIV. Now, the individual has antibodies that can bind to the proper antigens that cause problems for people.


VOTE for chapter 1 of the first Genotopia novel by clicking the star at the right top corner at https://www.wattpad.com/412687602-genotopia-1-hidden-paradise-1-nira

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Discussions in Medicine- Medicine in Sci-fi (Prompt #2)

The purpose of this blog series is to strengthen clinical reasoning skills, passion for medicine, and understanding of virtues, by facilitating brief, analytical discussions that involve comparing sci-fi medical topics to real-world medical topics. Drawing connections between medical science-fiction and medicine in the real world requires applying knowledge, which is a valuable way to strengthen critical thinking and creativity. Therefore, I have created an ongoing series of question prompts that will ask aspiring physicians to analyze a fictional medical scenario that I will make up (usually these will be derived from my Genotopia novel series), and then relate the fake, sci-fi health-related scenario to a real-life health-related scenario.

Premedical students, medical students, residents, physicians, and other healthcare professionals are invited to participate in answering these weekly question prompts that I will send through email. Participants will be asked to respond to these question prompts by drawing connections between the fictional medical scenario and a real-life medical scenario, coming up with their own scientific explanation for fictional diseases, critiquing the ethics in the scenarios, and analyzing a range of other medically-relevant topics.

This blog series should be enriching your passion in medicine, as well as clinical reasoning skills, so answering these questions should NOT be time-consuming. If you are interested in participating, please send me an email at michelle.dalson@duke.edu!

Here are the responses to Question Prompt #2 in my “Discussions in Medicine” blog series:

 

QUESTION PROMPT 2: In the Genotopia novel series, animals have been genetically modified with superpowers that can cure a multitude of bizarre diseases, and are referred to as “genopets.” Humans are segregated into clans based on race, and each clan is responsible for training a specific species of genopets to combat a specific category of diseases. One such clan is the Barnation Clan. The humans are of Barnationese racial descent, and the genopets they train are giant, eight-foot-tall Barn Owls with a white carnation for their faces and purple leaves in place of feathers on their wings and tails. They are one of the eight clans in a League, and their Health Center is paid by the health insurance companies of the eight clans in their own League (that is how health insurance works in this world; if a patient goes to another clan’s Health Center and they are not in a League with that clan, they will either have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for treatment, or they’ll receive treatment for free if the clan is generous enough).

A Healer named Kyanne is in the Barnation Clan. Currently, their Health Center is flooded with people of the Snowl Clan, which is a clan that’s not in the same League as the Barnation Clan. The Barnation Clan has decided to allow Snowlian people and their Snowl genopets come to their Health Center for free treatment. In 1-2 sentences (or more if needed), discuss the problems that the Barnation Clan can encounter for treating these foreign clan members for free.

RESPONSE 1: The healers, like Kyanne, will be overworked and probably underpaid (if the government is using funds to treat citizens of other clans for free, less will be available for overtime payment or raises). This will cause unrest in the midst of a competition for time and resources, which could lead to strikes or even rebellion.

RESPONSE 2: The cost problem is obvious––treating many people for free will undoubtedly mean the Barnation Clan will need to spend a lot to help the Snowlians. There may be other problems, though. Do the Barnationese understand Snowlian biology and health enough that they can actually treat the Snowlians effectively? A treatment that helps a Barnationese person may not help (and may even harm) a Snowlian person. What do the other Barnationese think? If they are paying for their own health care, do they resent healers such as Kyanne for providing free care to foreign clan members, or do they support Kyanne’s efforts even though it may cost them more? Will there continue to be Snowlians flooding the Barnation Clan’s center? If so, then treating them for free may not be a sustainable long-term solution, if the underlying cause of the Snowlians’ exodus to the Barnation Clan is not dealt with.

RESPONSE 3: I mean one foreseeable problem could simply be overcrowding and access to resources. If health centers are only designed to treat a certain clan and a set number of people, there could be resource limitations if the number of patients who receive free care doubled because the access became easier and more available.

RESPONSE 4: There might be disapproval from other clans in the same League as the Barnation clan, for allowing free treatment to such a large outsider group. There might also be disapproval from other clans outside of the League of the Barnation Clan, seeing the Barnation Clan as unfair for giving special privileges to a whole entire outsider clan.

My comments: I liked how this respondent raised the idea that other clans may also have a negative point of view about the Barnations offering free treatment. Preferential treatment to a single clan outside the League would most likely be seen as unfair.

RESPONSE 5: Although the genopets can cure a multitude of diseases, there are problems that can arise because of efficiency and longevity of these genopets. In terms of efficiency, there are only so many genopets; if the disease burden increases great, there are not enough genopets to cure humans fast enough before some die. From a longevity perspective, the genopets might get tired or worn out and eventually die because the people the are forced to treat. Both of these issues can be described as a scarcity of resources.

RESPONSE 6: If Barnation Clan does not have enough resources for themselves, this could compromise the safety of their own clan. However, I think the benefits (good favor with Snowl Clan and helping others) outweigh the costs, assuming the Barnation Clan’s economy can handle the loss of resources.

RESPONSE 7: I honestly don’t see a downside to treating non-league members for free. If genopet healing powers are a finite resource, the only downside would be faster depleting of healing resources. But a healthier society sounds like it would benefit both Barnation and the Snowl Clan.

RESPONSE 8: If the precedent is that out-of-League patients typically must pay out-of-pocket for healthcare, whenever another clan’s members request treatment by the Barnation clan they will need to have a legitimate rationale for providing treatment to the Snowl clan free of charge but not doing the same for every other clan’s members. If they do not have an objective explanation, this could become the subject of a racial injustice scam.

My comments: It’s great to point out that having a good reason to offer free treatment to one specific clan, or any particular person/genopet. That raises the question of what qualifies as a “good reason.”


VOTE for chapter 1 of the first Genotopia novel by clicking the star at the right top corner at https://www.wattpad.com/412687602-genotopia-1-hidden-paradise-1-nira

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Discussions in Medicine- Medicine in Sci-fi (Prompt #1)

The purpose of this blog series is to strengthen clinical reasoning skills, passion for medicine, and understanding of virtues, by facilitating brief, analytical discussions that involve comparing sci-fi medical topics to real-world medical topics. Drawing connections between medical science-fiction and medicine in the real world requires applying knowledge, which is a valuable way to strengthen critical thinking and creativity. Therefore, I have created an ongoing series of question prompts that will ask aspiring physicians to analyze a fictional medical scenario that I will make up (usually these will be derived from my Genotopia novel series), and then relate the fake, sci-fi health-related scenario to a real-life health-related scenario.

Premedical students, medical students, residents, physicians, and other healthcare professionals are invited to participate in answering these weekly question prompts that I will send through email. Participants will be asked to respond to these question prompts by drawing connections between the fictional medical scenario and a real-life medical scenario, coming up with their own scientific explanation for fictional diseases, critiquing the ethics in the scenarios, and analyzing a range of other medically-relevant topics.

This blog series should be enriching your passion in medicine, as well as clinical reasoning skills, so answering these questions should NOT be time-consuming. If you are interested in participating, please send me an email at michelle.dalson@duke.edu!

Here are the responses to Question Prompt #1 in my “Discussions in Medicine” blog series:

 

My Question Prompt: In the Genotopia novel series, animals have been genetically modified with superpowers that can cure a multitude of diseases, and are referred to as “genopets.” Each human owns a specific genopet species, and each species has a different superpower to cure a specific category of diseases. In 1-2 sentences (or more if needed), explain how these circumstances may affect inequalities in healthcare.

 

Responses:

RESPONSE 1: As with any powerful or effective cure for disease, genopets––if they were introduced in the real world––would undoubtedly be more accessible to those who can afford them. Even if some policy such as national health insurance allowed genopets to be widely affordable and accessible, certain locations (such as wealthy, urban areas) would still have better access to these genopets, whereas some rural areas may not. Other inequalities may arise based on what exactly the genopets cure. There could very well be a sort of “racial prejudice” in the engineering of genopets, if the genopets tended to be designed to cure a disease more common in one demographic, but diseases common in other demographics were ignored by the engineers designing the genopets. Even in the current world, clinical trials for new treatments face this problem, as clinical trial participants are often disproportionately white, meaning trials may potentially miss out on solving health issues for non-white populations.

My comments: I liked how this response raised the idea of a racial prejudice resulting from this situation. In the Genotopia novels, racial division is a huge theme, because the humans are segregated into clans based on their race, and each clan is responsible for training a specific species of genopets. Thus, there will be some races at a greater or lesser advantage to certain treatments, depending on the type of genopet their clan owns and the types of diseases their genopets can heal.

RESPONSE 2: Assuming the genopets behave better than my dog does and actually listens to their owners, this could create monopolies for those who have pets with the ability to cure unique groups of disease and would create a health health inequality problem. If the genopets weren’t unique, however, I imagine it would follow a market-based pattern, which while better than a monopoly is still non-ideal when the currency is human lives.

RESPONSE 3: Those with more socioeconomic status and societal privilege will most likely acquire the most beneficial genopets, perpetuating their privilege, wealth & status.

RESPONSE 4: Assuming each genopet species has a specific range of diseases it can cure, if one group of human owns a genopet species, then other groups will have more difficulty accessing the cures provided by genopet species that are not their own.

RESPONSE 5: I would imagine it come down to supply and demand. Unless the human were wholly unselfish in allowing the pet’s curative power out liberally and at no cost, and the pet itself could keep up with the demand, I see inequalities persisting or even increasing because one human owns an entire species.

RESPONSE 6: The “genopet” type that a human owns is more a matter of what family/social group they are born into, which means certain groups/families have access to care for the more common or more fatal disease categories. Those people without connections to these families/groups are automatically at a disadvantage because they don’t have immediate access.

My comments: I smiled when I read this response. The Genotopia novels actually have humans segregated into specific clans, and each clan is responsible for owning a specific species of genopets. The clans are just like the “families/groups” discussed in this response, and just as the respondent mentioned, there ARE some clans at a disadvantage, based on the types of genopets they own and thus the access to care for the more common or fatal diseases!

RESPONSE 7: I think these circumstances have the potential to amplify inequalities in health care and make them more problematic. one person’s genopet might cure a category of cancers, for example, while another cures a category of infections that aren’t very serious. If that’s the case, one genopet would be in far higher demand and the person with it would never have to worry about certain types of cancer, as opposed to the other person.

RESPONSE 8: I think this could create a hierarchy of access to certain cures. Some cures to more fatal diseases might be found in pets that are rarer by comparison, and this allows a certain subset of people to have access to bigger or more fatal illness by nature of what type of pet they own.

RESPONSE 9: There are certain diseases that are more life threatening than others. Therefore those who have genopets with superpowers to cure life threatening diseases such as cancer will have an unfair advantage over those with genopets to cure diseases that aren’t extremely dangerous.

RESPONSE 10: It really depends on who has access to these genopets. It seems as if each human has one, so therefore there is equal access to genopets healing powers. Disparities might arise when genopets die or are lost because this society now has to decide how to go about giving humans more. If there is a fee or some task that must be done, those without the means or disagreeing morally with the task are left out. This leads to healthcare inequalities.

My comments: I liked how this response pointed out the equality in access to genopets. In the novels, inequalities and disparities are highly emphasized, whether it’s inequalities in healthcare, race, socioeconomic status, or job opportunities, so it’s easy to overlook that there is some equality in this society, at least when it comes to accessing genopets (fun fact: in the novels, 16-year-olds are paired with juvenile genopets in their clans during a “Pairing Ceremony,” and everyone ends up pairing up with one. However, that doesn’t ensure that everyone gets along with the genopet they pair with—there is still the potential for the genopet to run away, and without a genopet, the person gets kicked out of the clan.)

RESPONSE 11: Given that “genopets” were genetically modified by humans, more expensive “genopets” probably cure more serious diseases. Thus, people who are socio-economically well off will continue to have better access to healthcare since they can more expensive “genopets,” are more likely to know people who can give them access to other people with genopets who can cure their specific diseases.

———-

Vote for chapter 1 of my first Genotopia novel by clicking the star at the right top corner at https://www.wattpad.com/412687602-genotopia-1-hidden-paradise-1-nira

 

 

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A Genotopia Medical Dilemma (11/24/17)

Background story:

In the Genotopia novel series, animals have been genetically modified with superpowers that can cure a multitude of diseases, and are referred to as “genopets.” Humans are segregated into clans based on race, and each clan is responsible for training a specific species of genopets in order to combat a specific category of diseases.

Characters:

Kyanne– A human of Barnationese descent. She is of the Barnation Clan, and like all Barnationese people, she has purple eyes, fair skin, and silky, lavender hair.

Soriana– Kyanne’s Barnation genopet. Barnations have all the features of a Barn Owl, except they have a white carnation for a face, surrounded by brown feathers, with a small, yellow beak curling out from the lower center of the carnation. There were no eyes on the carnation face. Their wings and tail were composed of purple leaves instead of feathers. The Barnations were engineered to cure diseases caused by the wild carnations that grew around the territory of the Morninglory Clan

Jeremy– A man that Kyanne just met. Apparently, he is not affiliated with any clan, and has no genopet of his own.

Medical Dilemma (an excerpt; written by Michelle Dalson):

Kyanne stared at Jeremy with a distant look in her eyes.

“Are you saying it’s possible that these Snowlians were exiled for another reason that has nothing to do with some plot against Dr. Z?” She spoke calmly, as she normally did whenever she was confused and anxious at the same time.

Jeremy gave a sideways smile. “Pay me and I’ll tell you what really happened.”

Kyanne narrowed her eyes. “And why would you think I should believe you?”

Soriana gave a low hoot. “Ahem. This man is a Wanderer.”

Kyanne flinched and spun around to face her majestic genopet. “Great Hox! He’s a Wanderer?!” Wanderers were people who were not affiliated with a single clan. They were like rogues, living on their own without the aid of a genopet to protect and provide for them. This meant that they must have somehow modified their blood so that they were unable to be tracked down by Dr. Z, because ever since Dr. Z had divided all of humanity into clans based on race, every human and every genopet they trained would become blood-registered into a system where they could be detected in case they ever ventured too far from their clans without their clan Emperor’s permission. Therefore, it was illegal to wander the planet without being affiliated with a clan. As a matter of fact, it was almost impossible to wander the planet without a clan, because that meant you would have no partnership with a genopet to protect you against all the horrendous diseases that plagued the planet.

Soriana’s feathers ruffled. Her eye-less carnation face was pointed down toward Kyanne. “You should listen to what he has to say. As a Wanderer, he must have done something to escape the system so that he can roam this world without a clan and without a genopet. Therefore, he must have learned some important details about what’s going on with other clans since he has been traveling across these lands for some time.”

Kyanne clenched her fists. “Or he could be a criminal, with his own destructive intentions.”

Jeremy yawned and turned to stare across the open clearing in front of his stump. “I live off of the medical resources people offer me in exchange for telling them important information I’ve learned about other clans. That’s how I get by, that’s how I can keep myself healthy in this disease-ridden planet, since I have no genopet to fight battles for monetary rewards like all you clan-people can do. So if you can give me a few valuable things, I’ll give you the truth.”

Kyanne raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so you meant that you wanted me to pay you resources, not money?”

Soriana chortled. “What can he do with money as a Wanderer? He doesn’t have a bank account, because he doesn’t virtually exist anywhere in the system. That’s why he’s a Wanderer. Dr. Z doesn’t even know that he exists; otherwise, he would have been imprisoned or killed for escaping his clan.”

Kyanne crossed her arms and stepped up to Jeremy. She eyed his features more closely. His tangled hair was cerulean blue, as well as the messy, untrimmed facial hair that surrounded his lips. She wondered if he had once been a member of a clan responsible for training aquatic genopets.

Jeremy slowly turned his head toward Kyanne. Blue eyes met purple eyes. A few seconds of silence passed, and then Kyanne spoke. “Where exactly are you from? How long have you been a Wanderer?”

Jeremy chuckled. “One question at a time, darling. Give me the resources to treat my current condition, and I’ll tell you about the Snowlians. Give me additional resources for me to take along with me, and I can tell you more about myself.”

Kyanne stomped her foot.

But Jeremy leaned closer and spoke in a smooth voice. “There’s a carnation growing inside my liver. So I have acquired Liverbuds. If you can treat me, I can tell you everything about those Snowlians.”

“Our Health Center is already packed with sick Snowlians whose health insurance is not associated with our League,” Kyanne spoke in a sharp, bitter tone. “So we’re basically giving out free healthcare here, which means a lot of our Barnations are wasting their energy to heal for free. You, as a Wanderer, obviously cannot be associated with any health insurance in the world since you’re not affiliated with a clan, so treating you would mean we’re adding an extra patient for our Barnations to care for. ” Kyanne turned to Soriana, shaking her head. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Soriana, we can’t help this man. We’ve got 50 Snowlians to treat today, and none of them are going to pay us, which means I won’t have enough money in my account to purchase any Barnation food to restore your healing energy.” She bit her lips. “Great Hox, Soriana, you’re going to be exhausted.”

Soriana nodded. “But we must find out the truth about these Snowlians. If they are here for dangerous, malicious reasons, we could tell our Emperor and he can drive them out, saving up space in our Health Center.”

Kyanne sighed. Soriana was right. She turned to Jeremy. “Alright, you can come over to our Health Center, and I’ll examine your liver. Soriana can do her best to treat you after that. But…” she narrowed her eyes at his cerulean hair. “We’ll probably have to say you are from the Squirlpool Clan, just so that no one knows you’re a homeless rogue and tattles on you to Dr. Z.”

The Squirlpools were hairless, wolf-sized squirrels with cerulean skin and plump, spiraling tails that were twice the length of their bodies. When they spun their tails, water would spiral around the tails, and such water could be mixed with a variety of chemicals that can cause and cure water-borne diseases that occurred in the lakes, rivers, and swamps in the territory of the Morninglory League.

Jeremy shrugged. “Sounds good to me.” He stood up and clasped his hands around Soriana’s right hand. “Thank you for not denying treatment to a poor man.”

Kyanne snatched her hand away and smacked his face. “Listen, you foul rogue. We’re supposed to report people like you to Dr. Z. Wanderers have been known to be manipulative spies who like to turn clans against one another by spreading lies. But luckily, Soriana knows how to grow a few plants that will put your mind in a trance-like state, so that you’ll be sure to tell us the truth. If I find out that you’re just trying to play around and stir more trouble between our clan and the Barnations, then I’ll report you. No, I’ll have Soriana grow ten more carnations in your liver, and then I’ll report you.”

Jeremy laughed softly. “You young Healers amuse me.” He watched Kyanne climb onto Soriana’s back, and then he climbed on and sat behind her.

Soriana flew through the giant trees, passing by the busy clusters of her clanmates’ houses on the branches. Soon, they approached the tree where components of the Barnation Health Center were built. Shiny, lavender buildings were settled on the great branches, and Barnations were flying in and out of the buildings with Snowlian patients riding their backs.

Kyanne’s eyes scanned the tree branches and then she pointed to the branch that was closer to the ground. “There’s the Squirlpool Ward. We’ll find a room for you in there.” She looked at Jeremy over her shoulder. “If anyone asks, we’ll say you’re Squirlpoolish. We’ll tell them your Squirlpool also got Liverbuds just like you did, and ended up dying because too many carnations grow in its liver.”

Jeremy shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”

Kyanne held her breath as Soriana approached the ward where their Barnations took care of all the Squirlpools and their Squirlpoolish human masters. Her heart was pounding. It was not going to be easy, pretending that this clan-less man was Squirlpoolish. Squirlpoolish humans, as well as their Squirlpools, were known for being very attentive, alert, and easily aroused. They were quick to judge and were easily suspicious of others. Great Hox, she thought. I hope the Squirlpools and their human masters in the ward are too sick to notice anything sketchy about this man.


VOTE for this chapter at https://www.wattpad.com/499047879-war-of-the-ice-blossoms-a-genotopia-story ! (click the star on the top right corner of the chapter when you open the link)

 

Questions to Think About:

What problems are the Barnation Clan encountering for treating the Snowlians and Snowls for free?

Besides those mentioned in this excerpt, what other problems can the Barnation Clan encounter for treating foreign clan members for free?

In what ways does this excerpt reflect the issues in healthcare in our country (or other countries)?

What would you do with Jeremy if you were in Kyanne’s situation?

 

 

 

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Dealing with Life: 5 Meaningful Quotes

“Strength comes from struggle. When you learn to see your struggles as opportunities to become stronger, better, wiser, then your thinking shifts from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I must do this.’”

 –Toni Sorenson

 

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”

Dr. Seuss

 

“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”

Pope Paul VI

 

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

Joshua J. Marine

 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

-(Fellowship of the Ring)

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Making Health Information Appealing: The Basics of Graphic Design

Communication4Health

While visiting a doctor’s office recently, I spent some time looking at the brochures and signs posted on the wall and started thinking about which signs catch my eyes and which ones do not. What sort of visual presentation draws me in and keeps me reading?  As a public health student, I have become much more aware of the different health messages that are posted on the backs of bathroom doors, in medical office brochures and posters, and throughout various websites. I am often curious about how effective these messages really are. For example, how often does the hand washing sign really prompt someone to wash their hands? And even more so, how often does someone who is not acutely aware of these messages even notice these signs or brochures?

I have become particularly interested in these kinds of questions as a member of a research group that is undergoing…

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Wiping out a cell’s identity shifts cellular reprogramming into high gear

The Stem Cellar

Blog CAF-1 chromatin The packaging of DNA into chromatin (image credit: Felsenfeld and Groudine, Nature 2013

If stretched out end to end, the DNA in just one cell of your body would reach a whopping six feet in length. A complex cellular structure called chromatin – made up of coils upon coils of DNA and protein – makes it possible to fit all that DNA into a single cell nucleus that’s only 0.0002 inches in diameter.

Chromatin: more than meets the eye
Once thought to merely play a structural role, mounds of data have shown that chromatin is also a critical regulator of gene activity. In fact, it’s a key component to maintaining a cell’s identity. So, for example, in the nucleus of a skin cell, genes related to skin function tend to lie within stretches of DNA having a loosely coiled chromatin structure. This placement makes the skin-related genes physically more accessible…

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