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The Body Scientific

First, there was opium

The first in a series on opioid addiction

 

How do opioids relieve pain, cause euphoria and lead to an addiction that refuses to take “no” for an answer? How is it that in 2017, 72,000 Americans died of opioid drug overdose? What is the chemistry behind this catastrophe? Is there any hope of controlling it?

Does Prevagen help in reducing memory loss?

You may have seen the ad for Prevagen during morning news shows or between innings of a Red Sox game: a video of a pulsating jellyfish, whose nervous system glows blue. The substance that provides the blue glow is protein called apoaequorin and it is very well studied. 

The Case of Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Getting to treatment

Conclusion

 

The case of Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Deadly inherited diseases start to yield

Part 1

A few years ago, a friend asked me if I could take over a basic science lecture he was scheduled to give to 220 first-year medical and dental students at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. He had to go to a wedding or take a kid to college or some such. He handed me his PowerPoint presentation, grinned and said, “Good luck.” I had two weeks to work on it.

The case of Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Deadly inherited diseases start to yield

Part I of 2

 

A few years ago, a friend asked me if I could take over a basic science lecture he was scheduled to give to 220 first-year medical and dental students at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. He had to go to a wedding or take a kid to college or some such. He handed me his PowerPoint presentation, grinned and said, “Good luck.” I had two weeks to work on it.

Science and the English language

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced that seven words should not be used in CDC budget requests. She was trying to help CDC staff escape the surveillance of budgeters. Dr. Fitzgerald just resigned because of a problem with her tobacco stock, but her greater sin was toying with the English language. Such comical censorship always summons the genie and genius of George Orwell. She should have read his 1950 essay “Politics and the English Language.”

The promises and perils of research on aging: Come grow old along with me

What does it mean to age? Is it some random accumulation of bodily damage that can’t be helped? Or does it involve an organized process that biologists can study and reverse? If you are thinking that the latter raises all sorts of social questions, you are right, but hold on while I tell you one story about the biology of aging. 

Microscopes in grade school: You can observe a lot just by looking

Part 2 of a series

 

What microscopes add: Evoking astonishment: teaching science

Part 1 of 2

Not so many years ago, as part of our writing program, I was advising PhD students at Columbia about essays for National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowships. These are generous fellowships, and hard to get, so the applications have to be carefully prepared. The NSF people had specific questions for applicants and one of them was, “What event, when you were young, helped to ignite your interest in science?” Five students remembered the baking powder plus vinegar-driven volcano in fourth grade.