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Towards the urgent development of the artificial kidney

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — setting aside my personal interest, there’s a humanitarian / religious angle here ]
,

The atrocities described in the lower panel add urgency to the medical development described in the upper panel:

kidney transplants

Sources:

  • Kurzweil AI, Wearable artificial kidney prototype successfully tested
  • Daily Mail, China is forcing up to 90,000 prisoners to have organs removed
  • **

    I took note of the Kurzweil announcement in the upper panel above, because I’m due for some form of kidney dialysis myself — and the new report on Chinese harvesting of religious prisoners’ marketable organs, Bloody Harvest / The Slaughter, because I’m interested in Falun Gong and other religious movements in China that are under intense pressure from the Chinese authorities.

    Here are a couple of excerpts from the 680-page report:

    The narrative of pursuit, arrest, torture, and, in several cases, execution, illustrates that Falun Gong was putting up an increasingly effective resistance – even as the state’s structure of persecution was spinning out of control, and shedding any remaining inhibitions surrounding the mass exploitation of Falun Gong for their organs. The “self-immolation” of Falun Gong practitioners on Tiananmen Square is also examined in detail, with the conclusion that it was not only a set-up but a masterstroke of state propaganda.

    What emerges is a picture of an organ harvesting regime that began giving discreet physical examinations of select Falun Gong practitioners in late 2000/early 2001, expanding into mass examinations (including Tibetan prisoners of conscience and the House Christian group “Eastern Lightning”) by 2003, and an organ harvesting regime wasn’t even being kept fully secret within the Laogai System by 2005

    It’s worth noting that the Uyghur Muslims are caught up in the same situations, too.

    **

    Putting the two halves of this puzzle together — one of the aspects of the harvesting of organs from Chinese religious dissidents is that it attracts what the publishers of the report term organ tourism:

    Governments should enact measures to criminalize the purchase of trafficked organs at home or abroad. They could also require reporting of ‘organ tourism’, ban entry of those involved in trafficking organs, and prohibit their pharmaceutical companies from doing transplant field tests and clinical trials in China.

    The idea of extending one’s life by receiving the transplanted organ of a prisoner separated out for religious reasons and then killed to supply the tourist organ market is both deeply human, in the sense of serving the individual’s survival, and deeply abhorrent and inhuman, as (effectively) a paid enticement to mass murder.

    **

    At one point, the report says:

    Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, began in May 1992 with the teachings of Li Hongzhi. The two Davids [co-authors of the report] have described Falun Gong as a set of exercises with a spiritual and ethical foundation. Ethan Gutmann in The Slaughter states: “Falun Gong, simply put, is a Buddhist revival movement.”

    Saying Falun Gong is “simply put .. a Buddhist revival movement” is a bit simplistic itself, though. Here’s an excerpt of a Time magazine article from 1999 — it appeared in the world edition, but not I think in the US — in which Li Hongzhi explains a major aspect of his concern about where the human race is heading:

    The aliens come from other planets. The names that I use for these planets are different . Some are from dimensions that human beings have not yet discovered. The key is how they have corrupted mankind. Everyone knows that from the beginning until now, there has never been a development of culture like today. Although it has been several thousand years, it has never been like now.

    The aliens have introduced modern machinery like computers and airplanes. They started by teaching mankind about modern science, so people believe more and more science, and spiritually, they are controlled. Everyone thinks that scientists invent on their own when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens. In terms of culture and spirit, they already control man. Mankind cannot live without science.

    The ultimate purpose is to replace humans. If cloning human beings succeeds, the aliens can officially replace humans. Why does a corpse lie dead, even though it is the same as a living body? The difference is the soul, which is the life of the body. If people reproduce a human person, the gods in heaven will not give its body a human soul. The aliens will take that opportunity to replace the human soul and by doing so they will enter earth and become earthlings.

    When such people grow up, they will help replace humans with aliens. They will produce more and more clones. There will no longer be humans reproduced by humans. They will act like humans, but they will introduce legislation to stop human reproduction.

    I’m pretty sure the Falun Gong people worry the Chinese central authorities because they’re a substantial quasi-millennial sect that’s only too reminiscent of the Taiping sect of the mid-nineteenth century, whose rebellion the government of the day eventually put down at a total cost of somewhere between 20 and 30 million lives. throw in ~150 years’ worth of advances in weaponry, communications media and population size, and the head honchos wouldn’t like to see how wildly destructive a 2000 or 2020 repeat might get!

    Conflict resolution has both positive and negative outcomes

    Friday, May 13th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — paradox: individual health goes down while societal health improves ]
    .

    reverse arrow conflict individual & group

    I knew this “reverse arrows” graphic would find a multitude of uses.

    **

    Here’s the news report:

    Post-conflict reconciliation led to societal healing, but worsened psychological health.

    Key paras:

    Civil wars divide nations along social, economic, and political lines, often pitting neighbors against each other. In the aftermath of civil wars, many countries undertake truth and reconciliation efforts to restore social cohesion, but little has been known about whether these programs reach their intended goals.

    A new study published in Science suggests reconciliation programs promote societal healing, but that these gains come at the cost of reduced psychological health, worsening depression, anxiety, and trauma.

    “Our research suggests that talking about war atrocities can prove psychologically traumatic for people affected by war. Invoking war memories appears to re-open old war wounds,” said Oeindrila Dube, assistant professor of politics and economics at New York University and one of the authors of the study. “At the same time, the reconciliation program we examined was also shown to improve social relations in communities divided by the war.”

    ¶ ¶ ¶

    The study took place across 200 villages, 100 of which were randomly chosen to be offered the reconciliation program. The research team tracked 2,383 people in both sets of villages, recording their attitudes towards former combatants, their mental health, and the strength of their social ties nine and 31 months after the program.

    The study was made in Sierra Leone a decade after the civil war ended. Assuming the methodology is good and the results are as described, there’s a very interesting paradox here. And hey, a decent paradox really gets my mental feet a-tapping. It will be instructive to see whether similar results are found elsewhere.

    **

    The study is J. Cilliers, O. Dube, B. Siddiqi. Reconciling after civil conflict increases social capital but decreases individual well-being. Science, 2016; 352 (6287): 787 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9682 — to which I have no access, and which would very likely prove beyond my comprehension in any case.

    A Tale of Two Physicians

    Thursday, May 5th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Aleppo, Médecins Sans Frontières, Bashar al-Assad, Mohammad Wassim Mo’az ]
    .

    SPEC DQ Tale of Two Physicians

    **

    It may be that one less (dictatorial) physician in Syria would help — retire him to a yacht, perhaps. While not forgetting that the situation in Syria is multi-factorial.

    Sources:

  • The Guardian, Aleppo mourns Syrian paediatrician killed in hospital airstrike
  • The Atlantic, The Last Pediatrician in Aleppo
  • From the Atlantic piece, honoring pediatrician Mohammad Wassim Mo’az:

    One colleague described the 36-year-old Mo’az as a devoted doctor who by day worked at Aleppo’s Children’s Hospital and by night attended to emergencies at al-Quds Hospital, where he was killed. Several recalled the jokes Mo’az would tell patients and staff. He was “waiting for this bloody war to stop to be married,” one surgeon in Aleppo told the BBC. “He had to stay close to those babies. Who would treat those babies if everybody left?” Footage from security cameras in the hospital last Wednesday shows Mo’az leaving an intensive-care unit and heading toward the emergency room. He could have been in Turkey with his family. He could have taken the night off. Instead, he was walking briskly through the hospital’s dingy hallways in bright green scrubs. At one point in the video, he turns a corner and disappears from view. Moments later, the explosion comes.

    Sunday surprise: what’s your health tipple?

    Sunday, October 25th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — cheers! ]
    .

    Here’s our topic statement:

    beer wine

    **

    Okay. I thought you might like to know:

    Exercise training (ET) improves endurance capacity by increasing both skeletal muscle mitochondrial number and function, as well as contributing to favourable cardiac remodelling. Interestingly, some of the benefits of regular exercise can also be mimicked by the naturally occurring polyphenol, resveratrol (RESV). However, it is not known whether RESV enhances physiological adaptations to ET. To investigate this, male Wistar rats were randomly assigned to a control chow diet or a chow diet that contained RESV (4 g kg-1 of diet) and subsequently subjected to a programme of progressive treadmill running for 12 weeks. ET-induced improvements in exercise performance were enhanced by 21% (P < 0.001) by the addition of RESV to the diet. In soleus muscle, ET + RESV increased both the twitch (1.8-fold; P < 0.05) and tetanic (1.2-fold; P < 0.05) forces generated during isometric contraction, compared to ET alone. In vivo echocardiography demonstrated that ET + RESV also increased the resting left ventricular ejection fraction by 10% (P < 0.05), and reduced left ventricular wall stress compared to ET alone. These functional changes were accompanied by increased cardiac fatty acid oxidation (1.2-fold; P < 0.05) and favourable changes in cardiac gene expression and signal transduction pathways that optimized the utilization of fatty acids in ET + RESV compared to ET alone. Overall, our findings provide evidence that the capacity for fatty acid oxidation is augmented by the addition of RESV to the diet during ET, and that this may contribute to the improved physical performance of rats following ET.

  • Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Xanthohumol, a Polyphenol Chalcone Present in Hops, Activating Nrf2 Enzymes To Confer Protection against Oxidative Damage in PC12 Cells
  • and:

    Xanthohumol (2?,4?,4-trihydroxy-6?-methoxy-3?-prenylchalcone, Xn), a polyphenol chalcone from hops (Humulus lupulus), has received increasing attention due to its multiple pharmacological activities. As an active component in beers, its presence has been suggested to be linked to the epidemiological observation of the beneficial effect of regular beer drinking. In this work, we synthesized Xn with a total yield of 5.0% in seven steps and studied its neuroprotective function against oxidative-stress-induced neuronal cell damage in the neuronlike rat pheochromocytoma cell line PC12. Xn displays moderate free-radical-scavenging capacity in vitro. More importantly, pretreatment of PC12 cells with Xn at submicromolar concentrations significantly upregulates a panel of phase II cytoprotective genes as well as the corresponding gene products, such as glutathione, heme oxygenase, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase, thioredoxin, and thioredoxin reductase. A mechanistic study indicates that the ?,?-unsaturated ketone structure in Xn and activation of the transcription factor Nrf2 are key determinants for the cytoprotection of Xn. Targeting the Nrf2 by Xn discloses a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying the biological action of Xn. Our results demonstrate that Xn is a novel small-molecule activator of Nrf2 in neuronal cells and suggest that Xn might be a potential candidate for the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders.

  • The Journal of Physiology, Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats
  • I know, I know, I should credit authors and give DOI numbers — but so many Style Manuals, so little patience.

    **

    Or to put the point less demandingly:

    SPEC tipple

    So — how much got lost in translation?

    Sources:

  • HuffPo, A Glass Of Red Wine Is The Equivalent To An Hour At The Gym, Says New Study
  • IBT, Drinking Beer Slows Down Alzheimer’s And Parkinson’s Disease
  • Of related interest:

  • HuffPo, Drinking Red Wine May Help Regulate Blood Sugar
  • **

    Or is it blonde vs brunette?

    SPEC DQ blonde brunette

    extrovert vs introvert?

    or just another skirmish in the class wars, perhaps?

    Drinking water, holy water

    Saturday, September 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — an archetypal theme, somewhat incongruous in Congress and the Washington Post ]
    .

    reminds me of:

    But then again, I’ve written about “Saliva and the sacred” before now [1, 2], and quoted this description of Saint Columban from Sean Kelly and Rosemary RogersSaints Preserve Us!: Everything You Need to Know About Every Saint You’ll Ever Need:

    He was known to everyone, and cut a distinctive figure — he shaved the front of his shoulder-length hair into a half-tonsure, squirrels nested in his cowl, and he wandered around brandishing his staff and downing oak trees with his fist While in France, Columban and his monks followed the Irish tradition, often criticized by many as being too severe: a monk who cut his finger badly while reaping had the wound cleaned by Our Saint’s saliva and was ordered back to work.

    **

    Whether he knew it or not, Congressman Brady was following in an ancient and hallowed tradition — very strange to the contemporary western mind, maybe, but with precedents from religious traditions around the world.


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