Friday, 30 May 2008


Every Morning when I wake up the first thoughts that go through my head are usually a system of reality checks -

Who Am I?...........Richard
Where Am I?.........Bed
Who Am I With?......Naomi

This process usually takes a split second, unless I've not slept well or had been drinking the night before. One Day I am half expecting my brain to throw me the wrong answers to these questions for a laugh.

There are additional secondary questions that relate to remaining bladder capacity and current body position.

Saturday, 24 May 2008


I was in the pub with a friend of mine recently and for some reason the term 'cyborg' came up. The tone he used to express this word suggested a sense of awe, as if the concept is still a thing of science fiction.

Most humans use technology to augment their natural deficits. Contact lenses and Glasses augment vision, Hearing Aids augment hearing, Dentures replace damaged teeth. Even breast implants could be considered a step towards the cybernetic. The term cyborg doesnt immediately require any electrical technology, just technology. I think we sometimes forget that items that dont require batteries(contact lenses, glasses, breast implants, etc) are technology.

The Cyborgs are Among US!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Neutral Beauty

There seems to be a huge stigma around Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV). In the eighties this stigma was largely because the main victims of this virus were either homosexual or drug addicts(not all of the victims, just most). I believe this stigma still exists despite the fact that HIV has widely spread the population regardless of sexual preference, religious beliefs or sobriety. There is also the opinion that the virus itself is 'evil' this annoys me and I intend to prove the virus is as neutral and undiscriminating as death(another concept people deem 'evil').

Most of the cells in your body are programed to create proteins. The DNA in the nucleus is too big to fit through the nuclear pores. However there are objects inside the cell that can translate small strands of DNA into RNA copies which allows it to be passed outside the nucleus. So it sends these copies of code to an assembly structure(Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum) in the main body of the cell. Here the genetic code is translated into its corresponding amino acids. These amino acids chain together to form a protein. The protein is then packaged up and sent out of the cell. This is a normal process and happens countless times a millisecond.

HIV enters the bloodstream and as it should the immune system responds. The virus latches on to the outside of the specific white blood cells sent to destroy it and injects(for lack of a better word) its genetic material in the form of RNA into the cell. This RNA makes it into the nucleus where the second substance the virus dropped off comes unto play. Reverse Transcriptase converts the viral RNA into DNA. This DNA then attaches itself to the host cells DNA. The cell is now programmed to make more HIV. The copy of the HIV code is sent to the assembly structure. the new HIV component is constricted. It is packaged up and sent out of hte cell. Unfortunately this is where the harm is caused. Sending it out of the cell perforates the cell membrane and destroys the cell.

The viral replication is what does damage to the body. It doesnt release toxins, it doesnt overtly devour healthy cells. Like any other object in nature it is blindly driven to replicate. The effects of this virus are unpleasant however I think the way this virus operates is incredible. If I ever wanted to plead a case for 'Intelligent Design' I wouldnt cite the complexity of the human body I would cite the simple yet effective beauty behind the operation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Fortunately I think intelligent design is a theory for those with far too much time trying not to contribute to society.

Friday, 16 May 2008


My heart is racing(roughly 110bpm at rest).
My breathing is rapid(16-17 breaths per minute).
My pupils are tightly contracted.
Blood is being diverted from my Digestive Tract to my Muscles.
This is causing nausea.
My Head is aching.
I'm Dizzy.

I'm on my seventh large mug of coffee. My body is responding to chemicals that are exciting all the cells that are needed in a high stress situation. Unfortunately I'm not in a physically demanding situation. I am trying to revise for my upcoming Life Sciences Exam. You would not believe how effectively high doses of caffeine hinder concentration. Interesting experiencing the effects and being able to appreciate exactly what is occurring though.

Thursday, 15 May 2008


I have close working experience with the police, ambulance service and fire brigade. I have come to appreciate the essential role each of these services play in keeping our world free from harm. I have recently noticed that there are many documentaries on tv about the police and ambulance service. I have only seen one documentary that gave a segment to the fire brigade. So this entry is for our brethren who face the flame.

A car overturns on the M6,
the ambulance has arrived however they can not proceed until the fire service have secured the area. Civilians look on wondering at the inaction of the paramedics and emt's.
The fire service arrive.
They secure the vehicle and provide the ambulance crew access to the casualty.
The casualty is clear.
Some spark ignites the pooled petrol on the ground.
Had the fire service not been there the ambulance crew, casualty and any one foolish enough to stop would have been seriously injured.

These men and women provide a service and are in general wholey unrecognised by the general public. Their bravery is shrugged off with mutterings of 'well its what they're paid to do isnt it'.

Recently Tom Reynolds of Random Acts of Reality spoke on the radio about an incident in scotland. A paramedic was at the scene of a stabbing, on her own and without any immediately accessible police support she was ordered not to proceed. Many fools out there consider her a coward for this. She was not trained or equipped to deal with an armed assailant. The casualty died. Fortunately for her family and every life she will ever save, the paramedic is still with us.

I saw a segment on the tv today about the fire service. A gas cylinder on a building site was leaking ignited gas. Rather than proceed the lead fireman performed a grueling but essential series of risk assessments. Once all the equipment and information was at hand he took the 20 steps forward and turned the gas off. It may seem like a lot of fuss for nothing, but that mans family still have a father, and son and husband. Even with the information and risk assessments he was incredibly brave to walk up to a leaking gas cylinder that had been recently spewing flame.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Pack Instinct

Years ago I read a study regarding how groups of people respond to fear. Whilst I can remember the information within the study I cant remember who performed it. If anyone knows based on the the following could you let me know?

We are not so removed from our hunter gatherer roots. One or two instincts still remain within us. For example if you put a group of people into a situation that induces fear. For example a haunted house. Each member of the group will be on edge, if a door slams there would be screams and then laughter. Why does this laughter occur? Well it has been theorised that this is a in instinctual response to fear. In laughing you are baring your teeth. Simple I know however the study I have yet to refind provided some fairly compelling evidence on this matter.

So next time you're with a group in a situation that is causing fear. Dont forget to bare your teeth.Of course it could just be that the laughter relieves tension.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Self Defence

The human body is amazing. Those of you know know me know I am in love with anatomy and physiology. I find it hard to understand people who dont look at the processes of the human body with awe.

If you are going through extreme physical stress your body secretes adrenaline which blocks out the pain from physical trauma. It slows non-essential function like digestion and diverts oxygen rich blood to the muscles. Your pupils dilate and contract much more quickly, signals are transmitted too and from the brain at an increasing rate. Everything about this chemical is designed to pull the body out of danger.

Even a simple non-life threatening incident like stepping on a pin invokes a reaction called a reflex-arc. This means your body knows there is a threat, it pulls your foot away from the pin before the pain message is even sent to the brain and interpreted. Its a purely localised self-defense mechanism that can occur at any point of the body.

If you are exposed to severe psychological trauma your mind takes you where you need to go in order to survive it. And then, when you are safe it blocks the memories in order to prevent them having a detrimental effect.

Both the body and mind are full of failsafes designed and tested over the last billion or so years in order to keep you alive.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Right Tool

These days paracetamol is a very widely appreciated drug. Its an effective analgesic for mild pain and it has possitive effects in controlling a fever. However I feel this is a bad thing.

In hospital if a patient has a fever the doctors tend to put them on intravenous paracetamol. Paracetamol resets the hypothalamus. If your body had a central heating system which was overheating the paracetamol would be like turning it off and on again, when the system comes back up its at the right temperature(usually). This is aweful, whilst the patient is more comfortable because they no longer have a fever and have some mild pain relief, a diagnostically relevant symptom is being masked.

This patient could have a raging infection, or a mass in their brain, however the key sign pointing at the problem has been temporarily removed. As a student nurse I am meant to believe that its more important for a patient to be comfortable and pain free, however that is not how I feel. I would sooner have a patient correctly diagnosed earlier on with some pain and discomfort during the diagnosis than having a patient who isnt diagnosed until its too late to treat them.

This is one of my key gripes with the NHS today, its too cuddly. Let the patients grit their teeth and bare it, a little discomfort wont kill them, terminal cancer WILL kill them.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


In todays world drugs are everywhere. Speaking as a healthcare professional I know people will always take drugs. Many heroin users every day accidentally overdose. Theres no medically recommended dose for heroin as its use is frowned upon.

There is a drug available that halts the deterioration of a patients state when he has taken an overdose. This drug is called Naloxone and is administered in hospitals for accidental morphine(essentially heroin) overdoses. I would argue that chemists should provide this drug over the counter. We cant stop people taking heroin but maybe if we make this opiate-antagonist more freely available we can stop people dying from heroin use.

One argument against this is that if users know they can reverse any accidental overdose they might be more inclined to take more heroin, or even deliberately overdose just so they could reverse it and have the full 'trip' effect.

I dont agree with the use of drugs, but I am sick of seeing people kill themselves when it can be prevented.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


Time for a little science lesson on how cells that secrete things work.

The DNA in a cell is kept inside the nucleus. This is a problem because the pores in the nuclear membrane are way too small to let the DNA through. Thats were messengerRNA(mRNA) and reverse transcriptase come in. Between the two of them the take a copy of a small segment of DNA and carry it out to the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum(Rough ER) which takes that small genetic blueprint and creates a series of amino acids from it. When they are linked together amino acids are proteins, proteins are pretty much everything you're build up from in one way or another. This protein then makes its way to the smooth ER which packages it and sends it on its way out of hte cell.

I find this process incredible. Its one of the fundamental requirements for life and it happens in much of our body every millisecond.

Monday, 5 May 2008

In Need of Help?

By now everyone has heard About This. My first reaction was a sense of pitty. No human being could do what that man did and be mentally stable. Under Austrian law this man wouldnt be going to a psychiatric facility he'd just be lumped together with all the other criminals.

Then I heard the interviews with his neighbours. He used to go to a local coffee shop and socialise. Most mentally ill people in a situation like this have a hard time distinguishing between right and wrong. They dont believe what they are doing is wrong. However in all his socialising there is no evidence he told anyone about the children locked in his cellar. This suggests he knew it was wrong. Does this change the punishment he should receive?

I have two beliefs when it comes to mentally ill criminals. Either they should be in a psychiatric facility for the rest of their lives. Rehabilitation is not an option. Or they should be executed, this is a financially efficient way of removing them from society.

Saturday, 3 May 2008


I was going to post this as a comment in reply to the comment by darkwinter on my last post, however I feel I have enough material to make a whole new post from it.

Interestingly genetics advancements mean a parent can now choose the gender of a foetus. This is of particular interest to people like myself with X-Linked Conditions. To understand this you have to appreciate that males have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome whereas females are XX.

In my case I have a faulty gene in my X chromosome. This fault manifests itself as Retinitis Pigmentosa(RP). If I have a son I will be passing my Y chromosome which does not carry the faulty gene. My son will not contract this condition. However if I have a daughter I will be passing on my only X chromosome, which is faulty. This means my daughter will carry the defect. However as she has two X chromosomes and a certain degree of error checking occurs my daughter will not contract RP she will merely carry it.

If my daughter has a child there is a 50% chance she will pass the defective gene on. As she will only contribute one of her two X chromosomes to the creation of the foetus. If she has a son and passes on the faulty X chromosome he will contract the condition.

As my ability to convey this information may be lacking I have drawn a terrible little diagram with the following key -

Underlined X chromosomes carry the gene for RP.

1. The faulty chromosome has to be carried for the creation of a daughter. As a female requires an X from each parent. The daughter is a carrier
2. A son obtains his X chromosome from his mother. The fathers Y chromosome is unaffected. Assuming the mother is not a carrier of the condition the son will be unaffected.
3. There is a 50% chance a mother will pass the condition to the daughter as the mother only contributes one of the two X chromosomes to her daughter. In this case the chromosome is carried.
4. Again there is a 50% chance the son will inherit the faulty X chromosome. In this case he inherits the chromosome without the fault and is thus unaffected.
5 and 6. As the parent did not inherit the condition the faulty chromosome will not be passed down this line.

People often consider me weird for my fascination with my condition. However it is incredible. Despite the 50% odds every time a female with the gene procreates this condition is still passed on potentially thousands of years after the first mutation occurred. The fact we can now not only understand how this inheritance occurs but exactly which gene is effected is something I find terribly exciting. In my case the gene fault is the deletion of a single base pair. Two tiny nucleotides were removed from this gene generations ago. When you consider how many nucleotides are in the human genome its hard not to find this breathtakingly impressive.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Parental Obligation

Just a quick post while I am waiting for my printer to finish with my latest assignment.

When the Human Genome Project cracked the code of life(a little emotive language to brighten your day) we developed the ever unspooling ability to design the genetic traits of our offspring. We can choose for them to have blue eyes, or brown hair. I even knew in a few generations It would be able to replace the defective gene that creates my condition (retinitis pigmentosa). When I first heard this I realised it wouldnt be long before this was exploited but I never Imagined in such despicable ways.

Members of the deaf community(not all but a large number of deaf organisations and individuals) petitioned the government to sanction IVF causing their future offspring to be deaf. They felt that having a child that could hear would create too large a communication barrier and cause a rift in 'normal family life'. How do they think the child will feel when (s)he finds out that the reason they have this massive disability is because of their parents selfishness. Surely its the natural desire of all parents for their children to be healthy physically and mentally. In my opinion creating a child with a deliberate defect should be considered criminal negligence both on the part of the parents and any scientists involved.

Fortunately in a rare show of ethical resolve the government refused to sanction such gene therapies.

The BBC and the Nursing Standard both report on this.